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! (2012) (Art by Joe Quesada)
All-New Marvel NOW! (2013) (Art by Steve McNiven)
Avengers NOW! (2014)
All-New All-Different Marvel (2015)
Marvel NOW! 2.0 (2016)
Marvel Legacy (2017)
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.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.