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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Is a 100th Issue a True 100th Isssue?

I’ve noticed a trend with comic book publishers to celebrate a milestone 100th Issue. A 100th issue in the technical sense.

A long time ago the 100th issue of a comic book  was a major milestone. It meant a comic had gone the distance. It was a testament to the quality of a series and the long-term popularity of a character.

Reaching 100 issues is rare feat for any character in publication; especially in an industry where 90 percent of the comic books published don’t make it past the 18th issue. Some don’t even make it past the sixth issue.

Nowadays characters like Nova and She Hulk have celebrated 100th issues. But if one looks closer at their publication history they’ll see this isn’t true.

Nova had three volumes over the course of 40 years. She Hulk had about four volumes over the last 30.

Yeah it comes up to 100 issues. But only in the technical sense.

100 issues for comic book collectors before all the cancellations and reboots of the mid-1990s meant that a book had one hundred individual issues published within one series. Again, in a highly competitive publishing world achieving this feat used to mean something.

100 issues used to mean a book had a strong following of readers. That a character had attained a certain level of popularity with the public. Being featured in 100 issues meant a character had proven its concept and that they could carry a title on their own. Possibly they had enough brand recognition to carry a licensing or merchandising outside of the comic book world.

Characters who could carry 100 issues in a title were usually the A-list in the comic book world. The cream of the crop. Someone who had a backlog of adventures worth checking out. Someone interesting enough to go back into their histories to discover what happened in their first issues.

That’s the way it was for me when I was a kid. The number one issue used to have a sense of awe due to its place in a character’s history. And if they had a long history like Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman that lasted over 75 years, it was literally like taking a trip in a time machine.

That history was part of what made those 100th issues great. Today…not so much. Especially in this age of reboots where we get technical milestones. Yeah, volume 5 was cancelled at issue #36, but when you add it up with volume three and volume four, it comes up to 100 issues.Technically.

I'll tell readers this much a technical 100th issue is not as much fun as fishing through the back issues at the comic shop or the comicon and counting off the numbers until you come to the real 100th issue. That used to be so much fun for me when I was younger and I visited the back issue section of Forbidden Planet here in New York City. 

To some people they’re just numbers. But to the new reader, that number in the corner can mean something. Something that may lead to them going out and buying back issues, or go out looking for trades of previously published work.

I’m kind of saddened that in this reboot prone era that many kids will never get to see or experience a true 100th issue like I did growing up. That they’ll never experience a true volume 1 number 100. That they’ll never really enjoy seeing a series sequence and see the evolution and progression of a character over time like I was able to see with characters like Superman and Batman.

I was actually looking forward Action 1000 or a Detective 1000. It would have been the milestone of all milestones, since no comic outside of the Dell March of Comics had ever achieved it over 50 years ago. Unfortunately thanks to Dan Didio’s New 52 initiative we’ll have another technical number 1000 instead of an actual 1000th issue of those titles.

There’s just something magical about picking up a 100th issue, to see history in between the comic pages. For a kid it means a character was here before they were born. It's a chance to take a look at the world and discover its rich history through the pop culture lens of a character. Personally, I think having comics in one serialized volume is a  great way for kids and their parents to share and enjoy comic characters from generation to generation. 

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