Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SS #044 - Comic Book Numbering

Shortbox Showcase #44 - Comic Book Numbering

In this episode, we talk about the bane of every comic book collector .. issue numbering! Where do you file annuals in your collection? Issues Zeroes? And what do we think of half-issues, negative issues, and other similar gimmicks? We also talk for a bit about the confusing ways that some libraries arrange their graphic novel collections.

Join us for all that ... and more ... in this episode of Shortbox Showcase.

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  1. Hi all,
    I am always listening even if I rarely comment here. But this topic is so vexing to me that I had to hop in.

    I am an alphanumeric organizer when it comes to my comics. Action is in 'A'. Superman is in 'S'. It should be easy.

    But the frequent re-soliciting/renumbering of things absolutely drives me crazy. Things like the Mark Waid Daredevil or Silk are now alphanumeric and then by volume. But that makes things feel off. If I pull out a random Daredevil #3, I have to squint at the corner to see date/year to know which series I am grabbing.

    Title changes midstream also annoy me.
    Saga of the Swamp Thing by Moore became just Swamp Thing.

    Daring New Adventures of Supergirl became just Supergirl.

    Legion of Super-Heroes became Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes which became Legion of Super-Heroes again, all within 3 years.

    When it comes to title changes like that, I tend to group the books together in one place by the title that makes the most sense. Swamp Thing is at 'SW', regardless of 'Saga'. Supergirl is in 'S' even if they are Daring and New.

    Classic renumbering is another boondoggle.
    Superman became 'Adventures of Superman' which became 'Superman' again, maintaining the same numeric sequence. Since it was many years of a name change, I have 'Adventures of Superman' in the 'A' box. The pre-Crisis Superman/ post renumbering title all are in one place. That means the Byrne 'Superman' has it's own section.

    I suppose in this very email I have violated my own rules as described which shows you how vexing this is.

    There is one thing I will say and that is I invested in box separators a few years ago and that has been invaluable. These are cardboards with a tab which sticks above the books. So for books that I have many volumes of, I have separators - Supergirl '72, Supergirl (DNAOS), Supergirl '96, Supergirl '04, Supergirl New 52, and Supergirl 'minis, etc' - which have been crucial in helping me get where I need to get to. I suppose a Supergirl '16 tab is in the near future.

    I considered a 'Supergirl' box but that would mean putting a section of Adventure Comics, all of Superman Family, the odd Action/Superman co-star issue, some JLA, etc all as a hodge podge.

    I figured if the alphabet exists, I should use it. And databases like ComicBookDB (which I use) also help me catalog stuff.

    That said, I am sure my the 'S' draws are a mess. With all the Superman mini-series, reboots, one-shots, Superman Family, Superman Family Adv, Superman's Girl Friend, Superman's Pal, etc etc my guess is that section is an omelet.

    I miss the good old days of one title, high numbers. It made my filing days easier.

    1. Thank you for the through and thought-out reply, Doctor.

      Box separators may be part of the answer for us. Good point about when the title changes, too, but keeps the numbering. Maybe I['d use the majority-title system, but there are certainly unforeseen consequences of that.

      Same with organizing by character. There is some sense to that, but way too many complications. Crossovers, events, team-ups, etc ... ouch, my head is hurting!

  2. Hello Emily and the Other One,

    This episode surprised me. I didn't think I would find the topic all that interesting, but then, I clearly underestimated your extraordinary abilities as podcasters. This was one of the MOST interesting shows I've listened to in a while. Not because it told me something I didn't already know, and not because it forced me to reevaluate my own ordering habits--No, this episode was interesting simply because you two made it interesting with your charm, your passion, and your delivery. Well done!

    I only had a few other thoughts I wanted to share. The first is another cataloguing conundrum for you to sort out:

    In the original volume of STORMWATCH published by Image Comics starting in 1993, the creators did a radical sort-of experiment. After issue #9, which was published in April of 1994, they released issue #25. This issue had an interior publication date of May '94, but a cover date of June 1995 because that's when they anticipated the issue would come out if they continued to publish monthly. The cover of the issue even posted copy that read "IMAGE O TOMORROW" and Image promoted it as a glimpse into the future of the series.

    Had you been collecting the series as I did, would you have sorted the issue between issues #9 and #10 or between issues #24 and #26?

