And how did Marvel's greatest heroes return to the Marvel Universe?
Marvel comic warteasing a return-to-concept of sorts from their mid-'90s high-concept story Heroes Reborn,', a story that temporarily rewrote the histories of many popular Marvel characters and placed them in an alternate reality, away from the main Marvel universe, where other characters' adventures continued.
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With 2021 marking the landmark event's 25th anniversary, it looks like Marvel may at least have the concept and themes for a new story.And how Marvel released some character teasers that show mixed versions of Marvel heroes, it looks like a trip to an alternate reality or history for some popular Marvel characters - reunited, it seems - might be good again.
What exactly was the original?heroes born again(opens in new tab)'? How did this happen and what did it mean for the characters involved? Plus, what might the answers to these questions say about what's in store for Marvel's heroes when the new Heroes Reborn takes shape?
With only the title as a teaser, Newsarama puts our historians' hats on and dives into the history of Heroes Reborn and what the concept's return could mean for the Marvel Universe when it returns this year.
heroes born again
In the mid-1990s, thanks to the immense popularity (and even greater number of titles) of the X-Men series, Marvel Comics dominated comic book sales at the height of their heyday. While mutants dominated the scene, Marvel's other main characters - most notably the Avengers and the Fantastic Four - faltered both creatively and in terms of sales.
To capitalize on the X-Men's popularity and hopefully give the Avengers and FF a boost, Marvel invented Onslaught, a reality-threatening villain born from Charles Xavier's psychic power after absorbing Magneto's personality.
Onslaught brought the entire Marvel Universe to a standstill - including the X-Men, Avengers and FF - and threatened to devastate all of reality. In order to defeat Onslaught, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four seemingly sacrificed themselves to destroy his physical form.
But the heroes didn't actually die - young Franklin Richards, son of Reed Richards, used his reality warping abilities to create a pocket universe into which the heroes were transported at the moment of their death, their history completely rewritten.
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The nearly two-year saga, which ran from 1996 to 1997, enlisted artists Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld, who made their names in popular X-Men comics (before leaving Marvel to co-found Image Comics), to recreate the Avengers to play and play the Fantastic Four in their own reality.
At the time, the move was unprecedented. Rather than being produced in-house, Marvel essentially moved all aspects of production for four of its older, well-known titles to its competitors in Jim Lee's WildStorm imprint (which oversaw Iron Man and the Fantastic Four). and Liefeld's Extreme Comics (which morphed into Avengers and Captain America) - although later creative changes resulted in all four titles under the WildStorm umbrella.
Fueled by the popularity of its creators and the hype of a major publisher recruiting essentially two of the best indie studios at the time, Heroes Reborn took off with great success.
The Heroes Reborn series launched with four titles -Iron Man(opens in new tab),captain America(opens in new tab),the fantastic four(opens in new tab), Eavenger(opens in new tab)- The latter included Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Swordsman, Hellcat and more. All titles introduced new origins and backstories for their characters, creating an entirely different Marvel universe with an entirely separate history - not another world in the multiverse, but a pocket universe called Counter Earth.
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On Counter-Earth, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Victor Von Doom, Henry Pym and Rebel O'Reilly (a newly created character) are part of a group called the Atomic Knights of the Round Table - a scientific consortium of super genies, they all work in a special personal armor. When Tony Stark tests his experimental "Prometheum Armor" with Rebel O'Reilly as pilot, O'Reilly is killed and the Horsemen disband, with Aus Doom becoming Doctor Doom (with his own version of the armor) and Hank Pym a S.H.I.E.L.D. Scientist who eventually serves as Ant-Man alongside the Avengers.
More on Reed's fate in a moment.
Bruce Banner engages with Hydra and builds them a gamma bomb which they eventually detonate in him, transforming him into the Hulk. In order to defeat the Hulk, Stark dons the Prometheum Armor himself and fights the Hulk to a standstill.
Meanwhile, Richards works with S.H.I.E.L.D. to develop an experimental "quantum drive" that will allow Reed and his handpicked team, including Ben Grimm, Sue and Johnny Storm, to study a stellar anomaly. But S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Wyatt Wingfoot discovers that the anomaly does indeed pose a threat and arms Reed's ship with a swarm of nuclear bombs to destroy it.
When Reed, Ben, Sue and Johnny discover that their ship has been rigged, they take another ship that also has a Quantum Drive but is not shielded from the anomaly's radiation. However, they intend to stop Wingfoot and his team from launching their nukes, and although they succeed, their ship is destroyed and they are transformed into the familiar Fantastic Four forms.
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The Counter-Earth Avengers are still a team made up of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, but instead of independently banding together to "face threats no single hero can withstand" (as their old intro puts it), they'll go for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a team of government super-agents (similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe 16 years later); including the aforementioned Pym, who becomes Ant-Man as the series progresses, and Captain America.
Speaking of Cap, his origins are vaguely reminiscent of his main Marvel Universe storyline - Steve Rogers is given the Super Soldier Serum and given the highest human physical condition to go along with his unfailing bravery and innate tactical mind. But things are different there.
Instead of being frozen in ice, Steve Rogers is "deactivated" by the United States government after protesting President Harry S. Truman's atomic bombing of Japan at the end of World War II.
After that, the up-and-coming S.H.I.E.L.D. occasionally hires Steve back as Cap during high-profile conflicts and pivotal moments in the story - though they always deprogram him and send him home to live a "normal" life until the next need (shade after the Bucky Barnes story). / Winter Soldier, anyone? ). That is, until a conspiracy by his former Nazi foes Red Skull and Master Man leads him to awaken as Captain America and embark on an independent superhero career, eventually joining the Avengers.
