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Comics with Krause #1

I was thinking about some of the comic books I have collected and about matters of indexing them. There is, alas, no equivalent of the MLA Handbook for comic book publishers when it comes to standardized title and volume referencing.

First let me borrow (steal?) from salon.com:

Money Quotes:
Diana Ross, asked by Diane Sawyer on “Good Morning America” if she has seen “Dreamgirls” yet: “I haven't seen it yet. I hear they use my image and likeness. Maybe I should go see it with my lawyer.” (Page Six)

Dame Helen Mirren on what she might do with her Golden Globes: “I've got two, which is very nice, so they are going to make fantastic bookends. All kinds of useful things you can do with them. Hopefully not get into a fight with one's husband when they're anywhere nearby. The next thing, you'll see me in handcuffs.” (BBC News)

The problem with the Punisher, Wolverine, and Black Panther, among others, has to do with matters of categorization and numbering, none of which is helped by the publisher's occasionally inconsistent naming in the indices.

Anime Critique -- source unknown
source unknown

While the character of Wolverine appeared in The Incredible Hulk vol. 1 180 and 181 (1974) and later joined the X-Men (see Giant-Size X-Men No. 1) he did not receive his own title until a four-part limited series in 1982 (which ends with his engagement and a wedding invitation sent to his teammates), followed in 1988 with his first ongoing series, which ran 189 issues until 2003. The first issues of this series did not list a volume number in the index, whereas the limited series was listed as volume 1. Only with issue 91 did Marvel begin listing a volume, in this case, 1. From the first issue in July of 2003, however, the second ongoing Wolverine title has been listed as volume 3.

Frank Castle, the Punisher, likewise received his solo-book (January, 1986) in the form of a limited series (originally planned for four issues but changed to five; the forth says four of four and the fifth says five of five ...), which is, as in the case of Wolverine, volume 1. Thus the first ongoing Punisher title (July, 1987), titled The Punisher, was listed as volume 2 from the first issue, and finished with issue 104 in July of 1995. In the meantime two other ongoing Punisher titles, The Punisher War Journal and The Punisher: Warzone, were published. The next ongoing eponymous title was Punisher (November, 1995 to April, 1997), which was also a volume 1, perhaps by virtue of dropping the The. When Garth Ennis revived the character and title in April of 2002 it was with The Punisher, volume 3, followed after twelve issues in August of 2001 with The Punisher, volume 4, which ran 37 issues until February of 2003, at which point a Marvel MAX title, The Punisher, was started by Ennis. It is considered volume 5 by most, but contains no volume designator, which is perhaps not too surprising, since MAX titles are, in a certain sense and because of their mature content, not considered part of the regular Marvel universe.

Tasteless parody of a Breyers ad
tasteless parody
of a Breyers ad,
source unknown

After guest appearances in other titles (Avengers, Fantastic Four) and a leading role in the title Jungle Action the Black Panther got his own late 70s title, which lasted just 15 issues. This is clearly volume 1. Although a second ongoing (1998–2003) series is listed as volume 2 in its index, a limited series that predates it (1988) is also considered volume 2 by many, shifting the second ongoing series to volume 3, and the third ongoing series (begun April, 2005) to volume 4, even though it contains no volume designation in the index.

Although this is arguably only a matter for collectors and enthusiasts, when I say volume 2, issue 3 I expect that to be the same as what you mean by volume 2, issue 3. These designations and categorizations—tossing a whole run of comics into a single box, subsuming them under a blanket title—are abstractions, but useful ones. Instead of making due with two pieces of standardized information (volume, number) we would need to compare and contrast a greater number of identifiers: publication date, writer, artist, etc. Yet occasionally a comic has more than one main artist (and often more than one inker or colorist), and from time to time more than one writer, especially if, as in the case of anthologies, it contains more than one story. And depending on publication schedules more than one issue of a title might appear in a month (and occasionally this is planned; for a while Uncanny X-Men was published biweekly).

This is mostly a structural issue and I'm trying to leave out semantic issues, such as applying the same title to unrelated comics (see: New X-Men and New X-Men vol. 2). Marvel's convoluted re-numbering of 2nd and 3rd volume titles back to their 1st volume numbering several years after the Heroes Reborn event is another matter, as is the meta-issue of grouping semantically-linked comics with different titles.

—January 17 2007