Nerd Fight: The Great Renumbering Debate

nerd-fight

Marco Lopez writes,

Welcome to Nerd Fight, where we aim to discuss the hard-hitting (and sometimes the not so hard hitting) issues that plague the comic book industry and the books we love to read. Our goal, to tackle these topics head-on and let you, the fans, decide.

Today we will be discussing an issue that has bothered many a nerd.

Renumbering books back to issue one. Dear God not again.

ROUND ONE: FIGHT!

Gene: We see this happen so often now that most fans have grown numb to it. Renumbering of series with fresh issue ones was a novel concept every ten years or so. Then it became every six to eight years and it became quaint. Now it happens so often that it's become somewhat of a joke. Using it as a gimmick to pull in new readers would make this quite the useful tactic…if most of those readers stayed around by the time issues three and four rolled out. Remember my comment about bashing one's head against a wall over and over for sixteen years and expecting gold coins to come out instead of gray matter? Maybe some other tactics could be employed to prevent reader drop off so soon because this seems to be only a short-term solution.

Marco: This topic seems appropriate given the new number ones we got months ago from DC and the new number ones we will be getting from Marvel very soon. Now younger nerd Marco would have been against this. He would have been rallying from the rooftops. Running out into the streets and attempting to unite comic geek fandom under a ridiculous cause. However older and wiser nerd me doesn't really care. I think treating comic books and especially long-running series whether that be anything past 24 issues or a series running till the end of time or until the creator has died like seasons of a TV show is a good thing. In the long run, I think it makes more sense from a business standpoint. Books have and will always be more popular than comics, graphic novels have more of an appeal to a casual audience and they're similar in format to books. Plus, graphic novels are widely more available to a variety of people. So when you look at all that it only makes sense for Marvel and DC (though we don't know where they're going with Rebirth) or any other publisher to hire a creator on a book for a small run and then collect that and release it as a trade and then start over with the next creator. Plus, each short run would have a subtitle like Moon Knight Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis is called From the Dead and Vol. 2 from Brian Wood is called Dead Will Rise.

ROUND TWO: FIGHT!

Gene: I kind of agree with you. But that all operates under the assumption that single issues are not really a factor. Given some still move six digit units, I'd say that's far from the case. I have met comic fans on occasion that have a hard time getting into comics because they'll go scouring for back issues of a Captain America or Iron Man comic and there have been so many volumes of those the past 15-20 years that they can get lost. Many have stated that it's easier to start on, for example, Ed Brubaker's Uncanny X-men run (starting with issue #475) and through Matt Fraction's run and ended with Kieron Gillen's issue #544. But having to explain that the Live Kree or Die story arc that ran through Kurt Busiek's Iron Man and Avengers runs and Mark Waid's Cap run were several volumes ago, they mistakenly got the issue 7 from right after Warren Ellis' Extremis arc, then the issue 7 from Matt Fraction's run in error, then the Gillen issue 7…you see where someone could get frustrated if they go to a comic shop where there isn't great service. There is an easy solution for this, double numbering. If people feel the need to have issue ones over and over, the big two can also place the original numbering on the bottom of the cover, or in the UPC area. I don't see a reason why both couldn't be on the cover.

Marco: Single issues are not a factor when it comes to catching up on a series because we have trades. The discussion isn't whether single issues matter. It's whether numbering back to #1 is and in this case it's not. If you're trying to get back into comics, then why are you scouring for back issues? Only collectors do that and honestly, unless you REALLY LOVE just having single issues, hate to double dip or you're a collector then just go pick up the trades catch up and then start a subscription at your local comic shop or hit up ComiXology. And if you're one of the three kinds of fans I listed then do a bit of research or go to a comic shop that can better help you. A hobby like anything sometimes might require a bit of work on your part. At the end of the day what we're probably really looking at is the death of the long-form serial. While Marvel and DC are content to have their characters live on for 50, 60, 70 and very soon 100 or more years (and who isn't, everyone wants their work or in this case product to be remembered forever) fans are probably starting to change their minds when it comes to how long they wanna stick around reading a comic. People like endings or at the least a story that gives them a beginning middle and end and doesn't force them to check out the next writer's work or the next arc. The soap opera theatrics of serialized comics are no longer the in thing. Especially when thanks to Premium Cable channels, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix even TV shows have now opted for smaller eps counts and in some cases shorter season runs. And now in comics, we're seeing the same where fans are generally more interested in done in one stories and shorter runs on books. Valiant being an excellent example of a company who is doing such a thing and doing it right. No one is complaining about them going back to issue ones for the return of Archer and Armstrong and Harbinger.

THE WRAP UP:

Gene: Shorter runs are great and I am all for finite stories. Unfortunately, Marvel and DC characters don't have a definitive end. It is a short-term sales ploy when they should be looking at long-term ways to bring in readers and prevent the attrition of existing ones. The independent market seems to be thriving without resorting to this (could you imagine relaunching Invincible or Saga or Bone every other year? Lol) A new issue 1 for the same character every two to three years from the Big Two feels like a cheap gimmick, plain and simple.

Marco: The fact that they don't have short runs is why numbering back to issue one and treating these stories as done in one's is better for the big two and others as a business and best for bringing in new readers. If anything on the spine of a book you can put this is volume six of this series. The independent market doesn't deal with this issue so often as they have shorter runs but on a long-running book if they decided market each year as one through eight or one through twelve of that specific story arc I would be fine with this. Heck, I think Ed Brubaker did this on Criminal and Sleeper. No one cared and everyone understood. And while it may feel gimmicky coming from Marvel as a new issue one does see an explosion of sales I think we're way past the point of hoping for something different. Post Disney, it's best to stop worrying and just love the comics. And if you can't keep up in this information super age then well maybe comics aren't for you.

GAME OVER!

We hope you all enjoyed the third episode of Nerd Fight. If you liked it, if you loved it, or if you thought it was meh or complete crap (and let's be honest, some of you are saying this to yourselves right now) then comment below and tell us what you think. But don't forget to join us in two weeks when we discuss bringing real-world topics into escapist entertainment. I will be speaking against it and Gene will be speaking for it.

Also, check in next week when I will be launching a new article for Bleeding Cool. It's called Indie Talk and I will be using it to spotlight and interview self-published creators webcomic creators and creators who work outside of the top ten publishers.

Marco Lopez and Gene Selassie are the co-owners of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly webcomic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Abbott and Costello in tights. Along with the first issue of Gene's comic Rock Paper Scissors that he describes as Goodfellas with powers. Also hosted on the site is Marco's web strip series Orion's Belt that follows an Afro-Latino family of adventurers in space and their anthology series A Shot of Whiskey.

Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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