Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rusty and rare: Comic book printer plates

It used to be that comic books were printed via thin metal plates (later plastic) adhered to rotating cylinders. If a printer wanted to make any changes to the printed page -- such as blocking out a bar code, for example -- the correction actually had to be taped or glued onto the metal plate prior to printing. Comic books aren't printed that way anymore -- most modern printing is done digitally. Very few original comic book plates still exist, as they were usually melted down after printing so the metal could be re-used. So, they're well worth grabbing, for anyone who happens to run across one. Expect 'em to have a little rust on 'em, though!

Here is a surviving plate for the outside cover (front and back) of Green Lantern #146 (1981), dried ink, rust, and all. Yes, the plate images are always reverse images of the printed pages. The printed inside cover, and all interior pages, also had plates like this:

Here's a scan of the printed cover.

6 comments:

SallyP said...

I did not know that! I always just assumed that the printing fairies did all the work, I suppose. Nevertheless, that's a really cool item, and I'm glad that you have it!

Sea_of_Green said...

The hard part is trying to figure out what to do with the blasted thing. Metal printer plates are CURVED. How do you frame something like that? I suppose I could always flatten the thing out, but that takes away some of its authenticity.

SallyP said...

You could mount it on a stick and a base of some kind, and make sculpture out of it!

Sea_of_Green said...

Hey, that's not a bad idea!

Don't EVEN get me started on color separations ...!

Holly said...

How rare and valuable are these metal print plate? I have some and was told only worth $100. Made me sad.

kissinger contreras said...

I own some of these plates. I have sold a couple on ebay for up to 400.