Monday, November 25, 2013

Sorry, Wrong Number! Returning True Numbering to Today's Comic Books: Daredevil

Hello folks hello! Let's look at today's news that Marvel's Daredevil comic will end with next February's #36. (Cue the mournful wailing and gnashing of teeth.) Also, an all-new, all- sorta-different Daredevil comic will return with March 2014's Daredevil #1! How do they do that? And more important, why?

Well, the "why" is certainly easy enough to explain: Marvel can no longer count past fifty. Number one issues always sell better. So this will be the fourth Daredevil #1 in its fifty year history, and I suppose we'll be calling it Daredevil volume 4, or Daredevil (2014 series). I like to pay attention to these things, and I hope you note that when I identify a panel or a cover, I try to identify the volume number or series year it's from (unless it's startlingly obvious that there could be no confusion). Still, I'm a big proponent of returning true numbering to today's comic books, and that's what this column—and feature—are all about: what issue number would today's comics be if they were given their "true numbering." And hey, since it's handy (and I have my issues pulled out of the vast underground Bully Climate-Controlled Vault o' Comics, Aisle "D"), shall we examine the comic without fear of starting its numbering over again with #1, Daredevil!

Blind Lemon Jefferson Matt Murdock premiered in 1963 with Daredevil #1, swinging his way into our hearts with that bizarre yellow uniform and hitting crooks squarely in the jaw all the way through issue #380, when it was made a title in the Marvel Knights imprint and rebooted with a new #1, allowing Silent Bob to kill off Matt Murdock's and America's Sweetheart, heroin-abusin', porno-starring Karen Page. Yes, folks, the nineties had begun! In the interest of accuracy sake, the nineties actually began eight years previous. Daredevil volume 2 ran through issue #119, but if it had been numbered consecutively following the first series, it would have been issues #381-499.

In fact, it was during this run of DD's that Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada actually made an attempt to give a little nod to Marvel series' true numbering by printing dual numbers on books that had started again at number #1, like Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, and...yep!, Daredevil.

The dual numbering was mysteriously dropped from issue #82 onwards:

But rejoice, Darefans, as true numbering returns to the series with #500! Hooray! For, um, twelve issues, at which point Daredevil ends. Oh, dear.

To be fair, there wasn't much further that Matt could symbolically fall after issue #512, after the events of the Shadowland miniseries where Daredevil became the leader and primary stock-holding member of the Hand, his longtime ninja-nemeses (ninjeses?). There was much sadness, especially for Frank Miller, who had been hoping for a Daredevil: Agent of H.A.N.D. series to bolster his royalties and continue to fill up his three-cubic-acre money vault.

The "Man Without Fear" sobriquet (thank you, Word of the Day Calendar 2013™!) and champion of Hell's Kitchen comcept was however not retired, but passed on—along with the comic book numbering—to T'Challa, the Black Panther, in the aptly-named Black Panther: The Man Without Fear series, and its follow-up, Black Panther: The World's Most Dangerous Man (no relation to Paul Shaffer and the World's Most Dangerous Band).

Now, here's where it gets a little confusing. If we use the precedent of Incredible Hulk passing its numbering onto Incredible Hercules but not counting the Herc issues when Hulk returned to true numbering (a very complicated example involving one series being counted for two different runs which I'll get around to sometime in this post series), we should not count #513-529 as part of the DD numbering. When Daredevil returned with a new #1, in its current somewhat-happy-go-lucky Mark Waid-scripted iteration in 2011, it should be numbered #513 and continue onwards from there. But who's counting? Oh wait...I am.

Now is as good as any time to point out that I'm not going to count any out-of-sequence zero, negative, point one, "AU," or imaginary binary fraction numbers that comics may insert into their runs. You can argue (and I don't disagree with you) that Daredevil #10.1 counts towards the total number of Daredevil comics ever published, but it's got a number that falls between two others and therefore isn't part of the consecutive cumulative numbering. (That make sense? Then remind me once again to tell you about Hulk, which is confusing as heck and will probably make my little needle and oatmeal brain explode when I have to explain it.)

Which brings us right back full circle to today, or more accurately a couple months from now, when Daredevil volume 3 ends with #36 and Daredevil #1 volume 4 premieres the next month.

Why a new number one? Well, as I mentioned above, number one issues always sell better. Or, for an alternate view, here's Mark Waid and Chris Samnee explaining the new math in an interview over at
NERDIST: Why is Daredevil restarting at #1 rather than simply picking up at #37?...

CHRIS SAMNEE: With the end of #36 a chapter in Matt Murdock’s life has ended. We’re moving forward now in a new direction with a new cast and new stakes. The new #1 just makes sense. We’re restarting the series just as Matt is trying to jump start his life and career.

MARK WAID: We were actually given the opportunity by Marvel to relaunch with a #1 last year as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative, which absolutely would have boosted sales–but together, the team agreed that since we were in the middle of a storyline, it would be a gimmick, not an organic shift. When the opportunity arose to relaunch again this year, it made a lot more sense given the way we’re about to change literally every aspect of Matt Murdock’s life. Every aspect.
Oh, and also: number one issues always sell better.

If there were justice in this unjust world Marvel were rebooting DD with the true numbering, we'd pick up with issue #550, which is a pretty impressive count, unless of course you're in the UK, where weekly comics have often reached four digits and 2000 AD moves steadily towards issue #2000 sometime in 2016. Let's apply the same time projections to Daredevil's next big anniversary centennial issue and I'll make this wish that also a hope: that Daredevil returns to its true, original numbering with issue #600.

Daredevil #600
Assuming an issue a month (which these days isn't even fair to assume, what with bimonthly issues that bring us runs of twenty-four issues of Superior Spider-Man in 2013 and apparently seventy-eight issues a week of Wolverine and the Amazing Zoo Crew), DD oughta reach issue #600 around May 2018. Well, shall we meet back here then, maybe around my sixth birthday, to see if that happened? In the meantime, you should still be reading Daredevil. It's a pretty great book with a lot more history to it than its numbering suggests.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I'm very fond of the original issue numbers. Its a mighty milestone that says "This magazine has been around for so long, it has changed over time certainly but it has stood that test of time because of you and the readers who came before you!" It was great to see the big numbers returning, which is why DC's New 52 really felt like it took the air out of the sales (I meant "sails". Legit typo, but it surprisingly works!). Action Comics was almost at 1000!

SallyP said...

It does seem a little crazy, doesn't it?

Yatz said...

You are a very brave little bull.
Or a very stupid one.
Either way, you have my thanks!