Howard the Duck #5 was released a couple weeks ago. This is the second fifth issue of a Howard the Duck comic within a year, because of last years All-New All Different relaunch, which is something that both makes me laugh and shake my head (largely because trying to sort the comics confused the hell out of me when I had two comics with the same name and numbering for a lot of Marvel‘s comics released over the past year – even before Secret Wars happened.
While I’m sure the gluttony of new #1 issues help give a temporary sales boost, when it comes to organizing them into a long box, bookshelf, or filing cabinet (or, I suppose to a lesser extent a digital storage medium) it can be a bloody nightmare.
I have two sets of issues #1-13 or so of Wolverine, two sets of Howard the Duck #1-5 (of which issues #1 through #3 are from the same year), and, although one was a miniseries, I’ll have the same situation with Old Man Logan for the first five issues of the ongoing series. Which ultimately isn’t a bad thing because I’m loving the new series… but just not the numbering, apparently.
The constant relaunching and renumbering can wreak havoc on a person when they organize their collection, and/or want to refer to a certain issue (and this applies to both digital and physical), for example a conversation I recently had with a friend:
“Have you read Howard the Duck #1?”
“Yeah, but which one? The one released early or late?”
“Oh, uh… early, I think. He’s in an office on the cover.”
“That’s both of them…”
And so on.
The frequent renumbering and relaunching can be frustrating, but halfway through writing this article, I realized that at the end of the day, my problem with the numbering of comics is just that: my problem. If Marvel, DC, or any other publisher feel the need to renumber their comics after a major event (or, as was the case with the Wolverine renumbering, with the change of a creative team) then who am I to stop them? So long as the comics are good, and the stories within are appealing to both the new readers who are attracted by the new #1 emblazoned across the front cover (I’m looking at you, Batman: Odyssey, the thirteen part series that was renumbered midway through. As if you weren’t confusing enough to begin with, you through in a new #1 when it should have been #7) and the readers who have been with the book for a long time, then the number on the cover shouldn’t really matter.
There is some debate about whether the new readers that are attracted to the first issues of renumbered comics stick around for the long haul, and while there are several sources that show typically that sales for a first issue will drop steadily by the time the fourth issue drops, there’s no way to track how many of those readers who stop picking up the comics after the first couple of issues are new-to-comics readers, or people like myself who are giving a new series a chance before deciding that a comic isn’t for them; I have the first issues of the recently launched Hercules, Spidey, and several others from the All-New All Different relaunch that I just never got more than the first issue or two of.
While having a huge number of renumbered first issue comics may be somewhat annoying in terms of organization and the feeling of longevity in the ongoing comic series. While the numerous first issues may make referring back to an older comic a bit more annoying, if having a number one issue is something that brings people into the comic book community, then I can swallow my personal annoyance at having three issue #1’s of a series. I’d rather have a comic telling the story of characters I enjoy start over every seven months than not have the series at all.
So I’ll keep buying the series I love, regardless of the numbering, because I’m more excited about getting another Moon Knight series than I am about reading issue #134, even if issue #134 makes organizing so much easier.
I’d rather have new comics of the characters I love than an immaculately organised collection.