Nerd Factor: We’re Number One

Dr. Mike Robinson, LC Communication Professor~

Welcome to the very first issue of the Nerd Factor.  As of today, this column will be starting with an entirely new numbering system.  Oh, it’s the same old creative team (me), but this new number one designation will drive up reader interest as well as encourage collectors to pick up extra copies, one for reading and one for collecting.  Just think, someday in the far future, your grandchildren will look up in awe at you when you tell them that you have the first issue of the second volume of Nerd Factor.

You don’t seem impressed.  Well, perhaps it will take a few moments for the enormity of it all to sink in.

Meanwhile, consider that this is the strategy taken on by comic book companies for years now.  First issues create excitement and often lead to an increase in sales.  Creators with payment deals tied to revenues like that extra kick.  So over time, many of our favorite comic series have begun renumbering.  

The problem is, the renumbering is so chronic that it can get downright silly.  For example, consider a series that I enjoyed, Uncanny Avengers.  Presenting the adventures of a combined team of X-Men and Avengers known as the Avengers Unity Squad, the series ran until issue #25.  Then it started again with a new numbering system for another 5 issues.  Then a third volume ran up to issue #30.  All that happened over the span of just about five years.  

Issue 1

Illustration by Genevieve Griffin

This can be confusing because it messes with the navigation system that fans use to understand their own fandom.  My comic book hobby began 45 years ago with Amazing Spider-Man #124.  I didn’t pay much attention to the issue number in the upper left corner.  As a little kid, I was in that strange zone between horrified and intrigued by the cover art, an image of a werewolf bursting in to attack Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson. 

As I got older, I realized every issue had one of those numbers.  That numbering system helped fuel my obsession with getting “the next issue.” Yes, comic book fans experienced FOMO (fear of missing out) long before the current generation invented the term.  

More importantly, the numbering system helped me understand where I was in the history of Spider-Man.  I had taken an interest in Spidey just a few short issues after the death of Gwen Stacy in issue #121, the beginning of darker story ideas that many mark as start of the so-called Bronze Age.  There was about ten years of Spider-Man adventures before I came onto the scene.  And I wanted to read those.  

Renumbering issues therefore makes me feel lost.  It’s like being in a town where every ten blocks or so I run across a new First Street.  I don’t always know where I am.  

Of course Marvel and DC worry little about me.  I’m an addict.  My sense of direction may be off, but they know I’ll show up for my monthly fix.  Their focus is on new readers and what they can do to pull in these mythical creatures.  They’ve renumbered series plenty of times.  They’ve also restored old numbering for series.  Now there is talk of doing both.  If a number one issue brings someone to comics, I’m all for it.  But I think it’s unfortunate to lose that sense of being involved in a bigger story.