The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
News of The Flash’s cancellation has led to speculation that the title, whenever it returns, will pick up its original numbering. Considering that Wonder Woman was renumbered last year to reflect the accumulation of all its various incarnations, and Adventure Comics resumed its original numbering as well, Flash might not be the last title DC renumbers.
Today I’ll look at Flash and several other DC titles which could get this treatment in the next several years.
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First, though, let’s consider Wonder Woman. Last year, the 45th issue of WW Vol. 3 was dubbed issue #600, thereby implicitly treating the current series and its predecessor as direct continuations of the original 1942 series. The math was pretty straightforward: Vol. 1 went to issue #329, and vol. 2 went to #226, so that left the 600th issue to vol. 3’s 45th. (329+226+45 = 600.) Volume 2 did have two irregularly-numbered issues, #0 (part of 1994’s “Zero Month,” which the rest of us called August), and #1,000,000 (for DC One Million, naturally).
That last detail tells us we shouldn’t include out-of-sequence numbers — or, if we want to be even more anal, we can assume that those were the only #0 and #1,000,000 issues Wonder Woman will ever have. This is not necessarily true, as we’ll see below; but either way, the outcome for WW is the same.
Wonder Woman’s renumbering also includes only the core series. With WW you might say well, duh, but keep in mind that other long-running features have branched out into separate but contemporaneous titles. While renumbering shouldn’t incorporate Annuals, Specials, or the run of a distinct spinoff, it should include any title which, for all intents and purposes, represents that feature in its ordinary form. As Andy Griffith once said, you can change the name of a rose, but you can’t do nothin’ about the smell.
Anyway, we’ve got enough of a foundation to start the math, so let’s jump into it, shall we?
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THE BIG NAMES
While we hear a lot about DC’s “Big Three,” the Flash and Green Lantern make a strong argument for a “Big Five.,” Those features (along with the Justice League and Legion of Super-Heroes) are all part of what I’ve called DC’s “foundational” titles, in the sense that DC will publish those books lo, unto the end of time. Accordingly, if I expect DC to renumber any more titles, I expect to see Flash and GL at the head of the line.
The Flash. There have been five ongoing Flash series so far, with a sixth likely after Flashpoint ends. They include Flash Comics (1940), The Flash (1959, 1987, and 2010), and The Flash: Fastest Man Alive (2006). Because the original Flash Comics was an anthology (featuring Hawkman, Johnny Thunder, and Black Canary, among others), there was also All-Flash, a Golden Age spinoff for those who just wanted super-speed action.
Anyway, the question of renumbering has come up a couple of times across the various Flash series. Barry Allen’s first solo book picked up the numbering of Jay Garrick’s Flash Comics, and Wally West’s solo title resumed its old numbering after Flash: FMA folded. Wally’s series had #0 and #1,000,000 issues, but again, we’re not counting those. The 2007 continuation of Wally’s series also began with an All-Flash special issue, but just to keep things simple, I am not inclined to count it either. However, I am including the Flash: Rebirth miniseries, because for all intents and purposes, it was “the” Flash book in the absence of an ongoing series.
In simpler form:
1. Flash Comics: 1-104; The Flash ‘59: 105-350
2. The Flash ‘87: 1-230
3. The Flash: FMA: 1-13
4. The Flash ‘87, redux: 231-247
5. Flash: Rebirth: 1-6
5. The Flash ‘10: 1-12
Folding all those series into the original numbering, the upcoming Flash #12 would be #628. If DC is inclined to renumber at the next hundred-issue mark, it would have to wait 72 more issues (i.e., six years) for issue #700. Alternately, settling for issue #400 of the first Barry Allen numbering would mean waiting just 32 issues past the current #12. Finally, if DC wants to get creative and doesn’t care much about whether it can defend the inclusion of Annuals, Specials, Secret Files, out-of-sequence issues, Blackest Night: The Flash, Flashpoint, and/or the Life Story Of The Flash graphic novel, it can reach about 690 issues without much trouble.
Ultimately, though, I don’t expect DC to go for #700 that quickly. I think if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen at the regular monthly pace, with the 2010 series picking up with #13 after Flashpoint.
