Monday, 29 February 2016


Image copyright MARVEL COMICS

If American comics still operate the same way today as they've
always done, the June cover-dated monthly mags will be coming out
in March.  That said, there was usually a delay in the United Kingdom,
before the advent of specialist comicbook shops speeded things up for
the British consumer.  Forty years ago, I'm not quite sure when we'd
have had access to mags bearing the month of June on them, but one
thing I do know is that the bar-code box made its first comic-
book appearance on all mags bearing that date.

Forty years!  I can hardly believe it, mainly because that little
box still seems like a relatively recent interloper on the covers of my
favourite comics.  Can it really be the case that it's now existed for the
majority of my comics-buying life?  Tell me it isn't so.  You'd think that
after all this time I'd be used to it, but no - it still leaps out at me like a
spot at the end of someone's nose, demanding my undivided atten-
tion and preventing me from being able to properly focus on the
actual cover art itself.  "Out, damn'd spot!  Out, I say!"

Forty years, eh?  I don't even feel like I'm old enough (most
of the time) to have forty years behind me.  Yet for some strange
reason, I find myself fervently hoping that I've got at least that length
of time ahead of me.  If it passes half as fast as the previous forty, my
life will be over before I even know it, a thought that affords me no
pleasure.  Anyway, I'll try and be gracious and wish that little bar-
code box a Happy 40th Birthday.  And from now on I'll try
 not to stare.  No point in making it self-conscious.


Phil said...

Happy birthday bar code. One wonders why they used them for UK editions though. My newsagent certainly didn't have a bar code machine in 1976.

Kid said...

I'm not sure that these cover bar-codes would've worked in Britain, Phil, even for those shops that used that system. Probably just worked in America - supermarkets probably still sold comics at that time, and they'd have used the bar-code system.

Anonymous said...

"..I find myself fervently hoping that I've got at least that length of time ahead of me" - so you're hoping to live to 97, kid ? Good grief, you'll need a mansion to store all the stuff you'll have bought on e-bay by then. I've always loved the little bar code box, to me it always looked modern and sophisticated. When I was buying U.S. comics in the late '70s/early '80s the bar code box had a Spidey face in it which really bugged me (no pun intended) because it looked childish compared to the proper bar code. I remember that Tina Turner's Private Dancer was the first cassette I bought which had a bar code on so they must have come in about that time - I bought Private Dancer in December 1984 but The Best Of Blondie which I bought in November 1983 didn't have a bar code.

Dave S said...

The bar code boxes used to feel vaguely sinister to me, for some reason, maybe because when I first saw them (early-mid 80s) I had no idea what they represented- I don't remember seeing barcode scanning technology in the UK until the 90s, and even then I don't think it was commonplace. I much preferred it when Marvel would print a floating Spider-Man or Captain America head in the box instead- it sill looked out of place, but was more aesthetically pleasing to me. I'm also quite fond of the ones that had a logo of books turning into doves with the slogan 'give the gift of literacy', although I have to admit it took me a while to realise that they actually were books and birds in the logo- I thought it was some abstract pattern at first.

Kid said...

Nope, I want to live to 121 (sounds like a good number, but I'd prefer forever), but I hope I've got AT LEAST another 40 years ahead of me. And read DD's comment below to see that you're the odd man out on the matter of the bar-code boxes, CJ. if I remember rightly, at the time, most of the letters which mentioned them in the comics weren't too keen on them.


I preferred the little heads to the codes too, DD, but I'd have preferred if the boxes had never been introduced at all. When Marvel Tales started reprinting the Spidey stories in the early '80s, the cover art was sometimes rearranged to accommodate the bar code box. Sacrilege.

paul Mcscotty said...

I never liked the bar codes either they looked out of place on a comic cover. I think they were used in the 80s mostly at the point of sale to the big suppliers rather that at the shop level to you and I . Actually do they still have bar codes on comics, I can’t remember (that’s how memorable comic cover are to me today). The great thing, back in the day was that you could pick up a US comic dated June 1978 in August 1980 etc - I picked up a fair amount of 1968/9 US comics (Marvel, Gold Key the odd DC etc) in 1972 - 76 period in local shops as new (not as "back issues")

Kid said...

I got loads of great '60s comics (FF, Silver Surfer, etc.) in '73 & '74 in Blackpool, right off the spinner-racks at cover price - great. Yeah, comics still have the bar-code box as far as I know, 'though if it's a wraparound cover, it's sometimes on the back. Is that a new idendity, McS? And why no capital P and S?

paul Mcscotty said...

I'm having problems with this PC (at work - on lunch and / or travelling) linking to my "normal" Google account so set this up to email (its easier than trying ot figure this out) My home PC is ok and works from the "Paul McScotty Muir" addy.

TC said...

As I recall, by the late 1980's, comics sold in traditional retail outlets (e.g., supermarkets, drug stores, newsstands) still had bar codes, and the ones sold in comic book specialty stores had something else (DC's company logo and slogan, Marvel's floating heads of Captain America or Spider-Man) to fill that space.

That is still the case today, AFAIK, although fewer and fewer retailers carry comics now, so it's rare to see new comic books with a bar code, simply because it's rare to see comics on sale anywhere except the specialty shops. For the past ten years or so, the only comics I've seen in non-specialty stores have been Archie digests. Some grocery stores have them near the check-out counter, along with Reader's Digest and Soap Opera Digest.

Personally, I never really paid much attention to the bar codes or the "substitute" logos one way or the other. I do remember some Marvel Tales issues in the early 1980's had to reverse the covers (like a mirror image) to accommodate the bar code boxes.

Kid said...

Ah, right, McS. Thought you might have picked up an impostor along the way. Only the best people have them, don't you know!


The 3 DK III mags I got from a comicbook store have bar-codes on the back of the wraparound covers, TC. Likewise the 2 Swamp Thing Mags, which had them in the customary place (lower left-hand corner), so they still exist.

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