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, June 22, 2013

Dystopian Super-Hero Futures

There have been some great dystopian super-hero (Marvel and DC) futures portrayed in the comics, feel free to name more.

  • The Dark Knight Returns (1986)" and "The Dark Knight Strikes Again (2001)" by Frank Miller is by far the cream of the crop for these events.  Miller single-handedly brought back a dying Batman franchise and turned it from the campy '60's TV show type stories back to a darker, backstreet detective.  Set in a future where Batman has been retired for 10 years, and is chatting with Commissioner Gordon who is hitting mandatory retirement at 70, Miller portrays a world where superheroes have been outlawed.  Miller also portrays a world where the media is shallow and celebrity-focused (sound familiar?).  Gotham is rife with streetcrime with gangs running the streets.  Batman doesn't sit still for long....

  • "Kingdom Come" (1996) - Alex Ross and Mark Waid and "The Kingdom (1999)" - Mark Waid, Olivetti and Zeck - great story - Superman retired to Kansas, jaded due to the more violent breed of super-heroes.  2nd generation superheroes, no villians, so they take turns fighting each other - little care for civilian damage and casualties.  Supes comes out of retirement to bring back order.

Action Comics (1938) #583
Superman (1939) #423
  • "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" - DC Comics (Superman (1939) #423 and Action Comics (1938) #583.  These two issues marked the end of "Superman" as he was known since Action Comics #1. These were the last two issues of his signature series, both of which stopped publication for several months while John Byrne's Man of Steel (1986) series re-wrote the Superman legend.  Following this mini-series, Action Comics (1986) was re-launched with a #1, as was Superman (1987).  The "original" numbering of Superman was carried on to "Adventures of Superman (1987)" starting with issue #424.  The story was very good and incorporated many of the seminal Superman writers and artists. The basic plot was that things got serious in DC's universe, Pete Ross (Superman's childhood buddy) turned up dead, second rate villains became killers and everyone wondered what would happen when Brainiac or other real super-villains came home.  It really showed the end of the Silver Age Superman, with many supporting characters making an appearance, and many dying.  "Whatever Hppened to the Man of Tomorrow?" - worth the read to find out.
"Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" - Graphic Novel
"The Man of Steel (1986)" - John Byrne re-make of Superman

  • "Old Man Logan" (2008) - Miller and McNiven shows the post-apolcalyptic world where Logan (Wolverine) is still around and the U.S. is split into zones run by local warlords.  The Hulk and his offspring also play a part.

  • "Future Imperfect (1992)" - Peter David.  In this 2-issue series, the Hulk (with Banner's intelligence at this time) is transported into the future where he meets Maestro, a Hulk which survived the apocalypse and runs the world as an older, emperor-style Hulk, driven somewhat insane by the radiation over time.

  • "Spider-Man: Reign (2006)" - Kaare Andrews - an elderly Spider-Man, lonely and delusional is brought back to show a fighting spirit to a city basically under "anti-terrorist martial law" on a permanent basis.

  • "Daredevil: The End of Days" (2012) - 8 issue series exploring the aftermath of the death of Daredevil by Bullseye.  Lotsa' red headed young males hanging around their single-female mother friends of Matt Murdock.

  • "Earth X", "Universe X", "Paradise X" - Marvel comics future universes after a kid gets the power of the cosmic cube.  Very cool art, and nice depictions of older Marvel mainstream characters and offspring of those characters.

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