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How This Picture Changed the Comic Book Industry FOREVER! || Comic Misconceptions || NerdSync

(theme plays) – Have you ever picked up a Marvel comic and seen a small picture
of Spider-Man’s head in the lower left hand corner and wondered, Why is this here? This isn’t even a Spider-Man
man comic, get out of here! Spider-Manuary is over. But seriously, what does this image mean? (heavy metal music) Hardcore NerdSync fans will remember that we’ve already tackled this topic
before quite a while ago in a comment response video. But I think this needs to
be its own video because of how interesting it is. You might have noticed
that the picture of Spidey is placed over what would
normally be the comic’s barcode. So now we have another question to ask. Why don’t certain comics
have barcodes on them? Originally, all comics
had barcodes on them and they were largely sold on newsstands. If you recall, there was a system in place where the publishers
only got paid for the issues that actually sold. Marvel or DC might pay for
500,000 copies of a comic to be printed and sent out to newsstands, but if only 300,000
copies were actually sold, then the newsstands could send
back the remaining 200,000 unsold comics for credit. Not a super ideal business
model for the publishers. The process of returning
the comics involved scanning the issue back into inventory via the barcode on the cover. Distributors at this time
did not like dealing with comic jobs because some would
reportedly cheat this system. They would buy new comics
from the distributors, sell them at full price
to their customers, buy them back from those
customers for pennies later, and then return them to the
distributor for full credit. All of the money goes to the
vendor leaving the distributor and even the publisher out to dry. Again, not an ideal system. It’s one of the reasons why
Marvel almost went bankrupt before Star Wars saved it, we
talked about that right here. Thankfully, in the early
1970’s a school teacher from Brooklyn named Phil Phil
Seuling proposed a solution. Seuling had launched and
organized big comic conventions in New York so he was very aware of the power of us comics fans. Well not us. I wasn’t born in the 70s. I’m a child. Seuling suggested that the
publishers take advantage of these specialty shops and create the direct
market distribution concept. The idea was that comic book
shops would get perks for ordering comics directly from
the publishers instead of going through independent distributors. The catch was that any
comics the shops didn’t sell could not be returned for credit. To enforce this idea,
direct market versions of comic books would have altered covers with either the barcodes crossed
out, left blank, or filled in with a small picture where
the barcode should be. In a lot of these cases for Marvel the picture would be of Spider-Man. However, some of the artists
like Todd McFarlane would take the opportunity to make little
doodles in the blank space. DC would typically fill theirs in with messages advertising that
DC “is where the action is” or celebrating 50 years of their heroes, or you know just things like that. You might wonder what the advantage is for comic shops to agree to
direct market distribution. Well, for one, it was faster, much faster. New comics would be delivered
to comic shops sometimes weeks before the
newsstands would get them. There were even reports of certain comics being delivered literally
hot off the presses, arriving only hours
after they were printed. The comics would also be
cheaper to purchase since they’re effectively
cutting out the middle man. The downside is that meant
that comic shops had to guess how many copies of a
comic they would sell so that they could try to order
exactly the right amount. Too few and you miss an opportunity to make an additional profit. Too many and you waste your money on a comic that didn’t sell as
well as you thought it would. Thankfully the direct
market also allowed for comic shops to fine tune
exactly how many copies of each individual issue
they wanted to order. Each comic shop is going
to have a different crowd. If your customers love Batman
but aren’t interested in X-Men you’re going to have
order more Batman comics and fewer X-Men comics. This was another perk that
the newsstands didn’t have. Still, it’s virtually
impossible for the vendors to correctly guess precisely
how many issues of a comic they would sell unless
your local comic shop is run by some sort of sentient
supercomputer and or actual wizard. And if the owners of
these shops overestimated, they had to just deal
with all their piles of unsold comics as they couldn’t
get their money back on the remaining issues. So what do you with all
those extra copies of comics you just have lying around? Well, most stores will hold on to them, hoping to sell them
sometime in the future. And this helped foster the development of the growing market for back issues. But you know, perhaps I’m not
the most qualified person to talk about back issues. I think we’re going to
need some help here, Sal? – Hi Scott, I’m Sal from ComicPOP! And let’s talk about back issues. I find that back issues have
influenced the culture of comics in a big, bad way at least from my personal perspective. I find that back issues
