This is something I have to mention every now and again: I consider myself a comic reader, not a comic collector. I really do not believe my comics will put my kids through college nor do I hold on to them for years. I also do not give much consideration to when a book renumbers or what not. After all, One More Day was still a god awful piece of trash regardless of the number on the cover and the events of Journey Into Mystery #645 still would’ve made me tear up if the book had been Journey Into Mystery #31. I have even begun the move to all digital with my single and only buying collected editions of stories that I’ll probably read over and over.
Why am I saying this? Well, it ties into the subject I wanted to talk about: Seasonal Comics. Essentially it means the renumbering of a series at the start of each new “season”, whether it’s a new creative team or a jumping on point in a larger story. Basically, you tell your story for a finite amount of issues and, if sales deem well enough, you’re “renewed” for another “season”. So yeah, kind of like television. This is the kind of model that Marvel has been touting with their “All-New All-Different Marvel” initiative to begin in October.
And it isn’t just at Marvel that such an idea has happened. You have books like B.P.R.D. that released in mini-series that were numbered in collections. Even Valiant has toyed with that idea, with the Harbinger Omegas mini-series collected in trade as Harbinger vol. 6: Omegas, being a natural continuation from Harbinger’s technical “end” at vol. 5.
Now, as a concept, in a vacuum, I’m actually for this idea. I look to two examples that Marvel began testing with the format prior to Secret Wars, Thor and Inhuman. Thor lasted from issues 1-8 with an annual with the central, overlying plot being “Who is the new Thor?” which was solved in issue 8, the season finale. It also had several other subplots such as Jane’s cancer and the machinations of Malekith. Inhuman (Issues 1-14 & an Annual) had several more plots going on including the rebuilding of Attilan, the other factions of Inhumans around the world, Black Bolt, e.t.c with many of them coming together at the finale. Now, both books are getting “second seasons” come October with The Mighty Thor and Uncanny Inhumans respectfully being the logical next steps for the aforementioned series.
But this idea is not in a vacuum. So, I pondered some potential pitfalls of this. The first to come to mind is a problem most of the industry has: the oversaturation of new #1s. While Marvel’s release schedule for October isn’t as bad as 52 first issues in a month like the beginning of DC’s New 52 was, but they are still putting out a great deal of product for people with limited funds. Now, Marvel could say that they are supplying for a variety of audiences with different tastes, and that’s not wrong. Having said that, such a glut of first issues all at once can also leave people with dry funds and more unwilling to take chances on a book that looks sort of interesting at best (another problem with Marvel’s ANAD initiative is a chunk of the #1s actually being more expensive than a regular issue, further pushing away people who were hesitant to try new things).
The other concern I had is the fear of “cancellation”. Will quality suffer even more in a desperate attempt to wrap up all plot lines from previous “seasons” or will plots just be left dangling? Now, I know there are people that are kind of ambivalent of that and consider each new creative team a “reboot”. Not really one of those people. Plot holes rake at the back of my head all of the time. It’s an aggravation I’ve tried to let go of, to no avail.
So, let’s say that Marvel begins this method of seasonal releases. I do have some advice that could help such a model:
Make It Apparent Which Season A Book is In: It’s a Catch-22 with comics at the Big 2: Sure there are jumping-on points, but if you haven’t followed for a while, there isn’t as much emotional resonance. There is a way to make sure people know where in this specific story starts: Releasing collections titled as “So and So by. Writer volume 1” and so on. Now, artist friends, don’t kill me yet. Artists should be included in titles as well, but the nature of comics in the Big 2 on such chaotic deadlines, the writer is the one constant in the creative team.
Make It Easier For People to Catch Up: This is more important on the digital side. Marvel, your unwillingness to lower the prices of older issues sucks. Hell, Fury Max came out in 2013 and each issue is still four dollars on Comixology. Most companies will knock a dollar off an issue when the next issue releases (usually a month). DC Comics usually waits two months before lowering an issue price. You need to follow suit. There’s no way Ant-Man #1 should still be $4.99. (not that there was a reason for it to be so expensive to begin with)
Collect Seasons In One Collection: There is a simple logic to this. Most television shows are released on DVD/Blu-Ray in Season collections. Netflix releases shows in seasons for binge watching. Do this with “seasons” of the comics. Release a Thor Season One volume that has 1-8 & the Annual. Release an Inhuman Season One with 1-14 & the Annual. And make them reasonably priced.
At the end of the day: I like the concept of seasonal comics. I think it does have a lot of potential. I just don’t want to see the idea become twisted into something horrid and anti-consumer.