Comics / Comics News

5 Lessons Marvel NOW! Can Take away from DC's New 52

By Dan Horn
August 13, 2012 - 14:55

With the New 52 entering its twelfth month, Marvel has the benefit of foresight at DC's expense when it comes to much-touted relaunches. Marvel NOW! is all set for its October/November/December push, with the new title confirmations pouring in all last week. Here are the NOW! books:

Iron Man by Kieron Gillen and Greg Land

Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

Indestructible Hulk by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu

Fantastic Four by Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley

FF by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred

by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan, and Tony Moore

X-Men Legacy
by Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat

Captain America by Rick Remender, John Romita, Jr, Klaus Janson, and Dean White

Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender and John Cassaday

Avengers by Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena

All-New X-Men by Brian Bendis and Stuart Immonen

Here are five lessons Marvel could learn from DC's relaunch from 2011:

1. Quality over quantity

Any widely-advertised relaunch is going to make you bank in its earliest stages simply by virtue of ad saturation breeding public curiosity, but how do you sustain that cash flow once the sheen of "newness" gives way to a patina of "meh"?

DC's New 52 launch dominated Diamond's market share at its onset, but monthly readership has dwindled significantly in the past twelve months. DC still exerts some slight lead in the market, but interest is fading in most of the books from their headline-grabbing reboot. The ones that still sell very well are books of relatively and distinguishably superior quality (Batman, Justice League, and Action Comics). One could argue that DC perhaps spread its creative bullpen a bit too thinly with fifty-two ongoing titles, leading to a stark imbalance in caliber from one book to another.

Conversely, Marvel seems to be making a point of attenuating the NOW! launch into a tidy, tight line of around a dozen books. Of course, other current titles will continue remarkably unhindered by the NOW! initiative, allowing Marvel to maintain their diverse array of content and their iconic continuity, but the October/November launch itself is in no danger of being crushed under its own audacious enormity. That slimmer line is also advantageous in that it allows Marvel to allocate creative resources efficiently, meaning you won't see any throw-away books in Marvel NOW!'s ranks. At least, let's hope not.

2. Don't forget your roots

One of the many problems with DC's New 52 was its disassociation from its own classic, albeit impossibly complicated, continuity. Sure, a lot of people had been claiming that dense, convoluted, confusing continuities were the only factor keeping new readership from jumping onboard a comic book series, but is a lack of history any more appealing? Continuity is an infamous double-edged sword in comic books. You can only appease so many people in your attempts at making things more accessible, and accessibility can mean something completely different relative to a reader's tastes. Maybe a clean slate is alluring to one person, but a back catalog of stories to be discovered might entice another.

Unfortunately, DC took a bold step that managed to disenfranchise quite a bit of its old readership, but then wavered in its resolve early on, still managing to make a lot of their new continuity pretty confusing. Characters with fervent cult followings (Stephanie Brown, Wally West, Jack Knight, etc) were completely gone, leaving no tether for their fan-bases, but somehow other continuity mainstays had weathered the retcon storm (Death of Superman, Killing Joke, and even allusions to one of DC's notorious "crises").

Marvel NOW! has the opportunity to circumvent the mire DC got its boots stuck in. By giving new readers a clearly demarcated jumping-on point and standing by a mission statement that any book, if written well and beautifully illustrated, can be accessible no matter what has come before, Marvel needn't cut of its nose to spite its face. I think we might finally see a happy cohabitation between old and new readership with the NOW! books that wasn't apparent in the New 52.

3. Heroes vs. heroes is getting old

When you were a kid, it was probably just as cool to see Punisher and Daredevil fight each other as it was to see them team-up to fight a mutual villain. And then you ostensibly went through puberty. And then you saw that hero-on-hero dynamic play out about one thousand times more over the next few years. It's a trope that's been worn unbelievably thin, and yet from the word "go" heroes fighting heroes has been one of the more salient features in the New 52 landscape. The very first issue of the relaunch, Justice League #1, pitted Batman and Green Lantern against one another, and it's all been downhill from there. The hero meets hero, heroes fight, heroes come to an understanding formula is agonizingly trite. Let's hope Marvel has worked all of that out of their system with Avengers vs X-Men. Hero infighting should have an emotionally resounding and/or conceivable impetus, and to keep that sort of infighting somewhat novel, it should happen very rarely.

4. Not everything old is new again

I get it. We've come to a pop-culture juncture where Jack Kirby is posthumously informing a lot of what we read and see, 50's noir stylings are back en vogue, and a distinct Moebius/Heavy Metal influence is burgeoning in the current crop of independent comic artists. However, this doesn't suddenly make everything from the past fair game. DC must have missed the memo: "Only content of genius proportions is worth recycling." Much of the "New" 52 immediately looked past its prime at launch time. Some of the books smacked of a 90's Image Comics aesthetic, while others mined even more prosaic, culturally irrelevant, and inartistic influences.

Marvel NOW! looks to be avoiding this particular conundrum (not that this has really been a problem for Marvel in the past six or seven years) by maintaining a decidedly slick, post-modern visual tonality, with the exception of Mike Allred's artwork, which is nostalgic of only the most wonderful things from comics' yesteryears. The scripting lineup is equally forward-thinking, exhibiting the colossally talented and successful creators behind some of the modern comic era's greatest and most notable works. I don't think we're going to be seeing any 90's regression here.

5. Crossovers are ok... Really

DC has been biting through their lips trying not to hit the shiny red "crossover" button in their creative missile silo. First, it was "no more crossovers." Then, that stance immediately faltered, changing to "well, here are some teasers for possible crossovers." Lastly, the inevitable "line-wide crossover planned for 2013." While Dan DiDio and company were busy thinking about cold showers and baseball every time the subject of crossover events came up, then eventually succumbing to their more primal urges to see a shit ton of superheroes in a single comic book, they could've been focusing on a line-wide event that thoughtfully tied all of the New 52 together. Not to mention, crossover events mean big bucks. I mean, I hate event books, and I haven't bought any since Marvel's "Siege" made me want to go all Roy Batty and put my head through a wall, but even I have to concede to the notion that DC missed an opportunity with the New 52: a crossover event that everyone would've had to read.

I'd be glad to see Marvel NOW! go on without any kind of crossover events for the foreseeable future, but I don't think Marvel should say one thing and do another. If you feel the burning yen of crossover fever come over you, just get it over with. I'd just rather Marvel's crossovers not interfere with my other monthly reading experiences anymore. That's the reason I dropped Wolverine and the X-Men and Secret Avengers. You can't force me to buy and read something I'm not interested in, even if it's in a book that's on my pull list. But, I understand why publishers put their eggs in the event basket. There are a lot of people who still read that crapola. So, if it has to happen, let it happen without any misleading pretenses of it not happening.

I guess the pretense argument could very well extend to pricing also. DC's ostentation of "holding the line at two-ninety-nine" sprung a leak within the first two years of the pricing pledge. Though most of the $3.99 books feature a few extra pages of content, I suspect that's simply a shrewd workaround in an age of plot decompression and innumerable fill-in artists.

Marvel's pricing policy is no better. In fact, I think their cover prices are atrocious. However, I don't ever remember them promising to keep their books to a $2.99 standard. Lesson here: don't make guarantees to your readers that you can't keep.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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