Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Numbers Game

Karen: I was working on a report the other day at work and the number '162' came up as part of the data, and instantly a little voice in my head said, "Incredible Hulk #162, first appearance of the Wendigo." Of course it had nothing to do with the subject at hand, but my brain made the connection regardless.  This happens to me all the time. I can be getting change at a restaurant, or pumping gas, or reading a license plate, and I'll see a number that I automatically associate with a particular comic book. If it's 94, I think of X-Men #94, the first regular issue to feature the all-new, all-different team. Or if I see 181, well then, Incredible Hulk #181 and the first appearance of that lovable psycho, Wolverine, pops into my head. The number 121 brings back memories of the death of Gwen Stacy. If it's 346, then the Legion takes center stage, with Adventure Comics #346 and the introductions of Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, Ferro Lad, and Nemesis Kid.

You see what I'm getting at here. These numbers, most of them in triple digits, beckon forth pivotal moments in comics history for me.  I think of this as 'The Numbers Game.' You could probably take almost any number and see if you can come up with some significant comic with that issue number, but I prefer the spontaneous occurences.Maybe some of you have experienced similar moments. Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts.

And here's a question: now that comics are constantly starting over at number 1, it keeps the issue numbers low -as well as making for numerous issues of the same number within a given title. Does this make for fewer of these 'Numbers Game' moments for younger readers?


david_b said...

Yessir, mine does that fairly regularly as well.., typically with the summer of '73 Marvel issues I either had or hunted for.

121-132 will pop ASM in my head.., any number from 163-188 will spring CA&F issues to mind, it's fun to let the braincells muse about such whimsical meanderings, rather than the price of gas or taxes these days.

When my feeble mind harkens back to those days of youth, those numbers are such a great avenue.

Which reminds me.., I have to hunt down that Spiderman squirtgun I had back then on eBay one of these days.

J.A. Morris said...

Yep, I'm the same way. 94 will always be synonymous with that X-men for me too.

171 is another number I'll always associate with comics. As in Incredible Hulk 171, where the Abomination teams up with the Rhino.

And 181, as in the Amazing Spider-Man issue where Spidey visits Uncle Ben's grave, leading him to look back on his history as Spider-Man.

Dr. Oyola said...

Speaking of the numbers game, Publishers Weekly just posted an article on Marvel's sales numbers sans "stunt" publishing of multiple #1s. Check it my blog's Facebook page and click from there, giving me some much-needed traffic ;) )

Anyway, I am not great with remembering numbers - I can remember some of the big ones, but usually have to head to google or my own excel sheet catalog to remember for sure.

For me, and my assumption with younger comics readers, is that "story arc" means a lot more than number. Thus, the rebooting of #1 is not a big deal - or won't be - once Marvel and DC abandon the idea of an on-going title completely (something I am all for) and just move to publishing small well-crafted series that are then collected in volumes.

I honestly don't get the complaints about the numbers - they are just numbers. Give me good stories and characters.

The Point One type numbering is stupid though - it was okay as a one-time gimmick, I guess - but it is now overused and confusing.

Dr. Oyola said...

Oh crap, some broken HTML made that last post seem like a more brazen attempt at spam than I meant it to be! :/

I was trying to give the option of clicking directly to the article or going through The Middle Spaces facebook page and not only did both links end up broken, but some text disappeared.

Anyway, here is the direct link: What Happened To Marvel's Mid-List?

Humanbelly said...

Oh yeah, my mind has long done the same thing-- although there's definitely a specific set of parameters involved:

a) Generally, it's only issues from about 1968 through 1975 (or so)-- my prime adolescent, formative collecting years.

b) Favorite issues from within long runs tend to dominate.

c) Missing issues from within those long runs actually trump the "favorite" ones-- especially if it took me years to acquire them (Hulk #115, Avengers #64), because my brain instantly makes an "ooh, I need that!" connection.

d) Incredible Hulk does, of course, dominate ALL of those associations. J.A., issue #171 immediately came to mind even before I saw your comment. The number 172 will make me think of the following issue, because I didn't have it FOREVER!.

This might not be exactly related-- or maybe only peripherally-- but my counting-sheep trick to put myself to sleep for sometime now has been to mentally count covers from Tales to Astonish #100 on up, until I conk out. I think. . . I may only be reinforcing my mania. . .


dbutler16 said...

94 (obvious), 137 (Death of Jean Grey - the first time, that is) and 247 (Adventure Comics, first appearance of the Legion of Super-Heroes) are ones that pop into my head.
I really hate the constant renumbering of comics these days. What a cheap gimmick, in lieu of delivering a high quality product, to try and get people to pick up an issue. Does this still really work? If there's a new Avengers #1 every couple of years, how can it be valuable. Another reason I hate the renumbering is because it makes collecting more confusing. It used to be, it you were referring to #20 of something, it was perfectly clear what issue you were talking about. Now, you have to differentiate as to whether it's volume 1, 2, 3, or 4. Ridiculous.

