With the news of Marvel Comics massive relaunch, Marvel NOW!, breaking in Entertainment Weekly earlier this week, we immediately had a handful of questions for Marvel’s leaders about what this means for the world of Marvel Comics.
In addition to the news of 3 re-launching/launching titles: Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender & John Cassaday, Avengers by Jonathan Hickman & Jerome Opena, and All New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Marvel NOW! contains other changes and updates to Marvel’s Publishing Plans. We spoke with representatives from Marvel Comics and got the skinny on what else Marvel NOW! Includes:
- In a move following the Marvel ReEvolution announcement earlier this year at SXSW, Marvel will now be including enhanced covers with recaps thanks to the Marvel AR app. So readers with smartphones will be able to brought up to speed quickly.
- Building on the sampling of digital codes available within print comics, Marvel will now be including a digital download code that can be redeemed on the Marvel website or Marvel apps on ALL comics released by Marvel.
- Finally, Marvel will be redesigning the covers of all books to be more “cinematic and intuitive. We haven’t seen what these new covers will look like but have been told to stay tuned as they will be unveiling it soon.
Armed with all this info, we were bursting with more questions. We got the opportunity to chat with Marvel Comics Editor In Chief Axel Alonso and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort about what this announcement means for Marvel Comics and what we can expect in the future from Marvel NOW!
iFanboy: Of the new titles announced thus far Uncanny Avengers is particularly intriguing to us. Fans typically associate that adjective with the X-Men. That can’t be an accident, so how did this one come about?
Axel Alonso: Uncanny Avengers is a byproduct of Avengers Vs. X-Men. The new Marvel landscape needs this team. I can’t say more for fearing of spoilers.
Tom Brevoort: As we’ve talked about at conventions and in interviews in the past, one of the objectives of MARVEL NOW! is to unify the Marvel Universe once again. At some point in the 90s the X-Men books sort of skewed off from the rest of the line, sitting technically in the same world, but feeling very much at a remove from the rest of the Marvel U. That’s something that we’re going to be looking to change going forward. The same is true for the “cosmic” titles and characters. At one point, everything was part of a singular Marvel Universe, but the focus changed and artificial lines were drawn, and things got separated. So we’re looking to mix it all up again into a big, fun whole.
In terms of the specifics of Uncanny Avengers, I’m going to need to be a little bit vague to avoid spoiling the climax of Avengers Vs X-Men. But I can tell you this much at least: back in Avengers Vs. X-Men #1, Captain America and Cyclops had a pointed conversation before fists started flying about how, whenever a threat to mutants has arisen, the Avengers have seemed pretty remote. Cap articulated his position–but in the fallout from AVX, Cap and the Avengers, having gone through a bunch of stuff and having walked a mile in the X-Men’s shoes, are feeling like there’s some truth in what Cyclops had to say. So the Uncanny Avengers squad is being put together as a direct response to that, as a proactive attempt to provide support of the civil rights of the world’s mutant citizens, and to provide physical and superhuman aid in those circumstances where either mutants are threatened by non-mutants, regular humans are threatened by mutants, and every other iteration in-between. In essence, as we attempt to bridge the divide between the Avengers and the X-Men as entities within our publishing world, Uncanny X-Men will be the primary bridging book, a place where the team is as likely to battle Apocalypse as the Red Skull, and where long-established X-characters will stand side-by-side with long-established Avengers characters, in a very public manner. Among the characters who’ll make up the team are Captain America, Wolverine, Thor, the Scarlet Witch, Rogue and Havok, with a few other surprises waiting in the wings.
iF: This new design for Captain America mirrors his look from the 2011 film and with the news of a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, the presence of Rocket Raccoon seems to pave the way for that. What other parallels can we expect to emerge between the Marvel Studios films and television shows and this revised Marvel Comics universe? Are you being more proactive in terms of developing comic stories that pave the way for projects currently in development?
