DKIIIFrank Miller is back on Batman for a brand new piece in his Dark Knight series at DC Comics, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. Having already written stories like Batman Year One and All Star Batman and Robin that Miller considers officially cannon parts of his Dark Knight epic, this new piece could be the trilogy end cap for the officially titled Dark Knight comics. Why? Well, considering how many Frank Miller fans out there are still waiting for more Sin City that was promised to them or the prequel to 300, Xerxes, that was even previewed in Dark Horse Presents #1, it seems unlikely that Miller is in any rush to start pushing out a high volume of comic releases in the near future. This is especially likely with DC, whom Miller has had his share of problems with in the past. But as Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice nears theatrical release DC and Miller seemed to have work things out well enough to get this major comic moment into publication.

Written by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello, with art by Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson, this 8-issue mini-series is sure to be another highly read addition to Batman lore. Each issue will be 32-pages with an additional mini-comic attached in the main release containing 16 more pages. But if you want a single binding of everything, there will be a collector’s edition of each issue released a month after the fact much like what was done with Sandman: Overture. After the first seven Dark Knight III: The Master Race Collector’s Edition have been published, DC Entertainment will ship a special slipcase designed to hold the entire set with the eighth collector’s edition.  DKIII also will feature a dazzling array of variant covers by some of the biggest names in comics today. And, for the first time ever, DC will offer custom store variant editions to qualifying retailers. That is the real story here, just how intense DC is trying to grab collectors’ money.

This is the fire time DC Comics have offered retailers exclusive store variants, something that Marvel and many other publishers have been rather successful with. Often the scenario with these are that stores must commit to a high number order of something like 500 or more copies of the comic with their exclusive cover on it. Then the publisher will either provide a generic cover that can have minor details changed out to customize for the store making the purchase or they might allow the store to provide their own art purchased on their own dime. But some publishers, or just in some rare instances, are kind enough to provide their own very talented artists for actually custom artwork. These covers can really make or break some retailers and it is obvious when certain shops see major success with their exclusive covers because they’ll repeat the process over and over with many comics, often even those not solicited to have exclusive covers. In the case of DKIII, DC is allowing retailers to participate in the retailer variant cover programs at multiple levels with qualifying orders. If you’re an interested retailer, you’ll want to contact Vince Letterio, DC’s Director – Comic Book Specialty Sales, at Vince.Letterio@DCEntertainment.com, for further details and qualifying order numbers. Not every shop will likely qualify, but many shops will try for this seeing as this movie will likely allow this book to sell incredibly well. To the collector? That means a lot of variants.

However, beyond just the store and likely convention exclusive variants, DC is already putting out 6 ratio variants to accompany the regular cover, blank cover, and collector’s edition covers solicited. The ratio variants are as follows:
1:10 variant cover by KLAUS JANSON
1:25 variant cover by ANDY KUBERT and KLAUS JANSON
1:50 variant cover by TBA
1:100 variant cover by FRANK MILLER
1:500 variant cover by JIM LEE
1:5,000 original sketch variant by JIM LEE
The way that ratio variants work is that for every X amount of copies of the regular cover ordered by a shop, they can get one of ratio variant. So if your store orders 50 copies of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1, you can get 5 copies of the 1:10 Klaus Janson cover, 2 copies of the 1:25 Andy Kubert cover, and 1 of the 1:50 variant by an artist as of yet announced. Many comic customers and collectors are likely quite familiar with this and have bought a ratio variant at some point or another while in a comic shop. But I can lay odds most collectors have never bought or even seen a 1 in 5,000 variant. It’s a rather incredible ratio that 95% of comic shops will be incapable of reaching unless they want to build an addition on to their shop made entirely of unsold copies of DKIII. But, considering this high ratio variant will be highly sought after and feature an original sketch by Jim Lee on it? It might just be worth it on a personal value end for Jim Lee fans. But will it be financially worth it. As the regular edition of Dark Knight III: The Master Race #1 is going to sell for $5.99 MSRP, most stores will be purchasing their copies at roughly $3 an issue. The stores that can afford to buy 5k copies will likely pay a little less than that, but not by much. So if you could sell that variant for $5,000 you might recoup a 1/3 of what you paid DC for those books, which would be rather nice while attempt to sell so many copies for a profit. But how many fans out there are going to pay $5,000 or more for a variant comic? Considering it has an original sketch from Lee on it there is the potential some fans will dig deep in their wallets. But when you also consider that you can buy published original artwork from Jim Lee for less than that amount, it does make you wonder how many collectors will consider spending that much.
Ratio variants from major publishers reach up into the 1:100’s are not entirely uncommon, especially on big event level books such as DKIII. In fact, seeing 1:300 ratio variants are even acceptable and obtainable by many stores on comics like Marvel’s recent Star Wars. But a 1 in 500 release seems like it might push on things a little, with not many shops outside of those already going for a store exclusive variant being able to obtain one. However, a 1 in 5,000 release seems almost ridiculous. Undoubtedly a handful of shops will get a hold of these rare sketch variants. However, considering this comic will sell likely over a hundred thousand copies, if not several hundred thousand copies, I feel it is unlikely those variants will be nearly as common as just 1 in every 5,000 existing, making them potentially even rarer than the ratio exists. So, with 3 regularly orderable covers, 6 ratio variants (of which one will be exceptionally rare), and countless store and convention exclusive variants, none of which have been shown yet, we have to ask, as a collector which covers will you be going after?