Variant Edition is something else.
The new Edmonton-based comic book recommendation engine is led by Wizard’s Comics whiz and Comics! The Blog co-founder, Brandon Schatz. Comic enthusiasts can check the site for daily recommendations, using tags to hop between other related content on the site.
Rather than the tired critique or the negative review, which we see all too often on comic review sites, Variant Edition opts for the challenge of putting forward different comics for public approval. It’s a risk, but the people behind it know what they’re doing—they live in the industry of comic books and they have a damn good chance of knowing what you’ll like.
We chatted with Brandon about his goals for the website, his industry background, and his latest recommendations for all you comic book fanatics out there.
What is Variant Edition?
Variant Edition is a comic book recommendation engine designed to help anyone discover comics they are going to love. In the fall, it will also include a local calendar of nerdy events that will be curated by the community.
How is it connected to Comics! The Blog?
“Why was there only negativity? Why did every ‘I enjoyed this book’ have to be followed with a ‘but’?”
Comics! The Blog is a joint venture I do with my writing partner, James Leask. We created the site because we were tired of going around the internet and reading about how upset people were about comics on blogs and in comment sections. These were all clearly people who were and are passionate enough about the product to read and comment on it, so why was there only negativity? Why did every “I enjoyed this book” have to be followed with a “but”?
We decided to create a site dedicated to talking about what we love about comics and, as extension of that, how the industry could be better, using constructive arguments. Variant Edition is definitely in the same vein, but where C!TB skews towards the things WE love, Variant Edition is a place built to discover what YOU’LL love. Basically, I read a lot of comics, boil it down to the essentials with as little editorial commentary as possible, and present it to you as a potential comic of interest.
What’s your background with comics?
I’ve been a reader for…wow, over two decades at this point? And I’ve been working at a comic shop going on eight years now. I’ve spent four as Mr. Manager, where I’ve been trying my best to match people with their new favourite comics pretty much every weekday. In my off-time, I write for Comics! The Blog and Variant Edition, and have picked up a gig writing about comic book retail at Comics Beat, which is crazy and humbling.
How are you involved in Edmonton’s comic scene?
“Basically, I’m just hoping to get more people into comics. Does that help out my job as a comic store manager? Almost definitely, but that is far and away secondary to the cause, which is why you don’t find mention of where I work at Variant Edition.”
Well, the shop I manage is Wizard’s Comics on 109th, so I do a lot of my comic scene business there. You can also always find me on twitter @soupytoasterson, where I recommend comics. And you can also find me in real life, where I recommend comics to anyone even remotely interested. That said, Variant Edition is really going to be my way of pushing out further into the community and helping MORE people get into the medium. For starters, there’s going to be a comic swap happening in the fall where I’ll be on hand giving away a bucket full of Image Firsts to anyone interested. These are dollar versions of a bunch of first issues that Image has published recently, and the cost is nothing when compared to someone catching onto something they’re going to flip out over.
What do you hope to achieve with Variant Edition?
Well, the hope is to have a humming and whirring recommendation engine that you can type any kind of search into and pull out some cool comics to read. Genres, creators, television shows, movies…plug in anything, and you’ll be able to find something amazing that you’ll love.
Basically, I’m just hoping to get more people into comics. Does that help out my job as a comic store manager? Almost definitely, but that is far and away secondary to the cause, which is why you don’t find mention of where I work at Variant Edition. Really, it’s all about getting people reading, with a bit of community building on the side.
Why do you think this site is needed in Edmonton?
After working in the comic mines for eight years, I’ve noticed that the geek community in Edmonton has some pretty weird divisions in it. It’s partially the result of how the comic stores carved up the city like some low stakes version of Game of Thrones and…whelp, I’ve probably said far too much already.
The important thing is this: things have happened in the Edmonton nerd community that have fractured the audience and caused people to be fairly negative towards one another for reasons that don’t really apply to loving comics and media. Add to that the seemingly natural predication that we all have to swing negative when we talk about things on the internet and you have something that needs a bit of mending. I’m hoping to do a bit of that with Variant Edition for sure.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this website?
“There’s a comic book for everyone and every taste.”
One of the features we’re going to start running on the site (instead of on my Twitter) is a game where folks give me the names of any three books and/or movies and/or TV shows that they like, and I’ll mash them together into a comic recommendation for them. Basically, there’s a comic book for everyone and every taste. I recommend people try this by tweeting @VariantEDmonton (keeping in mind that answers and Twitter handles will end up on the site).
What are your top recommendations at the moment?
I’ll give you the names of a few things I’m personally enjoying right now. If you want something just for you (this goes for everyone!), our Twitter is always open, and I’ll tweet you back as soon as possible with something cool you’ll enjoy and where to find it.
But as for me, the first book I read this week was a series called ZERO. It’s a beautiful spy series that features bits of magical realism by Ales Kot. He works with a different artist on each issue, so you get to explore the characters and the comic from every possible angle as you run through different artistic takes. The look of the series remains consistent through the work of colourist Jordie Bellaire and designer Tom Muller. It’s a fantastic series and the first five issues are in a collection for just $10.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for something a bit superhero without wanting to deal with too much universe baggage, I suggest Ms. Marvel—a series about a new teen superhero that has really caught the industry by storm. Kamala Khan is a wonderful new character in the tradition of Peter Parker, with a strong voice and sense of self, mixed in with the angst of being a teenager and the fun of punching the crap out of bad guys in New Jersey. The first issue is going into its sixth printing and a collection should be arriving any week now!
And one more before I stop (because I can seriously do this forever): SECONDS by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It just came out a few weeks ago and takes everything he learned from making Scott Pilgrim and puts it into a Hayao Miyazaki movie about food and house spirits and growing up. It’s astounding.
You can check out the website at varianted.com.
CC cover photo courtesy of Variant Edition.