By Owie 4 Comments
What is this?
I'm an artist, and I like making charts. I am also very interested in comics' character continuity.
I made twelve charts that visually chart every appearance of twelve sporadically-appearing comics characters. The idea was to see exactly what kind of patterns might exist in a character's pendulum of popularity. Do characters appear fairly continuously? Do they have big periods of popularity and big periods of nothing? Are the ups and downs more gradual? Does it vary by character? Can we link the events in a character's life--like them being killed and resurrected--with the ups and downs of their appearances? Can we link outside dynamics in publishing and other media to the ups and downs of their appearances?
I've shown these to other folks, and they liked them, but I figured Comic Vine is the place that would really enjoy the details of what's going on in these charts. And, of course, Comic Vine is the source of the information as well, since I got the appearance data from the wiki.
A word on process:
All dates are cover dates, not in-store dates. The appearances listed in these charts are accurate as of October 29, 2019. That happens to be the date where cover dates reached the end of the year (2019). Characters will obviously continue to have more appearances after this, and wiki-writers may find other old appearances that didn't make it onto the wiki by the time I created the charts. I defined "appearances," for the sake of these charts, as actual new stories or other new content. No TPBs, no handbooks, no other forms of reprints, nothing that was purely promotional. Thus, the number of appearances in the charts listed will differ from the number of appearances listed on the wiki. I got this information by combing through the wiki "by hand," writing down every comic appearance, and the month and year it appeared, and putting it in the chart; this is not the result of an algorithm scraping the data. I also designed the chart "by hand," meaning I didn't just type the data into a spreadsheet and it just built the chart for me; I made it block by block in Illustrator.
The charts have a black square for every single issue the characters were in. But the comics series listed in red under the charts are NOT every volume they were in. They're a subjectively-selected set of volumes that give you a good sense of what they were up to at that point. Generally speaking, the volumes listed in red are every series the character had 3 or more appearances in, and/or they were a recurring character/main team member/it was a solo series named after them. I do have the complete list of every issue for each character if anyone wants it.
See the charts for more detailed info on how to read them.
Why these characters?
I chose these specific characters because they had about a thousand appearances or less, to make it easier to do; because my impression before making the charts was that they appeared sporadically in comics and thus their appearances would make an interesting pattern; and because I wanted a diverse group in terms of gender and race, to see if that would make any difference.
They're all Marvel characters except Kite Man because Marvel is what I'm most intimately familiar with; but Tom King's use of Kite Man is one of the things that inspired me to do this project.
What can you get out of this?
I hope you all, as comics experts, have fun digging through the data and guessing at what made characters go up and down in their popularity. Just for instance, you can see the effect when Elektra died and (while being resurrected fairly immediately) went into seclusion when Frank Miller originally stopped writing her; when interest in Julie Power started up again after years of minimal appearances, due to the simultaneous explosion of the all-ages Power Pack books and her adult appearances in 616 in Runaways; or the way Groot's appearances exploded when the Guardians movies came out. Or, you can be curious about why, say, Misty Knight and Mantis didn't have big comics resurgences when they appeared in movies and TV.
Enjoy! Here are the charts, in order of the characters' first appearances. They're downloadable PDFs: