Robot 6

The Fifth Color | Now and later with Marvel in February 2014

that’s a whole lotta new

There just has to be a better way to do this every month. Not only is seeing previews for comics three months ahead of time a little tricky to keep up with and stay hyped for (kind of like finding out your Christmas presents on Halloween and remembering to act surprised on Dec. 25), but it’s also weird in a numbering sense. I know I’ve talked about this before, but Marvel’s Tom Brevoort has been handling some questions on how new NOW! is when there’s a bunch of No. 1 issues on the horizon. Some, like the new Wolverine #1 debuting in February, aren’t even new; the title will continue with its current writer and follow up on the current storyline. When you remember that comics are internally dated months ahead of the date they actually hit the stands, it’s amazing we ever know what is going on in comics.

But back to the numbering issue: Brevoort has talked about this on his Formspring-turned Tumblr account thusly:

The way comics are read and produced is changing, and so too is the way that they are numbered. And at the end of the day, like it or not, it’s the audience that really determines things like this. A new #1 inevitably, invariably increases the sales on a book, whereas a #whatever doesn’t. And the same story with the same art but a #1 will inevitably, invariably sell better than it will with a #30 or a #570 or what-have-you. You’ve shown us this time and again—and so we’re changing the way we think about issue numbering. And really, most magazines and publications don’t carry serial numbering at all, so it’s a stylistic convention of comics going back to the earliest days. I understand the comfort and familiarity of it, but at the end of the day, comfort and familiarity won’t keep the lights on at Marvel HQ.

A little defensive, not that I blame him, and a reasonable point: No. 1 issues just sell better and tend to be the first thing a new comics readers thinks of as the place they should start. The sad thing is that, no matter how popular the No. 1 is, it’s the No. 2 that really determines sales success. If people can’t get the No. 1 issue, then people won’t buy No. 2; if people didn’t like the No. 1 issue, it’s a lot easier to dismiss the rest of the series as you just haven’t invested anything into it, and neither have the company or creative team. It’s just something to roll around in your brain as we take a look into the future here and see what Marvel has planned for February next year. Join me, won’t you?

ms marvel1Nine new No. 1 issues grace our stands this month range from the not-so-new (the aforementioned Wolverine #1) to the surprisingly new (James Robinson now on Fantastic Four). But no one’s here to talk about either of those books; we’re all waiting on Ms. Marvel #1 and the introduction of the Muslim teen superheroine. Diversity should always be celebrated, but I think what really matter the most for Ms. Marvel #1 is the story and a connection to the character for all readers, not just her particular demographic. Her design is cool, she’s going to bring a lot of new eyes to the Marvel Universe, but most of all, she should connect with each and every one of us who’s ever wanted to be a superhero and look up to the heroes we read about in comics — and those of us who have struggled with issues of identity and matching our own wants and dreams with those our parents and loved ones want for us. This is the big deal no matter what her skin color is, so I commend Marvel, I and hope enough people look past that No. 1 issue to buy the rest of the series and make sure the character hangs around in her own title.

If readers don’t catch on, Ms. Marvel will probably go the way of a few others: Fearless Defenders has been officially canceled and, as the solicitations indicate, we’ll also be losing Wolverine and the X-Men and X-Men Legacy. The latter is crushing, but sadly expected, as the book was really too quirky and cool to live. Then there’s the former, as I can’t imagine why we’d lose Wolverine and the X-Men if not for (gasp) story purposes. Normally, regular-series cancellations are due to sales or editorial mandate, but I honestly can see as a reader and a fan of the X-Men that the “Logan runs a school” concept has run its course, if not failed spectacularly. Let’s face it, Logan really didn’t run that school, that was Kitty Pryde’s job; as much of a twist as it was to have “lone wolf” Logan try to handle a bunch of new mutants and carry on Xavier’s legacy, maybe what we’re supposed to take away from Battle of the Atom was that Cyclops won for now in this odd war of who’s more Xavier-y. Maybe the book will be relaunched next month with the Jean Grey University rather than a school. Who knows, but it’s weird to hear of a fairly popular title being canceled and think to yourself, “Well, good.”

We’re also missing Young Avengers, which could have concluded with its End of the Year party in January, or could also be part of the All-New NOW! repackaging process. And that’s why there’s got to be a better way: It’s so hard to make a regular pull list when you just don’t know how long a series is going to last.

