All of us have holiday traditions: some of us watch A Charlie Brown Christmas each year, some of politely ask the three major shared comics universes (Marvel, DC, Valiant) to make some changes to their comic lines to please our interests. Wanna guess which one we are doing today?
Today, we look at Marvel, a company once known as ‘the House of Ideas.’ If you go by our wishlists below, it seems like our staff wants to give them a new set of ideas. If you’ve got any ideas of your own, let us know in the comments.
So, without any further ado:
Invest in better design
This month, DC is unveiling a new line-wide redesign signaling the end of their Rebirth branding. Sure, they’re keeping some a few real clunkers for logos (“Batman,” please god fix “Batman”), their trade dress clearly signals a commitment to communicating a vision to readers.
Sure, Marvel has a consistent logo, and technically Legacy has that banner thing going on, but holy crap it is ugly. And their logos are some of if not THE worst in the industry. Thor? What if we put a hammer IN the logo! In the laziest possible way! Just, seriously, scrounge together like a seventieth of your Guardians vol. 2 money and pay Dylan Todd or Rian Hughes to do the work.
You need Architects
The Marvel line officially feels like a place where its best books are not contributing to the tone of the overall line or universe. Peter reveals his identity to J. Jonah Jameson in Chip Zdarsky’s fantastic “Peter Parker” book, and there’s no trace of it anywhere else. This is a seismic and long overdue development that’s handled with incredible wit and care, and it feels like it doesn’t matter. Is this my problem? Not being able to enjoy a book on its own without knowing how it fits into that odious beast “Continuity”? I don’t think so.
The problem is that the Marvel Universe doesn’t feel like a unified world anymore. At its best, Marvel could sustain weird books on the fringes of its universe, but they were still on the fringes of A universe. Jason Aaron, for example, is yelling his phenomenal Thor run into a disinterested void of a universe. Whenever Thor shows up in another book, there’s hardly a trace of the circumstance she’s dealing with in her own.
Sure, Marvel could stand for a whole Universe-wide Rebirth, but let’s just start with a consistent vision, a direction that’s more than just three characters standing in mid-air holding Infinity Gems.
Tell more standalone stories
A lot of Marvel comics are impenetrable. They’ve tried to remedy that by constantly relaunching series, but it’s pretty much in name in only. In order to jump into a new series, a lot of Wikpedia and cross-referencing is required. It would be nice to do stories that aren’t completely tied into current continuity, while not necessarily being out of continuity. And I don’t mean more events. Please. I’m thinking more arcs like “Thor: God of Thunder” ‘The God Butcher’ and ‘Godbomb.’ Those are trades that can be read and appreciated all on their own, without much knowledge of the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Cool it on the costume updates
Characters don’t need a new costume every time there’s a new #1. Consistent looks help make characters iconic and memorable. Drastically changing a costume every year is fun for artists, I’m sure, but it can be disorienting and distracting for readers. Instead of focusing on the story, we’re wondering how Cyclops even sees out of the giant “X” across his face, or why Spider-Man suddenly has a glowing spider on his chest. And then, as soon as we’re used to those new oddities, some new distracting element is introduced. Obviously, costumes will be continuously tweaked, but maybe rethink the constant complete redesigns.
Pick a status quo and stick with it
Renumbering. Costume changes. Roster shake ups. Marvel hasn’t been able to go six months without shaking their universe to its core (“because you demanded it!”). The thing is, each of these situations could have made more for an interesting superhero universe. Give me something consistent! Let Captain Marvel run Alpha Flight, and the X-Men team stay the same, Wilson Fisk stay the mayor of New York City, and the Champions stick to their non-violent mission statement for a year. The books and characters will be stronger for it.Continued below
Keep Laura Kinney as Wolverine
“All-New Wolverine” has been one of the best Marvel books in years, but Laura Kinney herself hasn’t had much of an impact on the wider universe. She didn’t play a role on the main X-Men team, and unlike her dad, she didn’t appear in a hundred other comics. In fact, dragging Old Man Logan into the main comics sidelined her as much as ever. And now Logan proper is coming back? Laura Kinney is the coolest legacy character Marvel has in their entire roster, and she shouldn’t relegated to the minors. Make her the main Wolverine!
Hire exciting independent comic book writers
In the last year, some of Marvel’s most exciting talent has left the publisher, and they haven’t really found a replacement stable of writers. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Rainbow Rowell, Marc Guggenheim and Saladin Ahmed are all exciting writers, but they’re not comic book writers. All of them are doing good work for Marvel, but with their lack of experience in the medium and their divided attentions, it’s not the foundation for a strong Marvel bullpen. With a new editor-in-chief coming on, now is the time to recruit some exciting new talent from the world of comics.
