The one thing I absolutely loved as a new reader, and as a budding comic book collector, was the little notations in the corner of the panel that the writer left for us. If we wanted to know more about what was going on, an asterisk (*) next to a word brought this to our attention (usually in a word balloon or thought bubble)*. I was introduced to this method in my first comic book, The New Mutants. It was in issue #15. The center panel had Illyana Rasputin using her astral form to check on her friend Kitty Pryde at the Massachusetts Academy. I was starting this series and figured out this notation was there as a hint to read somewhere else (in this case it was the lower right hand side of the same panel). The small blurb let me know if I wanted to find out more about the missing X-Men I had to read Uncanny X-Men #180 and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1. Uncanny X-Men #180 was already out, (I purchased it the day after I purchased New Mutants #15) but I had to wait just a little bit longer until I saw the (now classic) cover of the first #1 I would ever get.
I was twelve years old and although I read comic books for the past seven years (my first one was a copy of Star Wars) it was Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars that introduced me to characters that I never knew before. I probably read that book every day until issue #2 came out, which by this point I also continued other series. I even added a few more books to my reading list to find out more about the characters I learned about from the Secret Wars. With the small allowance I had I wanted to buy everything and anything and they were only sixty cents a book. I tried a few DC books but it was Marvel that grabbed my attention and over the next year I continuously read what I liked, expanding my collection every week by purchasing from my local 7-11. I didn’t get back issues, I didn’t have the ability, but I followed the story lines without the benefit of starting over with a number one.
Issues #221 and #223 were my first Daredevil issues. I wasn’t impressed so I dismissed this as a book I would collect until my LCS guy showed me the back issue bins and told me either Watchman or the Daredevil Miller years when I asked for a recommendation. I stuck with Marvel and picked Daredevil. There were three books that were $3 a piece; I picked the nicest of the three covers. I believe it was issue #171. I eventually picked up every issue between and including #158 until #191. Once again, I didn’t need to start at a number one (they had an origin recap in issue #164). Daredevil was eventually cancelled with #380, at this point the book was dismal and one of the few remaining titles I did collect before finances stopped me from continuing my collection. It was almost a relief that they were putting to pasture one of my favorite books.
Marvel started Daredevil over again with a new number one (34 years after the first one), this time with it took years to get them together; it was only a month between the publication dates between issue #380 and the new #1. Did Joe and Kevin demand that they start over with a number one? Were their egos so large that Marvel listened to their demands? Did Marvel feel their readers were too stupid or just naïve that there were another 380 issues of story out there? Then after another 119 issues (some good, some great), they decide to just go back to the numbering system with 500. WTF? Why did Marvel feel the need to go back to such a milestone number when technically it should have been issue #120 not #500, even though 500 sounds so much better. After getting to issue number 512 they gave the title to the Black Panther with issue 513 (this series has since been cancelled) and started Daredevil over again with a limited series and (get this) a new number one.
Why do comic book companies feel that a person won’t understand what is going on in issue #512 and expect them to know which number one to pick up? Not to mention picking up issue #513 and asking where Daredevil is? There are three issue number ones now, not to mention other side limited series that allow a new reader to be introduced to the character. (I recommend the Man without Fear in this case). So where does a new reader start with the current comic market place strategy in place?
There is something special to me as a collector having a full series. Having all 100 issues of The New Mutants was easy. I started with issue fifteen, found the first fourteen and just collected until they cancelled it. Daredevil however has been a much more tedious journey. As of this writing I only need issue #2 out of over 500 issues. I feel like I have accomplished something. I would have loved for issue 600 to be in my future (and is Amazing Spider-Man really hitting 700 or is that just issue 36 volume 2 sub txt 314?). Will they once again revert to the old numbering system to only have another number one? Dark Horse started with #1’s all the time but at least they are only running limited series. If you happen to be Marvel or DC, leave the numbers alone. It is significant that you arrived at this number. If you want new readers, give them a limited series and let them figure out if they like the character and if so then they have an abundance to choose from, even more than I ever did.
Thanks for reading.
*Word Balloon and thought bubbles are the most common means a writer gets his point across while telling a story and wants to convey what the character is saying or thinking. See…even here the asterisk works. The internet equivalent to this is just to click on the highlighted word, phrase, or picture.