BLAARGH! – The Lack of Those Little Editorial Boxes they Used to Put in the Front of Books so You Knew What Order to Read Them

Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing, or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say ”BLAARGH!”

 

Seriously, what the hell do you CALL these things!?

Seriously, what the hell do you CALL these things!?

If you were reading comics in the summer of 2006, there’s a good chance you were reading a little story put out by Marvel Comics entitled Civil War.  And if that’s the case, then on June 14th, you very likely bought Civil War #2, the momentous issue in which Spider-Man unmasked before the world.  And if that’s the case, there’s a good possibility you also bought – that same day – Thunderbolts #103, a Civil War tie-in.  These tie-ins were pretty hard to miss since half the cover was blocked out with the Civil War banner.  But I digress; had you been reading comics that summer, and had you purchased the status-quo-altering Civil War #2, and had you purchased Thunderbolts #103… well then, I hope you had the good fortune of reading Civil War #2 first.  Because, you see, in Thunderbolts #103, the team witnesses Spider-Man unmasking on television.  Unfortunately for me, that’s the first time I saw it happen, too.  Any tension – any drama – I was supposed to feel throughout Civil War #2 as Peter wrestled with the decision of whether or not to unmask… well, it was shot.

About two months ago, Dark Avengers #1 and Mighty Avengers #20 shipped the same day.  Dark Avengers, starring the mysterious Iron Patriot.  Is he Norman Osborn, or isn’t he?  Well if you happened to read Mighty Avengers #20 first, you were let in on that little secret a tad unceremoniously, as well.

Some might suggest merely spacing these issues out, maintaining a more cohesive shipping schedule.  Why put out two books the same week when one leads into the other?  But then there’s the death of Maxwell Lord, which I’ve referenced in a previous BLAARGH! This wasn’t even the fault of two books shipping on the same day.  Instead, it was just the result of a story being spread out over multiple books with no clear flow from one to the other.  Sure, the Wonder Woman issue where he was killed was a Countdown to Infinite Crisis tie-in, but how was I to know it was essential reading?!

How indeed?  Until recently, the publishers used to have the decency to warn us when books needed to follow a certain chronological order.  You’d open the book and find yourself greeted by a little editorial box that said “Before reading this book, be sure you’ve read…”  It wasn’t difficult.  It wasn’t costly.  It wasn’t obtrusive.  It was just a nice little heads up to the reader that would essentially say “This is part three.  You’ll want to read part two first.”  And when stories are being told across non-sequential issues – whether in crossovers or tie-ins – it can be pretty darned important to give the reader these cues, as there’s rarely anything short of the spoiler itself to serve as any indication as to appropriate reading order.

So there you have it.  This BLAARGH! is an easy fix.  Editors, get off your asses and give us a courteous heads up.  Most books have recap pages now anyhow; it’s the perfect opportunity to whisper sweet nothings in our ears.  And just think… it might even help boost circulation when people know what other books they should be reading… yeah, I caught your attention with that, didn’t I?  Thought so.

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Who ARE these people!?

Jason Kerouac is a co-founder of Panelsonpages.com. He spends roughly half of his waking life in servitude to the Giraffe. Raised in a town in New Hampshire you've never heard of, he now lives in Indianapolis, IN and is pretty sure that's a step in the right direction.

Comments (9)

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  1. There have been numerous instances of this in recent months and it doesn’t make any sense. There’s no reason for this mess. Oddly enough, the Incredible Hercules book is riddled with these boxes, but in a good way.

  2. Tomer Soiker says:

    1. “Until recently” = Over a decade ago?

    2. This little mess is kind of cured by Marvel with their reading checklists of events and under themes like Dark Reign. Problem is, they publish the lists only online or at the end of some of their books. And sometimes on a postcard they give for free in comic book stores. But tell that to DC and any other publisher with company wide crossovers.

    3. Civil War #2 didn’t even deal with Spider-Man until the last 3 pages. The real story about Peter’s hard decision was in the Amazing Spider-Man issue that took place right before that one. Sadly, like many thousands of Marvel fans I wasn’t shocked by the real story or had it spoiled for me in a third book, but discovered it too early thanks to the American media that put this news everywhere. It was so bad, even comics news website blew it all with spoiling big headlines and images, all mere hours before anyone was able to go to their LCS and see Peter Parker taking off the mask on their own.

    • The checklists only tell you what to read. There have been numerous occasions lately (and this is just MArvel that I’ve noticed) where books come out the same day that spoil each other if you read them in the wrong order. On the day Captain America 25 came out, so did the Initiative 1-Shot that references his death as well as the first post-Civil War New Avengers issue that references not only Cap’s death, but the events of the Initiative 1-Shot. That’s one helluva crap shoot on your reading experience. Yes, the media spoiled Cap’s death before ANYONE had a chance to read the comic, but even f they hadn’t the potential was there. There’s no reason those books ALL had to come out on the same day and give NO heads-up as to their proper reading order.

  3. Brian Woods says:

    I remember back in the day when the editors made sure that you understood everything. As a kid, I loved the boxes letting me know what stories were referenced. It also taught me as a young reader what the classic stories were. Pair that with reprints like Marvel Tales where I could actually buy those stories and understand why they were classics…ah, comics in their heyday.

    • JasonKerouac says:

      GOOD CALL! You’d get the little “As told in the now classic…” box, too, so if you cared, you could find out. I think editors are using the net as a crutch, knowing that we can find this stuff out on our own, not realizing it’s still their job to keep readers buying.

  4. Tomer Soiker says:

    You know, when you originally pitched the idea for this column I thought you were talking about those cliff notes Brian mentioned.

    • JasonKerouac says:

      Well, it all falls under the same blanket, really. I was more focused on the ones in the front of the book, obviously, but they all count. What I miss is any time editorial told you something you ought to know. PARTICULARLY when it might in some way factor into a spoiler, but even when it was just good information to have.

  5. LordD3r3k says:

    Last week, the latest issues of Superman: New Krypton & Titans both used editorial boxes to reference other issues. I cheered inside my head. And is it any coincidence that Titans is being edited by Brian Cunningham? ;-)

  6. Spider_Fan14 says:

    I m,iss those boxes also, i think Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog still uses it but i haven’t read it for awhile. Why is DC & Marvel so against these boxes and recaps? do they want an understandable event?

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