Robot 6

Curse of the B-listers, or what went wrong with the New Warriors

NewWarriors12

New Warriors #12

Marvel released its November solicitations, and as I’ve feared for a few months now, New Warriors by Christopher Yost and Marcus To is ending with Issue 12. This isn’t exactly a surprise, as anyone even casually watching its sales probably saw this coming: July’s Issue 7 sold about 17,000 copies, a few thousand below the traditional line of death for a Marvel title.

While the writing may have been on the wall, it’s sad to see such a fun and spirited comic go away. As a longtime fan of New Warriors, this fourth attempt to revitalize the property was the most true to the fondly remembered original series by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley and Darick Robertson. The bright and energetic art was fantastic, the dialogue was pitch-perfect, and yet … it just didn’t click with enough readers.

So what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, the creators had an uphill climb for a number of reasons. Some are unique to the New Warriors and others are shared by non-marquee properties at Marvel, DC and other publishers. In February, when this New Warriors series launched, I celebrated the B-list characters and their comics. Now six months later, we’re staring down the barrel of cancellation. These B-listers are a double-edged sword, so now it’s time to look at the edge of the sword that we don’t like (or however that metaphor works).

The original New Warriors ended in 1996 during some lean years for Marvel. The creative team of Evan Skolnick and Patrick Zircher had valiantly carried the torch and produced some memorable stories, and legend has it that sales weren’t stellar but steady, with a fairly loyal base of readers. Even so, New Warriors, Ghost Rider and several others are said to have been targeted by someone who didn’t like the books, and they got the ax — despite turning a profit. I don’t know if that’s really true; The underdogs always seem to have tales of injustice associated with them. It’s entirely possible sales just weren’t good enough. Available sales estimate from that period aren’t that clear, so it’s hard to know for sure. Whatever the reason, New Warriors was gone, and every attempt to bring the book back has failed to recapture the original magic.

One of the problems is part of what made the original series so good. Because New Warriors was populated by B-list characters that weren’t tied to licensing, the creative teams had the freedom to allow them to evolve. They actually aged, changed their costumes, changed their names, developed new powers, lost powers, etc. Members came and went as the story needed it, a trait that continued after the original cancellation. In the process, the founding members that were so beloved grew up, and in some cases, grew out of the New Warriors. Firestar and Justice became full-fledged Avengers, for instance. And from then on, the characters from the height of the original series would never again be reunited. Every resurrection of the New Warriors featured only a portion of the old team. In one instance, there was only one returning member (who actually ended up being someone else, who had been more of a villain and uneasy ally). So the challenge has always been, how do you bring back the New Warriors when the characters most known as the New Warriors can’t be put back together?

The second challenge came later, and has turned out to be the most troublesome. In 2006, the team was sacrificed for the plot’s inciting incident of the big Civil War event. Their most high-profile appearance was as the trigger for some of the bestselling comics of the past decade. Most of the team was killed off in that scene, including original key members Night Thrasher and Namorita. In-story, the entire team was maligned as guilty of killing school children and other innocent bystanders in a bust gone wrong. The next year, a new series by Kevin Grevioux and Paco Medina tried to clean up the New Warriors name, despite featuring an almost entirely new cast. To date, it has been the most commercially successful and lengthy revivals, but after 20 issues, it too was canceled.

Seven years after Civil War, while not has much time has passed for the characters, most of the Marvel Universe has moved on. Not so for the New Warriors: It remains the modern defining moment for the characters. In New Warriors #6, Captain America and Iron Man express concern over Justice and Speedball reforming the team. “The New Warriors are a tarnished brand,” warns Tony Stark. If that’s not meta-commentary …

And that ultimately may have been the book’s undoing, which is unfortunate, because all of that is out of the hands of Yost and To. From the beginning, the book has had to handle distractions about the “tarnished brand,” from Civil War to Speedball’s tenure as the self-harming Penance. Not enough current readers actually remember them from the original series. Yost and To lovingly recall the spirit of those stories, but for most of the 45,000 people that picked up their first issue, it didn’t hold much significance. Only 26,000 returned with the second issue. By Issue 4, it had dipped into the danger zone below 20,000.

