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Killing Joke first print…and second…and…

Okay, the above pretty well represents what I remember a Great Eastern dealer having on his wall at shows circa 1990: The Killing Joke first print, on display with all the subsequent printings that had been released, at that point in time. (Can’t remember if The Killing Joke was actually up to its sixth print at that exact time, but definitely up to its fifth.)

The Killing Joke of course is one of THE key books of the Copper Age; we even knew that back then. My personal opinion is that it’s the single best looking packaged book of the era, possibly ever. The iconic Brian Bolland cover, glossy prestige format, debossed (raised) lettering, in that acid green that DC actually paid extra to have done…in as what’s known as a “fifth ink” in the printing industry.

Anyway, upon initial release in 1988, The Killing Joke was an instant $10 to $15 book. In constant high demand, it easily warranted being reprinted. Instead of just indicating that with a “Second Printing” on the inside front cover of the reprint — and instead of the second print cover being identical — DC smartly (and, quite correctly) chose to use a different fifth ink on the reprint’s trade dress. This time, we got sorta hot pink lettering, instead of the acid green. And in doing so, it was basically our introduction to variant covers to differentiate reprints.

THEN the second print sold out quickly, and was going for $10 to $15, while the first print hit $20 to $40, propelled by the “Batmania” of 1989. Third printing was yellow lettering, fourth kinda orange, fifth blue, and on and on.

So, how many times has this thing been reprinted over the years? Well, if we’re talkin’ in its original standard comic book size, MileHighComics.com (from where we pulled the scans above) lists fourteen(!) There may have been more.

More info / resources:

Check out this New England Comics back issue ad from ’89, and the original DC Comics Killing Joke house ad from ’88.

And The Killing Joke finally got the deluxe hardcover treatment a couple of years ago, re-colored by Brian Bolland…hey, it’s available on the Copper Age Comics aStore!

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