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.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

DC Imaginary Stories

I've liked the odd "DC Imaginary Story", which were a periodic DC gimmick to create "out of continuity" stories, primarily for the Superman family.  These were often "Superman marries Lois"-type stories, where the writers can play with the key characters without messing up the "real universe".

Lois Lane (1958) #19 listed "#1 in an Imaginary Series" blurb on the cover.  "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" was a two part story in Superman (1939) #423 and Action Comics (1938) #583, which marked the end of the "Silver Age or Bronze Age" Superman, pending the John Byrne re-built and re-launched Superman in 1986, which featured a re-numbered Superman #1 after the Man of Steel (1986) six-issue mini-series which re-defined Superman for the 1980's and clarified and unified 50 years of continuity into a unified single history.

Marvel formalized the idea with their "What If" series, which created breakpoints in the Marvel Universe where thing diverged from what was portrayed in the regular stories. For example, "What If Spider-Man Joined the Fantastic Four" (What If (1977) #1)  diverged from Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #1, when Spider-Man asked to join the FF and was rebuffed when they told him that they weren't paid for their FF membership.  The What If version had them asking Spider-Man to stay and given all FF members salaries (FF became "Fantastic Five").

DC also more formally set about "out of continuity  stories with Elseworlds, which started with "Gotham by Gaslight (1989)" a Batman story, and continued through all main DC 1991 annuals, and onward. I'll publish a list of these separately.

Both Marvel and DC periodically engaged in cross-over storylines (e.g. Superman and Spider-Man, or Batman and Daredevil), which can be considered "Elseworlds" or "What Ifs", though not labelled as such.

I wasn't able to find a complete listing of DC Imaginary Stories, so have compiled from various message posts on the topic, and occasional lists and references in the comics themselves.  I doubt this is a complete listing, so additions are welcome.

I've sorted by date of publication, and the full reference to the comic book series (e.g. Imaginary 1959 - Action Comics (1938) 259   - refers to issue #259 of Action Comics, which began publication in 1938 - the actual issue was published in 1959).  This sorts the issues in mostly chronological order, though no attempt was made to order by months within years, as most stories were "stand-alone" anyway and didn't require that level of organization.

I've included the "Super Sons" stories of the mid-1970's World Finest Comics, as I remember these, and they tend to mirror the earlier Imaginary Stories where one of Superman or Batman were married with kids - I don't think they were acknowledged as "Imaginary Stories" when first published.

