After the usual amount of teasing, Marvel Comics has announced plans for an anniversary comic celebrating the company’s 80-year history in 80 pages. Each page of Marvel Comics #1000 will come from a different creative team, but they will tell a single story.
Published by Timely Comics in 1939, Marvel Comics #1 featured the debut of the original Human Torch and Namor the Sub-Mariner, both of whom were revived in the 1960s when Timely rebranded itself to Atlas, and was just about to complete its transformation into Marvel. By that time, Marvel Comics itself had undergone its own rebranding, to Marvel Mystery Comics, and Marvel Tales. There hasn’t been a new installment of the series since it was cancelled in 1957 with issue #159.
Marvel Comics #1000 will hit shelves in August and will be written and drawn by 97 different creators in 80 teams. The lineup includes modern Marvel mainstays like Jason Aaron, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Alex Ross; to celebrity guests like athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, rapper Taboo, and writer/director duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Those guests were chosen because of their public affinity for Marvel Comics characters, according to Marvel Comics editor-in-chief, C.B. Cebulski. “Our characters are mentioned in so many different ways and in so many different mediums and we always keep track,” Cebulski told the New York Times. “Now these distinguished individuals are able to contribute back to the comics they grew up on.”
But the creative teams on Marvel Comics #1000 were already causing a stir when they were teased before the full announcement. Of the 97 creators participating in Marvel Comics #1000, only nine are women. Marvel writer Al Ewing, who helped conceive of the idea for the special, according to the New York Times, is writing 12 of the pages. Which, as Women Write About Comics points out in a detailed breakdown of the book’s creative demographics, means that there are more Al Ewings involved in the book than there are women.
This homogeneity of gender, and also racial background, in the book’s creators was roundly criticized by fans, comics creators, and critics on Twitter, which Marvel had chosen as a platform to announce the teams.
Colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick combined 35 of the announced teams into a graphic showing just how few women were involved in Marvel Comics #1000.
Others, like Women Write About Comics managing editor Nola Pfau, borrowed the format of Marvel’s announcement tweets — yellow and orange text over a collage of Marvel Comics covers — for other messages.
DC Comics series Detective Comics and Action Comics — birthplaces of Superman and Batman — each recently celebrated their one thousandth issue in synchrony with the lead character’s 80th anniversary. Detective Comics #1000 and Action Comics #1000 were anthology books that also featured multiple creative teams, with similarly dismal demographic diversity.
Unlike Marvel Comics, Detective and Action have both been in continuous publication since their 1938 and 1939 debuts, though they did require a few years of a bi-monthly publication schedule to get to that 1000 issue mark on time. How did Marvel arrive at #1000 in time for the company’s 80th anniversary? “More than anything, it was a symbolic thing,” Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, Tom Brevoort, told the New York Times.