Alternate Cover: the 500 club

With Uncanny X-Men reaching its 500th issue, James looks at other Marvel comics that can lay claim to the same achievement...

This week, Uncanny X-Men became the last of Marvel’s classic line-up to hit its 500th issue. With comics like Incredible Hulk and Iron Man having been subject to various reboots and renaming shenanigans, the next-highest title with a continuous run of both content and numbering is way, way, down with the 1991 X-Men series (recently re-titled X-Men: Legacy) which recently crept over the 200-issue mark. After that it’s a long drop to Ultimate Spider-Man, Daredevil and Thunderbolts, all of which are themselves still in their early 100s.

So, in short, it’s a rare thing for a comic to reach its 500th issue – so here I take a look at the other few Marvel titles that made it.

Avengers #500

The first part of the controversial “Avengers Disassembled” storyline saw Brian Bendis take over the writing on Avengers, specifically so that he could bring the current era to a close. A series of devastating events befall the Avengers, and the group is shaken to its very core – Ant-Man dies, She-Hulk goes nuts and rips the Vision in half, killing him, and Iron Man appears to relapse into alcoholism right in front of the UN. Things only get worse from then on. In subsequent issues, it’s revealed that the Scarlet Witch is behind everything we saw happen, and the story feeds directly into a relaunch of the title, now called New Avengers. Even today, the ramifications of it are being felt in the Marvel Universe. It wasn’t a popular comic at the time, but as far as being important, nothing else on the list comes close to having the staying power of the events of Avengers #500.

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Does it count?

Mostly. Avengers, along with Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Captain America did have a brief re-launches and re-numbering during the 90s when Marvel outsourced the books to Image for a 13-issue run each, and then re-launched all four series from new #1 issues shortly after. Most of the books eventually reverted back to the classic numbering upon reaching their 500th issues, including Avengers.

Amazing Spider-Man #500

Landing around the middle of J. Michael Straczynski’s uneven run on Amazing Spider-Man, the 500th issue of what is arguably Marvel’s flagship title featured Spidey taking a trip through time, given the chance to re-live moments of his past, and being forced to re-live many of his classic struggles as a result – as well as experience a few future ones. John Romita Jr. provided pencils. Ultimately, the story would prove rather inconsequential, but as a stand-alone issue, it’s a pretty fun one that fully embraces the anniversary numbering by providing a mostly self-contained, nostalgic story worth picking up for any Spider-Man fan.

Does it count?

Again, mostly. Amazing Spider-Man did itself get re-launched and re-numbered in the late 90s – nothing to do with the Image deal this time – but, as before, the old numbering was returned to the series specifically for the 500th issue.

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Fantastic Four #500

Mark Waid was writing Fantastic Four when #500 rolled around, and it coincided with the completion of perhaps his biggest arc, “Unthinkable,” in which Doom repeatedly and devastatingly bested the Fantastic Four, crushing the Team’s resolve and sending Franklin Richards – Reed and Sue’s 4 year-old son to Hell. The artist was the late Mike Wieringo, turning in some of the best work of his career, and reaction to the book was strong. Being the final chapter in a longer arc, it doesn’t work incredibly well as a single issue, though it was widely recognised as a great conclusion to a great story – and that’s certainly one way to make an anniversary issue feel special.

Does it count?

You know about the Image deal by now – As with Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four was also returned to its original numbering with the #500th issue.

Hilariously, this makes Uncanny X-Men the ONLY Marvel title to make it to #500 without involving a reboot or renumbering gimmick! But wait! It’s not as safe a bet as it sounds. From 1970 to 1975, Uncanny X-Men was not selling enough to make creating new stories profitable – but reprint editions cost far less to produce! Thus, issues #66-#94 contained reprints of old issues, and Uncanny X-Men casts doubts on its own claim to #500 issues as a result. Shame. For those interested, my review of Uncanny X-Men #500 is available on my comics review site.

Honourable Mentions:

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Daredevil (vol. 2) #65.

While it isn’t numbered as #500, “Daredevil (Vol. 2) #65” was acknowledged as the title’s 500th consecutive issue and featured a number of guest artists from DD’s history, as well as including a Stan Lee-penned backup strip.

Thor #500

While I believe might technically be the first Marvel comic to reach #500, it was re-named and re-purposed as a Thor title well into its original run – the title was originally launched as Journey into Mystery and after Thor’s “death” returned to that naming with issue #503.

James Hunt’s Alternate Cover will be back next Monday; read his last one here.