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Why Is Marvel Renumbering Its Titles for Legacy?

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Why Is Marvel Renumbering Its Titles for Legacy?

The last few weeks have seen Marvel unveil a blizzard of announcements about its upcoming “Marvel Legacy” initiative, set to launch in September. Alongside the new creative teams and the promise to take characters and concepts back to their roots, one of the most interesting aspects of the initiative is the change to the numbering of the titles affected.

After a long period where Marvel seemingly relaunched and renumbered titles at the drop of a hat, the Legacy relaunch will see both newer and long-running titles assigned new numbering, consisting of the accumulated total from the volumes to date. But what has prompted this decision, and who is the initiative truly aimed at?

RELATED: Generations: Thor Lays Fiery Groundwork for Marvel Legacy #1

It’s worth remembering that in the early days of the Marvel Universe as we know it, the relaunching or renumbering of titles was exceptionally rare. When Journey into Mystery was renamed as The Mighty Thor, the numbering continued uninterrupted. This was also the case for when Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense were renamed to act as solo titles for the Hulk and Captain America.

Perhaps most famously, the 1975 debut of the all new X-Men in their ongoing series took place in #94 of Uncanny X-Men, marking the resumption of original stories after almost 30 issues of reprinted material. It’s a safe bet that if this had happened 30 years later, the debut would have been accompanied with a new #1 and multiple covers. Even a decade later, in the ’80s, significant changes to the status quo, such as John Walker assuming the mantle of Captain America and Jim Rhodes donning the Iron Man armor, all formed part of the grand tapestry of the ongoing titles, with nary a new #1 in sight.

With relaunches and renumbering so accepted in the modern era, it’s easy to forget the furor that greeted the cancellation of Avengers, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Captain America in 1996, and their subsequent relaunch under the guidance of Rob Liefeld and a pre-DC Comics Jim Lee. Many fans were outraged, not only because the characters were going to be featured outside the regular Marvel Universe, but also because the relaunch ended an unbroken thread of issues that spanned three decades. The overt anger didn’t adversely affect sales though, and a precedent was established for the renumbering of long-running Marvel titles. Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man and others followed, eventually leaving Uncanny X-Men as the only Silver Age Marvel title to retain its legacy numbering.

In the years since, Uncanny X-Men has also succumbed to the cult of renumbering, with #544 in 2011 being its final pre-relaunch issue. Since then, there have been three number #1s for the title, in 2012, 2013 and 2016. Marvel’s merry mutants are by no means alone. Captain America has seen five different relaunches since the end of the “Heroes Reborn” experiment, with #1s in 1998, 2002, 2005, 2011 and 2013. And that’s not even counting the renumberings that marked Sam Wilson donning the mantle of Captain America.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Moon Knight Finally Gets an Archenemy in Marvel Legacy

In 2011, Tom Breevort, Senior Vice President of Publishing at Marvel, spoke to CBR about the question of renumbering, stressing the benefits of such an approach.

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