• Everything But Imaginary #391: One More Try at Crunching the Numbers

    In the previous two installments of Everything But Imaginary, I’ve been flexing my considerable geekification skills to try to determine the “real” issue count for different series that have been started and re-started time and again. Nine volumes of The Punisher, the long runs of a single title contributing to the issue count of both Superboy and Legion of Super-Heroes, a stream on Teen Titans that diverts into three different tributaries… it can be maddening after a while. And I’m not quite done yet. There are a few more stalwarts that have been jumpstarted a few times, and I think it’s worth giving one more week to figuring out just how many issues each of these classic titles have seen.

    Justice League of America

    Like some of the other books that have gone through several incarnations, figuring out the run of Justice League of America can be rough, as it’s gone through several title changes and restarts over the years. But here’s how I’m going to calculate it.

    • Justice League of America Vol. 1 (1960). The first title is simple to figure out. After a try out in The Brave and the Bold, the JLA moved into its own title that began with issue one in 1960 and ran until issue #261 in 1987. 261 issues.
    • Justice League (1987) is where it gets tricky. After the original team disbanded following DC’s Legends crossover, the book relaunched as just Justice League, where it kept that title for a mere six issues. At this point, the new team was given a charter by the United Nations, and the title of the book changed to Justice League International Vol. 1, which it kept until issue #25. Then, the League decided to begin establishing embassies in other nations. This title became Justice League America. There was also a spin-off title, Justice League Europe, which changed its name to Justice League International Vol. 2 with issue #51(still with me?) and lasted until issue 68. The 68 issues of JLE/JLI are, for purposes of this discussion, going to count as a spin-off book and not go to the through line count of the main series. Justice League America ended with issue #113, and that’s how many issues we’re going to add to the count of the through-line.
    • JLA (1997) was, of course, Grant Morrison’s ginormously successful relaunch of the franchise with the “magnificent seven” characters, which was followed by Mark Waid’s very successful run of old-school superhero stories, which was followed again by Joe Kelly’s less-than-successful “edgier” version of the team, which was followed by a rotating collection of writers and artists that, with the exception of a few high points (the “Crisis of Conscience” storyline springs to mind) was pretty much the kiss of death. Still, for all that, the book made it to issue #126.
    • Justice League of America Vol. 2 (2005), the current series, has ticked 55 issues as of this week.
    • Total: A stunningly symmetrical 555 issues. Which makes you wonder why they didn’t just call the first issue of the current series issue #501…. But the next round number for the restart game would come if they changed issue 100 to issue 600. Again, there a slew of other spin-off titles I could include here – Justice League Task Force, Justice League Quarterly, Extreme Justice (no, really), JLA Classified, etc. But all of those ran concurrently with the main book, and therefore, do not count as the ongoing title for purposes of my calculations.

    Justice Society of America

    Here’s something most folks don’t realize – there was never a Justice Society of America series in the Golden Age of Comics. The team existed in the pages of All-Star Comics, came back in the first Justice League of America series, enjoyed a run in Adventure Comics and were featured in a few one-shots and miniseries, plus frequent appearances in All-Star Squadron, before DC decided to put the oldsters out to pasture. In 1991, though, they brought them back with…

    • Justice Society of America Vol. 1 (1991), a miniseries set in the Golden Age that ran for 8 issues. The book was obviously a test run for an ongoing series, as the time-lost heroes were soon brought back to the DCU in the pages of the Armageddon: Inferno miniseries, and rewarded with an ongoing…
    • Justice Society of America Vol. 2 (1992). This ongoing wound up lasting only 10 issues, despite really fun scripts by Len Strazewski and wonderful artwork by the late, much-missed Mike Parobeck. This was still a couple of years before Mark Waid’s Flash reminded the world that it was okay to have fun in your comic books. After the success of JLA though, DC was taking a hard look at all its teams, leading to…
    • JSA (1999). This was the first successful ongoing series starring the JSA as a team. (It’s important to note that, I think – in the original Golden Age stories, the JSA segments were usually little more than a framing story for individual tales or team-ups between two of the members.) This lasted 87 issues before Infinite Crisis and a reboot…
    • Justice Society of America Vol. 3 (2006) is currently on issue 48.
    • Total: The world’s first superhero team has totally a shockingly low 153 issues in its decades-long existence. If they wanted to renumber, issue 95 could be issue 200, but it hardly seems worth it, does it?