So is the New Warriors brand too damaged? Is there a way to rejuvenate a troubled property? Or is dumping their history the only way to recapture the magic of the original series? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I suspect trademark renewal will prevent Marvel from giving up entirely on New Warriors, or any other series with cancellation tendencies.

Yost and To gave us a great ride while it lasted, and there are still three more months to go. Maybe within those stories will be a key to how to preserve these characters for the future.

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40 Comments

Good work, the part that echoed with me the most is when you wrote how the B-list characters are allowed to change because of their status. I know that for me this is one of the main reasons why i love B-List characters. I like the Evolution aspect i like that characters can get old move on change. It seems to me that this is something many fans want as well, Or maybe they just think they do. I see books like Invincible, New Warriors, X-Force as these great places to go and find writer and artist just telling stories. No movie tie-ins no lunch boxes just Super Hero myth making. The problem is that this isn’t what sells people seem to want change but ultimately only the familiar endures. I guess the most we could ask is that these types of books could get life as mini-series. Telling an on going story in short burst.

I don’t think list status is the concern, be it A or B. A good story with the proper comic book elements can improve any book’s appeal. There are lots of talented writers out there but too many of them are writing multiple books and the quality becomes rather poor.

A prime example is Bendis; his stuff is pretty lame and follows a dull formula. The dialogue is pretty awful for the most part. Lots of ‘wit’ coming from characters that aren’t usually speaking in that manner.

In the case of New Warriors, I think the revolving, undefined roster and some poor looks and designs did them in.

Nice writeup!

Corey: If you want to get an idea of what the sales were like on the 90′s NW series, check out any issue that was published in December (it will have a cover date of February or March, although I’m looking at a 1997 Uncanny X-Men and it’s in the January ’97 cover date). Inside, you will find a vertical strip called US Postal Service Statement of Ownership. They’re typically published on the letters page, but by ’96, they’re sometimes found on a page with house ads. Once you find it, line G actually has the mothly average of copies sold per issue, plus the last issue closed to when the statement was filed. That’ll give you a rough idea of how sales were going.

There’s actually lots of cool info in there – you can find the TOTAL run, which includes comp issues, subscriptions sales, and other goodies.

And if you want to go further back, up until the 1989, you could find the statement on March cover-dated books.

Captain Haddock

August 20, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I like the New Warriors, I like Marcus To, and I like the characters they used. But the book just didn’t click for me. There were moments here and there I liked, but not enough to justify spending money on them. It just seemed fairly generic, and after the second issue it was dropped. Still a shame, but in some cases you have to admit it may just not work.

This latest series had some pretty ugly covers to be honest. The 3.99 didn’t help either. I think the only hope for another relaunch would be to convince Fabian Nicieza to write it with a high profile artist and a 2.99 price. Center the book around several original members and maybe a couple newbies. Say a line-up of justice, fire star, speedball, rage, nova, gravity, songbird and blizzard.

I was rooting for it (and all NEW WARRIORS revivals) because I really liked he original series — which had the benefit of an early 90s launch….. where, hell, a ton of books lasted wayyyyy longer than they would if they were launched later on.

I think inits time, it was the CLOSEST Marvel came to having their own TEEN TITANS (aside from some X-Men comparisons…. but the X-Men had long outgrown its teen status). I think YOUNG AVENGERS has largely supplanted the role NEW WARRIORS once enjoyed.

Beyond that…. The High Evolutionary is a hella boring villain. And with the Spider-Clone guy as the only member with an A-list connection, it was an uphill battle….

This run’s big sin for me was it didn’t make me give a shit about any cast member I didn’t already care about. Issue nine and there are four that I can’t even name!

I’m a huge fan of the original run and characters. I also collected volume 4 of the book, so when i first heard about this relaunch i was excited at first. But the more i read about it, the less inclined i was to give it a try. This team had members from this new inhuman crap, which put me off straight away. Plus, it had that Nova usurper i don’t care for and a spider-man clone. Those factors couple with the fact that Justice and Speedball looked infantilized in the art previews, and the 3.99 price tag on an already stretched comics budget, made it easy to give this one a pass.

