As the sun rises in the east, the salmon swim to spawn and butterflies flutterby in springtime, so Marvel relaunches their entire line on a regular basis.

Every year or so Marvel releases yet another giant group shot of the heroes of the Marvel U, all coming at you with a fresh, ready-to-go demeanor. And then 12 months later, new group shot, new all new, new now.
Here’s a list, courtesy of the Beat’s Kyle Pinion; art cribbed from my hard drive and Graeme McMillan’s twitter.

marvel-now

Marvel NOW! (2012) (Art by Joe Quesada)

new marvel now

All-New Marvel NOW! (2013) (Art by Steve McNiven)

avangers now

Avengers NOW! (2014)

all new all different marvel

All-New All-Different Marvel (2015)

marvel now 2016

Marvel NOW! 2.0 (2016)

 

Marvel Legacy #1

Marvel Legacy (2017)

Marvel2018

Marvel Fresh Start (2018) (Art by Jim Cheung)

Quick quiz! Name who did what and what differentiated each relaunch!

After a while, there was a perfunctory air to these relaunches, a disinterest that was so obvious that Marvel couldn’t even be bothered to give each iteration a new name. There’s Marvel Now 2012 and Marvel Now 2016, the latter only differentiated from the first Marvel Now by tha fact that everyone called it Marvel Now 2016.

Not to mention All New Marvel Now.

Adding to the ritual nature of these reboots, the timeline for Marvel’s last 9 months was known 9 months ago. I was informed by multiple sources, the minute Legacy ws announced, that it was but a “placeholder” relaunch, and after it came out (and was expected to fail) embattled e-i-c Axel Alonso would be gone and a *new* event would unfold to clear the slate.

Everything came to pass exactly as foretold.

If you’re wondering why waste a reboot/relaunch on a non-starter like Legacy, well, so is everyone else, including retailers who have been complaining bitterly about Marvel’s haphazard business plan for years.

By contrast, DC has only relaunched three times since 2011.

There was the New 52 in 2011, the lackluster “Hey we’re moving and need to do something” DC You in 2015 (a move which tanked DC sales for 12 months) and last year’s Rebirth. Aside from DC You, which was essentially another “planned to fail” move, when DC relaunches, they go absolutely all in with a full court press of media and roll out and a passionate spokesman (Dan DiDio and Jim Lee for New 52, Geoff Johns for Rebirth) who are ready to carry the flag up the hill.

In point of fact DC You was by far the most imaginative and groundbreaking of all these reboots; it was also the biggest failure, maybe because no one was really behind it.

Who is behind Marvel’s relaunches? Well, it’s a good question. Marvel’s SVP of print, sales, and marketing David Gabriel is certainly in charge of rolling things out to Marvel’s retail partners, and I’m guessing he has a lot to say about the branding and naming.

My sources tell me that Gabriel was not so much on board with Legacy, but A Fresh Start is more in his wheelhouse, so you might see a bit more enthusiasm for it.

The bottom line, no matter who is the mastermind, is that Marvel desperately needs a fresh start with readers and retailers. Bad will over misstatements and the ill-timed Secret Empire storyline are lingering and helped sink Marvel’s sales to industry endangering levels in 2017.

It is true, as Joe Quesada keeps pointing out, that Marvel made money in 2017 and continues to make money. They just didn’t make as much money as planned, and as anyone who ever made a budget knows, that can lead to shortfalls, certainly for retailers, who have not been shy at pointing the finger at Marvel’s sales as a problem for them.

The reveal for A Fresh Start is just getting, um, started. Marvel’s solicitations for May will come out on Thursday, presumably as they are revealed at ComicsPRO. Just cleraing the slate and starting over is a positive move to wash away the memory of the lenticular cursed Legacy, but it won’t solve the other problems we keep mentioning: Marvel’s inability to pay for top talents, interchangeable art teams, a lack of credible spokespeople, and a historical lack of resources to invest in their business.

Marvel’s very smart executive team – now joined by John Nee and CB Cebuslki, two more smart executives – has been good at making chicken salad out of chicken gizzards for a long time.  Can they really turn the page and get everyone excited again? They’re going to need to try some new moves from the playbook because just releasing key art with a lot of characters has been tried many times before. Seven times, to be exact.

31 COMMENTS

  1. I know 2018 is still new, but 2012 was six years ago, not five. (I know it is fast and I blame myself everyday for not having accomplish anything meaningful since I left high school, I know it, stop judging me)

  2. i work in theater, and read many theater reviews because of it. this read like a beautifully biting theater review from a prestigious publication.

  3. I’d argue that DCYou was less a true reboot/relaunch and more of a push for a tonal shift both in the books that came out from DC as well as their actual image. It wasn’t the kind of line-wide relaunching of books that marked New 52/Rebirth and Now/All-New/All-Different/Legacy. It was, at least from my point of view, more of an attempt to spur interest in the new books coming from DC after “Convergence” than any true reboot.

