Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Will the Real Batwoman Please Stand Up?

Posted by Don MacPherson on June 24th, 2012

In September, DC is trying to recapture some of the sales and marketing success it had with the launch of its New 52 initiative a year before with a slate of zero issues for all of its core, New 52 titles (which is a slightly different lineup than it was a year ago). A zero-issue month is far from a new phenomenon for DC. It had one in 1994, coinciding with its Zero Hour crossover event. Zero issues have become, perhaps unfortunately, a much more common gimmick in the world of mainstream comics, especially in the super-hero genre. Still, there are times when I see the use of the odd numbering shtick.

One such situation was the release in late 2010 of Batwoman #0. The 16-page comic book served as a payoff for those of us who waited for years for the arrival of the series, and it also acted as something of a placeholder until the series proper finally got underway (in September 2011 as a part of the New 52). Really, it was a promotional item (the readers had to pay for) to sustain audience anticipation.

But come September 2012, DC is publishing another Batwoman #0, and the previous #0 is considered a part of the New 52 series. One series, two different issues with the same number. Pay close attention, Batwoman fans, when purchasing items on eBay. Which zero-issue item are you buying?

I certainly don’t expect DC to scrap its plans for its new Zero Month for its entire line over what’s perhaps a forgotten issue from two years ago. Having two comics called Batwoman #0 isn’t the end of the world, but it certainly spotlights the ridiculousness of comics numbering as perpetuated by DC and Marvel these days. I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters… it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.

It’s all so… silly and unnecessary. I think we all long for the days when comics were sold on the strength of the stories, the appeal of the characters and/or the reputation of the creators, not meaningless gimmicks meant to create the illusion of rarity or collectibility.

Here’s a further depressing thought. There actually aren’t going to be two Batwoman #0 comics — there will be four. The November 2010 comic had a variant cover, and the upcoming zero issue will have a variant as well. At least the interiors of those variants match their regular-edition siblings.

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9 Responses to “Will the Real Batwoman Please Stand Up?”

  1. Collected Editions Says:

    This won’t happen, but if the first Batwoman #0 was only 16 pages, DC could do away with some of the “confusion” by reprinting Batwoman (Vol. 1) #0 inside Batwoman Vol. 2 #0; that if someone bought the latter expecting the former, they’d still get it. Won’t happen, of course. But indeed even though the first Batwoman #0 was meant to be a lead-in to the DC New 52 series, I still think of it like this: Batwoman (Vol. 1) #0 was the first and only issue of a pre-DC New 52 Batwoman series, strange as that is; Batwoman (Vol. 2) #0 is the zero issue of the DC New 52 series.

    At least this takes care of the possibility of zero issues, once and for all, early in these DC New 52 titles. Of course every new series could also eventually get a zero issues, and they could release “Point One” issues, etc. But a “Zero Month” is tough to do twice (though it doesn’t negate a Secret Origin month or some other “special” month next year).

  2. Comics A.M. | Comics numbering (and renumbering); the problem with DRM | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] Publishing | Don MacPherson rails against the current numbering and renumbering practices by Marvel and DC Comics. “I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters … it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.” [Eye on Comics] […]

  3. Anthony O'Neill Says:

    Yeah, the whole “0” numbering confuses me. Why can’t DC call the issues something different like “Origins” or “Beginnings”? The original “zero” issue has been a hard one to track down for me at my local comic shops, so now I’m going to have to explain I’m looking for the “original #0″…what a pain in the butt

  4. Steely Dan Says:

    It’s even stranger with the hardcover collections. Batwoman: Elegy was pre-reboot but it is still completely canon from what I gather. Yet Batwoman: Hydrology, the new hardcover collection collecting the new series, is labeled as “Vol. 1.”

    I understand wanting to market the entire line as a new starting point and the desire to slap a “Vol. 1″ label on all the new books. But with a title such as Batwoman, which is so relatively new and which is so dependent on that first collection to understand what is going on in the new collection, to label the second volume as “Vol.1″ is just going to confuse new readers who seek out Elegy (“OK, so tell me again: Volume 1 is actually Volume 2″).

    I had this same problem years ago when trying to recommend Millar and Hitch’s Ultimates TPB collections where it was impossible to direct someone to Ultimates 2 when there was an Ultimates Volume 2 sitting on the shelf next to Volume 1. A normal person would have concluded that Volume 2 was actually Ultimates 2 when in reality they had to buy Ultimates 2 Volume 1 and then Ultimates 2 volume 2.

    My head hurts.

  5. Joe S. Walker Says:

    In any list of ugly dumb things about comics, zero issues have their place.

  6. Wade Christian Says:

    I hate gimmicky issue numbering with a passion, especially line-wide like this, because it highlights how forced this move is. Plus, it doesn’t make much sense when they say it’s to celebrate the first anniversary of the New 52. What says “Let’s celebrate our brand-new, not-saddled-with-long-complicated-continuity (unless you’re Batman or Green Lantern) universe like issues that deal with the past?

    Also, the day they announced this, I asked DC on Twitter about the Batwoman situation. There was shockingly no reply.

  7. HellBlazerRaiser Says:

    I don’t care what the number on the cover of the issue is as long as the story within is good.

    DCE could publish Batwoman # “H to the Izz O V to the Izz A” for all I care, as long as the story is good.

  8. Gary Dunaier Says:

    All I know is that when DC decided to restart all of their titles with issue #1s, including Action Comics and Detective Comics, it was like demolishing Yankee Stadium.

    What’s going to happen when New 52 Action Comics #96, the 1,000th issue of the Action Comics title, comes out? It would be a crime if they ignored that milestone, but even if they make it a mega-triple-sized super celebration issue, it won’t be the same as if it actually were Action Comics #1,000.

  9. Bill Angus Says:

    Steely Dan wrote:
    It’s even stranger with the hardcover collections. Batwoman: Elegy was pre-reboot but it is still completely canon from what I gather. Yet Batwoman: Hydrology, the new hardcover collection collecting the new series, is labeled as “Vol. 1.”

    Well, to be fair, Elegy is collecting material from a book which wasn’t titled Batwoman.