Introduction to "Comic Book Numbering"

Comic book numbering used to be a very simple issue - each issue was incremented one number from the preceding issue in a simple natural number sequence starting at issue #1 until infinity.

Occasionally there would be some complications when a series was re-named (often when a key character in an ongoing anthology becomes popular enough for their own title), such as "The Incredible Hulk (1968)" taking over the numbering from "Tales to Astonish (1959)" or "Captain America (1968)" taking over the numbering of "Tales of Suspense (1959)".

However, DC Comics started an inadvertent trend when John Byrne re-structured the Man of Steel in the mid-1980's. All Superman comics (Action Comics and Superman) were taken offline for a few months, and a re-launch re-started Superman (1987) with a new #1, and continued the pre-existing Superman (1939) numbering with "Adventures of Superman (1987)". Superman (2006) re-merged Superman (1987) and Adventures of Superman (1987) to a single title.

Both DC and Marvel comics insisted on the occassional oddly numbered comic (0, -1 for Marvel, 1,000,000 for DC) which made continuity of numbering strange.

Marvel had a mathematical psychotic break and sold off key characters (e.g. Hulk, Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four) to a group of artist/writers in the ill-fated "Heroes Reborn" period of about a year in the mid-1990's, each series being re-started as a new #1. This experiment lasted about a year from 1996 to 1997, where the characters were re-introduced into the "real" (616) universe of Marvel in "Heroes Return".

Marvel's marketing department, realizing that "#1" issues had extra purchase value, began randomly re-starting series to generate new #1's. Later, someone woke up and realized that they were missing the chance to capitalize on significant milestone issues (500, 600 etc.) and began to re-number the ongoing series, with mixed success. Some re-numbering was simply the inclusion of series X and series Y of the same character, with the new numbering being the sum. However, with other series, the effect was somewhat confusing (see Hulk).

This site is an attempt to make sense of the numbering issues.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spider-Man Comics - Issue Numbers - WTF?

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) has been the flagship Spider-Man comic book series, coming out monthly from March 1963 to the present.

There have been several phases in Amazing Spider-Man:

Volume 1: Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #1 (March 1963) to Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #441 (Nov. 1998).
This period marks the end of the first attempted re-imaging of Peter Parker, Spider-Man, where they use a very long storyline "The Clone Saga" in an attempt to re-write Spider-Man's history, making the character published from issues 150 of Amazing Spider-Man (1963) (the original clone saga) forward to 1998 as a clone of the "real" Peter Parker.  This would allow the creators to remove Peter's marriage to Mary Jane and her pregnancy, by reviving the real Peter Parker (living as Ben Reilly) who's been wandering for years thinking he was the clone.  Marvel chickened out due to fan response, so the storyline was for naught.

Volume 2: At the end of the Clone Saga storyline, Amazing Spider-Man was re-launched with a new #1, as Amazing Spider-Man (1999), which continued from issue #1 to issue #58 in 2003, at which point Amazing Spider-Man was re-numbered to merge the two volumes, starting with Amazing Spider-Man (2003) #500.

Marvel continued to "play with" the history of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man character, trying to undo the wedding (the pregnancy and birth seem to have disappeared from discussion) ending up with a controversial storyline called "One More Day" and the follow-up "Brand New Day".  The controversy was that Peter's elderly aunt (Aunt May) was accidentally shot by an assassin aiming for Peter.  His guilt manifested itself in a deal with Mephisto ("the devil") to "erase" his marriage to Mary Jane in exchange for his aunt's life - he took the deal, and killed lots of long-time fans.

Volume 3: I consider this "Brand New Day" Spider-Man to be a new character, and have counted all Amazing Spider-Man issues from #546 onward as a new volume - Amazing Spiderman (2008), with the first 545 issues being Amazing Spider-Man (1963).  The re-launch of "Brand New Day" coincided with the end of  "Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man (2005)" and "Sensational Spider-Man (2006)" in order to have multiple issues of Amazing Spider-Man published in a single month.

