Q&A Comic Production Flaws
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One of my early posts from this thread will give you the answer...

 

Comic Production (Post Artist) from a post I made a while back...

 

Here's an abridged version of how it was done. And I'll skip the part of penciler/inker/colorist because most people understand how the art was done.

 

1) The original artwork arrives at the printer where it is reduced to comic size by shooting it with a very large horizontal camera.

2) The image is now on a piece of film in negative form.

3) The film and color instructions are matched up by a "stripper" to begin his job of putting color into the negative. (Note that the "color instructions" are what the colorist painted up with Dr. Martin watercolors, and are often seen sold on eBay)

4) The stripper takes a clear piece of mylar and begins the tedious task of masking out every single area by various methods. This was known as "Flatting".

5) The stripper makes a separate *hand cut* mask for every different color seen on the page. For instance, there was a mask for the light blue in Spidey's costume. It might also have a few other spots on it that had the same exact light blue in other areas of the page. Another for the dark blues. Another for the light reds. Medium reds. Dark reds. And so on. This process took hours per page to complete. On complicated pages it's possible it took 24 hours plus of hand work on some individual pages.

6) Now that the flatting is done, he can begin to compose the images into the four negatives needed for printing. (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (or Key as it is called in the printing world))

7) The stripper has four unexposed pieces of film. One for each color. He takes the piece used for the black and pins it in a vacuum exposure frame. Then he sorts through his pile of multiple masks and exposes each one, one at a time, onto the piece of raw film. Note that the black will contain the line art, plus multiple other screen values and gradients with other masks that contain black ink.

8) Once this color has been composed, he can then move on to do the same thing for each of the remaining 3 colors. One color could take upwards of 5 to 10+ minutes plus to expose.

9) Now that the four colors have been composed into 4 pieces of film, they need to be proofed. To proof the page was to take the colors and create a full color representation of what the printed page would look like. Often at this point the stripper would check his work and notice he made a mistake on an element in the page. This could be a minor mistake that would only take him 30 minutes to repair, or could send him back to work the page up from scratch.

10) After an acceptable proof has been produced, the printer packs them up and mails them to the editor. The editor would look them over and make corrections that were stripper errors, or he could possibly completely change it because it didn't turn out the way it had originally been envisioned.

11) The proofs are returned with corrections noted... that again, could be nothing, or could cause the page to be completely redone.

This process took weeks to complete for a book. Obviously the strippers were working on other comics while waiting on the corrections to return, so it was a daily grind.

 

Once everything was acceptable, the pages were laid out on a grid to be exposed onto the printing plates. The plates in the old days were crude and not very quality minded.

The theory back then was to print comics.

Print LOTS of comics as quickly as possible.

 

 

 

Ok...fast forward to present day.

Now comics are colored quickly (by the COLORIST) on a computer, underneath the quickly scanned lineart and a file is created for each page.

That file is color separated inside a computer and digitally imaged with a laser directly onto plates that are FAR superior to the plates of old.

 

Technology...gota love it.

thumbsup2.gif

 

I'll add this to help clear it up.

The film was positioned on top of the raw plate and vacuumed to the surface.

A bright light was shot through the clear areas of the film, to expose the raw plate underneath.

After it was exposed, the film was removed, and the plate was developed using chemicals.

In the situation of your book, the "Marvel Comics Group" text in the key film was taped or masked off for some reason.

That prevented the light from exposing through the clear area that had the text.

Thus, preventing the "Marvel Comics Group" from imaging onto the plate.

It could have been masked out for a number of reasons. Probably a correction performed on another part of the page, and they forgot to remove the tape.

 

It seems strange, but it's very common for this type of error.

Printers are not the smartest people in the world, and often make mistakes.

