With many comic stories being told in sequential format, it’s easy for readers to miss those all-important first several issues of a title. I know that I prefer to start at the beginning, so I’m sure many others do as well!

Well, Marvel’s launching a new initiative to attract new and “lapsed” readers to return to the fold – they’re reprinting the first three issues of several books in what are being called “Timely Comics.”

WHAT WERE TIMELY COMICS?

They weren’t always called Marvel, you know! Just as DC was called National Periodical Publications many years ago, Marvel was called Timely Comics. Believe it or not, this all took place before I was born! Yes, that long ago!

Timely Comics, initially called Timely Publications, was the earliest comic book arm of American publisher Martin Goodman. His first effort, Marvel Comics #1 (Oct. 1939), featured the first appearances of writer-artist Carl Burgos’ android superhero the Human Torch, and Paul Gustavson’s costumed detective the Angel. It also contained the published appearance of Bill Everett’s anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner, created for the unpublished movie-theater giveaway comic Motion Picture Funnies Weekly earlier that year, with the eight-page original story now expanded by four pages. With the second issue, it was renamed Mystery Comics.

The Timely Comics name would appear on comics Goodman and his company produced for several decades. That all changed over time, though, and in the 1960s, the organization was rebranded as the Marvel Comics we know today.

WHAT ARE TIMELY COMICS?

marvel, reprints, timely comics, dc comics, national periodical publications, invincible iron man, all-new, all-different avengers, all-new inhumans, carnage, daredevil, drax, doctor strange, moon girl and devil dinosaur, scarlet witch, squadron supreme, totally awesome hulk, ultimates, uncanny inhumans, venom: space knight, web warriors, secret warsHere’s information from a recent news release that will help clarify what’s going on:

They’re the comics everyone is talking about, and now is your chance to hop on board before you get left in the dust! Marvel is proud to announce TIMELY COMICS, a new publishing initiative debuting this June! Timely Comics is a new imprint of titles specifically designed to get you caught up with hot new Marvel titles.

Reprinting the first three issues of select titles at a suggested retail price of $3.00, TIMELY COMICS will take you on a path through the restored Marvel Universe! Whether it’s the formation of the Avengers, Daredevil’s fight for Chinatown, the birth of the Totally Awesome Hulk – TIMELY COMICS has it all and so much more!

The titles that sold out everywhere and burned up the charts are back, so don’t miss out on them now! Your favorite new series awaits, so get 72 giant pages of action, adventure and excitement with TIMELY COMICS – three issues for just $3.00!

Here’s the list of the books that will be released in June:  TIMELY COMICS: INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, TIMELY COMICS: ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT AVENGERS,  TIMELY COMICS: ALL-NEW INHUMANS, TIMELY COMICS: CARNAGE, TIMELY COMICS: DAREDEVIL, TIMELY COMICS: DRAX, TIMELY COMICS: DOCTOR STRANGE, TIMELY COMICS: MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR, TIMELY COMICS: NEW AVENGERS, TIMELY COMICS: SCARLET WITCH, TIMELY COMICS: SQUADRON SUPREME, TIMELY COMICS: TOTALLY AWESOME HULK, TIMELY COMICS: ULTIMATES, TIMELY COMICS: UNCANNY INHUMANS, TIMELY COMICS: VENOM: SPACE KNIGHT, and TIMELY COMICS: WEB WARRIORS. Notice that none of them are number one’s.

WHY MAKE TIMELY COMICS?

marvel, reprints, timely comics, dc comics, national periodical publications, invincible iron man, all-new, all-different avengers, all-new inhumans, carnage, daredevil, drax, doctor strange, moon girl and devil dinosaur, scarlet witch, squadron supreme, totally awesome hulk, ultimates, uncanny inhumans, venom: space knight, web warriors, secret warsWhenever you relaunch comics to the degree that Marvel recently did after their Secret Wars event, you’ve got to allow for people who, for whatever reason, couldn’t pick up the beginning issues of the series’.

Each store orders what they believe they’ll need when their customers come calling, and some can also afford to buy extras in case something hits with a bang. Hello, eBay!

Of course, reprinting foundational issues like these makes absolute sense to me! Let’s say you buy several series and you like many of them, but some just don’t work for you, so you drop them. Few fans can afford to buy all of them, so you have to look around for back issues (the name for previously printed comics that stores keep in stock for just such an occasion).

Because these books take up space (and sometimes increase in value), the stores charge more than cover price for them. Now, depending on how much space they actually have, they can only keep some back issues, not all. This also drives up the price because some become rarer than others.

I know several friends who are always frustrated when back issues cost much more than they expect. I remember, many years ago, when I walked into a comics shop and found New Teen Titans #1 selling for $20 (it truly was MANY years ago), which my brother was looking for. I told him I’d never pay that much for a new comic, even a #1, but he told me over the phone to buy it regardless of the price! So I did, against my better judgment, but he happily reimbursed me for it.

That was my first contact with back issues, and while the price of these books rarely jumps that high as fast as that one did, they still do cost more than cover price.

$3 for a 72-page comic? That’s a STEAL, in my book! And if the person(s) buying them continue to read on from there, Marvel will more than make up their money!

‘TIMELY’ CONCERNS

marvel, reprints, timely comics, dc comics, national periodical publications, invincible iron man, all-new, all-different avengers, all-new inhumans, carnage, daredevil, drax, doctor strange, moon girl and devil dinosaur, scarlet witch, squadron supreme, totally awesome hulk, ultimates, uncanny inhumans, venom: space knight, web warriors, secret warsGranted, the cover of each book has the Marvel logo on it as well, albeit much smaller than the Timely banner. But I have already spoken with one friend who was confused as to just what characters were going to be Timely and what’s going to be reprinted. My suggestion is to do advertising that will help clear all this up.

As much as the average fan will likely be thrilled with these books, I imagine there will be quite a bit of unhappiness among the collectors and shop owners. After all, they made the effort to purchase and save all the individual issues being reprinted – Why shouldn’t they benefit from their foresightedness? While the collectors may grumble, I think the owners of local stores will be happy to see sales of monthly comics increase as a result of Timely Comics.

Another concern has to do with how much of an audience there will be for these reprints. Most fans have known since time immemorial that Marvel has NOT reprinted issues as a policy, which has forced store owners to order as much as they can bear each month. If Marvel suddenly begins reprinting issues, will that mean people placing orders in local shops can let up on monthly ordering? I doubt it! I think this will be a one-time deal. The importance of this policy change at Marvel cannot be understated!

What would be really weird is if all these books continue on every three months. Remember when I pointed out that these books had no numbering on them? I think that’s to prevent the temptation to make this more than an occasional practice.

Will this work and help increase sales? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly a good idea in my book! In fact, a couple of them already appeal to me. I might fork over $3 just to check out some. I just hope these will be printed in color and not on newsprint paper, as some of the older Marvel collections have been. We’ll see!

Does the Timely Comics concept interest you? Will you be buying some? Please share your thoughts in the space below!

The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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