Last Friday, Marvel lifted the curtain on a new publishing initiative. This week on The Marvel Rundown I’m weighing in on some cursory thoughts at the publisher’s first steps of announcing a huge new launch, taking a look at what they presented fans with and some of the ways that House of Ideas can steal back some momentum from across the pond with Marvel Legacy.

I wanted a fresh start and you did too:

After months of touting what was Marvel’s answer to DC’s Rebirth, the publisher announced an announcement last Friday that ended up being the debut of a number of animated GIF’s homaging classic covers. You heard me right…a bunch of GIF images homaging classic covers. That’s how Marvel chose to reveal an “exciting new initiative kicking off this fall across the entire Marvel Universe.”

I just couldn’t help but think: where does the publisher go from here? It seems obvious that, even though we haven’t seen creative teams for most titles yet, many books that will be rebooted with Legacy will retain their current creative teams. A number of series are continuing with little change, leaving lots of readers scratching their heads wondering what the point of all this was in the first place. True believers wanted a reboot with new titles and a new creative direction, but Marvel gave them a legacy instead.

Readers can only assume that the newly released covers are teases at books returning to the slate, but there’s less than a handful of new books teased in the bunch. Is Marvel Legacy not a back-to-basics approach for the publisher but an effort spanning over a couple months to play the hits? Piecing together exactly what Marvel was trying to say with these animated cover images is cryptic and doesn’t give the lapsed Marvel readers much of a reason to pick up the line again. There’s no interviews or formal explanations of what these books have in store for fans. The messaging is leaving everyone in the industry confused.

It does seem that this is the first steps of a very soft reboot, something that was needed to keep fan interest going. Instead of shifting all the focus over to bigger heroes, the spotlight has been shown to be reflected towards newer and older heroes alike. Both Miles and Peter have books in the new launch which shows that the publisher definitely has the right mindset when they went into planning the roster of books. There are a ton of readers who want to see these characters in solo books and on teams. Thankfully Champions and Avengers are also both sticking around placing each Spider-Man in a tam book as well, but keeping the same talent and roster on these books is making them feel less fresh than they did then they first launched.

The Old Guard remains in power:

Like most fans reading these books I wanted Marvel to shuffle around creators and launch a ton of new books. At one point, I was even worried at the prospect of the line going for a back-to-basics feel that would seem too pedestrian. However, Marvel is still bringing the weird with books like America and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Seeing the line take some more risks than DC right now is certainly cause for celebration but lots of alienated readers are still looking for a clean entry point that doesn’t quite give the last headache of a title with the three digits in the overall number. Seeing comics end so soon after they launched would have been a shame but getting series like Luke Cage reverted back to legacy numbering with a simple homage cover doesn’t quite have the same impact that an all-new ongoing series does. I’m not sure why the titles that launched over the past few months weren’t held back for this sweeping reboot.

While getting a couple of surprises in the overall line was definitely fun, it does seem as though some of these mini-series that were brought back may have stuck around for the wrong reasons. A couple of recent titles like Thanos and Weapon X started off on the wrong foot with me and getting to see those talent pitch some other books for Marvel Legacy would have given this reboot more excitement and a cleaner slate. Going back to some of these titles with little-to-no change is not the best way to get back readers who wanted something more. Some of these books are playing with the same status quo for years with little change. Old Man Logan and and the time-displaced X-Men have stuck around in the Universe for far too long now. Somehow Marvel has avoided bringing back some of the original mutants they killed. At this point in time Cyclops, Professor Xavier, Wolverine and Jean Grey are (mostly) dead. It feels like this is as good a time as ever to start bringing those characters back and awakening some of the potential in the X-Line as a whole.

How to fix it:

Now that Marvel is here and the new books have been announced, I would love to see the creative teams on these titles shuffled around as much as possible as they have not been formally announced. Don’t give readers exactly what they are expecting because it is another chance for them to tune out. While I do think that this overall line is taking a lot of risks, Marvel needs to go back to focusing on what they made them popular in the first place. Touching on the familiar, older heroes is something that people are actively hungry for. With Marvel’s trinity front-and-center on the Mark Brooks-drawn promotional art for the series it does seem that some of the aspects are changing here and that the publisher does want to shine the spotlight back on these beloved characters.