The only saving grace is that they *usually* catch the mistake before too many of them are printed.

makepoint.gifsorry.gifgrin.gif

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Thanks Dice-X that is very interesting to be able to get a image on a plate with light and chemicals 893scratchchin-thumb.gif I sure would like to know more how this works are thier any web sites that you know of that go more into this it would also be great to see the actual plates but you said most were destroyed. frown.gif

So in the case of my Captain America when they exposed the film to the plate they had the Marvel Comics Group logo covered so when they used Chemicals to develope the plate the logo was not on it. When production of the covers started they put in the plate without the logo and ran it until it was noticed at which time they had to replace the plate did you say that they normaly destroy errors like this when they are discovered? frown.gif

I have one more Question, this Captain America is also a 35 cent variant, when a comic has multible prices to be printed on them do they make a extra set of plates for every price change in the case of this comic their were a 30 cent one, a 35 cent one, a direct market one, and a UK one, I think, doed that mean their were 8 plates made or did they somehow add the price change to the existing plates?

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So in the case of my Captain America when they exposed the film to the plate they had the Marvel Comics Group logo covered so when they used Chemicals to develope the plate the logo was not on it. When production of the covers started they put in the plate without the logo and ran it until it was noticed at which time they had to replace the plate did you say that they normaly destroy errors like this when they are discovered? frown.gif

 

I think you have it nailed. 893applaud-thumb.gif

 

I have one more Question, this Captain America is also a 35 cent variant,

 

I did not realize this was a price variant.

Is it possible that all copies of this price variant issue were printed this way?

confused-smiley-013.gif

 

when a comic has multible prices to be printed on them do they make a extra set of plates for every price change in the case of this comic their were a 30 cent one, a 35 cent one, a direct market one, and a UK one, I think, doed that mean their were 8 plates made or did they somehow add the price change to the existing plates?

 

Yes, there would be an extra black plate created for each version of the cover you mentioned.

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Thanks Dice-X that really explains alot thanks for all your help thumbsup2.gif

I am sure you have already explained this but how does a comic come out of the factory with Double or Triple covers. I even have one with 5 covers on it I also have a Amazing Spider-Man #96 with a Double cover and the inside cover is only a little over half their in other words the inside cover was stapled half way down the comic and the bottom half of it was trimed off their is even about a half inch white border at the top of the inside cover, the outside cover is normal though. Are all the pages and the cover put together by hand or by machine I am sure it is done by machine or it would take forever can you explain this process a little? Also is it posible to have a comic with the wrong cover I have one like this but I don't think it is authnic frown.gif.

As for that Captain America I have another 35 cent variant one and it does have the Marvel Comics Group Logo on the top and I have seen another that does also so the one I have with the Logo missing is the only one I have ever seen so far, so they must have changed the plate some where through the run, hope someone comes forward with another. Have you ever seen a Marvel Comic form that time frame with that kind of error?

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Double Covers

The pieces of a comic are loaded into feeder pockets and the machine pulls one from each pile to build the complete comic.

Multiple covers come from the machine grabing an extra cover and placing it on the body and stitches them together.

The cover is usually thin and a single piece of paper, so the binder will grab more than one from time to time.

Static can have some play in this as one cover clings to another, much like a stray sock from your dryer.

 

I made a post a long time ago about how a comic is put together during production.

I'll see if I can dig it up and quote it here.

 

It would be possible to have the wrong cover on a book.

It's just a matter of the wrong skid being delivered to the bindery line.

Poof! Instant mistake!

foreheadslap.gif

 

The book you have with half a second cover is possible.

The inner cover didn't have enough static to hold it in place when it was attached to the book.

It started sliding out just as it was married to the body pages.

Gets stitched and trimmed and the inside cover would have been cut in half.

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Here's one of the many posts I made on bindery production...

If you have a local printer near you with a bindery, I suggest you call them up and ask for a tour.

Most printers have regular tours and are proud to show you an overview of the craft.

 

The body pages and covers are printed separately (obviously).

Each untrimmed section of the book is then fed into a pocket in the binder.

The pages are folded down the spine, but are made up of 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, or even 32 individual pages in each section. (They can be up to 128 pages in certain presses and formats.)

Note that each section must be divisible by 4. One sheet folded in half to create four pages (front and back).

The pages are delivered on the press that will stack and prefold the sections of the book.

 

Back to the binder...

Each untrimmed section is loaded into a "pocket" on the binder.

The binder has a long chain with a tooth on it that grabs one section of the book from each pocket and stacks them inside one another.

When it gets to the end, it gets "stitched" (stapled).

Then it goes into the trimmer.

The trimmer cuts the book on the top, bottom, and face.

