What Were They Thinking?: Marvel’s Rebirth Problem


You know, doing a reboot isn't always a bad thing. DC successfully did it back in the 50's, taking the names of established characters from the 40's and changing their origins and personalities to create new characters and boom, Silver Age of comics. I mean, ok, they have now officially over-egged that omelette after the 18 trillionth time they've rebooted their universe, but still the original idea of taking the name "The Flash" and having it be a guy called Barry Allen rather than Jay Garrick was possibly the best in comic book history, maybe after the idea of putting Superman in bright red underwear over a blue one-piece. But, that's DC, what about Marvel. They aren't exactly known for their reboots are they. Whilst DC was creating all new characters from old ones, Marvel just slotted the new characters in alongside the old. So, they never needed to do a big reboot right? Yes, that's true, but this is What Were They Thinking (the place where we look at the stupidest most ill-advised things in all of comic book history), so of course, they did it anyway and what did we get? We got this...

Rob Liefeld cannot art.

So, Heroes Reborn. After the Onslaught saga (which in its self may get covered in a WWTT at some point), where the darkest aspects of Charles Xavier and Magneto's psyche's merged to form the entity known as Onslaught which could only be stopped by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four teaming up with the X-Men and heroically sacrificing themselves, Marvel needed an out. A way to bring back all of these characters. And the way they did it was about as artistically sound as this picture

Rob Liefeld cannot art.

What they did was they had all of the heroes who had died wake up in this place called "Counter-Earth" where everything they had done in their lives previously (so all prior continuity) hadn't happened. They hard reset Marvel continuity for the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, whilst continuing the previous continuity with the X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk and Daredevil. This was called "Heroes Reborn", as in we were seeing all these old heroes reborn (does rainbow action with hands). So, I'm sure everyone is starting to see a teensy-weensy slight problem here, i.e. it's totally stupid. But don't worry, this is Marvel remember, if anyone knows how to stupid it's them, so things get stupider. About as stupid as this picture.

Rob Liefeld cannot art.

So, to compound the fact that they'd erased all continuity for certain characters but not others and separated two of the Marvel Universe's biggest superteams from their normal continuity, what did Marvel do next? Well, they outsourced the creation of the Avengers and Fantastic Four continuity to other comics studio's, namely WildStorm and EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!!!! (sorry, I felt that it needed an extra dose of childishness to go with the word EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!! because it's the freaking 90's and it was the most childish of the lot). Anyway, for those of you who don't know, both WildStorm and EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! are imprints of Image comics, you might remember them from a few weeks back. They're the guys who left Marvel comics to set up their own company because they all hated the way Marvel treated their creative staff. So, just a few years later Marvel decides that what they really want to do is abandon the creative teams they have on the payroll already to give work to some guys who left the company because they hated working for Marvel. Sound business sense, pissed off a lot of people working for Marvel at the time and a few people lost their jobs because of it, so standard operating practices for Marvel there then. Anyway, the two people who Marvel reached out to were Jim Lee (head of WildStorm, who can actually art) and Rob Liefeld (head of EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, who cannot). Of course Rob Liefeld would call his comics studio EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he made his money off of being the worst component of the 90's EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!! movement, the worst period in the history of comics (and that is including the early 50's). Anyway, just to re-familiarise ourselves, let's go through some of Rob Liefeld's greatest hits shall we:

Arse, tits, swords (which must go behind the tits because we don't care about perspective when there's monsterous tits to be put on display) and pointless straps. Yup, all the hallmarks of a Liefeld, and then you factor in the fact that both of these women have no internal organs and have severely broken spinal cords (seriously, look at the one in the black). A classic, in the same way that a Michael Bay film is.

Oh Wolverine what have they done to you. You appear to have been drawn by an idiot who can't actually come up with his own ideas so instead just rips off other characters, changes their names and add pouches to their costumes. Oh wait.

Well, I'm sure this story wasn't a... waist of time. Also, WTF is with her hair? It wraps around her thigh.

Anyone who nose what happened to Hawkman's face here please tell me, I'd love to know why his mouth is trying to eat his own eyes, and why exactly he has no lips?

If you ever wanted to sum up comics in the 90's in one Image (you see what I did there, didja see it, didja? Wink wink nudge nudge) this would be it.

Rob Liefeld cannot art.

So yeah, Marvel outsourced the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, as in their two oldest superteams, to a guy who can art and a guy who can't, both of whom had left the company under a cloud a few years prior, and laid off a number of the people who had been working on the characters prior to this. Yeah, sounds about right. I mean, they did do some pretty necessary updating of the characters, especially the Fantastic Four (Ben Grimm now being a pilot in the Gulf War rather than WW2 and Sue and Johnny Storm being backers of the mission to space rather than people Reed decided to take along for reasons). Anyway, Lee handled FF and Iron Man whilst Liefeld (who cannot art) handled The Avengers and Captain America, which led to these magnificent displays of his artistic talent;

Rob Liefeld cannot art.

Well, I say that Liefeld handled The Avengers and Cap, he did for 6 issues before being given to WildStorm and Walt Simmonson. So why did this happen I hear you ask? Well, apparently Liefeld's books just weren't meeting the sales quotas Marvel had set for them. And I'm not talking the top end of those sales quotas, I'm talking the minimum sales quotas. As in, the minimum amount of sales Marvel expected in order to make the production costs back.

But hey, at least giving the books to Wildstorm saw the sales rise right. Yes that's true, but the thing is, none of them, as in not Avengers, not Iron Man, not Captain America, nor the Fantastic Four performed as well under the care of WildStorm or EXTREME!!!!!!!!!!!!! as they had before Heroes Reborn was a thing. The creative teams Marvel discarded got more consistent better sales than the teams Marvel was farming the books out to, at its own expense I might add, as in Marvel was spending millions of dollars on the two Image studios and getting jack back, Jack.

So, to sum up, Marvel gave their 2nd and 3rd most popular superteams and their associated characters to two outside studios (formed by people who left Marvel because they didn't like working for Marvel) as a way to boost sales. In doing so they 1) discarded all previous continuity alienating fans 2) alienated their creative staff by telling them that they were as irrelevant as the continuity that was being discarded 3) lost sales on some of the books they outsourced 4) only got slightly better sales on any of the books than they had before they outsourced them and 5) spent millions of dollars on a project that didn't yield anywhere near the reward they expected. And then they did another crossover to bring them back into proper Marvel continuity, rendering the whole experiment a complete waste of time.  Marvel was apparently planning to keep the whole thing going indefinitely, but Jim Lee refused to carry on drawing any of the books, proving that at least somebody in the industry had a brain back in the 90's, so back to Marvel everything came, a whole lot worse for the experience. But still, Marvel classified the whole thing as "an unqualified financial success". Captain Picard, if you could please-

Yes, I believe that is an appropriate approximation of this whole debacle. And with that I think I will leave you on this thought:

Rob Liefeld really cannot art.

JR out.

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