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

Superman Numbering - 1st to #1000?

Superman (1939) ran from issue 1 to issue 423 ("What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?"), at which point both Superman (1939) and Action Comics (1938) both ceased publication for a number of weeks.  During that interlude, John Byrne ran a six-issue mini-series called "The Man of Steel", wherein he revised the origin of Superman, de-powered him to a degree (pre-"Man of Steel", Superman could easily travel through time, travel faster than light, lift/move planets, had a super-computer brain, all of which made it virtually impossible to have interesting stories - all problems could simply be solved by time travel, or use of faster than thought movement and super-computer brain).

When post-"Man of Steel (1986)" publication resumed, Action Comics (1938) continued with existing issue counts, but Superman was renumbered to Superman (1987) #1.  The Superman (1939) issue counts were resumed with "Adventures of Superman (1987)", another monthly Superman title.

In 2006, the two Superman series (Adventures of Superman (1987) and Superman (1987)) were re-merged into a new Superman title (Superman (2006)), with issue number 650, and ran until 2011 with issue 714.

Series Issues Total Issues "Full" Superman Numbering
Superman (1939) 1-423 423 1-423
Adventures of Superman (1987) 424-649 226 424-649
Superman (1987) 1-226 226 n/a
Superman (2006) 650-714 65 650-714
Total "Superman"   Issues 940
Superman (2011) 1+ n/a 1+

Aside from a period of weekly publication (in 1988-89), Action Comics continued to be a monthly comic book, finishing with issue #904 in 2011.

In 2011, DC re-launched 52 titles ("The New 52"), with both Action Comics and Superman re-launched with new #1 issues, and a renewed character, history and uniform.

Watch for DC re-numbering "back" to original, as it is difficult to see DC skipping the first industry "#1000" issue for Action Comics, and later Detective Comics and Superman.  In fact, Superman could reasonably become the first "1000" issue, if you count both "Superman (1987)" and "Adventures of Superman (1987)" in the "Superman" count, which is actually more reasonable than many of the recent re-numberings.  This would put "Superman" at #940 at the start of 2011, while "Action Comics" was at #904, putting "Superman" 3 years ahead in the race to #1000 -  60 issues is only 5 years, so it would hit that milestone in 2016.

From the Super-Hero Wiki page (

The Superman comic book began being published quarterly, soon going bimonthly and in the late 1950s turning monthly. This initial Superman series went on a three-month hiatus with issue #423 (Sept. 1986), as did sister title Action Comics, while the new Man of Steel limited series was published, introducing the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman.

After that limited series, Action Comics returned and Superman Vol. 2, #1 was published. A new title, Adventures of Superman premiered with #424, continuing the numbering of the original Superman series.
Superman Vol. 2 reached issue #226 (April 2006) and was then cancelled as part of the companywide Infinite Crisis storyline. Adventures of Superman was returned to its original title, Superman, with issue #650 (May 2006). Action Comics had continued publication normally.

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