I was reading an article in Spy Magazine about how the insider jargon in Hollywood keeps changing so that what’s in vogue one year is totally outmoded the next, when it occurred to me…What insider jargon does the comic book industry have? I mean, I’m as inside as you’d want to get, so how come I can’t think of any of the buzzwords unique to the funny business? Sure, we have technical terms like “make-ready” and “k-tone” that have specific meanings that haven’t really changed since the specific print technology was invented. And we do have words that have filtered up from comics “fandom” (itself a buzzword specific to its subculture – other fanisms include: “lettercol,” “gafiate,” and “fanzine”). But alas and alack, there’s a definite paucity, dearth, and shortage of comic book insider jargon!
So…at one of the weekly assistant editors workshops, I assigned all of the a.e.’s to come up with at least one buzzword, one neologism, one cryptic catch-phrase unique to the concerns of the comics industry. And here, my faithful readers, is what they came up with – a glossary of comic book pro-speak, provided here in no particular order, so you might understand what some of your favorite pros are talking about if you happen to overhear them talk among themselves…
dusking off: taking a comic book character and deliberately making him/her/it tougher, grittier, and more “realistic.” Also known as “dirtying down.” Example: “Boy, those teevee guys sure dusked off the Fl*sh.”
cover up: using a popular artist on the cover to disguise the fact that you have a so-so artist doing the interior artwork.
coverblind: buying a comic book just for the cover art.
jargonize: any attempt to use current slang in comics, which inevitably is horribly outdated or misused by the time the story sees print. Also known as “hangin’ at the Coffee Bean.”
ace: a Hot artist; that is, an artist whose name will bring an increase in direct sales of the title s/he draws.
ace of aces: by popular consensus the hottest artist in the industry at the moment.
grunt: a professional whose work can be seen on the newsstands ever single month without fail.
hot rash: a sudden spurt of guest appearances by a hot character in other books in order to cash in on his current popularity. Example: “My, isn’t Ghost Rider experiencing a hot rash this month.:
meltdown: when a previously hot character becomes considerably less hot by overexposure. Also known as “skid marks.” Example: “Uh-oh, I think – – is on the verge of meltdown.” or “Uh-oh, I think – – has skid marks.”
stripmining: the overexploitation of character by giving him/her/it more than one monthly book.
pull up the roots: when a creator decides to totally revamp a character so that everything previously known about him/her/it is no longer in continuity.
pagiarize: adapting a good movie property into a bad comic book.
cinemassacre: adapting a good comic book character into a bad film or television program.
mediarize: hyping an “event” that takes place on the comic book page in such a way as to make the mass media take notice.
given the Gold Card: when a comic book creator is given absolute free rein to revamp an established book or character in any way s/he sees fit.
x-hume: taking an old character who could not support his own title and making him a mutant or tying in with the X-Men. Example: We x-humed Captain Britain and put him in Excalibur.”
weeding the garden: canceling three to five titles every year to make room on the schedule for some new ones.
swash: series within a series, hey!
bloatfish: a six-part swash that runs nine parts.
moebify: creating a storyline that has no beginning or end. Also known as “bottomless scripting.”
balloonify: using a cheap sales ploy to artificially boost sales.
einsteinification: explaining something that defies the laws of physics by invoking the laws of physics. Also known as “pulling an Albert.”
braille: artwork with a lot of white correction fluid used to mask inking mistakes.
crammer: a freelancer who cannot being to work on a book until it is already past its due date.
freelurker: a freelancer who constantly lurks about the editors’ doorways sniffing out the possibility of freelance assignments.
siliconing: inserting some new element into a previously established legend.
lancing out: leaving a staff position to go freelance.
speedballer: a less-than-great concept that gets its own series anyway.
stafflancer: a staff member who also does freelance.
jakroxing: swiping from Jack Kirby.
slash: when used between two other words for comic book disciplines, it renders the second term highly suspect. Example: “Mark Gruenwald is a writer-slash-artist.” Can also be used alone as a verb. Example: “Gruenwald really slashed that artwork.”
plunch: plot lunch, a meal where the primary purpose is to discuss a story plot.
cosmify: bringing in a cosmic character into a non-cosmic book.
overification: bringing in a cosmic character to justify some story element that otherwise cannot be justified.
tightening the screws: upping a monthly title to biweekly publication for the summer.
fannyfarmer: an assistant editor who tries to curry an executive editor’s favor by laughing at his unfunny jokes and other obsequious behavior.
Okay. That’s the list. Fun, or what? Don’t bother memorizing it, though. I guarantee you that 95% will be out of fashion (or never quite in) by the time you’d have the chance to overhear it. Special thanks go to Tom Brevoort and Mike Kanterovich for providing over half of the above-listed catchphrases all by themselves. (Fannyfarmers of what?)