When Titans Miss Deadlines: What Marvel's 'Secret Wars' Schedule Slip Really Means

Marvel Secret Wars - H 2014
The publisher has more than 70 titles running late this summer, but is that actually a problem?

In Secret Wars, Marvel Entertainment's massive comic book storyline that runs across the summer, the fictional universe is disrupted by forces beyond anyone's control, throwing the future of the Marvel heroes into doubt. With the news that Secret Wars is slipping off its originally announced publishing schedule, pushing not only the central series later into the summer but also much of the company's related material, it's beginning to look like the company's publishing line is beginning to follow the example of the chaos of its content.

It emerged last week that the fourth, fifth and sixth issues of the central Secret Wars series would miss their original release dates by a number of weeks (two, five and three weeks, respectively); additionally, issues of the numerous tie-in comic book series would also miss their announced releases. All told, 73 future releases were rescheduled by Marvel last week, with no reason given. (Marvel, when contacted by THR, declined to respond to a request for comment.)

Delayed comic books are nothing new; the final issue of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen was famously released a year late, and Marvel has previously had to delay its 2006 event series Civil War by a number of months in order to allow artist Steve McNiven to complete the work. Although Marvel isn't talking about what caused the Secret Wars delays, it's worth pointing out that executive editor Tom Brevoort has said "we'll see how it all goes" when asked about writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic needing reinforcements in order to complete the series at an acceptable pace.

The delays have been met with a mixture of apathy and outrage by comic book fans online; one message board thread seeing them described as "shambolic" and being dismissed with shrugs and "I sincerely prefer late than fill-in artists" simultaneously. It's an attitude that's fascinatingly repeated in comic book retailers, who are both frustrated with the last-minute rescheduling and pragmatic about the effect it can have on sales in the long term.

"I'd much rather wait a couple weeks and get the story the creators are proud of, rather than something that was rushed to meet the deadline to go to print. I think a lot of our customers feel that way too," Joshua Christiansen, marketing manager for retail chain Things From Another World, told THR. "Sometimes we see small decreases in interest in a series when delays start to plague a book, but in some instances it's actually created more demand."

This is something that came up again and again in talking to retailers; when remembering Civil War's monthslong delays in 2006, the story kept coming up that the delays allowed new readers the time to catch up on already-released issues they'd missed, having been lured in by discussion about the lengthy wait between issues. The same might happen with Secret Wars, if Marvel is lucky.

Colin McMahon, of Pittsburgh Comics, told THR "I doubt six weeks [of delays] will really hurt. It may stop some casual fans, but not the core committed fans. I'm sure there will be lots of gnashing of teeth online, but they will still sell just fine." His concern, instead, was what this means for the currently unscheduled latter issues of the series (Secret Wars is scheduled to run eight issues; the final two have not been officially scheduled, but were expected to be released in August and September, respectively), and all of the other Secret Wars-related series.

"How will this affect the tie-in books? Will they be delayed so they don't reveal things that may happen in the main book?" he asked. "What is going to happen with the final issues? Will they be forced to use fill-in art? Will Secret Wars end before All-New, All-Different Marvel begins? These are the questions I am wondering about." (It should be pointed out that All-New, All-Different Marvel has no official launch date as yet, perhaps to keep the schedule of Secret Wars malleable as necessary.)

McMahon's concerns perhaps point out the biggest risk for Marvel with these delays; if the schedule slips any further — which isn't impossible, of course — then it risks bumping the company's high-profile relaunch. Marvel-watchers already know that the company will launch a new series ahead of the conclusion of its predecessor — All-New Hawkeye No. 1 was released this March, even though the earlier Hawkeye series remains unfinished today, having slipped past its original Oct. 2014 release date and numerous updates — but would it go as far as to restart an entire universe without allowing the dust to settle on the old one?

Secret Wars No. 4 will be released in comic stores and digitally on July 1.