So, I know I’m not the only one (particularly among newer fans) who prefers to buy the trade/collected editions of comics rather than the individual issues. However, as anyone who has given even a cursory glance at such can tell you, it is not particularly easy or intuitive to figure out what order books go in, as they’re rarely numbered, and what with retitling books and changing numbering schemes every few years, it wouldn’t be incredibly helpful even if they were.
I searched the internet for some kind of organized master list that would show both the reading order for individual titles, and for titles relative to each other (desirable because of crossovers, events, and the fact that Wolverine is in Every Damn Thing) but I didn’t find anything really comprehensive. Hence this Endeavor.
To the best of my knowledge, this chart is complete for the main (616) Marvel Comics universe, from the beginning of the Silver Age (1962) through the present, with the following caveats:
- Some miniseries are probably missing. Feel free to point out anything I should have included!
- I don’t follow the “Galactic” titles at all (Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Silver Surfer et al), so their section of the chart is, alas, almost certainly less reliable.
- The “MAX” and “Marvel Knights” imprints both have an inconsistent and dubious relationship to canon, and are also hard to find concrete information about. Sometimes, those labels mean the attached book is not part of continuity, and sometimes they mean “buy this book, older teens/adults! There will be violence, and maybe boobies!”. I did my best.
- Periodically, Marvel will decide to re-do a classic title/event/story arc, to reintroduce it to a new audience and to modernize it because the art and dialogue of the sixties was not of the sort likely to command broad appeal to a modern audience. Example: the two-volume “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” books, which cover about twenty years worth of very early Avengers canon in a modern art style with much less clunky dialogue. I highly recommend them. They do not, however, appear on this chart because they’re occupying a rather nebulous place in re: chronology. (ie, where would I put them? I can’t just sub them in for the actual Avengers books that they’re redoing, but they certainly don’t belong in the same time period as their publication date).
- Releasing *every* issue of a given comic in trade form is a comparatively recent phenomenon. As in, about 2005-present. Before then, most significant story arcs had a trade release, but a fair number of single-issue stories, or even longer arcs that just weren’t that popular, never had a trade release at all. Marvel has recently begun reissuing largely complete collections, under the headings of “masterwork” or “classic” or “essential”; these larger, verging on phone-book sized releases are more inclusive, but since they mostly started those releases with the very oldest material and are working forwards, there are still a lot of gaps in the 1980-2004 range.
The chart was constructed as a google spreadsheet, largely because the html for a table this size and involving hovertext is complicated, and I haven’t worked it out fully yet. The titles of series are organized thematically rather than alphabetically, largely just so I can group related titles together more easily. The books are arranged in columns descending chronologically; that is, the past is at the top and the future at the bottom.
Marvel likes to retitle things a lot, which presents a few difficulties because they also reuse titles, and not always for the same things. In order to try to conserve space, I’ve grouped some non-concurrent related titles together in single columns, when it made sense to do so. (See: Thor, the Mighty Thor, Thor: God of Thunder; all are in the same column, since there’s only one Thor solo title running at any point, they just name it different things.).
Other characters (Wolverine and Spiderman are the worst offenders) have, at times, one or two main titles running concurrently along with a rotating host of subsidiary titles. I’ve grouped them together where it’s possible, but if “Amazing Spider-man” and “Avenging Spider-man” run concurrently (spoiler: they do) they each get their own column.
The other difficulty presented by retitling is when titles are reused for different groups. Example: in 2001, the title “X-men” is renamed “New X-men” starting with issue 114 when Grant Morrison took over as writer. In 2004, however, at issue 157, it was retitled as “X-men”. Simultaneously, “New Mutants” ended its run with issue 12, and the storyline of the characters in “New Mutants” was continued in “New X-men” issue 1. There is no elegant way that I have found to deal with these shenanigans. I can’t just file the Morrison run on New X-men under “X-men”, or only people who already know that this is what happened will find it. The best solution I’ve been able to come up with is to insert notes into the chart that will appear if you hover your mouse over the title with the note attached, explaining that the nature of the book has changed. Any suggestions as to improvements to make in handling this issue are most sincerely welcomed.
The Chart Itself