Is this Heroes Reborn time? Marvel Comics have just tweeted out the following image, declaring "Heroes Reborn: Whatever happened to Earth's Mightiest Heroes?" The reference is clearly a return to the nineties' comic book event Heroes Reborn that saw Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Jim Valentino, Jeph Loeb and others relaunch many Marvel comic books heroes – including The Avengers – in their own separate universe. Later revealed to be the creation of one Franklin Richards, the return of Heroes Reborn may suggest a) more work from Rob Liefeld b) maybe Jim Valentino and Jeph Loeb c) Franklin Richards getting his cosmic powers back and d) it's all about the nineties, baby.
"Heroes Reborn" was published in 1996–97, and this would mark its twenty-fifth anniversary. Following the apparent deaths of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Dr Doom battling Onslaught in Onslaught: Marvel Universe, they were "reborn", and certain aspects of their earlier stories were expanded with the intent of telling their adventures anew for modern generations. This was explained, in-story, as they were transported into a pocket universe by Franklin Richards, the near-omnipotent, psychic son of Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, to save where they lived in the so-called "Franklin-verse", oblivious to what had happened to them. The characters' origins and histories were revised and updated circa the mid-1990s for modern audiences. For instance, Ben Grimm fought as a pilot in the Gulf War instead of World War II, and Susan and Johnny Storm were explained to have been financial backers for Reed Richards' rocket, hence their presence on the mission.
For this reworking, Marvel farmed out the properties to some of their former employees who had left the company to form Image Comics. Jim Lee's WildStorm Productions studios handled Fantastic Four and Iron Man, and Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios took the reins of The Avengers and Captain America. However, after six issues, Marvel ended Liefeld's contract early, citing low sales on his two titles. Liefeld's titles were reassigned to Lee. Walt Simonson took over Avengers when it moved to WildStorm. Although the four titles in "Heroes Reborn" were slated for a 12-issue run, James Robinson wrote a thirteenth and final issue for each book. The storyline, entitled "World War III", was a crossover between the Marvel and WildStorm characters.
The changes to the characters were controversial, provoking debates amongst fans. The change in the creative team on Captain America was also controversial since Mark Waid and Ron Garney's pre-Heroes Reborn team had already been bringing increased sales and critical acclaim to the series. However, all of the titles experienced a large upsurge in sales. According to Lee, Marvel proposed continuing the Heroes Reborn lineup indefinitely, but under the condition that Lee would draw at least one of them; Lee refused.
At the end of the storyline, the Fantastic Four and Avengers were returned to the mainstream Marvel Universe, again through the intervention of Franklin Richards, in the miniseries Heroes Reborn: The Return. The ensuing storyline, dubbed "Heroes Return" was once again created in-house at Marvel Comics.
And now we have Heroes Reborn returning one more time…