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.

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).

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).

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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