Demythify: Marvel Now, Amazing Spider-Man Movie Reboot & The New 52 DC Comics Relaunch

The big news from last week was Marvel’s answer to the DC Comics Relaunch’s New 52 in the form of: Marvel Now.

Now, before anyone gets in a tizzy, the official Marvel Comics line from their Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has been:

    “Well, one thing we did learn [from DC Comics’ New 52 relaunch] is that slapping a #1 on a bunch of cover sure gets you noticed! [Laughs] Look, DC does what it needs to do; we do what we need to do — and we’ve been building toward this for some time. Marvel NOW! hearkens back to 11 years ago, when “NuMarvel” employed the simple strategy of “Great writer, great artist, great character, great hook…GO!” Only this time, we’re embracing the #1 on the cover — and we’re determined that each issue is earns it — and we’re very conscious that these stories take place in one universe. We’re leaning into the concept of shared-universe; while each title tells an independent story, they’re part of a larger whole.”

I respect EIC Alsonso, Executive Editor Tom Brevoort, and Chief Creative Office Joe Quesada who have been doing the rounds lately to plug Marvel Now.

I do also believe that after almost 11 years of stories, it seemed that a lot storylines were coming to an end at around the same time — threads and plots that started all the way back with Avengers Disassembled. I get that it was also time reintegrate the X-Men with the Marvel Universe proper as well as the cosmic heroes like Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Those are all sold story-based “WHAT” or content reasons to refresh and, um “ReEvolution” the Marvel Comics line.


Marvel Now Content with DC New 52 Marketing

However, “HOW” Marvel chose to package their Marvel Now initiative is very much influenced by the DC Comics New 52. Certainly, they are different stories content wise – DC’s initiative was a line-wide reboot whereas Marvel’s is a select branding of several new titles – but they both have the same goal of appealing to new and lapsed readers as well as retain existing readers. However, (A) the “Marvel Now” branding and the embracing of a large number of new #1’s is very much influenced by the success of The DC New 52 and (B) spacing out the new #1’s weekly between October 2012 and February 2013 is influenced by the criticism by some retailers and readers of the all-in-one-month relaunch plan DC Comics implemented in September 2011.

So, yes, story-wise this is clearly is all Marvel Comics, but the marketing of Marvel Now is very much DC New 52 inspired – positive and negative.

EIC Alonso also threw a dig at DC Comics – carrying on the tradition of Brevoort and Quesada – that clearly shows they have watched and learned from DC’s bold experiment.

    “And a couple things I want to emphasize: Marvel NOW! starts with the creators, so don’t expect writer shake-ups across the line by the fourth or fifth issue, or half the titles to get cancelled and replaced by a new #1. We aren’t throwing $#!# at a wall, seeing what falls off and then replacing it with more $#!#. [Laughs] We’re building books we expect to last. Retailers that order them, and fans that read them, will be purchasing new ongoing titles, not limited series. Also, Marvel NOW! unfolds across four months, not one. Each week, we will be offering at least one new entry-point into the Marvel Universe for readers — old, lapsed and new. It’s a patient rollout that demonstrates respect for the fan and his wallet.” [Laughs]

As part of Marvel’s charm initiative it was also reported that Marvel Now is pretty much a net new number of ongoing series. There are no cancellations deliberately planned to make room for the new #1’s:

    The Marvel NOW! initiative doesn’t have a set number of books to it and will be comprised almost entirely of ongoing series. That means there will be quite a few new volumes and new Marvel titles coming in the months ahead, but no existing Marvel titles are being phased out to make room for the Marvel NOW! books.

When I returned to writing for the Comics Nexus in 2010, I opened with a few columns on the state of the industry including what I termed Marvel’s “Concentrated $ameness“. It would seem Marvel is at the same state they were then. Their solution is to capitalize on successful brand names. Lots of Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man books and multiple Thor, Hulk, etc. books. These are popular franchises and likely more guaranteed sellers.

On the other hand, DC Comics New 52 was a right-sizing of their line as well as story-line relaunch, Marvel’s is building on their existing output with new #1’s.

That makes DC Comics’ virtual tie with Marvel Comics for unit and price share of the comic industry most impressive since DC puts out significantly less than that Marvel.