Then it stacks a predetermined number of books and straps (or shrinkwraps) the bundle to be put on a skid and shipped out to distributors.

The size of the book is easily changed by the operator. If he notices during the run that an element of the book is getting trimmed off, he can trim it slightly larger to prevent text (or whatever) from getting cut off.

If he (or she) notices that a page that should bleed off the sides is showing a little strip of white, it can be trimmed slightly smaller.

Binders have quite a size range that they can trim.

Ours trim books from 6"x10" up to 10"x16".

 

I think the idea that books are cut before they are assembled comes from the fact that the covers are sometimes slightly larger than the body pages.

This is actually caused from the newsprint that comics used to be printed on.

See...the paper has just gone through the printing press that uses ink and water to transfer the print to the page. The water ("etch" or "fountain solution") causes the paper to shrink. It usually doesn't stop shrinking until the book has been bound.

The paper used for the cover is much higher quality, and thus does not shrink as much as the newsprint used on the inside. So what you end up with is a cover that is slightly larger than the body pages. Even though the book was evenly trimmed when it was bound.

 

And there you have it.

Binding 101.

 

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Another from the same thread...

During normal production, the binder is adjusted to different sizes for QC purposes.

It is not "locked down" so to speak.

As the changing conditions of the sections being fed into the binder dictate, the trim is changed.

The changing conditions would include variance in the product being delivered from the pressroom. Fold being off, cut wandering from where it should be, paper travel of the web along the width of the print, paper shrinkage, etc.

 

It is very possible for the trim to be off because the blades weren't tightened down properly. But more likely that it was a QC issue. Blade travel would be more of a skew problem that is seen on some books.

The operator pulls a sample at least every hour for tracking quality.

If he feels he can improve the look of the book being produced, he makes adjustments up to and including changing the trim size.

The change could be up to 1/4" in some cases. Sometimes more.

 

I hope this helps explain it a little better.

If you have any other questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

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Yet another with information that would be of interest in this thread...

 

how many books are stacked up and trimmed at the same time?

Books are trimmed one at a time.

 

Are all three edges trimmed with the same motion?

No. The "face" of the book (side opposite of the bind) is trimmed first with one stroke, then the top and bottom are cut at the same time.

 

Should a "normal" comic, over time, end up with a v-shape in the open end with the center spread being the widest point?

It depends. A book printed on newsprint will end up in the V shape. This is due to the shrinking pages mentioned in my earlier posts. The shrinkage is less severe in the center of the book. The outside pages shrink more. Possibly due to more exposure to the air and humidity over time.

Newer comics are printed on much better paper. In some cases on paper equal in quality to the cover. Some are even printed on coated stocks. These will be much less likely to shrink up in the V shape you mentioned.

If you could go back and pick up a silver age book from the news stand, it would be very close to being trimmed straight across as comics today are.

 

often we see comics where the staples are as much as 1/4" from the spine fold. How does this happen?

In normal production, the folded pages of the book will sometimes ride un-centered on the binder chain. The book is stitched through the chain. When the book is not riding the chain correctly, it will get stitched off centered of the fold. Meaning that the staples get stuck over into the front (or back) cover.

This is very common and harder to control the smaller the weight of the book is.

Since comics are small and usually very thin, they don't have the weight to hang on the chain correctly without the binder running nearly flawlessly.

 

Are the comics stapled BEFORE they are folded along the spine?

No. Sections of the book are folded as they are running on the printing press.

These folded sections are loaded into the binder for binding.

 

Here is an easy walk through to help you understand how the books are produced.

Go get an old comic book and pull the staples out of it. (Not recommended to use your JIM 83 or AF 15.) Get a crappy one and rip out those staples.

Now pull off the cover and lay it to the side.

Starting on the outside of the book, take the first four sheets (this will be 4 sheets of paper, or 16 actual comic pages) and lay them out on the floor. This will simulate the printing press. The press prints the pages on a long roll of paper, cuts them up into the small sheets, and then folds them along the spine of the book.

Now take the next four sheets, then the next four. Until you run out of sheets.

Each four sheets will represent one press run and will deliver into what is called a section (or form).

