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.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Read first 20 issues of "Superior Spider-Man (2012)" - Marvel Now

I haven't been thrilled with Marvel's handling of their flagship character, Spider-Man.
Over the past few years, they've retroactively changed Peter Parker's first serious romance, the ill-fated Gwendolyn Stacy, into a bit of a harlot, by having her sleep with Norman Osborn (a.k.a. the Green Goblin) and secretly having twins through that union.  For those that aren't familiar with Gwen, her death in the early '70's at the hands of the Green Goblin is a seminal moment in comics - a complete shocker that still resonates to this day.

As if that horrible event wasn't enough, they also created a whole mystic "spider-totem" oddity, where Peter Parker wasn't the normal wallflower upon whom fate bestowed power, but the most recent of a series of mystical spider people (or somesuch).  He also started creating webbing out of his wrists, not the mechanical ones from the original stories (could have been out of his butt, so you rolls the dice, you takes your chances).

The coup-de-grace was the decision of the Marvel headless honchos to decide to remove the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson through a deal with the devil (Mephisto).  Basically, through sheer stupidity, Parker revealed his identity publicly as part of the Civil War storyline, which, predictably, had the effect of one of his villians (Kingpin in this case) taking out a hit on the family.  They tried to shoot Peter, who sensed the danger and pulled Mary Jane to the floor, and the bullet hit Aunt May, his 11,000 year old aunt. A distressed Peter and Mary Jane traded their marriage for the life of Peter's aunt (I did mention that she is a really old bat, didn't I?).  What this convoluted and uncharacteristic decision did was to remove the married Spider-Man, which many at Marvel felt was a mistake and never should have happened, without a divorce or widowing of Peter (though, really, both are preferable to making deals with Satan, I'd think).

I really stopped being interested in that character though that process.

I picked up the first 20 issues of "Superior Spider-Man".  This is the series which is an offshoot of Amazing Spider-Man #700, where a dying Dr. Octopus manages to take over Peter's body, leaving his own to die, thus making Spider-Man (powers and body) run by the brain of Dr. Octopus. A really unpleasant circumstance, but better than "Slut-Gwen", "Peter Parker - Mystic Spider", "no longer human Web Spinner" and "Hi Devil, how's it hangin'".
Ignoring the problems when Parker eventually regains his body and identity for the moment, the stories are pretty entertaining - a take with a much more arrogant Spider-Man taking his scientific mind to the task of eliminating the criminals - using spider-robots to patrol, ignoring the individual victims (sometimes) to achieve the larger picture, using lethal methods, if that seems to be the logical direction.

The problem when Peter returns, is that his alter-ego has now crossed the line to killing and maiming in non-accidental ways.  Can he actually convince the world that it was somebody else?

Oh, I know, why not make a deal with the devil?