Rob Bof­fard is tired of keep­ing track of comic book uni­verses

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion - Rob Bof­fard is the au­thor of ZERO- G, an SF thriller set on a space sta­tion, out now.

Pop quiz. Two- part ques­tion. In the X- Men comic book uni­verse, how many times has Pro­fes­sor X died, and is he cur­rently alive or not?

I have no idea. I’m a big fan of the X- Men ( and comic books in gen­eral). I’m able to give you the names, pow­ers and his­tory of most team mem­bers and sup­port­ing char­ac­ters with­out think­ing, but I’ve come to a point where I gen­uinely don’t know whether Charles Xavier is dead or alive.

I’m not talk­ing about the re­ally big stuff: the new Thor, the new Cap, new Spidey. Them I get. It’s the com­mon, day- to- day stuff, like Pro­fes­sor X dy­ing – be hon­est, he does it a hell of a lot. And Google can’t help here. Are we talk­ing Un­canny X- Men, Ul­ti­mate X- Men,

or just plain X- Men?

It’s not just Pro­fes­sor X. It’s vir­tu­ally ev­ery char­ac­ter, in ev­ery se­ries. I love su­per­heroes, but as some­one who doesn’t make a habit of read­ing ev­ery sin­gle one of their es­capades ev­ery week, stuff hap­pens faster than I can keep track of. I pick up a new book then ditch it within three pages be­cause I sim­ply don’t have the knowl­edge base to un­der­stand it.

And that’s just Marvel. Don’t get me started on DC, which is a dark and fore­bod­ing realm filled with hor­rors.

Ac­cord­ing to Comics­beat, 2015 saw a rise of around 7% in sales world­wide, to­talling sev­eral hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars. So in the­ory, noth­ing’s wrong with the in­dus­try’s cur­rent model – pub­lish­ers are mak­ing money, and there’s a met­ric butt- ton of new ti­tles ev­ery month to prove it.

But by now, the Marvel and DC Cin­e­matic Uni­verses are in full swing, so it’s hardly sur­pris­ing that the read­er­ship is grow­ing. And no­body keeps data on how many of those read­ers end up be­wil­dered and frus­trated. The big pub­lish­ers con­tin­u­ally seem to re­boot their fran­chises – DC’s New 52 is all- but- dead, and Marvel de­cided to kill 33 ti­tles after their whole Se­cret Wars sto­ry­line got mas­sively out of hand. That, to me, says: we have a prob­lem, and we don’t know what to do about it.

I tell you this: bring­ing Pro­fes­sor X back to life for the thou­sandth time won’t solve any­thing.

Pro­fes­sor X very much alive – and at­tract­ing a crowd.

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