 

Take the first four sheets you pulled off and stack them back inside each other in numerical order, and fold them back up along the spine as if they were a small book. This will be "Section 1" of your comic. Lay this to the side.

This is basically what it looks like when it delivers on the press, except they will have a rougher unfinished edge.

 

Do the same for the next "Section". And the next. Until you have several small books that are folded.

Each stack will be made of four press sheets, that when folded will make up 16 pages of your comic. So now you have a few stacks of 16 pages.

Be sure to remember the numbers of your sections. The outermost book is Section 1, then Section 2, etc. The cover of the book will be its own separate section, or "Section 00" as it is often called.

 

Lay your still folded sections on the floor in order from Section 00, Section 1, Section 2, etc.

Now go get a yard stick or something similar that is long and flat. This will be our binder chain.

Now pick up your HIGHEST NUMBERED SECTION and open it up and lay it across the chain with the center spread against your binder chain.

Imagine the chain carrying that piece of the book to the next pocket where the next highest numbered section of the book is.

Take this section and open it up the same way and lay it on top of the first one.

Be sure to keep the heads of the pages on the same side.

Now your chain travels to the next highest section, then the next, etc. until it grabs Section 00 (the cover).

What you basically have now is a complete comic with no staples laying across a ruler *uuum!* bindery chain. grin.gif

 

Now the book gets stapled. The binder has a wire stitcher that puts the staples in while the comic is still lying across the chain.

You can staple your book back up now, but you won't have the equipment to do it while it lays on your ruler. So simulate it by taking it off and stapling it through the spine then put it back on the ruler.

 

Time to get trimmed...

The comic passes into a set of rollers that slide the book off of the chain and lay it down flat on the machine.

Remember that the edges of the book are still unfinished, so the book runs along a conveyer belt that takes it into the trimmer.

The trimmer squares up the book by the spine, then a guillotine type blade chops off the "face" of the book. (Remember that is the side opposite of the spine)

The book continues along the conveyer to the next set of blades that cut the top and bottom of the book at the same time.

This is exactly why some comics have the polygon shape. After the first cut the comic can sometimes become misaligned and turn slightly on the conveyer.

Remember that comics are small and lightweight, so gravity has a tougher time holding them in place for that second cut.

 

Now your book is ready to be stacked up and shipped out.

I guess this is "Binding 201". cool.gif

 

 

Back to the questions...

 

Are comics trimmed before or after folding?

As seen in the above (very long-winded) description, they are trimmed after folding.

 

It seems that new comics are trimmed after folding because all edges are dead straight? Like this c========I

 

Then older comics look like this: c=======>

 

When this transition happened?

There is no transition. They were always trimmed straight.

Humidity, temperature, and air cause newsprint pages in the older books to lose this straight trimming due to page shrinkage.

Also described above. smirk.gif

 

What kind of blade is used for trimming?

"Guillotine" type or "pizza slicer" type (round rolling blade)?

Guillotine type. But it has more of a diagonal movement to it. It's not a straight downward cut.

 

That is, the centerspread will be displaced a distance of 16 times the thickness of a sheet of paper from the inside of the cover.

What you are describing here is called "Shingling". You are correct in your description of it.

However, books were still cut after they were folded.

 

 

Now on to povertyrow's comments...

You nailed it, man. Great comments.

Comics were printed with VERY low quality standards.

They were expected to be rolled up and put in some kid's back pocket and tossed into the trash when he was finished reading them.

The old comics were never intended to last in Mint condition for 30+ years.

They were printed as cheaply as they could be. Quality was the last thing on anyone's mind.

 

It's good to find an old school Prep guy here.

Prep used to be an art. Now it's just data transfer.

It sure has changed a lot since I started working in the trade.

Nothing is the same as it was 5 or 10 years ago. insane.gif

Well...other than deadlines and press problems. 893whatthe.gif

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grin.gif Wow!!! that explained just about every question about comic errors I could have come up with Thanks alot this is the best thread I have ever read 893applaud-thumb.gif. I was going to ask you about another comic I have but I think I see how it happened now I will tell you what it is anyway I have a Double Cover comic that has the inside pages in it backward and upsidedown so I guess they just loded the covers in backwards how many covers do they load in at one time this might give me an ideal of how many of these were printed like this? thumbsup2.gif to Dice-X 893applaud-thumb.gif

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Great thread Dice. I'm going to print it out, and use it for reference. 893applaud-thumb.gif

 

BTW- Can you explain how this happens?

