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, December 10, 2012

Marvel NOW - Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four (1961) launched the Marvel Age of Comics - the silver-age revival of Marvel's superheroes.

The original series lasted until 1996, when Marvel almost went belly-up and sold some key properties to independent artists for a year, causing a re-launch, and new #1 for Fantastic Four in 1996.  This experiment lasted about a year, and 13 issues.

Marvel re-established Fantastic Four in 1998, with a new #1 for a series lasting 79 issues, at which point, they decided to return to the original series numbering in 2004, and continued to issue #588.  In 2011, there were two series in the Fantastic Four family - the Fantastic Four and a parallel series FF.  Marvel decided to combine the first 11 issues of FF and the 588 issues of Fantastic Four, yielding 599 issues, and re-numbered Fantastic Four with issue #600 in 2011.  What is particularly odd about this arrangement, is that BOTH series continued - FF with issue #12, and Fantastic Four with issue #600.  Both series continued until issues 622 and 23 for Fantastic Four and FF respectively.

Marvel NOW re-launches both series with new #1s in 2012.

Total Issues
"Full FF" Numbering
Fantastic Four (1961) V1
Fantastic Four (1996) V2
Fantastic Four (1998) V3
Fantastic Four (2004) V4  
FF (2011) V1
Fantastic Four (2011) V5
FF (2011) V1

Fantastic Four (2012) V6
FF (2012) V2
FF 24+?

Hey Marvel - great way to handle your flagship comic.  Along with Spider-Man, you could have maintained a consistency over time with the FF.  I find this fake re-booting to be worse than DC's occassional re-boots of older characters to avoid the problems of long-term carryover histories that complicate storylines for new readers. You might want to consider a clean slate at some point (like the excellent Ultimate universe titles).

Fantastic Four (1961) #1

Fantastic Four (1996) #1

Fantastic Four (1998) #2

Fantastic Four (2004) #509

FF (2011) #1

Fantastic Four (2011) #600

Fantastic Four (2012) #1

FF (2012) #1

1 comment: