In which I tell you more about how I sort out my Superman comics than you ever wanted to know.

§ November 16th, 2010 § Filed under blogging about blogging is a sin, peanuts, superman, triangle numbers § 21 Comments

So thanks to pal Nat for dropping by yesterday’s post, being a good sport, and laying down some Peanuts knowledge re: the production of those Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedias. If you missed that comment, go back and check it out. Thanks, Nat!

Another comment, from reader “Masonic Youth” (good nickname!) mentioned a book I hadn’t heard of before, called Will Eisner’s Gleeful Guide to Living with Astrology, a picture of which you can find on this Amazon listing. I didn’t find a whole lot of information about it via the Googling, though Gary Groth describes the book as “satirical” in this appreciation of Eisner’s work. Would kind of like to see a copy of this…or maybe Mr. (or “Ms.” or “Mrs.” — I shouldn’t presume) M. Youth, who has a copy, would be nice enough to give us a brief description of the book. (You can see images and descriptions of some of the other books in this series…but not the astrology one…on this page under “Humor.”)

Boy, that was a whole lot of links squeezed into a small space. Let me try to talk about something that doesn’t involve linking anything. Well, maybe one thing.

So, on Monday, I was recovering from some follow-up root canal business, and I decided to sort through and put away some comics that’d been piling up in the “Hey, Mike, log these and sort them into your Vast Comic Archives someday” boxes that occupy a corner of the bedroom. I’ve actually been doing this on and off as I’ve been finding the time over the last few weeks, putting away some Hulks here, some Justice Leagues there…and finally, I decided to tackle the Superman books.

Now, here’s the thing about the Superman books, particularly the (for the nerdy) post-Crisis (or for the non-nerdy) mid-1980s and forward run of the series: as some of you may know, the three, sometimes four, and very briefly five ongoing Superman series had “triangle numbers” on the covers, a separate numbering system (presented within a little triangle shape also bearing the year, hence the name) indicating what order the comics should be read in. This ran for little over a decade, starting in the early ’90s and running ’til the early 2000s (and popping up again briefly in the last couple of years). So, those comics I have sorted in triangle-number order, making for ease of rereading in all this copious free time I have to reread long runs of my old comic books.

In addition, at some point during the ’90s, back when I was still young and full of hope, I decided to “chronologically” sort the post-Crisis, pre-triangle number issues as well, even though at that time the books weren’t quite as intertwined as they would be later. And if that weren’t enough, even after the triangle numbers ended, I continued sorting the Superman books into the boxes in chronological order. Because I’m crazy.

Anyway, I realized I was, ahem, a couple of years behind in getting the books sorted into the proper boxes, so without doing a little research I wouldn’t be able to sort out the Superman books in exact order. Oh, sure, I could do them by month, putting all the May ’09 books together and so on, but I wouldn’t know for sure if the May ’09 Action Comics came before the May ’09 Superman comic or not, without having to pop ’em all out of the bags to check the “coming soon/next week/next issue” box, and who’s got that kind of time?

As you may be able to tell, this is stupid. Sure, it made sense when the multiple Superman series were effectively a weekly serial, and you had to read them in a certain order, but nowadays, with one Superman book actually featuring Lex Luthor with a Jimmy Olsen back-up and is totally awesome, and the other Superman book featuring Superman walking across the country and being a smug asshole to the locals, and never the twain shall meet, the need for maintaining the exact release/reading order of the various series as they related to each other is hardly necessary.

Just so you know, I am aware of how obsessive-compulsive this all sounds. Thought I should mention that, the further along into this I get.

But I decided just to make the cut-off issue for this chronological sorting Action Comics #800 (April 2003). There are a few inter-series storylines past that, but I figured that was far enough beyond the constant intertwining of the series to allow for splitting the titles back up into their individual runs without causing too much inconvenience when I’m in my 90s and I decide I want to reread all my Superman comics. Plus, given how often I seem to be able to put comics away at home, I no longer need the additional time-sink of sorting the damned things chronologically. “Title” and “issue number” are enough, thank you.

I pulled myself back from the brink. There’s a happy ending after all! I’m no longer obsessed about comics, he said in his nearly seven-year-old daily-updated comics blog.

