What the term meant in the past of course, were titles that were published indefinitely, in many cases, of course, for decades at time. In Marvel’s case, those were your Amazing Spider-Mans, your Uncanny X-Mens, your Avengers, and … ahem … your Fantastic Fours.
An ongoing series was a title that despite changes in creative and editorial team … despite changes to the main characters or premise … despite changes in publishing trends, the publisher intended for the series to run regularly and indefinitely – there was no planned end to the series in sight.
But does that apply to Marvel’s self-described publishing model anymore?
It’s become painfully clear that, for the most part, the newest volumes of Marvel’s books are never intended to run longer than 10-20 issues. Is it the worst thing in the world for a refresh every now and again? No, but it certainly isn’t making things easier when trying to follow the stories in trade paperbacks after release. Take Captain Marvel for example, she’s had so many restarts and volume changes over the past couple years that navigating the back issues or trades has become almost impossible.
DC’s been able to avoid this recently with the New 52 as most of the books that survived the entirety of the initiative lasted into the 50s. That said, with Rebirth underway, they’ve also reverted back to all-new #1s across the line.
The exception to this being Action Comics (#957) and Detective Comics (#937), both of which have returned to their original numbering post-Rebirth, presumably to achieve the #1000 milestone and bring longtime fans of both series back into the fold.
Starting a book over at #1 is great for new readers. Walking into a store and seeing books in the hundreds is off-putting but as more and more new volumes begin, for me anyway, they lose their magic, their history. It makes me wonder: do we need to number them at all?