I know we want this every year, and every year we don’t get it. But it can’t hurt to keep asking. Marvel’s certainly raking in the profits with non-comics stuff (TV, movies, merchandise) that they can pass on some lower price points to the comics readers, especially on those first issues. You can’t draw in new fans if they can’t afford to buy your books. If lower prices overall aren’t in the immediate future, I’d love to see offerings on Comixology Unlimited or Marvel Unlimited expanded. Perhaps a 3-month embargo on new issues for Marvel Unlimited Plus subscribers, instead of some of the variant covers and special merchandise?
Continue to allow Sina Grace the freedom to tell a coming out story his own way
Marvel’s track record on LGBTQ+ characters has been extremely spotty; until only a few years ago, a character’s sexual preference could only be implied and not stated outright. The story of Bobby Drake/Iceman navigating his newfound status as an out gay man has been one of the most beautiful (and my favorite) stories of this year, mixing joy and stress in equal measure to show that the path to finding one’s true self has never been smooth. At the same time, it hasn’t been hammered down your throat; the superhero aspect of Drake is there in equal measure. For this, I applaud Marvel and strongly encourage them to continue this path.
Continue to expand LGBTQ+ representation throughout the comic universe
The TV and movie universes are doing a really good job at this – Thor: Ragnarok made Valkyrie bisexual (though it was very much implied in the film and the more overt scenes ended up on the cutting room floor), and Runaways features an openly lesbian character. This is trickling down to the comics with the aforementioned Iceman, America Chavez, and the recent news of Living Lightning rejoining the Avengers as a gay man in his own storyline next year. Let’s keep up the good work with this representation, and expand it. Why not a trans superhero?
No more Not Brand Echh
Please. We now have Deadpool and Gwenpool playing the roles of the breaker of the fourth wall. They owe their Legacy to Not Brand Echh and Forbush Man, and give us the added bonus of good story alongside their tongue-in-cheek nature. We don’t need a third clogging up the space. The Not Brand Echh titles are best enjoyed as a time capsule of an earlier era, and don’t deserve to be revived any further than this year’s Issue #14.
Make a concerted effort to hire writers of color and underrepresented communities
The news that C.J. Cebulski, Marvel’s new editor in chief, wrote under a Japanese alias is troubling on many levels, the fact that he circumvented company policy about employees writing for the publisher aside. Cebulski is a white man taking on an identity that is not his own. With this revelation, much of his work from the Akira Yoshida days now reads as bordering on racist. Given Marvel’s track record (or lack thereof) on creators of color in their ranks, this news that “hey, we’re okay with hiring a white man for a position of power that once posed as Asian and lied about it to us” really does not make them look good. Marvel can mend some fences with a concerted effort to look towards the many great writers from underrepresented identities looking for that big break in the industry.Continued below
Stop deferring to IDW.
If Cebulski is going to make good on his apology for posing as an Asian writer, a great way to start is to actually make “Big Hero 6” part of the Marvel Universe again, instead of being embarrassed that Disney Animation beat Marvel Studios to the punch with that cast of characters. I fail to see the financial sense in letting IDW do the more kid-friendly “Star Wars” titles, or reprinting books like “The One” too.
Make your prestige shows episodic.
This is a wish for Marvel TV rather than Marvel Comics, but as both are under Marvel Entertainment’s purview I feel I can speak out. Everyone has pointed out pacing issues on the Netflix series, and despite some attempts in Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage to make the shows feel less like 13-hour movies, the primary criticism – that there aren’t enough storylines for so many episodes – remains unaddressed. Daredevil should be able to take on a new court cases; Jessica Jones can investigate different cases; and the Punisher should undertake a different stakeout in every other episode.
“ROM.” Please Marvel and Hasbro
So, this is a pipe-dream if ever I saw one but, considering how many old series are getting nice collected editions, it’s worth a shot. For those of you who don’t know much about the original “ROM,” well, here’s a great retrospective of the first 40 issues by Linkara, who is the one who introduced me to the series.
But suffice it to say that it was an old licensed property that created a very successful, 75 issue series at Marvel back in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s and was written by the great Bill Mantalo, who you might have heard of from his other works (Rocket Racoon, anyone?). It is also 100% canon to the Marvel-616 universe and is grand in scale.
It’s a huge series that I have wanted to read for years but because of licensing issues between Parker Bros (and now Hasbro, who purchase the rights) and Marvel, it has never been reprinted. Plus, the final two years of the title were drawn some small-time guy known as Steve Ditko. He’s not well known, right?
