What Happened to Comic Book Cover Dates? – Superman Homepage

Whenever you look back at older comic books, you always note their cover date. We all know that Superman’s first appearance was in “Action Comics #1” with a cover date of June 1938.
Most long-time comic book collectors will understand that the cover date isn’t the release date, but rather an indicator for when the comic book should be removed from comic book store shelves.
The time between release date (the day it is placed on store shelves) and the cover date (the time it should be removed from store shelves) has generally been two months.
So, in the example of “Action Comics #1” it was actually released on April 18, 1938.
It has been that way since forever it seems. But somewhere along the way in the past few years comic book cover dates vanished. Looking back at my comic books, the last issue of “Action Comics” to feature a cover date was #992 (with a cover date of January 2018). Issue #993 has no cover date printed on the cover. But if issue #992 was January, then you would assume #993 was February, #994 March, etc…
And that was the way we cataloged our comic books. Whether you were boarding, bagging and boxing them, or keeping a database or spreadsheet… or in my case, a website… you kept track of you comic books by their cover date.
Without even thinking about it, I just kept doing that. A book that came out in January automatically was cataloged as a March cover date. February was April. And so on and so forth. On and on without thought.
But it dawned on me that new readers, especially those who read and collect comic books digitally, would have no concept of “cover dates”. They no longer exist.
So where does that leave us? Do we now simply catalog our comic books by release date? I mean that makes sense. “Action Comics #1050” will be released in December 2022. So it makes sense to catalog it as a December 2022 comic book.
But how do we reconcile that with the past? What do we do with our 2018 comic books? “Action Comics #992” has a cover date of January 2018 as I mentioned, but issue #993 doesn’t have a cover date, but it was released on December 13, 2017. You can’t exactly catalog it by its release date as that would place it before issue #992.
So do you go back and re-catalog your entire collection from cover dates to release dates? Aaarghh!
What to do?
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