The Marketing Gimmick of Comic Book Title Relaunches

Every so often, a classic comic book series will reboot itself with a new creative team, erasing everything that came before and starting from scratch with a new number 1 issue.  Marvel is restarting its X-Men stories with two new titles: Wolverine and the X-Men in October and Uncanny X-Men in November.  DC is relaunching its entire lineup with 52 all-new number one issues.  Some fans are annoyed at the marketing gimmick -- they don't want to see the original Uncanny X-Men relaunch after 544 issues, or Action Comics start from scratch again after 70-plus years. 

Such revamps were commonplace especially during the comics bubble of the 1990s when misguided investors were buying anything with a "#1" on its cover in the delusional belief that they would all be as valuable someday as Action Comics #1 from 1938 or Flash Comics #1 from 1940.  They failed to realize that content is king -- Amazing Fantasy #15 (Spider-man's first appearance) is worth more than Amazing Fantasy #1, All-American Comics #16 (Green Lantern's first appearance) is worth more than All-American Comics #1, and Detective Comics #27 (Batman's first appearance) is worth more than Detective Comics #1 (although that's worth a pretty penny too). 

The gimmick has been known to backfire (the greatest example being Marvel's disastrous and short-lived Heroes Reborn experiment), but sometimes it works (such as John Byrne's relaunch of Superman in 1986, although even that was not above criticism).  It should be noted that most relaunches eventually return to the original numbering system so they can market bigger milestones like issue number 300 or 400 or 500, or if they're lucky and old enough, 600.

The goal of starting a comic over at #1 is to attract new readers by giving them an entry point to a new saga.  They also want to attract old readers who may have stopped reading and tempt them to read again.  I hate the fact that such efforts come at the cost of abandoning decades-worth of continuity and storytelling.

Will the relaunches (especially the company-wide campaign by DC) be successful or just more marketing smoke and mirrors? 


Nitro said…
Dude, I'm really excited for DC's relaunch. You forgot to mention that along with the relaunch comes digital downloads the day of the paper release. A lot of people were negative at first and now most are intrigued. New readers and old readers back again. Continuity can also be maintained instead of having to do another crisis. Also, DC destrys Marvel in the comics arena. Green Lantern the movie was god awful.
Nick said…
Nitro, yeah, Green Lantern looks like they may have overdone the CGI. Looks more like a cartoon than live action, but I'll still go see it.