  4. I’m hoping for: A strengthened X Universe, an streamlined Avengers line, same for Spidey, 80-90 books a month and if there’s a way to lower the price for the solo books it will be perfect. The new Avengers book looks great, there’s hope.

    Good opportunity for a Fantastic Four return.

  5. “By contrast, DC has only relaunched three times since 2011.”

    The idea that “only” relaunching three times in the last seven years is somehow a good thing indicates just how bad things have gotten not just for Marvel but for the overall segment of the market that DC and Marvel are working in.

    “You crashed the car seven times! Why can’t you be more like your brother? He’s so much better than you! He only crashed the car three times!”

  6. All these relaunches just make it harder for new readers. I don’t envy anyone who wants to read a Captain Marvel book and has to figure out which of the four (specifically Carol Danvers) Captain Marvel #1’s is the real one. I was OK with using the legacy numbering because I thought it would stick, but no. It’s pretty bad when you can’t just read a comic in numerical order and actually be reading it in the right order.

  7. Wonder why Marvel can’t just focus on telling good stories with decent art under the legacy numbering. It’s disheartening to me, a regular reader since 1977, that they are moving away from restoring the legacy numbering for no reason. Another superficial relaunch is going to sell lots of variant covers to the speculator folk, but it’s not going to leave Marvel in any better position in terms of both new and older readers. Too many relaunches and too high of a cost with too little story per issue will continue to dissuade new readers and constant relaunches and ongoing instability will continue to shed older readers like myself.

  8. I’m only slightly incensed at the annual ritual of the Marvel relaunch (especially now that it doesn’t seem like they’re sticking a cheesy subtitle on this one; I think “a fresh start” was just the name of that promo video) nor am I totally burnt out on all of their stuff yet. I think a couple books from Legacy are still interesting enough for me to pick up each month — No Surrender is, at the very least, kind of interesting.

    I’m more just upset at Marvel’s total inability to shape any kind of interesting or consistent status quo in their lines, which is something they used to be so good at. I also wish they had the good sense to ACTUALLY PROMOTE their books so that they don’t end up with so many cancellations on their hands (which lead to these relaunch frenzies).

  9. The seasonal refresh approach Marvel took over these years is something I didn’t mind in theory. But as it went on, I think they just kept doing it wrong. Books cycle in and out all the time, it’s the way of things, these launches were a good way to centralize everything. I liked that, but them constantly reshuffling pretty much everything with it soured me hard after a while it was a “what’s the point?” deal since nothing would seem to last longer than 12-18 issues so why bother buying an overpriced floppy. One of the reasons All-New Wolverine has been one of my favorite Marvel books is how long it’s been going on, there’s room to grow and try different things.

  10. The claims about insufficient pay to secure top writers must be on some level true. I know when Brubaker left, he said that he was done with superheroes, and Matt Fraction could plunge ahead with Sex Criminals (ditto Rucka). But near the same time as those departures, Marvel cleared out and cancelled its mid-tier books with good creatives, like Fred van Lente, Christos Gage and others.

    Marvel never truly secured a writer like Matt Kindt. What’s Valiant doing that Marvel is not, in that they have all these great writers, including, in the past, Dysart, Swierczynski, Lemire and others.

    To really invigorate Marvel – which is now truly a major, vertically integrated major motion picture company – they need to give real points on the back-end to creators… and then have faith. That’s been on my mind – it’s obvious

  11. Marvel has a lot of heavy lifting to do if they want to regain retailers’ good will, which will be critical to the success of their 2018 publishing plan.

  12. Oh for those pre 1985 days when reboots where unheard of, never mind 3 to 8 company reboots in 5 years. Here’s a radical idea, tell good stories and don’t piss on your classic characters. I would rather read a good BATMAN story then have a BATMAN relaunch every couple of years.

  13. Serious question….are the people working at Marvel just bored with working with same roster of characters over and over? I get a sense in the last 10 years of disinterest and ‘going through the motions’ with the storylines, events and relaunches.

  14. I’m also unsure if DCYou can really be considered a relaunch. They didn’t launch that many new books then and older books mostly continued as they were with some tonal changes. I mean, sure we can call it a relaunch on technical level, but it really doesn’t feel like one when put next to The New 52 or Rebirth.

    As for new Marvel relaunch, well it features classical characters (thou still no Fantastic Four???) so certain group of people will be happy and they will probably spend more money on the comics, but long term it is hard to imagine that something good (for stability of industry) will come out of this.

  15. I loved Marvel in the 80’s and even the 90’s. I just can’t be bothered anymore. I’ll stick with Valiant who’s been going strong since 2012 and hasn’t relaunched their universe once in that time.

  16. I really liked the line they came out with in 2012. It was strong. it tapered off, and each reboot after that felt like throwing things at the wall to see what stuck, give or take a The Vision.

