With Rich Johnston reporting that all of DC’s DCU books will be renumbered from #1 in September, Marvel’s Tom Brevoort on relaunching (and renumbering) series:
Hopefully we don’t relaunch things too willy-nilly. Depending on the reader, they may argue that we do. And there’s the argument out there that we never should have relaunched anything and the number the books are on now should be what we would have been on had we never done any of it and that would have been a better world. I don’t even necessarily argue with that. The place where I do argue is “Yes, but Heroes Reborn did happen, and at this point all bets are off.” You can’t just go back and pretend like nothing had happened. Something did happen, and that set the stage for a lot of the renumbering and relaunching that we still do today. At some point, 40 years of unbroken publication of all these titles was broken, and once that’s broken, you can pretend it’s still all there, but it’s never quite going to be seamless again. Combine that with the fact that our marketplace is more welcoming to a #1 than a #183, and it means that if you’re going to do something big, attention-getting and outreach-based, a #1 is only going to help you. Even the most casual potential comic book reader understands that a #1 is the beginning and that a #1 is the comic you save for your kids’ college fund. That’s important when you’re trying to get people into the stores.
The fact of the matter is that renumber is inviting to people even in terms of the dyed-in-the-wool fan. It says, “Here’s something important that’s going on. Here’s the beginning. Here’s absolutely the easiest way in that you could possibly get.” And hopefully the content reflects that and is accessible enough and engaging enough that somebody picks up that first issue and says, “I like this. Let me read more.” But it’s just the fact of life at this point.
After it was pointed out that Uncanny X-Men is the only long-running title at Marvel that hasn’t been renumbered at some point and asked whether that made it “safe” from a renumber/relaunch:
I would not assume that it’s safe. Maybe that makes it a little less likely because it’s the one title we’ve got that maintains continuity all the way back to the ’60s. But again, in terms of publishing today in 2011, 2012, 2013 — the need of right now is probably going to outweigh the need of “it’s nice that we have this thing that goes back to the ’60s.” If there’s a benefit to there being an “Uncanny X-Men” #1 because we’re building something in a substantial way and we want to give people that entry point, maybe we’d hesitate a fraction of a second longer, but I think it’d be only a fraction. If the plan still makes sense in our marketplace today, I suspect we’d go ahead and do it and wouldn’t blink at the fact that this is the one title we’ve got that goes all the way back to the ’60s with an unbroken string of numbers. That’s just my sense of it.
This is very much where common sense and my sense of fanboyishness come to blows. Brevoort’s entirely right that publishers should do whatever’s necessary to bring in new readers, and especially to demonstrate to potential new readers when there’s a good place to start, and, yes: Saying “this is the first issue” is really the best way to do that. But… I hate relaunches and renumbering. I find the idea, for example, of DC going from #904 to #1 of Action Comics to be weirdly disrespectful to the history of the comic, for some reason. I find the renumbering of, say, Ultimate Spider-Man from #16 to #150 and then being relaunched a year later to be a cynical exploitation of fans. I wish that there was some way to denote a new jumping on point – Remember those “This Is It! The Start Of A New Era!”-style banners that used to appear on covers? – that would do away with the need to renumber, but this really might be one of those cases where reality just isn’t on my side.
Is there something that could work as an alternative, though? What kind of thing would express a good place for new readers to start, if not a new #1 – and do you think you’d fall for it?