created an entire culture of collectors out of fans because when I first picked up
my own personal copies of comics, they came in a
package of a number of comics, out of sequence, at a grocery store. And of course because
they were out of sequence, I only got some fraction
of the story and I had to go look for the back
issues to fill in the gaps. And as such I had to go
find comic book stores. And most of the comic book
stores back in those times were just full of long boxes
that were just stuffed to the brim with old stories
that were cataloged, numbered, and of course priced based
on their exclusivity. While I was a fan who was
trying to complete my story, because I was in that
world and surrounded by people who were of that similar mindset, I wound up becoming a collector because I wanted to protect my investment because some of these back issues
were, let’s say, overpriced or at least priced
higher than their covers, and I also found that I
was getting caught up in the culture of comics
which, back then especially, went hand in hand with collecting. You see a sea of comic
book sellers who have long boxes and long boxes
stuffed with back issues. And so you think to yourself,
the collectors market must be alive and well and probably thriving. But I find that that is not the case, especially for the casual fan. This is more of a holdover
for people, kind of like me, who fell into collecting
because they were a fan. Now you find a lot of fans
who have the avenues to get the stories they want without having to become a collector or break the bank to
get these back issues. Marvel Unlimited is an amazing example of destroying the collector market by simply paying one Netflixian
fee and you get access to an entire back catalog,
so you don’t have to actually have to hunt for, search down, negotiate the price for,
and then ultimately purchase single issues or complete runs
of a character or story arc. The days of searching for,
hunting down, a seminal issue or a monumental occasion
through back issues is kind of going the way of the Dodo. Simply because a lot of
those stories were more than a couple issues long, so
as such, they were probably collected as a trade or if they weren’t, they’re probably either in a back log for a digital world like
comiXology or Marvel Unlimited, or they’re on their way. Most of the comic book stores that I started going to were made
of nothing but back issues. Any comic book store I go to now that doesn’t have a ridiculous amount
of space is just new books. Or if they have some back issues, they’re usually a bunch of books that they over-anticipated the need for and then simply had in storage
and wanted to get rid of. I don’t think that the
retailers can afford to make the space for them. And it’ll hopefully not be
a catch-22 where retailers and collectors start
unloading their collections and unloading their back issues and then when people want them, they don’t exist anymore. And then now all of the sudden
you’ve created a new demand, a new collectors’ market,
a new speculators’ market. I feel like in today’s comic book climate, the stories and the books
themselves are becoming a little more disposable than they were before. There’s a reason why I name
my seminal show “Back Issues”. It’s because I, in my heart
of hearts, believe that while the landscape of the
comic book industry will always be moving and shifting and changing, there’s always going to be
a place for back issues. As long as people want
to know what happened. As long as people have
an interest in history or in just what happened or
have gaps in their stories and they want to know what happened, there’s always going to be a place for it. – Fantastic, thank you so much Sal, this has been super interesting. That little image where the
barcode should be symbolized the direct market of comic
sales which helped encourage retailers to sell comics at
specialty comic book shops instead of newsstands which also led to the growing back issues market
which then started turning fans into collectors and if you remember, from one of our previous videos,
collecting comics is what almost killed the industry in the 90’s. There’s such a large amount of history behind that little picture. Special thanks to Sal from ComicPOP! for helping out with this video. If you haven’t checked
out his channel yet, do yourself a favor and subscribe for great comic book videos like
his series we alluded to, called “Back Issues”, that reviews and discusses comics from yesteryear. – I want to thank you for having me and you know keep up the great work, man. – Thank you, good sir. You can also watch some of
our other videos exploring the fascinating history of
the comics industry like perhaps this one about
how collecting comics completely ruined the comics industry. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Or this one, discussing
censorship in comics. That’s a fun trip through history. Click on one video to choose your fate. There will also be links
in the description. And make sure you hit that
big, sexy subscribe button so you don’t miss out on all
the new videos we make for you every Monday,
Wednesday, and Friday that explore the history, science, art, and philosophy behind your
favorite comic book superheroes. My name is Scott and I will see you right here
on Friday for another video. See ya!


