Comic Books 103 | Newberry

Comic Books 103

So in our last thrilling installment, we were listing comic book collecting terminology like indicia and subscription crease and the like: phrases used by dealers to describe condition and other such technical matters. (Don’t click back and check. We did not actually discuss the subscription crease or the indicia. We didn’t even cover the exciting phraseology used to discuss the binding staples. Some other time.)

One of the things mundane souls never believe about collectors, though, is that we actually LOOK AT the wonders we own, and in many cases READ them. Knowing that some of us are readers, those who create jargon just for us have come up with a few phrases to let us know what’s behind the splash panel. These are phrases like, oh

Splash Panel: This is sometimes to be found on the first but more often the second and third pages of the story. It’s a great big exciting scene, with a schoolbus careening out of control or a massive evil purple robot crab about to crush Mighty Matilda. It displays the artist’s verve, provides a place for the publisher to tuck in credits for the writers and artists, and usually tricks the reader completely until the next page. (Either the robot crab or Mighty Matilda turns out to be a robot substitute for some kind of training exercise. But the splash panel made you look.)

Origin Story: This is the story wherein we are told how the hero, super or otherwise, came to be the hero. Convex Carl may reminisce about how he was rocketed to earth from a distant planet, or was struck by lightning in a snowstorm, or was bitten by a radioactive platypus, or was hiding from a street gang and/or the cops and met a wizard and/or martial arts expert. Anyway, it gives us the start of the hero’s story, the fundamental facts about why that name is on the cover of the comic book. UNLESS there is a

Retcon: This is a new term; they didn’t have it yet when I was a mere stripling. It stands for a Retrospective Conversion. Nowadays, writers like to add details later. After twenty years of knowing that Vitamin Seaman was bitten by that cursed seagull, someone decides to write that, after all, that seagull was a robot sent back in time by the hero’s granddaughter in an alternate timestream so…. Origin stories are always worth more than Retcon Stories. Neither of these should be confused with

First Appearance: Sometimes a character is out being heroic and all for several issues before the writers decide to tackle an Origin Story. (Let’s not worry about the Galloping Blaze’s childhood and her martial arts training just now: let’s get her kicking some Clone Nazis now and see if this comic book lasts.) First Appearances are often very collectible (unless there was no Second Appearance, of course.)

Crossover: This is rather commonplace now, but once upon a time, if Captain Crimson had his own comic book, and Miss Maroon had HER own comic book, they hardly ever met. Once in a great while, someone would write a Crossover story, in which the hero of one book would meet the hero of another. Sales went up, and that is why heroes now pass each other on the sidewalk just about every time they walk to the comic book store.

GGA: If Thunder Theda has a tendency to pose on the cover of her comic book displaying her long legs in fishnet hose, or her formidable physique in a string bikini, this is known as Good Girl Art. What, exactly, is the difference between this and Cheesecake is not known to me. Nor am I particularly clear about when one steps over the line into what is known as BGA, or Bad Girl Art. More study is obviously required.

CCA: For a little more than a generation, the Comics Code Authority enforced a Completely Voluntary form of censorship in the comics, proving a great obstacle to GGA. Comic books were the cause of juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, violence, and bad hygiene, and had to be monitored to make sure virtue triumphed, villainy did not get too villainous, and the hero and the heroine shared a chocolate shake in the hamburger joint afterward. There was a similar system in the movies, and they both started to break down at the same time, and for the same reason. Not only did it repress creativity, it hurt sales.

That’s probably enough to go on. Remember now, you want a comic book WITH GGA and an Origin Story, but WITHOUT a subscription crease or dust shadows. Hey, actually, the Dust Shadow would be a great name for a superhero. She and her sidekick, Subscription Crease….

Excuse me, I feel an origin story coming on.

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