As hinted at earlier in this column, I have been looking for Marvel to push the envelope and rocket (raccoon) into some of the newer parts of the Universe. They are spinning some interesting concepts out of existing series which is a great start but I think the aspect about Marvel Legacy that hurts the most is that so much of it doesn’t feel new. It seems obvious that the publisher is holding back some big books. I expect Iron Man, Captain America and the original Thor all to get some brand new series with classic Marvel heavy-hitters. Perhaps when those books come to fruition that could be the first steps of fans finally coming around to what the publisher has to offer. Aside from that huge new launch, they could potentially keep the momentum going with The Fantastic Two series teased by Axel Alonso’s Twitter. Getting a Generations book, switching some creative teams around and bringing back the original heroes and going from there could definitely get the publisher enough steam for a big relaunch.

Another aspect that does sour fans is the staggering amount of crossovers that readers are endlessly complaining about. Over the past few years there have been a certain number fans that stick with a title, hit a crossover and then decide to jump off. After Secret Empire the publisher has promised to stay quiet for 18 months. 18 months later readers will be begging for the status quo of some of the series to be shaken up and finally ready for your next crossover. If Jason Aaron could possibly come back and kick off the second wave of Marvel Legacy with a big crossover we could be in a totally different place.

The bottom line is that Marvel is still publishing a ton of great books and a lot of them are sticking around when Marvel Legacy launches in what seems like just a few short months. With the announcement of some big books still on the way, the publisher could be in a better place than most fans expect. The House of Ideas may not be in a position to eclipse Rebirth just yet, but it is refreshing to know that the publisher is keeping the Legacy heroes alongside the founding Avengers.

Please stop talking now:

As this column has proven, I’m a huge Marvel publishing fan and unlike much of my peers, I’m actually reading a high quantity of the line still. I believe that the quirkier side of the Marvel Universe still has lots of potential to deliver a reading experience of immense quality but those quirky series aren’t the books that are front-and-center in the line. Lots of these books are continuing with the returns of Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Thor and some new favorites including Black Bolt and Generation X sticking around for Legacy.

I get the impression that Marvel may have stated some of their marketing language too ambitiously. If the previously announced one-shot and introduction of these books is the complete scope of the publishing initiative. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to try and be cautiously optimistic and hope that there is something else that we haven’t heard about coming down the line that just hasn’t been announced until Secret Empire is a little bit closer to the finish line. Announcing a few animated GIF’s and using verbose language is definitely confusing messaging but I couldn’t be more happier for the legacy heroes to team up with their older incarnations in Generations and we couldn’t possibly know everything that the House of Ideas has rolled up their sleeves yet! Let’s see where we’re at with all this in another 18 months.

That’s all for this week, see you in seven with our normal format!

19 COMMENTS

  1. I’d like to see some commentators who claim that DC needs to publish more diverse books starring some of their more obscure characters acknowledge that “Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye” and “Shade the Changing Girl” exist.

  2. This Marvel Legacy “announcement” sapped the last of my remaining Marvel Comics goodwill.

    I’m typically the last person who ever asks for someone to be fired, but I just don’t see how I’ll ever be able to regularly buy Marvel comic books under the current regime again (my Marvel pulllist has dropped precipitously from when I was buying what felt like 50% of Marvel’s comics as recently as Marvel Now, to maybe 1 or 2 books a month now)

    Legacy feels less like the Rebirth we were all hoping for, and more like the ill-fated Heroes Reborn Liefeld/Lee initiative.

    Bare minimum, Marvel needs a 1998-Joe Quesada/Jimmy Palmiotti-esque infusion of new bosses with new ideas and new methods on the existing continuity.

    Preferably for me, I need that new leadership, but also coupled with an entire universe reboot. Their continuity is so destroyed that I don’t even see the point anymore. Just give us an Ultimate Universe-style fresh start but for the entire line.

