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

Iron Man - Magic #500 Algebra

Iron Man, along with the Hulk, suffer from too many tries to "revise" the character, making the history choppy, and having multiple re-booted series.

Volume 1: Iron Man (1968) #1 (May 1968) to #332 (September 1996).
This is the "bread and butter" years of Iron Man, establishing the character, and continuing the storylines from the one-shot "Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner (1968)" and the prior Tales of Suspense (1959) issues #39-#99, which he shared billing with Captain America.

Volume 2: Iron Man (1996) #1 to #13
This is the failed "Heroes Reborn" experiment where a financially strapped Marvel sold some flagship characters to a group of writer/artists who re-built them "out of continuity" from the rest of the Marvel history and characters.

Volume 3: Iron Man (1998) #1 (Feb 1998) to #89 (#434) (Dec 2004)
This was a return to the Marvel Universe for Iron Man.  Starting at issue #41, all issues were double-numbered - the volume 3 number, and the sum of Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (e.g. 41 was double numbered 41 & 386, which is 332 + 13 + 41).

Volume 4: Iron Man (2005) - #1 Jan (2005) to #16 May (2007)
The first 12 issues were cover titled  "The Invincible Iron Man", #13 and #14 were "Iron Man" marked with the Civil War storyline covers, #15 and #16 were "Iron Man: Director of SHIELD".

Volume 5: The Invincible Iron Man (2007) #17 (June 2007) to #35 (June 2008)
Continues numbering from Iron Man (2005).

Volume 6: The Invincible Iron Man (2008) - #1 (July 2008) to present
This volume, re-launched with a #1, began re-numbering after issue #33 - the next issue was #500.  This series continues to current day.

#500 = 332 (v1) + 13 (v2) + 89 (v3) +16 (v4) +19 (v5) +34 issues of V6. (I think I get 503).

Iron Man (2007) issues 33, 34 and 35 were War Machine issues, so could be omitted from the total, making issue #34 of Iron Man (2008) the 500th Iron Man issue.

#500 = 332 (v1) + 13 (v2) + 89 (v3) +16 (v4) +(19-3) (v5) +34 issues of V6.

Total Issues
"Full Iron Man" Numbering
Tales of Suspense (1959)
Iron Man (1968)
Iron Man (1996)
Iron Man (1998)
Iron Man (2005)
Invincible Iron Man (2007)
Invincible Iron Man (2008)
Invincible Iron Man (2008)

* Note: Issues #33, #34 and #35 of Invincible Iron Man (2007) are War Machine and omitted from total Iron Man issues.

UPDATE: Invincible Iron Man (2008) ended at issue #527, new Iron Man title relaunched under "Marvel Now" banner.

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