Glossary of Comic Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

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a
- Story art; a(i) - Story art inks; a(p) - Story art pencils; a(r) - Story art reprint.
ADULT MATERIAL
Contains story and/or art for "mature" readers. Re: sex, violence, strong language.
ADZINE
A magazine primarily devoted to the advertising of comic books and collectibles as its first publishing priority as opposed to written articles.
ALLENTOWN COLLECTION
A collection discovered in 1987-88 just outside Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Allentown collection consisted of 135 Golden Age comics, characterized by high grade and superior paper quality.
ANNUAL
  1. A book that is published yearly;
  2. Can also refer to some square bound comics.
APPARENT
An Apparent grade is applied to any comic book that has evidence of repair so that it will appear as it did when it was in its original condition. These repairs can be either professional or amateur in their application.
ARRIVAL DATE
The date written (often in pencil) or stamped on the cover of comics by either the local wholesaler, newsstand owner, or distributor. The date precedes the cover date by approximately 15 to 75 days, and may vary considerably from one locale to another or from one year to another.
ASHCAN
A publisher's in-house facsimile of a proposed new title. Most ashcans have black and white covers stapled to an existing coverless comic on the inside; other ashcans are totally black and white. In modern parlance, it can also refer to promotional or sold comics, often smaller than standard comic size and usually in black and white, released by publishers to advertise the forthcoming arrival of a new title or story.
ATOM AGE
Comics published from approximately 1946-1956.

B

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B&W
Black and white art.
BACK-UP FEATURE
A story or character that usually appears after the main feature in a comic book; often not featured on the cover.
BAD GIRL ART
A term popularized in the early '90s to describe an attitude as well as a style of art that portrays women in a sexual and often action-oriented way.
BAXTER PAPER
A high quality, heavy, white paper used in the printing of some comics.
BC
Abbreviation for Back Cover.
BI-MONTHLY
Published every two months.
BI-WEEKLY
Published every two weeks.
BONDAGE COVER
Usually denotes a female in bondage.
BOUND COPY
A comic that has been bound into a book. The process requires that the spine be trimmed and sometimes sewn into a book-like binding.
BRITISH ISSUE
A comic printed for distribution in Great Britain; these copies sometimes have the price listed in pence or pounds instead of cents or dollars.
BRITTLENESS
A severe condition of paper deterioration where paper loses its flexibility and thus chips and/or flakes easily.
BRONZE AGE
Comics published from approximately 1970 through 1985.
BROWNING
  1. The aging of paper characterized by the ever-increasing level of oxidation characterized by darkening;
  2. The level of paper deterioration one step more severe than tanning and one step before brittleness.

