Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Living in the All-New Marvel NOW!

long boxMarvel recently announced the next big thing, in the form of the All-New Marvel NOW. Since last year’s refreshing take on a variety of titles, and the introduction of a few new ones, turned out to be a success, the publisher has gone back to find new and interesting ways to keep the stands fresh and recharged, directing readers to the latest stories and longtime readers to the new creative teams and focus of the Marvel Universe. A sort of lead-in to Inhumanity, the next event-as-varnish over the heroes and stories, kind of a way to just drum up support for some new ideas. But they’re renumbering the Avengers.

OK, it’s not a blatant renumbering; you see, to highlight the All-New Marvel NOW titles, they’ll be getting a Point-NOW issue to direct fans to where the next hotness is. It’s kind of like the Point One issue, but less of a long-term, situation I’m guessing. Don’t get me wrong, the Point-NOW issues will be here for a while, as it kicks off in December with Avengers #24.NOW and then leads into a new series (or more than one new series, in some cases) every week. I know, it’s a lot to take in, and so far, there’s not much else to report besides an All-New Invaders series and the early info we’ve gotten on Inhumanity. I expect an avalanche of interviews and promotions the closer we get to December’s launch. Yet there’s one thing in the announcement that just got right under my nails; it’s a small issue, but in the long run, it becomes a much bigger point of contention.

How are we supposed to file these Point-Now issues??

avengers24NOW_coverI know that, for a lot of readers, the idea of cultivating back issues is a little like recording to cassette tape or using a card catalog: last year’s news and a skill no one bothers with anymore. But every single time a promotion comes up like this, with banner headings and new ways to number, I look to the back issues that my comic shop keeps and wonder what’s going to be the instinctual way to find these books. What’s the natural way for people to look up an issue of a comic that didn’t come out recently? Alpha-numerically used to be the standard, but if you think about the way fans talk about the books and companies promote them, it almost seems like the numbering can get in the way and cause more confusion. Take a look at the first All-New Marvel NOW! title, Avengers #24.NOW: If we think of it like the average Point One issue, this guy goes between Avengers #24 (regular) and Avengers #25. Also on the cover of this issue is a large #1, I’m guessing for the new storyline “Rogue Planet.” So should it be filed separately for those just looking for the new storyline, or will this fit in with the last 24 or so issues? Should it be considered its own title?

How do we talk about comics when it comes to our history, what came before? It seems that every era the Big Two produce each year demands a certain amount of fanfare on their covers that almost make numbering the comics useless. Should we organize our history by creative team (the Hickman run on Fantastic Four, the classic Daredevil stories by Frank Miller)? Should we organize them by the events that surround all the issues going on at the time (the second Civil War Iron Man story, Thor‘s “Siege” arc)? How often do we turn to the number on the cover as a way to refer to the book?

Avengers_Vol_1_24That’s so many questions, I feel like I just wrote a solicitation blurb, but let me put it to you this way: Older comics have always had a lot of information right at the top of their covers. As it was at the top of the cover, it would be the first thing you saw if the issues were stacked up or filed, so you knew it was important information. There was the title of the book, the issue number, maybe some floating heads to show who was on a particular team at the time, the month the book was available, the price and, hey, maybe a chance to win a Toys R Us shopping spree. All in all, it was a lot of hard data to keep track of these issues and, at the time, most could care less about starting a comic “from the beginning.” Starting with Marvel NOW, the only thing guaranteed at the top of your comic cover is the title of the book. Sometimes you’ll find the creative team up there, maybe the name of the story arc and what part you have, but the number now rests at the bottom of the cover for the most part. This lack of emphasis on the number makes comics a lot easier to talk about for the non-detail oriented among us, focusing less on sequence and more on story.

You would think trade paperbacks might solve this problem, as they collect all these issues in sequence, but if you’ve ever tried to get someone started on Runaways or Captain America, the frustration would just grow higher. In the case of the Runaways, their trades are collected by story arc rather than by volume sequence and, in Captain America‘s case, the story arcs can be split up into “Winter Soldier” Vol.1 and “Winter Soldier” Vol. 2, telling you nothing about what to read before or after it. You’d think with all the demand for “easier starting points” and “simple access for new readers,” it really wouldn’t be complicated.

