Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Did Anyone Get The Number of That Book?

Comics should not require research to read. It makes getting into the medium intimidating to new readers and off-putting even to experienced readers. A reader should not need to be experienced to follow a story!

Hulk no need
balanced breakfast.
The biggest problem here is that the publishers want to have their Hostess Fruit Pies and eat them too, in the form of constant re-number and re-titling of books. They want the boosted sales of a #1, but also the extra numbers that come with a milestone issue such as a #500.

For example, let's take a look at the publishing history of Thor. The God of Thunder got his start in Journey Into Mystery #83, and eventually the title of the book changed to reflect that of it's star, with issue #126 being re-titled as The Mighty Thor. This was the tend for several of Marvel's books that started as anthology titles but were taken over by the most popular feature character, such as Captain America taking over Tales of Suspense.
Hammer time.

The Mighty Thor kept the same number and title up until it's cancelation during the Heroes Reborn event, which was a reboot or reset of some of Marvel's flagship characters, such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

It was around this time that the third volume of Journey Into Mystery was launched (I don't even know how to slot JiM volume 2 into this article other than to say it existed and as far as I know had nothing do with Thor, it was an anthology title featuring various stories), for a grand total of 19 issues.

You only wish your
hammer was that shiny.
Thor became the star of his own book again with a relaunched Thor #1 (to go along with new Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, and Fantastic Four #1's) after Heroes Reborn: The Return, which saw the exiled heroes come back to the mainstream Marvel Universe. Thor had a run of 85 issues before being canceled. The character was killed off (in the extraordinary Ragnarok storyline) and put on the shelf for a few years.

Thor made his triumphant return to comics with a new #1. This new volume ran for a total of 12 issues before Marvel decided to bump up the bottom line by keeping the name but going back to the original Journey Into Mystery numbering with #600.

21 issues later Marvel then decided to launch a new book for Thor to call his own, The Mighty Thor #1. His "old" book was returned to the title Journey Into Mystery and continued on with #622.
Thor's mom made him
add the sleeves so he
wouldn't catch cold.

So if I'm a new comic book reader, and I decide I like the cover art on Journey Into Mystery #622 and pick it up, how am I supposed to know that if I want to backtrack to find more issues I have to look for Thor volume 1 #621? If I figure out that the book was last titled Thor, I'm going to be looking for the most recent volume, volume 3...but that stopped with #12 and continued into Thor volume 1 #600-621...I bought these books as they came out and even I get confused!

I'm not gonna lie, this also makes organizing your books really difficult. If you do it by title and volume, the reading order is all messed up. If you do it by reading order, then you have to mix in multiple titles that can't be sorted alphabetically.

I understand that a #622 is off-putting to new readers because there is a lot of potential backstory you may feel you need to read. But bouncing around from #1's to #600's makes it no easier.

Better movie means
better cover billing.
I think the big publishers need to look at a volume system. You could create a new volume every year or two. The numbers stay low, making it more palatable to new readers, but there is still a sense of history when you hit volume 20 #1. You can create a jumping on point for new readers with each new volume.

I'd like to think that DC Comics has an excellent opportunity to keep their titles numbering clean with the relaunching of their entire line with #1 issues for all titles, but I find it hard to believe they will pass up re-numbering Action Comics when the time comes for #1000. It's really a shame Action and Detective were re-numbered from a historical standpoint, but I'm sure DC will get their slice of those fruit pies however they can.

Don't mess with the Ding-a-Lings

1 comment:

  1. Good blog, Jay!

    Unfortunately, as I've gone into a few months ago on my blog (More on That Mighty Marvel Renumbering Game), Marvel wants to have their cake and eat it too, having begun a new practice of relaunching with #1 issues but retitling the previous series until it finally peters out and dies. In the meantime, though, they get two streams of revenue where first there was one. Pretty clever, but again you get to dividing the fanbase and attrition because everyone's suddenly spending double the cash they were previously. And when those titles, like Incredible Hulks and Hulk both ramp up to a twice-a-month schedule...well that's just blatant bilking.

    It looks like the next example will be Fantastic Four/FF, with the 600th issue of the former occurring in November while the latter continues with its same numbering scheme.

    I agree, enough is enough, but as long as these gimmicks generate sales blips, Marvel will continue to churn them out...