With Marvel Comics' upcoming Marvel NOW! relaunch coming up in October, the publisher held a series of conference calls to help inform retailers across the country about the upcoming initiative. The calls included Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, Senior Editor Tom Brevoort and Senior Editor Nick Lowe speaking to retailers about the upcoming relaunch conceptually and what makes it unique.
To kick things off, Brevoort and Alonso spoke briefly about the flagship series of Marvel NOW!, "Uncanny Avengers" by Rick Remender and John Cassaday, which comes about as a direct result of "Avengers Vs. X-Men."
"It's a team of characters comprised of characters coming both from the Marvel heroes, Avengers side of the fence and characters from the X-Men side of the fence," said Brevoort. "It's our cats and dogs in the same pen book."
Alonso added that part of the major appeal of "AvX" is that it spans the entire Marvel Universe as opposed to just the Avengers, Spider-Man or the X-Men segments -- something he hopes will continue with "Uncanny Avengers." "With 'Uncanny Avengers,' you're going to see a book that's going to be relevant to both types of fans: the fans who gravitate towards the Avengers and the larger Marvel Universe and fans who are all about the X-Men," said Alonso. "What Tom and Rick and John have planned for that first arc and indeed through the first year, is a year of stories that will show how this team and how this book is relevant to both fans. I want to emphasize that. It's a mistake to assume that Marvel fans are Marvel fans. All you need to do is go to one panel to see there are people who are all about X-Men and don't even really like the Avengers. There are people who like the Avengers who have never gravitated toward an X-Men book. This is a book that uses both teams and will hopefully appeal to both audiences in comparable numbers to 'AvX.'"
While "Uncanny Avengers" is the flagship title of Marvel NOW!, it's not the only title to spin out of the events of "AvX." X-Book senior editor Nick Lowe said the "A+X" ongoing came about as a direct result of the success of "AvX: VS."
"We were having so much fun doing 'AvX: VS' and the creators were having so much fun doing it, that we wanted to keep going with it," he said. "We're following the same model: two ten-page stories per issue, top creators. In the first issue, we've got Jeph Loeb and Dale Keown and you've got Dan Slott and Ron Garney. They are kicking butt on those stories. The second issue, we've got Kaare Andrews writing and drawing and you've got Peter David and Mike del Mundo on the other stories."
Following in the footsteps of "Marvel Point One," which set the stage for "AvX," "Marvel NOW! Point One" will set the stage for the publisher's relaunch in the same format as the original "Point One" issue and utilizes the talents of Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven, Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, Nick Spencer and Luke Ross, Matt Fraction and Mike Allred, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie and Dennis Hopeless and Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
"'Marvel NOW! Point One' is sort of the kickoff of our entry into Marvel NOW! and also gives a new setup and little taste," said Brevoort. "Completely all-new stories that are not the first eight pages of the individual books that are involved of a number of new titles that are coming out in the context of a full story. All -- I think it's 50 pages of this thing -- are new content by the biggest creators."
While discussion was lively during the call amongst the publisher's representatives, Brevoort emphasized that Marvel NOW! is not a reboot, it's an opportunity to bring in readers to current Marvel continuity without ignoring the history of the Marvel U.
"While it's a good place for people to jump on because we're doing a major realignment of all our top books and all our top talent, so it functions as a good entry point, it's still the Marvel Universe that we had the week and month before," he said. "The events of 'AvX' play directly into where all these books and characters are, all the history that everyone's been following and loves is still there. It's a shift, it's a big moment, it's an interesting time to be a Marvel reader but it's not a brand spanking new world and a completely new start where everything you've followed up to this point is no longer valid."
Gabriel echoed this sentiment, drawing a parallel to Marvel's extremely successful movie franchise. "The way a moviegoer could walk into 'Iron Man 2' and not necessarily have to have seen 'Iron Man' to really enjoy that movie or to go into 'The Avengers' and not have to have seen 'Iron Man,' 'Iron Man 2,' 'Captain America' or 'Thor' to enjoy that movie, that's what we're trying to get at here," he said.
