An ashcan copy is a term that originated in the Golden Age of Comic Books, meant to describe a publication produced solely for legal purposes (such as trademark), and not normally intended for distribution. "Because publishers had to produce only two copies of each ashcan-one for the Library of Congress and a second for their files-fewer than fives copies exist for most of these beasts."
During the golden age of comics, ashcan editions of comics where printed to establish copyright. They often went straight from the printer to the ashcan.—
The word ashcan is an older synonym for wastebasket, trashcan, or other garbage receptacle, intended for ashes from a fire. The implication in comic publishing is that the printed material will go straight from the printer to the trash, which was often the case. Ashcan editions frequently contained unlettered stories, unfinished art or even just whatever wastepaper had been conveniently available at the time. Their purpose was simply to justify the publisher's claim to a title, thereby preventing a competitor from publishing a similar title. Ashcans were also produced to demonstrate the publications to potential advertisers.
One example, called the, "best known ashcan race", is Flash Comics #1 by Fawcett Comics, which introduced Captain Thunder (later Captain Marvel). Competitor All-American Comics had already published a Flash Comics title, and created a character named "Captain Thunder", so the Flash Comics ashcan failed to claim those trademarks for the company, but it did establish a publication date for copyright purposes.
Ashcan- A publisher's in-house facsimile of a proposed new title. Most ashcans have black and white covers stapled to an existing coverless comic on the inside; other ashcans are totally black and white. In modern parlance, it can also refer to promotional or sold comics, often smaller than standard comic size and usually in black and white, released by publishers to advertise the forthcoming arrival of a new title or story.—
In modern comics, ashcan editions may refer to promotional comics in the independent/self-publishing market. The term is sometimes synonymous with minicomics.
- Rhoades, Shirrel (2008). Comic Books: How the Industry Works. Peter Lang. p. 275. ISBN 978-1-4331-0107-6. "Ashcan Copy: A comic book or movie produced for legal reasons (such as protecting a copyright) with no intention of being distributed."
- Duin, Steve and Richardson, Mike (1998). Comics: Between the Panels, p.25. Dark Horse. ISBN 9781569713440.
- Ellis, Mark and Martin-Ellis, Melissa (2008). The Everything Guide to Writing Graphic Novels: From superheroes to manga—all you need to start creating your own graphic works, p.172. Everything. ISBN 9781440524288.
- Duin and Richardson (1998), p.27.
- Dowell, Gary; Holman, Greg; and Halperin, James L. (2008). HCA the Kylberg Collection (Comics) Auction Catalog #828, p.22. Hertiage Capitol. ISBN 9781599672564.
- Overstreet, Robert M. (2010). The Official Overstreet Comic Book Companion, p.295. 11th Edition. Random House. ISBN 9780375723087.
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