So You Want The Complete History of Marvel Comics

As my long-time true believers know, the original purpose of Comic Book Herald was (and remains) to catalog a coherent reading order for newcomers, relapsed old-timers (I mean… wise-timers), and just about anyone looking for a way in.

I make an ongoing effort to provide such a solution in my Complete Marvel Reading Order Guide, and to a degree, in my Best Comics on Marvel Unlimited.

That said, this is pretty clearly a work in progress, and even at full strength (see also: me getting fired and devoting myself fully to the not-for-profit sector here) it’ll be limited in scope.

And let’s face it: if you’re like me you want to read it all!

So here’s a list of the best OTHER places to turn to fulfill all your completist urges. These sites are doing the StarLord’s work, and while I certainly hope Comic Book Herald will hold a firm, maybe gripping a little-too-tightly place in your heart, I understand you may look for love elsewhere. It’s cool. I’m just… what? No, I’m not crying, these are just… haha no really must be my contacts, how {sniffle} weird…

Option 1:

This one seems like the most obvious way to get the history of Marvel comics, but of course, things are not always as they seem.

The closest you can get to a complete reading order, is browsing a comic character/group/series and filtering by publication date.

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Comics–>Characters–>Captain America–>Filter–>Specified Date

So will allow you to quickly filter all the comics featuring the Avengers, or Captain America, or whomever, according to when they were published.

This is decent, but you’ll quickly notice a few flaws.

For starters, this only works if you only want Avengers comics, and don’t much care what’s going on in, say, X-Men at the same time in Marvel history.

The other weird part is that you’re at the whim of Marvel’s publish date data entry, and well… it can make for some confusing looking results. For example:

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Avengers #122 listed before Avengers #1 when filtered by oldest? Wha…Huh?

Play around with it yourself as you like. It will work for simple sorting, such as if you know the series you want to read, and basically know what issue you want to start with. Otherwise… we’re gonna need a bigger nerd.

Option 2: Travis Starnes’ Complete Marvel Reading Order guide.

By all accounts, The Complete Marvel Reading Order website is my number one direct competitor.

And by all accounts, this site literally knocks my socks off. I’ve been at risk for pneumonia since I first visited it.

Now, is it missing my personal flair and penchant for side-splitting shared laughs? (Remember? All the laughs we’ve shared? Come on, there has to be at least one time. No? Not a single time? Jeez. What a kidder you are! We’re doing it again! Just look, you and I, and the words on the page and the laughing!)

Of course.

But if you really want a deep dive into Marvel history, going issue by issue since Stan & Jack (Or is that Jack & Stan?) launched Marvel’s first family, this is your site. As far as I can tell, it currently has a complete reading list up through 1990. Which is crazy. It’s like Kanye comparing himself to Steve Jobs crazy. Just off the charts.

Option 3: Wiki Wiki

This one might come across as kind of a “well, duh” bit of snark, but it’s actually one of the most practical ways to get up to speed with more recent Marvel comics.

If you’re into all the biggest and best crossovers from the era, the publication history of Marvel crossover events is perfect. It’s not quite up to the task of answering questions like “Wait, should I read Annihilation before Civil War, even though they mention Civil War during issue #4 of Annihilation?” but it’s a good starting point.

The Marvel Universe wiki reading order offers more of an issue by issue selection, that on the surface looks like just about everything a completist might need.

I haven’t used this personally, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but from a quick once over, this appears to be a nice resource. Probably particularly useful if you have a Marvel Unlimited account, as this resource doesn’t necessarily tie in to the trade collections available for each issue.

Option 4: The Marvel Chronology Project

There’s attention to detail, and then there’s the Marvel Chronology Project.

It’s occasionally a bit of a challenge to navigate (this is just a hugely vast undertaking so there’s oodles of info to parse), but this site might be the single best for anyone looking for issue by issue reading starting with the 2000’s.

I highly recommend starting with the Marvel calendar portion of the site which begins in 2000. It proceeds to identify what DAY & YEAR each comic should logically occur, which is like out of this world cool if you’re a chronology geek (hand raised high).

Only gripe I have here is that the text blurbs are not always spoiler-free in their attempts to explain the chronological placement of a comic. To be fair, this is nearly impossible to achieve, and you can easily just avoid reading the explanatory text.

Bonus Option That Sort of Changes The Question 5: The Untold Story

If you’re looking for a different sort of Marvel history, namely a behind-the-scenes look at how Marvel has come to be, I highly recommend Sean Howe’s recent Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. It’s a really great, meticulously documented history of Marvel, with an occasionally fascinating glimpse into the business side of comics

There are definitely more options out there, but those are the ones that jump out to me. Have your own personal favorite? Do what feels right to you in the comments.

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