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There are two hot subjects this week, both from top Marvel
competitor DC Comics. The first is that at the end of August DC will start
releasing digital comics on the same day they release the printed version in
comic shops across the country. That in and of itself is a debate, but the
second major news is that DC will be re-launching its entire line of comics
with 52 brand new first issues. News is already pouring out from every
direction of the internet, but what I’m really waiting for is Marvel’s
response. If it’s one thing Marvel isn’t good at… it’s letting DC have the
spotlight or keeping its mouth shut.
It’s obvious at this point that the “House of Ideas” was blindsided by this as much as the rest of the comic world was, making everyone wonder… what will they do to compete? Then the question becomes, should Marvel follow suit and do a cross the board re-launch of their books? Or have they already ruined their own chances?
Maybe Letting Jeph Loeb Ruin The Ultimate Line Was A Bad Idea After All
In a way DC has finally found an answer to Marvel’s Ultimate line, too bad for Marvel Jeph Loeb destroyed it when he decided he hated the line and everything it stood for. Loeb not only killed off a majority of the rebooted characters, but he destroyed the sales of most of the series. Now with long delays on his X-Men and Avengers books, any interest in the series has been pacified. Marvel’s attempting to re-launch the Ultimate line for a second time with the help of Jonathan Hickman and Ult founder Bendis, but going from four top selling books and tons of mini-series, to just three titles and a big question mark on their success isn’t the best bet.
In a way the Ultimate Line is now preventing a “One More Day” occurrence for the Marvel U and that’s due to the way it was handled. There was speculation that one day the Ultimate Line would be the normal Marvel U and in a way it is… in the movies and cartoon shows. But the once strong line that had the top creators and was praised for its originality has now become just as stale and predictable as the anything else at Marvel. If you’re still thinking that Marvel can reboot by having the Ultimate line sneak in and take over, I’m afraid those days are long past.
Well, We Could Always Do It After The Iron Man Event…
Marvel’s not dumb. If you look at their summer events and stars of their blockbusters the characters almost always align with the movies. Case in point this summer’s Fear Itself event that stars Thor and all of Asgard. In fact it even came out right around the time of the movie itself. Another big movement at Marvel is Steve Rogers, returning to his role as Captain America. What do you want to bet that that issue comes out just before the movie as well?
The point is, that Marvel doesn’t do this by accident; they do it all by planning. In 2013 we’ll have a new Iron Man movie and if you’ve been reading the series you know that Matt Fraction has been eluding that Starks is responsible for the end of the world. There is a very strong possibility that the next big event will center on Tony and may or may not coincide with the next film, but then again history shows us differently. What better way to restart the Marvel U, then by having Iron Man destroy it and then find a new way to create it?
No Stranger To A Re-Launch
Marvel restarts things constantly, so a company-wide reboot doesn’t seem that far-fetched. After all they re-launch their cartoon line every two years, their kid line of comics every year and renumber a book after re-launching it more often than they really should. The possibility is there and lord knows they have the attitude to back it up. I mean the Legion of Superheroes has been re-launched four times over several decades, but Alpha Flight is on its fifth and three of the relaunches have been in the last decade alone!
This is the same company that did Heroes Reborn in which their core titles that weren’t the X-Men, where taken into a pocket universe in order to boost sales. After it was successful they re-launched their re-launch and brought everyone back into the fold. In a way that’s the same thing DC is doing, only they’re not flip flopping back to where they started. You may notice that the same man responsible for Heroes Reborn, Jim Lee, is also apart of DC's reboot as well. Coincidence?
One More Day The Sequel
Seriously this could work, just have the devil restart everything because he's bored, it doesn't even have to make sense! When in doubt look at what it did for Spider-Man, of course they could have just given the book to Dan Slott to begin with and not made him reveal his identity as a publicity stunt... but whatever right? They could really do this and that's scary, so we'll move on.
Are They X-Box 360 Or PS3?
The only thing holding Marvel back from doing this in the future is Marvel. DC has a long history of being stubborn and not copying anything that Marvel does regardless of its success and that’s kept them in second place for a long time making them like the PS3. Marvel on the other hand slams out events and deaths that rock the industry making them the number one market share publisher for the last five years. They’re the X-Box 360 of comics, the brand that the hardcore and casual readers can all enjoy.
With this new shake up though, the tide could change and DC might find itself on top for the first time in a long while. At that point, Marvel will have to decide if they can swallow their pride and take a page out of DC’s book and try to do it bigger and better or do they simply become the PS3 of comics with a select user base that buys their product based wholly on brand loyalty even after losing their credit card information... I mean unwillingness to adapt.
Make Mine Brick And Mortar!
Marvel has been pushing into the digital age for several years and only slightly dabbled with the day and date digital releases. In fact their store front is pretty terrible in my humble opinion. If they really want to stand out from DC now, their best option is to hold off on going day and date and strengthen their relationship with the brick and mortar, local comic shops.
Imagine if on August 24th, every Marvel employee and freelancer headed out to as many local comic shops as possible and supported the release of their books in the actual comic store? That would definitely steal DC’s thunder on that day. If they really wanted to be crass about it they could give away ipad’s preloaded with Marvel’s app (still a terrible interface by the way, seriously invest some money on making it good).
As Shakespeare Said…
At this point, it doesn’t matter if Marvel follows suit or if they even can. What matters is what they do in response to everything DC has done this week. Comic Con is over a month away and frankly both companies have had poor showings at the previous year’s cons. This might be the time to really go all out and remind people that it’s COMIC CON, not “Hey check out what’s in theaters and our fall lineup” con. You may be a Marvel Fanboy/girl or you may be a DC Fanboy/girl, but regardless of alliance or lack thereof, this is a great time to be a comic reader. Not just for the big two, but for those creator owned books that are just waiting to get their share of the shelf space in comic shops across the country. This could very well be the new Golden Age of comics.