That DC Batman homage to Todd McFarlane's iconic Spider-Man cover is blowing up

Batman #118 variant
(Image credit: DC)

DC's unexpectedly playful homage to 1990's Spider-Man #1 cover by Todd McFarlane for a variant cover to December's Batman #118 has gotten the attention of the comic book retail community.

Translation: Comic shop owners expect readers and collectors to really want this one and DC has responded by adding new variant editions of the cover (including silver and gold foil variants) and changing the terms of how comic book shops can get copies of the initial version, making it easier for them to cash in. 

The Batman #118 variant cover by artist Viktor Bogdanovic's appeared as something of a surprise in DC's recently released December 2021 solicitations, DC's catalog of all comic books it will put on sale in December.

Here's a look at the cover and the cover it is paying homage to:

Originally announced as a 1-25 incentive variant (meaning comic book retailers could order one copy for every 25 copies of Batman #118 with the standard cover they order), DC has now informed comic book retailers that Bogdanovic's Spider-Man/Batman homage is now an open order variant (meaning they can order all the copies they want without the need to order a specific number of copies of the standard edition).

In addition, DC has added new versions of the variant. 

A "virgin" cover treatment will now be added as a 1-25 incentive variant, which means the main image without the trade dress (which is part of the appeal of the cover ... but be that as it may). 

And in another unexpectedly playful nod, a 1-100 variant will feature the cover art with a silver foil treatment, and a 1-250 variant will feature the cover art with gold foil treatment, which is also something of another homage to the variants and additional printing versions of Spider-Man #1. 

Check out the new silver and gold foil variants below. 

The art not only recreates the classic superhero pose McFarlane himself recreated for a Spawn cover a few years later ,but includes some other surprising and as we say playful elements as well. 

There's DC old, iconic bullet logo to help promote the retro-homage vibe, and the cover also includes nods to the now-defunct but also-iconic Comics Code Authority logo along with a nod to McFarlane himself under the artist's signature.

Add to that the Batman logo reconfigured to resemble the Spider-Man logo of the time and the question mark in the 'All-New Collectors Item Issue?' cover bar which itself was McFarlane and Marvel's own homage to the iconic '70s-'90s 'Marvel Comics Group' cover bar, and the variant cover is charmingly random and fun, words that you don't normally think of first with the often deliberate and very brand-conscious DC. 

Here's a look at both covers side-by-side for the full effect. 

1990's Spider-Man #1 vs. 2021's Batman #118 variant (Image credit: DC / Marvel Comics)

At first glance, Batman #118 (which goes on sale December 7) doesn't seem to have any specific connection to Spider-Man #1 or McFarlane, other than the creator's brief history drawing the character in Detective Comics in 1987. It appears Bogdanovic simply wanted to pay a personal tribute to his favorite artist.

"After my art hero @Todd_McFarlane," Bogdanovic wrote in a tweet. "Can't tell you how many hours I've spent drooling over his legendary Spidey cover as a kid. So glad I got to do this. Coolest homage I've ever drawn for sure."

It should be noted the original Spider-Man #1 cover actually paid homage to Batman as well. The copy in the blue box in the upper righthand portion of the image reads "The Legend of the Arachknight," a seeming reference to Legends of the Dark Knight, a popular Batman anthology title at the time. 

Batman #118 does start writer Joshua Williamson and artist Jorge Molina's undetermined run on the title, so perhaps it could become collectable someday?

Either way, the cover is a fun curiosity and it was pleasant to discover among December's dozens of new images given how out of character it seems for DC. Here's hoping the publisher has some more fun like this in the future.

Speaking of Todd McFarlane, the creator recently talked to us about his new Spawn titles and what he can do that DC and Marvel can’t

I'm not just the Newsarama founder and editor-in-chief, I'm also a reader. And that reference is just a little bit older than the beginning of my Newsarama journey. I founded what would become the comic book news site in 1996, and except for a brief sojourn at Marvel Comics as its marketing and communications manager in 2003, I've been writing about new comic book titles, creative changes, and occasionally offering my perspective on important industry events and developments for the 25 years since. Despite many changes to Newsarama, my passion for the medium of comic books and the characters makes the last quarter-century (it's crazy to see that in writing) time spent doing what I love most.