Nth Times the Charm: The Most Frequently Relaunched Comics

This week brought news of an eight-issue Alpha Flight maxiseries from Marvel Comics, debuting in May from the creative team of co-writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente and artist Dale Eaglesham. It features the original roster, newly resurrected in Chaos War, and ties-in to Marvel’s 2011 event story Fear Itself.

It’s also the fifth time Alpha Flight has been launched in one form or another, which got us to thinking: What are the most relaunched comics of all time? And where does Alpha Flight rank among this list? So we did our best to try and figure that out.

(Newsarama note: We're not claiming this to be an exhaustive list; if we forgot some good ones, let us know. And for the most part, we’re discounting comics that have been relaunched and renumbered plenty of times but essentially continually published, like Iron Man or Avengers.)

ALPHA FLIGHT Returns During CHAOS WAR
ALPHA FLIGHT Returns During CHAOS WAR
 

Comic: Alpha Flight

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Number of launches: Four (kind of five).

Alpha Flight enjoyed a long and healthy run in its initial 130-issue volume, stretching from 1983 to 1994. Three years after that, Sandman Mystery Theatre writer Steven Seagle helmed a thoroughly unconventional take on the Canadian superteam, heavy on conspiracies and new characters. That one lasted 20 issues. Scott Lobdell went in the opposite direction for his 12-issue 2004 series, relying heavy on comedy. (The first arc was titled “You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me.”) Following the majority of the team’s death in New Avengers, a new team called Omega Flight was formed from the ashes, and featured in a 2007 five-issue series — which brings us to the present.

 

Comic: Doom Patrol

Publisher: DC Comics (sometimes Vertigo)

Number of launches: Five.

DC’s team of superpowered misfits led by an older man in a wheelchair actually pre-dated Marvel’s X-Men by a couple of months, though while Uncanny X-Men has been going strong for 532 issues and counting, Doom Patrol hasn’t had the same luck. The first volume took over the numbering of the intriguingly titled My Greatest Adventure in 1964, lasting until #124. The team got a new ongoing in 1987, which Grant Morrison took over and thoroughly Morrison-ified starting with issue #19, leading to the comic becoming part of DC’s mature readers line, Vertigo. Two short-lived DC proper series followed in 2001 (from John Arcudi and Tan Eng Huat) and 2004 (by John Byrne), leading to the current Keith Giffen-written series, which is ending with May’s issue #22. Can a sixth volume be far behind?

 

Comic: New Warriors

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Number of launches: Four.

Have you ever attended a Marvel Comics panel at a convention, at anytime, anywhere? Then you’ve probably heard a fan ask when New Warriors would be coming back, even if Marvel happened to be publishing it at the time. The first 75-issue volume is still beloved by many, but the second volume, written by Jay Faerber, only hung on for 10 issues (and an at-the-time-nearly-obligatory Wizard-exclusive #0). Zeb Wells and Skottie Young cast the team as comedic reality TV stars in their six-issue 2005 miniseries, which led to them inadvertently causing Civil War. (Whoops.) 2007 saw a post-Decimation series by Kevin Grevioux and Paco Medina, starring a team of mostly depowered mutants, which saw 20 issues before wrapping. The team saw a bit of a revival in the pages of Avengers: The Initiative, but no fifth volume. (Yet.)

 

Comic: Aquaman

Publisher: DC Comics

Number of launches: Four? Maybe? Let’s call it four.

The underwater superhero/perennial punchline has had a long history in pubishing since his debut in 1941’s More Fun Comics #73. (Man, comics had the best titles back then.) His first own ongoing series started in 1962 and lasted for 63 issues, and he got another shot with a four-issue miniseries in 1985 following Crisis on Infinite Earths. That was followed by a couple more miniseries, building towards the 1994 75-issue ongoing series initially written by Peter David, introducing the long-haired, bearded, hook-handed Aquaman (and one of the few examples on this list of a subsequent volume lasting longer than the initial one). After a couple of years off, the king of Atlantis returned with another ongoing in 2003, which shifted dramatically with #40, introducing a new lead character entirely. (Does that count as a relaunch? You make the call.) Given recent developments in Brightest Day, another new ongoing seems like a safe bet.

