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, December 10, 2012

Marvel NOW - Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four (1961) launched the Marvel Age of Comics - the silver-age revival of Marvel's superheroes.

The original series lasted until 1996, when Marvel almost went belly-up and sold some key properties to independent artists for a year, causing a re-launch, and new #1 for Fantastic Four in 1996.  This experiment lasted about a year, and 13 issues.

Marvel re-established Fantastic Four in 1998, with a new #1 for a series lasting 79 issues, at which point, they decided to return to the original series numbering in 2004, and continued to issue #588.  In 2011, there were two series in the Fantastic Four family - the Fantastic Four and a parallel series FF.  Marvel decided to combine the first 11 issues of FF and the 588 issues of Fantastic Four, yielding 599 issues, and re-numbered Fantastic Four with issue #600 in 2011.  What is particularly odd about this arrangement, is that BOTH series continued - FF with issue #12, and Fantastic Four with issue #600.  Both series continued until issues 622 and 23 for Fantastic Four and FF respectively.

Marvel NOW re-launches both series with new #1s in 2012.

Total Issues
"Full FF" Numbering
Fantastic Four (1961) V1
Fantastic Four (1996) V2
Fantastic Four (1998) V3
Fantastic Four (2004) V4  
FF (2011) V1
Fantastic Four (2011) V5
FF (2011) V1

Fantastic Four (2012) V6
FF (2012) V2
FF 24+?

Hey Marvel - great way to handle your flagship comic.  Along with Spider-Man, you could have maintained a consistency over time with the FF.  I find this fake re-booting to be worse than DC's occassional re-boots of older characters to avoid the problems of long-term carryover histories that complicate storylines for new readers. You might want to consider a clean slate at some point (like the excellent Ultimate universe titles).

Fantastic Four (1961) #1

Fantastic Four (1996) #1

Fantastic Four (1998) #2

Fantastic Four (2004) #509

FF (2011) #1

Fantastic Four (2011) #600

Fantastic Four (2012) #1

FF (2012) #1

Marvel NOW - Captain America

Captain America, the post-WWII character, started in Tales of Suspense (1959) #59, where he shared billing with Iron Man.  At issue number 100 of Tales of Suspense, Iron Man got a new #1, and Captain America took over the Tales of Suspense numbering and masthead.

Captain America is the revival of the WWII character created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon in the 1940's (first appearance, Captain America Comics (1940) #1).  Most superhero comics had lots of trouble selling post-WWII (exceptions Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman).  Captain America (1954) has been ret-conned to not be the "real" Captain America (in this series, he was a commie smasher) but somebody created to keep the symbol alive (not sure about "Weird Tales (1949)").  Cap from this era is typically considered the "Golden Age" Captain America - the one in "current" Marvel is the "Silver Age" Captain America.

In the Marvel comics retcon, the character of Cap was suspended in ice following a mission in WWII (when his original series died), and found and revived in Avengers #4 in the "new" Marvel Universe.

As with many Marvel characters from Marvel's near collapse in the mid-1990's, Cap has been re-started a number of times.  As near as I can figure, here are the pre-Marvel NOW comic series in Cap's lineage, up to Captain America (2012) re-launch under the Marvel NOW banner

Total Issues
"Full Cap" Numbering
Captain America Comics (1941)
Captain America’s Weird Tales (1949)
Captain America (1954)
Tales of Suspense (1959)**
Captain America (1968)
Captain America (1996)
Captain America (1998)
Captain America (2002)
Captain America (2005)
Captain America (2009)
Captain America and... (2011)*
Captain America (2011)***
Captain America (2012)

* Captain America and...Bucky (620 to 628); ...Hawkeye (629-632); ...Iron Man (633 to 635); ...Namor (635.1); Black Widow (636-640). 
** Captain America began appearing in Tales of Suspense (1959) with issue #59 (Nov. 1964) and had appeared with Iron Man in the previous issue.  Iron Man and Cap split the series until issue 100, when Cap took over and Iron Man got his own series.
*** originally missed Captain America (2011) - noted by Jovial Jay in comment attached to this post

Captain America Comics (1941) #1

Captain America's Weird Tales #74

Captain America (1954) #76

Tales of Suspense (1959) #59

Captain America (1968) #100

Captain America (1996) #1

Captain America (1998) #1

Cover for Captain America (Marvel, 2002 series) #1 [Direct Edition]
Captain America (2002)

Captain America (2005)

Captain America (2009) #600

Captain America and ....(2011) #620

Cover for Captain America (Marvel, 2011 series) #1
Captain America (2011) #1
Cover for Captain America (Marvel, 2013 series) #1
Captain America (2012) #1

Friday, December 7, 2012

Marvel NOW - Iron Man

Iron Man has been re-booted a number of times, though the "final" numbering seems to indicate 527 issues of a single character.  Though, if they add in the 61 Iron Man stories from Tales of Suspense (1959), they are a year away from a #600 issue for Iron Man.

