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For Anal Retentive Comic Fans (As If There Were Any Other Kind)
July 4, 2013 9:30 PM   Subscribe

The Complete Marvel Reading Order is a website representing one man's attempt to figure out what order a picky reader should follow if attempting to reading the entirety of Marvel Comics' in-continuity canon. You can check the entire list, commencing with "Fantastic Four #1" from 1961, or filter on particular titles, characters, or story arcs. The site is highly customizable and also includes an active blog and links to two different site podcasts.
posted by Ipsifendus (30 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is amazing.
And there it is:
http://cmro.travis-starnes.com/detail.php?idvalue=5872

The first Marvel book that I studied and read and re-read. I'd had others, but that one got me hooked.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:56 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lots of covers I recognize as owning. Groovy post, true believer!
posted by vrakatar at 10:39 PM on July 4, 2013


The Complete Marvel Reading Order is a website representing one man's attempt to figure out what order a picky reader should follow if attempting to reading the entirety of Marvel Comics' in-continuity canon.

Obviously that would be a ridiculous project and you'd die before you got even part way though. And still... And still.... To be reading it all like you were there in the 60s watching it all unfold... That would be quite a thing.
posted by Artw at 11:31 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a thing of glory. Inspiring yet depressing to a monumental degree.

>To be reading it all like you were there in the 60s watching it all unfold... That would be quite a thing.

And to get past 1968 and know that it was dying.... such a slow death. Another way to chart the rise and fall is to read Sean Howe's "Marvel Comics: a History" or Jordan Raphael's "Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book."

>Anal Retentive Comic Fans (As If There Were Any Other Kind)

Sad but true. I did a similar anal retentive project for the Fantastic Four, but in far more detail. (Google "fantastic four great american novel" without the quotes). But the further you get from the 1960s the less rewarding the effort becomes. The only way to enjoy comics now is as a collector for collecting's sake, or in an ironic way. But it was not always like that.

Still, for a while there Marvel was truly amazing, and we will always have the reprints.
posted by EnterTheStory at 12:38 AM on July 5, 2013


I recently got a Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription (like Netflix Instant, but for comics) and this is EXACTLY what I needed. Thank you so, so much for posting this.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:24 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I did a similar anal retentive project for the Fantastic Four, but in far more detail. (Google "fantastic four great american novel" without the quotes).

Yeah, I was actually thinking about that when I read this post. I cam across that a couple of years back and was impressed by its Gruenwaldian feel for continuity.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:33 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks. Gruenwaldian really should be a word.

Mark had such a perfect name: "green forest." Continuity, done right, should be like a forest, a place of growth and beauty and ever changing permanence, with endless trees, where winding pathways lead to outlaws and princesses and goblins.
posted by EnterTheStory at 3:42 AM on July 5, 2013


I think the essential problem is that most of the current writers of comics aren't necessarily fans of comics or if they are fans they aren't continuity fans.

Continuity is seen as a straight-jacket that prevents you from telling cool and interesting stories. I think this is further accentuated by many of the top writers working on 4-5 books at any given time which limits their ability to be innovative while also doing their research.

There are obviously exceptions, I felt like Hickman's run on FF, and his work with New Avengers reflects a desire to quit telling the same damned story over and over and to actually break out of the stasis that has the big 2 in it's grip but with both companies basically turning into adjuncts to movie studios and merchandising companies I don't see how they will ever be able to really innovate again, the financial demands towards stasis are just too powerful.
posted by vuron at 6:40 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that once someone tells a new story, somebody comes along and undoes it. Sometimes that story is even 20 years old and that person is even the EIC.
posted by entropicamericana at 6:51 AM on July 5, 2013


Yes! Hickman's Fantastic Four run was one of the greatest runs in comics in years. He picked up on all these little loose threads of continuity that had sprung up over the years and spun them into a series of stories that added to the Fantastic Four mythos while never betraying the past. Scott Snyder's has done something similar to the Batman mythos with his Court of of Owls storyline.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


So. . . why shouldn't we just read the comics in the order they were released? I mean, I'm looking at the list, and there are a few instances where things are out of chronological order, but you could get like 90% of the way to this list by just reading things in order of their publication date.
posted by valkyryn at 7:07 AM on July 5, 2013


I've said it before on MeFi, but there is a certain hurt I get in my brain when I think about certain monumental yet essentially meaningless tasks, like the amount of human labor involved in building the pyramids. This list gives me that same hurt. Sort of deeply intimidating, but completely entrancing and fascinating. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:22 AM on July 5, 2013


EnterTheStory: "Mark had such a perfect name: "green forest.""