On Counter-Earth, the characters of the Avengers and Fantastic Four took on many new versions of old foes, including somewhat familiar versions of Doctor Doom, Mole Man, Loki, Kang, Namor, Red Skull, Ultron, the Masters of Evil, Sons Serpent and many other classic Marvel villains.
The story of the Heroes Reborn universe also brought all of its characters together at key points, leading to the story that brought the heroes back to the real Marvel Universe.
In a major story arc, the Atomic Knights of the Round Table - Reed, Tony, Doom and Pym - come together to build the Counter Earth version of the Ultimate Nullifier to defeat their universe's Galactus, another twist on a classic Marvel story.
But it's the final Counter-Earth story arc that brought the heroes back into the Marvel Universe, starting oddly with a crossover between the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and characters from Jim Lee's WildStorm imprint at Image (which was producing many of the "Heroes Reborn" title).
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In an arc spanning the thirteenth and final installment of Captain America, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers, the heroes of Counter Earth Marvel meet WildStorm's WetWorks and WildCATS teams and join forces for a combined invasion of Marvel's shapeshifting Skrulls and WildStorm's Alien to stop Demonite after a failed experiment by Doctor Doom to open a portal to Counter-Earth's Negative Zone.
After this incursion, the Celestials (powerful cosmic beings with the power of many aspects of Marvel reality) take notice of Counter-Earth, forcing Franklin Richards to stand between the world he created where his parents still live and the Marvel Universe chooses which he exists. Through it all, Franklin manages to get to Counter-Earth, where it is decided that the heroes will return to their home reality while the Celestials isolate Counter-Earth - a proposition that seems to satisfy all parties.
But not everything goes as planned. Continuing his experiments in the Negative Zone, Doom hatches a plan to harness Franklin Richards' cosmic power and take control of both realities. However, his plan backfires when Thor intervenes and fights Doom in Counter-Earth's Negative Zone, which is now essentially revealed to be the void between realities. Thor battles Doom to defeat him, trapping the villain in the Void and returning to Marvel's core reality along with the other heroes, where all are essentially restored to their pre-Heroes Reborn selves, with only a certain memory of what happened.
The era that followed, dubbed "Return of the Heroes", placed the Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and the Fantastic Four in the hands of new creative teams focused on restoring their classic roles in the Marvel Universe while introducing new concepts of story along the way - a tried and true comic book tradition of making fans miss their favorite versions of their favorite characters, only to bring them back to their beloved status quo just in time.
The reality of Heroes Reborn has been revised several times over the years. In 2006, on the tenth anniversary of the story, Marvel releasedattack reborn(opens in new tab), a five-issue limited series in which Franklin Richards revives the heroes of Counter-Earth to combat the returning onslaught.
Other crossovers between Counter Earth and the mainstream Marvel Universe include the introduction of Rikki Barnes (Counter Earth's young protégé Captain America) into the mainstream Marvel Universe, where she became a member of the Young Invaders, and some trips to Counter Earth via the reality leap. super team the Exiles.
When the heroes of Counter-Earth returned for the last time, they were under the control of the mysterious Quiet Man, a villain who hated Reed Richards for perceived slights from his college days and who spent years working behind the scenes secretly manipulating events to bring down the Four. Fantastic.
In his final attempt to defeat them, Quiet Man planned to open a portal to Counter-Earth and bring his corrupted versions of his heroes and villains to dominate the heroes of the mainstream Marvel universe. However, his plan fails and Reed and Valeria Richards are forced to work with him to close the portal, though he escapes.
Interestingly, this was the last Fantastic Four storyline before Secret Wars collapsed into a reality across all worlds of Marvel's Multiverse, with the Fantastic Four paving the way for rebuilding the Multiverse thereafter, albeit absent from the main universe. at Marvel for several years. they were.
From the publishing side, "Heroes Reborn" was considered a great success, despite periods of ups and downs in sales of the titles. Starting with the franchise's stellar launch, all four re-released titles saw an immediate jump in sales and, despite dips in some titles, remained at levels Marvel was comfortable with.
Marvel reportedly wanted WildStorm to continue working on Iron Man, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Captain America indefinitely, on the condition that Lee continue to draw one of the titles for himself, but Lee declined, leading to the final Return of the Heroes.
Interestingly, it's likely that the experiment that Marvel undertook to transfer the creative aspect of Heroes Reborn to outside brands that led to the advent of the Marvel Knights line just a few years later, that Marvel incorporated then-startup creators Jimmy Palmiotti and brought in Joe Quesada to oversee a series of titles reviving Daredevil, Black Widow, Punisher, Doctor Strange and Inhumans with new creators and new concepts - a series that expanded and eventually became so successful that Quesada was appointed editor-in-chief at Marvel.
And that, of course, led to the launch of Ultimate Universe, in which Marvel's most popular heroes were given new roles, origins and stories in parallel continuity, and eventually the relaunch of New Avengers - both major sticking points for the release. of the Marvel Cinematic Universe just a few years later.
With Marvel now appearing to be cooking up a new version of Heroes Reborn, possibly right after the Avengers' current Enter the Phoenix arc, which author Jason Aaron says will lead to a "rebirth", this could be another time when the famous heroes Marvel characters are taken out of the frame and re-enacted?
From the character teasers, which show apparent mixes of Marvel heroes, it seems entirely likely.
If so, what are the chances that a whole new wave of creators will show up to offer their take on what the Reborn heroes are up to this time?
Stay tuned to Newsarama for more updates on Marvel's new Heroes Reborn story.
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I've been Marvel's Resident Comics Specialist and Newsarama's General Comics Historian since 2011. I've also been a local reporter for most major comic book conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I'm the artist of many weird images and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (you they)