As awful as "One More Day"/"Brand New Day" is to the character of Spider-Man, the storylines leading up to these are worse - the Spider-totem idea ("The Other"), where Peter is the latest being in history powered by mystical forces, pretty much messes up the "normal-guy with an accident" storyline that made Spider-Man interesting.  The "Sins Past" storyline is still vomit-inducing, as it portrays an affair, resulting in a consensual pregnancy, between Norman Osborn (The Green Goblin) and Gwen Stacy (Peter's first love), which ruins the character of Gwen irreparably.  It would have been nice if Marvel had chosen to kill these awful "add-ins" to the Spider-Man legacy with the "One More Day" idea, at least something positive would have come out of it.

It's quite embarassing what Marvel is doing to their flagship characters....I suspect the end is near for monthly Marvel comics, as they appear to be marketing direct to graphic novels (e.g. writing "epic" storylines, targeting six-issue runs, both of which lead directly to stand-alone graphic novels).  I suspect, however, that they underestimate the value of the monthly comics to support the characters, and the extended value to movies, graphic novels and TV.  Without the loyalty of the monthly readers, those other avenues become much less profitable, and much less able to support a single flop - loyal readers will allow for several tries (e.g. the two Hulk movies), while a movie-only fan would probably stop with the first flop.

To help clarify (or at least identify) monthly Spider-Man comics, refer to the table below.  The series are "grouped" into sets, for example, "Spider-Man (1990)" was a vehicle to keep McFarlane happy, a semi-out-of-continuity title that would allow for more character control by the artists/writers, eventually became "Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1999)" and "Marvel Knights: Spider-Man (2004)" became "Sensational Spider-Man (2006)" which is a second use of "Sensational Spider-Man" for monthly series, and that title was used for a couple of shorter series..  Similarly "Team-Up" titles are together, as are "Unlimited".  Some titles are re-used as mini-series or one-shots, and are not in this table.  Similarly, some issues had odd numbered issues such as (-1) or (0), which may not have been captured.

Update:  In 2013, Peter Parker "died" and good 'ol Otto Octavius (Dr. Octopus) took over his body and mind.  These issues started a new #1 in 2013.

Series Issues Total Issues "Full" Numbering
Amazing Spider-Man (1963) 1-441 441 1-441
Amazing Spider-Man (1999) 1-58 58 442-499
Amazing Spider-Man (2003) 500-545 46 500-545
Amazing Spider-Man (2008) 546+ ongoing 546+
Marvel Team-Up (1972) 1-150 150 1-150
Marvel Team-Up (1997) 1-11 11 1-11
Spider-Man Team-Up (1995) 1-7 7 1-7
Marvel Team-Up (2005) 1-4 4 1-4
Peter Parker - The Spectacular 1-263 263 1-263
Spider-Man (1976)
Web of Spider-Man (1985) 1-130 130 1-130
The Sensational Spider-Man (1996) -1 to 33 35 1-35
Web of Spider-Man (2009) 1-12 12 1-12
Spider-Man (1990) 1-98 98 1-98
Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1999) 1-57 57 99-155
Spider-Man Unlimited (1993) 1-22 22 1-22
Spider-Man Unlimited (1999) 1-5 5 1-5
Spider-Man Unlimited (2004) 1-15 15 1-15
Untold Tales of Spider-Man (1995) 1-25 25 1-25
Spider-Man's Tangled Web (2001) 1-22 22 1-22
Mavel Knights: Spider-Man (2004) 1-22 22 1-22
Sensational Spider-Man (2006) 23-41 19 23-41
Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man (2005) 1-24 24 1-24
Spider-Man Family (2007) 1-9 9 1-9
Amazing Spider-Man Family (2008) 1-8 8 1-8
Avenging Spider-Man (2011) 1-23 23 1-23
Superior Spider-Man (2013) 1- Ongoing Ongoing
Superior Spider-man Team-Up (2013) 1- Ongoing Ongoing
Superor Foes of Spider-Man (2013) 1- Ongoing Ongoing

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