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is my worst nightmare. So many miniseries, one-shots, and spin-offs… the challenge, you remember, is figuring out what book was the “official” successor to the original Wolverine comic book at any given time. Sooooo…

    • Wolverine Vol. 1 (1987) was a miniseries. Lasted 4 issues. So far, so good.
    • Wolverine Vol.2 (1988) was the character’s first ongoing, and it lasted 190 issues. This took us to 2003, when the trend of restarting with a new #1 for no damn reason was in full swing, but at least at this point, it was still simple to keep track.
    • Wolverine Vol. 3 (2003) was the Marvel Knights relaunch, although it bounced back to the Marvel Universe proper fairly quickly with issue #74, the title was changed to Dark Wolverine, where it lasted until it was cancelled with issue #81. Here’s the tough part – do I count those last seven issues towards the through-line? Logan wasn’t the star of the book, but at the moment, it was the most high-profile Wolverine title, much more than the spin-off book Wolverine: Origins, which arching down towards the end of its 50-issue run. Since it kept the numbering and there wasn’t an obvious “main” title at this point, I’m going to count those seven issues, but its’ easily up for debate.
    • Wolverine Vol. 4 (2010) has so far chalked up 6 issues (again, I don’t count .1 comics for the total). I don’t count Daken: Dark Wolverine, even though it’s ostensibly the continuation of the previous title, and I’m not going to count the ongoing Wolverine: The Best There Is because it’s a stupid friggin’ title. Also, about all the other one-shots, minis, and spin-offs? If I haven’t mentioned it so far, it don’t count. So…
    • Total: 281 issues. If Marvel wants to renumber (and we know they always do) they could turn issue #25 of the current series into issue #300 easily. Of course, they’re also claiming they’ve already published issues #900 and #1000, so what the hell?

    Almost done my friends, but there’s one more way I’d like to look at this experiment. So far we’ve only looked at superhero comics, which is perfectly fair, since for the most part those are the books that have been (more or less) continuously published for the longest time. But there are others – several comics for kids that have stood the test of time. Through six different publishers – Dell, Gold Key/Whitman, Gladstone, Disney Comics, Gemstone Publishing and now Boom! Studios, the four main Disney titles have kept their numbering consistent, which is awesome, because otherwise we never would have gotten the chance to read Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #700. And I hope and pray that when Marvel inevitably takes over these books in a few years, they keep the original numbering. It’s a historical thing at this point. But their contemporaries have also bounced from one publisher to another, and they’ve restarted. So let’s look at the two longest-running, still-published, non-Disney cartoon comics…

    Scooby Doo

    The biggest problem in calculating the issue title for the first canine sleuth is the fact that nobody seems capable of deciding if his name is hyphenated or not. The book, with different subtitles, has been both Scooby Doo and Scooby-Doo at various points. For the sake of this, I’ll treat them as if they were the same.

    • Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Vol. 1 (1970, Gold Key Comics). The first title based on the Hanna-Barbera hit lasted just 16 issues, but that didn’t mean he was going away.
    • Scooby Doo Mystery Comics (1973, Gold Key Comics). Scooby’s second title lasted 14 more issues. At this point, Gold Key restructured and shed a lot of the classic licenses, at which point Scooby and the Mystery Machine gang began bouncing from one publisher to another like a superball.
    • Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Vol. 2 (1975, Charlton Comics). First, Charlton took over the license and added 11 issues to the count.
    • Scooby-Doo Vol. 1 (1977, Marvel Comics). Then it bounced to Marvel, where it got a hyphen, lost the subtitle, and ran for 9 more issues. Then, evidently, Scooby took the 80s off, because the next time he starred in a comic was…
    • Scooby-Doo Vol. 2 (1992, Harvey Comics), which lasted just 3 issues before Harvey Comics went through their own restructuring and went away.
    • Scooby Doo Vol. 3 (1995, Archie Comics) lost the hyphen and added 21 issues. At this point, Warner Brothers realized it owned both the Hanna-Barbera characters and a comic book publisher, so the title moved to…
    • Scooby-Doo Vol. 4 (1997, DC Comics), where it lasted a hefty 159 issues, Scooby’s longest home ever. Last year, though, DC evidently decided they didn’t want high numbers on kids’ books, so the title was cancelled and replaced with…
    • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? Vol. 3 (2010, DC Comics) where it is currently on issue 7.
    • Total: 240 issues so far, which means issue 17 could actually be 250, if they wanted to play that game, which they probably don’t. Still, let’s give the Scoobies credit. I’m pretty damn sure they are the only comic book title ever to be published by Marvel, DC, and Archie, the three oldest publishers still in business… not to mention picking up classics like Gold Key, Charlton and Harvey along the way. There’s something cool about that.