Your part about how many people read the first issue and then came back for the second is probably not accurate. Those may have been the orders but that says nothing about sell-through. Of 45k ordered for all we know only 20-30k made it into readers hands. Sell-through for issue 2 could be similarly lower as well.

I loved the 90′s series and the New Warriors will always have a place in my heart. But this recent series seemed a bit unfocused. Like it was trying to pack too much into one initial issue. So it didn’t so much feel like a first episode of a series, but a string of plot points that needed to be covered, and quickly.

The first issue of the original series was a tight done-in-one issue that introduced everyone and had a single big bad that was introduced and dealt with in one issue. There was time for intrigue and a mythology later.

Just one of the many character-casualties from Civil War.

I was planning on switching to trades after the first arc. I love To’s artwork. But the writing didn’t grab me from the start . . . which may not be Yost’s fault, since he has the unenviable task of introducing us to a completely “new” cast and wow us with them at the same time.

YOST SHOULD NT HV ALIEN8D FANS OF NYT THRASHER/DWAYNE TURNER

NW is & shd b Marvel perfect answer 2 DC’s TT.

We/SZ askd, prayed, beggd & pleaded 4 NT(Dwayne….or even his bro in sum capacity) 2 b in dis recent run of NW & it was very VERY painful 2 deliber8ly choose 2 avoid dis title bcuz we/SZ r md fans of Yost…. but gatdammit… y….y did Yost choose 2 alien8 us/SZ/NT fans?

Y?

Now NW is cancelled & we/NW fans will all hv 2 endure anothr very looong drought without d NW shwing-up anywhr.

Der’s no TT without ROBIN…No core adjectiveless Avngrs without Cap & most certainy cannot entertain any NW without NT.

We/SZ sooo desper8ly wantd 2 supprt dis title bcuz we/SZ hv waitd so long 4 it…but we/SZ totally CAN NOT accept any NW without NT/Dwayne. PERIOD!

The prospect of a New Warriors revival excited this particular superhero team aficionado but the pessimistic seeds of cancellation were evident from the onset. We know from a crowded marketplace that readers, viewers, diners and other consumers have to be grabbed immediately. People are not brand loyal like the members of the Greatest Generation were. Certain specific problems I noted include the following: (1) the modern trend of decompression did not help as at a penny short of $4.00 per issue, the book required too much of an upfront, low-return investment to drag out formation of the team over several issues (back in the Silver Age, team origins were handled in the space of one issue with time to face and defeat the first villain); (2) veterans of the original team, Justice and Speedball, who were added to provide historical continuity and a bridge to the reformed group were portrayed as adolescents despite their respective careers over the years as Avengers and Thunderbolts members; (3) the costume designs for the new characters were lackluster and uninspired; (4) the cover art was not captivating to casual comic rack browsers unfamiliar with or not emotionally invested in the previous iterations of New Warriors; and (5) to the extent that the pseudo- Teen Titans beat was covered, there were other series, i.e., “Young Avengers” that were superior. Why not make the comic EXCITING? Even the villain, the High Evolutionary, is a dullard who has seen far better days. If I were advised, I would have used a “Search for Richard Rider” hook from issue # 1 or adversaries like Carnage or Mephisto or start off with the new team already established with details to follow in flashback form.

Corey writes: “So the challenge has always been, how do you bring back the New Warriors when the characters most known as the New Warriors can’t be put back together?”

My question would be, why can’t they? The original team has grown and changed into powered up versions for themselves over the years. There is no good reason why those characters couldn’t be reunited into a powerhouse team. Frankly, I am baffled that Marvel has not done this yet out of it’s many attempts to relaunch the brand.

Individually, Justice gained notoriety during his tenure as a leader during Avengers: Initiative and Avengers: Academy. Speedball did during his time as Penance on T-Bolts. Nova probably ‘rocketed’ in popularity the most during and after his involvement in Annihilation. Firestar was an Avenger and would likely draw more readers than Sun Girl. A clearly defined Namorita and Night Thrasher would get more of the original crowd picking up the book. Throw in fan favorites like Darkhawk, Cloak and Dagger, Silhouette and Rage and I think you have pretty much a perfect New Warriors line up.