    Would it change your answer if I told you the story actually fits in BOTH spots, because the story in issue #25 is a time travel story. The main character is launched one year into the future; the rest of the StormWatch team is different. Some beloved members have died in the interim; others have different costumes or powers; the leader of the team is now Spartan, who was a character in the WILDC.A.T.S book at that time. Because it's a time travel story that actually managed to sync up (pretty) well when the book caught up to the numbering a year later, it fits in both parts of the timeline. If you sort it after issue #9, then you understand that you are meant to read this story out of sequence but the way it was published, because that break in continuity is intentional. We're supposed to get this "image of tomorrow" the same way Jackson King does in the story. Or, you could order it after issue #24, in which case you discover--more or less linearly--that Jackson, who supposedly died six months earlier--was only plucked out of the time stream and shown this point in time so he could prepare himself and come back stronger when the world needed him.

    Knowing that, I'm curious where each of you would sort STORMWATCH #25, assuming you collected at least the first twenty-six issues of the book.

    One more thought: Have either of you ever considered the dangerously daring notion of sorting your collection--as John Cusack sorted his private music collection in HIGH FIDELITY--"autobiographically". That is, based on when you purchased or received the comic?

    1. I remember when Stormwatch did that ... and I bet the Emily & Alan would answer that question differently based on their views of organizing Narnia & Redwall.

      In a sense, Professor Alan does a little bit of that "High Fidelity" aorting, in that the Quarter-Bin books have their own longbox, and the "listening to podcasts" books are in one pile -- books like Secret Origins, for example. While the old books from the old days are in the "regular" collection.

      And thanks for the overblown kind words ... although you probably shouldn't drink so heavily before posting.

  3. Absolutely fascinating topic of conversation!

    I am a library-worker-person, and the library in which I work has a fantastic 'graphic novel' collection (donated almost exclusively by a single benefactor - it's always exciting when one of 'those' boxes is unpacked every couple months). I WOULD not, however, and DO not, organize my own comics collection the way we do at the Library. I work at a design school, so the emphasis of our organization is placed on ILLUSTRATOR, subdivided by COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. But it's frustratingly inconsistent. Examples: the 15 or so volumes of Cerebus are kept in the NC1499 'S' section, which for the layperson means ILLUSTRATION (COMICS)/CANADIAN ILLUSTRATOR/'S' for Sim. We have all 4 volumes of the Doom Patrol Archives, but they're kept in NC1428 'D,' meaning ILLUSTRATION (COMICS)/CHARACTER BASED MATERIAL?/Characater(s) name(s) start(s) w/ 'D.' The Superman Archives, however are bafflingly kept in the NC1429 'S' section, which means ILLUSTRATION (COMICS)/AMERICAN ILLUSTRATOR/'S' for Schuster. I guess Bruno Premiani's fantastic work on Doom Patrol didn't rate with the Library of Congress. This is a little embarrassing for me, who lives and breathes the stuff, but I imagine our patrons don't give a F&@*! about classification minutiae, so it's not worth the headache that would result from initiating any changes at this point.

    As for my own collection, I'm pretty much straight up alphabetical. I'm 1st and foremost a DC boy, with a huge chunk of my collection dating from the 90s/early 00s - so I have a few ZERO issues, 1,000,000's, Secret Files & Annuals floating around. Because '0's & 1 Millions substituted for regular monthly issues of the titles I bought, they are filed chronologically. For certain titles, like The Flash, Legion of Super-Heroes, Starman among some others, Annuals are filed in as close proximity as possible to their release date, as many of those stories were relevant to the monthly goings on. A title like Starman looks like a mess in my long boxes, as I've got monthly issues, Annuals, Secret Files, Girl Frenzy & 80-Page Giants all interfiled due to the importance of all of those stories to the overarching narrative of Opal City.

    A little Bit of Legionnaire Business:

    I will advise Emily to seek out issues of Legionnaires, as for quite a long period of time, issues 19-81 (plus issue ZERO, of course), the adventures of the Legion wove through that title AND Legion of Super-Heroes, proper, in a similar way to the Superman titles of the time. The covers to that 5 year run even sported a Legion version of 'triangle numbering' where the year's 'chapter' would appear in a little Legion emblem. If Emily were only to read LSH, she'd be missing half the story - though she could always just download episodes of 'Reboot Review' (plug).