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Why Did Comic Book Companies Stop Having Corner Boxes On Their Covers?

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Reader Erich S. wrote in to ask, "Why did they stop using the corner box?"

Interestingly, the first use of any sort of corner box was in Action Comics. You see, despite Superman being a smash success right out of the box, the comic book was still an anthology and the comic book company (I think Action Comics #1 was technically under the auspices of Detective Comics, Inc., but by that point, Detective Comics, Inc. and National Allied Publications, Inc. were essentially the same company. Now they are all known simply as DC) was committed to still giving the other characters in the book a shot at the cover. However, since Superman was SO popular, they soon adopted a corner box to make sure everyone knew that, no matter who was on the cover, Superman was also in the comic...

However, even after they went back to Superman on the covers, they kept the corner box....

Why is that? It is for a very simple and yet very important reason. How the comics were displayed at the time. During the 1940s (and pretty much well into the 1970s), comic books were sold at news stands and general stores (like convenience stores and stuff like that).

They were displayed in one of two ways. They were in spinner racks...

or they were displayed on a newsstand just like a magazine...

Clearly, then, the most important thing for any given comic book cover was the very top of the cover. On the spinner rack, you would only SEE the logo and thus the logo had to be able to sell the comic book. In addition, if you have a corner box on the top, the corner box will ALSO sell the comic book, as well, as it will show an example of what character you will be getting if you buy that particular comic book.

However, while the top is absolutely the most important part of a comic book cover back then (hence Marvel often having a banner to tell people that they were, you know, Marvel Comics Group)...

if the comic book is laid on top of one another to the side, like the comic books on the newsstand in the above photo, you might only have the left hand side of the comic book exposed, hence the corner box could be visible in that scenario even if the main logo is obscured.

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