Home Culture The Stroke of Genius in the Marvel Now Plan — Never-ending Relaunch

The Stroke of Genius in the Marvel Now Plan — Never-ending Relaunch


By Todd Allen

Those guys at Marvel are crafty.  They’ve been scheming their way out of bad trends for years now.  First it was showing you could successfully raise prices on your bestselling titles (though the gleam may be coming off that one).  Then when things started tanking hard, they manufactured AVX and structured it in such a way that it guaranteed huge numbers and hype.  Credit where credit is due, AVX _has_ taken off since then, but Marvel’s structure built in a failsafe for it.  And now, their latest construction: The Neverending Relaunch.

DC and Marvel have been locked into an Event cycle for quite some time.  Civil War was so successful, it begat Secret Invasion, Dark Reign, Seige, Fear Itself and AVX (which is doing a darn sight better than the last couple follow-ups).  DC got caught up in weekly series attempts and a parade of Crises.  DC spiraled so far out of sales control, they rebooted the entire universe.  To get out of the Event Mentality, they started everything over at new #1s and held back on the cross-overs, with Batman’s Night of the Owls being the only major one so far.  (We’ll see how long they can continue to restrain themselves.)

Not so long ago, I wrote about how Marvel’s sales had been tanking pretty hard if you looked underneath the AVX halo and tried to make sense of the relaunch rumors, since the end-dates for some of the announced creator departures didn’t quite match up.  Now that the other shoe has dropped, we now know why: Marvel is doing a never-ending relaunch.  At least one new series debut every week from October through February.  That’s five months of constant relaunch.  (And we’ll see if they can restrain themselves and not have a big Event mini in March.)

If you want to try and have steady sales over a five month period, and I believe Marvel’s UPPER management is focused on quarterly statements, this is a great way to do it.  With DC’s New 52, you had a huge spike at relaunch, the upper quarter held on to some decent numbers and the bottom third-to-half just fell off the table, back to where DC was prior to relaunch or maybe a hair worse.  Then every few months, DC is cancelling a few titles and relaunch a new wave.  Your pattern is set: Spike -> Attrition -> Spike -> Attrition.

In the last year, Marvel’s had a pattern of big launches and bigger than you’d traditionally expect drops on the second (and sometimes third) issues.  As Marvel relaunches a book a week, if the title drops in month #2, there’s another new launch to take it’s place.  Now, obviously all new titles are not created equal.  A Wolverine relaunch is very likely to outsell an Ant-Man relaunch.  Still, this will even things out.  If the pattern holds the way DC’s relaunch went, a few things will hold readers and few will sink, but there should be an overall rising tide.

From a marketing perspective, this means it will be easier to put the spotlight on each new title.  Let’s face it: did EVERY New 52 title get it’s share of spotlight?  I, Vampire and Men of War probably would’ve gotten a little more preview exposure and audience attention if they were the only book debuting that week.  And let’s face it, “Marvel Now” is a much better promotion name than “New 52” moving forward.  The instant DC wants to have 53 core titles, that moniker will be clunk.  “Marvel Now?” It’s what’s coming out now.

This is not to say Marvel Now is not without risk.  First off, you don’t have the same mainstream  media punch you get relaunching everything with a #1 in the same month.  (Then again, Marvel seems to be holding a lot of attention with AVX, so they’re not starting from precisely as weak a point as DC was.)  Five months of never-ending relaunch does invite the risk of relaunch fatigue.  Will the audience start to tune out what this week’s new title is?  For that matter, will it deaden launch news across the board?  If, for whatever reason, the audience doesn’t take to the relaunches, will they start ignoring them by January?  Perhaps most importantly, what are the prices going to be on Marvel Now, since recent launches have been a mix of $2.99 and $3.99?

However this pans out, Marvel just laid out what should be a sustainable 6 month plan, spreading the risk of launches over two fiscal quarters.  There’s a lot of sense in that.  Now we get to wait as the launch details are slowly dispensed (or more likely, rapidly leaked… it’s comics, after all.)

  1. My head hurts. Pretty much only buying Daredevil and Punisher and later Gambit. Aside from that, not interested in this stupid re-whatevertogetsocallnewreaders

  2. I am not sure how exactly DC could do a continuous relaunch? Would they release Batman, then Batman and Robin, then Detective, followed by Dark Knight and Batwoman? They don’t exactly have a deep bench. The brilliance of New 52 is they tricked people into reading Aquaman. I am still waiting for people to wake up and realize they are lying next to Aquaman and do the walk of shame back to the funny book store.

  3. Marvel has been doing a never-ending relaunch for years now. Their soft reboot has seen books like Invincible Iron Man, Mighty Thor, FF, Avengers/New/Secret/Academy, the X-Men line. This is nothing new or now. It’s old and then.

  4. I just thought of more, the trend of title changing mid-stream: Journey Into Mystery, Hercules, Black Panther Man Without Fear. And the Hulk line had several reboots. As well as all the various times Thunderbolts has been changed title wise.

