Hey nerds. Yes, that’s right, I am calling you a nerd. If you read the title of this post and knew what it meant, that makes you a nerd. Welcome to the club, we could use a lot more nerds in the world. I’m Slick Dungeon and I have decided to take on a huge task for myself. I want to read and review every single one of the Marvel 616 comics.
For those of you who don’t know, Marvel 616 is what most Marvel comics fans think of as the “real” or “main” universe Marvel is set in. There are a ton of Marvel universes out there. There is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is a Spider-verse, there are spin-off and not in continuity universes, there is the Marvel Ultimate Universe… well, you get the idea.
I am a lover of comic books. I’m not just a Marvel fan, I like DC comics, independent comics, superheroes, horror, action and all kinds of comic books. If you know comic books at all and anyone walks up to you and says they intend to read all of Marvel 616 the first thing you should say to them is, “Why would you do that?!” A few more questions should pop into your head too and I will cover some of those below.
Why would you do that?!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these books are not worth a read, I am just saying there are a lot of comics on that list. Do you think I am exaggerating? Well then let me put some numbers in front of you because I did look into just how many comics there are. Someone in this Quora digest post asked how long it would take to read all of Marvel. Some friendly people did the math. Here’s a little snippet:
“The first issue of The Official Index To The Marvel Universe suggests that there are 32,000 comics in the last 70 years. Let say you spend 15 minutes reading one comic book; it would take you 480,000 minutes or 8000 hours or 333 days reading non-stop to finish all of them, theoretically speaking.
If you have school or work or/and diffrent(sic) hobbies, it would take longer. I myself started reading Marvel comics in 2012 and I’ve read about 3000 issues, which is one-tenth of the total. You get the idea. ‘Nuff said!”
Now here is the real kicker, that answer was posted in 2014. There have been seven more years worth of publishing since then.
So again, why would I do this to myself? Is it even possible to review every issue? What if there are ones I can’t find? Do characters like Conan the Barbarian count because he technically appears in some 616 books? Does that mean you then have to read all the Conan books for this to count? Why are you going with Marvel instead of DC? Is this the only thing you are going to read from now on? What will your reviews be like? Are you going to do a star system or rank them in some way? How do you decide which ones count as 616? Is there a list to go off? Those are all good questions and for the most part, my answer for now is, we’ll see when we get there but I will answer some of them in this post.
Believe it or not, I do have some answers. First off, the numbers above seem to include all of Marvel, not just 616 so the number is a little smaller than it seems. It’s still huuuuge, it’s just not quite as huuuuuge.
What I want to do is take a deep dive into each of these issues and put them into context. I love the medium of comics and I don’t think they can be read in a vacuum. You can’t read the origins of The Fantastic Four and The Hulk without understanding the cold war and the space race that was going on at the time. The X-Men are best understood as a commentary on the civil rights movement and The Amazing Spider-man is notable for being the first comic book to use a teenager as the main hero. I feel like all of these things are fascinating and I want to take a long look at the whole Marvel universe and see if I can’t bring some understanding to it.
The way comic books are published, they are both influenced by and influence the time they exist in. Partly because when they were originally made, they were meant to be tossed after reading, comic publishers had to be as up to date on current events as possible. As time went by, comics themselves started to influence culture. Do you know what was sent along in care packages to G.I.’s fighting in World War II? Copies of Captain America. That led to soldiers wanting to read comics back home and helped the medium grow and passed along the hobby of reading these books to a new generation.
I want to take a look at the good, like the groundbreaking and pioneering artistry of Jack Kirby, the bad, like the complete retconning of Spider-man in his Brand New Day story arc, and the ugly, like the rampant sexism and lack of diversity from the earliest issues of 616 and deconstruct as much of it as I can. I am as interested in the origins of Daredevil as I am in what happened to Asbestos Man (yes this is a real character that exists in Marvel comics) in the Marvel 616 universe. I want to know it all.
I’ve always been fascinated by history and the history of comic books I find to be especially appealing so I am going to give this my best shot. I know there is a real possibility I won’t ever finish reading, let alone reviewing every single issue but I’ll give it the ol’ college try. And believe it or not, I do have a bit of knowledge on the subject. Certainly, there are people who know more about history and people who know more about 616 than I ever will. But I do believe I can bring some value to those interested in the two topics who would like to know more.
Now to answer some of my own questions.
Is it even possible to review every issue?
