Hello, everyone. I’m Eric Mowery, your host for today, and I want to spend time talking to you about…
Newsstand VS Direct Edition Comic Books
(Insert Your Own Action-Oriented Song Here)
If you’re new to comic collecting (or if you’ve been into it for a minute but don’t want to admit that you don’t know the difference) this blog is for you! So sit down, grab a cup of coffee, and relax while I explain this collectible through yarns of completely self-serving exposition.
For years, all comics were distributed the same way: shot out of a cannon into the waiting arms of readers everywhere; however, as the idea of collecting became “a thing,” shops specifically catering to collectors (i.e. comic shops) began to pop up all over the country and with that came the two different versions: direct and newsstand.
I exclusively bought Newsstand comics growing up. I want to tell you that it was because I was just that far ahead of the curve, but that’s the only kind of comic I could buy. Comic shops do not exist in the heart of farm country, and I bought most of my stock from Uni-Marts (does anyone remember those?) and Wal-Mart. My “local” comic shop was an hour away from my house and there was no way my Mom was going to drive me there every Wednesday. It was more of a treat. It wasn’t until I got to high school that a friend and I started making the drive to buy our books directly from a dealer. I’ll always have a soft spot for the spinner racks of my youth, but comic shops had variety AND consistency. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I went to the corner Mom ‘n’ Pop to see that they did not have the new issue of Wolverine.
“Oh, he’s got BONE CLAWS now?? What’d I miss??” they’d say.
So, while my friend and I were gradually becoming regulars at The Comic Swap in State College, PA (shout out to my homies!), many others around the country were doing the same thing at their local shops. Fewer people were picking up issues at convenience stores so fewer Newsstand editions were being printed. Direct Editions began to dominate the market. So what makes them so much more desirable? Well, for starters, it can be seen as a “variant” of sorts. Direct edition copies say “DIRECT EDITION” above the bar code or they don’t have a bar code at all, while Newsstands—you guessed it—just have a lonely ol’ zebrabox.
No one calls it a zebrabox. FYI. No one.
Newsstands, at times, were also more expensive. When Spider-Man got his Spider-Armor for the...uh, fifth time, maybe? I couldn’t snag an issue of that at any comic shop I visited. I randomly found one at a Sheetz in Lewistown, PA and I was happy to pay the difference in cover price.
Aside from variance, it’s much harder to find a newsstand copy in high grade. Think about that for a second and I promise it’ll make sense. When that minty-fresh shipment of comics arrives at the shop on Tuesday night, Johnny Comic Clerk is going to place said issues on the shelf with far greater care than Johnny Walmart is going to do with the same book. And that’s not a slight against anyone that’s worked at a big box retail store. It’s just that the comic shop clerk is never going to hear the end of it from collectors if all the issues are messed up before they’re able to purchase them. Plus, spinner racks and gas station shelves care nothing of your condition woes. Newsstand copies were also, occasionally, printed with cheaper paper.
Production of direct edition comics began in the 1970s but they only made up a small percentage of the market—flip that script to the late 90s and you have the exact opposite. DC still printed Newsstand copies up until (I want to say) 2015, but I could be off by a year or two. They really don’t exist anymore.
Make sense now? How about one last attempt with no Eric Mowery-esque backstory. Check this out:
X-Men #4 came out in 1992 at the height of X-Fever. Thousands of copies of that book were being printed and shipped directly to comic shops everywhere. Maybe you have one, maybe you’ve been looking for one? It is, after all, the 1st Appearance of Omega Red; regardless, it’s not hard to find one in high grade. A 9.8 copy of that book is fantastic because it’s becoming quite collectible, but a 9.8 Newsstand copy of that book is even more collectible because of all the factors that have been discussed. That X-Men #4 was shipped to a Wal-Mart, thrown onto a rack, rifled through by comic fans and non-fans alike, until it made its way to you—on cheaper paper, no less.
This is now the part where I tell you that the X-Men #4 was inside you this whole time!
Nah, I’m kidding. But you can start to make these little gems part of your collection, and that’s something to feel good about.
Until next time!