I've updated an earlier post trying to figure out the numbering of Iron Man from his inception in Tales of Suspense to the final issue of his title before the Marvel NOW re-launch.

Here is the updated post (Iron Man - Magic #500 Algebra)

Marvel NOW - Counting "Not so Amazing" Spider-Man

Marvel NOW re-launches several titles and retires others.

Spider-Man the most abused flagship character that you can imagine, ends his Amazing Spider-Man series with issue #700 and begins a very poorly named new series called "The Superior Spider-Man" under the Marvel NOW banner.  When you think about Spider-Man, "Amazing" fits, as does "Spectacular" as they are basically 3rd party descriptions of what the character can do.  "Superior" sounds very arrogant, which doesn't fit the characterization of Spider-Man that I have (or "had", as I'm not a big fan of the "Sins Past" and  "deal with the Devil" version of Spider-Man Marvel is carrying on with).  If there was ever a need to re-set and re-boot a character, Spider-Man is it, and Marvel NOW is the time.  However, given that they've consistently abused DC Comics of doing character re-boots, the "braintrust" at Marvel won't be able to fix the character, and will drag the baggage of poorly thought out plotlines into the new series.

Here is a link to a more comprehensive history of ongoing Spider-Man titles (Spider-Man Comics - Issue Numbers - WTF?), and below is how Marvel arrived at the issue #700 in the first place.

SeriesIssuesTotal Issues"Full" Numbering
Marvel Comics
Amazing Spider-Man (1963)1-4414411-441
Amazing Spider-Man (1999)1-5858442-499
Amazing Spider-Man (2003)500-54546500-545
Amazing Spider-Man (2008)546-700155546-700
Marvel NOW
The Superior Spider-Man (2013)1+

Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #1

The Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #1

Amazing Spider-Man (2003) #500

Marvel would probably argue with the above, as they like to pretend that Amazing Spider-Man was a consistent series from 1963 to issue #700 in 2012.

Up to issue #441, they may have maintained that argument, however they re-launched Amazing Spider-Man in 1999 with a new #1, following the very damaging storyline "The Clone Saga" where they intended to replace the "Peter Parker" of the first 400+ issues, by reviving a clone from the 1970's and making the claim that the character considered the "clone", who apparently had died in issue #149, survived and was the "real" Peter Parker.  The one we knew from that point onward was really a clone, married Mary Jane and had a baby.  The found "former clone" would be single, and could return Peter to an earlier era without having any discontinuous re-boot of the series.  They chickened out and after a 100 or so issue crossover clone saga storyline, kept the same Peter Parker, with the marriage, but a missing baby.  The clone, named Ben Reilly is still kicking around some place.

In 2003, Marvel realized they had a #500 issue, and re-numbered Amazing Spider-Man, keeping the original numbering.  In 2008, after a few horrible character changes ("Sins Past", "Spider-Totem" and, of course the deal with Mephisto which erased his marriage and the memory of his identity in order to revive his pre-historic Aunt from a bullet wound) caused me, at least, to consider this Peter Parker/Spider-Man to be a new character who didn't seem to remember his own history and moral values (thus, Amazing Spider-Man (2008).

UPDATE: Having read Amazing Spider-Man #700, the change to "Superior Spider-Man" makes sense now.  In the past, I might have found the resolution of #700 to be disturbing or problematic.  However, after the "Sins Past" and "Brand New/One More Day" decisions by Marvel, I have very little attachment to the character, which is very sad.  I am a little interested in seeing how long "Superior" lasts, and whether the new status quo continues (I suspect not, and I suspect it is by design that it will not last).

I would have been much more interested if Marvel decided on a clean re-boot of Spider-Man, removing the problematic decisions of the last 10 years or so, and clearing up the clutter of continuity that seems to bedevil the creative forces at Marvel.  An honest re-boot, which may be what is planned when the post-#700 situation runs its course, would be the only way to re-vitalize a misused character.

I thought Ultimate Spider-Man was an excellent series, and was the re-boot the character needed.  Unfortunately, there seemed to be a "current" running through Marvel that focused on the freedom of the writers to do dramatic things, such as killing off Peter Parker at the conclusion of volume 1.  I did like the freedom they had to bring up "old" storylines from Amazing Spider-Man, and update to suit the newer times, or diverge greatly form the "616 Universe" history.  That was the power of the re-booted series - not the focus on the characters being disposable.  The fear Marvel has in creating a new, long-term, complicated continuity outweighed the idea that they had re-created some of the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko magic of the early 1960's - it could have lived for many more profitable years.

