Friday, April 10, 2009

A Brief Primer on Mathematics

Dear Marvel Comics,

Today, we're going to learn about numbers! Numbers serve a very important purpose to your comic company, and to your reading audience. After all, Marvel publishes a new issue of every comic every single month! Without numbers, new readers wouldn't know what order to read the old issues in. They'd get very confused and irritated, and might even stop reading as quickly as they'd started.

You already know some of this, of course. Why, you put a number on the front of every single comic you publish! But you seem to be a little confused as to how to figure out what number goes with what comic. We know it's a little confusing, so we're here to help you out.

You see, each number represents a quantity of comics. So if you took all the individual issues of a series and stacked them together, the number of comics in the stack should be the same as the issue number of the top comic in the stack. For example, a comic that's run for fifty issues should be issue #50. Every time you add a comic to the stack, you add one to the issue number! And if someone wants to start from the beginning, they can just find issue #1, and work their way forward. Like a counting game!

And for that game to work, you see, you have to use every single number. Even though #1 is a very popular number, you can't just call every single issue "#1", or nobody will be able to play the counting game right. And even though "#600" is a big, exciting number, you can't just change the rules and decide to jump to #600 because you've decided that #1-55 were secretly #545-599 but you didn't tell anyone at the time because those numbers don't sell comics. I mean for God's sake, you decided to renumber Avengers at issue #500 and then canceled it three issues later to relaunch it for another new number one! How dumb do you think your fans are? Do you really think our enthusiasm for "collectible" issues is so deeply ingrained that we salivate like Pavlov's dog at the mere sight of a new "#1 collector's edition"? Don't you realize that you're strip-mining the enthusiasm of your fan-base for a quick couple of bucks, while rendering the hobby practically incomprehensible for anyone trying to enter it cold? Try mail-ordering an issue of Captain America mail-order, or the Avengers, or Iron Man, or any re-re-re-relaunched series! It's like Russian Roulette, trying to get the right volume number! Seriously, what the hell are you people thinking!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!??!!!?!?!!?

...that is to say, by learning this simple lesson, we can all have more fun! Isn't that right, boys and girls? Of course it is. Now, have fun learning how to put the right issue numbers on your comics, and practice at home!

And when you've learned, teach the guys at DC. "Green Lantern #41" my sorry butt...


Diamondrock said...

What's wrong with Green Lantern #41?

Shane said...

I mean for God's sake, you decided to renumber Avengers at issue #500 and then canceled it three issues later to relaunch it for another new number one! How dumb do you think your fans are?

Well, given that New Avengers quickly jumped to the top of the charts, I'd say this was either a good move, or the fans really are dumb.

John Seavey said...

Nothing wrong with it, except that it's actually Green Lantern #448. The series was relaunched once during the late 1980s/early 1990s, and again in 2005, both times to get the cheap hit of sales from a new number one.

You could be charitable and say that the 80s relaunch was legitimate, since the series was off the stands for almost two years (during which time Hal had a back-up feature in "Action Comics"), but the 2005 relaunch was pure hype, which would make issue #41 at least issue #224.

Ditto with the JLA and JSA relaunches, the Flash re-relaunch (which then slunk back to its "old" numbering after a year), the Wonder Woman re-relaunch (both Flash and Wonder Woman got gratuitous relaunches in the wake of 'Legends')...basically, it seems like the only titles DC isn't willing to renumber to get fan attention are "Action" and "Detective".

I'm aware that it's not so much that the industry's gotten more cynical as it is that perceptions of what sells have changed; it used to be that editors believed fans bought more of long-running, established titles, so they'd just retitle old comics to make them sound like they'd been going a while. "Captain America #600" is a sales stunt on two levels, there--not only does #455-599 not actually exist, but but the book didn't even feature Cap until #59.

But at least those old sales stunts, while somewhat cynical, weren't actually confusing to people who wanted to know what order to read the issues in. It's a lot easier to say, "Start reading with issue #59" than it is to say, "OK, now this issue #1 goes before this issue #1, but after this issue #1..."

Anonymous said...

What do you mean they can't change the rules? they make the rules.

If you mean it's nonsensical well that's another story

Earl Allison said...

Hey, at least some of those are quasi-honest. How about the recent Thor #600? As I remember reading, they decided to count the whole run of "Journey Into Mystery" to get Thor to number six-hundred, and Thor wasn't IN every JIM!

Yeah, it makes it really hard when so many of the big titles are on their third or fourth volume by now ...

Great piece, by the way!

Take it and run,

Unknown said...

100% true. When a completely new reader picks up #41, they're entirely entitled to think "OK, this is cool, and if I get 40 back-issues, I'll be caught up on most of this continuity!"

And what happens to that poor bastard when they discover that this#1 is actually Volume 4, #1, and picks up from the last #223, and the "#1" from Volume 3 picked up from #124 of V2, which followed up the original hundred-issue run?


Anonymous said...

Something like how your comments section will tell me the time something was posted but not the date, eh?