Could the DCnU Spell the End of This Comics Practice at DC?

Time for Seasonal Numbering @ DC?

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Pop quiz time. Who can identify what these numbers mean?

905?

882?

714?

715?

If you correctly answered, “Issue #’s you won’t find on the covers of DC comic books in September,” well then you know your DC Comics history … and you might not be a fan of the question we’re about to ask.

As part of their efforts to attract new readers to their line-wide DC Universe revamp in September, the publisher has announced that they’re giving up the ghost on the current consecutive numbering of all their titles, in favor of what they intend to be inviting, more “accessible” new #1 issues.

 

This includes some of the industry’s longest (one could argue “historic”) consecutively numbered titles, including Action Comics, Detective Comics, Batman, and Superman.

Now we’re not here today to debate the merits of that decision. It’s been made, so we’re moving on. But what we are here to do is ask a question in the wake of this decision. And our question is this:

If DC is not going to publish Action Comics #905 and Detective Comics #882, and even relaunch titles with 2-figure issue #’s, all out of concern that high numbers on the covers are intimidating to new readers and/or #1’s promote more accessibility, why would they ever publish a “#13” issue of any series ever again?

No, we’re not talking about skipping the ‘unlucky’ number like high-rise buildings do, moving directly from #12 to #14. We mean maybe it’s time for DC to fully embrace yearly volumes, or a “seasonal” numbering system.

12 issues. Close up the volume. Start a new volume with a new #1.

Every. Single. Year.

 

This wouldn’t be too big of a leap, really. Marvel originally attempted a renewing volume system for the first few years of Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways. Marvel’s The Ultimates and DC/WildStorm’s own The Authority are just some of the other titles that have relaunched with new #1s with some frequency.

And DC is promising that the September relaunch (what we like to call the DCnU) will include more changes to the way publishers have traditionally done business.

In addition to the aforementioned line-wide relaunch, they recently dropped use of the historic Comics Code Authority in what now looks at least partly like a pre-emptive move, they’ve already announced the leap to full same-day (“day and date”) digital distribution, have promised a TV ad campaign to comic book retailers, and in this past week’s DC Nation column published in all of their titles, co-publisher Dan DiDio tells readers that the September changes are not just a reboot.

“…it’s so much more than that,” he writes. “This is an initiative to build and reshape an industry we all love…”

“Reshape,” huh? So wouldn’t this be the ideal time to throw the traditional numbering system out with the bathwater and claim another industry first among the major publishers?

 

Now one might think that launching an entire line with new #1’s every year at the same time might be a bit much, but of course that could and would never happen. We already know new titles will launch in the upcoming months and some of the initial “New 52” (sorry DC) will likely be cancelled before their first year. Inevitable shipping vagrancies will further wind up staggering their line.

In probably less than a few years, DC’s line could be perpetually “renewing” itself with new volumes/new #1’s at the rate of say an 1/8th to 1/12th of their full slate each month.

So if collectible history is, in fact, being relegated to history, isn’t “seasonal” numbering the logical next step, particularly as publishers try to attract more casual readers via digital delivery? Do high issue #s have any significance in a future where the publishers hope a longbox becomes a cloud?

And if DC indeed does significantly promote their relaunched line via a TV ad campaign, doesn’t it make even more sense to market their line using a much more common vernacular? With “season finales” and “season premieres” … maybe even skip a couple of months in-between volumes to help creators get ahead of schedule and to build anticipation for a new volume? Instead of teaching potential readers a unique comic book language, DC can talk to them in their native tongue.

 

Such a shift could also have some ancillary benefits to the publisher and to all readers, including further encouraging editors and writers to aim for more accessible storytelling and to regularly write towards jumping-on points, to an even greater degree than already do for eventual trade paperback collections.

But most of all, it would give comic book retailers — from comiXology to Midtown Comics to the guy with a folding table at a flea market — a new tool. A way to market each and every title DC publishes as something that can be fully embraced (and by “embraced,” we really mean “purchased”) with a less intimidating initial investment.

Sure, sure. Us long-timers know that all of that can be done right now in the system that exists. Writers can and should already write accessibly. Trade paperbacks and hardcovers can serve to some degree as introductory jumping-on points. But again, DC is already changing that system.

So the question we go back to is this:

If DC isn’t going to publish a Superman #715 what reason would they ever have to publish a Superman #15?

[Lucas Siegel contributed to this story.]

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