It’s been a while.
I’m working in a comic book store again, since Free Comic Book Day 2015. It’s nice to just work in the store, and not have to manage it, like I did the last time. It means I get to concentrate on the part I liked the best, which is talking to people about comics, and introducing them to new ones.
Sometimes, introducing people to comics is made very easy. For example, I’ve been able to sell a LOT of people the first volumes of the Transformers: Robots in Disguise and Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye TPBs. The premises are, “The Autobots won the war against the Decepticons. RiD is about Bumblebee trying to rebuild Cybertron, and is Transformers as a weird political thriller. MTMTE is about Rodimus going on space adventures, looking for the legendary Knights of Cybertron, to restore the Transformers’ home planet to a new Golden Age.”
Also, this past month, DC has begun their “Rebirth” initiative, where they’re restarting all their major series with new #1 issues, getting back to the core of what makes the characters interesting. It’s VERY easy to sell people on the idea of “Hey, you like Batman? Here’s the next major story of Batman.” It’s also a lot easier to sell people on a #1 issue than it is a #765. But are constant re-numberings really all that beneficial? Sure, you get sales spikes out of the first few issues, due to the interest in a new jumping-on point. But as the most recent Marvel relaunch has proven, it can also have disastrous results.
I can’t speak for every comic store’s experiences, but at the store I work? People are just NOT happy about Marvel’s current business strategy of relaunching titles every year or two. DC’s New 52 launch in 2011 succeeded in bringing new people into comic stores, due to a HUGE marketing campaign. It brought back lapsed readers, it brought in new people that had never checked out comics before, and people who came in looking for Justice League also went and picked up comics by other publishers. It was fantastic. A year later, Marvel began their Marvel NOW! line, following the Avengers vs X-Men event, also re-launching all of their titles with new #1s, and shuffling the creators around to get new writers and artists on characters they hadn’t been writing before. It was a good way to spice up the Marvel universe, especially since many of the same writer-artist teams had been on the same comics for upwards of 5-10 years.
And then less than three years later, Marvel rebooted everything again, following the Secret Wars 2015 event. And now it looks like they’re going to reboot everything again after Civil War II? And they’re Re-using the “Marvel NOW!” banner?
Look, I get that re-numbering comics historically has increased sales for a couple of months. And I get that all of these comics publishers are in business to make money. But when you get to the point that you’re rebooting a comic before two years have past, all you’re REALLY doing is creating mass confusion. Is this THIS year’s Spider-Gwen #4? Is it last year’s? MOST comics readers — especially the new ones these relaunches are supposed to cater to — can’t tell at a quick glance. And when you buy four issues of Spider-Gwen from two different series, because both came out between 2015 and 2016, with the same artist on both series, it’s totally understandable why #3 feels like it’s from a different series — because it is! I have a solution. It’s one I’ve called for before, one that Marvel have used before, and one that IDW is using now. Include both the current volume number AND the legacy number on the covers.
You’ve got issue #72 of the 1997 Avengers series, but it was issue #487 of Avengers, overall. Similarly, issue #1 of the 2015 Donald Duck series, but issue #268, overall. This allows for new #1s every few years, without having to lose the sense of history and importance that a series has. Marvel claims that their renumberings are “like seasons in a TV show.” Well that’s great, but the differnece is that the box sets for every season tells us WHAT SEASON IT IS, UNLIKE YOUR FREAKING COMICS, WHICH JUST SAY #1!
Look, #1s are great, because it gives new readers a place to jump on, but there’s a point when CONSTANT renumberings get confusing, even to people who work in comic stores — ‘Cuz we don’t just have to keep up with one or two comics and their renumberings, but we have to deal with EVERY renumbering, especially when filing back issues. And if WE have a hard time keeping up with constant renumberings, how can you expect the readers to do so, too?