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The All-New, All-Different IGW: Why #1s Are Good for Comics

Written by Christian Hoffer on Tuesday, August 23 2011 and posted in Columns

IGW is back and better than ever!  Today, IGW looks at the numbering of comics and discusses whether it's a good or bad thing.  Plus, new reviews, the hottest news and MORE!

The News Reel

Atomic Comics, a popular Arizona comic book store chain, closed its doors after over twenty years in business. In a fairwell note, owner Michael Malve noted that his business never recovered from a 2006 accident in which an uninsured teenaged girl crashed her car into his biggest store and ruptured a water main, causing over $1,000,000 in damage. DC Comics, under recent fire for not hiring more women, released a memo saying: "See? Women are bad for the industry."

Marvel solicitations for November revealed the new Thunder God that will be replacing Thor after Fear Itself wraps up. This marks the second white character replaced by Marvel in the last two months. With the loss of Thor and Ultimate Spider-Man, the percentage of white characters to minority characters drops from 91% to 90.8%. Based on these disturbing statistics, I expect someone to don a Hatemonger costume at NYCC and pester Axel Alonso about this disturbing turn of events.

DC hinted at a big September yesterday, noting that eight relaunched titles had eclipsed the 100K presales mark that indicates a highly successful book. The books are currently stored in a warehouse in Los Angeles and is under high alert looking for an uninsured teenage driver looking to finish the collapse of the industry started six years ago in Mesa.

Why #1s Are Important to the Industry

Last week, through a set of odd and rather mysterious circumstances, my mother ended up at my local comic book store. How or why she ended up there wasn't important, it was what she did while she was at the store that surprised me. While we walking through the store in boredom, Mom noticed a copy of the new Daredevil #1 and pulled it off of the shelf. Daredevil was a favorite of my mother, as she's a lawyer, an Irish Catholic, and has a thing for dispensing vigilante justice when the system has failed. She even went as far as to read the classic Frank Miller run during law school but had fallen out of touch with the character over the last decade. 

Anyways, my mother noticed the Daredevil comic sitting on the wall, pulled it off the shelf and saw the shiny new #1 sitting in the upper left corner. "Oh, they brought him back," my mother said, probably thinking that the book had gotten cancelled sometime in the mid-90's when my father stopped collecting comics. As I looked on in astonishment, Mom opened the book and gave it a read. 

After Mom finished reading the book, she handed it to me to add to the pile of comics I was planning on buying. "That was a fantastic comic," she said. She went on to praise Paolo Rivera's art style as well as the accessibility of Mark Waid's writing. When I asked her why she grabbed it off the shelf, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I noticed they restarted the series and figured I'd check it out." I ended up buying the book for her and promised to send her the second issue when it came out. As I was paying for the book, I could only imagine Marvel's editorial team started hi-fiving each other that the gimmick of resetting the numbering of Daredevil's book worked for at least one reader. 

The numbering of comics has long been an odd issue with many comic book fans. For whatever reason, some fans don't like a title ending and restarting with a new first issue. To be honest, I think that the numbering of comics is part of an outdated system that fuels a collector mentality which only harms the comic book industry and has helped turn comic books into a niche hobby barely above model train collecting in the public's eye. At best, the numbering of comics is a necessary evil only because it's the easiest way to identify two different issues of the same series.  And while the numbering of a comic book seems like a minor issue, an individual issue's identity is tied to what number it was assigned. Most fans can easily identify Incredible Hulk #181 as the first appearance of Wolverine but would be unable to tell you the actual title of the story contained in that issue. While more emphasis is given to individual arc names in the modern era, fans and creators still primarily use a title's number as the primary identifier of a story part. 

Over the years, I've heard arguments against renumbering that range from a perceived loss of value of existing comics (because the existence of Action Comics Vol.2 #1 really hurts the value of the original Action Comics #1) to concerns over how a new first issue should be filed with the rest of a comic's run to the idea that renumbering a book somehow takes away from the prestige of a title. Whatever the reason, there's a sizable portion of the comic fanbase who believes that renumbering is a bad thing. 

While I appreciate the OCD-like tendencies that fuel many comic book fans, the renumbering of series is a good thing for comics. Looking at my comic book collection, I'd probably say over half of my comic book runs begin with a renumbered first issue. Captain America, Invincible Iron Man, Thor, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, Daredevil, FF, Avengers, Green Lantern, and The Flash are all series which I picked up at least in part because the new first issue provided an easy jumping in point for the plot and characters. 

New first issues generally also come with more media attention, more in-store exposure and are written to at least allow people who haven't been following the story previously to get comfortable with the current plot. I think they also appeal to the casual reader who might come across the book and would otherwise be unaware of other jumping on points that exist during a title's run.  First issues also tend to attract high-profile creators and artists which provide at least a possibility for a better-crafted story with more long-term appeal than a fluff story used to fill a monthly title in between arcs. 

With DC renumbering their entire line in an attempt to rebrand itself, I would seriously take a look at whether it is time to do away with numbering comics in a traditional format. No one refers to Return of the Jedi as Star Wars #3/#6 or Casino Royale as James Bond #21, why should comics be any different? I think a viable alternative would be to start numbering titles in a fashion similar to how Dark Horse numbers its Hellboy comics or how IDW numbers the Locke and Key story. By emphasizing individual arcs more (which is already done when a company recollects a book in trade format), I believe that we'd see fewer fluff stories, fewer hack writers and fewer fill-in artists. It'd also add a level of accountability to finish issues in a timely fashion as well as provide more accessible entry points for readers to pick up a series. For instance, after plowing through the first four trades of Locke and Key last week, I was able to easily jump into individual issues as the next issue began. However, it took a lot more effort to figure out what issues were needed to catch up on Chew, the other series I read while on vacation (compounded by the fact that Chew actually has an issue numbered out of order to show that it's set in the future). 

