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, February 11, 2016

Live-Action Comic Book Universes

I've been a comic book fan for life, and have been collecting the "live action" versions of the comic book characters.  There were early attempts at live action series, '40s and '50s versions of Batman, Superman, Captain America etc. but effects were difficult and they weren't particularly successful with keeping the notion alive.  Over the years Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Hulk had successful TV series, along with some one-season wonders.

With the "modern era" launch of Superman (1978), the special effects and box-office draw have made the comic book characters profitable enough for Movies, and more recently, TV series have boomed on network, cable and internet-based domains.

The Live Action universe has taken off over the last few years, with both DC and Marvel characters showing up in a number of different areas.  The "universes" are becoming relatively complex, with the introduction of other comic-based heroes, villains and support characters, some becoming spin-off series in their own rights, and the introduction of new characters into the live-action world that didn't exist in the comics.

This post will be a work in progress for a little while - I doubt this is nearly complete.  What would be nice is to develop a character database for each universe (main and key comic-book characters) to understand how consistent and complete each are.  New characters (Chloe Sullivan on Smallville Felicity on Arrow, or the Flash supporting characters) are key in the shows and even sometimes appear into the comics.

Related Posts:
Superman Live Action Universe 

Marvel Universe (TV)
Captain America

Marvel Universe (Cinematic)
Iron Man
Captain America

Marvel Universe (Sony)
The Sony Marvel Universe is basically three separate universes - Spider-Man (which has had two unique and unrelated incarnations with Andrew Garfield re-launching the series after the three Tobey McGoure movies) and the X-Men (which has a series of related X-Men and Wolverine titles - the X-Men "re-launched" by going back in time with X-Men: First Class and having new actors playing the characters in the same universe at an earlier point in time).  Fantastic Four has had three films, two were in the same universe with the same cast, and a re-launch with a new cast - this universe seems independent of the X-Men and Spider-Man universes.

Spider-Man Universe (x2)
     - Tobey Maguire
       Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004), Spider-Man 3 (2007)
     -  Andrew Garfield
       The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

X-Men Universe
     - X-Men
       X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
     - X-Men First Class
       X-Men: First Class (2011) , X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
     - Wolverine
       X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), The Wolverine (2013)

Fantastic Four Universe (x2)
       Fantastic Four (2005), Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
       Fantastic Four (2015)

DC Universe (TV)
Adventures of Superman
Lois and Clark

DC Universe (Cinematic)
Superman Universe
The Superman universe consists of several independent projects - the serials in the late 40's to early '50's were independent, but two starred the same actor (Alyn) and one with the TV series actor (Reeves).  The 1970-80's movies for Superman were all continuous with Christopher Reeve playing Superman, the Brandon Routh (Superman Returns, 2006) is "semi-consistent" with the Reeve universe, but that entire universe was abandoned with the re-launched Cavill movies. The Supergirl (1984) movie as in the Reeve universe, but very little interaction between worlds.
     - Serials
       Superman (1948), Atom Man vs. Superman (1950) - Kirk Alyn
       Superman and the Mole Men (1951) - George Reeves
     - Christopher Reeve
       Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983), Superman IV: Quest for Peace ('87)
     - Brandon Routh
       Superman Returns (2006)
     - Henry Cavill
       Man of Steel (2013), Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Supergirl (1984) - Helen Slater
Green Lantern
Justice League (Pending)

CW-CBS Universe

Gotham Universe

Netflix Universe
Jessica Jones
Luke Cage (in Jessica Jones, separate series pending)
Iron Fist (Pending)
Punisher (Pending)
Defenders (Pending)

Orphaned Movies:
Fantastic Four (1994) - Roger Corman did this movie to keep the licensing alive.  It was never released, but does live on the internet.

Superman Live Action Multiverse

I was collecting the various live-action comic-book character universes for another post, but realized that it is pretty big.  Thought I'd try to re-organize by character to see if that makes things clearer.

Movie Serials - Kirk Alyn

1948 Superman (Kirk Alyn)  
1950 Atom Man vs. Superman  
Movie Serial and TV Series - George Reeves Universe
George Reevers starred in a long running TV series (started in BW, ended in Colour) in the 1950's, and also starred in a movie serial with the same cast..  Superboy and Superpup were pilots, based on the Reeves Universe, but didn't manifest in series.

1951 Superman and the Mole Men (Serial)  
1952-58 Adventures of Superman (TV)  
1958 Adventures of Superpup (unaired pilot)  
1961 Adventures of Superboy (unaired pilot)  

Superman Movie Universe #1 (Christopher Reeve Universe)
Superman (1978) showed that superhero movies could be blockbusters, and the special effects evolved to the point to allow for powers to appear realistic within the scope of the story.  Superman I and II are excellent movies, though some fans start to ignore Superman III (which added comic legend Richard Pryor and a split-personality Superman) and Superman IV, which was a much more political anti-nuclear weapon movie to support Christopher Reeve's political interests.  Supergirl (1984) showed up as a stand-alone movie in the middle of the Reeves run, staring Helen Slater, and was produced by the same group - there was very little overlap and the rumoured walk-on by Reeve didn't develop.

In 2006, the relaunched Superman Returns followed the 1978 model of casting an unknown into the role of Sueprman when Brandon Routh took the lead.  Not a very well-received movie, though it did link back to part of Superman II (probably part that fans didn't particularly like at the time) which does put this movie into the earlier Universe.

1978 Superman  
1980 Superman II  
1983 Superman III  
1984 Supergirl  
1987 Superman IV: Quest for Peace  
2006 Superman Returns  

Henry Cavill Universe (Current)
As Supreman Returns did not do as well as expected, DC re-booted the Man of Steel in 2013 starring Henry Cavill in the lead role.  This is part of the DC Universe modelling the very successful Marvel franchise which launched the Avengers to team up sets of individuals from separate movies.  As of this writing, there is a Superman-Batman movie (#2 in the Cavill universe, 1st in the Ben Affleck Batman universe) coming out in the next month or so.

2013 Man of Steel  
2016 Superman v.
Batman: Dawn of Justice

Independent TV Universes

There have been several independent TV series in the Superman World.  Supergirl (2015) is currently running and is part of a larger DC Universe including Arrow (Green Arrow) and The Flash, DC Heroes of Tomorrow and other CW series, even though Supergirl is broadcast on CBS.

1988-92 Superboy  
1993-97 Lois and Clark The New Adventures of Superman
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2001-11 Smallville  
2015 Supergirl