The Fifth Color | Marvel NOW and again

Sadly, I'm broke this week so, no thoughts on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Actually, I have a lot of thoughts about the idea of the new Spider-Man adventure out in theaters this week and a lot more thoughts on the idea of the new ... *sigh* Marvel NOW! relaunch happening this October. A lot of thoughts about the need to be popular and successful, and what that means for the little nerd in all of us.

Because it's very important to remember that when you see a new and younger Spider-Man or a fresh first issue on the stands for a book that was just renumbered what seems like last year, all of that gloss and fanfare just isn't for us. It's not for the longtime reader or the devoted fan; marketing rarely takes us into consideration. After all, they have our money. All they have to do is put together a solid creative team with a fresh idea and publish it regularly. And who wants to make it that simple?

Let's talk about how frustrating it is to organize a comic collection when things get renumbered, and mourn the loss of the familiar, and why we don't have to rage against the marketing machine after the break.

Okay, so brass tacks: After Avengers vs. X-Men, Captain America realizes (wait, isn't that will realize? This hasn't happened yet, it's all in the future, but yet it's probably written and scripted but Brevoort was talking in the present tense--ah, my brain!) that mutants have been sort of just "over there" for a long time and he wants to do more. Specifically, Brevoort said:

"Back in 'AvX' #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."

This is the storyline reason for the Marvel NOW relaunch, and it makes some good sense. After all, if Wolverine can be on all the teams, why can't everyone else? The Avengers have had a wide variety of members, and they are the coolest kids on the block, so let's dump those loser slacker teams like the X-Men and just make them all Avengers, right? Why work on making the X-Men a reasonable force in the superhero landscape when you can just give them an A-logo jacket and call it a day?

Did I just argue against my own point? Rats. Okay, so maybe it's not that great an idea, but it does make sense in marketing terms. You're consolidating properties, getting fresh ideas to the table without stepping on anyone's pre-established toes and creating (hopefully) a quick and clean continuity for the all-important new reader. Not to mention the word "restart" sounds a lot like "reboot," so buzz can be created on a technicality.

No matter how much I hate and fear change, I can't be mad at it. To keep raging on against every new change and renumbering relaunch or soft reboot Marvel has done in the past five years alone, I'd have to be gamma-powered. For all the excitement and collectable thrill that a new first issue brings to the stands, comic book numbering is just moot at this point. (Quick side note: maybe we should stop numbering comics altogether and label them by the month they came out in; chaos for the newsstands, absolutely new reader friendly!) Line-wide change or large rebranding or even renaming comics titles is practically commonplace for comic fans. But when you get right down to it, Marvel NOW! is not for comic fans. Big, media screaming change just isn't for the longtime readers anymore.

The San Diego Comic Con next weekend will be filled to capacity with hundreds of thousands of people, but realistically it is no longer the "comic book convention" it once was. The 6,500-seat Hall H, the most notoriously difficult room to get into during the con, is going to be strictly showing movie and television promotions the entire time. I hate to even bring it up but you, Dear Reader, and I both know that only a fraction of the people who are making the Avengers one of the highest-grossing movies of all time actually read the comic today. All of those people, the ones who bought a pass to a comic book convention who don't read Marvel comics, all of the people who went to see a Marvel movie but don't read a Marvel comic, those are the audience for Marvel NOW! Even the announcement is a Entertainment Weekly exclusive for CCI. Out of all the comic book news-covering sites and blogs (especially this incredibly dashing and good-looking one), Marvel went with a magazine with a broad readership.

I wish the Point One initiative had worked better.  The idea that there could be a rhythm to comic book reading, with the book before a big story arc being entry level or a one-shot aperitif to whet the reader's appetite, was a smart one and created sort of a hand up into comic continuity. Sadly, the "full-length, self-contained stories by Marvel’s top creators, laying the groundwork for the next year of storylines" didn't work as promised; some creators ran with the script, others went off book and wrote what they wanted for a Point One story. Remember the Ultron War that was promised in a Point One? Or when Thor had a Point One by entirely different people than the ongoing creative team? I'm not saying all of them were terrible or that the promise of an Ultron War wouldn't keep people reading, it just didn't work. It wasn't a popular idea for a popular culture fan, it was a reader's solution for reading books.

The new Amazing Spider-Man reboot isn't for fans so much as it's for a new demographic (and for legal reasons). Marvel NOW! is a push for popularity and new readership. Big sweeping changes to draw new fans in that can make an old reader feel, well... pushed out. So what now? Do we all swear NEVER TO READ COMICS AGAIN EVER? No, that's silly. How about just Marvel comics, then? We'll just all swear never to read Marvel comics ever again forever.

Even sillier. You see, just because something isn't marketed toward you or your demographic doesn't mean you can't love the ever-living daylights out of it and make it your own. I mean, look at Bronies. A cartoon show marketed toward girls just drew 4,000 fans at BronyCon recently from all different walks of life. You could say first-person shooter video games aren't marketed to women, but Frag Dolls are a team of professional gamers who obliterate their competition. Even comics have that weird "They're for kids-no they're too adult-no it's all adolescent male fantasy" thing going on. But that doesn't mean that comics aren't for everyone.

Ten years from now, who knows? Maybe there will be a Marvel NOWER! or a new Spider-Man on the silver screen trying to learn the same things we saw him learn last time. And sure, we have all heard that story before but it's a story we all love on a certain level, no matter how they dress it up. The wrapper on the candy doesn't make it sweet. Now (or should I say NOW!), others will get a chance to love it, too.

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