Ask the Professor #10 — Indicia Blues

The Professor’s been off… um, professing for a few weeks, so a few questions have piled up. Here’s the first one:

How do you tell the difference between Superman Batman # 1, 1st Batman print
vs 2nd Batman print, both look like the same cover. Both are issue # 1.

The key to most otherwise-indistinguishable printings is the indicia — the small print listing the official title of the comic, the issue number and date, the address of the publisher, and other legally-required information. It used to be easy to find, because it was dependably at the bottom of the first page of the book — you’d just open the cover, look down, and there it was. Lately, however, both Marvel and DC have been moving it around (apparently, some editors think it interferes with the “look” of the first page of the story, especially if it’s a splash page). The Marvel indicia is now often in the back of the book, often a few pages from the end on the letters page (if the book has one), or sometimes on the last page, and sometimes still on the first page, too, depending on the particular book’s editor. For DC, it’s been on the last page of most of their comics for the last few years now — and that’s where it is on Superman/Batman #1. If you look in the back of the book, and can find it, first printings will just have all the regular information and stop. Second printings will say “second printing” in the otherwise-blank space at the end of the line.

This may sound like a pain to track down, but it reminds the Professor of probably the hardest-to-distinguish reprints that Marvel ever published: the GI Joe books, back in the ’80s. No difference in the cover, and no notation in the indicia: The only way to tell what printing you have of most copies of GI Joe #1-26 (and a few later ones) is to realize that, since they were published in a different month than the originals, they have different ads — and a different Bullpen Bulletins page, with its list of currently-published Marvel books. Thus, if you have, say, a copy of GI Joe #2, you have to flip through the book, find the Bulletins page, and check to see what issue of GI Joe it’s got listed. If it says “GI Joe #2,” you’ve got a first printing; if it says “GI Joe #26,” or any other number, it’s a reprint instead. The Professor remembers spending hours on All About’s GI Joe back issues years ago (back when they were hot and people actually bought them), carefully pulling each out of its bag, running the procedure, squinting at the small, fuzzy, badly-reproduced ’80s-printing ink on the Bulletins page, and then carefully noting which printing it was. If he had those hours back, the Professor would now not only be younger, but would have more time to stay caught up on these questions — so, like so many things in the comics industry, it all turns out to be Jim Shooter’s fault.

About Phil

With 40 years of experience in comic reading, collecting and reviewing, English Professor Phil Mateer has an encyclopedic mind for comics. Feel free to ask Phil about storylines, characters, artists or for that matter, any comic book trivia. He will post your questions and answers on the AABC blog. His knowledge is unparalleled! He is also our warehouse manager, so if you are looking for that hard to find comic book, ask Phil!
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