J.A. Morris said...

HB, the Hulk does the same for me. I see the #s 166 & 169, I think of Zzzaaxxx and Bi-Beast, respectively. When I began collecting back issues, I bought a ton of Hulk issues, mainly because I thought the villains were cool.

One thing that screwed up numbers for me was the plethora of reprints during the Bronze Age. I'll always think of 99 when I think of the Green Goblin's death, because I first read it in Marvel Tales #99. And Marvel Tales 100 featured Spider-Man battling Luke Cage, plus a previously unpublished

Edo Bosnar said...

To be honest, there's only a few (two really) comic issue numbers that have been imprinted into my brain that create the kind of association Karen mentions: the already noted X-men #94, and X-men #121. Not really sure why that latter one has the effect. It wasn't the first issue of X-men I ever bought - that was #120 - but for some reason whenever I see the number 121 I think of the cover of the X-men issue, with them fighting Alpha Flight in a blizzard.

As for the matter of renumbering, I guess it's time for me to start shaking my fist at Osvaldo, because I also find this annoying. Mainly for the reason dbutler cites: if someone mentions a specific issue number, it should be clear right away, without the additional clarification of vol.1, 2, etc.

William said...

The number 33 always reminds me of Amazing Spider-Man #33, which was the first Steve Ditko Spider-Man book I ever saw in the flesh. It was in 1977 (or 78), I was about 11 years old, and I was visiting one of those magical new places called a "comic book store". The name of the place was Starship Enterprises and it was the first comic store to ever open up in South Florida. (At least as far as I know). Anyway, It was my first time in the store and I looked up at the back issue wall. That wall was lined with all sorts of treasures that left me nothing less than awestruck. But a particular book just jumped out at me for some reason, and that was ASM #33. I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen, and I vowed that someday a copy of that book would be mine. And eventually I did get my own copy (when I was around 18 or 19). I had that book for about 30 years, and I just sold it, along with the rest of my collection last year.

As for comics always starting over at #1 and ruining the numbers game for future generations-- I wouldn't worry too much about it. I doubt any of the crap they are churning out today is going to mean enough to anyone that they would want to remember it anyway. The fun, adventure and good old-fashioned storytelling has all but vanished from today's comics. So, I sincerely doubt that there are any modern comic issues that any kid today is going to look back on with fond and cherished memories like we do the classic comics from our youth.

Anonymous said...

Very funny, Karen....I am constantly thinking of numbers from comic books that coincide with something I'm doing or trying to remember!

One that really always sticks out is #167....a fantastic George Perez AVENGERS cover, with the Guardians of the Galaxy's Charlie-27 being zonked by ol' Hank McCoy!

Usually this concerns 3-digit numbers....too bad there are VERY few comics that still use their original numbering. I feel bad for a kid just starting to read comics today (if that is such a thing anymore).....
One thing I remember when I picked up my first comics , Avengers #240, Amazing Spidey #250 (nothing special, not double-sized, imagine that!), X-men #177...I REALLY was interested in finding out what the heck happened in ALL those issues I had missed! (The fact that the X-men's run was all reprints for many years was hard for my 10-year old mind to grasp at the time!) And also it took a while for me to grasp the fact that Marvel Tales were reprints, too.

Fun topic!


Dr. Oyola said...

Don't forget: Once upon a time plenty of people thought that OUR favorite comics were junk that we or anyone else would care to cherish or remember 20 years down the line.

As for confusion regarding volumes- eventually the standard nomenclature will be by arc - so if "Days of Future Past" had existed in coming era We say "X-Men: Days of Future Past #1 or #2" - the volume wouldn't matter.

Doug said...

It's been fun reading everyone's memories and perceptions today.

For me, some numbers that stick out are:

#28 = Avengers 28, my fave comic.
#48 = FF 48, 1st Surfer and Galactus.

#161 = Avengers 161, my "porn shop" issues. If you haven't been around here long enough to get that, then your assignment is to go spelunking through the archives until you find out...


Anonymous said...

As with most of everyone else, it is either the first of that title I purchased, FF 168 or Avengers 139, or no really I think that's it. I do tend to get stuck on the number 9, number 9, number 9.

And when I put things in alphabetical order, I automatically sing the song in my head. And yes, LMNOP, is one letter.

The Prowler (one front yard free day, so far).

William said...

Dr. Oyola, Don't forget that once upon a time, ALL comics were thought of as nothing but junk.

