Saturday, August 25, 2012


Back in April of 1987, there was a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced:

What, the last issue of Betty And Veronica?? Ohs, nos, how can the Republic survive?

Unless, of course, by the "...Or Is It?" they mean...

Yup, the very next month, Betty And Veronica was reborn, with a brand new #1 issue. And the Republic survived.

I bring this up because lately I've seen much gnashing of teeth and angst over the fact that Marvel is "re-launching" a number of titles under the Marvel NOW! initiative, with lots and lots of "new" #1 issues.

Now, don't get me wrong--I think re-numbering most of your titles is silly, and annoying. But we also tend to forget--it's nothing new.

Most of our comic book issues numbers are just arbitrary, made up constructs, anyway. Remember, for example, that modern Captain America never started with a #1:

Yup, Cap started with #100, taking over the numbering from Tales Of Suspense. The Incredible Hulk? Started with number 1, cancelled after 6 issues, eventually started appearing in Tales To Astonish (#60), and took over the title with #102. Thor? Started in Journey Into Mystery #83, and just changed the title with issue #126.

So when all of those magazines celebrated huge "anniversary" numbers, it was kind of a lie, a ridiculous creative accounting trick. These guys never had originals #1s, but Marvel wanted round number anniversaries, and they were going to get them! Cap had never had 600 issues--they counted all the issues of Tales Of Suspense that came before Cap started appearing there? Ditto for Hulk #600 and Thor #600.

So the numbers folks are worried about resetting? They were never real to begin with.

There never really was a "golden age" of numbering. The fact that people were upset about the nu52 resetting Action and Detective to #1 shows that...because those were the only two titles in the industry that had never been reset. Everyone else? Long since past the point of no return.

How many volumes has Aquaman had? Green Lantern? Marvel's Heroes Reborn/Heroes Return/Heroes Warn Marvel Not To Do That Again?

Now, I'm on record that comic book issue numbers are not all that important, and in fact should be dropped. Let's face it, whatever problems the nu52 has (or Marvel NOW! will have), issue numbers as a factor are so low on the list, it's not funny.

Besides, we all need some perspective, because as I mentioned, numbering (and titles) in the industry have always been ridiculously arbitrary.

Example: in 1941, Ace Comics started Four Favorites as a super-hero title...

...before switching over to an all-humor format in 1947...

...but then for #33 they changed the name and title and format...

...but that was only for one issue, and then they sort of returned, with as new title, in #34...

...whilst Crime Must Pay The Penalty was reborn, and it's "first" issue was #2:

Trust me...that is one of the least complicated examples from the Golden Age. So the crying of Herc/Hulk or Thor/Journey Into Mystery? Brother, your great-grandparents wish they had it so good.

So a bunch of renumbering? Nothing new for the comics industry. Relax, and focus on the insides, not the numbers.


Anonymous said...

Times (and the comic book market) have sure changed. Now, even Archie Comics will cancel and revive a title just to start the numbering over and publish a "collector's edition" #1. In the Silver Age and earlier, it was almost the opposite. Publishers would try to avoid numbering an issue #1. So the Silver Age Flash continued its numbering from the Golden Age series, and Hulk (second series) continued its numbering from Tales to Astonish, and so on. I've heard the theory that #1 issues did not always sell well back then, because they were an unknown quantity. If a kid saw Flash #105 or Hulk #102, he would assume it must be a good comic, since it had apparently been running for over a hundred issues. Also, publishers would change a title and continue the numbers, to avoid having to pay postal registration fees for a new magazine. Then there were spin offs, and comics that started with #4 or #5, because they counted try-out issues in anthologies (like Dell Four Color). Consequently, with several titles (Tales from the Crypt, Crime Does Not Pay), some collectors may look for #1 issues that never existed.

snell said...

Anon, back in the Silver Age, DC even published JLA #1 & Jimmy Olsen #1 without any issue number whatsoever displayed on the cover, because they were afraid that kids & newstand vendors would reject brand new things...

Martin Gray said...

Fascinating, I never knew that/noticed the JO/JLA lack of numbers. What a great excuse to bring out a FIRST-EVER Jimmy Olsen #1!