Comic Numbering is a Broken System! Here's a Possible Solution!

Are you tired of the erratic issue of comic re-numbering? I may have a solution for everyone.

Are you a reader who is endlessly irritated but the repeated tampering of comic numbers in the vain attempt to seem "less intimidating" by the large issue numbers? Long time fans see that as a badge of honor for a series. They feel it should be celebrated. Still, you have DC rebooting the entire universe to recreate #1s, and then you have Marvel with this superficial title changes for their reasoning behind the numbering reboot.

You can't say that the #1 reboots don't work - - to an extent. We have often heard about people who see the #1 and start reading. Though, how many you're drawing in is certainly in question? These same people often recognize that these are never real #1 issues. I honestly have to wonder why such a superficial change can sway a person when they know it's artificial.

There is then the issue of publisher backpedaling. They have this renewal, but then alter it back when some anniversary comes up. Just look at what happened to WONDER WOMAN in 2010. This series jumped from issue #44 directly to #600. How does this help anyone? The low information readers would be wondering what became of the missing 556 issues. You only stand to confuse readers more.

WONDER WOMAN #600 - A case of reverse number rebooting

I think we all need to face facts. The numbering system used by publishers is broken, and it only serves to work against the reader. I stand with Corey (Undeadpool) on the topic of reader intimidation. If you are intimidated by large numbers from reading a series you know you might enjoy, then 24 might as well be 600 to these people. After you start the numbering over, you are going to be having the exact same problem in two to three years. There will be someone who doesn't want to jump in on a #14 and so on.

A superficial number reboot that doesn't change the story

I understand that there are going to be readers who look at this and will say, "No change. This is the way it's always been done.". That's not an excuse for you to stay with a system that you know is working against your better interests. Just becasue something is a tradition doesn't mean you cling to it. Also, publishers are changing the numbering every few years. Aren't you more frustrated by that? Sometimes, a drastic change is needed.

I could sit here and just rant on about what's wrong and be like so many other bloggers, but that's not the purpose here. I actually have a suggestion on how we can improve this issue, and it can be found in the far East. That's right, I'm pointing to Japanese manga. Not the volumes that many of us are familiar with. I'm looking to the serialized magazines. There are monthly magazines that contain numerous individual chapters of various series. Though, these magazines don't spotlight the issue number. They put the focus on the month and year. It's a universal standard that you can always keep organized. After every year, the numbering is restarted to #1 for January. It's the year number that keeps them further organized.

Here are a few select monthly covers for various magazines. These have the year and month number shown.

Allow me to go into a bit more detail. The image below is the cover of MONTHLY SUNDAY GENE-X (SUNDAY G-X). This issue was published and sold in April 2006, but as with most magazines it uses the title of the following month. The most prominent number is the number 5 on the cover that represents the month of May. This is the SUNDAY G-X MAY 2006 issue. When the next year comes along, it will be the January issue for 2007. That's the cycle they all follow.

Monthly Sunday Gene-X May. 2006 JPN (Apr 2006)

Now, here's the interesting tidbit. Nearly all of these magazines have the issue number printed on them among the various other publishing fine print. They're just not the focus. In the picture below, I've highlighted where you can find the issue number on the SUNDAY G-X cover above. This is the seventy-first issue. You just have to look very close to see it.

Even if you like this system. You may say that this wont work for any comic that's published more than once a month. I also have a suggestion for that. You look to the system of weekly manga magazines, such as WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP. These series are organized by issue number (representing the week), month, and day. This is the cover of the issue that was released in Japan this earlier month. As you can see, this is No. 47 for November 5th. When the first issue of next year is published, this will change to No. 1 of 2013. Every year starts off with a No. 1.

Weekly Shōnen Jump Nov. 5 2012 No. 47 JPN (Oct 2012)

WEEKLY SHONEN JUMP - - just as the name suggests - - is published on a weekly basis. It's been doing so since 1968 with only a few scattered weeks off within a year, for national holidays; and it's never actually rebooted their numbering. In the fine print at the top left, you can see this issue is #2191.

What all these series have in common - - month or weekly - - is that when they reach a grand anniversary issues. It boldly puts "100!" or even "2000!!" on the covers. Currently, DENGEKI MAOH is celebrating the series' twentieth anniversary, and MONTHLY DRAGON AGE is on its fortieth. These series have both had "20th" and "40th" on the covers of the issues this year.

