Comic Reading Orders
In 1961, the Marvel Universe was born with the introduction of the Fantastic Four. What has since been referred to as the Marvel Age of Comics, this time period introduced the concept of a shared universe with superheroes who, while heroic, had personal problems as big as the colorful villains they battled.
With more than a half century of comic books to choose from, the Marvel Universe is as dense as it is wide. From the dark alleys of New York City to the furthest reaches of the cosmos, there are stories to tell in every corner of this universe. The goal of our Marvel reading order guides is to help readers both new and old make sense of it all. Because of the size and scope of Marvel's history, these guides will be more of a work in progress than their cinematic counterparts. Before you dive in, we invite you to read the following FAQ below to learn more about this universe and how our guides work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How are these guides organized?
A: At the top level these guides are split apart according to major historical and publishing eras. For example, there are periods in comic book history known as the Silver Age (1961-1970) and the Bronze Age (1970-1985). In more recent times, Marvel has had a number of soft relaunches that involve new series and creative teams, including Marvel NOW! (2012-2015) and All-New, All-Different Marvel (2015-2018). We’ve broken apart our guides into these different eras to make it easier for you to pinpoint specific moments in Marvel's comic book history that you want to explore.
Q: What will I find in each guide?
A: In each guide you will find a multi-page list of every ongoing series, limited series, and one-shots from that publishing era in an order that we think makes the most sense from a continuity perspecive. We’ve also included brief descriptions of major storylines, events, and character introductions, as well as covers from some of Marvel's most popular issues.
Q: How did you decide upon the specific order each book or series goes in?
A: In some cases there is a very clear order in which things take place, like during a major crossover event. In other cases, there are multiple storylines happening simultaneously or around the same time with no reference or relation to each other. For your enjoyment, we’ve tried to keep as many consecutive issues in one series together as often as possible while avoiding continuity errors. We personally have found it is easier to follow along and get invested in story arcs and characters when you don't have to jump in between dozens of different series at the same time as you would if you read every series in release order.
Q: If Marvel has been telling continous stories with these characters for over half a century, how come Spider-Man isn't a 70 year old man?
A: Great question, and often one of the most confusing aspects of comics for people who are new to them. There are a few things to keep in mind. One, ignore references to dates and real world events as much as possible. Marvel comics are always supposed to be taking place in the present when you're reading them, so you shouldn't let outdated references get in the way of the story.
More importantly, these comics work on a sliding time scale. What that means is that time moves slower in the Marvel Universe than it does in the real world. The general rule of thumb is for about every five years of comics, one year of time has passed in the Marvel Universe (with a few notable exceptions). So, while almost 60 years have passed in the real world since the first appearance of Spider-Man, only about 10-15 years have passed in the story. So, Peter Parker who was in high school in comics released in the 1960's is only considered to be in his late 20's or early 30's in comics released today.