Vocab Lesson: Indicia

By | Tuesday, November 13, 2012 6 comments
I was recently chatting with a reasonably smart friend who is pretty familiar with books, comics and publishing in general. He surprised me a bit by not knowing the word "indicia" so I thought I'd do a quick blog post for anyone else who's not familiar with the term.

Indicia (pronounced in-DISH-ee-ah) are all those copyright and publishing bits that you see on the insides of comics but really don't pertain to the story. Here's a classic example...
All that text stuff at the bottom of the page is considered indicia. It's the plural form of the Latin word indicium, which means a distinguishing mark. So you'll typically find all sorts of relevant publishing information in the indicia -- what makes that particularly publication different from another, like the issue and volume numbers, the formal copyright notice, the publisher, etc. For graphic novels and books, this would also include the ISBN and Library of Congress information.

There's not a formal or standard format this text needs to take. Here's two other examples that change from the old layout a bit...
There's also not a single location it has to appear. Early comics from the 1940s tended to run the information on the inside front cover underneath a slew of ads. This largely migrated to the first interior page, I believe, in the early 1960s. More recently, it's been included on whatever additional page the comic may have that is already somewhat text-heavy and not germaine to the story -- like the summary pages Marvel has used or the letters pages over at DC. (Although I haven't bought a pamphlet book from either publisher recently, so I don't know if they're still doing this currently.)

So if anyone starts referring to "all that copyright info" you can correct them by telling them that it's called the indicia and includes a lot more information beyond the copyright.
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Matt K said...

I actually knew the word in a comics context (perhaps first learned many, many years ago via a very bad joke about "indicia exposure"). Hadn't ever made the connection to books, though... It's refreshing that one consistent term is used in both! :-)

I was surprised that you didn't seem to know the term!

But even so, it occurred to me that it might not be as commonly known as I would've thought, and makes for an easy blog post for the day! ;)

-- MrJM said...

So if anyone starts referring to "all that copyright info" you can correct them by telling them that it's called the indicia and includes a lot more information beyond the copyright.

You may then get punched in the nose for being a pendant.

-- MrJM

With full acknowledgement of the irony involved, I think you mean "pedant". :)

DanielBT said...

Since you seem to know a lot about comics terminology, I was wondering if you could share the reason for those colour borders at the top or bottom of comic pages? Are they present to gauge the colouring on the page? I don't know about you, but I always found these indicators incredibly distracting.

Reneartink said...

If you're talking about the old newsprint comics, it was explained to me years ago at a pharmacy where I used to buy comics as a kid. The lady there told me it was a color code so the stores would know which comics to pull off the rack/shelf month to month.

I used to work in commercial printing for a small printer, and we didn't print comics, but I'm going to guess they had those little color tabs (top or bottom) added on the press. They either scribed something on the printing plates (either on the cyan, yellow, magenta, or blue plate) or stripped it into the film just before making the printing plates.