 

CGCforumASM185.jpg

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Covers are loaded in stacks.

So there could be anywhere between 250 to 1000 loaded at a single time.

The backwards cover could have come from a worker pulling the top cover off the stack to inspect it, then placing it back on the stack upside down.

confused-smiley-013.gif

 

Some of my descriptions have changed with time.

One that effects the old posts quoted above came from talking to one of the people that actually worked in the comic plant.

That is...Body pages were one single section that was ran on a single press.

The press printed the 32 page body form, and they were put on skids to await binding.

The cover was printed seperately on large, flat sheets that contained covers from other titles.

Those flat sheets are put into a very large, single blade, guillotine cutter that makes long cuts completely across the sheet, to make individual (flat) covers.

 

The binder is loaded with a body section, and a cover section.

The binder grabs the body section and lays it across the chain.

Then it grabs a cover, folds it in half, and lays it on top of the body pages.

Next it puts in the staples.

 

The stitched book is removed from the chain and layed flat on a conveyer belt.

There are three guillotine type blades that will make contact with the book.

The first cut is with a single blade that knocks off the face trim.

The second and third cuts are simultaneous as the top and bottom of the book are trimmed.

 

After it's trimmed, the books run off into a stacker that dumps them onto another belt when they have a certain number of books in the stack.

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See illustration below.

The blade used for the first cut was slightly misaligned, or the book did not lay flush against the edge of the belt during the cut.

The only thing holding it during the cut is gravity and the weight of the book.

 

The second cut was the same, only worse.

99.9% of the time, the top and bottom cuts will be parallel to each other.

If one is skewed, the other will be equally as skewed.

574984-byasm.jpg

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574984-byasm.jpg.82503d7516034c75b86966c5ff8c2886.jpg

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893scratchchin-thumb.gifSo the inside pages are all put on the chain all at once instead of in sections like you described eairler if this is the case how would you explain a comic that has the first 16 pages of story and then the same 16 pages of story in the same comic and the last 16 pages are missing? I don't have one like this but I have seen a few for sale I have also heard of comic with two complete sets of pages I have even seen a double cover comic with the second cover at the centerfold are these fakes or are they posible? Also are all the interior pages printed on a single piece of paper and folded or are they just folded 4 pages at a time which seams right if so how are they put together before they go on the chain? confused-smiley-013.gif

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Covers are loaded in stacks.

So there could be anywhere between 250 to 1000 loaded at a single time.

The backwards cover could have come from a worker pulling the top cover off the stack to inspect it, then placing it back on the stack upside down.

 

 

Dice-X the Double cover comic with the backward cover has both covers on backward and the guy I bought it from said he had another one just like it that is why I think that maybe the whole stack of covers were backward.

Thanks for all the Great Info thumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gif

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See illustration below.

The blade used for the first cut was slightly misaligned, or the book did not lay flush against the edge of the belt during the cut.

The only thing holding it during the cut is gravity and the weight of the book.

 

The second cut was the same, only worse.

99.9% of the time, the top and bottom cuts will be parallel to each other.

If one is skewed, the other will be equally as skewed.

574984-byasm.jpg

thumbsup2.gif

 

 

893applaud-thumb.gif

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893scratchchin-thumb.gifSo the inside pages are all put on the chain all at once instead of in sections like you described eairler if this is the case how would you explain a comic that has the first 16 pages of story and then the same 16 pages of story in the same comic and the last 16 pages are missing? I don't have one like this but I have seen a few for sale I have also heard of comic with two complete sets of pages

 

893scratchchin-thumb.gif

I'd need to know the specifics of issue and number of pages before I could answer.

This would be possible on a square bound book (because they were built differently. I'll post about them later tonight), but i doubt it would be possible on a regular "inserter" comic.

If you can produce evidence, I would be interested, and would try to find an answer.

 

I have even seen a double cover comic with the second cover at the centerfold are these fakes or are they posible?

 

I doubt it would be production related, and I would be suspicious of it.