Seriously, a guy named "Gruenwald" came up with "green forest" as a name for something? Now that is eponysterical.
posted by adamrice at 7:46 AM on July 5, 2013


Metafilter: Obviously that would be a ridiculous project and you'd die before you got even part way though.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:56 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


So. . . why shouldn't we just read the comics in the order they were released?

Well, imagine that during the first six months of 1975 "Daredevil" features a single story, in 6 chapters, one per issue. During the same interval, "Amazing Spider-Man" does two single-issue stories, then a 3-parter, and then another single issue story, with the 3-part story featuring a guest appearance by Daredevil. There's no real knowing, ahead of reading the damn things, which "happens" first: the 6-part "Daredevil" story or the 3-part "ASM".

Not that anyone actually has to concern themselves with that level of detailed sequential ordering...I mean, in a lot of cases it seems that the editors of the actual books didn't sweat it too much.

Other interesting conundrums: some of these stories involve time travel. Any attempt at a sequential ordering probably goes out the window whenever that happens.

Also...it's theoretically possible that in some cases, an attempt like this to put things "in order" may end up thwarting the intentions of a writer who deliberately related events out of sequence. But I'm pretty sure that's only a potential problem, not a real one.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:59 AM on July 5, 2013


My kids are big DC fans and if I tell them such a project is even possible in Marvel's universe it will make them cry about new 52 even more.
posted by Biblio at 10:24 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ipsifendus hits on the problem with reading in a strict chronology because not every book was advancing on the same timeline especially in the years before Franklin froze the entire continuity into stasis.

It's hard to have a strict chronology when some books like FF early on and Claremont's early X-men are arguably advancing in real time while other books like Spider-Man and Avengers are clearly not advancing.

Add in a crap-ton of soft reboots (such as the near constant de-aging of Peter Parker so that people identify with a younger hero- even though most people that actually read comicbooks probably have kids) and any sort of continuity across the whole universe goes out the window.

Hell even reading a family of comics (like the X-books) gets really problematic once you hit the 90s because of the endless crossovers and the sheer number of books.

At some point in time I should read the books of this chronology up to 1985-1986 or so but basically after Shooter left the idea that continuity matter seems to have disappeared.
posted by vuron at 10:31 AM on July 5, 2013


My kids are big DC fans and if I tell them such a project is even possible in Marvel's universe it will make them cry about new 52 even more.

Yeah, I went looking for a DC equivalent before writing up the post, and there just isn't such a thing. I'm a DC fan myself, so it's disappointing.
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:39 AM on July 5, 2013


DC for better or worse seems willing to toss out continuity that no longer matches the current vision of a character.

Thus we've largely exiled most of the silver age silliness of Batman and the superdickery of Superman, not to mention the tortured continuity of stuff like LSH.

Hard Reboots like CoIE have their place and frankly I'd prefer if Marvel would adopt a hard reboot strategy rather than the current model of soft reboots and sliding timeline under the strict stasis of Franklin. Ultimate Universe had that model but basically it went to shit.

The problem is that both DC and Marvel have gotten addicted to #1s so they like to reboot comics into a new volume constantly because issue 1 always results in a bump in sales. Unfortunately it's made it where it's really hard to enjoy books because after a 24 issues or so you get a new creative team and viola back to ground zero.

And let's not even discuss how the New 52 was a psuedo hard reboot that didn't actually reboot GL and Batman because they were afraid of pissing off the fans of popular books.
posted by vuron at 10:46 AM on July 5, 2013


What I really like is when Marvel launches a new volume so they can get a number one, then says "nah" and goes back to the old numbering. Because the continuity isn't complicated enough for a newbie?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:50 AM on July 5, 2013


> isn't complicated enough for a newbie?