  3. @RJT definitely a fair point, but I would still argue that Marvel all around does seem to be taking more risks right at this second. DC is about to head into Metal, which is nothing if not a risk but lots of the original heroes are still front-and-center in the line. I can definitely see your point though.

  4. As one of the DC guys on the site, my thoughts on this need to be taken with a grain of salt, but I tend to disagree with my colleague on the risks being taken between DC and Marvel. Out on the margins, DC is playing around with their toybox quite a bit in terms of narrative, between the Young Animal line that RJT mentions, turning Wildstorm into a sort of corporate espionage drama, everything they’re doing with Hanna-Barbera, and tremendous little minis like the recent Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love and Supergirl: Being Super.

    I guess it just depends on how you define “taking risks”.

  5. DC has Metal, Young Animal and some prestige titles while Marvel is still publishing legacy hero books, Squirrel Girl. the Inhumans line, the Defenders line, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and lots, lots more.

    As I said before, it is a matter of opinion here as DC is definitely taking some risks too!

  6. When I read the descriptions of the upcoming Legacy books, it sounded like it was just bringing the old characters forward in time to the present to meet their present-day counterparts. It didn’t sound like they were bringing any of the old heroes back permanently. (ie giving Thor (Odinson) back his hammer, having Tony Stark come out of his coma and be Iron Man again, etc.). I guess that’s why I’m not very excited about this event. And if these characters from the past stay on in the future (like the time-displaced original X-men) things will be even more disappointingly confusing.
    Still waiting for Tony Stark to wake up from his coma and become Iron Man again. THAT would make Legacy worthwhile to me!

  7. What about the price? 4.99 and 5.99 a comic is way too much for me, especially when the whole point of a lot of plotlines is to trash old characters. See what Beast has been up to lately? Like Beast, Tony Stark, and Carol Danvers in cw1 and cw2 the characters I liked have been mostly trashed by bad writing. Given how they’ve been written since cw1 I’m still puzzled as to why Tony and Carol aren’t part of Steve’s HYDRA, they have the right mind set.
    But again a lot of it is the greedy pricing and I’m not going to spend five dollars to read a bad comic. I’m curious about the new characters, but not that curious.

  8. Alexander, nowhere has Marvel said this was a reboot. Don’t know where you got that info from. A reboot is a proper “start everything again” like the New 52. A relaunch isn’t the same thing.

    Personally I’m waiting for the day Marvel has the courage to do an actual reboot. They need it. Their universe is convoluted, un-reader-friendly. They need a universe and publishing line accessible to new readers, with one Spider-Man, one Hulk, one Iceman, etc. It’s 2017 not 1987. But Marvel are scared of pissing off their old readers and that’s why they’ll never do it.

    Marvel needs a publisher with guts. They’re already going in the direction of young adult books – they should stick with that direction. Because that’s the new market. 50% of their readers are women. Selling floppies of white male characters to old men isn’t the way.

  9. Marvel was supposedly doing a soft reboot — or “streamlining” as one of their spokesmen put it — after Secret Wars. Didn’t happen. I don’t see where a second attempt would be any better.

  10. Kard says “….50% of their readers are women. Selling floppies of white male characters to old men isn’t the way.”

    Kard,
    I see your point, but respectfully disagree; what Marvel can do is to divide their Universe;

    1. keep some titles that their loyal “old men” (as you put it, ha ha) will continue buying for their substandard monthly formula adventures. Pack these comics with creative teams that are tightly bound to tropes, events and lots of pages of escapist fighting scenes. Status Quo!

    2. Get new ideas into the hands of new markets such as the Millenials, who say they are bored with the old underwear stories, and want relevant material. But there is no sense asking them to wander into a store to buy the comic, because we know they won’t. Sell comics for women in olaces where women shop. Where is that? You tell ME!

    3. New buyers don’t buy digital comics? Okay, publish teaser comic previews in the few print publications that women and new market people still read. What are those? You tell ME!