 

Comic: WildC.A.T.S.

Publisher: WildStorm

Number of launches: Five.

Spawn and Savage Dragon have both been published continually since the debut of Image Comics. The other titles that launched with them, not so much. Case in point: WildC.A.T.S., which saw several reinventions following its first run of 50 issues. The second volume, begun in 1998 after DC’s acquisition of WildStorm, started to shift when Joe Casey and Sean Phillips took over with #8, eventually meriting, you guessed it, another relaunch — a mature readers book titled Wildcats 3.0 in 2002. The next launch came in 2006, when the all-star creative team of Grant Morrison and original series artist Jim Lee took over the book — for exactly one issue. Two years later, another ongoing surfaced, which ended when the rest of WildStorm did late last year. Other old-school Image books, like launchmate Youngblood and fellow WildStorm titles StormWatch and Gen 13, have seen similarly frequent revivals.

 

Comic: She-Hulk

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Number of launches: Five-ish.

Jennifer Walters first popped up as The Savage She-Hulk in late 1979, which spanned 25 issues. The Sensational She-Hulk saw her emerge as a wisecracking fan-favorite, lasting 60 issues. Current Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott’s reputation was bolstered by his run on She-Hulk, which started in 2004, and was relaunched with a new #1 after 12 issues in an attempt to goose up sales. The recently wrapped She-Hulks, starring both Jen and newcomer She-Hulk Lyra, was originally announced as an ongoing series but ended up as a four-issue mini.

 

Comic: Legion of Super-Heroes

Publisher: DC Comics

Number of launches: Practically infinite.

Legion of Super-Heroes has a special place in relaunch history, since nearly every time not only do they see their numbering restarted, but their entire history rebooted. (When a comic takes place a thousand years in the future, there’s some flexibility there.) The original team debuted in Adventure Comics, but didn’t get their own title until 1973; a four-issue reprint miniseries. That same year, Superboy was renamed Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes, dropping the “Superboy” part seven years later. New series followed in 1984 and 1989, then a reboot and another new series post-Zero Hour in 1994. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning revitalized the concept with the Legion Lost miniseries and a subsequent ongoing title, simply titled The Legion. Then in 2004, the Empire team of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson started a new, sixth (?) series, which trailed another reboot. That ended with #50, and the team is currently starring in two ongoing series, Adventure Comics (launch #7?) and Legion of Super-Heroes (launch #8?), both penned by storied Legion writer Paul Levitz.

 

Comic: Punisher

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Number of launches: Nearly incalculable.

Frank Castle is not just every mobster’s worst nightmare, he’s also the undisputed king of relaunches. He first took center stage in a five-issue 1985 miniseries, with a 104-issue ongoing series starting two years later. Following the end of that comic, Marvel launched a new series almost immediately under the nearly forgotten “Marvel Edge” imprint, which stuck around for 18 issues. Next was the infamous “Punisher as an angel” miniseries under the Marvel Knights banner, and then the acclaimed (and much more traditional) 12-issue MK series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. The same team returned for a 37-issue ongoing, which transitioned into a mature readers MAX title, still written by Ennis. During Civil War, the character re-integrated into the Marvel Universe with a new Punisher War Journal series, that was, and here’s the magic word, relaunched — as just Punisher in 2009. That comic was rechristened as Franken-Castle with issue #17, and ended with #21. But don’t fret — just this week, a new Punisher ongoing series was announced, starting this June. This doesn’t even count the multitude of miniseries starring the character, or ancillary titles like Punisher War Zone. And, oh yeah, the MAX title was relaunched last year.

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