Understanding Marvel's legacy numbering
A guide to following Marvel's issue numbering through its legacy titles
by John Jackson Miller
In October 2017, Marvel restored the original legacy numbering of its titles — or in some cases, created legacy titles out of a slew of short-running series and single issues. We discuss legacy numbering and its value over the years here, but as a supplement to that and a guide for the future, we here provide Marvel's visual explanations for its renumberings — at least as of late 2017.
It's important to understand that Marvel's goal was not to create a census counting all issues published under a series' name, but rather to restore the post-1960s numbering that most of its legacy titles spent the longest amount of time under. Hence, Captain America gets the credit for Tales of Suspense issues he was not in, because the longest-running Captain America title took over the numbering of Tales and any attempt to force imaginary numbering on a plurality of the series' issues would be counterproductive. The idea, rather, was to pretend that the wave of 1990s-and-later reboots never happened. So, too, there is no error in leaving out the first six issues of Incredible Hulk's original run; they were never presumed to be part of the sequence by collectors during the hundreds of issues the Tales to Astonish-born series ran, and have no more role in its renumbering than the Golden Age Captain America title does.
The cobbling together of legacy titles from bits and pieces, most egregious in the Venom example, is harder to justify as an aid to collectors, as no collector anywhere pretended its raft of miniseries belonged to the same continuous sequence. But given the peculiarities in comics numbering over the years, it's not necessarily that much weirder than Dell's figuring of numbering from its series spawned by Dell Four Color.
The title slides, courtesy Marvel:
Amazing Spider-Man's renumbering is relatively consistent,
preserving the recounting already done earlier in 2012.
Avengers likewise preserves an early 2000s restoration,
but has a lot of reboots to contend with.
Black Panther barely qualifies as a legacy title, no one series having claim to half its run. The swath of issues drawing upon Daredevil's numbering further complicates matters.
Cable's renumberng claimed Soldier X, sacrificing simplicity to get it to #150.
Captain America again preserves the renumbering that got it to a #600,
but there are a lot of series after that to count.
\Note that Captain Marvel's numbering comes from Carol Danvers' titles,
rather than the 1960s Kree warrior's series.
Daredevil actually gave part of its renumbered legacy following #512
away to Black Panther, as seen farther above.
Darkhawk is as straightforward as it gets, though the time gap between series is huge.
Deadpool might have made the most sense starting from the 1997 ongoing series,
which had lasted longer than any of its successors.
Doctor Strange benefits the most from issues he did not star in,
back in Strange Tales. But that decision was first made long ago.
Generation X is simple, but there's another long time gap between series.
Guardians of the Galaxy again has a long time gap with no series,
but building off the 1990 series rather than other appearances was correct.
Incredible Hulk's ten component series are at the edge of what's reconcilable,
and worse includes a one-issue math error that, when Marvel fixed it for the above,
forces the #600-635 numbering to be thought of as #599-634.
Iron Fist cobbles together short-run series for a shortish legacy.
Iron Man preserves the 2010 renumbering issues in place.
Luke Cage is the correct series to get credit for the 1981 Power Man and Iron Fist,
so Marvel gave it the 2016 series, as well.
It was one of the earliest Legacy series to end, at #170.
Master of Kung Fu has an error in its graphic,
as Special Marvel Edition #1-16 should be at the start.
Not Brand Ecch gets the legacy-numbering treatment as a one-shot joke.
Peter Parker subsumed basically all of the "second title" Spidey books,
which all had either "Peter Parker" or "Spectacular" in their names.
Power Pack picked up after the largest gap of all of the Legacy titles,
not counting Not Brand Ecch.
She-Hulk including Hulk is correct in story terms,
but might not be the easiest thing to remember decades down the road.
Tales of Suspense is the cheater in the bunch, since its 99 issues were already given away to Captain America. The 1995 one-shot wasn't counted.
Thor's case is complicated by title renamings not starring the God of Thunder.
It went back to Journey into Mystery for #503-521, which are not counted here.
And then it fissioned off Journey into Mystery #622-655, same deal.
The numbering for Venom is, appropriately, an alien construct—
at least to normal comics numbering conventions!