Even something as simple as a Wolverine comic, probably one of the easiest characters to sell to the public, can’t keep up a continuing series. I know the argument for renumbering and I do agree that we can’t cling to tradition and expect the ever changing world to revolve around it. But is there something different, something really new we can use in the now to give comics structure from one story line to the next and still keep up the hype of a first issue? I ask you, Dear Readers, should we just date the comics on the front cover and be done with it? Should every story arc be numbered differently? Should other readers just suck it up and handle a triple-digit issue like how it was in ye olde days? Brevoort said it himself, Marvel is changing the way they think about numbering these days and as much as Marvel has taken a chance on different styles, authors and characters, a solution for how we follow comics is something we could really use right now.

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Comments

18 Comments

Not interested in another #1 issue. I stopped reading Fantastic Four because after their first recent fake final issue I didn’t want to start over with another #1. I haven’t read it since.
Books like Fantastic Four and Captain America should have higher numbers because they are foundation titles. #1 should be reserved for something new or uncommon. Brevoort is wrong to generalize this, I don’t buy a book because it’s a number 1 issue.

I would’ve resisted this concept a few years ago, but I completely understand the trend now. From a general audience perspective, the look of high numbers on comic covers is akin to joining a TV show mid-season — at this point, wouldn’t you rather wait for the season compilation on DVD/Netflix, or to catch it from the beginning in reruns? If TV is allowed this luxury to survive, comics must be, as well.

The analogy continues and likens every issue #1 to the first episode of a new TV season — it doesn’t discredit the previous seasons, but it allows a spot to jump on and tell a new aspect or chapter of the story. Or, if you opt for the season as a whole via DVD/Netflix, that’s what the TPB offers in comics now.

Not reading a series because it re-starts to #1 is actually as empowering to the number system as the company deciding to do in the first place. The priority as writers and readers should be investing in the characters for the long haul, and making those characters’ stories worthy of the commitment.

If you’re glad W&TXM got cancelled you should quit reading comics.

And if you stop reading comics cuz of renumbering you’re a terrible fan to begin with.

With the cancellation of Wolverine and the X-Men, Marvel will only be publishing two pre-NOW titles: Hawkeye and Avengers Assemble.

How much longer can either of those last without being relaunched or cancelled?

I’m curious about the All New Marvel Now! Daredevil and how he looks…

I liked how Top Cow did some of the numbering when they rebooted The Darkness for the 3rd time, putting the current volume’s number in bolder print and a smaller number of the overall number including all of the previous series. I think Marvel did that at some point too. But it addresses old fans and new fans that want to catch up in the right order.

I probably wouldn’t have started collecting comics if not for Marvel Now and a bunch of new #1s. I’ve been a reader for a while, but usually through trades at the library in addition to some questionably legal means. But when I decided to start collecting I focused on series that had started recently, so I could have a reasonably “complete” collection.

Creatively, it seems like the trend of “writing for the trade” has evolved into “writing for the omnibus”. If creators’ runs are going to have discreet beginnings, middles, and ends like overarching stories, renumbering makes sense. But the business with Wolverine and Captain Marvel renumbering even though they’re keeping the same creative team is dumb, IMHO.

Ransak the Elders

November 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

#1’s only sell because of the possibility of a great series. The beginning of a great adventure… Its always been this way and the more you dangle #1’s at people they start to see the carrot on the stick on stop collecting. I personally fell pray to this, i used to subscribe to a box at a local comic store and i asked them to put everything x-men in it and after time it just started ballooning into ridiculous amounts from spin-offs, mini-series and like 5 active series. I had to stop buying singles and went with trades. The mentality of the above quote killed a 20 year love of collecting singles.

I skip almost everything marvel these days as they are mostly exploiting their own characters for more and more money with overly dramatic weakly plotted stories. Lets not forget Disney made 5.7 billion dollars in profit last year. Record breaking profits. This is not a pity party for a dying publisher. This is exploitation and eventually people will catch on move on to other publishers or indie comics as some of the best stories have come from there and not marvel.

They also need to stop focusing so much on kid stuff. Adults have money, target audience should be kids old enough to get a job up until adults who have kids. Those are the ones with money to burn on collecting. Yes there are many exceptions but i can promise you i spent more than any parent buying for their kids in a comic store or commercial store in the last month.