AA: A Guardians of the Galaxy movie? Sounds very cool, but right now, that’s just a rumor. [Editor's Note: Deadline is reporting it's been confirmed] Nova and Rocket Raccoon are included in the Marvel NOW! image because they factor big into the plans of Marvel Comics in 2013. For the last year, we’ve been teasing that Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy would factor big into the future of the Marvel Universe, and we were very serious. In 2013, they will be as relevant to the Marvel Universe as the Avengers, Spider-Man or the X-Men.
iF: One of the aspects of Marvel NOW! that hasn’t been covered very much yet ist he digital component of this move. We find it particularly interesting as it shows the evolution of things you’ve been experimenting with Marvel AR has been an innovative way to create a new layer to the digital comics experience and you’ve provided digital codes in select book to give a digital copy for print purchasers. Does the line wide addition of these elements mean that those experiments are a success? How would you describe Marvel overall digital strategy?
AA: Our strategy is to provide free added-value content that will enrich the comic book-reading experience. We’ll try a lot of different things and see what readers like. So far, the response to the AR apps and “Infinite Comics” has been tremendous.
TB: We’re still stretching and pulling on the digital applications for what can be done to enhance our storytelling approach within the limitless digital space, so we’ve still got a lot to learn and explore. But so far, all of the innovations we’ve rolled out under the ReEVOLUTION banner have been positively received by fans and readers, so we’re going to be experimenting even more with them! I know that, speaking for myself, any time we can have Axel walk off the pages of my comics, I’m a happy man.
iF: Every person “inside” Marvel we’ve spoken to since last summer said that “Marvel doesn’t follow” when asked about the DC Reboot and if Marvel would ever do something dramatic like a line wide reboot/relaunch. Understanding that the rollout of new #1s is being stretched out over months and old continuity is being honored, how is that not a reaction to what DC did with the The New 52? How did that linewide change for them affect your approach?
AA: With Marvel NOW!, we’re employing the same simple strategy we did 11 years ago when [Chief Creative Officer] Joe Quesada and I came to Marvel: Pair a great writer with a great artist on a title featuring a great character, and task them to tell the most exciting and accessible story they can. It’s a simple as that. And this is the best time to do that, since Avengers Vs. X-Men truly is an epilog to the interconnected stories we’ve been telling since House of M hit comic racks 8 years ago, and a prolog to the Marvel Universe NOW. The only difference between then and now is that we have built an interconnected universe that is the backdrop for all these new adventures.
TB: In the broadest sense, everything is a reaction to everything else, you’re never creating in a vacuum. That said, our focus is on enhancing our universe and our publishing line in ways that make sense for our characters and our audience–we’ll do anything that serves to create forward movement towards that goal. But to me, apart from the similarity that there are a bunch of #1 issues (and really, since around 1985, when has that not been the case), what we’re doing in Marvel NOW! is very much creator-based. We’re not changing our universe just to change our universe, what we’re instead doing is overseeing a coordinated transition of key talent, the end result of which will be a series of titles that, while familiar and reflective of what has come before, will simultaneously all be suddenly new and fresh and different again. For example, in the case of Avengers, Brian’s been writing that series, in various iterations, as its primary architect for 8 or 9 years now. There’s a whole generation of fans who’ve never known an Avengers comic that didn’t stem from his approach. So the changing-of-the-guard that puts Jonathan Hickman at the helm of that franchise is exciting–Jonathan isn’t a better or worse writer than brian, but what he does and the way he constructs his stories is different. It’s exciting, a new voice, a fresh perspective. And simultaneously, Brian will be moving into the world of X-Men, which he’s never really been involved in before, as that family’s prime mover–and that has to feel as seismic for some people as it did when he took over Avengers. That sense of excitement and danger and even a little bit of fear is precisely what we’d like to propagate throughout all of the Marvel NOW! books–readers won’t be able to wait to crack them open to see just what these world-class talents are going to make of these new characters and worlds and assignments.
iF: What does a move like this say about the marketplace? We all say we need new readers, but an aggressive move like this is a bit extreme, what are your expectations for increasing your audience size?
