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Comics History & Trivia

Bobby DerieBobby Derie Registered User regular
I like comic book history. It's a fun subject. One of my favorite bits is looking at pre-Code comics, how the industry and tastes were back before and leading up to Seduction of the Innocent (<professor-voice>Wertham!</voice>) and the creation of the Comics Code Authority. So I recently picked up a parcel of the old Eclipse Comics reprints of pre-Code horror comics from the 1930s to 1950s, and for me the short sections on the history are as fun and interesting as the comics themselves. This little bit from Seduction of the Innocent #2 (1985) jumped out at me:
Last issue I mentioned in passing that Standard began its numbering with five instead of one. Now tht's an odd, but seemingly innocuous, bit of trivia that most of you probably ignored. But it really speaks volumes about what was happening to comics at the time.

Today a first issue is a potential prize; something to hrode or on which to speculate. Put #1 on something and sales double. (Note that we have SOTI-3D #1 & SOTI #1.)

In 1952, a first issue was an anathema. The proliferation of new companies and new titles meant greater competition and more chance that a distributor or retailer might choose not to carry your new comic, simply because it didn't have a history of sales. With hundreds of comics, and only so much display space, why should anyone take a risk on an newcomer?

So Standard simply put '#5' on all of their '#1's. The retailer, who could be trusted not to remember all of the titles he put out in the last month, wouldn't give it a second thought. Atlas (Marvel in the Fifties) had a similar method: they just didn't list the issue number on the cover until it reached five. They (and EC) were also famous for new titles continuing old numbering schemes. Yesterday's marketing ploys explained.

It's kind of a kick because of when this was written 1985, before the real speculator boom in comic books really took hold in the late-80s/early-90s, and also because of how we can sort of still see this kind of thing being done today - anybody remember how Marvel started doing "soft launches" of new series by having characters like Hercules take over the Hulk's old title? The reasons why they're doing it aren't quite the same, but it's kind of fun to look back sixty years and see the realities of the industry.

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