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Is Comic Numbering an Outdated Concept?

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Pop quiz, in what issues did the following take place:  the death of Captain America, Spider-man gains the black suit, Snake-eye’s silent issue, the first appearance of Doomsday, the death of Glen at the hands of Negan.

Chances are you may know some and some of you may actually own these but when you look at the landscape of comic books today, how important is this to collectors?  In the past 3 years, We have seen DC reboot their whole universe and Marvel cancel and restart a ton of books only to do it again except now under the moniker of Marvel NOW!  To be honest, my head spins at the amount of books that have cancelled and restarted over the years but hey, that’s just part of the business.  I mean realistically (and common sense-wise) speaking, numbering of books is a great way to keep a bibliographical track of books but when books keep starting and stopping without them picking up from where they left off, how confusing does it get for today’s collectors? Sure, you may have those who are completists who need every last issue for their collection, but the way I see it, it’s too frivolous.  Also on the flipside of it all, when you are picking up issue #247 of a book and you’re new to it, you still have a nagging feeling that you may have missed something in the other 246 and it takes a lot to go back.  A lot of people get intimidated about jumping onto a book that is far in but also how hard is it on people to read a book like Ms. Marvel or New Avengers and get into it only to find out it’s canceled…but coming back…but renumbered from 1 again.

There are cases where numbering is a necessity.  In my opinion, books like The Walking Dead benefit because even when broken up in volumes, it’s all the same story and truthfully it’s a really hard book to just jump in the middle of. However, when you look at other books that have been re-booted, retconned and renumbered and retitled to death, it’s a wonder that some of us don’t rip our hair out trying to keep up.

There was talk a few years back about DC Comics moving to a yearly or seasonal volume system and that probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea especially when most books dependent on the storyline and popularity will end up as a TPB.  Let’s be real, most people who collect comics are only worried about 3 things:  a significant #1, a 1st appearance or a death.  With the other 2 set aside, the only real problem are #1s.   Number 1 books aren’t like they used to be in my opinion.  Most books come out now, you have the retail version, the variant, sketch cover, 1:25 cover, the secret remix cover and so on and then don’t let that book get cancelled 5 issues in. Ha!

The way I see it, there are certain books I like to jump in and out of because of different factors such as the story, creative team or just the overall direction and as I stated earlier, with a numbering system, you sometimes hate ‘skipping out’ between issues because of what you may miss but it would be nice to have alternatives.  For instance if more books were done in more “1 of 5” story lines, readers can evaluate whether or not they want to invest in those books.   It’s an idea that Image comics is doing and being successful with.  They have a few books that are short running ‘one and done’ series and of course long running series.  Marvel and DC with all of the changes they go through with their characters, could benefit greatly from this especially now since almost every few months they have a ‘big event’.  Even if you look at what’s going on right now in DC with the Forever Evil event, it could almost be a self-contained book as the rest of the DC books right now are almost in a sense ‘driving around’ the event. Same with Inhumanity, as it’s having an impact but what other books connected to that event are really affected?

So maybe what it is, it’s not the actual numbering that’s a problem, but maybe it’s the rate that comics are started and then stopped only to be renumbered again from the beginning is the problem.  Or is it the frivolous title names?   That may be a different subject for another day.  What are your thoughts?

About Armand (1268 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill
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