    That said, the problem feels like editorial or above’s blame. Not just the rebooting, but the pacing, the events, the artwork which should be in Marvel Comics Presents third stories… I’m rooting for them, but I think they just need to find some writers they trust and give them some freedom.

  17. Let’s see comics for what they actually are today, launching pads, storyboards for movies. Neither Marvel or DC give a shit anymore about the integrity of the characters (or the fans), they just care for the properties and the brands to be marketed elsewhere. Why they still keep pushing paper is beyond me at this point.

  18. I do feel like the first Marvel NOW launch was both commercially AND creatively strong. But they took the wrong lessons away from that moment.
    Rather than thinking
    “Hey, putting top tier creative talent on books that match their strengths and giving them free reign to tell whatever kind of story they want really works! Let’s do more of that!”
    they thought
    “Hey, relaunches sell! Let’s do that again!”
    So we got rinse and repeat “shakeups” with diminishing returns, rather than investing in talent and letting that talent sell books.

  19. Stan Lee would have been fired if Marvel had rebooted seven times in the ’60s or ’70s. Incompetent management and clueless editors (who really need to find another line of work) are to blame for this.

    “Hey, relaunches sell! Let’s do that again!”

    After every relaunch, sales sink below the level they were at before the relaunch.

  20. I’m an outlier in that Marvel Legacy got me buying Marvel comics again. I started collecting Avengers at #298, it felt cool to buy something that was of the same series now in the 600’s. So often in the last years we’ve had relaunches last only a year before hitting “reset” – and I broke my 20+ year habit.

    I still say it’s harder to cancel a book at #170 than it is at #16, but then again, look at Luke Cage…

    Another reboot kind of tells me it’s okay to move on again.

  21. Aside from the new one, they’re all failures under Axel Alonso. So glad he got the boot as as well as Bendis. Now need Quesada, Buckley, Gabriel and Brevoort to go.

  22. They can reboot all they want, a 3.99 to 4.99 cover price is too much for me. Even if it weren’t marvel has turned Tony Stark and Carol Danvers into fascists, Captain America into a nazi, they’ve had heroes back stabbing each other and murdering worlds; basically they’ve retired the super villains as a serious threat. This weeks hero is last weeks villain and next weeks villain and the week after that he’ll be a hero again. There is nothing to draw me to characters who can’t stay stable for more than an issue at a time.

  23. Why is this so hard? Use writers that people have heard of, artists that A) people have heard of and B) can stick around on a book for more than six issues and let them tell their stories with minimal interruptions. DC did it with Snyder/King Batman and Marvel did it with Waid Daredevil and Slott Spidey. It’s not hard.

  24. Every time they reboot and fail, I’m glad that I didn’t waste any money on it. Marvel just feels dizzy, doing the same thing over and over again. I wonder what the problem is? Are they just trying to hit it big on a big event? Are they just trying to get publicity? I think streamlining the Avengers to one comic is a good idea, but I feel like that’s not going to last. They should use the Time Gem and reset reality back to a time that made sense and go from there.

  25. Legacy actually got me to try Some Marvel again. Some of it was awfull. Some stuff was above my (admittedly not very high) expectations.
    I really liked Doctor Strange by Walta and Cates. Now Walta has left and the good Doctor has entered into another one of those cross-over thingies with Damnation. Blegh. I feel like I can tell which pages were written by Spencer, and which by Cates. The dialogue is heavy handed, and all the fun of the regular Doctor Strange series seems to be gone in Damnation.I keep up hope that Cates can maintain the quality on the regular Doctor Strange without Walta, but I REALLY loathe this cross-over bullshit.
    Same thing on Infinity Countdown. I kind of enjoyed Duggan’s prelude to Infinity Countdown in the final GOTG issues, especially the cancelled #151 which got turned into Infinity Countdown Adam Warlock. But Infinity Countdown Prime is just another start of a stupid cross-over. Everybody and their dog gets dragged into it, and WHY do I have to buy four(!) issues of Darkhawk? I don’t care about Darkhawk, and you cannot make me!
    But that’s what is keeping me from really buying into Marvel again, even when I am kind of intrigued by some of the stuff I’ve sampled. Indies also cancel comics when they don’t sell (Captain Kid from Aftershock comes to mind, and I am still waiting for Shipwreck #6, because Elvis deceided to get involved in Wildstorm) but senseless cross-overs, which are designed to drive up sales, but usually only water down the core brand, seem to be Marvel’s speciality.

  26. So sad that Marvel, whose job with the public should be easier, thanks to the films, still can’t make their main comics work. Look at DC, they’re off to different marketplaces now, catering to different audiences. They have a plan. And Marvel??

    I’m done with Marvel. Cancelling America, Gwenpool, Luke Cage, replacing Jane Foster and Amadeus Cho, last straw for me. Fresh start? Fresh shit more like

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