My apologies to LL Cool J for borrowing the first line of Momma Said Knock You Out for the title of this rambling. With a slight rephrasing, of course. Anyway, if you’ve been reading my ramblings (or listening to Comics Corner Podcast) for a while now, you’ll know that just over a year ago I blogged that DC Comics would be “rebooting” their line of comics. That meant that DC Comics was starting over with #1s for all of it’s major books, so that new and returning readers could jump in without needing to know 70+ years (depending on the book) of character and story continuity. It was a bold and controversial move, seen as a major creative adventure by some, and a desperate attempt to save flagging sales by others. Nearly a year into the “new 52″ as DC Comics calls it’s current line of DC Universe books their marketshare and sales are up from where they were before, although not astronomically so, with the major titles getting a big boost and the more mid-level titles more or less sinking to pre-reboot levels. From a creative point of view, while the quality of all comic runs vary based on the creative team and story arcs at the time, the reboot has definitely been a net positive, adding new energy and storylines. (although I’m still miffed that Billy Batson is such a wanker now, but that’s another rant…)
Marvel Comics had previously been far and away the market leader, and now finds itself in a dead heat with DC Comics. They obviously saw what DC did, and had to respond. So they have unveiled their own fall initiative, dubbed “Marvel Now.” It is also shaking up creative teams and starting over with new #1 issues so that you don’t need a PhD in Marvel continuity to jump in.
Of course, Marvel is quick to insist that even though this looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s an elephant. Or at least, it’s not a reboot. Sure, new stories, new teams, new #1s, but they’re not starting the old books over, just adding these new titles to their roster. You won’t need to know the continuity that came before if you want #1s and don’t want all the continuity that comes with the main Marvel U but this doesn’t take the place of any and all of that continuity if you do want it all to still “remain current” and be part of the story in the other books. Did you get all that?
Also, Marvel says it’s not a reboot since they’re rolling them out slowly, not all at once. Honestly, I don’t think that matters at all. Scheduling is “inside baseball” and I don’t think anyone either coming into comics for the first time, or coming back, cares at all about the reasons behind Marvel’s gradual vs. all-at-once rollout.
Some people think that this is the best of all worlds. Fanboys get the old stuff, newbies get the new stuff, and not too many new titles to absorb at once. MTV Geek seems to believe (or at least hope) that’s the case, for example. Personally, I think it’s a bit of a cop out, as if they’re too worried about shaking the tree, so they’re just doing a “soft reboot.” And I think that ultimately it will hurt adoption of these titles because there are so many, new users may not know which is the “main” one and get confused. And it’s a lot easier if they’re all available at once, rather than one or two a month for three months.
That said, I currently read far more DC Comics than Marvel Comics titles, and I’ll admit that much of it was because of the new 52. I don’t like having to be up on lots of continuity, I like the idea of not being required to know lots of past information I didn’t read. I’m keeping up to date with Avengers Vs. X-Men, for example, and there are so many call outs and call backs to relationships and events I never read, I’m probably only getting half as much out of it as a Marvel fanboy is. So I plan on getting the Marvel Now titles, because I’d like to be able to “start from scratch” with Marvel Now and not have to know 50 years of comic history to understand what I’m reading. If anything, I’m not concerned about Marvel Now being “too disruptive” I’m afraid it won’t be disruptive enough, and it will just be a ruse and still require me to know lots of character history I don’t.
But I’ll give it a try, and I’m looking forward to it.