Next you have to play up the powered up aspect. The original New Warriors may have been comprised of b-listers but if Marvel wants the brand to be successful they need to stop writing them like second rate juveniles that need to be put in their places. Look to the powering up of Richard Rider as an example of what can happen to a characters popularity when you present them as powerful and capable rather than a loser. Now multiply that by every member of the team and you will end up with a book that people want to read. As b-list characters, New Warriors already faces the threat of a perceived irrelevance by the reader right out of the gates. Every issue that comes out that affirms that irrelevance, only carries the threat of losing more readers. The only way to overcome that stigma is by making the characters important in the grand scheme of things, and you do that by showing them as powerful and capable.

This would sell the book way more than a band of lovable losers. Especially when half the team is new or unknown. There is a place for the struggling teen book with unknown heroes trying to find their place in the world. That is not the New Warriors any more. It had stopped being the New Warriors by issue 75 of the original run. After 24 years, the original characters together as a team have the potential for much more than that.

I didn’t even read New Warriors when it was on its first run, and Scarlet Spider joined. Even though I’ve been around since those days, the Civil War thing is STILL my main association with New Warriors. Then the Penance thing, and I don’t even know how he got back to being Speedball.
I don’t have much else to add, just that it’s not only newish readers who the NW are tainted for.

I thought this series had potential. The thing is with introducing “new books” is they expect the fan base to know who most of these characters are. I had to look a few of them up and since I don’t read any Spidey comics, I assumed SS was dead for good. Back in the day, Marvel introduced the New Warriors in the pages of Thor and for the most part, they were character that had been around 10 years. The original T-Bolts made appearances in Hulk and elsewhere. There was nothing that built up the series and Speedball and Justin just don’t enough pull as characters. Anyone who was a Speedball fan was likely not a fan of Penance and probably just gave up on Robbie.

It was wrong to relaunch a book with all the troubles mentioned in the article during All-New Marvel Now season. Readers have a finite income and can only try a limited amount of new books. So when Marvel launches twenty new books, some of them highly promoted, readers have to ask themselves, “do I try New Warriors or Amazing Spider-Man, New Warriors or She-Hulk, New Warriors or Invaders, New Warriors or Silver Surfer, New Warriors or Loki, New Warriors or Ghost Rider, New Warriors or Black Widow”, etc.
By giving readers too many options, you severely decrease the probability that readers will try, much less stay with a New Warriors book. Marvel should have launched the book in a dead month instead, with far fewer new launches and the opportunity to give it a stronger PR boost. The way they did it, I’m surprised it went into double digits at all.

From the sales perspective – yeah, not having a connection to a big seller, creators without much of a fanbase, and launching into an already crowded market were all factors in the book not making it.

From a creative standpoint – The original New Warriors run, along with books like Perez Avengers, Ellis Thunderbolts, and DnA Nova, really grew the characters up and found good spots for them in the Marvel U. Trying to make them New Warriors again just feels like regression and nostalgia-grabbing.

It was on my boycott list because of NINO.

Adios, I say.

Hope NINO is next.

A double-edged sword cuts both ways. In other words, if you’re not careful you can accidentally cut yourself with it, not just your combatant

Given Vance’s (Justice) connection to the original Guardians of the Galaxy I’d think he’d be a natural to join the current version of the team.

I started this series as a continuation of Scarlet Spider because I liked Kaine and Aracely. It’s a pretty decent series, and it’s definitely not one of the ones I’m reading that I would want to be cancelled. If any of my current reads would be cancelled, I’d hope for Justice League 3000, X-Force, and All-New Ghost Rider because they’re just not that great.

As a somewhat newer reader (began collecting maybe two years ago), I wasn’t terribly familiar with New Warriors, but took a chance anyways. Honestly, I picked it up mostly because Scarlet Spider was on the roster and I was excited to see how he’d act as part of a team.

I’ve picked up every issue since its release, but it’s definitely one of my lower-priority books when it comes to my weekly reading order. It’s just not all that appealing to me. Perhaps if they’d interacted with the A-listers more, or had top-notch witty banter (Superior Foes-tier), maybe then I’d have been more attached to the series and I’d be upset with their decision to cancel.

