Since April 2018, DC Comics has made a habit of celebrating characters like Superman and Batman with anniversary events like Action Comics #1000, Detective Comics #1000, Wonder Woman #750, and The Flash #750. These milestones are the culmination of decades of continuous publication, but they didn’t reach those numbers with just one series.
Because comic book titles are often released across multiple volumes with their own first issues, publishing companies usually need to combine the numbering of multiple volumes to achieve the title’s anniversary landmarks, which is exactly what they did for each of the aforementioned titles.
Under its current system, Superman #1000 should hit the shelves in a little over a decade. However, DC’s third longest-running title already hit that landmark four years ago. While DC’s logic would dictate that the series’ most recent issue, Superman Vol. 5 #21 is effectively Superman #832, it’s really the equivalent to Superman #1058 with true legacy numbering.
Originally released in 1939, the first volume of Superman ran for 423 issues until 1986’s Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the entire DC Universe and unified its multiverse on one, singular New Earth. DC Comics used this as a chance to clean house and revitalize many of its flagship properties, and the reigns to Superman were entrusted to legendary creator John Byrne.
After the six-issue Man of Steel miniseries, DC wanted Byrne to relaunch Superman with a new #1, but the publisher didn’t want to lose the legacy numbering of the series’ original volume. To split the difference, DC created a new title called Superman and shifted the original Superman‘s legacy numbering to The Adventures of Superman, starting with The Adventures of Superman #424. These two series were both released as part of DC’s larger Superman publishing plan for almost 20 years, concurrently publishing 226 issues apiece. However, DC made another change as Adventures of Superman approached issue #650.
With that milestone issue, DC canceled Superman vol. 2 — the new series that was created in 1986 — and changed Adventures of Superman‘s name back to Superman so the company could properly market that issue as Superman #650. DC has adhered to this numbering system ever since, even going so far as to release a #800 variant for Superman Vol. 4 #34, which would have been its 800th release under the Adventures of Superman numbering system.
However, that numbering system has one fatal flaw.
To keep the current numbering system, DC must ignore either Adventures of Superman — which continued the original series’ legacy numbering and is still the basis for DC’s legacy numbering — or Superman vol. 2. Since both Adventures and Superman each released 226 issues, it would be simple to count Superman Vol. 2 and ignore Adventures to arrive at the same number, but that isn’t what DC did.
Instead, DC counted Adventures of Superman but not Superman Vol. 2 towards the original Superman series’ legacy numbering. While DC freely counted Superman Vol.3-4 towards the numbering of the issue that would’ve been Superman #800, it didn’t count Superman Vol. 2 towards that total, which seems to defeat the purpose of combining multiple volumes to reach one, mega-milestone anniversary number. As things stand, Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, and Doug Mahnke’s Superman Vol. 4 #8 should’ve been called Superman #1000 in 2016.
Since DC essentially treated its multiple Superman titles as parts of a weekly ongoing narrative throughout the ’90s and early ’00s, it’s easy to understand why DC only counted one of the series that ran during that era towards Superman‘s legacy numbering. However, the fact remains that Superman‘s 1000th issue has already been published. While Superman was still the first DC hero to hit the 1000-issue mark thanks to 2018’s Action Comics, the Man of Steel could’ve hit that milestone a few years earlier.
Even though DC celebrated Action Comics #1000 in 2018, the publisher should've celebrated the Man of Steel with Superman #1000 a few years earlier.