  1. ravenfirepheonix Author

    I literally have no more room at home to collect so i've gone digital. And i'm recollecting all on digital. But there is something about holding a #1.

  2. kevin10001 Author

    Graphic novels don't help the back issue market either cause u can go to a book store and get the whole story in one or 2 books so u wouldn't need to hunt down the single issues for that storyline your looking for

  3. New Damage Author

    My first book was right off the newstand 1995 an Age of Apocalypse tie-in. This in turn sent me into comic shops which turned me into a collector. I loved the collecting/hobby aspect of it. I don't even know what I would have done if I'd had a Comixology app. back then.

  4. Undeterred Author

    Unlike Scott, I was born in the '70s. I grew up in a little town where comics were sold only at grocery stores and the town drug store. Once I got an issue of Batman with the first half of a story, with the second half to appear in the next issue of Detective Comics – "coming in two weeks!" So I made sure my mom did her grocery shopping exactly two weeks later, and sure enough, there was the Detective issue. Unfortunately I was only able to get her to do this for one more story. Anyway, some of the comics had ads with references to "specialty comics shops." That blew my prepubescent mind – an entire STORE full of comic books?! That would be heaven on earth! Unfortunately by the time I was old enough to drive and get to other cities that had such stores, I was more interested in other magazines that you could only get in certain stores, if you get my drift.

  5. Joseph Massaro Author

    There will always be a place for back issues as long as there is a desire to collect things. The back issue market will undoubtedly shrink, but you will always have people collecting things from porcelain figurines to stamps to comic book back issues. With digital comics, the person who buys exclusively to read can do so, while the collector can still hunt for that coveted 9.8 grade missing issue.

  6. Cnight_LDV Author

    Now that indirect market is backfiring the industry (thanks bad comic book plots of all new marvel). And that is why manga sell better.

  7. Sean Michelin - DaiAtlus79 Author

    4:08 as well, as a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, some stores would offer sealed mixed polybags from a supplier with things like a certain run of comics (i got the 1986 Superman #'s 1,2 and 3 this way for a buck at my local department store in the toy section a year after it was published), or other collections (one common staple in our Easter Baskets and Christmas Stockings as kids were things like the complete set of Marvel's adaptation of Return Of The Jedi or the first few issues of their A-Team series, in a sealed bag). This was VERY common to find in many discount and department stores in the 80s and early 90s, at least here in Canada, and ALL comics had the Direct Market box on them.

  8. Sean Michelin - DaiAtlus79 Author

    Also, some comic series were Direct Sales ONLY! DC had their premium comics, printed on nicer paper and a bit more mature in content as Direct Market only, which helped as well both give comic shops an incentive, as well as kept more mature content from showing up in places like a supermarket.

  9. Fred Miller Jr Author

    Lol, that brought back memories. Early 80s, local shop full of longboxes with over-priced back issues in them. "Hey Tom (the owner), why does this one cost forty bucks?" It's rare and collectible. "Yeah but it has a coffee ring and the cover's torn…" Nonsense, that only enhances the value. It was Stan Lee's coffee cup… I didn't quite fall for things like that even at age ten.

  10. MemphiStig Author

    a good shop tried to keep up with all its regular customers for just this reason. bookstores, for example, routinely dealt with returns and refunds for unsold books, but comics were different. and even when "special issues" came out, they would poll their regulars to determine how many they could count on selling. even if they carried, and sold, lots of back issues, they couldn't depend on that to keep them in business if they didn't manage their new titles well. and even in the crazy days of the 90s, there were some things you couldn't get unless you could get the shop to order/reserve you a copy, and they generally wouldn't do that if they didn't already know you were a dependable customer. i mean, if you really wanted all seven covers of Death of Superman, you had to know somebody and ask nicely. you couldn't just count on the back issues section to pick them up later.

  11. Andrew Geraci Author

    Correction: Bar codes were not originally on comic books. I was there in 1976 when the great Marvel and DC covers added the bar code. Look at comics from 1974 and other years prior and there's no bar code.

  12. Craig Goetsch Author

    Collecting comics will never "go the way of the dodo," that implies collecting is going extinct. i would say it is going through a down period, because of the popularity of superheroes. Comics aren't rare right now, when they are again, collecting will go up.

  13. ROOKTABULA Author

    They didn't send back the comics here, for many years, just the covers. I would get a STACK of cover free comics every week from my mom. Some seriously valuable late 70s and 80s comix went thru my hands-if only they had covers!

  14. Thorvaughn Flores Author

    easy. Spiderman is used to be Marvel's icon just like Superman was also DC's icon. Nowadays, MCU's icon is already Iron Man and they are trying to deteriorate Spidey's image. What a pity.

  15. The Man From Krypton Author

    LCS wouldn't get screwed if Marvel/DC and other companies would stop producing gimmicky variant covers.

    Do we really need 10 first issue covers, hologram covers, blanks, coloring colors or action figure covers?
    Marvel makes LCS owners buy x amount of copies before they can buy the variants, and if one lives in a smaller town, they don't get the variety of covers. A recent Iron Man cover had variant covers each with a different armor on it.
    Action Comics #1000 had 7-8 covers representing 80 years of Superman in a 30s style to now. Is it really necessary to have eight copies of a book @ $8 a piece?

