The stories behind the stories

Standard Catalog of Comic Books

Standard Catalog of Comic Books

The largest book about comics ever!
Published by Krause Publications • 2002-2005
Written by John Jackson Miller, Maggie Thompson, Brent Frankenhoff, and Peter Bickford

4th Edition • Published 2005 • 1,616 pages • Softcover

3rd Edition • Published 2004 • 1,584 pages • Softcover

2nd Edition • Published 2003 • 1,452 pages • Hardcover and softcover

1st Edition • Published 2002 • 1,254 pages • Hardcover and softcover

The First Edition of the Standard Catalog came from an idea I had in 1996. With lots of original sales figures for comic books coming into our offices from the “Circulation Scavenger Hunt” in Comics Buyer’s Guide — and with historical records from the close of Capital City Distribution — the idea of having a single resource for information known about a single comic book had some appeal.

Krause had already been publishing the Comics Buyer’s Guide Comic Book Checklist & Price Guide for several years, which differed from other guides in that it provided a single entry for every individual issue, rather than grouping them. So the template was there – we simply needed a database that could store the information.

There followed several years of experiments, culminating with two significant developments. A database was developed that would not only have the room to handle the 150,000 comic books we’d be talking about, but that would allow us space to add different kinds of data about those comic books without limit. Around the same time, Krause entered into an alliance with Human Computing, which produces the leading CD-ROM collectible product, ComicBase – helping us fill in many of the gaps in our own data.

After taking 2001 and early 2002 to populate the database with Golden Age comics missing from our previous editions, presses rolled on the first edition of the Standard Catalog in summer 2002, with the first edition appearing at the Chicago comics convention. Sales were so favorable that the Second Edition was scheduled for the following year.

Two major enhancements were developed for the Second Edition. Grids featuring actual online auction prices for high-profile comics were integrated into the listings, ending decades of price guides having to rely on suppliers for pricing.

Making this possible was the second enhancement, behind the scenes: A Rosetta Stone, of sorts, helping the database understand that a comic book known by one name, say, at Comics Guaranty Corp., was known by another in our own records. Thus, we’ve been able to quickly merge data from a variety of sources — all of which makes for a fuller, more complete guide.

And that it was — the second edition was more than 200 pages longer than the first, with approximately 17% more information.

Sales on the second edition were such that a Third Edition was scheduled almost immediately. This time, we decided not to draw the line at three auctions when reporting past sales; the result was, of course, a book that was larger still (albeit providing sales info on comics that rarely get exchanged).

Coping at the larger size, we chose to make the paper a bit lighter and passed on a hardcover version of this edition. Ironically, the paper difference means this edition, with its larger page-count, is lighter and slimmer than the second edition. We doubt there will be many complaints about that!

For the Fourth Edition we added an art cover by Alex Horley, listings for Whitman or specialty-market variants of DC and Marvel comics, and many more facts. To keep the page count manageable, we raised the bar somewhat for auction listings. I think it’s by far the most attractive edition we did.

The 2005 edition was, thus far, the final one to date: the book’s staff in 2006 was unable to come to terms with the company’s book-publishing arm over page count and configuration. But even without updates, the books are still widely used as references. A PDF-only fifth edition was released, but I had nothing to do with it (other than what was already in the book from before).

How big could the Standard Catalog have gone? Pretty big. Krause’s biggest catalog, the Standard Catalog of World Coins, tops out above 2,300 pages. That’s the cachet of the line; always the biggest resource on the shelf.

Not only do we include names of the people appearing on photo covers in the Second Edition, we’ve indexed some of the animals, too — from Trigger to Rin Tin Tin.

The hardcover of the Second Edition weighs seven pounds. One reviewer called it a “doorstop of a book.”

The prices in the Standard Catalog and the more portable Checklist & Price Guide, which releases a few months later, are not identical. We update all the time, and changes appear between the two database runs.

With all the attention on details about other books, some have been surprised to note that the first page of the Second Edition is actually page 5! Very late in production, we learned that we’d actually miscounted the number of pages that went into each signature – not hard to do once the page counts get so high! We cut a few of those “intentionally left blank” pages from the front of the book – and rather than renumbering fourteen-hundred pages (along with the table of contents) at the eleventh hour, we decided to let it go, since most big books don’t number their early pages, anyway. So, yeah, the numbering is a little off – on purpose. I doubt anyone’s missing those blank pages!