F.A.Q. : Comics

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What issues of any title have featured Spider-Man?

There's an ever growing list of Spider-Man comic appearances on the Comics Index page. It is almost certainly the most complete index of Spider-Man appearances ever constructed, but doubtless there are still a few more entries yet to be discovered.

If you're looking for the first ever Spider-Man comic, then you need the Comics Chronology index.

What's a Silver Age comic?

The Golden Age of comics started some time in the 30's or 40's. The first "Marvel Comics" came from that time, and created Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, and The Human Torch (an android version, not the later Johnny Storm).

The Silver Age began in the late 50's/early 60's and was pretty much lead by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and the rest of the Marvel guys with their creations of Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Daredevil, The Avengers, Iron Man, Dr Strange, and all their contempories.

Most people agree that the Silver Age ended in late 1970, when Kirby left Marvel. Others put it even earlier, at mid-1968, when new distribution arrangements meant that Marvel could and did rapidly expand its range of titles, resulting in more creative staff being brought on and new directions being taken.

For a more detailed history of Marvel and the rise and fall of comics in the 20the century, you'd be well-advised to go read one of the books from our Books (History of Comics) list that we have so kindly reviewed for you.

Why do some comics have bar-codes and non bar-code versions?

Traditionally, comics were sold in newsagents. When bar-codes became common, they were added to comics like any other item. During the 90's the ever-growing presence of specialist comic shops lead distributors to produce two batches of comics.

The first batch would go to comic shops, where the dedicated fans eagerly awaited them. Because most comic shops don't use bar-code scanners, these first distribution books did not have a bar-code. A few weeks later, the next batch goes to newsagents and super-markets, where a bar-code was generally expected, and hence is included on the cover.

With very few exceptions, the only difference between the two versions of the comic is the presence or lack of the bar-code. Collectors almost never distinguish between the two versions in this case - they are considered the same comic, and collections will mix the two versions without comment.

There are other cases where the new-stand version was different, but these are not common, and are too detailed a topic to cover here.

How are foreign comics different from US comics?

Spider-Man is translated into many foreign languages - German, Italian, French, Dutch, Indian, etc. Foreign language comics are generally considered in the same category as reprints, and are not an area of interested for most collectors.

In Australia, I have seen at least one 90's comic which is a locally printed version of a comic, nearly exactly the same as the original comic, released at the same time, but printed on different paper stock. Some of the advertisements may also be different, I'm not sure.

In England during the 70's/80's the same thing happened, the comic was simultaneously released with a UK price printed on the cover. But nowadays, this seems to be quite rare. In any case, I believe that such comics are generally considered to be of equal value as the U.S. printing, except possibly for exceptionally valuable issues.

Nowadays in England, the Spider-Man comics are collected and reprinted in a different format - often with a significant time delay, under a different title name. These are also not generally valued by collectors.

How do you determine the grade for a comic?

Here's a basic grading scale. Grading comics is a very specialist activity, and accurate grading requires considerable experience. Please do not ask us for help with grading or pricing comics.

For comics pricing information, the most widely accepted price guide is the Overstreet price guide. Wizard magazine also publishes a partial price guide each month. You can also find a price guide online at www.comicspriceguide.com.

Grade Score/10.0 Description
Mint
(M)
10.0

A perfect, unread comic. White pages, sharp corners, perfectly aligned cover, tight staples, sharp square corners, no creases, marks, fading of any kind - no flaw whatsoever. Most comics fail to reach this grade even when they are fresh off the printing press. The mint grade is so hard to achieve that few graders bother inspecting for mint, and few collectors bother trying to buy mint comics.

Depending on the actual issue, a Mint comic can sometimes fetch a premium of 20% or more over the official Near Mint price.

Mint/
Near Mint
(M/NM)
9.9

Often the grade Mint/Near Mint is used to denote a comic which is totally untouched, and appears to be Mint, but which hasn't been given the absolute rigourous inspection to fully earn the Mint grade.

For valuation purposes, generally considered the same as Near Mint.

Near Mint
(NM)
9.0 - 9.8

This is what most comics look like when purchased new. Tight staples, glossy cover, sharp corners, no marks, white pages. But look very closely and a perfectionist will see a miniscule mis-alignment of the cover with the pages, or a tiny, tiny rounding of a corner. Run your fingers down the spine and you may feel a crease which isn't visible to the eye. Those are the kind of things which mean that nearly all "as new" comics are graded as Near Mint rather than Mint.

