The Cosmic Timeline Infographic
By Gavin O'Reilly
Welcome to our look at all things cosmic and space-faring in the realm of sci-fi comics. When I first began to look into sci-fi comics for Sci-Fi Month here at Liberation Frequency my mission statement was a somewhat loose ‘I am, erm, I’m going to look into sci-fi comics, like, cosmic comics’.
Of course I soon found that sci-fi in comics is a huge genre but what was in my head was something that particularly interests me, what I define as cosmic. Looking into it I began my research by pulling out my resource books, making notes and scouring the library before re-acquainting myself with my old friend Wikipedia.
I wanted initially to look at an overall timeline of everything cosmic, but guess what? That’s a huge subject too. By the time I had correlated all the data below for your clicking and viewing pleasure I found the data itself showed me some interesting patterns in the timeline. I have tried to illustrate my findings below, with the LF space rocket showing the timeline from Buck Rogers circa 1928, to the Hypernaturals and Saga being the newest cosmic kids on the block.
My criteria for inclusion in the timeline was as follows, for the most part spacefaring, off-world antics, and with the material originating from comics rather than the comics being part of the machine of other media (like toys eg. Transformers, ROM the Space Knight; or TV eg. Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek etc). I have bent the rules somewhat with some Japanese manga titles that originated with anime or something else first but I deemed them too major to omit.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it does cover a major chunk of cosmic spacefaring characters and events in mainstream, and not so-mainstream, comics. Included are all the characters I could muster as well as titles that may have been events rather than specific character stories. Not included are the many space stories in main titles, unless it introduces a new character (Kree-Skrull War gets in from the Avengers by virtue of its classic status). Superman is in because he can’t not be and he is an alien who does venture to the stars a lot. Controversially, Judge Dredd is not in, although it is gritty, future-based sci-fi, it is for the most part Earth-bound rather than destined for the stars.
The rocket launch shows the sequence and the years with the most occurrences are signified by size to show where there seems to be a flurry of creativity around things cosmic.
So, some stats (because I think that stats are fun):
Flurries of cosmic activity:
Year with most occurrences goes to 1979 with 5 new occurrences - 3 from the UK, 1 from Japan and one from the US
Year with the second most occurrences, at 4 apiece, is a 3-way tie. In chronological order:
1940: Green Lantern and Hawkman debut at DC comics; and Captain Future and Spacehawk take on the newspapers in America
1971: The aforementioned Kree-Skrull War plus 3 contributions from the legendary Jack Kirby with his Fourth World including New Gods, Mister Miracle and the Tomorrow People
1981: This year saw some major European publications including Bogey from Spain that was later re-published in English in the UK via Warrior Magazine. Rogue Trooper and Ace Trucking Co. both made their UK debuts in 2000AD, and the Omega Men popped up in the pages of Green Lantern.
Bored of Stargazing?
Funnily enough, despite Buck Rogers (our starting point here) being well received in 1928, it would seem nothing major happened until a certain Flash Gordon wowed readers in 1934.
Years when comics left space alone: the 1940s, when the world was at war, shows the biggest gap at nine years, just after an initial busy year of 1940 (mentioned above) but this is true of many forms of comic book in these years.
The Fantastic Four debuted in 1961, but at this point is more Earth-bound despite the initial space mission. But then there is a three year break until DC knocks out some sci-fi in the form of Ultra the Multi Alien andJan-Vern Interplanetary Agent. Marvel doesn’t really get into the cosmic groove until 1966 with the appearance of cosmic mainstays the Negative Zone, The Silver Surfer, and Galactus.
It then ticks along nicely for decades up until the mid 90s. There doesn’t seem to be much in space past 1995 right up until 2000 and I am struggling as to why. Maybe there is a gap in our knowledge here.
Other constellations in the ‘big two’
When I filter the timeline to show results by publisher I can see very different patterns with the ‘big two’. DC seems to squirt the majority of its cosmic seed by 1965, with 20 of its 27 entries in by this year. Because of its age Marvel doesn’t get started until 1961 but stays much steadier with a much more even spread across the decade with its 38 entries. However, this may just be a sign of my greater familiarity with Marvel than DC which leads me neatly to…
How Cosmically Aware are you?
I have had a ball putting this timeline together but I am sure I have missed many major characters and events that would be balked at. As I said, this list isn’t exhaustive, in fact, I think it is a starting point for more research. So, with this in mind I ask, what stars on the cosmic odyssey trail have I missed?
Please send me your suggestions and I can consider them for inclusion in future timelines. It’s all in the patterns and constellations, sci-fi friends.