There was a time when the first issue of a comic was a BIG DEAL. Something new. Something worth collecting. Something a serious collector might buy in multiples because reading issue #1 could spoil its pristine nature. Sadly, much of this is behind us now. Big business wants bigger money. If issue #1 sells more than any other issue, then logic states that more money can be made by creating more issues with #1 on the cover. Maybe this works for you, but Cats and Dragons are no longer curious to read a lot of the first issues hitting the stands. If you haven’t noticed the proliferation of first issues at your local comic shop, take another look at the Marvel titles.
Too Many Reboots?
When the DC Universe underwent a Rebirth, many people complained that they were rebooting things too often. Didn’t we just have New 52? But kudos to DC for maintaining the numbering system on a few titles. Action Comics #980 and Detective Comics #957 will be on the shelves in May. By comparison, The Amazing Spider-Man (1999) reached #700, but might not ever see #100 again. The Superior Spider-Man (2013-2014) saw 33 issues before Peter Parker returned. Since then there have been two separate first issues for your friendly neighbourhood webslinger. The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) had 18 issues (the sub-story finished in 19.1 and 20.1) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2015) is the current title… for now. It doesn’t look like the recent Clone Conspiracy story is spawning a new #1, but another summer event in the Marvel Universe could upset the numbering again.
If that doesn’t get you tangled in webs, try keeping track of Rocket Raccoon’s recent history. Rocket Raccoon (2014-2015) lasted 11 issues before someone decided that Rocket stories can be so much more with his tree friend. This gave us Rocket and Groot (2016) #1 and a run of 10 issues. The Guardians of the Galaxy were then grounded on Earth and Rocket Raccoon (2017) #1 appeared. After a mere 5 issues, the GoTG are back in space and the individual titles are back to yet another first issue. Next up is Rocket (2017) #1. It is time to stop calling him a raccoon.
That’s Not #1!
Comic titles have story arcs that typically run through 5-6 issues. These issues are then collected together and sold in hardcover books and/or trade paperback format. Comic readers who haven’t started at the beginning of a title like to jump on board when a new story line starts rather than in the middle of things. It is nice when publishers make it clear on the cover that a new story is beginning. It is, however, misleading to put a big, bright #1 on something that isn’t a first issue. At the end of 2016, NOW! branding plastered a large #1 on several ongoing series. Deadpool (2016) fell victim to this scheme on the cover of #21, but in an earlier run he seemed to be mocking us all for our love of first issues. If the large #1 on Deadpool (2012) #25 factored into your purchase, you should be ashamed. Deadpool prefers chimichangas over tacos.
All the First Issues You Can’t Afford
If you love buying every first issue you can find, then Marvel is going to make you spend more money than you can imagine over the next few months. February saw 4 new titles, which was a reasonable amount. March brings 5 first issues to the stand. April starts to get out of control at 11 new series and May will leave you in tears with another 15 titles printing issue #1.
What are all these #1 issues? Resurrxion begins in X-Men Prime #1 and Inhumans Prime #1, but these are only one-shot stories. A month later, Resurrxion for the Inhumans begins (again) in Royals #1 and the mutants have new (and old) teams in X-Men Gold #1, X-Men Blue #1, and Weapon X #1. Want a different mutant team? Generation X #1 is also on its way.
On the individual character side, recent and upcoming first issues include: America (Chavez), Ben Reilly (Scarlet Spider), Black Bolt, Bullseye, Cable, Darth Maul, Elektra, Groot, Iron Fist, Jean Grey, Kingpin, Luke Cage, Man-Thing, Nick Fury, and Rocket. Is your favourite character missing? Don’t worry, Secret Empire is coming soon. Steve Rogers and Hydra are sure to change the Marvel Universe in ways we won’t expect. And when the dust settles, no doubt another wave of first issues will arise.
Worried about the follow-up costs of buying first issues? The good news (?) is that many of these titles will disappear after one story arc. Some books are clearly marked as short run stories (#1 of 5), but others that look like new ongoing titles don’t last beyond issue #5. It feels like the big business plan is to throw as many comic titles on the market as possible. It doesn’t matter if any of them stick. Throw more first issues at the comic fans. Everyone loves buying issue #1.
When the big publishers leave you exhausted from reboots and first issue craziness, it is time to redirect your curiosity to smaller publishers and independents. The world of comics is vast and there are stories for everyone. Don’t be afraid to buy something different. Don’t be afraid to start with whatever numbered issue you come across if it catches your eye. If issue #8 looks amazing, then buy it. Support creator owned books. Back a comic or graphic novel on Kickstarter. A comic can be number one in your heart, whether or not #1 graces the cover.
Stay curious and keep reading.