Last week, Marvel Comics announced a new iteration of "Marvel NOW!" spinning out of Civil War II. While it is unconfirmed how extensive this relauch will be, this new linewide umbrella status quo shift does feed into what Marvel calls its "seasonal" model, in which new publishing initiatives are launched on an almost annual basis, leading to large-scale relaunches of various titles.
Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort says that this model is a product of current market, saying that the relaunches - which date back to 2010's "Heroic Age" in the wake of Siege - are a tool to draw in new readers, and to keep Marvel's titles fresh.
"It's not a stunt," Brevoort told Newsarama. "It’s a recognition of the fact that this is the world we live in now, because the demands on readers’ times and dollars are what they are. I’m convinced – utterly convinced – that virtually every comic book reader cannot afford to buy all the comics they’d like to be buying and reading. There are too many good books out there, across all publishers. The average fan just can’t afford everything. What that means is, readers are far more cutthroat these days than they might have been back in the day, in terms of axing any particular title from their pull list, if only because there are so many other delicious looking pieces of candy on the shelf that they might want to sample."
In response to this level of selectiveness from fans, Brevoort says Marvel has recognized its titles need to operate at a high level at all times.
"What that means is, every book has to be working at peak performance level every single issue without fail, otherwise you’re put adrift. And even if you do everything right, to the best of your ability, if it’s not the right time, or the right story, or the right character, you can still lose readers. We’ve seen it time and time again that the stuff that sells the best, that people aggregate onto, is stuff that’s just starting. It’s an absolute rarity – not an impossibility, but a rarity – that a book starts out and its numbers grow over time."
"That’s neither condemning or supporting that trend, it’s just a recognition of fact," Brevoort continued. "The audience is much more cut throat in being ready to drop a book if it’s not doing it for them. That being the case, creative teams tend to burn through their material more quickly. There’s not a lot of patience for downtime issues, or a slow build anymore. You can have your great master plan where you slowly set your dominos and then in year two, you’re gonna wow everybody, but your book is gonna be dead in six issues, well before you get to that. People just don’t have the patience to wait a year and a half to get to the good stuff. You have to get to the good stuff immediately. And you have to all be good stuff. Every issue has to be giving readers what they want, or they start to move onto other stories."
Brevoort explained that Marvel's relaunches are timed to coincide with major events on purpose, calling them a way to "refresh and revitalize" titles and stories.
"One of the things a big event story is judged on, rightly or wrongly, is what kind of an impact it has on the Marvel Universe in its aftermath. That just becomes a condition of these big event stories: what is it at the end that changes the landscape?"
Still, it's inevitable that audiences grow more and more skeptical with every "stunning status quo change," though Brevoort believes Marvel's model is working. And, when its returns diminish, he says they'll "return to the old way, or find yet another new way to do things."
"As long as we have a shift, we can do it infinitely. We can’t always do it with the same level of success; some decisions and some storytelling choices are gonna be better received than others. But them’s the rules of the game. That’s the outcome whether you relaunch or not. Every story we tell, some people will like and some people won’t like. Depending on the numbers that come up in either column, it’s either a success or a failure."
And though Brevoort couldn't be specific about the terms of the new iteration of "Marvel NOW!," he did indicate that this relaunch and rebranding would not be as significant as the last relaunch, "All-New, All-Different Marvel," which spun out of Secret Wars and saw every title in Marvel's line restarted with a new #1.
"Not every creator is changing on every title, not every book is completely shifting. But enough of them are that there’s another iteration of 'Marvel NOW!' happening. I don’t know that it should come as too much of a shock or a surprise given how the last couple years have been heading in that direction."