Green Lantern. We’re currently on GL Volume 4, but unlike Flash, we’re not so much concerned with the first series. Because Alan Scott’s solo title ran for just 38 issues (over about 8 years), it may not have been as big a deal for DC to pick up its numbering in the Silver Age. For whatever reason, Hal Jordan got a new #1 in July-August 1960. Not surprisingly, most of the GL comics published since then have been about Hal and friends, so we’ll deal only with them.
Hal’s first series (1960) was canceled at issue #89. After that, “Green Lantern” became a backup feature in The Flash for several years. The series resumed in 1976 with issue #90, was retitled Green Lantern Corps with issue #201, and ended with 1988’s issue #224. Again Hal got a short feature, this time in Action Comics Weekly, before GL vol. 3 started up in 1990. That series, which switched out Kyle for Hal around issue #50, ended with issue #181 (and included #0 and #1,000,000 issues). Green Lantern: Rebirth followed in 2004, and the current series is at issue #64. Here’s the chart:
1. 1960/1976: 1-224
2. 1990: 1-181 (with #0 and #1,000,000)
3. GL: Rebirth: 1-6
4. 2005: 1-64
By my count, last week’s issue #64 is the 475th issue of Green Lantern since the Silver Age. That puts issue #500 just over two years away, so DC has time to ponder whether it wants to renumber.
Green Arrow. Despite his Golden Age background and Silver and Bronze Age prominence, the first Green Arrow #1 didn’t appear until 1983’s four-issue miniseries (by Mike W. Barr and Trevor Von Eeden). That led not to an ongoing, but to a backup series in Detective Comics, which lasted until the Bat-books changed editors in 1986. Indeed, the success of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight helped facilitate Mike Grell’s GA miniseries The Longbow Hunters, the next title in what people were still calling the “Dark Knight” format.
Publishing notes aside, Grell and artist Ed Hannigan then launched 1988’s Green Arrow ongoing, which for our purposes lasted to issue #137 (with a #0 issue), but which actually ended on the next month’s issue #1,000,000. Ollie died in #101, passing the codename to Connor Hawke; but Ollie came back in 2001’s GA Vol. 2 (or Vol. 3, if you count the miniseries), by Kevin Smith and Phil Hester. The 2001 series lasted 75 issues and was relaunched after a few months as Green Arrow/Black Canary. That, in turn, lasted 32 issues (the last few as simply Green Arrow) and was itself relaunched following the infamous “Rise And Fall” storyline coming out of Justice League: Cry For Justice. The current Green Arrow book, launched in 2010, reaches issue #10 this week. Thus:
1. 1988: 1-137 (plus #0 and #1,000,000)
2. 2001: 1-75
3. 2007: 1-32
4. 2010: 1-10
That gets us to issue #314, which puts the series exactly three years from #350 and a little over seven years from #400.
The Justice League of America. The JLA is a little tricker, because one could argue that the change from Justice League of America to Justice League International was significant enough to warrant keeping the series separate. Although JLI was renamed Justice League America about two years into its ten-year run, I am finding it hard to think of the first issue of that series as the 262nd of Justice League of America. Nevertheless, this is a prime example of DC always publishing a certain feature, and once a Leaguer, always a Leaguer, I guess.
With that in mind, we’re on the fourth JLA series. The third, of course, was the initials-only JLA (1996). Interestingly enough, there have been two #0 issues in the feature’s history: the “Zero Month” jumping-on point used by Justice League America, and the various-artists issue (written by Brad Meltzer) which preceded the current series. That means we should amend the above rule about ignoring out-of-sequence issues, and only ignore the first such issues. I consider JLA ‘06 #0 to be the first issue of the series anyway. Here is the summary:
1. Justice League of America (1960): 1-261
2. Justice League/International/America: 1-113 (with #0)
3. JLA: 1-125 (with #1,000,000)
4. Justice League of America (2006): 0-55
If memory serves, there was some fan discussion about renumbering the current series even before it started, since the first issue of JLA ‘06 would have been the 500th issue of Justice League of America. While that didn’t happen, it makes the math easier: JLA #600 is only 44 issues away.