In case you didn’t get enough Superman triangle-number talk, and boy, I’m sure you didn’t, I actually made a category for it so you can see what I said about these things the last time DC tried to implement them.

21 Responses to “In which I tell you more about how I sort out my Superman comics than you ever wanted to know.”

  • Chris McAree says:

    Hi Mike. This post made me think about a problem which probably affects a lot of comic collectors: that of how to keep their collection in order. Personally, I’ve gone, as I suspect most people do, for arranging them alphabetically by title. However, I was wondering what you, or any of the other readers of this blog do when a box early in the alphabet becomes overfull? When your Avengers box can finally hold no more do you start a brand new box after finally getting those ten missing issues from the Roger Stern run, or carefully and meticulously move the last ten issues from box “A” into box “B”, box “B” into box “B2,” (cause god knows there are a lot of Batman issues out there!) and so on until you have wasted a couple of hours a finally reached box “Z is for Zatanna?”
    The alternative seems to involve keeping twice as many boxes in an already overcrowded attic, where half of them are considerably less then full. Any advice, Mike and friends?

  • Martin Wisse says:

    My advice: stop buying individual issues and just buy the Essentials/Masterworks.

  • Boredyesterday says:

    You made the right decision.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    No Mike, obsessive-compulsive would be BLOGGING ABOUT IT.

    Chris McAree: I have a heavy office bookshelf (the tough ones with the 1-inch thick shelves) with all my comics in alphabetical order. They sit just like books, spine out, but they go in right-to-left order so I can see the issue number usually at the top left corner. Shuffling them around if one shelf gets full is pretty easy.

  • John Platt says:

    Eisner did a number of those Gleeful Guides. The Astrology one is hard to find, or expensive when you find it. They’re all a lot of fun. Slightly dated, but worth reprinting.

  • "O" the Humanatee! says:

    There are far more important questions about sorting comics than your petty fixation on “triangle numbers.” Namely, when sorting alphabetically, does one use the common-sense title (say, Spider-Man rather than Amazing Spider-Man), the full title as it reads on the cover, or the title shown in the indicia? Should you group all titles starring a character together? Surely, it is an abomination against God to put Detective before Defenders just so you can group it with other Batman titles! Are you going to put Action in among your Lex Luthor comics?

    And what should I do when the title changes mid-numbering? What do I do with “Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes” and “The New Teen Titans”? What, I beg of you? WHAT?

  • Randal says:

    I appreciated the Man of Steel TPB series they were doing for awhile…putting all John Byrne-era Superman in chronological reading order…got up to…what…about volume six or so? I think they were approaching stuff already published in the Exiled TPB anyway, but I would have happily traded up if they ahd continued publishing.

  • g23 says:

    Think that’s maddening, try putting ANY current Marvel books in continuous order.

    Seriously, it’s a big part of why I can’t see myself buying big on Marvel books any more… can’t wrap my head around what happens in what order over more than one Marvel book. Remember when Marvel used to care about that? They’d say, “this happens before issue #X of Y.” They don’t do that any more.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    Randal – I’m dying for them to get past volume 6 in those books. I’m too old and lazy to track down all the individual issues.

  • Ryan R says:

    This is something every comics fan deals with, but I haven’t seen many blog about it. For characters who have multiple titles, like Spider-Man or Batman or the Avengers, I put them in alphabetical order by the character name… It would seem silly to put “Mighty Avengers” in a different box than “The Avengers.” For everything else, plain ol’ alphabetical by title works fine.

  • A.L. Baroza says:

    I do believe the Eisner astrology book was serialized in the early issues of Crazy Magazine. I don’t know if they got to do all 12 zodiac signs, but I remember seeing some of them in the Steve Gerber-edited issues.

  • Masonic Youth says:

    I’ll see if I can’t produce some scans in the next few days.
    But generally the book is arranged by sign. Eisner describes a few features associated with each sign and illustrates them with a gag, a la MAD Magazine or maybe Larry Gonick’s “Cartoon History” series.
    And then at the end of each sign he’s got a big ole matrix, cross-referencing how each sign will get along with others in terms of business relationships, living together, sex and maybe one or two other categories.

    After reading some of these comments I feel like I got a steal finding it for $3!

