With the advent of All-New Marvel NOW!, it would appear that the comics giant is slowly but surely enacting a new form of numbering for their books. Long gone are books with high numbers, and in its place are new #1s for everyone! But why is Marvel so quick to renumber all of their titles lately? Maybe we can shed some light on that in this week’s Comic Culture.
It is no surprise that casual readers who go into a comic shop and see a #1 next to a book in the 20s are naturally going to gravitate to the #1. With potentially little to no back story of a character or book it’s easier to assume that a #1 would be the best place to start. On the other hand, long term readers are aware that books go through “arcs” of varying size and that when a new writer/artist takes over from the previous team the story might shift; this in turn could be a jumping on point as well. But, as alluded to before, casual readers aren’t going to know this, nor take the time to investigate it either. And, who can blame them. #1s are always going to be visually and psychologically a starting point for most people. So with that in mind, perhaps this is where Marvel is going with this? And what does Jeph Loeb have to do with it?
Well, that brings me to the idea of the “season model.” I am not sure who coined the term “season model,” nor who actually came up with the idea, but the first I heard wind of it was on Kevin Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast when he was interviewing Jeph Loeb (episodes #32 and #33 to be exact). Currently the Head of TV for Marvel, Loeb has done his fair share of writing for both Marvel and DC. His TV accolades include writing and producing on shows like Smallville, Lost and Heroes. Generally speaking Loeb’s idea was to have each arc (season) last xx issues (months), and at the end of said arc (season) the creative teams would shift and the book would get renumbered back to 1. Now, you can’t always plan everything to a “t,” but this model would seem to work best on a yearly basis, i.e., creative teams staying on for 12 issues.
When I first heard this idea, I had to let it sink in because it kind of didn’t make sense to me. Bringing over this idea of “seasons” to comics just seemed strange. But the more and more I thought about it the more it became clear. People like smaller numbers. It’s easier to wrap their heads around. When you hear word of mouth about a TV show that is really good, naturally you want to check it out. But, when that show is already on Season 4 it becomes more work to play catch up. In our digital age it is not quite as hard to do so with streaming content on Hulu, Netflix and the Internet readily available, but in the end it’s still less desirable than being able to simply start at 1 with everyone else.
Even with the popularity of comic book movies and TV shows these days, it’s still hard to get new readers into comic shops. Marvel is aware of this, and I am sure all of the other publishers are as well. The difference here is that Marvel seems to be taking a proactive step to attract those new eyes. And, how are they doing it? By routinely renumbering their books at #1. Now, whether or not they truly enact this “season” model is all but hearsay at this time, but they seem to be going in that direction. It may be only a matter of time before other publishers follow suit. So, if this becomes the norm, is there anything we can do about it? No. There isn’t. As long as the stories are good, then who cares? To survive, comics need readers, and if this is the way to get them so be it. You either change with the times, or get left in the dust.