The Teen Titans. When it comes to renumbering, this feature is almost a victim of its own success. The original series ran for 43 issues (1966-73), plus ten more in 1976-78. As with the Golden Age Green Lantern, though, those 53 issues were soon eclipsed by the mammoth success of 1980’s New Teen Titans. That series (retitled Tales of the Teen Titans with issue #41) ran for 58 original issues before yielding to NTT vol. 2 as part of DC’s mid-‘80s “hardcover/softcover” program. NTT vol. 2 (itself renamed New Titans with issue #50) then ran to issue #130, including a #0 issue. Although the originals were always welcome in the “New” group, NTT’s success made a pretty clear distinction between the two. It would therefore be a little awkward to suggest folding the latter’s numbers into the original’s.
Complicating matters further are two late ‘90s attempts to recruit younger characters. Dan Jurgens’ 1996 Teen Titans series ran for 24 issues with an almost entirely new group of teenaged heroes; and Peter David and Todd Nauck’s Young Justice (1998) ran to issue #55 (with a #1,000,000 issue early on). After that, the Titans universe pretty much split into two tracks: the original set of third-generation heroes, and their fourth-gen successors. For the oldsters, 1999 brought The Titans (preceded by a JLA/Titans miniseries), which lasted 50 issues. Eventually, both Titans and YJ were cancelled in favor of new Teen Titans and Outsiders books. Outsiders was then cancelled and relaunched and Titans was brought back, but the latter has since been revamped pretty radically, using Deathstroke and a band of supervillains.
In this respect, it’s all become a big cluster which doesn’t lend itself to simple renumbering. If you just focus on books called Teen Titans, you get the original group, the Jurgens team, and the current title, none of which have much to do with each other. Trying to consolidate the lineage of New (Teen) Titans is easier conceptually, but how do you count the “Villains For Hire” stuff in the current series? For that matter, where does Young Justice fit? (Personally, I’d like to include it, but it’s a tough call.)
Just to be complete, here’s the Titans chart:
1. Teen Titans ‘64/’76: 1-53
2. New/Tales of the Teen Titans ‘80: 1-58 (-91 in reprints)
3. New (Teen) Titans ‘84: 1-131 (with #0)
4. Teen Titans ‘96: 1-24
5. Young Justice: 1-55 (with #1,000,000)
6. JLA/Titans: 1-3
7. Titans ‘99: 1-50
8. Teen Titans ‘03: 1-93
9. Titans ‘08: 1-23 (-33 after revamp)
Combining all the “Teen Titans” titles gets you to #170; or #225 with the Young Justice issues. Combining all the “New Titans” titles is a little tricker, because including the Tales reprints would be double-counting the first thirty-odd issues of NTT Volume 2. Anyway, the current New Titans issue would be #275 and counting (or stuck on #265 without the “VFH” issues). That sounds about right for a thirty-year-old feature; but regardless, renumbering any or all of the various Titans books raises too many questions. The original concept has changed sufficiently over time that each new series deserves to stand on its own.
The Legion of Super-Heroes. Not least because it has returned to the original-recipe version of the team, LSH looks like a good candidate for renumbering. The feature was a staple of Adventure Comics (with a few appearances in other Superman titles), but it settled eventually in Superboy. That book was later renamed Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, then just Legion of Super-Heroes, and finally (when it entered the hardcover/softcover program a la New Teen Titans) Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes). LSH Vol. 2 (the “hardcover”) lasted 63 issues, giving way to vol. 3’s “Five Years Later” setting. The Legionnaires spinoff was introduced as part of that setting, but both Legion books were rebooted during Zero Hour, adopting a “biweekly” format and keeping their original numbering.
When both LSH and Legionnaires were cancelled, the Legion book itself went on hiatus for a while. Filling the void were two miniseries: the year-long Legion Lost and the six-issue Legion Worlds. After that was another relatively short-lived series, called simply The Legion; and then the whole thing was rebooted a third time (thus, the “threeboot”) under Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. That series lasted fifty issues, but the originals were making a comeback over in Justice League, Justice Society, and Action Comics. Said comeback culminated in the Legion of Three Worlds miniseries, and now we have LSH Vol. 5. Here are the numbers:
1. Superboy/LSH/Tales: 197-325 (reprints thru -354)
2. LSH v.2: 1-63
3. LSH v.3: 1-125 (with #0 and #1,000,000)
4. Legionnaires: 1-81 (with #0 and #1,000,000)
5. Legion Lost: 1-12
6. Legion Worlds: 1-6
7. The Legion: 1-38
8. LSH v.4: 1-50
9. Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds: 1-5
10. LSH v.5: 1-13
Picking up from the Superboy numbering, excluding the Tales reprints, and counting the extra #0 and #1,000,000 issues, yields a current issue number of #720. (Taking out Legionnaires and the three miniseries would yield #615.) That’s about six-and-a-half years away from #800 (or, alternately, eight years from #700). Even though Legionnaires started out (before Zero Hour) telling its own stories, for simplicity’s sake I would put all of Legionnaires in the renumbering mix. As convoluted as the Legion’s history has been, for the most part it’s stayed consistently in one book (Legionnaires and the current Adventure Comics notwithstanding), so renumbering looks pretty simple.
