Demythify: All-New Marvel Now’s Fake Experimental Numbering? Superior Spider-Man Vs. Avengers? Plus DC Comics New 52 In The Crosshairs Too?!

Welcome to our Monday weekly Demythify column. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are my own and do not represent the views of the ownership or editorial team of this site.

I have been a critic of Marvel Comics’ serial relaunches of successful series in Marvel Now and then All-New Marvel Now as well as their “fake” #1 numbering on books, where new storylines launch and said book’s actual numbering remains. And don’t get me started on the convoluted point ones or .NOW or .INH or whatever appended to Marvel’s comics numbering.

That said, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso gave a recent interview with CBR where he came clean talked about his approach to Marvel Comics’ Marvel Now All-New Marvel Now numbering.

    Comic books are part of the spectrum of pop culture, and we’d be foolish not to take note of the different ways that people are absorbing stories right now. With so many TV shows structured and, indeed, packaged as “seasons,” and so many of us “binge-viewing,” comics publishers would be foolish not to take note, and see if any of these trends – if they are, indeed, just trends — apply to our medium.

I have no problem with a “Seasons” approach to comics. Unlike TV though, CW’s Arrow is in Season 2, but the TV series is still called Arrow not Arrow All-New Season 1. Same goes with Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it goes to a Season 2 in the Fall of 2014.

    So, yeah, we’re experimenting. If a new creative team or new story line represents a clean enough break that it could be viewed as a new “season” in a series, putting a big #1 on the cover is one way to announce that. But not the only way.

Well, that seems to be the only way Marvel is doing it.

Marvel is talking about importing a “seasons” approach to storytelling and muddying with an All-New Marvel now branding. The gimmick is distracting from the story and, in effect, the new #1’s pander to new readers knowing that veteran fans of Daredevil, for example, will pick up the new #1 series despite its 2 relaunches in the last 3 years.

    In a world of where characters created on the comic book page pop up on the silver screen, in video games, on TV, we’re always looking to drive people to the comic books where it all began. And for the layperson, seeing “Daredevil” #1 on the shelf is a lot friendlier than, say, “Daredevil” #34. Apologies to fans whose long boxes sport a few more cardboard dividers, but the most important thing – always – is the story. That the story entertains, provokes, educates – or all of the above. When we launch, say, “Iron Fist: The Living Weapon”,” we hope the amazing cover art and the big #1 on the cover provide a big welcome mat for readers who know [the character] and those who don’t.

There you go. Veteran readers will pick up whatever Marvel puts out, so they will tinker with comic book norms like numbering to entice new readers.

Are the Marvel Now and All-New Marvel Now brands really different despite the way Marvel touts it? The answer is NO. Even their official “Now” website conflates the two “events”, as the site calls them, and suggests readers still use the #MarvelNow hashtag on twitter. On that same site, the launch date of All-New Marvel Now is the same as Marvel Now in October 2012 with a major typo indicating Marvel will keep this (conflated) publishing initiative going until 2037. 😮

That said, some All-New Marvel Now relaunches DO make sense story-wise. For example the end of Marvel Now’s Superior Spider-Man featuring Doctor Octopus as Peter Parker to be replaced by All New Marvel Now’s Amazing Spider-Man in April 2014 with Peter Parker back as himself. That makes sense for a new #1 and a re-named series. I also get that Marvel’s 2 Marvel Now X-Forces series experiment didn’t work so they’re relaunching both-in-one with a brand new #1 with a hodgepodge of both teams in one title. There are other examples.

>> In my view, the All-New Marvel Now approach to Superior Spider-Man / Amazing Spider-Man makes more honest sense than relaunching Secret Avengers in 11 months or slapping a fake #1 on a 2014’s Avengers #24 despite that series continuing its (non-All-New) Marvel Now numbering.<<

There are also some interesting net new series under the All-New Marvel Now banner such as All-New Invaders, Magneto, Nightcrawler, and others. I have no issue with those either. They are breathing new life into the publishing line and the branding supports new (really new content in really new series) under All-New Marvel Now.

What I do have an issue with is Marvel relaunching a few series in less than 3 years to be included in their All-New Marvel Now branding and, moreso, with several other top-tier series rebranded from Marvel Now to All-New Marvel and slapping a fake #1 on the books. Yes, new arcs and such are in those books, but these aren’t true #1’s as established in over 75 years of comic book publishing.

In my view, Marvel is deliberately using the same #1 logo, color, positioning on cover, etc. with true new #1 series to create confusion among readership. They want you to sample the book, like it, and look past the fact that they tricked you dear reader into thinking it was an actual #1 issue. Because you IF you, new or veteran reader, actually care about a book’s numbering or want to start a run on a title from an actual #1, that makes you somewhat less than a true “reader” (they probably call you a “collector” in their offices like it’s an insult) than those who don’t care what number said book is up to.