The Near Mint price for a comic is the standard quoted price in guidebooks. Other grades are typically valued as a percentage of the Near Mint price.

Very Fine
(VF)
7.5 - 8.9

Still excellent condition. Sharp, bright and clean. May have minor spine wear or a small corner crease, or slight surface wear. Often, at first glance a Very Fine comic will appear Near Mint, although closer inspection will reveal minor but clearly visible imperfections. This is typically the best grade seen for Silver Age comics.

Valued 60%-80% of listed Near Mint price.

Fine/
Very Fine
(F/VF)
6.5 - 7.4

Close to Very Fine, but with one or two defects. No serious wear, good cover gloss.

Valued around 50% of near mint price.

Fine
(FN)
5.5 - 6.5

A nice book, still attractive to look at. Clearly worn, but still clean with no tears. Staples still firm, but color typically creamy and obviously off-white. No structural flaws.

Valued 30%-40% of near mint.

Very Good
(VG)
3.5 - 5.4

Not well cared for, although still obviously readable. Not attractive to most collectors. Probably has two or more major flaws - e.g. faded cover with no gloss, browny pages, rolled, creased, chipped, folds and dog-ears, even noticible rips or tears. But it won't have all of those flaws, and nothing noticable is missing from the comic.

Valued at 15%-30% of near mint.

Good
(G)
1.5 - 3.4

Basically as trashed as you can get while still being complete and readable with the entire cover still loosely attached. Some small bits may be missing - but it's still fundamentally a comic. This is the lowest grade you would really consider as part of a collection.

Value between 10%-15% or near mint.

Fair
(FR)
0.5 - 1.4

Also seen as (F). Be sure not to confuse Fair (F) with Fine (FN). A Fair comic is dirty, scruffy and battered. Part of the cover or inner pages may be missing, although the story is still basically readable.

Worth approximately 5% of near mint value, if that.

Poor
(PR)
0.1 - 0.4

Also sometimes seen as (P). Totally trashed. Cover missing, staples loose and rusted, significant parts of the comic missing.

Sentimental value only, generally.

This list does not cover the bizarre world of CGC graded and slabbed comics - that's a whole different story. Hype about particular comics, or about particular fashionable practices like CGC grading can severely skew the regular comics grading and valuation mechanisms.

There are plenty of other factors in the comic grading and valuing world, such as second printings, autographed copies, and comic restoration. Hopefully you now understand the basics, but just be careful out there!

Why did Marvel restart the Spider-Man titles from #1?

Because the Marketing guys decided it was a good idea. But if you're curious about their reasons for doing so, here's our cynical two-cents worth.

When comic sales are down, there are two ways to push sales back up. Either recover your former fans... which means hiring decent talent for the comics. That involves editorial and management integrity, which isn't easy to find in modern corporates. The alternative is to renumber the comics to #1 so that young fans have a point to start collecting.

As a young fan, it's a bit discouraging to see #783 on the front of a comic book, and to realise that they are coming in so late in the series - so a re-numbering can help provide a jump-on point. Combine that with the words "#1" and "Collector's Edition", add a couple of variant covers, and you have the Spider-Man Reboot, which took place in January 1999.

In practice, it doesn't really make much lasting difference, except to annoy long-time fans, to make life more difficult for archivists like ourself. Even Todd McFarlane's #1 of Spider-Man in 1990 isn't worth more than a couple of bucks over the surrounding comics of the era. In the long run, a comic book needs a good character, good corporate backing, and last but not least - good artists and writers.

Why do modern Spidey comics have two numbers?

Why do the Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) and Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Vol. 2) comics have two numbers on the front... e.g. #40 in big letters, and #481 in smaller letters?

In January 1999, Marvel renamed all of the Spider-Man titles to Volume 2, and started the numbers from the beginning again. See the previous questions for some explanation of why this seemed a good idea at the time.

Shortly afterwards, they realised that they had destroyed nearly forty years of comic history, and cancelled one of the longest running comics of all time - for no really good reason, since most fans could see that this was still basically the same comic.

Joe Quesada was the writer on Daredevil, which had just done the same thing. He started the practice of listing the "old" issue number on the cover of that comic... i.e. the number that the comic should have been, if there had been no renumbering.

When Joey Q became Editor-in-Chief at Marvel, he wisely decreed that the same thing would be done with Spider-Man. So so you now see the Volume 2 number, and also the number that the comic should have borne, if it were not for the foolishness of some short-sighted marketing morons.

What comics should I collect?