The short answer? Probably not. There are going to be issues that I miss that I will have to circle back around to if and when I can. Plus there are new stories published all the time that would count so to get completely caught up is a Sisyphean task and I doubt I can fully accomplish it. I am sure as Hulk gonna try though.
What if there are ones I can’t find?
If they are completely out of print I am probably out of luck because they would be difficult (although not impossible) to track down. The good news is that we live in the digital age so the majority of them are accessible.
Do characters like Conan the Barbarian count because he technically appears in some 616 books? Does that mean you then have to read all the Conan books for this to count?
My opinion on this is as follows, the comics in which Conan appears in that are within 616 I would have to read. I would only go back to read all of the Conan books if it was vital for me to understand what is going on in the issue I am reading.
Why are you going with Marvel instead of DC?
While I love DC comics and am a huge fan of Superman, Batman, and The Flash, in particular, this comes down mainly to pricing. I have a Marvel Unlimited subscription which gives me access to tons of Marvel content. It will be a very long while before I have to go outside of that app to get a Marvel comic that counts in the 616 continuity. I don’t have a DC Universe subscription and even if I did, the ordering of the DC Universe is a lot more confusing than Marvel is if you start from 616. I’m not saying I would never try to do this for DC but it would be a much greater challenge both time-wise and financially.
Is this the only thing you are going to read from now on?
Absolutely not. I will still read plenty of other books and comic books. A lot of it will still show up on this blog. I can’t live without reading other things. Also, I am sure that there will be times when I just need a breather and will have to step away from Marvel for a while. I will also continue to do my movie reviews and RPG advice and all the other stuff I do on this blog.
What will your reviews be like? Are you going to do a star system or rank them in some way?
For each review, I am going to give a summary of what happens in the issue, point out anything significant that happens, like the debut or death of a major character and try to give some thoughts on the issue and anything relevant that might have been going on at the time in the world that would relate. You won’t see a star system because I think tastes in comics are personal. One person might love everything The Blob does while someone else only has eyes for Wolverine. Sure, there will be some that are not made as well or have stories that are just filler and don’t matter to the whole Marvel universe but I don’t think those are necessarily less interesting. I mean, Marvel has villains whose main villainous tool is a pot of paste. To me, Paste-pot Pete is as vital to these comics as Thor but no one is ever going to think he is a great villain. I don’t want to knock off stars and try to figure out where that stuff fits. By the same token, I am not going to do what I consider to be a gimmicky “All Marvel Heroes Ranked” kind of review. I always wonder who gave the author the authority to rank those anyway and a lot of people are going to disagree with any list like that I could write. You also won’t see anything like, “10 Things About Matt Murdock’s Powers That Make No Sense”. When it comes to comic books, I like to revel in the absurdity of it all. To make a long answer longer, you can expect a thoughtful review about each issue that I read with whatever context I can add to it and that’s pretty much what each one will be. I probably won’t be doing my quirky intros and sign-offs with these, other than for this post either. I want to come at these from a critical angle and do them justice.
How do you decide which ones count as 616? Is there a list to go off?
This is probably the most difficult decision I had to make when deciding to do this. First of all, there are several ways you can look at Marvel continuity. You could consider it in a chronological manner where the earliest events in the cosmos are read first and we are reading about entities such as The Living Tribunal or Galactus. While that might be an interesting approach it did not seem right to me. Second, there are a wide variety of websites that put 616 in some kind of order, be it publication date, character appearances, or some other method. The majority of Marvel comic book fans can agree on one thing when it comes to 616. The start of it is with the first issue of The Fantastic Four written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. It’s a groundbreaking issue that broke the mold on comics at that time and changed storytelling in this medium forever. Therefore, I wanted the first issue I reviewed to be that one so I wanted to choose a list that began there.
I thought about using the list from The Comic Book Herald which is a great website and has some handy quick start guides but didn’t seem to just list everything in order for 616 so it was not quite what I was looking for.
I looked at a few other sites too but the one I settled on had exactly what I needed. The Complete Marvel Reading Order is just that. It begins with the first issue of The Fantastic Four and that is where I wanted to start. It also has the added benefit that if there are comics with multiple stories in them, such as Journey Into Mystery or Tales to Astonish and some of those stories don’t relate to 616 they won’t be listed. This should shave a fraction of my reading time off and when we are dealing with a list this massive I will take whatever help I can get. So if you want to follow along with me that is the list I will be going off of.
So what do you think? Am I starting a pointless fool’s errand or do you think this could be worthwhile? Let me know in the comments and Make Mine Marvel!