Marvel Comics turns 80 in August. To celebrate, the company is releasing Marvel Comics No. 1000, which follows its heroes from Day 1 in 1939, long before they became the global entertainment phenomenon they are today.
Each page of the comic will correlate to one year in Marvel history. Along the way, readers will see many of the marquee characters from the mighty Marvel universe like Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, and some less familiar ones, like Blue Marvel, Night Thrasher and the Three X’s.
“This is by far the most complex and complicated and difficult book I’ve ever had to assemble,” Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s executive editor and senior vice president of publishing, said in a conference call with C.B. Cebulski, Marvel’s editor-in-chief. While most comic books are created by one writer and one art team, Issue No. 1000 will have 80 — one team for each of its 80 pages.
The company began teasing the project in issues that arrived in stores this week: Comics on Wednesday featured advertisements with one, two or three names, along with the words “August 2019” against a background collage of historic Marvel covers. There was a lot of buzz among fans.
Those named in the ads are contributors to the anniversary anthology, a group that includes both industry veterans and some new to comic books, like filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and rapper Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas.
Cebulski said the newcomers were recruited based on the fact they made Marvel references over the years that were noted in-house. “Our characters are mentioned in so many different ways and in so many different mediums, and we always keep track,” Cebulski said. “Now these distinguished individuals are able to contribute back to the comics they grew up on.”
Marvel’s publishing history started Aug. 31, 1939, with the arrival on newsstands of Marvel Comics No. 1. It was published by Timely Comics, a forerunner of Marvel. Namor, the Sub-Mariner, the android Human Torch (not to be confused with the 1961 Fantastic Four character with the same name) appeared for the first time — along with other characters, including a costumed detective named the Angel.
The first panel of the story in No. 1000, which has a painted cover by Alex Ross, comes from that 1939 issue. It’s fitting, because the story reveals the mystery that propelled the Marvel universe from its inception and involves an artifact known as the Eternity Mask.
Al Ewing, who is currently the writer of “The Immortal Hulk,” helped conceive the creative jigsaw puzzle that is Marvel 1000. His gift for intricacies can be seen in his “You Are Deadpool” comic, drawn by Salva Espin and Paco Diaz, which combined choose-your-own-adventure options and dice rolls to move readers through the story. He jumped at the chance to participate in the project. “This is the kind of honor that doesn’t really come that often,” Ewing said by phone.
Comic-book historians may wonder how this is No. 1000 of Marvel Comics, given the history of the title. It was called Marvel Comics for the first issue and then became Marvel Mystery Comics and later Marvel Tales, until it reached issue No. 159, when it was canceled in 1957.
While the industry sometimes engages in numerical gymnastics — with issues numbered zero or using decimal points — in this case, it is much simpler. Marvel wanted to give fans a tangible touch point for the 80th anniversary, Brevoort said. “More than anything, it was a symbolic thing.”