Tell me about it! I came back to comics after 18 years away (this was 2004) and it was like Marvel really, really did not want old fans back. What with Heroes Reborn, Ultimate FF, Marvel Adventures FF, and goodness knows what... all I wanted was to find out what happened to my favorite book since the 1980s. I think I found out. :(
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2013


Well big numbers like x00 and x50 also sell alot so you prefer to go through a bunch of 1s and then renumber for big anniversaries. But considering comics are basically worthless I'm not really sure why people buy more of the 1s and anniversary issues.
posted by vuron at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2013


Can someone explain this Franklin continuum stasis thing? I sort of started to ignore Marvel after the early 90's (and I mean, who wouldn't), and I've been trying to get back into it recently, but my God, those crossovers! Do they get any better? I actually thought Civil War had some good moments, but Secret Skrull Takeover Attack or whatever was just incomprehensible garbage, and I worry that I won't be able to understand the current books without knowing what happened during these big stupid bi-annual "the Marvel Universe will never be the same" events. I'm having a lot of trouble finding the wheat in with the chaff. I did like Bendis's Daredevil run, though.

Anyways, I've actually been considering that I might be better off checking out the Ultimate books instead, so this seems like a great resource for that project.
posted by whir at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2013


The only way to enjoy comics now is as a collector for collecting's sake, or in an ironic way.

I continue to have an abiding unironic distinterested-in-collecting enjoyment of currently published* superhero comics. Yeah, I know the big two will eventually fuck up and retcon away the stories I love. But those stories still exist and can be enjoyed for themselves.

* although I'm always at least a couple of years behind the curve because I tend to buy lots of used trade paperbacks on Ebay...
posted by Zed at 11:26 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically the Franklin Stasis is the following:

1)Franklin Richards is the son of Sue and Reed Richards, he's also got basically unlimited godlike powers to alter reality to the point where major cosmic entities fear him.

2)Comics prior to him showing up were arguably real time especially books like FF although I have a hard time seeing a ton of real time progression with the Avengers family of books.

3) Right around the time when Franklin was a young child, Marvel realized that real time plot progressions wouldn't work for their books because characters getting old wouldn't sell as much as characters staying the same.

4) As a result they've developed a sliding timeline where basically everything that happened from FF #1 to present happened in roughly 15 years.

5)However Franklin doesn't age or if he does he proceeds to regress in age once he gets to about 7-8 years old.

6)The essential supposition is that Franklin is holding the entire universe in a form of stasis so that nothing on Marvel Universe really advances particularly major characters simply aren't aging and technology isn't advancing despite Reed, Tony, etc.

7) However some aspects of the world are advancing which leads people to conjecture that it's mainly the main characters of the setting that aren't aging because Franklin has an emotional connection to them however Joe Average is possibly experiencing reality with a faster flow of time.

8) Basically Franklin is a godlike creature with a fear of growing up and losing his parents so he's basically trapped the entire world in a form of stasis where he never ever ages and he won't ever lose anyone he loves because Villains are essentially toothless.

9)But because he still dreams about them being heroes he has them have all sorts of adventures where they beat the Villains but somehow nobody dies and the villains never really see a lot of jailtime.

10)He sometimes seems to provide himself an avatar that enables himself to experience his world through the eyes of an adult figure, this is a reasonable way of seeing characters like the Sentry.

Basically until Franklin (Marvel) allow people to grow old and have things actually matter in comics Marvel will be essentially trapped into telling stories that don't matter because they are trying to sell the same characters to man children that want their favorite characters to be essentially unchanged from the time period in which they got introduced to comics.
posted by vuron at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wow. So Franklin is essentially the kid from It's a Good Life. I do like how that explains the repetitive nature of comic book stories, plus the fact that nobody stays dead for long.
posted by whir at 11:58 AM on July 5, 2013


To be honest, I've long stopped bothering about whether or not my superheroes will grow old along with me. It's mainly us fanbois clinging to our old heroes who both want them to stay the same and want to see them change/mature, sometimes at the same time. The idea that the Marvel Universe needs a reboot (and how well that worked out for DC), because too many stories have been told is an example of that fanboi thinking.

For a good superhero comic all this shouldn't matter, because 99 percent of continuity can be ignored at any given time; instead of trying to repair stupid stuff like Brand New Day or whatever, just ignore it, stop picking at the scab.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2013


Anybody remember the Marvel Chronological Project from usenet in the early 2000s? Anybody know if it ever continued somewhere else? :)
posted by Chuckles at 3:23 PM on July 5, 2013


The MCP is alive and well! The last update was in May. http://www.chronologyproject.com/mcpedit.php
posted by EnterTheStory at 4:03 PM on July 5, 2013


Yak shaving, big time. That naked yak is beautiful, though.
posted by Gadgetenvy at 7:18 PM on July 7, 2013


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