So how now is NOW? When we look back on the All-New Marvel NOW next year, how will they fit into the history of what came before and after? Will we think of them in sequence, or will Marvel comics embrace a new form of continuity that causes readers to think differently about their books and how they fit into the annals of time? New readers become longtime readers very easily and with the right amount of motivation; if All-New Marvel NOW is a hit and brings in a bunch of new faces, they’ll be talking about the issues that got them into comics in a different way than than fans before them.

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7 Comments

The last paragraph made me think of the amazing conversation between Col. Sanders and Dark Helmet.

@Dick Grayson
Same here. The current management at the Big Two, in the words of Freakazoid, are such weenies.

I do it by theme. Because I don’t own a lot of Marvel comics from when they tried to become Image (early to mid 90’s) I’m able to break my collection into The House That Stan, Jack, Steve, And Others Built and the Joe Q era (I sometimes call it the Bendis era).Things like Heroes Return fit much better with the former because it takes it’s inspiration from the era that I grew up reading (1980’s to about 1992). The Joe Q era is Marvel inspired by Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, and Vertigo. It’s an era more about the creators and doesn’t necessarily fit easily with the older comics that were more about the characters. Honestly, Marvel Now! feels more like it takes it’s inspiration from the movies rather than the old comics, Iron Man would be an easy break, just find the issue where the writer starts writing him more as Robert Downey Jr. than Tony Stark.

I also realized that I could cut my X-Men collection off at Uncanny 200 and be satisfied. Because I’m of the Chris Claremont era, I can read an entire run that features the artwork of Dave Cockrum, John Byrne, Paul Smith, and John Romita Jr. (with the occasional Brent Anderson and Bill Sienkiewicz appearance) and not have to worry about Mutant Massacres, Infernos, Genosha, Legacy Virus’s, and Deadbeat/Terrorist Cyclops.

This is a great thought about filing!
I guess it becomes organic & creative.
I filed the DC Crisis from CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS to BLACKEST NIGHT in one dedicated longbox and it will probably spread to another box since it’s now full…and I can always use spare, random issues like DC PRESENTS #87 or TALES OF THE DC UNIVERSE #1 by Wolfman & Perez or JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #s 122-124…and so on the list always grows, huh?)
So everything CRISIS for me is in there, stopping short before the FLASHPOINT PARADOX rebooted me in the rearside but iDigress… ;)

I file regular DC in the DC longbox, by Title, alphabetically by Volume & Issue.
YET…anything ancillary to the CRISIS gets filed in order of Story in the CRISIS Longbox. INFINITE CRISIS, FIFTY-TWO (I skipped TRINITY), COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS (the whole stinker with all the Search for Ray Palmer tie-ins too…grrr), my organically-filed FINAL CRISIS with the entire Grant Morrison BATMAN run interspersed at their appropriate places in the this stretch notably RIP then BATMAN AND ROBIN and RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE with finishes my CRISIS longbox. Before the longbox is capped by Wonder Woman chiding Bruce for opening Magic Boxes I include what I touted as my Last Event Comic Ever…BLACKEST NIGHT, like 90% of the tie-ins, all in order.
Frig the BRIGHTEST DAY which I sensed was gonna not be very good. I lived & paid for COUNTDOWN.
Frig the FLASHPOINT. I stopped there. I left the DC Universe there. I still buy BATMAN by Snyder & Capullo and I think the torch is passed from Morrison to Synder with the closing of BATMAN INC, which was good but I think this New 52 Batman got it going on. To life a line from this fine website, I’m a Grumpy Old Fan now too =) I rarely get superhero funnybooks by DC anymore. I’ve been picking up some of the MARVEL NOW trades but if you look at the spines, it’s like an Algebra book…lots of “Fractions” if you dig with my shovel ;)

But it’s a curation. A sense of husbandry involved in maintaining a comics collection.
So if you’re in for the Event…file the story the way you read it. And the way you’d want it returned to you if you ever lent it out!!!

Kriya Shakti,
Rev Sully

Eric O’Sullivan
Boston, MA USA

I make it easy to store my comics by NOT buying Point One issues (or Point Now issues). If the comic isn’t important enough to warrant a real issue number, I don’t need to buy it.

I have solved this problem by not buying any Marvel or DC comics at all, which I find to be the most hassle-free solution. Because, honestly, I’m only an occasional reader anyway, and it looks like they’re deliberately trying to alienate readers like me. If they can’t be bothered to make numbering easy – and, frankly, it shouldn’t require deep immersion in this stuff to follow issues in a logical sequence, that seems like Basic Marketing 101 – I can’t be bothered making the effort. I just want to read the damn things without getting a headache.

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