Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to they're e-mail questions to me at email@example.com).
Reader JumborgAce wrote in to ask:
This has always kinda bugged me: why in Silver Age comic books (and more?) does the bottom of the page tell you that the story "continues after the 3rd page" (of ads)? As a reader you can see that the story continues (even a kid could see that) and, I assume the artist of the story would have no idea about where ad placement went.
The answer to this sort of ties into an article I did somewhat recently about the shifting page counts in comic books over the years and then also about the shift in the TYPES of stories being told in comic books.
Generally speaking, when comic books began, each comic book was treated sort of like an anthology. Even when the book was dedicated to a single character (like Superman or Captain America Comics), the book would contain a collection of short stories starring the main character (or, occasionally, other heroes, as Captain America Comics would often feature stories starring many different heroes, from popular heroes like Namor and the Human Torch to obscure heroes like the Secret Stamp and Father Time). Therefore, the set-up would be "Short story about Superman" then a couple of pages of ads and then "Another short story about Superman" and then another couple of pages of ads and so on and so forth.
Even when page counts shrunk and story pages shrunk accordingly, most companies settled into a system where they would have, say, three seven-page stories and then a couple of pages of ads between the three stories. As page counts shrunk further, Marvel tended to have five short stories per issue (between 3-6 pages each), with ads between each short story.
Finally, though, in 1959, it got to the point that the shrink in story pages took it so that there was no room to just put ads BETWEEN the stories, they had to to put ads in the middle of the story!
And as soon as this happened, Marvel introduced a familiar concept, a little note at the bottom of the page letting readers know that the story continued after the ad...
The reasoning on this was simple. When you have one format for years (ads between stories) and you suddenly change it, you want to give readers a head's up, even if you would imagine that most readers would probably figure out that the story did not abruptly end.
In this particular issue, amusingly enough, there were TWO pages before the story picked up again...
This was common of Marvel Comics for decades to come, where they would say "Continued on the Next Page" even if there were two pages of ads to follow.
Now, JumborgAce wondered how the artists could possibly know where the ad break was. The answer there was that they didn't. As seen here, Marvel would paste the "Continued on the Next Page" note on to the pages after the page was drawn (but before it was published)...
Once Marvel started doing superhero stories that took up the whole issue in the early 1960s, the "Continued on the Next Page" note suddenly had to go from being featured in the one longer story in the issue (typically on the one seven-page story in an issue) to being featured throughout the issue, since Marvel was trying to get readers used to the idea that the story now took up the entire issue.
Here, it is used four times in Fantastic Four #5...
DC slowly began doing longer stories, as well, and began telling readers to continue reading the next chapter...
And soon, shrinking story page counts also led to DC, around 1963, also following suit with what Marvel was doing and began putting ads in the middle of their stories, hence the dreaded "Continued on third page following"...
From that point forward, it was just a tradition that continued until the early 1980s. Right around the same time that Marvel's story page counts went back up in 1980, Marvel abandoned the practice (1980's Fantastic Four #219 was the last issue to have the notice on the bottom of the pages in the comic).
DC continued the practice until the late 1980s.
So there ya go!
Thanks for the question, JumborgAce! If anyone else has a comic book related question that they'd like to see answered, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org!