The Pendulum of Popularity as Seen in Twelve Sporadically-Appearing Comic Characters: A Series of Charts

I collected the dates of every comics appearance of twelve comics characters (Hellcat, Kite Man, Groot, Misty Knight, Mantis, Elektra, Julie Power, Nimrod, Night Thrasher, Squirrel Girl, Spider-man 2099, Victor Mancha) that I knew appeared on a sporadic basis–that is, they went through a pendulum of popularity, with periods where they had a higher rate of appearances, and periods where they had lower rates of appearances. Each character had different reasons for these periods of popularity and disuse.

The chart for Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl). The charts can all be downloaded as PDFs through links at the bottom of this page.

For instance, Patsy Walker was a very popular character in the romance comics of the golden age, then became less popular in the age of superheroes until Marvel decided to switch her onto the Avengers roster, and then the Defenders. Following a very long run in Defenders, she went into a fallow period, and eventually committed suicide. Later she was resurrected, and then headlined or had a prominent role in several miniseries.

Other characters may have an increase in comics appearances due to appearances in other media, like Groot and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies; or due to nostalgic humor, like Kite Man in Batman under Tom King; or finding new audiences, like Julie Power, who had a major run with Power Pack in the 80s, which dropped to almost no appearances until she was simultaneously revised as a near-adult having an existential crisis in Runaways, Loners, and Avengers Academy in the main Marvel universe, and as an alternate-universe character frozen in her childhood, being direct-marketed to all-ages audiences through graphic novels in libraries.

These charts act as evidence of the ups and downs of character popularity, a dynamic that is clear to any comics reader, but which is usually hard to visualize in a concrete way. Also, charts are fun.

Each chart features a detailed explanation of how I collected the data, and how to understand the charts. The short version is, I collected it all by hand from the website Comic Vine, and then designed the charts by hand. The number of appearances listed are as of October 29, 2019. They may not match up with the number appearances listed on Comic Vine or elsewhere, because usually a site’s list of total appearances for a character includes things like handbooks and reprints, and I did not include those in my charts.

You can download the charts at the following links: Patsy Walker (Hellcat), Chuck Brown (Kite Man), Groot, Misty Knight, Mantis, Elektra, Julie Power (Lightspeed), Nimrod, Dwayne Taylor (Night Thrasher), Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl), Miguel O’Hara (Spider-man 2099), Victor Mancha. Also, this chart collects all of their annual appearances together for comparison’s sake.

In terms of a data pool, in the interests of seeing whether long-term comics trends and character demographics would affect their popularity, I intentionally used characters who first appeared back near the very beginning of comic books (Pasty Walker, 1944) up through very recent years (Victor Mancha, 2005) and a diverse range of characters. The twelve characters include 6 women, 4 men, and 2 male-presenting characters that are a robot and a tree-creature. They include 2 black characters, 2 Hispanic characters, and 1 character of Asian descent. One character is known to be LGBT.

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