Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good or Bad: Recap Page

Marvel does get something right every once in a while. They ALWAYS include a first page recap in every issue of their ongoing books, sometimes they even include the "little head shot". Of course this means, in a pinch, you don't have to actually read the comics to know what is going on, but that's besides the point. When I was young I had NO PROBLEM at all keeping all the various comics straight that I read every month, half of the times I would read the issues a few times before the next issue came out. Fast forward 30 years and I'm lucky I remember my mom's birthday, so how on earth am I suppose to remember what happens from month to month in 30 plus titles? Not gonna happen. Any adult that reads comics month in and month out, can run into this particular problem. In steps Marvel to help the fans out. The theory being, even if you missed the last issue of a particular Marvel comic you CAN still understand what is happening BECAUSE of the recap page at the beginning. I don't say this often, but THANK YOU MARVEL for this small little favor to the readers.

DC on the other hand DOES NOT do this, much to my continued disappointment. I've asked for this feature again and again whenever I speak to the good retail reps at DC, but they can only pass the message on, they can't dictate content. The recap page is one of the main points that Marvel beats DC hands down. This breaks my heart to say, you all know that I'm a huge DC fangirl, but damn it DC help a gal out! It is especially hard to keep track o a universe-spanning mega-event, such as Final Crisis. Boy, that recap page sure would have come in handy! Not only was I having my usual problem of remembering what the heck happened in the last issue, I was also losing track of who was who, there was a lot of characters in that book and it was very hard to remember everything they did in every issue. If only DC had copied Marvel on that one point! The big two steal from each other all the frickin time, why are they NOT doing it for this useful feature? Who knows. Maybe Didio hates recap pages or something. I'm sure DC has their reasons and I'm sure they are valid but sometimes we, the fans, need help!

I remember back when the last incarnation of Legion of Superheroes first started, DC was using the "little head" approach at the beginning of each issue to explain who the heck was who in each issue because my god there are SO MANY DARN Legion members, who can keep track of all of them? I think I personally know ONE person that knows them ALL.

Currently, I am rereading the wonderful Green Lantern: Rebirth series in trade paperback form and there was something at the very beginning that I found VERY useful. Maybe it was there in the original mini-series, but I don't remember it. That did come out a few years ago so it's very possible that I have forgotten. There is a nice page at the beginning of the book, similar in feel to the "little head shot" that Marvel is so fond of, with a breakdown of the important characters in the Rebirth series, including a nice synopsis of what everyone had been doing up until this point in the DCU. Thank you DC!

If DC would do this at the beginning of every issue they published it could lead to (gasp!) new readers! Honest to god, it's true! I would also like to see both DC and Marvel include a recap page at the beginning of every graphic novel collection, that would be VERY helpful for the reader and for the retailer too! Especially if the big two want to see NEW READERS. Sometimes I doubt how much they want this, but the theory is sound. New readers= the medium staying alive and healthy. Yes, yes I know that many folks credit the relative health of the industry on the newly expanded book and library markets with the advent of the exploding graphic novel segment of the industry, and that may be true to a point, but it could be EVEN bigger if there was a recap page or summary page on page one of every graphic novel. Hell, Dark Horse, Image and everyone else out there could do the same thing.

So come on DC, what's the hold up? We want recap pages damn it!!


  1. I like the recap pages too. It frees the writer from having to include clumsy exposition in-story, and it does provide a nice refresher of what went on before.

    I guess my one complaint is that some of the recap pages are boring beyond belief, when they don't have to be. Peter David's recap pages for X-Factor are often laugh-out-loud funny, and the Fantastic Four recap pages have taken the form of a blog written by Valeria Richards. So yes, more and more innovative recap pages, please!

  2. I tend to skip the recap pages, but I always read the ones in Agents of Atlas, since they're hilarious. I miss the recaps in NextWave, and am rather disappointed that they weren't in the collection.

  3. Long ago I used to think of the recap page was kind of a waste of space and just a way for the writer & artist to do one less page in the book, but in more recent years I've begun to value them more and more. I especially like when the find a clever way to do from the character's point of view. Example: Peter Parker's journal entries, Valeria's blog in FF, and recaps given by characters in Agents of Atlas.

    It's not really new for Marvel, they have been doing it since the sixties although some were a little long back then. it's pretty helpful to find those recaps (usually included within the story) when reading them in Marvel Masterworks or other collected books and trades.

    I suppose it could lead to new readers too. I think a lot of readers are uncomfortable of trying something new if they think they might be lost or if there is too much back story to catch up on, even something as simple as knowing the origin of the character helps make the book more enjoyable. I love the way they identify the characters in Legion of Superheros and JSA which made "jumping on" to those titles a lot more enjoyable.

    It is also worth noting that sometimes the story is complicated, subtle or mysterious, and a recap sometimes helps to remind or enlighten us on what actually took place in the last story. I love Grant Morrison's work on Batman and Crisis, but I have to admit that sometimes I didn't know what the heck was going on. This has to be frustrating for new readers, and it would be a shame to see new readers turned off from reading one of the best writers in comics because his sometimes cryptic references are over their heads.

    Should we really have to consult wikipedia to find out what the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is? Come on DC why don't you just tell us.