The Doom Patrol. Not much complication here. The DP’s original book took over the numbering of My Greatest Adventure, lasting through issue #121. 1987’s Volume 2 eventually found its way into Grant Morrison’s hands (and then to Vertigo), lasting through #87. Volume 3 lasted 22 issues, John Byrne’s present-day reboot lasted 18, and the current series is set to go through #22:
1. MGA/DP vol. 1: 80-121
2. Vol. 2: 1-87
3. Vol. 3: 1-22
4. Vol. 4: 1-18
5. Vol. 5: 1-22
That gets us up to #270, but at the rate Doom Patrol is going — two 22-issue series separated by an 18-issue one — it’ll take a couple more volumes to reach #300.
Jonah Hex. Of all the series I’m discussing here, this is the one I least expect to see renumbered. However, it is one of DC’s steady sellers, and might get some sales bump from a big anniversary issue.
Back in the ‘70s Jonah left Weird Western Tales for his own 92-issue series, and wandered through a post-apocalyptic future (and a couple of Vertigo miniseries) before finding new life in the current series. While there is every possibility that the latter series will surpass the original’s 92 issues, let’s just see what the numbers say:
1. Vol. 1: 1-92
2. Hex: 1-18
3. Two-Gun Mojo: 1-5
4. Shadows West: 1-5
5. Vol. 2: 1-62
By my count, that would make the current issue of Jonah Hex #182, a year and a half away from #200. That’s an attainable goal, and I give JH an outside shot at renumbering.
Justice League International. Yes, we’ve been over this — but upon further reflection, I wonder if a new JLI series isn’t at least in the talking stages once Justice League: Generation Lost wraps. In fact, DC would have a couple of options for renumbering, because there have been a couple of different JLI series.
The first one, of course, was the post-Legends title which was renamed Justice League International with issue #7, and Justice League America with issue #26. The JLI cast was reunited twice since then, in a JLA Classified arc (which wouldn’t count for our purposes, since it was part of a separate and distinct Justice League book) and in the miniseries I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League. Adding Generation Lost’s 24 issues to JL/I/A’s 113 (remember, don’t count #0) and the six-issue ICBINTJL gets us to #143, only 7 issues from #150 and 57 from #200. It would also leave the main JLA book at #442, or 58 issues from #500.
The other avenue involves the renamed Justice League Europe, whose last seventeen issues came out as Justice League International. That series ended with #67, so adding JL:GL’s 24 issues yields #91, tantalizingly close to #100. However, the big problem with this route is the connection between the old JLE/I and the current miniseries. Although Captain Atom and Rocket Red were associated with the JLE for its first few years, JL:GL has more members from the American branch. Therefore, I’d feel more comfortable with the first option, but I think DC would be more inclined to include the original JLI in a JLA renumbering anyway; and a new JLI series would probably never be renumbered.
BRIGHTEST DAY ALUMNAE
Aquaman. With a new Aquaman series already announced, let’s look at the King of the Seven Seas’ various titles. Vol. 1 lasted a total of 63 issues, including a 7-issue ‘70s revival. Following that were a series of miniseries before Vol. 2 debuted in 1990. That book didn’t last long, but Vol. 3 (written mostly by Peter David) lasted to issue #75. Vol. 4 lasted 57 issues, the last 18 subtitled Sword Of Atlantis.
1. Vol. 1: 1-63
2. Miniseries #1: 1-4
3. Mini #2: 1-5
4. Vol. 2: 1-13
5. Time & Tide mini: 1-4
6. Vol. 3: 1-75 (with #0 and #1,000,000)
7. Vol. 4: 1-57
Note that I am not counting a couple of Aquaman Specials or the Atlantis Chronicles miniseries. Even so, if DC decides to renumber Aquaman, the last issue of Vol. 4 would be #221. It’d give DC seven-and-a-half years (and, as with Doom Patrol, probably two more volumes) to think about #300.