Marvel NOW - Journey into Mystery and Thor

Marvel NOW re-launches (though they'd never admit to a re-boot) many titles, and drops others.

Thor and Journey into Mystery are intertwined series.  Thor (the character) started out in the anthology series Journey Into Mystery (1952) with issue #83, and took over the series with issue #125.

Marvel re-launched Journey Into Mystery a couple of times, and re-merged Thor and JIM a couple of times as well.

Marvel NOW starts off with a new Thor title (Thor: God of Thunder (2012)) and Journey Into Mystery (2012) #646.

Here is a table which updates the history of both Thor and JIM, as best as I can put together:

Title Issues Total Thor/JIM 
Marvel Comics
Journey Into Mystery (1952) 1-125 125 1-125
The Mighty Thor (1966) 126-377 502 126-502
Journey Into Mystery (1972) 1-19 19 n/a
Journey Into Mystery (1996) 1-13 521 n/a
Thor (1998) 1-85 85 503-587
Thor (2007) 1-12 12 588-599
Thor (2008) 600-621 621 600-621
Journey Into Mystery (2009) 622-645 645 622-645
The Mighty Thor (2011) 1-22 22 n/a
Marvel NOW
Journey Into Mystery (2012) 646+
Thor 1+

Assuming this table is correct, Journey Into Mystery (1972);  Journey Into Mystery (1996) and The Mighty Thor (2011) are all "orphaned" series with respect to issue numbering.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Marvel NOW - Cancelled and New Titles (Nov-Dec 2012)

I found this list on Wikipedia, but it later vanished.  I liked to have the "old" series final issue numbers, so found the "old" Wikipedia entry for "Marvel Now" and pulled out this list (Link to cancelled wikipedia page).

Comic Vine also reports cancelled/new series (Comic Vine - Marvel NOW)

Cancelled series
The Amazing Spider-Man
Last Issue Number
#700 (December 2012)
Avengers 4 #34 (November 2012)
Captain America 6 #19 (October 2012)
Captain America & 1 #640 (December 2012)
Deadpool 2 #63 (October 2012)
Defenders 4 #12 (November 2012)
Fantastic Four 1 #611 (October 2012)
FF 1 #23 (October 2012)
Incredible Hulk 3 #15 (October 2012)
Invincible Iron Man 1 #527 (October 2012)
New Avengers 2 #34 (November 2012)
New Mutants 3 #50 (October 2012)
Secret Avengers 1 #37 (January 2013)
The Mighty Thor 1 #22 (October 2012)
Uncanny X-Force 1 #35 (December 2012)
Uncanny X-Men 2 #20 (October 2012)
Wolverine 2 #317 (December 2012)
X-Men 3 #41 (February 2013)
X-Men Legacy 1 #275 (October 2012)

New series
A+X 1 #1 (October 2012)
All-New X-Men 1 #1 (November 2012)
Avengers 5 #1 (December 2012)
Avengers Arena 1 #1 (December 2012)
Cable and X-Force 1 #1 (December 2012)
Captain America 7 #1 (November 2012)
Deadpool 3 #1 (November 2012)
FF 2 #1 (November 2012)
Fantastic Four 4 #1 (November 2012)
Fearless Defenders 1 #1 (February 2012)
Guardians of the Galaxy 3 #0.1 (February 2013)
Indestructible Hulk 1 #1 (November 2012)
Iron Man 5 #1 (November 2012)
Morbius: The Living Vampire 2 #1 (January 2013)
New Avengers 3 #1 (January 2013)
Nova 5 #1 (February 2013)
Savage Wolverine 1 #1 (January 2013)
Secret Avengers 2 #1 (February 2013)
The Superior Spider-Man 1 #1 (January 2013)
Thor: God of Thunder 1 #1 (November 2012)
Thunderbolts 2 #1 (December 2012)
Uncanny Avengers 1 #1 (October 2012)
Uncanny X-Force 2 #1 (January 2013)
Uncanny X-Men 3 #1 (February 2013)
Wolverine 5 #1 (March 2013)
X-Men Legacy 2 #1 (November 2012)
Young Avengers 2 #1 (January 2013)

Other series
Avengers Assemble 1 #9 (November 2012)
Daredevil 3 #23 (February 2012)
Journey into Mystery 1 #646 (November 2012)
Red She-Hulk 1 #58 (October 2012)
Wolverine and the X-Men 1 #19 (October 2012)
Marvel NOW! Point One 1 #1 (October 2012)