Heck, kids don't even read comics anymore anyway. They are all marketed to "adults" these days. Unfortunately they fail to realize that most adults that still like comics, like them the way they used to be. With comicbook looking art and actual stories, instead of never ending soap operas and "special event" after "special event", or the new practice of endlessly killing off major characters, and bringing them back a few months later.

My 13 year-old nephew likes comics somewhat, but he only likes the older stuff. In fact, last Christmas one of the things he asked for was the "Days of Future Past" trade paperback.

I don't think in 30 years you're going to find too many 45 year old's trying to track down their favorite issue of Captain America that came out in 2010. You know, that one issue that was part 18 of the 25 part Death of Captain America story. That comic was a classic.

Not gonna happen.

Fred W. Hill said...

For the longest time, as in before I started filling in holes in my collection from comic shops in the early '80s, Amazing Spider-Man 98 was the oldest comic in my collection that I bought when it was new on the stands. FF #107 was the oldest of that title, and it was my 6th grade teacher who gave that to me. I used to have previous issues of both, but my dad threw most of the comics I'd collected before 1972 out at some point! He didn't do it to be mean, as far as I recall, but I don't think he realized that they meant anything to me.
BTW, this topic reminds me a bit of Alan Moore's "Boogey Man" story in Swamp Thing, about a serial killer who associated numbers with his victims! Neil Gaiman did a follow up on that in Sandman, with a wanna-be killer at the "Cereal" killers convention who pretended to be the Boogey Man and met a grisly fate when a trio of real killers found him out. BRrrr.

Dr. Oyola said...

Not to be argumentative, but that 45 year old won't have to - he'll be able to buy a trade collection or a digital version.

As much as I love these stories, I think our love of them have a lot to do with time and place - which means for young collectors now - even f there are fewer of them - they are making those memories now.

Heck, there was a time I was sure no one would ever love stuff like Venom and Carnage - and now 20 years later there are plenty of kids in their late 20s and 30s who are nostalgic for not only that, but for Ben Reilly and the second clone saga! Makes me shake my head.

Anonymous said...

To me only three numbers stand out, Journey into Mystery #83, Spidey's #121 and Hulk #181 for obvious reasons. Like Doc Oyola, I don't really care much about the numbering as much as the actual content and characters. It's the riveting stories and colourful heroes which make the issue stand out, not which number it is.

No one realized at the time that Gwen's death in #121, the first appearance of Thor in #83 and our first look at Wolverine in #181 would be such historic watersheds in comics history. It's because of these momentous events and their impact over the years that those specific issues stand out in our collective memories.

As for the inane practice of renumbering many issues at #1 nowadays, all I have to say to Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or whoever else is thinking of doing this is - please stop it!

- Mike '500 - number of calories in this burger I'm gonna eat now' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike from T&T, I get the impression you eat a lot of burgers. Mind you, I'm not judging - I'm actually a bit envious. I wish I ate burgers more often...

david_b said...

Regarding today's numberings, young readership, all I can say is the companies are seeming doing a schizophrenic logic..

1) Most of us Bronze folk either won't or shouldn't even care about today's comics. Current industries are probably trying to keep folk of our generation interested in comics which have a silver/bronze flavor to get our expendable cash away from filling our silver/bronze collection gaps..

2) If they're trying to simply gain the new young audience, it's also a losing battle because this isn't the 60s/70s. Far more entertainment to be had in cable, their xBoxes and cellphones for kids to even consider reading comics, as today's sales figures will attest to. As mentioned here before, the movies, media and merchandising are vastly outprofiting comic sales figures. Kids will hopefully always buy comics, but the biggest year for Mad Magazine, comics and most periodicals was 1973/1974. Hmmm, I wonder why that was..

Like outlined in the 'Untold Stories' book from the late-80s on, a lot of numbering and 'sub-numbering' is pretty much gimmick-driven (NOT to say the companies didn't have gimmicks back in the day as well.., Treasury Editions, and Limited Series, anyone..?).

But strictly for me, unless I see an awesome cover, I'm not going to consider picking up the mag, I could care less about the stories or characters for that matter. And I'm probably still trying to save cash for a decent VF copy of FF 112 or something anyways.

(psst, the answer above was of course Watergate...)

Vintage Bob said...

Xmen #94 of course, Hulk #171, Amazing Spiderman # 120/121, etc. Those are definitely landmark issues. But I also instantly recall very special times in my childhood and remember entire issues just based on hearing the number. Thor #210 evokes fond memories of me reading it with my grandmother. Thor #212-215 I remember distinctly the days I got them while shopping with family at the mall, and they became some of my favorite stories. JLA #94, one of my earliest trades with a friend, and one of my all time favorite JLA issues. There are tons of other ones, but you get the point.

Related Posts with Thumbnails