In fairness, back in 2010 DC Comics also had a “familiarity” editorial policy while many of the bigger independents had (and still have) a reu$e and recycle policy. However, with DC Comics New 52, DC has mixed some successful franchises with new efforts and the reimagining of older concepts. Yes, there are a few Batman books by DC, but certainly not in the same number as Marvel’s Spider-Man. And, there is also the twice monthly shipping of Marvel’s more popular titles with I think Amazing Spider-Man still shipping thrice monthly.

While Marvel lacks diversity, it certainly has proven that doubling down or tripling down or more on successful franchises is a sales strength for the company. Marvel has dominated sales charts for several years and since last year is pretty much tied with DC or slightly edging DC month to month. So, let’s not cry for Marvel. It remains a major comics industry success story.

With that said, while Marvel Now also has the potential to cannibalize its own readers with around 20 new #1’s, with no corresponding cancellations, I am excited about a few books announced or hinted at with their teaser. The Marvel Now initiative naturally has some positive potential.


The Marvel Now Promise

The Marvel Now teaser is intriguing. It is interesting that we don’t see Spider-Man’s full costume since he’s hunched over. Could his costume be revamped and more aligned with the recent Amazing Spider-Man movie reboot the way that (A) Marvel Comics recently introduced a bald, black, one-eyed Nick Fury and a non-heroic Hawkeye costume to align with the mega popular Avengers movie (which I loved) and (B) DC Comics dropped the red trunks for Superman to conceivably be more similar to the new Superman movie reboot costume?

There are also some other interesting costume changes in the teaser for Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Sue Storm of Fantastic Four and Cyclops of the X-Men. There’s also the return of Cable and Marvel Girl / Jean Grey; the latter in a new series written by Brian Bendis called All New X-Men featuring the time-displaced Jack Kirby and Stan Lee X-Men that are in the modern Marvel Universe to stay.

I do support Marvel’s plan to embrace the shared universe concept. With X-Men and cosmic characters more integrated with the main Marvel 616 universe that the Avengers have been traversing in since Avengers Disassembled.

To that end, while yet another Avengers book on one hand makes my eyes roll, on the other hand the new Uncanny Avengers book featuring equal measures of Avengers and X-Men seems like an interesting bridge book for me. Havok, Cyclops’ brother, will lead the team which includes Rogue, who hates Avengers due to the rearing of her step-mom Mystique, and Scarlet Witch whose “no more mutants” hobbled mutants for generations. Writer Rick Remender is joined by artist John Cassaday on the book. Instead of getting another X-Men book or another Avengers book, I’ll sample Uncanny Avengers that will give me both in one book. Win-win (for me). 馃檪

I currently read several DC Comics, several independents and one Marvel book monthly; that Marvel book is Winter Soldier.

I will likely check out a few of the nee #1 titles. I’m a huge fan of Hawkeye, Forge, Madrox, Gambit, Bishop and Cable (can you tell what era of Marvel Comics I am a huge fan of? 馃槈 ), but while I don’t like Hawkeye’s new comic book costume, I am intrigued by the new Gambit series and am tickled by Cable’s insertion in the Marvel Now promo poster.

Also, if Marvel is taking requests, can I ask for an Ares ongoing series? Or does the reason that Thor has swords in the promo pic is because he is a god of war now too?

Maybe lapsed readers like me might sample more Marvel books due to Marvel Now, but the jury is still out on how many new readers the DC New 52 brought in. Likely some for sure. Are there such thing as new readers and have they come into the industry in large numbers in the last year or so?

With Marvel’s abundance of popular “franchise” or “family” titles, twice monthly shipping popular series, and now new #1’s of Marvel Now books likely a large number of which align with franchises such as Avengers, Spider-Man, etc. how many of its existing readers will Marvel cannibalize? In a lingering recession and finite disposal income, will the likely success of Marvel Now take away from other Marvel titles?

The big question about Marvel Now for me is how many Avengers books can Marvel put out without oversaturating the market? This is clearly a trial and error thing because there is no set formula. That said, my hope is Marvel Now is less about its well know characters and profitable franchises, but more about its own neglected properties and even new concepts.

Marvel Now needs to be a vehicle for greater diversity not simply more $ameness. The teased Guardians of the Galaxy – with Rocket Raccoon – should be the poster child of Marvel Now.

The future looks promising for Marvel and the comics industry. A real competition between Marvel and DC Comics is a great gift to modern fandom.

So, in 2012/13, make mine… Marvel?! The next few months should be fun.


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