    Looney Tunes

    Let’s close this off with one more classic. This is a lot simpler than the Scooby gang.

    • Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Comics (1941, Dell Comics). The original title gave shared space to the Looney Tunes’ sister series of cartoons, Merrie Melodies. These days, though, the MM shorts are basically considered a subset of Looney Tunes anyway. With issue #108, this book dropped “Comics” from the title, and with #166, it dropped “Merrie Melodies.” It ended in 1962, having racked up 262 issues.
    • Looney Tunes Vol. 2 (1975, Gold Key Comics). I’m not sure why Gold Key chose to re-start Looney Tunes with a new #1 – they’d maintained the numbering for the Disney comics, after all. Maybe it’s because, unlike the Disney titles, there was a 13-year gap between series. Anyway, with issue 31 Western Publishing (the parent company) ended the Gold Key line, but continued the books through their Whitman imprint. Looney Tunes ended in 1984 with 47 issues. The Looney Tunes went away for a while, at least in the states. There were foreign editions being published, but I’m not counting those because they don’t really contribute to the through-line of the American series, the American and foreign editions frequently reprinted each others’ material, they ran concurrently, I have no way to get a comprehensive list of foreign versions, and I want to go to sleep sometime tonight.
    • Looney Tunes Vol. 3 (1994, DC Comics) is the current series, currently at issue 196 and still going. I’m a bit surprised DC didn’t restart this book at the same time as Scooby Doo, and I suspect that’s largely because it’s so damn close to 200.
    • Total: 505 issues of Looney Tunes, which is pretty damn impressive. It’ll be interesting to see if issue #200 is followed by #1 or #201.

    I could keep going, friends, but I think I’ve taken this topic as far as it can go. If you want to calculate any other series yourselves, by all means, feel free to do so and please, tell us your conclusions in the comments. Me? I’m putting the calculator away and taking a break.

    Favorite of the Week: March 16, 2011

    This one was hard. There were a lot of good comics, but no really great comics in my stack last week, and that seems to be when it’s most difficult to crown a winner. Ultimately, I’m giving the crown to a relaunched book that showed a lot of promise, Xombi #1. In this return of an old Milestone character, we meet a hero who can’t die, age, or get hurt thanks to a swarm of nanomachines in his body. Despite his highly technological origin, he’s surrounded by mysteries of the weird, bizarre allies, supernatural foes, and some great Frazer Irving artwork. This book was just a hair on this side of Vertigo-esque, while still being something that could easily interact with other titles in the DC Universe. I like what John Rozum did with this first issue, and I’m looking forward to more.

    Shameless Plug of the Week:

    You may have missed my announcement elsewhere, but my first novel is now back in stores! Well... online stores! For your Kindle or other e-reader type device! If you've never read Other People's Heroes, or if you want to read the new (expanded!) edition, now's your chance to get it for a measly $2.99. But it from the Amazon Kindle Store, or get it for every other kind of e-Reader at Smashwords.com!

    Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Silvermeteu's Avatar
      Silvermeteu -
      I just caught up on this series of EBI. Very interesting stuff. It's an interesting time for you to do this work too, as I am an avid Iron Man collector and while the series was just re-numbered to #500 a month or so ago, I did the count and realized that Marvel sort of ignored the last 2 issues of Iron Man: Director of Shield, as they were repurposing that title into War Machine: Weapon of Shield (which, oddly enough, started with War Machine: Weapon of Shield #1). So while the celebration of Iron Man 500 was a month ago, technically we hit that Milestone a few months ago.
    1. Blake Petit's Avatar
      Blake Petit -
      Something similar happened with Hulk... the math didn't quite add up.

      And we renumbered Thor to 600 by ignoring the fact that the book went back to its original title, Journey Into Mystery, for a while in the 90s. But now, that title is again becoming Journey Into Mystery... STILL IGNORING those 90s issues...

      There's a reason I didn't number crunch Iron Man, Hulk, or Thor.