  5. This is why the corporate powerhouse comic companies suck. It’s rarely ever about the story or creation or “talent”. It’s always about the dollar bills.

    How can anyone ever defend the decisions of companies like this when it comes to integrity? (I’m referencing all the back and forth regarding Before Watchmen thats on this site and others).

  6. >Marvel has been doing a never-ending relaunch for years now.

    Yes, this is just a more focused marketing campaign. Both the overall sales/marketing plan and the individual #1 issues will gain them free publicity, especially at the primary comics news sites. From that perspective this is a pretty smart move. (Of course, I’d rather they had just maintained their original numbering and focused on telling good stories.)

    That said, I’m curious about which titles they’ll cancel to make room. Will recently re-launched titles like Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and Uncanny X-Men get re-launched again? Or will we see HULK AND THE GAMMANAUTS #1, CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE INVADERS #1, and UNBELIEVABLY UNCANNY X-MEN?


  7. How much longer before every comic book is a #1 issue? I think Marvel has given up on anything but selling more comics to fewer fans. And DC, for that matter. Marvel is going to have a #1 issue every week for five months, to spike sales to existing readers, and then several bi-weekly titles to double-ship to existing readers. DC saw the “new 52” didn’t attract readers, so they’re canceling the bottom fifth or so of their line and introducing new #1 issues every six to eight months, and have already announced a big event (ie selling more comics to fewer readers) next year. I think both companies have given up on doing anything but selling to existing hardcore fans, and will not attempt to grow the market.

    Look at what Marvel is doing – a time-travel story with characters from the past to bring them to the present? Only a hardcore fan would understand or want to read something that convoluted. Marvel would have been much better off with a reboot to attract new readers.

    DC has completely given up on attracting new and lapsed readers and is starting the crossover machine up full-blast.

    These two big publishers are just milking what they can, while they can, from a dwindling audience. This is not healthy or sustainable.

    Kind of sad to see comics as an industry come to this. It’s just too insular. Where are the writers who can inject something new into comics? Where are stories someone besides a hardcore fan would want to read?

    I think both Marvel and DC ought to get every employee to read The Walking Dead over and over and over – learn how to tell stories, develop interesting characters, and say something worth reading.

  8. “so they’re canceling the bottom fifth or so of their line and introducing new #1 issues every six to eight months, and have already announced a big event (ie selling more comics to fewer readers) next year. I think both companies have given up on doing anything but selling to existing hardcore fans, and will not attempt to grow the market.”

    Welcome to 2002. This has been the case now for a long time.

    Aside from DC’s brash line-wide reboot, nothing the Big Two are doing is all that new. It’s business as usual, it’s just that the cancellations and relaunches are more structured and hyped/”in our faces”.

    It’s a disappointing state of affairs, but on the other hand it seems like aside from a few breakout hits (Walking Dead, Scott Pilgrim) it is very difficult to get a mass audience to pick up comics. Marvel and DC HAVE tried to get new readers, but perhaps they just haven’t tried hard enough. It seems that it’s much easier for them to (successfully!) convince existing readers to pay even more for stories that they’ve already read better versions of, than it is to get new readers. Some people think that “digital” would have changed this, but of course it hasn’t since it’s the relative “old-fashionedness” of the medium itself that, by and large, holds back new readers who are more accustomed to flashier entertainment that they can consume in a more passive fashion.

  9. >I think Marvel has given up on anything but selling more comics to fewer fans.

    I dislike much of what Marvel is doing, but to their credit Marvel massively promoted Ultimate Spider-man #1, tried to get comics into Wal-Mart and Target, stepped up their promotions (e.g., Death of Cap), tied second-string characters to “events” to increase visibility of their mini-series, started an aggressive digital campaign, and began “cohesive” branding (e.g., by making Nick Fury black). I don’t see how this can be interpreted as “giving up.”


  10. I totally agree with Mikael, Marvel has been doing this crap for close to 20 years now.

    And let’s not forget that when the “new” starts to wear off they revert back to the old numbering just to capitalize on some celebration issue and than relaunch again.

    I have also made SomeGuy points in the past too.
    They just aim at squeezing whatever they can out of die-hard fans and have given up all together on readers, old or new alike.

    This is all very sad and pathetic.

  11. @Louise Lane

    You really think that promoting the death of a character to bring him back few months later is somewhat helpful?

    Why should someone decide to pick up a book when you tell him that they main character is going to die?
    That is if there is actually anyone, inside or outside of comic books, who still believes in these deaths after the “death” of Superman.

    So either they see no point in reading about a soon to die character or they know you are outright lying to them.

    Furthermore black Fury is just a diss at comics’ readers more than cohesive branding since it should be movies that adapt comics not viceversa.

    If they want more ethnic diversity in their universe create new characters like they did with Ultimate Spider-Man don’t alter established ones.

    Ultimate Spider-Man I consider a positive example on all fronts, but it’s just one.

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