New Newsarama1 of 12You may have noticed a new coat of paint on our homepage this week – a makeover that’s been in the works for quite some time. Newsarama knows what it takes to pull out a top-down relaunch, and it’s given us a new perspective on some of the major relaunches in comic book history.
The most recent was DC’s "Rebirth," which relaunched an entire line, rolling back some parts of the "New 52" and bringing back elements of classic continuity. In just a couple months, Marvel will do much the same thing with its "Marvel NOW!" initiative.
But relaunching comic books and comic book lines is hardly new. Here are ten of the best examples of the most important comic book relaunches in history.
VALIANT/GOLD KEY2 of 12Valiant, once among the largest publishers in the comic book industry, has a history that is filled with relaunches. But perhaps the most significant one is the company's founding itself.
In 1989, former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter - with the help of Barry Windsor-Smith and Bob Layton - took licensed characters from Gold Key Comics and relaunched them, creating one of the most successful comic book companies of the 1990s.
The effort made millions from the defunct Gold Key action hero line, which was never a chart-topper the first time around. Adding original characters and developing the universe further, Valiant became a leading publisher in the '90s and had characters featured in video games.
Despite its initial success, Valiant was subsequently relaunched a number of times. While DC's "New 52" relaunch was the largest renumbering attempted by a publisher, Valiant did something similar in 1996, after Acclaim Entertainment bought the company. All previous Valiant Universe titles were canceled, and Senior VP Fabian Nicieza was given the task of completely revamping the line with new #1 issues and writers like Warren Ellis, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek and Garth Ennis.
And of course Valiant relaunched again in 2012, with titles including X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, and Harbinger and others.
Gold Key, meanwhile, after a short failure to start at Dark Horse, moved to Dynamite in 2014 for another attempt at success. The characters themselves are owned by Dreamworks Animation, which was just purchased by Comcast.
GREEN LANTERN: REBIRTH3 of 12DC’s Green Lantern franchise is one of DC's most prominent.
But that wasn't the case in 2005, when low sales of the single Green Lantern title prompted DC to hand the franchise over to writer Geoff Johns, who had relaunched the Teen Titans title the year before.
Johns was tasked with bringing Hal Jordan back to life while re-introducing the previously disbanded Green Lantern Corps. While the writer won rave reviews for doing just that, the vast universe of new concepts he ended up introducing to Green Lantern jump started more than just the comic books. These multicolored concepts became the backbone of the character's launch into film and TV.
The relaunch also gave superstar status to Johns, who spearheaded several DC events and eventually ascended to become Chief Creative Officer for DC Entertainment and running DC Films. So if for nothing else…
Green Lantern: Rebirth lent its concept - and title - to DC's ongoing "Rebirth" initiative, which is designed to bring DC's heroes back to their core essence.
And Newsarama recently counted down nearly a dozen other times Johns Rebirth-ed DC characters.
DARK HORSE STAR WARS4 of 12Although the Star Wars series had been published by Marvel for nine years and more than 100 issues during the release of the original movies, the license eventually went to Dark Horse. The relaunch of the Star Wars comic book universe that followed was one of the most successful relaunch initiatives in the history of licensed books.
The popular film franchise first inspired a comic book in 1977, when Marvel Comics won the license to publish the initial Star Wars series. At first, it was just an adaptation of the A New Hope film, but ended up continuing for more than 100 issues through 1986.
Though there was a forgettable three-issue run of 3D comic books at a publisher called Blackthorne in-between, effectively the cancellation of the Marvel series opened the door for Dark Horse to acquire and relaunch the Star Wars universe. The revamp the publisher orchestrated in 1991 with Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy's Dark Empire as its hinge turned Star Wars from a defunct single title into an entire line spanning over 20 years.
Dark Horse is now one of the top 5 publishers in comic books, and the acquisition of the Star Wars license in 1991 and the successful relaunch of the comic book universe was as important to the publisher's success as anything that has happened since.
The publisher's hold on the license ended in 2014 with the license going back to Marvel, where a line of critically acclaimed comic books that fully integrate with movie continuity have thrived.
MARVEL KNIGHTS DAREDEVIL5 of 12In 1998, the long-running Daredevil title was relaunched by Marvel Comics as part of a brand new imprint called Marvel Knights. While the relaunch was a success, the title's importance lies in its contribution to the editorial career of Marvel's current Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, and the role its success played in a new era at Marvel Comics.
Daredevil's relaunch, with filmmaker Kevin Smith writing and Quesada drawing, was one of four titles that were outsourced to Quesada's Event Comics company in 1998 as part of the Marvel Knights line. The titles dealt with more mature themes than the regular Marvel Universe, and the outsourcing meant Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti had control over the talent hired to create them.
The successful launch of the Marvel Knights line and the popularity of the Daredevil relaunch not only catapulted Quesada's editorial career, but also contributed to the character's film adaptation.
In 2000, within two years of the relaunch at Marvel Knights, Quesada was named Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics. He served in that capacity for a decade before seguing to Marvel's Chief Creative Officer, guiding Marvel to its current status as industry leader across multiple media.
THE MAN OF STEEL6 of 12After the publication of the continuity-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne retold the original story of Superman in a six-issue series that relaunched the character for a new generation, even getting a famous Time Magazine cover.
While not technically a relaunch of a title, the series was designed to reboot the Superman mythos and reduce or eliminate the expansive Superman family of characters and some of the wackier ideas introduced to his universe during the Silver Age.
The character was given an updated look by Byrne as the creator also completely rewrote his history.