TB: I don’t know that it specifically says anything about the marketplace–it’s not being implemented because of any particular complaint with our present market aside from the ever-present desire on our part to reach as many readers as possible. Especially in the wake of the overwhelming success of the Avengers film, we’ve got a golden opportunity to turn on a whole generation of new readers to the wonderfulness of comics–and to simultaneously engage lapsed readers and motivate them to check out what we’re doing now. And especially with the continued growth of digital as a component of what we’re doing, it’s easier than ever for a prospective new reader to sample a Marvel book. All they need is the Marvel App, on any of the myriad of platforms that it’s available on.
AA: The wild success of Marvel Studios’ The Avengers proves there are a lot of people out there who are thirsty for the types of stories only Marvel can tell. With Marvel NOW!, our goal is to give these people at least one reason – every week, for 4 months – to go into a comic store, download a comic, or preferably both and experience an entertaining and accessible gateway into the Marvel Universe. We don’t want to overwhelm fans – old, new or lapsed – with content so we’re doing it slowly. We are confident in that all of the titles whose covers are stamped with a #1 will be around for the long haul, and we anticipate a huge spike for each of the core titles.
iF: Can you share with us the plans for the titles across the line? Will every title be relaunching with a new #1 and new creative team? Will some titles get canceled in favor of new ones? Will successful titles titles like Daredevil and Wolverine and the X-Men be affected as well?
AA: Most ongoing series will relaunch with a new #1, under the direction of a bold new creative team. And yes, there will be some new titles, but we’re not ready to announce them yet. I can’t speak about where Daredevil or Wolverine and the X-Men fit into the launch – especially the latter – for fear or spoiling the end of Avengers Vs. X-Men.
TB: We can’t tell you everything at this point, but I think we can certainly tell you that not everything is being relaunched with a new #1 or a new creative team. Our creative bench was a partner in every step of the Marvel NOW! planning process, and in those instances where things were working great and there wasn’t a need or a desire to switch things up, we let them be. That said, partly out of the natural cycle of things and partly out of sheer dumb luck, we found a point at which it made sense to co-ordinatedly cycle the talent who are in key positions throughout much of our line within a very centralized period. Once we realized the opportunity we had there, we invested in making the most of it.
iF: What factors predicated the decision to keep or alter character’s identities? We’ve seen the mantle of super hero identities passed down before, what went into choosing which characters would change identities and how much did recent sales figures and performance play into that decision?
TB: It’s understandable give the scant amount of information you’ve got on the overall breadth of what we’re doing with Marvel NOW!, but while I cannot guarantee you that absolutely every character will be the same individual behind his or her mask, the vast majority of them will be, at least 90% if not more. So Captain America will still be Captain America, the Hulk will still be the Hulk, Thor will still be Thor. And in any instance where a change of individual has occurred, that’s being done for a story reason rather than a marketing or commercial reason, and will need to be revealed in the proper context and in the fullness of time.
AA: This is not a reboot but a story that picks up after AvX in the Marvel Universe that readers know and love. That said, there is one very prominent costumed hero whose costume will be worn by someone new. I can’t say who that character is, who’s wearing his or her costume or why, or how long they’ll be wearing it, but when fans find out the details, they are going to flip.
iF: At the end of The New Avengers #26, Hawkeye got a peek into Scaret Witch’s closet and was horrified at what he saw. That was five years ago. What was in the closet? We can all correctly presume this all has something to do with that, right?
TB: That’s a hell of a flier you took there. But no dice, Mister Bond–there’s no connection with Wanda’s closet and Marvel NOW! at all. But I am glad that you’re still thinking about that story so many years later–it tells me that what Brian and Alex did in it was effective.