Back to Square One - More from the Oracle

Having previously applauded Marvel's plans to re-vamp Spidey (no matter what that re-vamp may entail), let me now weigh in against one aspect of this entire "changing of the wall-crawling guard"; namely the reset of all the issues to #1.

As you know, Spidey isn't the only character to which this has happened. With the Heroes Return reset of Iron Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Captain America and Thor; with the Marvel Knights reset of Daredevil; with the transmutation of X-Factor to Mutant-X, there are only four (by my count) Marvel books that are over issue #100. (The Incredible Hulk, The Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine, and Silver Surfer.) And only the first two are over issue #200.

It doesn't take a genius to figure that, if Marvel keeps doing this to all its books, it must help out in the sales. After all, fans like to latch on to issue #1. There are also readers who like the feeling of joining in on a new start, rather than picking the book up at, say, #440. It makes them less intimidated and more willing to test a book that is new to them. Often, it is more user-friendly to kids, as well.

I'm all for getting the kids to jump on. In many ways, I think this is more important than pleasing the long-timer. But there are new groups of kids and new readers coming along all the time. What do you new, restart the books at #1 every five years?

No, what you're really talking about here is a short-term solution that hopes to temporarily reel in new buyers while assuming the veterans will always be there. The problem is... there's no guarantee that the renumbering will draw in new long-term readers and no certainty that the vets won't feel alienated and give up. Surely, Marvel doesn't want to lose its core readership just on the chance they may pick up some new ones, right?

Why does renumbering upset long-time fans so much, anyway? Well, for some, it seems to reject a long history of which they are very fond. For others, it just reeks too much of a get-rich-quick scheme. In the end, the feeling may be vague, it may be ineffable but it is real just the same. (Certainly, it wouldn't have hurt Marvel to recognize that and do what DC did when John Byrne revamped their major hero. Start one book over at #1, let the other book continue with the high numbering.) As for me, I was always sort of looking forward to Amazing Spider-Man #500. For no particular reason, really. It just seemed like it would be fun. This fall, DC is publishing issue #1,000,000 books and advertising them as the issues you never thought you'd see. Little did I suspect, upon first seeing this slogan, that it would probably also apply to me and ASM #500... because, now, if I live to see that issue, I'm going to very, very old indeed.