Marvel and DC will perpetually recycle their B-list titles to keep trademarks and copyrights, so expect more New Warriors in the future. I agree with many of the comments above.

The new book was trapped in Nu Marvel tropes (with Inhumans and Scarlet Spiders), tried to incorporate post-Civil War idioms (Speedball), and leftover concepts lying around (High Evolutionary). As a result it had little charm and never became very interesting.

The book wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t very good or interesting either.

I saw this coming the minute I saw the cast. You’ve got to be kidding when you’re adding d-listers from the just-cancelled Scarlet Spider book and a collection of unknowns to a relaunched franchise that didn’t exactly set the world alight the first go-round.

Adding a known commodity like some unused New X-Men (cough, PIXIE) would have helped with the name recognition factor.

The worst part is that Marvel will take this as more support to the “teen books can’t succeed” train of thought. That’s the biggest travesty.

It’s biggest problem was that it too quickly followed Young Avengers, and even though it is a TOTALLY different type of book, the comparisons were inevitable and not favorable.

I am collecting the book to the end but my only highlights were really Hummingbird and the possible return of Namorita. The cat and dog comic relief were a huge turnoff, which I generally love anthropomorphic characters but they were written as silly stupid. But I’m not surprised it is being cancelled even though I enjoyed the first storyline.

When All-New Marvel NOW was announced last year, I debated between picking up New Warriors (I’m a big fan of the 90′s volume), All-New X-Factor, or All-New Invaders. In the end, I went with All-New X-Factor. Here’s the reasons I didn’t go with New Warriors:

- The only members of the awesome, original lineup were Speedball and Justice.
- Tie-ins to Inhumanity. Urgh.
- A ton of new members I don’t care about.
- Too many members by the looks of it.
- A boring-looking plot which didn’t appeal to me (from the solicits)

Where is the appeal of the original series, of a bunch of teenagers deciding to team up because it works for them? Where is the well thought-out arcs which alternate between several issues and being done-in-one issues? Why are there too many members for me to remember them all? Although I do like Yost’s work, I’m glad that I didn’t pick this up – it’s not the New Warriors that I wanted.

And on a side note, anyone who has read any of Peter David’s X-Factor (either the 90′s or modern stuff) can affirm to, B-Listers are by no means a bad thing in a story.

George St. Louis

August 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm

People-the 90′s were nearly 25 years ago. Bringing back properties from that time period are only going to appeal to people who liked those properties back then, and what they really want is more stories that make themselves FEEL like they were 25 years younger. I just read New Warriors #1 on Marvel U this week and you know what? It was boring and generic-and I was never crazy about the first series either-it was also as generic as they come. People these days are far more discriminating about what they read and spend their money on. That being said, I’m pretty bummed about Superior Foes being canned-It’s one of Marvel’s best titles. At least it had an original point of view.
The 90′s are done-put down the rose-colored glasses.

Marvel really gets me going with the New Warriors these days…as I’ve said before they thought enough of them to give gravitas to the central theme of Civil War (probably the biggest and most commercially successful marvel event ever) and Marvel / Millar deconstructed the notion of the B list bumblers and Stumblers and now they expect us to just swallow down the stuff as cool and relevant when they put out teen books en mass. It need to address that 800 pound Gorilla…and maybe in some ways we cant go back.

If your going to destroy the New Warriors on the biggest stage to add weight to that story, you owe it to the NW to build them back up again on a big stage and in big fashion. In fact, you should not expect them to have mass appeal until that is addressed!

Lets also consider the amount of teen fare that came out this year…competition was tough, and basically none of these books are particulary strong.

George – its a pretty lame take. The 90s had plenty of crap and plenty of quality books. Lets not forget things like GOTG were brought back in the 90s…and no the movie was based on the DnA series, but that would not have existed without the other. Remender’s X-force and PAD’s X factor both took 90s stuff and did new things with it. Growth of a product is what we need, not regressing the teen notion just to appease a market scheme. A new Warriors book would work if it was done right…

The Civil War thing really weighs on the characters because writers feel they have to address it, but the event was so long ago that it seems a pointless wallow in already-old continuity. It’s very much like how any writer who takes up the Scarlet Witch must address the House of M thing.