    4. Marvel apparently doesn’t listen to its critics or its fans. Don’t like Marvel Comics? Be like most of us, and vote with your wallet and your feet! Buy other stuff instead. Who cares about companies that ignore their customers?

  11. I haven’t bought a Marvel or DC comic in about two years (maybe excluding some back catalogue stuff on ComiXology, but I honestly couldn’t tell you). I don’t find their books very interesting since they spend more time managing IP than actually telling stories,

    So, a reboot that largely maintains the status quo won’t bring me back. One of the posts above mentions better division if it’s publishing slate. I agree with that.

    Problem is, Marvel isn’t in the comics business anymore, it’s in the brand management business. DC isn’t much better to be honest, but it’s no mistake that none of the genuinely challenging, medium-pushing work is coming from the companies with the biggest budgets and most ability to take some risks.

    Image, IDW and Dark Horse in particular are absolutely wiping the floor with Marvel/DC in terms of book.

  12. My favorite super hero, hands down, is Captain America. No question about it. With the exception of Uncanny Avengers Vol. 2 I have not bought any book with Captain America in it for over two years. It’s not for me. That being said I do buy a lot of Marvel. The new line up is taking Infamous Iron Man away which is a shame, it’s one of their best books. HULK, which I wasn’t sure of at first and eventually warmed up to is being changed to She Hulk. Are we to assume that she gets better? She is pretty damaged in her current book and any resolution will seem shallow at best. That Marvel Two In One has me super excited, but recent issues of Infamous Iron Man explain why it won’t work. Are they sweeping that under the rug? In the end I will continue to buy what I buy, be upset when they cancel what I like and ignore huge swaths of books that they produce because they are not for me. Business as usual in the Marvel Universe.
    What a shame.

  13. David Taylor speaks the truth. Marvel comics is just a farm for movies now. Image, Dark Horse and IDW get the lion’s share of my dollar. Only Big Two I buy are kids books from DC and an occasional Star Wars trade.

  14. “Seeing the line take some more risks than DC right now is certainly cause for celebration ” WHAT? Soooo…I guess all the Young Animal titles like Cave Carson and Shade or even Mother Panic is not a “risk”? Hell, what about Scooby Doo Apocalypse?

  15. Since returning to collecting in 2012 I have already grown tired of the way marvel publishes and what they are putting out. They are the single biggest factor for taking a chance with Valiant comics. I would like to thank marvel for helping me find more money by dropping more of their books to spend on Valiant. Make Mine, VALIANT!

  16. “But Marvel are scared of pissing off their old readers and that’s why they’ll never do it.”

    Ummm… that all Marvel seems “good” at doing these days. Pissing of their longtime readers (oops, or should that be “AARP-card carrying pap-pap Bronze Agers”?).

  17. This column sounds like me around the time of Marvel’s ‘Heroic Age’* where I thought we were going to see a shift from wideline event storytelling and either back to basics superheroes or wild experimentation within each individual title (like in the early Quesada period, possibly the best Marvel I’ll ever experience).
    I might actually be thinking of a similar but differently titled soft relaunch. We’ve been here before. Not sure Marvel has any interest in doing this – I think the highs of when it works, think Civil War and Dark Reign are too high to not go back to.

    Also, I think it’s been pretty thoroughly debunked, but I’ll put my hand up to join those against the idea that Marvel is taking more risks than DC.
    Even if you ignore that Marvel Legacy is a response to DC’s big risk with Rebirth and a fortnightly schedule, I’d give DC the edge with Young Animal line and The Flintstones style books, but think we’d probably end up at even Stevens if we argued it out title by title.

  18. Agree with other posters on DC taking creative risks. DC publishes around 60-70 titles per month (~75-85 books with double shipping). Around 35 of those titles are main/core DCU. The rest are Young Animal, Hanna-Barbera, etc.

    Another thing I’d like to point out, DC offered returnability for the first 3 months of Rebirth and Young Animal. I believe they’re planning on doing the same for Dark Matter. That’s financial risk that I have yet to see Marvel take. Instead, their modus operandi appears to be to get retailers to buy a lot of $5+ #1s with variants to pay for the rest of serialization.

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