Imaginary 1946 - Captain Marvel Adventures (1941) 66.cbr- 'Captain Marvel and the Atomic War'
Imaginary 1958 - Jimmy Olsen (1954) 029.cbz- 'The Superman Book that Couldn't Be Finished'
Imaginary 1958 - Superman (1939) 125.cbz- 'Lois Lane's Super Dream'
Imaginary 1959 - Action Comics (1938) 259.cbr- 'The Revenge of Luthor'
Imaginary 1959 - Batman (1940) 127.cbz- 'The Second Life of Batman'
Imaginary 1959 - Superman (1939) 122.cbr- 'Superman in the White House'
Imaginary 1960 - Action Comics (1938) 270.cbr- 'Superman's Old Age'
Imaginary 1960 - Batman (1940) 131.cbz- 'The Second Batman and Robin Team'
Imaginary 1960 - Batman (1940) 135.cbz- 'The Return of the Second Batman and Robin Team'
Imaginary 1960 - Lois Lane (1958) 019.cbz- 'Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent'
Imaginary 1960 - Lois Lane (1958) 020.cbr- 'Lois Lane's Super Daughter'
Imaginary 1960 - Superboy (1949) 078 .cbz- 'Claire Kent - Alias Super-Sister'
Imaginary 1960 - Superman (1939) 132.cbr- 'Superman's Other Life'
Imaginary 1960 - Superman (1939) 137.cbz- 'The Young Super-Bully'
Imaginary 1961 - Action Comics (1938) 275.cbr- 'Ma and Pa Kent Adopt Super-Girl'
Imaginary 1961 - Action Comics (1938) 279.cbr- 'The Super-Rivals'
Imaginary 1961 - Jimmy Olsen (1954) 056.cbz- 'The Son of Jimmy Olsen'
Imaginary 1961 - Jimmy Olsen (1954) 057.cbz- 'Jimmy Olsen Marries Super-Girl'
Imaginary 1961 - Lois Lane (1958) 023.cbr- 'The Wife of Superman'
Imaginary 1961 - Lois Lane (1958) 025.cbr- 'Lois Lane and Superman - Newlyweds'
Imaginary 1961 - Lois Lane (1958) 026.cbr- 'The Day Superman Married Lana Lang'
Imaginary 1961 - Superman (1939) 149.cbr- 'The Death of Superman'
Imaginary 1962 - Adventure Comics (1938) 299 .cbz- 'The Unwanted Superbaby'
Imaginary 1962 - Batman (1940) 145.cbr- 'The Son of the Joker'
Imaginary 1962 - Batman (1940) 151.cbr- 'Batman's New Secret Identity'
Imaginary 1962 - Flash (1959) 128.CBZ- 'The Case of the Real-Gone Flash'
Imaginary 1962 - Superboy (1949) 095.cbz- 'The Super-Family from Krypton'
Imaginary 1963 - Superman (1939) 162.cbr- 'The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue'
Imaginary 1964 - 80 Page Giant 01 (Superman) (B&W pp replaced).cbz- 'Reprints of serveral Imaginary Stories'
Imaginary 1964 - 80 Page Giant 05 (Batman) (1964).cbz- 'Reprints of serveral Imaginary Stories'
Imaginary 1964 - Lois Lane (1958) 051.cbr- 'The Three Wives of Superman'
Imaginary 1964 - Superman (1939) 166.cbr- 'The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons'
Imaginary 1965 - Superboy (1949) 124.cbz- 'The Toughest Kid in Smallville'
Imaginary 1965 - Superman (1939) 175.cbr- 'Clark Kent's Brother'
Imaginary 1965 - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 153.cbr- 'The Clash of Cape and Cowl'
Imaginary 1965 - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 154.cbr- 'The Sons of Superman and Batman'
Imaginary 1966 - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 157.cbr- 'The Abominable Brats'
Imaginary 1967 - Superman (1939) 200.cbr- 'Super-Brother against Super-Brother'
Imaginary 1967 - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 172.cbz- 'Superman and Batman - Brothers'
Imaginary 1969 - Jimmy Olsen (1954) 117.cbz- 'The Son of Jimmy Olsen'
Imaginary 1969 - Lois Lane (1958) 091.cbr- 'Love is Blind'
Imaginary 1969 - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 184.cbz- 'Robin's Revenge'
Imaginary 1970 - Superman (1939) 230.cbr- 'Killer Kent vs. Super Luthor'
Imaginary 1972 - Lois Lane (1958) 125.cbr- 'Death Rides the Wheels'
Imaginary 1972 - Lois Lane (1958) 126.cbr- 'The Brain Busters'
Imaginary 1972 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 215.cbz- 'Saga of the Super-Sons'
Imaginary 1973 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 216.cbr- 'Little Town with a Big Secret'
Imaginary 1974 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 221.cbr- 'Cry not for my Forsaken Son'
Imaginary 1974 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 222.cbr- 'Evil in Paradise'
Imaginary 1974 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 224.cbr- 'The Shocking Switch of the Super-Sons'
Imaginary 1975 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 228.cbr- 'Crown for a New Batman'
Imaginary 1975 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 230.cbr- 'The Girl whom Time Forgot'
Imaginary 1975 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 231.cbr- 'Hero is a Dirty Name'
Imaginary 1975 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 233.cbr- 'World Without Men'
Imaginary 1976 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 238.cbr- 'The Angel with a Dirty Name'
Imaginary 1976 - Super- Sons - Worlds Finest Comics (1941) 242.cbr- 'Town of the Timeless Killers'
Imaginary 1976 - Superman (1939) 300.cbr- 'Superman 2001'
Imaginary 1978 - Batman (1940) 300.cbr- 'The Last Batman Story'
Imaginary 1978 - Superman Family (1974) 192.cbr- 'My Father Superman'
Imaginary 1986a - Superman (1939) 423.cbz- 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow - pt 1'
Imaginary 1986b - Action Comics (1938) 583.cbr- 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow - pt 2'

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