C

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c
- Cover art; c(i) - Cover inks; c(p) - Cover pencils; c(r) - Cover reprint.
CAMEO
The brief appearance of one character in the strip of another.
CANADIAN ISSUE
A comic printed for distribution in Canada; these copies sometimes have no advertising.
CCA
Abbreviation for Comics Code Authority.
CCA SEAL
An emblem that was placed on the cover of all CCA approved comics beginning in April-May, 1955.
CENTER CREASE
See Subscription Copy.
CENTERFOLD or CENTER SPREAD
The two folded pages in the center of a comic book at the terminal end of the staples.
CERTIFIED GRADING
A process provided by a professional grading service that certifies a given grade for a comic and seals the book in a protective Slab.
CF
Abbreviation for Centerfold.
CFO
Abbreviation for Centerfold Out.
CGC
Abbreviation for the certified comic book grading company, Comics Guaranty, LLC.
CIRCULATION COPY
See Subscription Copy.
CIRCULATION FOLD
See Subscription Fold.
CLASSIC COVER
A cover considered by collectors to be highly desirable because of its subject matter, artwork, historical importance, etc.
CLEANING
A process in which dirt and dust is removed.
COLOR TOUCH
A restoration process by which colored ink is used to hide color flecks, color flakes, and larger areas of missing color. Short for Color Touch-Up.
COLORIST
An artist who paints the color guides for comics. Many modern colorists use computer technology.
COMIC BOOK DEALER
  1. A seller of comic books;
  2. One who makes a living buying and selling comic books.
COMIC BOOK REPAIR
When a tear, loose staple or centerfold has been mended without changing or adding to the original finish of the book. Repair may involve tape, glue or nylon gossamer, and is easily detected; it is considered a defect.
COMICS CODE AUTHORITY
A voluntary organization comprised of comic book publishers formed in 1954 to review (and possibly censor) comic books before they were printed and distributed. The emblem of the CCA is a white stamp in the upper right hand corner of comics dated after February 1955. The term "post-Code" refers to the time after this practice started, or approximately 1955 to the present.
COMPLETE RUN
All issues of a given title.
CON
A convention or public gathering of fans.
CONDITION
The state of preservation of a comic book, often inaccurately used interchangeably with Grade.
COSMIC AEROPLANE COLLECTION
A collection from Salt Lake City, Utah discovered by Cosmic Aeroplane Books, characterized by the moderate to high grade copies of 1930s-40s comics with pencil check marks in the margins of inside pages. It is thought that these comics were kept by a commercial illustration school and the check marks were placed beside panels that instructors wanted students to draw.
COSTUMED HERO
A costumed crime fighter with "developed" human powers instead of super powers.
COUPON CUT or COUPON MISSING
A coupon has been neatly removed with scissors or razor blade from the interior or exterior of the comic as opposed to having been ripped out.
COVER GLOSS
The reflective quality of the cover inks.
COVER TRIMMED
Cover has been reduced in size by neatly cutting away rough 944 or damaged edges.
COVERLESS
A comic with no cover attached. There is a niche demand for coverless comics, particularly in the case of hard-to-find key books otherwise impossible to locate intact. See Remainders.
C/P
Abbreviation for Cleaned and Pressed.
CREASE
A fold which causes ink removal, usually resulting in a white line. See Corner Crease and Reading Crease.
CROSSOVER
A story where one character appears prominently in the story of another character. See X-Over.
CVR
Abbreviation for Cover.

D

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DEALER
See Comic Book Dealer.
DEACIDIFICATION
Several different processes that reduce acidity in paper.
DEBUT
The first time that a character appears anywhere.
DEFECT
Any fault or flaw that detracts from perfection.
DENVER COLLECTION
A collection consisting primarily of early 1940s high grade number one issues bought at auction in Pennsylvania by a Denver, Colorado dealer.
DIE-CUT COVER
A comic book cover with areas or edges precut by a printer to a special shape or to create a desired effect.
DISTRIBUTOR STRIPES
Color brushed or sprayed on the edges of comic book stacks by the distributor/wholesaler to code them for expedient exchange at the sales racks. Typical colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. Distributor stripes are not a defect.
DOUBLE
A duplicate copy of the same comic book.
DOUBLE COVER
When two covers are stapled to the comic interior instead of the usual one; the exterior cover often protects the interior cover from wear and damage. This is considered a desirable situation by some collectors and may increase collector value; this is not considered a defect.
DRUG PROPAGANDA STORY
A comic that makes an editorial stand about drug use.
DRUG USE STORY
A comic that shows the actual use of drugs: needle use, tripping, harmful effects, etc.
DUOTONE
Printed with black and one other color of ink. This process was common in comics printed in the 1930s.
DUST SHADOW
Darker, usually linear area at the edge of some comics stored in stacks. Some portion of the cover was not covered by the comic immediately above it and it was exposed to settling dust particles. Also see Oxidation Shadow and Sun Shadow.

E

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EDGAR CHURCH COLLECTION
See Mile High Collection.
EMBOSSED COVER
A comic book cover with a pattern, shape or image pressed into the cover from the inside, creating a raised area.
ENCAPSULATION
Refers to the process of sealing certified comics in a protective plastic enclosure. Also see "Slabbing."
EYE APPEAL
A term which refers to the overall look of a comic book when held at approximately arm's length. A comic may have nice eye appeal yet still possess defects which reduce grade.

F

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FANZINE
An amateur fan publication.
FC
Abbreviation for Front Cover.
FILE COPY
A high grade comic originating from the publisher's file; contrary to what some might believe, not all file copies are in Gem Mint condition. An arrival date on the cover of a comic does not indicate that it is a file copy, though a copyright date may.
FIRST APPEARANCE
See Debut.
FLASHBACK
When a previous story is recalled.
FOIL COVER
A comic book cover that has had a thin metallic foil hot stamped on it. Many of these "gimmick" covers date from the early '90s, and might include chromium, prism and hologram covers as well.
FOUR COLOR
Series of comics produced by Dell, characterized by hundreds of different features; named after the four color process of printing. See One-Shot.
FOUR COLOR PROCESS
The process of printing with the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) plus black.
FUMETTI
Illustration system in which individual frames of a film are colored and used for individual panels to make a comic book story. The most famous example is DC's Movie Comics #1-6 from 1939.

G

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GATEFOLD COVER
A double-width fold-out cover.
GENRE
Categories of comic book subject matter; e.g. Science Fiction, Super-Hero, Romance, Funny Animal, Teenage Humor, Crime, War, Western, Mystery, Horror, etc.
GIVEAWAY
Type of comic book intended to be given away as a premium or promotional device instead of being sold.
GLASSES ATTACHED
In 3-D comics, the special blue and red cellophane and cardboard glasses are still attached to the comic.
GLASSES DETACHED
In 3-D comics, the special blue and red cellophane and cardboard glasses are not still attached to the comic; obviously less desirable than Glasses Attached.
GOLDEN AGE
Comics published from approximately 1938 (Action Comics #1) to 1945.
GOOD GIRL ART
Refers to a style of art, usually from the 1930s-50s, that portrays women in a sexually implicit way.
GREY-TONE COVER
A cover art style in which pencil or charcoal underlies the normal line drawing, used to enhance the effects of light and shadow, thus producing a richer quality. These covers, prized by most collectors, are sometimes referred to as Painted Covers but are not actually painted.

H

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HB
Abbreviation for Hardback.
HEADLIGHTS
Forward illumination devices installed on all automobiles and many other vehicles...OK, OK, it's a euphemism for a comic book cover prominently featuring a woman's breasts in a provocative way. Also see Bondage Cover for another collecting euphemism that has long since outlived its appropriateness in these politically correct times.
HOT STAMPING
The process of pressing foil, prism paper and/or inks on cover stock.
HRN
Abbreviation for Highest Reorder Number. This refers to a method used by collectors of Gilberton's Classic Comics and Classics Illustrated series to distinguish first editions from later printings.

I

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ILLO
Abbreviation for Illustration.
IMPAINT
Another term for Color Touch.
INDICIA
Publishing and title information usually located at the bottom of the first page or the bottom of the inside front cover. In rare cases and in some pre-1938 comics, it was sometimes located on internal pages.
INFINITY COVER
Shows a scene that repeats itself to infinity.
INKER
Artist that does the inking.
INTRO
Same as Debut.
INVESTMENT GRADE COPY
  1. Comic of sufficiently high grade and demand to be viewed by collectors as instantly liquid should the need arise to sell;
  2. A comic in VF or better condition;
  3. A comic purchased primarily to realize a profit.
ISSUE NUMBER
The actual edition number of a given title.
ISH
Short for Issue.

J

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JLA
Abbreviation for Justice League of America.
JSA
Abbreviations for Justice Society of America.

K

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KEY, KEY BOOK or KEY ISSUE
An issue that contains a first appearance, origin, or other historically or artistically important feature considered especially desirable by collectors.

