After two weeks talking about explosions, comic books and community action, I think it’s time to get back to what this series is best at: complaining about the comic book industry.

This week while going through the stack of Marvel comics at Mellow Blue Planet, I was looking at Champions #4. I was just examining the cover, front and back, and after a minute or so I noticed near the bottom left corner of the comic, just above the top right corner of the UPC bar, was printed in smallish white letters “Second Printing”. This really hacked me off.

Why, you may ask? That’s because printings are a vital piece of information that needs to be displayed prominently on the cover. I am not the type of person who cares about needing to get a first printing of something. These are books not stock options, the chances of you getting rich off of reselling one comic is minimal, but there are people that care about that. This seems to be somewhat of a minor problem the comic industry has gotten itself into recently. There are three truly vital things a comic book cover needs to tell me: the title of the comic, the issue number and the price. Companies like Marvel and Image, a rare occasion I get to take them to task, seem to think it’s in vogue to make me play ‘Where’s Waldo’ when all I want to know is how much their comic costs to purchase.

I read an article, I think it was on Comic Book Resources, but I can’t find it now, about how Marvel was looking at how novels and bookstores use covers to attract readers. At the time I didn’t think this was a bad thing, but now I find it’s one of the more reckless decisions Alex Alonso, editor in chief at Marvel, has made. Novels are stored on bookshelves and most bookshelves don’t have overhangs that obscure the view of the covers. Comics, traditionally, are stored on spinner racks and other then the bottom rack; the others are obscured by the comic under them by as much as two thirds of the book. If the price and issue number are on the bottom then it can’t be seen without picking it up, the same if the title is put anywhere on the bottom half of the cover. This might make sense for people who are browsing the rack looking for something new, but I know exactly what I want and don’t want to go hunting.

For decades comic publishers knew this. Cover top center of the book, issue number and price on the upper left, usually with the company logo. There was a time in the late nineties when Marvel moved the issue number and price exclusively to the bar code, which irritated me to no end, especially years later when I was organizing my old comics. They stopped that practice sometime around the late nineties to early two thousands, so why are they so hard up about this again.

The only thing more infuriating then playing ‘How not to be seen’ with my issue number, is when they print all the information on the back of the issue. I like my comics bagged and boarded, and while they make plastic, see-through backing boards now, which I’ve seen at Mellow Blue, those are only really worth buying for wrap around covers. There are comics with monochrome back covers that some fool thinks are only good for putting the price back there. I shouldn’t have to unseal my comic to be able to pay for it.

DC Comics understands this. The titles are centered near the top with a circle noting the issue number and price in the upper right corner.  Easy to see, easy to find.

Ryan Franks has been into comics for as long as he can remember. He first started collecting back in 1993.It didn't become an obsession until 2009, but still remains one...