Comic Books 102 | Newberry

Comic Books 102

Our last adventure saluted our new Graphic Novels and Comic Books section by spreading out a few basic tidbits about comic book collecting. But the promised vocabulary would have stretched the column too long, so we’ll cover some of that today.

They have added a few terms since the days when I was a regular contributor of data to the price guides and collector’s magazines. And in any case we can’t spare time or space for a full dictionary. But here are a few terms it might be useful for you to know.

Back Issue: This is used for any magazine. A back issue is any issue of the comic book published previous to the newest one.

Issue One: Also referred to as First Issue, or Volume One Number One. This is also used of other types of periodical: it is (guess what) the highly collectible first in what is hoped to be a long run.

Complete Run: This is if you have ALL the issues. Libraries with a lot on their mind, say, the Newberry, prefer to own complete runs of a title, rather than just a few odd issues.

One-shot: This makes it easier for you to have a complete run. The publisher intended this title to be complete in one issue, and that’s all there was to the story.

Ashcan: This is rarer than Issue One, because it came before Issue one. This was an example, a trial run, never intended to be seen by the public. If it is CALLED an Ashcan Issue but was available in comic book stores, it is not an ACTUAL Ashcan.

Eye-tracks: Fanatic collectors have so many words to describe flaws in the condition of a comic book that we would need a week of blogs to cover them all. Some collectors insist that collectible comic books be sealed in plastic and put away unread. If you actually READ the book, they say, you get eye-tracks all over it.

Dust Shadow: If you had a stack of comic books as a kid, and kept them nice and flat and in good shape BUT one corner of one magazine was out of line and got direct sunlight or was exposed to normal household dust and changed color from the rest of the cover, this is a Dust Shadow.

Rolled: Some kids rolled up their comic books and stuck them in a back pocket, but what this more usually refers to is those comic books which were read by folding back the pages as you went through the story. This results in an unsightly turning up of the staple-side of the magazine.

Grading: You used to be able to say your comic book was Fine, Good, or Fair, just like a book, but the uncommonly orderly have substituted a grading scale of 1 to 100. It is best to leave this to professionals, who can give you a certificate showing what number they have awarded you.

Pedigree: This is sort of like Provenance for a book, but is actually more specific. It refers to comic books which come from a Known Collection, known in this case meaning the collection acquired some renown for its quality and high grade. It’s like a really valuable piece of jewelry that has the word “Tiffany” stamped on it somewhere.

If this all makes the comic book collector seem like an obsessive compulsive who cares nothing for whether Captain Invincible can escape from Mr. Supersmellysneakers, well…it can get that way sometimes. In Friday’s column, we will get onto some terms collectors use when they actually open the comic book (having bought a separate copy to be kept free of eyetracks first, of course.)

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