  • Anonymous says:

    I looked at the Nov 2008 post about Spuerman triangle numbering, and the post included a comment about the Legion of Super-Heroes’ triangle numbering, saying something along the lines of “Remember when the Legion could support two monthly books?” Without commenting on how successful the current Legion venture is, funny how the market actually IS currently supporting two Legion books.

  • I feel your pain, Mikester.
    I also share your nerd.alt.obsessive over-thinking of the filing of the comics into various shades of “order”.

    Not to get too deep into it here (for I’m sure this will become a 10,000 word dissertation / insanity-clause on my blog), but for many a year, I would buy multiple copies of certain titles and issues so that I could cross-reference my filings.

    Why yes, I DO have that whole “cross-time” adventure (Fantastic Four #19, Doctor Strange #53, West Coast Avengers #22…etc…) in a nice tidy bunch – as well as the individual issues in their own alphabetical title-sections.

    And that’s not even the most nerdy example.

    Now, that doesn’t even bring us to how I sort my Doctor Strange collection, since he hasn’t had his own series-proper since 1995.
    Oh… it is a sad, sad glimpse into my fractured psyche.

    I am sorely tempted to go totally digital (as soon as that becomes a viable reality) and keep all my longboxes in a single device.

    Until then, my hernia and mental breakdown are shared with simpatico selves, like you.


  • Tom Foss says:

    I still sort all my post-Crisis Superman comics in Triangle Number order. It’s maddening, because there are several times (both during and after the era of Triangle Numbers) where the order of issues switches, which makes the organization particularly difficult.

    The pre-Triangle issues helpfully still tended to have “check out Adventures of Superman #432 next week” blurbs on the cover, and always had relevant information in the letters page. But I’d be lying if I said that the order issue wasn’t a factor in why I haven’t tracked down most of those “Action Comics Weekly” issues. Heck, I even have every Our Worlds at War tie-in slotted in with the Superman books, seeing as it was at least nominally a Superman crossover.

    In other words, my OCD (at least with respect to comics, and Superman in particular) knows no bounds. Incidentally, on the TPB shelf I still have difficulty deciding if “Doctor 13” goes before or after “Dr. Strange.” Especially since I’m reasonably certain that one of my Doctor Strange trades has “Doctor Strange” on the front and “Dr. Strange” on the side. Is it a “DO” or a “DR”?

  • Ian says:

    oh man I got so obsessive I made a whole website to help me. not kidding. I keep track of my trades using an online database. (

    won’t work for floppies though, but hopefully it will help other people sort their trades. I’m working on getting marvel up soon, but if anyone has any advice about the dc timeline, let me know!

  • Thwacko says:

    Do you file “Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man” issues together with the later “Spectacular Spider-Man” issues, or by P and S, respectively?

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    I empathize. Have you ever tried shelving Acme Novelty Library? The first 15 issues are all out of order and most of them won’t fit in the same box!

  • Ian says:

    couldn’t resist more fanwankery.

    I basically organize my superman reading order by golden age and silver/modern age superman. so the modern origins come in right before the start of the silver age:

  • I think Overstreet gets it right (and that’s not something I say lightly or often) by treating abbreviations and numbers as the words they represent… and I hate Overstreet’s parent company for NOT doing this on our weekly Diamond invoices (to be fair, that’s one of the smallest things I despise about them). Also as per Overstreet style, indicia trumps logo, so that it’s always “Spectacular Spider-Man” (volume TWO, of course, but I don’t expect that there are many here who attempt to keep their comic- and magazine-format books in the same place). For myself, I keep stuff alphabetical by title and be done with it. Certain publishers and thematic groupings are broken out into their own separate alphabets, but that’s primarily a function of the need to break the bulk of it into chunks that are more readily storable. Too many Dell/Gold Key books for the shelving unit? break the Disneys off into their own three long boxes and put ’em somewhere else! That still didn’t work? Remove the Hanna-Barbera books and reunite them with their Marvel and Charlton cousins! Still not good enough? Get another shelf! To get back to the Superman issue… my eventual solution to that was to decide that, Ordway or no Ordway, I couldn’t see why I needed any post-Bicentennial Superman comics. So I dumped them all into backstock (or, mostly, the quarter box) at work, and was free to address more pressing filing questions, like where to find bags and boards for the Marvel Mini-Books.