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.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Avengers Numbering - Race for #600 (or maybe #700?)

Avengers (1963) #1
Marvel's many-membered team, The Avengers, has had several starts and stops over time, and has re-launched several off-shoot titles.  What I'd call the original Avengers ended with issue #503 at the end of the "Avengers:Disassembled" storyline, where the Scarlet Witch caused some havoc, and uttered the iconic line "No more mutants", which greatly affected the Marvel Universe and, in particular, the X-line of comics.
Earlier, the original series (Avengers (1963) ended with issue #402, as one of the casualties of the aborted "Heroes Reborn" experiment of 1996-07 (13 issues) where Marvel rented out several of its key characters to a group of artists to re-launch them.

Avengers (1996) #1
Avengers (1998) #1
Avengers (1998) re-introduced the Avengers to the normal (616 Universe) Marvel Universe as part of "Heroes Return". This series ran for 84 issues, with "double-numbering" starting with issue #41 (double numbering is 1998 series as one number, and  that issue number plus 415, which includes the 1963, and 1996 Avengers titles with the 1998 series)  with #84/#499 the last issue of the 1998 series.  A very short Avengers (2004) series started with issue #500 and ran to the end of "Avengers:Disassembled" in issue #503.  There was a wrap-up issue, "Avengers Finale", which could be considered #504.
Avengers #500 (2004)

Avengers #503
Avengers Finale #504
Avengers (2010) #1
After that, Marvel can probably choose one of several options to get to #600 - in fact, if you add "New Avengers (2005)" and "Mighty Avengers (2007)", you already have passed issue #600, as there are 64 issues of "New Avengers' and 34 issues of "Mighty Avengers".  In 2010, Marvel re-launched New Avengers (2010) with a new #1.  Thus, even if "only" New Avengers is counted in the "Avengers" total, we just passed issue #600 (would be issue #33 of New Avengers (2010), or #32 if you count "Avengers Finale" in the total).

Uncanny Avengers (2012) #1

Canonical Avengers Series
Start End Total "Full Avengers"
The Avengers (1963) 1 402 402 1 to 402
Avengers (1996) 1 13 13 403 to 415
The Avengers (1998) 1 84 84 416 to 499
Avengers (2004) 500 504 5 500 to 503
Avengers Finale (2005) 1 1 1 N/A
Avengers (2010) 1 Ongoing 33+ 504-537+
Avengers Assemble (2012) 1 25 25
Uncanny Avengers (2012) 1 Ongoing 1+

As of about right now (October 2012), there are 537 issues (up through Avengers (2010) #33).  Thus, assuming that Avengers (2010), Avengers Assemble (2012) and Uncanny Avengers (2012) all continue monthly runs, each month add 3 issues to that total - to get to 600 issues, that would require 67 issues, or about 22 months (about August 2014 could yield an Avengers #600).

Other Potential "Add-In" series
Start End Total
West Coast Avengers (1984) 1 4 4
West Coast Avengers (1985) 1 102 102
New Avengers (2005) 1 64 64
New Avengers (2010) 1 31+ Ongoing
Mighty Avengers (2007) 1 36 36
Dark Avengers (2009) 1 16 16
Secret Avengers (2010) 1 34+ Ongoing
Avengers v. X-Men (2012) 0 12 13

West Coast Avengers (1984) #1

West Coast Avengers (1985) #1

New Avengers (2005) #1

New Avengers (2010)

The Mighty Avengers (2007) #1

Dark Avengers (2009) #1

Secret Avengers (2010) #1

Avengers vs. X-Men (2012)

The wildcard would be whether or not they add in "Avengers Finale (2005)" in the count or not, or even "Avengers v. X-Men (2012)" (though this will bring in whether or not to add in the zero issue).  You could also add in any one of Mighty Avengers (2007), Dark Avengers (2009) and/or Secret Avengers (2010), and really make the call anytime your marketing department wants a big cover issue.  You could also add in New Avengers (both series) and Mighty Avengers, and skip #600 entirely and focus on an upcoming #700, or if you are in a hurry, add in the West Coast Avengers and focus on #800.

There would also be a plethora of one-shot issues and mini-series that could be considered canonical and included to make some magic round number of issues, and a number of "0.1", "1.5" and/or "-1" odd-numbered issues to fill in blanks.

Again, it is difficult to see what the "big plan" is for Marvel with respect to monthly comics.  Avengers is one of the key comics in the line, so what does having such a disjoint history add, with the exception of making it easy for Marvel to "fake" anniversary issues to coincide with whatever creative team, marketing opportunity or key storyline needs one?

First Issue Cover

Update: Marvel Now
Avengers (2013)  #1 to ?  
New Avengers (2013) #1 to ?
Avengers A.I. (2013) #1 to ?
Avengers Undercover (2013) #1 to ?
Avengers World (2013) #1 to ?

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