The only real argument that I see against restarting a series' numbering is that a series will lose sales due to fans dropping the title either out of protest or because it provides a clean break to end their run. In fact, I think part of the reason why DC and Marvel often re-renumber a series back to its original numbering at certain milestones, which achieves the same sales spikes as #1 issues but are usually filled with fluff stories that celebrate certain aspects of a character and usually forgotten immediately after putting the comic down. In my eye, the renumbering of a comic to its original numbering represents an acknowledgement of a lack of new readers in the industry as well as a sign of how dependent the industry is on the collecting mentality to survive. 

At the end of the day, the argument for renumbering a comic comes down comes down to the argument of collecting versus drawing in new readers to titles. As sales figures prove, there are very few titles that actually maintain steady sales figures when left to their own devices. If the industry is to survive in its current format, companies should begin looking at alternative ways to promote and market its title and get rid of some of the vestigial practices that only hold the industry back. 

New and Improved Comics (There Be Spoilers Here)

The Top Spot: Daredevil #2 continues its strong start into the second issue. While the villain reveal is a little unexpected, it makes perfect sense to put Daredevil against a villain composed of sound.

The Runner-Up: Avengers #16 provides a fun, albeit superfluous, tie-in to Fear Itself. Set somewhere between Fear Itself #3 and #4, Avengers features Steve Rogers taking a short vacation to Sweden to beat up some Nazis.   While the timeline doesn't quite sync up with the main book and the art is as terrible as ever, the book was enjoyable mainly because of Steve Rogers' team of Avenging Angels, which consists of Agent 13, Maria Hill, Victoria Hand and Daisy Johnson. 

Fun Fact: Hill, Hand and Johnson were all created by Bendis in the last ten years and either are running or have run S.H.I.E.L.D or an equivalent organization in the last five years.

Dissenting Opinion: I'm not a fan of X-Men: Schism #3 at all. We finally get to see the cause of the foreshadowed split between Cyclops and Wolverine and it's a lame one. With a hundred innocent civilians at stake, Cyclops gave Edie (a teenager) the (carefully-worded) okay to use lethal force against some Hellfire goons.   I'm sorry, but let he who is not currently being pursued by a shadowy ninja group dedicated to killing you due to your five figure death count throw the first stone here. I'm not a fan of how Wolverine, who led an unsanctioned death squad less than a year ago on a mission to kill a child, is being set up as the sympathetic character in all of this.

Superfluous Filler: Green Lantern Corps goes out with a whimper after a relatively strong sixty-three issue run. All the final issue of Green Lanterns Corps establishes is that the Green Lantern Corps is bigger than the Guardians or any individual Green Lantern officer. I'd say this was all unnecessary, but judging from some of the reaction to the controversial ending of War of Green Lanterns, I guess it was good to have a reminder.

Can't Wait for the Next Tie-In: While you'll find no bigger supporter of David Liss than me, his recent Black Panther tie-in has been among the weakest issues in the run (which is still pretty good though). In my opinion, it's due to the focus on the new American Panther and his leader, the new Hate-Monger. Despite this, Liss can still write T'Challa like no one's business and I'm much more excited to see Black Panther take on the Kingpin during his Spider-Island tie-in.

Indie Comic of the Week: If you're a fan of Punisher or vigilante crime stories, then you'll enjoy Damaged #1. Art's pretty decent (like most Radical books I've read) and the story isn't terrible (for a story about a vigilante ex-cop with a badge-shaped burn scar on his chest).

Last Appearance?: If Donna Troy must be sacrificed to secure the end of Congorilla so be it. In the final issue of Justice League of America, Congorilla left his teammates to head back to Africa after learning that Bruce Wayne had only assigned one Batman to defend all of Africa. Meanwhile, Donna Troy bluntly told her longtime friend Dick Grayson that she wanted people to forget about her. I doubt that people will forget all the amazing things the character has done since being resurrected five years ago.

Random Award of the Week: Uncanny X-Men #542 featured both Adam X AND the demon Cyttorak. Never thought those two characters would be on adjacent pages.

Looking Forward to the Resolution: What will happen to Psionic Lad and Simon Valentine? What about Conner Kent and Lori Luthor's budding semi-incesteous relationship? All this in more in next month's Superboy #12, right? Unfortunately Superboy's dangling plot points will probably never be mentioned again. Shame, the book was finally starting to go somewhere.

Who is the Spider-Beast?: Did anyone figure out how Captain America ended up becoming a Spider-Monster in the last issue of Venom? Was there something I missed? 

Last But Not Least: Avengers Academy #18 ends with a trip to the Microverse while Captain America #2 has a brontosaur in it. I'll let you decide which is weirder.


I hope you've enjoyed the new format of IGW. I'll be playing around with the format and tone of the column more in coming weeks. Some columns will be funny, others will be serious, but I'm hoping that the additional time put into each column shows in future issues.

I have NOT forgotten about the Pull List Death Match contest. Keep your eye on the News Stand later this week.

Play 52apolooza today! We're giving away a New 52 hardcover signed by Dan DiDio as the grand prize. I can pretty much guarantee it's a one of a kind prize and will only go up in value after angry fanboys try to assassinate DiDio in revenge for doing away with their precious Congorilla.

Written or Contributed by: Christian Hoffer

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About the Author - Christian

Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.


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