The big thing standing in-between a reprint and us is, obviously, Hasbro and IDW’s current use of ROM in the Hasbro toy comics universe as well as the rights issues with the original. I hope the two companies can come to an agreement. Hell, if Dark Horse and DC can make peace to reprint their crossover, I think Marvel and IDW can at least try.
Draw in fans, new and old, with this classic and save it from being something that can only be read by scouring lost longboxes. Plus, help to honor Bill Mantalo’s legacy and maybe kick some of the profits over towards him like Dynamite has done with his “Swords of the Swashbucklers” series.
More Legacy one-shots
Speaking of legacy, I would absolutely love for more of these crazy one-shots that Marvel has been putting out as part of their Legacy initiative. It’s introduced me to characters, titles, and teams that I had no idea existed and has given some new voices a change to try to shine. So, keep up with that. Bring in new voices, diverse voices, and allow them to run free. There is no risk of cancelation due to low sale numbers for a series that only has one issue.
And if Marvel is afraid of untested talent or ideas that don’t fit their usual mold, give them a one-shot. Treat these as pilots for reboots, new-series and to really spice up the bookshelves. People are pretty willing to give something a try, especially if there is no expectation of investment in future installments.
Make this a testing ground for weird and crazy ideas and bring back the one-shot in full force. Use the limitation of telling a one-issue story to generate stories that only work in that smaller page space. Some of my favorite comics have come from single-issues of series and, while the current quality of these Legacy one-shots hasn’t been stellar, *stares at “Not Brand Echh,”* it does prove that Marvel is willing to try something new.Continued below
Upending the Entire Business Model
So, this one ties into my previous point, but if Marvel wants to connect their books to the right audience, they need to stop relying on the pre-order system as the only measure of success of a book. I know this has been said to death but it needs to happen. Marvel has canceled so many book prematurely, especially ones who don’t read print, single-issues, instead choosing to buy them digitally (as I do) or read them in the trades.
Trade waiters are a decent chunk of readers because it’s easier to stay on top of books that comes out every 4-6 or so months than on weekly releases of monthly comics from a comic shop that may or may not exist. It can be exhausting and it takes up a lot of space to have each single issue, especially when they won’t fit on a shelf. So, instead of pretending that these people don’t exist, work them into your system, Marvel.
Rearrange it so that their numbers are reflected in whether or not you cancel a series. Include digital sales of single issues and really think about if a series would work as a monthly, magazine series or as a stand-alone graphic novel/series of graphic novels.
Also, please, for the love of god Marvel, don’t make any more large events for much longer than the year and a half you said you were on pause. We need a break, our wallets need a break, the universe needs a break, and so do your creators. Let the titles breathe on their own and not have so many tie-ins breaking the flow of an otherwise great/building narrative.
Epic hasn’t existed for years. Icon is dead. The Ultimate universe was folded into Earth-616 a couple years ago. MAX barely puts out any titles anymore. Their Infinite digital line is doing fine, even if it is a bit sparse, and, finally, Timely Comics hasn’t put out a cheap reprint of issues since the All-New, All-Different Marvel initiative in 2015-2016.
Marvel doesn’t have any really viable or robust imprints left and this worries me. With IDW creating Black Crown, this got me thinking, why are imprints so important? What do they do for a company? Well, they let you diversify the types of stories a company can tell and easily unify them under a banner that stands for something.
DC is doing this with their new Vertigo and Young Animal and Wildstorm and Elseworlds (though that hasn’t been used for a while) as well as the new one spinning out of “Dark Nights: Metal” (I think). Boom! Studios has their Boom Box, Archaea, and regular line while Dark Horse has its own Mignolaverse (which, technically, is its own imprint overseen by Mike Mignola…technically) as well as a manga publishing arm and Image has Skybound and Giant Generator as well as Top Cow.
Yet, Marvel doesn’t really have a place to put stories that don’t fit within the usual Marvel-616/regular otherworld framework. There is no creator owned place anymore. Save for a title or two, there really aren’t any stories that fit the MAX brand. I think Marvel could really use a place like Young Animal right now, telling offbeat, odd stories that target a group not in their usual purview.
Again, these are places that Marvel as a company can take risks on untested talent with different ideas and characters that might not sell as well in their usual line-up. Push the boundaries, just as Vertigo did a couple decades ago and I feel like some life could be infused into a company that keeps taking two steps forwards and three steps back.
A quick one: Miracleman
Where is it, Marvel? What happened to the Silver Age with Gaiman and Buckingham? Some news on this would be lovely. It’s been well over a year since we got a new issue of this. If it’s cancelled, at least tell us that.