What Marvel should have done is use a different #1 logo, etc. to ensure jump-on points are differentiated from actual series launches. That’s a more honest branding approach. And, we’ve had new, accessible jump-on points in comics for generations; never maliciously branded like this in my long memory.

>> That is NOT to say the content of these books aren’t fantastic. Many likely are. My comments are strictly about the branding trickery employed by Marvel. <<

While many pick on DC Comics for (re)launching all of their comics with #1’s with their New 52 initiatives, there was an underlying story-reason to do that. The whole universe was rebooted – three into one – and the branding supported that. Now, I don’t necessarily like the New 52 branding as even in April 2014 DC is only the New 41 as they do not have 52 ongoing series. In addition, right from the beginning, by not including their mini-series (which are set in the same story universe) in the their New 52 branding, DC was undermining those mini’s and dooming them to failure. I think the sales of those 3 initial mini-series that launched alongside the New 52 ongoing bear that out.

So, DC isn’t perfect either. And, they have had to cancel several series in the last few years and (re)launch and try others.

Marvel on the other hand is going willy-nilly with comic book numbering and while cancelling low sellers makes sense, there is no story reason or branding reason to explain the value of relaunching 14 series, most launched during Marvel Now, with 14 All-New Marvel Now series. It is only greed as new #1’s sell. It isn’t for story reasons as Marvel’s EIC claims. Yes, some relaunches are for story reasons like the Superior Spider-man and Amazing Spider-Man dosey-do, and some are net new series like All-New Invaders, but Marvel is relaunching and rebranding successful series in under 2 years in most cases.

Here is a quick scan of the 6 series that relaunched themselves as part of All-New Marvel Now. This does not include Superior Spider-man being replaced by Amazing Spider-Man because that makes sense for the story. Same goes for the relaunch of X-Factor as All-New X-Factor. These 6 relaunches don’t appear to be anything more than branding hoping to gauge interest in the books.

    Captain Marvel: November 2012 to February 2014
    Replaced by Captain Marvel: March 2014

    Daredevil: January 2011 to February 2014
    Replaced by Daredevil: March 2014

    Fantastic Four: November 2012 to January 2014
    Replaced by Fantastic Four: February 2014

    Indestructible Hulk: November 2012 to February 2014
    Replaced by Hulk: April 2014

    Secret Avengers: February 2013 to February 2014
    Replaced by Secret Avengers: March 2014

    Wolverine: March 2013 to January 2014
    Replaced by Wolverine: February 2014

Now, while I’m intrigued by writer James Robinson writing the above noted Fantastic Four, you don’t need to restart the book at #1 for that and certainly not when the last relaunch with a #1 was only a little more than a year ago. We’ve had creative team changes in comics over the last 75 years too; the overwhelming majority not requiring a relaunch of the book.

Below are the 14 series that have “fake” #1’s emblazoned on their covers that were rebranded from Marvel Now to All-New Marvel Now. These series continue their Marvel Now numbering under the new All-New Marvel Now banner.

    All-New X-Men: November 2012 to January 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now All-New X-Men: January 2014

    Avengers: December 2012 to November 2013
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Avengers: December 2013

    Captain America: November 2012 to January 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Captain America: February 2014

    Deadpool: November 2012 to February 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Deadpool: March 2014

    Guardians of the Galaxy: February 2013 to December 2013
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Guardians of the Galaxy: January 2014

    Iron Man: November 2012 to February 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Iron Man: March 2014

    New Avengers: January 2013 to February 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now New Avengers: March 2014

    Nova: February 2013 to January 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Nova: February 2014

    Savage Wolverine: January 2013 to December 2013
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Savage Wolverine: January 2014

    Thor: God of Thunder: November 2012 to January 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Thor: God of Thunder: February 2014

    Thunderbolts: December 2012 to December 2013
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Thunderbolts: January 2014

    Uncanny Avengers: October 2012 to February 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Uncanny Avengers: March 2014

    Uncanny X-Men: February 2013 to February 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Uncanny X-Men: March 2014

    Wolverine and the X-Men: October 2012 to February 2014
    Rebranded as All-New Marvel Now Wolverine and the X-Men: March 2014

Story should trump branding in deeds not just words.

>> I sincerely hope that Marvel’s opportunistic and dishonest branding doesn’t do any harm monetarily to the creators who are working hard on Marvel titles whether under no sub-brand or under Marvel Now or under All-New Marvel Now or Ultimate Comics and others. <<

Thanks for reading. All feedback welcome. 🙂

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