Retailers on the call expressed curiosity about the projected longevity of the announced creative teams on Marvel NOW! books, to which Alonso expressed his opinion by drawing a parallel with DC's New 52.
"I want to speak very bluntly and plainly to this because one of the faults of the New 52 for me was that they had such non confidence in many of the writers that by the fourth or fifth issue, they were shaking up the relaunches," Alonso said. "You will not see that in this launch. The writers are there to stay for the long term. Is it possible that somewhere along the road [one] might drop by the wayside? It's always possible. But if you take a look at the lineup of people we're putting out there, you don't hire Matt Fraction to write a book or Jonathan Hickman or Brian Bendis to do a franchise book and then fold up shop eleven or twelve issues into the run. These guys have long term plans and that extends to the artists as well. Keeping artists has its own challenges because we try to have a main artist and a swing artist. I want it very clear, you're not going to be looking at an instance where after six or seven issues, even on a book like 'Deadpool' with Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan and Tony Moore where Brian and Gerry are gone and someone you've never heard about is taking over the book because we fucked up and didn't know what we were doing. We built these books to last, especially with the franchise books, you're looking at a 99% probability that these guys are going to be working on these books two years from now. With smaller books, we're going to take some creative chances, but I like the odds of them sticking."
Lowe added that the creative teams for the books were chosen to help give each Marvel NOW! title a sense of identity and individuality. "The whole point of having the best writers and artists in this business is to put them on our biggest books with our biggest characters and have them do their thing," he said. "The goal with that is to give each book its own voice and its own purpose. Marvel NOW! really encapsulates this as much now much as anything we've done in the past."
Gabriel officially confirmed during the call that only Marvel's comics priced at $3.99 will contain a free digital code insert post-Marvel NOW!, but that all books after the relaunch will contain extra digital content via the Marvel AR smartphone app.
One of the other interesting results of the call was Gabriel's explanation as to why Marvel did not renumber its existing series back to Issue #1 across the board -- especially considering many existing series are getting the Marvel NOW! logo and dress.
"We had a lot of internal debate about this and e-mails back and forth and we had a lot of talk," said Gabriel. "I think one of the main things that we did not want to do is restart every single one of our books at a number one. I think that would've sent a disingenuous message to our customers and to [retailers]. I think it would have forced a lot of [retailers] to order incorrectly based on putting a #1 on there. There are some books that are just going to get creator changes and some books that are just going to get character shifts. ['Journey Into Mystery'] was a perfect book to switch characters on as was the 'She-Hulk' book and 'Avengers Assemble.'
"We put a lot of thought into this and while we're going to go about bannering things like that, it's still a good jumping-on point for any customer," Gabriel continued. "What I don't want to do is trick any [retailer] into ordering hundreds and hundreds of copies of these books when maybe they're only going to sell 20, 30 maybe 50 percent better than before because of the new stuff we've done."
Part of Marvel's initiative to provide clear jumping-on points is a creative or subject shift in some of its existing titles, one of which Gabriel teased during the call. "You'll see the ongoing 'X-Men' series get one of these Marvel NOW!-like changes later on," said Gabriel. "That's going to have a subject shift."
Much like "Journey Into Mystery," Jason Aaron's "Wolverine and the X-Men" will not relaunch at #1, but will be receiving the Marvel NOW! trade dress. "The Marvel Universe wasn't broke," said Lowe. "We're just shaking some things up. The things that are new and are still working perfectly, we're still continuing."
However, it seems the announced Marvel NOW! #1s for October and November are just the tip of the iceberg, with plans to continue launches of new titles up through March 2013. Brevoort estimated the number of new launches as "around 20."
"We've announced a few in December, but we'll have plenty in January, plenty in February and then we'll be winding down in March," Gabriel said. "Right now, I know we have one very big one and a second one as well."
Stay tuned to CBR News for continued coverage of Marvel NOW!