    As long as collectors buy physical books, digital comics will stay a niche item. I have 37 short boxes of comics myself and enjoy reading them, bagging and boarding them.
    Can't do that with digital.

  16. War Bot Author

    My Comic Shop created Grab Bags with extras they couldnt sell, Usually 10 comics for 5 bucks. this might seem like a bad idea for a customer to buy at first. But considering the most likely comics to be over bought by the store were the popular ones, I would end up with some great stuff. Once in a while they would toss in a real gem. [Got most of the dark phoenix saga in one grab bag] . It really seemed to work for both as I could try out new comics, get gems and save money.

  17. Randy Smith Author

    Interesting generational differences here. In the 70s, the whole point of comic shops was back issues. It's how you filled in your collection because buying off the newsstand was so uncertain. Once there were comic shops, it made the direct market possible.

  18. Guy WR Waynes Author

    UPC barcodes were not in retail stores until the 1970s. To get credit for unsold magazines, and comics, retailers would tear of the covers (or some identifying portion of it) and mail it to publishers. Tearing off the covers was cheaper than sending entire magazines through the mail.

  19. Reser Loreto Author

    it's hard finding back issues i my country though since a big-name comic shop already stopped selling them and you can only chance upon them in garage sales and even then, they are mostly the type of comics where i am not interested in like star trek ar most of dark horse comics (sorry fans of those series). i've been desperately looking for the complete series of batman:knight fall. my country is the philippines for those who ca help me out

  20. evilvet Author

    i think you left out an important element of how great crack dealers…err..comic shops were, in that my comic shop dealer gave us a check list of upcoming titles, every month we could turn in that list of what we wanted, so essentially the shop would order in a pre-sale manner knowing what the best customers wanted (plus estimate based on our lists, what would be big orders for casual customers). also they had wishlists of issues we really needed, and how much we were willing to fork over to get them. and our home phone to call if they had a lead on something if it exceeded our price. it literally was crack. didn't have to scour through longboxes, the dealer would pull them…we only had to show up every week, or month, and grab our pre-loaded bag with all our issues in them ready to go. this is how i got six copies of the first issue of the first printing of TMNT #1, or the dark knight. a good dealer would know what hot new crack was coming, and tip you off well in advance. it was GLORIOUS. even at a time when subscriptions could simply drop it in the mail to your house. but those would be in bad shape sometimes. so pristine crack at the shops was key. ALSO, you could have your order already loaded in mylar snugs, with acid free inserts to keep them perfect mint.

  21. Joseph White Author

    There was a comic store in Texas that let their customers pre-order and queue up comics. So they almost always knew what they wanted.

  22. Bart 'D Man 95 Lobby Wurkz Author

    I'm from a country which is an Island in the South Pacific.

    Comic book stores in my area sold the one's with the bar codes cheaper than the one with the just photo. We could only buy the bar-coded ones in a discount book store called BOOK SALE. While the Direct Editions and ones with Spidy and/or sups is comic book stores like FILBAR'S and COMIC QUEST.

  23. Gnarleston Gnu Author

    Oh my god 3 seconds in and the production values are like nails on a chalkboard. I immediately take you for a script-reading hack and a shill. There is nothing genuine about the way you present yourself and it turned my off instantly.

  24. magusxxx Author

    You forgot to mention comic book packs. These were always marked differently from the ones on the newsstand.

    During the 1970's Whitman produced DC comic packs. Oddly enough, comic dealers back then considered these 2'nd prints. And many would refuse to buy them. Even though there was no proof the insides of the comic book were printed at a different time than any of the others.

    Go ahead and do a Google image search for Whitman DC Comics and you'll see what I mean.

  25. John McCarroll Author

    I bought comics in the late 1960s with little thought about them..since i was just a kid then. I got into a collecting comics as a hobby at age 1973. I was a Marvel fan & didn't care much for DC. I attended the second annual Marvel Comicon in NYC in 1976. I stopped collecting comics around 1983. I still have a number of the comics & related material i bought during the 1970s..up to the beginning of the 80s. The comic Book scene is vastly different today than from the 1970s. I feel privileged to have been a collector from an earlier time period over today's overblown & somewhat confusing array of material being offered at present time. I guess i'm just old school & a product of my generation.

  26. Shem Ortiz Author

    Do you have a twitter page? I'm looking for #171 issue of Amazing Spider-Man, #1 Issue of Infinity Gauntlet, #1 Issue of Batman VS Superman Annual book 2016, and #2 Issue of Batman VS Superman Annual book from 2016. Also, I'm collecting comic books that tells the story of Genis-Vell, who was Captain Marvel, but later became Photon. Do you have any comic books that tells the story of Photon? I like to buy them. Let me know. Thanks.