This is a number system that could make everyone happy for comics. You have a numbering that reboots every year to make things easier for new readers to not feel so intimidated, and the actual issue number can also be continued in the fine print for those who want that information.

What are your thoughts on my proposal?

-Kristoffer Remmell (FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ FoxxFireArt

9 Comments
9 Comments
Posted by pikahyper

It could work I guess, Dark Horse tried this years ago with their comic manga and some of their regular series but a lot of people complained of it being confusing, Americans don't want to have to use their brains. To some extent Dark Horse still does it for their Mignola comics, they have batches of mini-series each with it's own unique title and new numbering but when you look at the credits page it shows the actual total, in a couple days B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth - The Return of the Master #3 comes out and it is actually issue #100.

Moderator
Posted by FoxxFireArt

@pikahyper:

Well, as I referenced. Is anyone completely happy with the constant retooling of the numbers just in an attempt to draw in new readers?

It's a 1-12 scale, then ir repeats. It's no less complicated that what's being currently used. Year and month. Those are the only numbers you really need. You can put the actual issue number in the fine print. Both are there, but the smaller numbers are the more prominent.

The people that I find fascinating are the ones who openly admit that they know the #1s aren't real beginnings but just find it more welcoming. They're basically admitting their complaint was superficial..

Posted by pikahyper

well it is a little more complicated then the current system, say a series is one hundred issues, with a traditional numbering system you easily know what you are missing if you know the start and stop year. With the month/year system you have to look through your collection and see if you have each twelve month chunk of the hundred unless you look at the fine print for each one or use a cataloging software that displays both numbering types.

Moderator
Posted by Grishnakh

Not that it matters but I'm pretty sure Japan took that numbering system from Europe as many countries over there number their comics in such a fashion. I personally think it's awful, it would make referencing a particular comic to your friend so much more difficult and for a lot of comics, there's a jump year or every so often a missed issue and then you'll think you are missing a comic when really there was 11 that year (or you won't realize you are missing #13, etc.)

Think of anything at "90's" Image, those comics would never consistently have the same amount of issues per year and it would just get confusing, same goes for smaller indie publishers.

If they really want to make people feel more comfortable jumping in, they just need to make arcs more self-contained instead of the fact that they try to make storylines as big as possible and have them continuously build off each other. It doesn't matter what the issue number's are, modern comics are intended to all be consumed by a select few instead of marketing just a few comics to everyone.

DC reset their whole universe and just a year later they've already gotten it all so convoluted if you would try to jump into one title, you'd have to read all the other 51 even though six more of them will be cancelled within four months of you picking them up.

Posted by Jorgevy

numbering is organized and looks different. It's unique and it helps a lot

Posted by danhimself

it doesn't really bother me that much....it's just a number on the cover...what's inside the book is what matters

Posted by War Killer
@danhimself said:

it doesn't really bother me that much....it's just a number on the cover...what's inside the book is what matters

Posted by Cap10nate

Not that I really care about book numbers but wouldn't it get confusing for books that either double ship or dont come out in consecutive months. So if a book is shipped on the last week of January and the first week of March then it would show 01 and 03. That would lead people to be trying to find number 02.

Plus it's not like the current system is that complicated. They start from #1 whenever there is a new volume because it is usually a big departure from the previous one. Then they go back to the original numbering for milestones like you showed with WW700. Same thing with Cap 600 after Brubakers issues 1-50. The renumbering really helps with team books because new volumes usually come with different characters on the team so it is less confusing to go to an issue 1 than from an issue 257 to 258 when the whole team is spontaneously different

Posted by FoxxFireArt

@Cap10nate:

That could use the system of Weekly Shonen Jump. They have a volume a week, and are organized by month, day, year, and issue number. With each new year comes another No. 1.

The current system is ridiculous. Look at how they feel the need to reset numbers and even go so far as to re-title an entire comic series for no reason. Does anyone honestly believe they'll keep that SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN title? It will probably go back to AMAZING in a year, and they'll probably go back to #1 yet again. All in the name of not having big numbers to intimidate people.