It would be nearly impossible for the cover to be inserted on the inside of the book.

The only way would be to have a printing employee doing it manually by taking a cover and inserting it into the body pages before it was stitched.

I'd still be suspicious. It's ridiculous to think someone would do that.

 

Also are all the interior pages printed on a single piece of paper and folded

 

Yes. The early comics were. I think this changed around the '90's.

I made a post about this a long time ago. I'll see if I can dig that one up as well.

smile.gif

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Covers are loaded in stacks.

So there could be anywhere between 250 to 1000 loaded at a single time.

The backwards cover could have come from a worker pulling the top cover off the stack to inspect it, then placing it back on the stack upside down.

 

 

Dice-X the Double cover comic with the backward cover has both covers on backward and the guy I bought it from said he had another one just like it that is why I think that maybe the whole stack of covers were backward.

Thanks for all the Great Info thumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gif

 

In that case, there may have been a whole handful that was fed backwards.

Hard to believe that many would have made it through QC.

893scratchchin-thumb.gif

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So the inside pages are all put on the chain all at once instead of in sections like you described eairler if this is the case how would you explain a comic that has the first 16 pages of story and then the same 16 pages of story in the same comic and the last 16 pages are missing? I don't have one like this but I have seen a few for sale I have also heard of comic with two complete sets of pages

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

 

I'd need to know the specifics of issue and number of pages before I could answer.

This would be possible on a square bound book (because they were built differently. I'll post about them later tonight), but i doubt it would be possible on a regular "inserter" comic.

If you can produce evidence, I would be interested, and would try to find an answer.

 

 

 

HI; Dice-x I am sure I must be mistaken on this since a comic has 32 pages if what I said was corect the centerfold would have to have page #16 and page #1 on it 893whatthe.gif and that would be inposible unless it was squarbound and they have more than 32 pages. But I do seem to rember seeing a auction on ebay with someone claiming this sorry for the lame question I should have given it more though before I posted it 893scratchchin-thumb.gif.

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Covers are loaded in stacks.

So there could be anywhere between 250 to 1000 loaded at a single time.

The backwards cover could have come from a worker pulling the top cover off the stack to inspect it, then placing it back on the stack upside down.

 

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

 

Dice-X the Double cover comic with the backward cover has both covers on backward and the guy I bought it from said he had another one just like it that is why I think that maybe the whole stack of covers were backward.

Thanks for all the Great Info

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

In that case, there may have been a whole handful that was fed backwards.

Hard to believe that many would have made it through QC.

 

 

HI again Dice-X

I may be way off hear and hope I don't offend you but I get the feeling that you think the covers are insideout they aren't the comic looks completly normal until you open it up, and when you open the covers the first page you see is the last page of the comic and it is upside down, it would be like if you take a normal comic pull out all the pages together flip them over and stick them back in , so in this case it would be more likely that they were not spoted do you think they may have let a whole stack of these get out and do you think the covers or the pages were loded wrong? Anyway Thanks for all the Great info and 2 thumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gif

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Covers are loaded in stacks.

So there could be anywhere between 250 to 1000 loaded at a single time.

The backwards cover could have come from a worker pulling the top cover off the stack to inspect it, then placing it back on the stack upside down.

 

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

 

Dice-X the Double cover comic with the backward cover has both covers on backward and the guy I bought it from said he had another one just like it that is why I think that maybe the whole stack of covers were backward.

Thanks for all the Great Info

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

In that case, there may have been a whole handful that was fed backwards.

Hard to believe that many would have made it through QC.

 

 

HI again Dice-X

I may be way off hear and hope I don't offend you but I get the feeling that you think the covers are insideout they aren't the comic looks completly normal until you open it up, and when you open the covers the first page you see is the last page of the comic and it is upside down, it would be like if you take a normal comic pull out all the pages together flip them over and stick them back in , so in this case it would be more likely that they were not spoted do you think they may have let a whole stack of these get out and do you think the covers or the pages were loded wrong? Anyway Thanks for all the Great info and 2 thumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gif

 

That's a horse of a different color.

crazy.gif

This would be possible, and would be more likely to slip past QC.

I don't doubt this as a production error.

gossip.gif

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