Hawkman. It’s not so much that no one likes Hawkman, but it does seem like he’s best taken in small doses. The character started out in Flash Comics before being revived in 1962. A tryout in Brave and the Bold and a few appearances in Mystery In Space led to his own title in 1964. Of course, he became a regular member of the Justice League, appeared in various short features, and had a three-issue run in the ‘70s Showcase revival; but as far as ongoing series go, I was surprised to see a pretty big gap between the end of Atom And Hawkman in 1968 and the Shadow War Of Hawkman miniseries in 1985. I wasn’t even alive in 1968, but I was in high school when Shadow War came out.
Anyway, from that point, things picked up for the Hawks, albeit in a good-news/bad-news kind of way. A 1986 series lasted 17 issues, and the Hawks returned to the Justice League. However, 1989’s Hawkworld miniseries threw existing continuity out the window. The Hawkworld ongoing debuted in 1990 and ran for 32 issues. Six months after it ended came Hawkman Vol. 3, which (among other things) tried to use Zero Hour as a continuity fix. After Vol. 3 ended, DC put the Hawks in limbo for several years. 2002’s Vol. 4 spun out of JSA, running five-and-a-half years and ending as Hawkgirl.
1. Vol. 1: 1-27
2. Shadow War: 1-4
3. Vol. 2: 1-17
4. Hawkworld miniseries: 1-3
5. Hawkworld ongoing: 1-32
5. Vol. 3: 1-33 (plus #0)
6. Vol. 4: 1-67
It all adds up to issue #183, fairly close to #200 if DC wants to go that way. I can’t see Hawkman #200 doing much for the readership, though.
Firestorm. Even speaking as a longtime Firestorm fan, I think it’s improbable, albeit not impossible, for the character to score a new ongoing series in the wake of Brightest Day. If it does happen, it would be the character’s fourth series since his 1977 debut. The original series ran just five issues, but soon afterwards ‘Stormy got a backup feature in Flash and co-creator Gerry Conway started using him in Justice League of America. A second series, originally called Fury Of Firestorm, debuted in 1982 and ran for a very respectable 100 issues, ending as simply Firestorm. After that, the character made various appearances here and there, eventually being killed off (or so it appeared) during Identity Crisis. That facilitated 2004’s Volume 3, starring Jason Rusch as Firestorm and running for 35 issues. Thus, the first issue of the still-hypothetical Vol. 4 would be #141 — close enough to #150 if DC is trigger-happy; or five years from #200 if it wants to think things over.
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Where would all this math leave these various series? Here’s a rough timeline, with other series’ big numbers for comparison.
2012: Firestorm #150, Jonah Hex #200, Hawkman #200
2013: Green Lantern #500, Detective Comics #900
2015: Doom Patrol #300
2016: Firestorm #200, Justice League of America #600
2017: Flash #700
2018: Batman #800, Superman #800, Wonder Woman #700, Aquaman #300, Green Arrow #400, Legion of Super-Heroes #800, Adventure Comics #600
2019: Action Comics #1000
As I’ve been arguing over the past few weeks, big issue numbers tend to equal stability. By the same token, though, that stability has to be somewhat well-founded. Renumbering Firestorm, Jonah Hex, or Hawkman to issue #200 doesn’t carry quite the same weight as renumbering a title like The Flash or even Green Arrow which has, for all practical purposes, been published in perpetuity across the decades. In fact, it points out that those lower-numbered titles haven’t produced the amount of issues you’d expect from decades-old features. I mean, the Silver Age Hawkman is almost fifty years old and is only one issue closer to #200 than Jonah Hex, a character ten years younger.
So should there be a 200- or even 300-issue threshold for renumbering? Probably. Wonder Woman and Adventure were renumbered because their roots go back to the Golden Age, and besides they are/were pillars of the DC superhero line. Firestorm and Hawkman, as entertaining as they may be, just don’t command that kind of respect. At least not yet.
In any event, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about the less-prolific series being renumbered. In a couple of years, Green Lantern will be eligible for #500, and I’m willing to bet DC makes it happen. A few years after that, JLA #600 and/or Flash #700 may be the last titles renumbered — unless DC has gotten serious about Sgt. Rock….