Marvel Comics Hits Refresh Button

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — It's not a reboot or relaunch.

Instead, Marvel Comics' new "NOW" initiative aims to recharge the publisher's heroes and villains, the publisher's editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said of the new effort that starts this week. Marvel Entertainment is owned by The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS  )

"This ain't a reboot, we're simply hitting the refresh button. 'Marvel NOW!' simply offers a linewide entry-point into the Marvel Universe that you're already reading about," he said of the endeavor, which starts Wednesday with the release of "Uncanny Avengers" No. 1 in comic shops worldwide.

"All of the stories take place in the aftermath of 'Avengers Vs. X-Men.' New creative teams -- each of which are deeply invested in their titles -- will take your favorite titles in bold new directions," Alonso said of the calamitous events of the best-selling and just-concluded mini-series that saw the return of the fabled Phoenix force and the death of some key characters, notably Charles Xavier.

The move, announced earlier this year, drew some initial comparisons to rival DC Entertainment's relaunch of its entire line of comics a year ago, one that has helped boost its sales and market presence. The most recent figures for sales showed that in September, while Marvel had the top-selling comic book, DC had spots two through 10.

Tom Brevoort, senior vice president for publishing at Marvel, said the new "NOW!" series aren't about relaunching characters with new origins or back stories but about shaking up the characters with new writers and artists.

"Think of it as a game of musical chairs, wherein the best creators in comics all move to a new 'seat' in the form of a new title and character," he said, noting that those names include Brian Michael Bendis, Steve Epting, Jonathan Hickman, Geoff Darrow, Matt Fraction and Leinil Francis Yu, among others.

"For as good as our recent runs have been, there was beginning to build a sense of complacency among the readership -- like they know exactly what to expect from a Captain America or an X-Men or an Avengers, whether they liked it or not, because the same creators had been shepherding those properties for so many years," Brevoort said.

"By making this kind of a creative switch, we create energy and excitement across virtually the entirety of our publishing line all at once."

The new titles will include series featuring Iron Man, the now-named "Indestructible Hulk," Deadpool and the "All-New X-Men," among them.

Alonso said that longtime readers won't find their favorite characters radically altered in mind or matter.

"Nope. It's the same Universe that readers have been invested in for years," he said. "The only change is some subtle tweaks to some costumes."

This comic image released by Marvel Entertainment shows the cover of the upcoming "Iron Man," part of Marvel Comics' new initiative aimed at recharging the publisher's heroes and villains. (AP Photo/Marvel Entertainment)

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