From 2004 to 2006, Marvel built up its brand by brutally stomping on B-list characters and franchises for impact – and I do think the inciting incident of Civil War had more impact because it was a fairly well-known team being blown up. But any writer who takes the New Warriors on now is caught between trying to please new readers (who don’t give a crap about Civil War), ’00s nostalgics (who may have come to Marvel because of Civil War) and ’90s nostalgics.

Ultimately though I think Marvel just doesn’t put enough resources into these books. The original New Warriors may have been a B-list book, but it looked like an A-list book by the standards of the era. Some of the smaller books have good writing talent, but they have inconsistent or inexpensive-looking art, no particular gimmicks associated with them. They look cheap and not very well thought out. Captain Marvel is another book that looks that way, but the writer did a great job of promoting it and feeding into the public’s hunger for a good female-centered superhero book. She made it seem like the “now” book, the way the original New Warriors promoted itself as the book for people who thought other superhero teams were too old and old-fashioned. The current New Warriors doesn’t have that going for it. It was just there.

pharon F Fanboy

August 23, 2014 at 8:06 pm

I bought the book for Marcus To art and the scarlet spider.

The high evolutionary has always been boring.

The new characters felt like they were made to appeal to cosplay. I’m sure more left liberal ideas were going to be rolled out as well.

No namorita and night thrasher.

I would never read the ms marvel book, inappropriate for marvel to be publishing that after this weeks events in the world.

I think the problem is that The New Warriors has NEVER expanded outside the comic book medium. They never had their own cartoon series or made any cartoon appearances in any cartoon series at all or not even a movie. I know people like to claim that media or movies don’t help comic book sales or popularity. But honestly think they do to some extent. I know a million people watch the movies but that doesn’t transfer to comic book readers. But I’m pretty sure at least maybe like 100 people become comic book readers and I am one of them because after I saw the first Spider-Man movie I immediately started become a comic book reader. I also think things like X-Men or Spider-Man would have never been so popular if it weren’t for the 90′s cartoons and I think John Stewart’s Green Lantern Corps series has been a success due to his popularity in Justice League Unlimited. So in one way media does help and I really do hope that New Warriors would get their own movie so it can help rejuvenate the franchise like it did with the Guardians of the Galaxy. I really much enjoy the characters and the new series as well. I really do hope we still see some of characters like Hummingbird and Scarlet Spider or even Darkhawk somewhere in the future.

4 reasons why the NEW WARRIORS series have been unable to succeed after the first successful series.

1. Not using ALL of the original founding and subsequent team members from the first 54 issues of the original series. People want the original Night Thrasher and Nova, NOT a depowered Bandit as Night Thrasher or Sam as Nova. People want Namorita, not Water Snake (although I like Water Snake). People want Rage,Turbo,Firestar,and Silhouette.

2. Having Nova (Rich Rider),Firestar,Justice,and Speedball “age” and join the Avengers/become teachers at Avengers Academy.

3. CIVIL WAR and everything that resulted from that crapfest of a series like the Warriors accidentally causing the deaths of children,the deaths of Night Thrasher (the only original member who has not been brought back) and Namorita (who I believe has since been resurrected),and Speedball becoming Penance.

4. Way too many Bat/X/GL/JLA/Spidey/Superman/Avengers spinoff books putting the strain on the wallets of completist fans/customers which makes those same customers unlikely to try anything other then books related to their favorite A-list characters/comics.

When it comes to Big Two comics, just about any new superhero team with more than a half-dozen members, especially unknowns, is an auto-skip for me. The average space for a single issue at Marvel and DC is 20 pages (and shrinking, it seems). For most writers, that’s just not enough space to get in a decent plot plus interesting characterization, and at $4 a pop, I’m probably not going to take the chance.

So sorry to see this series go. I’m a Warriors fan from the first volume and have followed all of the other attempts. This one had to be my favorite revival with returning faves, interesting newbies, and fun stories. A shame that it didn’t get the audience it deserved.

If an Event was what tarnished the brand, having them headline an Event and then spinning a new series out of that might replenish the brand.
But Marvel would never have the confidence to let NW save the day over the XMen and Avengers in a summer Event series.

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