Singles these days are mostly just advertisements. As mentioned above people want the full season, a great story all at once so trades with an end game in mind might be a good way forward.

I hate ragging on a publisher I have grown up loving but whats going on over there and the mentality blows my mind. I repeat again this really is not about money to survive, its money for a yacht.

Ooh! Why not make every issue a number 1? The cattle will eat it up! Every issue is anew continuity as well. ‘last issue Wolverine metal claws! This is issue? Nope. He has rubber claws and he’s a werewolf! Next issue, everything you knew was a memory implant! Because now Wolverine is a cartoon pony with musical powers!’
Claremont run? Forgotten.

Wolverine & The X-Men was not a bad comic book, although I do think it was getting a bit too crazy for its own good. The Hellfire Club saga was a good example of that: the “villains” are sadistic little kids who, mind boggles, become accepted at the school afterwards…same kids who mudered God knows how many and were responsible for this ridiculous Schism between Wolverine and Cyclops. And the teachers at the former Hellfire school were known villains, who decided to “teach” for reasons beyond me.

Was it fun? Yes. Did it make any sense? No and that’s saying quite a lot for an X-Men comic book. If that title was in non-continuity it would have been an easier pill to swallow but…no, it was too much for me.

Of course it’s kinda silly even talking about the X-Men after the dreadful Battle of the Atom. I’m only gonna be sticking from now on with Amazing X-Men, because it seems to have a sort of old school fun feel to it, and new X-Factor, because Peter David is always awesome.

Marvel could always do what Dark Horse did back in the day. Just keep the original numbering inside the cover and label it whatever you want to on the outside.

Also, by Brevoort’s logic, would The Walking Dead #100 have sold a crap-ton more comics if it had been labeled #1? I think it sold like it did because it was a milestone issue. Remember those?

I’ve always been a reader rather than a collector, but the numbering was important to me as a kid. It was a time when most characters only had a single series, distribution of new comics was spotty at best and back issues were readily available cheap from old book shops and market stalls – so the numbers helped me piece the story together and gave a sense of building something. If I was getting into the hobby today I’d be reading collected editions from the library so numbering floppies becomes irrelevant.

The only thing I can still say in it’s favour is that, with all the variant covers around, the issue number tells me whether or not I’ve already got the comic without having to look inside.

To be practical, I’d rather see a date so that you know which is the latest issue. I’ve only got four titles on my pull list but my LCS still manage to screw up my order regularly due to confusion over variant covers and numbering.

Small children in the 40s, 50s, 60s were able to comprehend big numbered comics. So basically Brevoort is saying children were better equipped at wrapping their heads around comic books than the current audience.

1s also get a lot more advertising than higher numbers. If there was more of a focus on stories and individual issues advertised and promoted, besides #1s, there might be more sales bumps and few declines.

Marvel could also move away from their generic covers, and use cover images to sell the contents.

Deemphasizing the issue number might help, also. Issue numbers from the 50s through the 80s were often much smaller. When DC made its New 52 announcement and said high numbers scare away readers, Detective Comics had issue numbers about an inch high.

What Breevort doesn’t say is that restarting a series with a new #1 is a way to also bump the price another $1.

FF going from $3 to $4 is a bad call. New Warriors at $4? Bad call. The relaunch of Daredevil will be $4 (take that to the bank).

The only real surprise is that the new Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk are $3 — at least until they get a mid-series bump to $4 like Fearless Defenders got…

I quitting FF, Wolverine and Daredevil when the current series end. I had considered trying the new FF, because I like Robinson and Kirk, but the extra dollar will be better spent elsewhere.

As for the numbering, I’d like companies to do what Dark Horse does with series like Hellboy and Bloodhound. There’s a current number on the front, but they keep track of the number of issues in the entire series on the inside.

“As for the numbering, I’d like companies to do what Dark Horse does with series like Hellboy and Bloodhound. There’s a current number on the front, but they keep track of the number of issues in the entire series on the inside.”

THIS.

I don’t care about all of the renumbering, but with all the .1 and zero issues, not mention specials that come in the middle of a run, such a system would be super-useful for anyone looking to re-read and wondering what the heck the proper order is.

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