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Variant covers, which once contributed to the near-death of the entire comic book industry, have been back in vogue for a few years now. Most of the time, they are shameless sales ploys designed to boost flagging sales or raise awareness of a major change to the status quo. As the vast majority of variants are released by mainstream publishers, it is seldom the case that the art has much to say in any real way. When these books feature characters whose greatest worth is their international merchandising or film adaptation potential, publishers wisely choose to avoid giving offense when possible.
Then there’s Southern Bastards.
Writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour have often made the book their platform for addressing larger societal ills. When a white supremacist went on a shooting rampage at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, the duo relased a cover featuring a burning Confederate flag to raise money for the survivors’ families. Now they’ve turned their sights to helping deal with online harassment. Latour revealed in a Tumblr post that the upcoming issue of their hit series would feature a variant cover, the proceeds of which will go to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The cover is an obvious response to the recent controversy over novelist and Marvel Comics writer Chelsea Cain, who received such backlash over Joelle Jones’ cover to an issue of Mockingbird that she was forced to quit Twitter due to harassment. The treatment of Cain became a rallying point for the more progressive wing of comic fandom, with some shops even going so far as to offer “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” t-shirts to benefit domestic violence shelters.
In the post, Latour says “This is an image I did in response to online harassment, and wanted to put it to better use than just a social media post. So Jason Aaron and I have decided to split the proceeds raised by the sale of this variant between the SOUTHERN POVERY LAW CENTER and the ACLU.”
Southern Bastards, despite being an independent book, is far from a small platform. the series received numerous award nominations during its first year, and won the 2015 Harvey Award for Best New Series. This year Aaron was the winner of the Eisner Awards for Best Writer and Best Continuing Series for his work on Southern Bastards.
Latour went on to thank fans for the their support of the previous benefit cover, which raised $18,000.
The variant cover will be available when Southern Bastards #16 hits shelves in comic shops on January 4th.
Will you be picking it up? Let us know in the comments!