With the return of the school year, we've started back on the process of coding our corpus. Right now we are doing a second run through all of our comics, focussing on paratexts (ads, letter pages, recap pages, credit pages) with a secondary focus on story length - which will set us up nicely for our third pass, which will focus on stories themselves. Combining these two elements, of course, also gives us comic book length as well. We've started with the most recent comic books and are moving backward in time. This means that the majority of our count so far has been 32 and 36-page comic books, with occasional forays into 52 pages and a very few 28-page books (plus one 200-page Jughead Digest!).
The way that we're doing this now is crunching all of this by hand on index cards that are then inserted into the bag along with the comic book. We will add all of the information from the cards into the database as a second set, but we've already found that it is much faster to count and then record than it is to try to do it all at once (mostly because of tabbing backwards and forwards through the computer program). Also, the index cards give us a fallback if something catastrophic happens to our database.
For the most part, at least with contemporary comic books, the process of counting ads and story pages is very fast. I can do a regular comic book in about ninety seconds as a series of shorthand notations (c for cover, in for internal or house ad, ex for external ad, LC for letters page, and so on). Most elements in contemporary comics are full-page (I think I have only encountered one comic book with half-page ads so far). The somewhat less rare double-page elements get recorded as "in+in" or "ex+ex" to show them as one element across two pages. Again, this is all very quick.
Once the notes are on the pages, I do a quick double-check by adding the number of story pages with the number of paratext pages. This gives me a number divisible by four, and I know that I'm set. If it does not, I have to go through the comic book again to figure out where I made my error.
So imagine my frustration with #3462 (Suicide Squad #19), our first 38-page comic book.
How 38, you ask? Good question.
As you can see above, Suicide Squad #19 has a gatefold cover, with the right hand portion tucked under the front cover. The reverse of these two pages is a house ad with a double-page spread. At first I counted this as a cover and an internal ad, but that seemed wrong. I thought that it was all just one cover, no matter how large, and so shouldn't be counted twice. But that made no sense, because in reality we're counting four pages on each piece of paper, but they are, of course, only one piece of paper. Then I circled the "c" to come back to it, but that made no sense either. So then I changed it to "c+c" and "in+in" to reflect the double-page spreads and allowed the final page count to stand at a non-standard count.
So, the first exception to our rule of four.