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The Mystery of Quasar's Operation: Galactic Storm Issue Numbering

Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at brianc@cbr.com).

Reader Jason R. wrote in to ask:

What's the story with the different numbering between direct edition and newsstand version of Marvel's "Quasar" during the Operation Galactic Storm storyline?

In 1992, Marvel had their biggest multi-chapter crossover ever (not counting stuff like Secret Wars II or Inferno that just had books tie into the main event) with a stunning 19-part crossover between all of the titles involving Marvel's Avengers and character who were Avengers, so Avengers, Avengers West Coast, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Wonder Man and Quasar.

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The Quasar tie-in issues were Quasar #32-34. However, as Jason notes, when the books came out on the newsstand, they were numbered #1-3 instead of Quasar #32-34.

So, what's up with that?

The answer is actually pretty simple. Quasar, you see, had become a direct-market only title by 1991 (it just didn't sell enough to warrant continuing sending the book to newsstands). Marvel did that with most of their lower-selling titles around that time. Pretty much just their most popular titles would be sent to newsstands (that, plus newer titles, as they would at least give the new titles a chance at finding a newsstand audience).

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The issue, of course, was that they were now doing a massive crossover involving almost entirely books that were available on newsstands - except Quasar. So for the newsstand-only readers, they were, in effect, not going to have a chance to read the entire crossover unless they went to a direct market resource.

Their solution was to release the three tie-in issues of Quasar as three "special" newsstand editions, Quasar #1-3 (they couldn't just send just those three issues to newsstands, so they would have to do technically a new series - they COULD have said it was Quasar Special #32-34, but I imagine that they just figured it would sell better if they called it #1-3).

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Amusingly, I believe that they offered the Quasar Specials to the direct market, as well, if they wanted them. I imagine that not many stores ordered them (as, again, they were literally just the same stories as Quasar #32-34). Amusingly enough, though, around this time, Marvel was breaking in a new printer and there were a few errors on some of the titles, with "newsstand" editions printed of a few books that were only direct market releases. So I believe that there are actually some post-Quasar #34 issues that had UPC codes on them (which direct market titles didn't have back then).

An interesting question is Wonder Man. Like I noted, new series appeared on newsstands at first, and Wonder Man definitely appeared on newsstands for their first few issues, but as far as I can tell, it came off of the newsstands for a few issues, but then went back to the newsstand for the Operation: Galactic Storm tie-ins.

So there ya go, Jason!

Thanks for the question, Jason! If anyone ELSE has a question they'd like to see me address, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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