While there have been several different re-tellings of his original since, and a number of alterations to post-Crisis DC Universe continuity as whole, this was considered the starting point for the modern version of the character...
...Well, until 2011's reboot, that is. Or 2016's "Rebirth."
THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS/BATMAN YEAR ONE7 of 12Two of the best-known titles by legendary writer/artist Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One rewrote the character's history and future in 1986-1987 and ushered in the darker version of the Dark Knight that fans know today.
"DKR", as the Returns title is known, takes place in the future of Gotham City while Year One takes place in its past. Both were once considered in-continuity and usually show up on lists citing the "best comic books of all time."
After Crisis on Infinite Earths rewrote DC's entire history, Year One became the official in-continuity version of the Dark Knight's origin up until 2011's "New 52." Written by Miller with art by David Mazzucchelli, the story also helped launch the Modern Age of comic books.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo followed up on that task with the "Zero Year" storyline during their acclaimed run, updating the Batman origin once more, this time for the modern DCU.
HEROES REBORN/NEW AVENGERS8 of 12With Marvel's The Avengers now a $1.5 billion dollar property (not even counting the solo films, spin-offs like Guardians of the Galaxy and the sequels), two comic book relaunches can't be overlooked as having helped pave the way.
In 1996, the "Heroes Reborn" event relaunched titles for members of The Avengers and Fantastic Four into new titles that were outsourced to the studios of superstar artists Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.
Although Marvel had "farmed out" characters to creators before, the initial sales boost Heroes Reborn experienced during the highly-publicized event gave renewed importance to Marvel's non-X-Men and non-Spider-Man titles. Somewhat floundering before that, the Avengers family titles and characters like Captain America and Iron Man have arguably retained that renewed importance to Marvel ever since.
The Avengers title itself experienced another relaunch in December 2004 when writer Brian Michael Bendis completed the franchise revival when he "disassembled" the former team and brought characters together under a new banner, New Avengers. The successful sales move not only led to multiple Avengers spinoff titles, but it brought Bendis into the creative center of the Marvel Universe.
According to Tom Brevoort, the Marvel executive editor who oversaw the Avengers relaunch, it's not necessarily a coincidence that the success of the comic book relaunch has now been followed by a film.
"Certainly, Avengers has been successful," Brevoort told Newsarama in 2009 about the comic books. "That can't be lost on the guys doing the various films that we have coming up from Marvel."
You certainly have to wonder if Marvel Studios would have undertaken the building of the Avengers movie universe if not for the recent success of the comic book titles.
THE NEW 52/REBIRTH9 of 12In one of the biggest gambles in recent years, DC Comics not only decided to dump most of its continuity, but renumber several of the longest-running titles in comic book history.
Every single DC Universe comic was replaced in September 2011 by a new #1 issue, with 52 new ongoing comic books launching in the same month.
Although the move was at least partially motivated by a move toward the digital marketplace, it ended up exceeding sales expectations for print comic books in stores nationwide, where it was tough to find a "New 52" #1 that wasn't sold out. Thanks to marketing and mainstream press, the initiative gave the comics industry a significant sales boost at a time when sales had been steadily sliding.
But for comic book fans, the relaunch holds particular significance because the superheroes of the DCU - some of whom had been around since World War II - were now typically only five years into their crime-fighting careers. DC's 70 years of continuity was either erased or condensed, in ways that readers are still trying to figure out.
DC relaunched again in spring 2016, mostly keeping its "New 52" continuity, but bringing back many classic elements and stories that were eschewed with the 2011 reboot. Fans have responded in kind, with Rebirth’s sales bolstering DC's sales to become the top U.S. publisher for the first time in 16 months.
GIANT-SIZE X-MEN10 of 12With today's film, TV and comic book success of X-Men characters, it's hard to imagine a world where there were no new X-Men stories. But that's exactly what happened from 1970 to 1975 when Marvel's Uncanny X-Men title was filled with reprints because of a lack of sales.
Giant-Size X-Men #1, released in 1975, relaunched the team by adding culturally diverse, internationally based characters like Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and Colossus to the previously established group.
This relaunch of the X-Men, written by Len Wein with art by Dave Cockrum, led to a younger, mostly-unknown writer named Chris Claremont taking on the title. Claremont's now-legendary 17 year-run, which included countless spin-offs that expanded Marvel's mutant universe to one-time flagship status, helped redefine comic book storytelling in the mid '70s and defined nearly all of the X-Men mythos that inspired many successful animated TV series, feature films and billions of dollars worth of licensed merchandise since.
Not to mention ruling the top of the comic book sales charts for years on end.
SHOWCASE #411 of 12It's difficult to overstate the importance of Showcase #4, the relaunch of DC's superhero character the Flash, because the 1956 comic was the first of many relaunches that ushered in the Silver Age of comic books.
Superheroes, which had dominated the world of comic books in the late '30s and early '40s, declined in popularity after World War II. To boost sales, publishers turned instead toward stories of crime, horror and romance.
But public fears about comic books contributing to juvenile delinquency led to the 1954 establishment of the Comics Code Authority. To save the industry, publishers turned back to the superheroes upon which the Golden Age had been built, but they "relaunched" most of the characters, giving them a more modern, space age origin.
The first of these relaunches was the Flash. Where Jay Garrick was once the Flash, DC gave readers a new Flash named Barry Allen. In the following years, DC published more and more relaunched superhero titles, leading Marvel Comics to do the same and saving the superhero genre for future audiences.
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