Superman Legacy Numbering
Earlier this week there was a conversation in the Superman Homepage Facebook group about legacy numbering for the Superman title. Legacy numbering is when they add up all of the relaunches of a title to see what number a book would be at if there was never a volume two, three, etc. I believe the poster noted what the legacy number for Spider-Man current is and wondered where Superman was at. I wrote a long, researched, thought-out reply, which of course was disregarded because it’s Facebook and that’s not the kind of discourse that works there.
Superman #1 was published in June 1939. It was a quarterly book, but soon went every other month, and then finally monthly around issue 100. It’s hard to tell exactly when since sometimes books were late and there is a missed month. The book ran for 423 issues finishing for Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1986 with the Alan Moore, Curt Swan, & George Perez What Ever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow part one. Cover date September 1986. This wasn’t the end though. The Adventures of Superman picks up the numbering with issue #424 cover date January 1987. They dropped “The” with issue #627. This ran until issue #649 coinciding with Infinite Crisis this time. The title becomes Superman again from #650 until New 52 came and renumbered everything, ending with #714. 714 issues with 226 of them being “Adventures” and 488 being Superman.
Concurrently with The Adventures of Superman we had Superman volume two. A new number one given to John Byrne to mark the relaunch and Post-Crisis Superman. Superman volume two ran from Crisis to Crisis ending with issue #226 (same as there were issues of Adventures of). It ended the same time as volume one went back to being just Superman.
The New 52 brought a new Superman and a new Superman #1. Volume three launched in 2011 and ended in 2016 with an appropriate issue 52.
Rebirth brought us our fourth Superman #1. The Pre-Flashpoint Superman met up with the New 52 Superman at the end of the last volume and with this became the one true Superman. He also lost the collar. Eventually during this run they would merge the histories between the two. This volume is where we get the image above. Superman volume four #34 celebrating 800 issues. During this time Superman was shipping twice a month. Volume four ended in 2018 with issue 45.
Bendis brought us our fifth and latest Superman #1. Two years later we are now at issue #25. Three more issues have been previewed with #28 being the end of the Bendis run in December 2020.
Now I’m guessing the issue 800 wasn’t counting either Superman volume two or The Adventures of Superman. But I’d argue they should both count. The Adventures of Superman was always still Superman volume one. It just so happens that it ran concurrent with Superman volume two. No rules against that. If Superman volume four could be twice a month, why couldn’t Superman volumes one and two exist at the same time. So rather than being at 836 right now my count is 1062. Not bad for a book that started 975 months ago.
- 714 in volume one
- 226 in volume two
- 52 in volume three
- 45 in volume four
- 25 in volume five
Now, there are a bunch of issues that I don’t “count”. Both Superman volume two and The Adventures of Superman had zero and 1,000,000 issues. Superman volume three had a zero and 23.1-23.4. They all had multiple annual issues with their own numbers over the years. These issues are why I think all of volume one counts. DC can put any number they want on the cover. The number is meaningless. 1,000,000 wasn’t the millionth issue. How can there be a zeroth issue? What does 23.2 even mean? If you are already picking and choosing what counts and what doesn’t then Superman volume one had 714 issues, not 488. It says it right there on the cover of issue #714.