During the C2E2 expo in Chicago, Marvel Comics announced their next attempt at rebranding their comic books. Marvel Legacy is essentially going to be their answer to the successful Rebirth campaign produced by their competitors out west, DC Comics. Over the years, both companies made multiple attempts to “reset” their respective continuities. Some failed, while some were somewhat successful.
Rebranding is a giant risk. Not only is it a risk to the comic book companies, but it’s an even greater risk for retailers. Al Rodriguez is the owner of Epic Comics in Orlando, Florida. He’s experienced the highs and lows that comes with the companies’ bi-annual rebranding or revamping of their respective characters and continuities. Rodriguez says that Marvel “is focusing on more quality and less quality” in the way the creators tell their stories. He further states, “[Legacy] should be a way for Marvel to refresh their characters, get their icons back [to the status quo, and] getting back to basics. You can still tell good stories with iconic heroes.”
Back in the 1980’s, DC made the first bold attempt at rebranding following the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. The origins of DC’s major players like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were all altered to match a more modern era of comic book storytelling. While Batman and Wonder Woman comics improved, the Superman comics’ stories fell off. It’s taken almost 30 years for some of DC’s once-renowned heroes and villains to receive their proper resurgence. Readers currently argue that, as whole, DC Comics in 2016 are better than they’ve ever been thanks to the Rebirth storyline.
The same goes for Marvel. They too tried something different in the 1980’s by introducing an entire new line of comics outside of the then-current continuity. It wasn’t a rebranding, but one could surmise that if lightning had struck with the New Universe, then the other books would follow the same rebranding. Fortunately, Marvel cancelled the NU line of books. At the turn of the millennium, Marvel found the right time to intro a new line in the Marvel Ultimate Universe. These books featured well-known characters, but gave them all a modern feel—like what DC did “post-Crisis.”
The last time Marvel tried to majorly revamp their continuity came during 2005’s House of M series. The main consequence—in the story—came when Scarlet Witch magically took away the powers of 98% of Marvel’s Mutant population. At the time, X-Men books were top-sellers. Since that event, like (most of) the Superman comics of the 90’s through 2015, the “X-titles” haven’t recovered.
While there’s a big risk in rebranding, the cyclical way comic books recover is inevitable. Fans are going to continue to read comic books. Readers can always find another corner of the vast comic book community to roam if the stories they subscribe to are frustrating or too convoluted for whatever reason. Rodriguez is hopeful. “Comic books are [now] the [potential] source for what will become a movie or a TV show… [comics] should be the inspiration for everything.” Hopefully, Marvel Legacy will do just that.