    ~Shem Ortiz~

  27. Marcus Author

    Hey NerdSync and Sal. Is there any value difference in newstand vs direct edition books? I wanted to buy an ASM book but the price was really high, so the seller was telling me the reason the price of the book was so expensive because it was due to it being a newstand edition. I still don't get which is more rare. Example in Batman 427. Won't the direct edition one worth more? Because in the direct edition version, they have the one where readers get to vote if he lives or die. The newstand one doesn't have the voting poll, but the direct edition one has. In my personal opinion I would rather own the one with the voting poll page, so I don't get how the newstand one will be more expensive than the direct edtion. I hope you guys or anyone can share your view on this!

  28. Elden Drove Author

    I know what happened to them they ripped the covers off and put them into bags of 3 randoms and sold them for .99 cents in backwoods grocery/ small shops.

  29. Jason Bean Author

    Back in the days of 35¢ comics, I got a subscription service with an outfit called Family Discount Bookstore. 30% off every issue. Of course, I loaded up.
    DC and Marvel and the independent and underground, nothing was safe! I had an insatiable appetite.
    But after I married, I had to stop. My ex wife didn't approve. She's a theater geek. To her, comics are low culture.
    I wonder how she feels now? After all, movies based on comic books are some of the highest grossing in all history. Perhaps her award winning performance as "Shirley Valentine", which netted her zero dollars, might not seem so glamorous any more. That photo of her in the "Creative Loafing" tabloid certainly wasn't very flattering!:) And yes, meow.

  30. Fragment38 Author

    I was a comic freak in the 80's… used to buy about 20 titles a month, easy. I stopped around 1991 or so, and foolishly sold ALL my back issues to a friend who never did pay me more than about 10% of what we had agreed upon. I'm used to rows of long boxes and now if I go into a store I mostly see trade paperbacks. Maybe make a video (if you haven't) about what the heck happened to the comics industry… the implosion that must have occurred. I got out around the time that independents were starting to flourish. Seems to me it all started with those darned Ninja Turtles.

  31. SupremeTitan48 Gamez Author

    I use digital comics, so I look for story arcs and volumes of series, but I admire anyone who was able to grab most of the comics from one story

  32. Just Pelé Author

    This episode didn't age well, did it? "The comic collector market is destroyed!" Meanwhile back issue sales & values have risen by 50% in the last 5 years. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you don't know WTF you're talking about. Digital services are fine, but they hardly replace collectible comics, because comics aren't just about the stories, they're about the collecting experience and owning actual pieces of comics history.

  33. Metalllhead Author has ALL the good old comic books you are looking for! its NEW COMIC BOOK DAY EVERYDAY at

  34. SeijuroRen Author

    Collected volumes and online is good cause I can read a whole story. Japanese comics are good too since they also collect them in tankobon.

  35. Comic Blues with Jonygitar Author

    This guy's argument is totally wrong, backwards, periodicals get returned, still, cosmo, people, etc
    The reason we keep getting maneaters, ms marvel, bordertown, other sjw titles, companies have no risk. The lcs takes all the risk.
    Has zero to do with collecting.
    This is why $5 books that don't sell wind up in dollar bins.
    The way to fix comicsgate, decline in quality, is restore old system still im force for other magazines at newsstand, that makes companies strive for newsworthy and quality. And non returnable make comics MORE expensive, not cheaper, because middleman assuming the risk.
    Only ppl who don't like returnable are companies.

  36. ConkyJoe89 Author

    Maybe I'm just weird, but one of the most RAD things about buying a bunch of X-Force and Uncanny X-Men at my job (Goodwill) a few weeks back was getting to see the ENTIRE comic in its original form. And by that I mean ads and stuff like old giveaways included. There's just something magical about sifting through an old 80's/90's issue and it sparking nostalgia within you, seeing what life was like back then. Again, maybe that's just me lol.

  37. Jeffrey Alfaro Author

    The store I managed donated our back-issues to local libraries and kid's literacy programs. Good deed and you can write them off the store's taxes.

  38. soundwave superior Author

    My comic store in my area had detective comics issue 664 and I bought it for like 5 bucks and got it signed 2 years later by Graham Nolan!

  39. Ale Author

    The solution to the back issue problem has always been tpb's right? Like,you just want the full story? here's a volume collecting the issues of said story for a price of 20-30 bucks(unless you go for the omnibus stuff).now digital comics are another thing


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