L

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LAMONT LARSON
Pedigreed collection of high grade 1940s comics with the initials or name of its original owner, Lamont Larson.
LENTICULAR COVERS or "FLICKER" COVERS
A comic book cover overlaid with a ridged plastic sheet such that the special artwork underneath appears to move when the cover is tilted at different angles perpendicular to the ridges.
LETTER COL or LETTER COLUMN
A feature in a comic book that prints and sometimes responds to letters written by its readers.
LINE DRAWN COVER
A cover published in the traditional way where pencil sketches are overdrawn with india ink and then colored. See also Grey-Tone Cover, Photo Cover, and Painted Cover.
LOGO
The title of a strip or comic book as it appears on the cover or title page.
LSH
Abbreviation for Legion of Super-Heroes.

M

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MAGIC LIGHTNING COLLECTION
A collection of high grade 1950s comics from the San Francisco area.
MARVEL CHIPPING
A bindery (trimming/ cutting) defect that results in a series of chips and tears at the top, bottom, and right edges of the cover, caused when the cutting blade of an industrial paper trimmer becomes dull. It was dubbed Marvel Chipping because it can be found quite often on Marvel comics from the late '50s and early '60s but can also occur with any company's comic books from the late 1940s through the middle 1960s.
MILE HIGH COLLECTION
High grade collection of over 22,000 comics discovered in Denver, Colorado in 1977, originally owned by Mr. Edgar Church. Comics from this collection are now famous for extremely white pages, fresh smell, and beautiful cover ink reflectivity.
MODERN AGE
A catch-all term usually applied to comics published from the 1980s to the present.
MYLAR™
An inert, very hard, space-age plastic used to make high quality protective bags and sleeves for comic book storage. "Mylar" is a trademark of the DuPont Co.

N

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ND
Abbreviation for No Date.
NN
Abbreviation for No Number.
NO DATE
When there is no date given on the cover or indicia page.
NO NUMBER
No issue number is given on the cover or indicia page; these are usually first issues or one-shots.
NOT SOLD
This indicates an item that did not sell at auction because it did not receive bids equal to or greater than the reserve (minimum bid) amount set by the consignor.
N.Y. LEGIS. COMM.
New York Legislative Committee to Study the Publication of Comics (1951).

O

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ONE-SHOT
When only one issue is published of a title, or when a series is published where each issue is a different title (e.g. Dell's Four Color Comics).
ORIGIN
When the story of a character's creation is given.
OVER GUIDE
When a comic book is priced at a value over Guide list.
OXIDATION SHADOW
Darker, usually linear area at the edge of some comics stored in stacks. Some portion of the cover was not covered by the comic immediately above it, and it was exposed to the air. Also see Dust Shadow and Sun Shadow.

