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How is Marvel NOW! doing?

Vocal comic store owner Brian Hibbs compares Marvel NOW! to DC's New 52 reboot, and the results are mixed. Even though NOW! was pretty clearly a reaction to DC's relaunch, i still think it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. NOW! was basically just a banner that Marvel stuck on the covers to represent a creative team reshuffling and yet another renumbering. DC rebooted their entire continuity and started from scratch.

Still it's worth a read regarding the relative success of each company's efforts, at least at Hibbs' store.

As a tangent, Hibbs suggests that the constant renumbering has hurt collectibility.

I think that the constant restarts of numbering actually end up hurting the true "collectibility" of long-running series, because they're constantly resetting the continuity of a title. And I don't mean the "Steve Rogers loves Sharon Carter" sense of "continuity," but rather the understanding that Marvel is actually comprised of titles that have (by and large) run unceasingly for 50-ish years. Back when I first opened, you'd simply bring new creative teams wherever they fell, and that constant, regular infusion into ongoing books created points every so often where a book became highly collectible -- "Thor" #337, "Amazing Spider-Man" #298, "X-Men" #108, and so on -- by having those points appear in the middle of long runs, it drives up collectibility for the series as a whole. By relaunching the series instead, you're able to leverage that collectibility thinking ("It is a #1, therefore it will be worth more") and get a sales increase, but, ironically, it's that very sales increase that mitigates against the comic being collectible in the mid-to-long-run.

I hate the renumbering due to the basic organizational/communication challenges it presents, so i'd love for Hibbs' theory to be true here, although i have no way of knowing if there's really anything behind it, and the ship has probably sailed in terms of Marvel changing their strategy at this point.

In fact, Caleb at Every Day Is Like Wednesday makes the counter-argument. After noting that Journey Into Mystery and Red She-Hulk did not get new numberings and therefore didn't get the resultant sales bumps that other titles did, he writes:

On a purely practical level, I don't really understand how these handful of not re-started comics (all of which have as much or more reason to justify a restart as any of the other comics named in this post) work as part of the "Marvel Now."

What happens to the reader who hears Jeff Parker's Red She-Hulk is really good, and wants to start with the first issue, but can't find anything with a lower number than 50-something on the cover (and can't find the trades collecting the first 50 imaginary, non-existent issues)? Or the person who was told Journey Into Mystery had a nice blend of fantasy and superheroics, and was written by a female writer and featured a female protagonist, but sees that "#646" on the cover and thinks "Jesus, this book looks six-and-a-half times harder to catch up on then Walking Dead...!"...?

I'd say this is only a problem because we've trained people to look for new number ones; that wasn't the case in the examples that Hibbs mentioned above (e.g. Thor #337) and it also doesn't seem to be a blocker when people come in looking for, say, the death of Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #700.

By fnord12 | January 21, 2013, 11:12 AM | Comics