Hey, it's impossible for anybody to answer that question! Only you can decide what comics to collect. People collect comics for all sorts of reasons - and my personal tastes are very unlikely to co-incide with yours!

We do provide a Current Title Summary, to help explain the different books which are on the shelves right now. But there have been so many Spider-Man comics produced over the last 40+ Years (see our Comics Chronology) that there is no simple answer.

As for non-Spidey comics, well we do occasionally review the odd non-Spidey comic in our Beyond Spider-Man section. But really, if you're not looking for Spider-Man comics, then you're probably at the wrong website.

If I live in the UK, am I stuck reading Astonishing Spiderman?

UK comics have always had a different flavour from U.S. comics. While the Yanks were getting into Spider-Man, the Brits were getting into Whizzer & Chips. In the UK, collecting comics is nowhere near as respected a hobby as it is in more civilized countries. It ranks just above "train-spotting".

For a while in the 70's/80's, you could get simultaneously issued UK-priced versions of several Marvel comics, including the core Spider-Man titles. Nowadays, most newsagents in the UK only carry "Astonishing Spider-Man", which is a delayed reprint of a fraction of the real titles. But you don't have to put up with that. Most decent-sized city centres have a real comic shop somewhere around, you'll just have to go track them down. I found one in Oxford, and another in Ipswich. There are several in London, including Forbidden Planet.

You will pay more for these comics, firstly because they are air-freighted, and secondly because you live in "rip-off-Britain". That's life, you'll just have to get over it. If you don't have a local place, you can certainly subscribe to any of the big U.S. online comic shops, and get them to air-mail your books once a month. It might even be a cheaper option.

What are the print run sizes for Spider-Man comics?

Here are the numbers are for average monthly distribution through vendor sales, subscription, and free distribution for Amazing Spider-Man from 1966 through to 2002. This information is from a post on the SMB.

Date Issue Total Print Run Total Distribution
Oct 2002 ASM #48 165,765 123,172
Oct 2001 ASM #37 131,367 114,157
Oct 2000 ASM #24 173,967 59,682
Oct 1999 ASM #11 206,591 128,515
Oct 1998 ASM #441 219,917 120,147
Oct 1997 ASM #429 274,400 160,550
Oct 1996 ASM #419 318,992 217,379
Oct 1995 ASM #407 395,486 235,040
Oct 1994 ASM #400 520,625 353,150
Oct 1993 ASM #386 715,642 592,567
Oct 1992 ASM #375 660,958 545,150
Oct 1991 ASM #360 470,075 341,229
Oct 1990 ASM #345 489,589 335,018
Nov 1989 ASM #332 426,790 266,250
Oct 1988 ASM #315 451,930 271,230
Oct 1987 ASM #301 469,913 284,824
Oct 1986 ASM #287 474,098 276,747
Oct 1985 ASM #275 498,367 327,637
Sep 1984 ASM #264 461,591 261,254
Oct 1983 ASM #252 470,527 242,605
Oct 1982 ASM #240 513,585 241,487
Oct 1981 ASM #227 554,248 243,446
Oct 1980 ASM #215 609,059 297,794
1979      
Sep 1978 ASM #191 558,630 258,381
Sep19 77 ASM #178 587,702 282,060
Sep 1976 ASM #167 555,709 282,159
Sep 1975 ASM #155 530,714 272,773
Sep 1974 ASM #144 524,583 288,232
Sep 1973 ASM #132 541,043 273,204
Sep 1972 ASM #118 519,531 288,379
Sep 1971 ASM #108 520,862 307,550
Oct 1970 ASM #95 596,102 322,195
Oct 1969 ASM #83 574,910 372,352
Oct 1968 ASM #71 556,000 373,703
Oct 1967 ASM #59 587,213 361,663
Oct 1966 ASM #47 516,748 340,155

All monthly comic books are required once per year to include information in one of their issues describing the print run sizes. The data above is taken from the issues of Amazing Spider-Man. If anybody cared, they could compile similar figures for other Spider-Man titles.

Some special variant cover comics are released with limited print runs of 10,000 or 15,000 or so. The print run size is usually notified when the comic is released, but we don't track it and we're not aware of any other site that records this either.

Finally, some industry magazines (notably Wizard) prints charts of the top 100 highest-ordered comics for each month based on data supplied by Diamond Comic Distributors. This ranks comics in order but does not generally include the absolute number of orders made.

Presumably Diamond Comic Distributors and/or Marvel has the exact print run sizes recorded somewhere, however this information does not seem to be generally available.