P

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p
Art pencils.
PAINTED COVER
  1. Cover taken from an actual painting instead of a line drawing;
  2. Inaccurate name for a grey-toned cover.
PANELOLOGIST
One who researches comic books and/or comic strips.
PANNAPICTAGRAPHIST
One possible term for someone who collects comic books; can you figure out why it hasn't exactly taken off in common parlance?
PAPER COVER
Comic book cover made from the same newsprint as the interior pages. These books are extremely rare in high grade.
PARADE OF PLEASURE
A book about the censorship of comics.
PB
Abbreviation for Paperback.
PEDIGREE
A book from a famous and usually high grade collection - e.g. Allentown, Lamont Larson, Edgar Church/Mile High, Denver, San Francisco, Cosmic Aeroplane, etc. Beware of non-pedigree collections being promoted as pedigree books; only outstanding high grade collections similar to those listed qualify.
PENCILER
Artist that does the pencils... you're figuring out some of these definitions without us by now, aren't you?
PERFECT BINDING
Pages are glued to the cover as opposed to being stapled to the cover, resulting in a flat binded side. Also known as Square Back or Square Bound.
PG
Abbreviation for Page.
PHOTO COVER
Comic book cover featuring a photographic image instead of a line drawing or painting.
PLATINUM AGE
Comics published from approximately 1900-1938.
POLYPROPALENE
A type of plastic used in the manufacture of comic book bags; now considered harmful to paper and not recommended for long term storage of comics.
POP
Abbreviation for the anti-comic book volume, Parade of Pleasure.
POST-CODE
Describes comics published after February 1955 and usually displaying the CCA stamp in the upper right hand corner.
POUGHKEEPSIE
Refers to a large collection of Dell Comics file copies believed to have originated from the warehouse of Western Publishing in Poughkeepsie, NY.
PP
Abbreviation for Pages.
PRE-CODE
Describes comics published before the Comics Code Authority seal began appearing on covers in 1955.
PRE-HERO DC
A term used to describe More Fun #1-51 (pre-Spectre), Adventure #1-39 (pre-Sandman), and Detective #1-26 (pre-Batman). The term is actually inaccurate because technically there were "heroes" in the above books.
PRE-HERO MARVEL
A term used to describe Strange Tales #1-100 (pre-Human Torch), Journey Into Mystery #1-82 (pre-Thor), Tales To Astonish #1-35 (pre-Ant Man), and Tales Of Suspense #1-38 (pre-Iron Man).
PROVENANCE
When the owner of a book is known and is stated for the purpose of authenticating and documenting the history of the book. Example: A book from the Stan Lee or Forrest Ackerman collection would be an example of a value adding provenance.
PULP
Cheaply produced magazine made from low grade newsprint. The term comes from the wood pulp that was used in the paper manufacturing process.

Q

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QUALIFY
A Qualified grade is used when book has a significant defect that would otherwise prevent giving the highest possible grade.
QUARTERLY
Published every three months (four times a year).

R

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R
Abbreviation for Reprint.
RARE
10-20 copies estimated to exist.
RAT CHEW
Damage caused by the gnawing of rats and mice. Just where are you storing your comics anyway?
RBCC
Abbreviation for Rockets Blast Comic Collector, one of the first and most prominent adzines instrumental in developing the early comic book market.
READING COPY
A comic that is in FAIR to GOOD condition and is often used for research; the condition has been sufficiently reduced to the point where general handling will not degrade it further.
READING CREASE
Book-length, vertical front cover crease at staples, caused by bending the cover over the staples. Squarebounds receive these creases just by opening the cover too far to the left.
REILLY, TOM
A large high grade collection of 1939-1945 comics with 5000+ books.
REPRINT COMICS
In earlier decades, comic books that contained newspaper strip reprints; modern reprint comics usually contain stories originally featured in older comic books.
RESTORATION
Any attempt, whether professional or amateur, to enhance the appearance of an aging or damaged comic book. These procedures may include any or all of the following techniques: recoloring, adding missing paper, stain, ink, dirt or tape removal, whitening, pressing out wrinkles, staple replacement, trimming, re-glossing, etc. Amateur work can lower the value of a book, and even professional restoration has now gained a certain negative aura in the modern marketplace from some quarters. In all cases, except for some simple cleaning procedures, a restored book can never be worth the same as an unrestored book in the same condition.
REVIVAL
An issue that begins republishing a comic book character after a period of dormancy.
ROCKFORD
A high grade collection of 1940s comics with 2000+ books from Rockford, IL.
ROLLED SPINE
A spine condition caused by folding back pages while reading.
ROUND BOUND
Standard saddle stitch binding typical of most comics.
RUN
A group of comics of one title where most or all of the issues are present. See Complete Run.

