Sunday, January 20, 2013

A few quick thoughts on "Marvel Now", generated by some other people's writing on the subject I read this week...

This weekend comic shop owner/comics blogger/columnist Brian Hibbs took a look at how Marvel's "Marvel Now!" initiative has been faring at his shop, particularly as compared to how wildly successful DC's "New 52" initiative was.

One thing he noticed was that "Marvel Now" didn't seem to generate the same numbers of of new or lapsed Marvel readers coming into his shop that the "New 52" did with DC readers, and he wondered about some of the reasons this might have been.

I am but one grumpy, graying, curmudgeonly reader of comics, but price and the frequency of publication was the major factor keeping this (mostly) lapsed Marvel reader from trying out too many books. The only Marvel Now books I've tried so far have been the Fraction-written Fantastic Four (a disappointment that I've dropped and then decided to un-drop each time it's come out so far) and FF. I plan to try out Young Avengers when it launches.

I would have tried out Indestructible Hulk, Uncanny Avengers and the new, Hickman-written Avengers books, which sound fairly awesome, but they were all priced at the insane $3.99/20-22-page price point, so, obviously, those are books to trade-wait (As insane as I think a $4 ongoing monthly comic book is, it's worth noting that Marvel's accelerated shipping means readers are actually paying $8 or so a month to keep up with many of the publisher's big books—Paul O'Brien's latest "X-Axis" column reveals that the new All-New X-Men title has already shipped six issues since its November launch, meaning a reader following it would have already invested $28 in it).

A mess of others I plan to try out in trade paperback collection eventually; these include the above-mentioned too-expensive books as well as Avengers Academy, Savage Wolverine and Thunderbolts...and maybe some of Bendis' X-Men stuff.

When the "New 52" launched, I tried just a handful of them—Aquaman, Green Lantern, Justice League, Justice League Dark and Wonder Woman. A year later I tried out the first volumes of the collections of Demon Knights, Justice League International and Batman and Robin.

That's not a huge sampling of either initiatives, but I think Hibbs hit the nail on the head when he suggested the Marvel books seem more writer or creative team driven than editorially driven. Neither relaunch/reboot/re-branding effort seemingly invested much time or energy into finding new creative voices, but rather just reshuffled creative teams slightly.

On the whole though, either because editorial has been more hands-off or because Marvel had a deeper and wider pool of creative talent, on the whole the Marvel effort seems to be producing many better comics than the DC effort (and, again, I'm looking at a very small sampling; I think what I've read and heard bears this out as something akin to conventional wisdom, though).

One particular aspect of the Marvel Now launch I found intriguing was which books weren't getting new #1's, despite the fact that they were getting new writers, new writers and artists, brand-new directions and/or brand-new titles.

These included...

Avengers Assemble, which received a new writer in Kelly Sue DeConnick (taking over for Brian Michael Bendis) and artist in Stefano Caselli (taking over for Mark Bagley)...

Journey Into Mystery, which received a new writer (Kathryn Immonen for Kieron Gillen), a new artist (Valerio Schiti for Richard Elson and others) and a new starring character (Sif, replacing Loki)...

and Red She-Hulk, which kept the writer (Jeff Parker) and the numbering of Hulk, but changed it's title, its protagonist and its artist...

In each instance the titles appear to have received small bumps in orders, based on the sales figures The Beat's Paul O'Brien had to work with when putting together his monthly sales chart analysis (of about 8,000, 2,000 and 10,000, respectively), but these increases are nowhere near as large as those experienced by other titles that had similar changes in creators, directions and/or stars, like, say, Captain America (83,000), Fantastic Four (69,000), Indestructible Hulk (82,000), Iron Man (70,000) and Thor (75,000).

In short, Marvel totally should have given Avengers Assemble, Journey Into Mystery and Red She-Hulk new #1s, like I suggested months ago, but they didn't, because they are dumb.

On a purely practical level, I don't really understand how these handful of not re-started comics (all of which have as much or more reason to justify a restart as any of the other comics named in this post) work as part of the "Marvel Now."

What happens to the reader who hears Jeff Parker's Red She-Hulk is really good, and wants to start with the first issue, but can't find anything with a lower number than 50-something on the cover (and can't find the trades collecting the first 50 imaginary, non-existent issues)? Or the person who was told Journey Into Mystery had a nice blend of fantasy and superheroics, and was written by a female writer and featured a female protagonist, but sees that "#646" on the cover and thinks "Jesus, this book looks six-and-a-half times harder to catch up on then Walking Dead...!"...?


Akilles said...

An adorable drawing!

Thanks for informing this.

Steve M said...

I totally agree - I can't make heads or tails of what the point of Marvel Now is supposed to be. At least with the "New 52" I could tell they were rebooting everything with a Wildstorm flair and avoid it.

Bram said...

LCS noted that all the advertising — like, on USA — and all the press surrounding 52 brought people through the door that they'd never seen before.

Now seemed to lack any sort of mass-market advertising, so they're just talking to the established base.