The Numbering Question

I’m excited to announce that The Crimebusters #1 has reached a major milestone: I’ve sent it off to the printers! Right now, I’m waiting to get a physical proof copy so I can make sure it looks okay. If there are any necessary corrections, I’ll make those ASAP, but my hope is that by the time my Kickstarter campaign begins on June 11, the book will be approved and ready for printing. Then, by the time the campaign ends on July 3, I’ll have an idea how many copies are needed and can place the order and begin fulfillment as early as the end of July!

Of course, things happen, which is why I have scheduled into the campaign some extra time, with fulfillment not scheduled to start until September. if I can beat that estimate and get things out earlier, though, all the better!

Speaking of things happening, though, you may have noticed something different up in that opening paragraph. Yes, it’s true: I called this first issue #1 instead of #120.

It’s true: the first issue will now be numbered #1.

But it’s also true that this issue is still #120!

Let’s dig into it.

The Legacy Conundrum

Back in the day, it was industry belief that first issues sold worse than higher number issues. Conventional wisdom was that fans liked higher numbers because it was a sign of quality: if a title had run for 50, 100, or 200 issues, it must be good to last that long. So higher numbers were a signal to readers that they could trust they would receive quality.

As a result, publishers used different tactics to disguise new titles. DC, for instance, would often publish first issues with no number at all so readers wouldn’t know it was a new title, only adding the numbering to later issues.

Other publishers were even sneakier. Ziff-Davis, for example, would begin their titles with #5 or #10 and only revert to the real numbering once the book was established, which is why Cinderella Love for example has no issues #1-3, but has two #10s and two #11s!

Fast forward to now, though, and things are exactly opposite. On the one hand, collectors and speculators are more likely to buy a #1 for the perceived value of a first issue. And on the other hand, conventional wisdom holds that modern readers are turned off and intimidated by continuity. A high number is seen as a barrier to entry — nobody wants to jump into the middle of the story, and with most books being written for the trade, you’re almost always going to end up in the middle of some story if you pick up a random issue.

As a result, publishers like DC and Marvel are constantly rebooting their titles back to #1, searching for easy first issue money, but also as a way to try and provide jumping-on points for new readers. It’s a signal that it’s okay to start reading here.

Is this conventional wisdom actually true, though?

Well, nobody really knows. And that’s where my problem comes in.

Cutting the Gordian Knot

One of the reasons I began working on The Crimebusters in the first place is because I loved the adventures of Chuck Chandler in Boy Comics and wanted to continue his stories.

The first thing to go, though, was the title itself, as Boy Comics just wasn’t representative of what I was writing, especially with the introduction of Trixie Trouble.

But I really wanted to hang onto to the numbering. I personally have always been drawn to higher numbers titles, both as a reader and a collector. The promise of continuity, of mythology, of backstory — that’s the good stuff! And since I am keeping Chuck’s backstory — and referencing it at times in this very issue! — it just felt right to start The Crimebusters with #120.

Yet… I also want the book to succeed. The fact is, there are only a handful of people in the world who know or care about Chuck Chandler, or will buy The Crimebusters because they are fans of Boy Comics.

I’ve done everything I can with the story to make it accessible, as it’s a self-contained mystery adventure. Each issue is going to be a jumping on point, because each issue is it’s own complete story. And yet… if new readers don’t even pick up the book because of the number on the cover, they may never find out that the stories are right for them.

Conventional wisdom may be wrong, but it’s conventional because people believe it — including potential new readers.

The more I thought about it, the more I had to conclude that I was limiting my audience by have the number 120 on the cover instead of 1. Even if everything else is exactly the same, the frustrating fact is that some percentage of fans, however small, will pass the book by just because of what they think that number means. On the flip side, though… I think almost anyone who would buy the book with a #120 on the cover will still try it with a #1.

Even after all that logic, though, I was stuck with one fact: I personally want the comic to be #120 and have a #120 on the cover! And that’s when I came up with this elegant copout solution: I’m just going to have both.

Now, Marvel tried something like that once with their legacy numbering, where they just had both numbers on the cover of each issue. It worked. But it was also kind of ugly. And besides, I didn’t want the lower number on my copy! I only wanted the higher one. So it was a compromise that didn’t really fully satisfy either group.

With that in mind, I’m happy to announce that I’m just going to print some copies with a #1 on the cover, and some with a #120, allowing you to choose which number you want.

In fact, I’ll announce now that there will be four different covers to choose from!

  • The regular cover will be numbered #1
  • The Legacy Number Variant will be a Kickstarter exclusive cover; it will have different artwork (to be revealed soon!) and will be numbered #120
  • The Trixie Trouble Mysteries Variant will be numbered #1 and will feature new artwork (to be revealed soon!)
  • The Boy Comics Variant will feature the classic Boy Comics logo, it will feature new artwork (to be revealed soon!), and will be numbered #120

The regular cover and the Legacy Number Variant will be the same price, so you can pick whichever number and cover you like better — or get one of each if, like me, you can’t decide! The Trixie Trouble Mysteries and Boy Comics variants will be a little bit more expensive, but only a few bucks.

Anyway, that’s why the regular cover has a #1 on it now, and why I’ll be officially calling this issue #1 going forward.

But between you and me, I still think of it as #120 in my head — and I’m planning to do a Legacy Number Variant for each issue going forward, primarily because I want to have the covers with classic numbering in my own personal collection!

In the next week or two, I’ll be sharing the art for the three variant covers. There’s less than three weeks left now before the Kickstarter campaign launches on June 11, so there will be a lot of reveals between now and then!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon!

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