S

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S&K
Abbreviation for the legendary creative team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, creators of Marvel Comics' Captain America.
SADDLE STITCH
The staple binding of magazines and comic books.
SAN FRANCISCO COLLECTION
See Reilly, Tom.
SCARCE
20-100 copies estimated to exist.
SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT
An inflammatory book written by Dr. Frederic Wertham and published in 1953; Wertham asserted that comics were responsible for rampant juvenile delinquency in American youth.
SET
  1. A complete run of a given title;
  2. A grouping of comics for sale.
SEMI-MONTHLY
Published twice a month, but not necessarily Bi-Weekly.
SEWN SPINE
A comic with many spine perforations where binders' thread held it into a bound volume. This is considered a defect.
SF
Abbreviation for Science Fiction (the other commonly used term, "sci-fi," is often considered derogatory or indicative of more "low-brow" rather than "literary" science fiction, i.e. "sci-fi television."
SILVER AGE
Comics published from approximately 1956 (Showcase #4) to 1969.
SILVER PROOF
A black and white actual size print on thick glossy paper hand painted by an artist to indicate colors to the engraver.
SLAB
Colloquial term for the plastic enclosure used by grading certification companies to seal in certified comics.
SLABBING
Colloquial term for the process of encapsulating certified comics in a plastic enclosure.
SOTI
Abbreviation for Seduction of the Innocent.
SPINE
The left-hand edge of the comic that has been folded and stapled.
SPINE ROLL
A condition where the left edge of the comic book curves toward the front or back, caused by folding back each page as the comic was read.
SPLASH PAGE
A Splash Panel that takes up the entire page.
SPLASH PANEL
  1. The first panel of a comic book story, usually larger than other panels and usually containing the title and credits of the story;
  2. An oversized interior panel.
SQUARE BACK or SQUARE BOUND
See Perfect Binding.
STORE STAMP
Store name (and sometimes address and telephone number) stamped in ink via rubber stamp and stamp pad.
SUBSCRIPTION COPY
A comic sent through the mail directly from the publisher or publisher's agent. Most are folded in half, causing a subscription crease or fold running down the center of the comic from top to bottom; this is considered a defect.
SUBSCRIPTION CREASE
See Subscription Copy.
SUBSCRIPTION FOLD
See Subscription Copy. Differs from a Subscription Crease in that no ink is missing as a result of the fold.
SUN SHADOW
Darker, usually linear area at the edge of some comics stored in stacks. Some portion of the cover was not covered by the comic immediately above it, and it suffered prolonged exposure to light. A serious defect, unlike a Dust Shadow, which can sometimes be removed. Also see Oxidation Shadow.
SUPER-HERO
A costumed crime fighter with powers beyond those of mortal man.
SUPER-VILLAIN
A costumed criminal with powers beyond those of mortal man; the antithesis of Super-Hero.
SWIPE
A panel, sequence, or story obviously borrowed from previously published material.

T

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TEXT ILLO.
A dra
wing or small panel in a text story that almost never has a dialogue balloon.
TEXT PAGE
A page with no panels or drawings.
TEXT STORY
A story with few if any illustrations commonly used as filler material during the first three decades of comics.
3-D COMIC
Comic art that is drawn and printed in two color layers, producing a 3-D effect when viewed through special glasses.
3-D EFFECT COMIC
Comic art that is drawn to appear as if in 3-D but isn't.
TITLE
The name of the comic book.
TITLE PAGE
First page of a story showing the title of the story and possibly the creative credits and indicia.
TTA
Abbreviation for Tales to Astonish.

U

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UK
Abbreviation for British edition (United Kingdom).
UNDER GUIDE
When a comic book is priced at a value less than Guide list.
UPGRADE
To obtain another copy of the same comic book in a higher grade.

V

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VARIANT COVER
A different cover image used on the same issue.
VERY RARE
1 to 10 copies estimated to exist.
VICTORIAN AGE
Comics published from approximately 1828-1899.

W

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WANT LIST
A listing of comics needed by a collector, or a list of comics that a collector is interested in purchasing.
WAREHOUSE COPY
Originating from a publisher's warehouse; similar to file copy.
WHITE MOUNTAIN COLLECTION
A collection of high grade 1950s and 1960s comics which originated in New England.

X

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X-OVER
Short for Crossover.

Y

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Z

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ZINE
Short for Fanzine.

Reprinted by permission from The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #34. ©2004 Gemstone Publishing, Inc. Overstreet® is a Registered Trademark of Gemstone Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.

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