Recent DC and Marvel Comics have doubled-back and picked up the "legacy" numbering of key titles after years of relaunches and new #1s, but there are comic books out there with real 'legacy' numbering that has never been relaunched, renumbered, or - most importantly - ended.
Comic books have been around for close to a century, and when you assemble the facts you'll find several key titles coming into focus (as well as some surprises).
In researching the list here, we focused on currently-running titles and not those on seemingly-permanent hiatus, reprints, foreign-langauge titles, or - as we mentioned - renumbered to add in several volumes or miniseries. That knocks out things like Egmont's The Phantom, Dark Horse's B.P.R.D., Antarctic's Gold Digger, and the aforementioned Marvel & DC books.
So what made the cut? We'll get to that, but first - honorable mentions go out to The Walking Dead, Usagi Yojimbo, and Invincible, which despite impressive numbers didn't break through to the top 10.
So, with the rules set in place... let's get to it.
AC Comics' Femforce follows the all-female Federal Emergency Missions Force (F.E.M.Force, get it?) to fight stereotypical superhero villains and other forces.
Pulling from public domain archives long before League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or Project: Superpowers, Femforce was created by AC Comics editor/publisher Bill Black and artist Mark Heike back in 1984 but has gone on to include numerous other creators including Justice League of America's Steve Orlando.
9. Savage Dragon
Respect the Fin.
Erik Larsen's Dragon was conceived by Larsen in elementary school, and made minor indie appearances before becoming the star of Larsen's founding Image title Savage Dragon In 1993. First a miniseries and then segueing into an ongoing, Larsen's Savage Dragon is one of the most consistent - creatively - with only a rare fill-in and some back-up stories.
The title recently witnessed the death of the original Dragon, with him now replaced by his son Malcolm Dragon. The hero has moved to Canada, but with some of his older villains like the Seeker following him north such as in November's 'Savage Dragon #228'.
And while Savage Dragon is one of Image's founding titles, another Image title has outpaced it (as you'll see later on in this list) due to this starting as a miniseries, with some delays when Larsen was the head of the entire company.
8. Looney Tunes
Comic books based on Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the other Looney Tunes gang have been published consistently since 1941, and DC's Looney Tunes has carried that tradition on with 140 issues since it's debut back in 1994.
While Detective Comics and Action Comics might hog the glory as DC's highest-numbered titles, it's this companion title Looney Tunes which has gone on, jumping to feature numerous characters across the Warner Bros. cartoon archives including lesser-known characters such as Rocky and Mugsy just recently with Looney Tunes #140.
7. Simpsons Comics
Matt Groening's The Simpsons is the longest running animated series ever, and its comic book counterpart Simpsons Comics is close to it.
Launched in 1993 following comic serials in magazines, Simpson Comics now sits at #241 with no signs of slowing down. While the TV show is known to reference comic books from time to time, Simpsons Comics goes deep into that with homages, in-jokes, and even a few out-and-out lampoons.
With its success, Simpsons Comics became the flagship for the Bongo Comics company (which now also publishes Spongebob Squarepants).
6. G.I. Joe: Real American Hero
G.I. Joe: Real American Hero has been running from 1982 to now with '#245' currently on shelves – but it’s a unique member of this, as it had an admittedly-long hiatus. 16 years, to be exact.
Editor/writer Larry Hama put names, faces, and personalities to the long-running G.I. Joe toys for a licensed title at Marvel, and it turned into a franchise that lives on to this day. And Hama is still with it, resuming work on the series when IDW picked up the series numbering in 2010 following Marvel’s 1994 conclusion.
5. Knights of the Dinner Table
Based on the real-life drama that happens around an RPG gaming table, Jolly R. Blackburn’s Knights of the Dinner Table is the definition of a cult favorite comic book: little known to the general public, but with a small, reliable and tight-knit fanbase who adores it.
Originally launched in 1990 as a comic strip inside a magazine, Knights of the Dinner Table went from an off-hand story to Blackburn’s big focus. Originally self-published through two successive companies, the comic book series eventually found a long-term home in 1997 with Kenzer & Company – where it continues today.
'Knights of the Dinner Table #248' is on-stands now, and Blackburn has shown no signs of slowing down.
Todd McFarlane’s Spawn began with a power meter counting down for Al Simmons, but the issues numbers have been counting up steadily the past 25 years to become Image Comics’ longest-running, uninterrupted title. With 'Spawn #279' now on shelves, McFarlane is still 21 issues shy of breaking his personal 300 goal (to eclipse Dave Sim’s Cerebus) - but it is still a feat that a modern-day title would stick to its guns like this.
While McFarlane has oscillated in and out of the title with several levels of involvement (and once writing it under a pseudonym), Spawn soldiers on with different characters taking on the titular mantle.
3. Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories
Walt Disney is famously quoted as saying of his company, “It all started with a mouse.” That was in 1928, and it wasn’t long after – five years, in fact – that Disney expanded into comic books.
Mickey Mouse Magazine began in 1933 and ran for seven years, but it was 1940’s launch of Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories in 1940 which would become the driving comics force of Disney characters moving forward. Initially just reprinting newspaper strips of Silly Symphonies, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck, it segued to original material in 1942 and became the best-selling comic book in North America in the post-war 1950s with a circulation north of 3 million.
Over the years, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories has moved to different publishers to keep going -- Dell, Gold Key, Whitman, Gladstone, Gemstone, BOOM!, IDW, and even an in-house Disney Comics company for a time. But in all that it’s carried with it that original continuous numbering even through October 2017’s IDW issue, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories #740.
2. 2000 A.D.
You might think of it as the house that Judge Dredd built, but it’s more than that – much more.
Founded in 1975 by Kelvin Gosnell, Pat Mills, and John Wagner, 2000 A.D. has become a U.K. institution and an exotic (and sometimes hard-to-find) attraction for those in North America. Although Judge Dredd is its star, like Batman and Detective Comics, he didn’t show up until after its first issue.
Now with over 2000 issues in its library, spin-offs such as Judge Dredd Megazine, and characters past Dredd include Rogue Trooper, Slaine, Nikolai Dante, and Strontium Dog, 2000 AD is a bastion for grim-dark comics that’s eternally in contrast with the caped adventures from across the pond.
Although its jumped through multiple publishing houses to its current home at Rebellion, '2000 AD #2058' just came out - featuring one of its newer creations, Indigo Prime.
1. The Beano
Humor comic books were a big deal in the early 1900s, and they continue to remain strong in the United Kingdom as DC Thompson’s The Beano has almost four thousand issues since its July 30, 1938 debut. A 79-year run is a major accomplishment, but when you realize that it’s been a weekly (with a few occasional exceptions) comic it blows away all the competition.
This all-ages anthology has made stars ranging from Big Eggo, Biffo the Bear, and the chief star Dennis the Menace (not to be confused with the U.S. comic strip by Hank Ketcham). It has also done Mad-style parodies of famous U.S. comic heroes such as the X-Men, Superman, and Spider-Man. For its first 30 years it did feature adventure trips, but those have largely fallen to the wayside in favor of cover-to-cover jokes, pranks, and general humor.