All of us have holiday traditions: some of us watch A Rugrats Chanukah each year, some can recite all the words to “The 12 Pains of Christmas,” and some 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?
Our second installment focuses on the House of Ideas, Marvel Comics. Due to their overwhelming cinematic success, every year feels like ‘the biggest year ever’ for Marvel, but this year has been an odd mixture of successes and failures on their part, and our writers have no shortage of ideas for how to fix things. Let’s dig in.
Riot Was a Bad Choice
Marvel went ahead with their partnership with Riot Games despite months of bad press surrounding a toxic and sexist work environment at the developer. Nina Vakueva is a very talented artist, but given Marvel have no qualms about canning work if your writer is named Chelsea Cain or Chuck Wendig, so I think she would’ve lived if her “League of Legends” comic went unreleased. She could be on an all-ages comic based on some of the world’s biggest movies, not a series based on a controversial mobile game, which Marvel somehow saw fit to prioritise instead. I think it’s a shame Marvel apparently wants to attract the “League of Legends” fandom over the significantly larger ones of the MCU or Big Hero 6.
No Avengers 4 Cash-in Please
I really hope Marvel Comics has got their need to feel involved in Avengers: Infinity War out of their system, because “Infinity Countdown”/”Infinity Wars” really felt like someone forced Gerry Duggan to make his “Guardians of the Galaxy” something it wasn’t. Marvel does this all the time (remember ‘Back in Black’?), but it was still a disappointing move when “The Infinity Gauntlet” was already on shelves everywhere. Thankfully, it seems I won’t have to worry about this with ‘War of the Realms’ looking like Marvel’s main 2019 event, as Jason Aaron’s Thor run has been a frankly stellar example of how a comic doesn’t have to kowtow to a film franchise over the years.
Have more faith in your legacy characters
If the new “Ironheart” series is any indication, Marvel’s legacy characters deserve more than just a mediocre “Champions” series to show them off. When “Champions” was first announced it really felt like they were setting up the younger legacy cast – Ms. Marvel, Ironheart, Miles Spider-Man etc – to step into the shoes of the Avengers. Throw in the fact that the storylines in the “Avengers” series at that time seemed to support this idea, and I was genuinely looking forward to Marvel diving with both feet into this new pool of diverse and fresh set of heroes.
Since then, however, “Avengers” has backtracked to the same heroes as before (plus Ghost Rider, strangely enough) and the whole wave of young heroes have been relegated to a “Champions” reboot. Look, “Champions” may turn out to be a great book, but not as many people are going to read it as they will an “Avengers” series, which is a shame, because the legacy characters are provably great. Plus, they introduce a dynamic for the universe, the superhero community and the older heroes in ways that haven’t really been explored before by Marvel.
DC’s whole universe is practically built on legacy, and they’ve proven in the past that legacy characters work. Hell, given the chance they can become superior to their predecessors. The main reason for that is because new, younger readers start picking up comics all the time, and if they find a new hero that is as new to the universe as they are (not to mention looking like them, but diversity in comics is a much bigger issue) then they will bond with that character and are potentially more likely to stick around. Just ask the legions of Wally West fans that have been spurned more than once.
So please, Marvel, take the leap with these new characters. Build stories around them, put them front and center in big events, make them matter, make them relevant. The older characters will always be there, plus if you put them in mentor roles or push them to the background, you can either give them a happy ending or, better yet, only use them sparingly. That way, when Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America team up, it’s a massive deal and not just another Wednesday.Continued below
Stop, for the love of Odin STOP, with all the renumberings
In 2016, Marvel released a trade paperback of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ hit “Black Panther” collecting issues #1-4. In February 2019, the fifth paperback in that same series comes out collecting issues 1-6. Wait what, is that the same issues again? No. It’s a continuation of the same series, as is clearly denoted by the numeral five on the spine of the book. It’s the issue numbers that have reset. But why?
No seriously, why? It’s not because there’s a new writer on the series. It’s still Coates. It’s not because there’s a new artist. There’s been new artists before and we didn’t change the numbering. It’s not because there’s a new storyline. There’s a new story in every trade! So who is this renumbering benefiting?
I know, you’re probably thinking that Marvel is a smart company, so there must be some compelling reason. Probably money right? Number one issues make more money than number thirty-six. But look at the sales charts. It’s completely inconsistent. Sometimes the gambit works, but just as often it doesn’t. By issue three or four, numbers are the same as forty-seven and forty-eight. The hypothetical sales bump is a myth. And the renumbering drives everyone crazy. Comic shop owners, librarians, loyal longtime fans, everyone who cares about the series hates this shit. But like clockwork, Marvel chases the dragon and hits number one on their series every two years. Stop. Just STOP. There’s no magic numbering system that’s going to solve the anti-life equation and force everyone to buy your books. Pick a thing and stick with it. Shit. Where are my blood pressure pills at?
Not every character needs an ongoing series
I like America Chavez. I like Doctor Doom. I like Ironheart and Shuri. I also like Cardiac, Son of Satan, Stingray, and Lady Stilt-Man (don’t @ me, I just do). Not all of them need their own ongoing series.
There’s nothing wrong with letting Shuri star in some comics. Remember when Shuri was Black Panther and starred in those books? That was pretty fun (those issues were okay). And in the Black Panther movie? She stole the show. Totally awesome. But you know where Shuri could headline a series? In the “Black Panther” comic. She’s done it before. Make an arc out of it; T’Challa can sit to the side for six issues. Or you know what? Do a miniseries. Everyone likes a miniseries. Most people are gonna buy it in trade. There’s an idea. Print costs getting you down? Shuri: The OGN. Folks would like that.
But calling everything an ongoing series is so exhausting. Jean Grey. Iceman. Shuri. America. If any part of me thought Marvel was going to commit to telling stories about those characters I would celebrate. But we know they aren’t, and trying to parse their intentions from what they tell us is another pointless exercise in divination. If they plan to cancel a series after six issues, then it’s a miniseries, full stop. Pretending otherwise is lying.
Don’t let a back-to-basics approach sap your creators’ creativity.
In the recent past, Marvel tried going overboard on making their books like the movies and ended up sucking much of the creativity out of them. They subsequently took the characters in completely opposite directions which, while creative, were too far from the standard for many readers. This past year, though, Marvel has done a good job at getting their characters back to recognizable forms while still letting the books have unique voices. So this wish is more of a “keep doing what you’re doing.” Want to put Tony Stark back in the Iron Man suit? Sure, as long as Slott and Schiti get to make the comedic, futurist book they want to make. Want to put Bruce Banner back at the forefront of Hulk stories? Okay! Just make sure Ewing and Bennett get to create the suspense-horror book they want to create. Basically, it’s okay for editorial to make necessary mandates, but make sure the creators still get to make the books they’re passionate about making.
Stop Cancelling Series Because of the Internet Trolls
Is this such a difficult thing Marvel? You sank two high-profile, half-completed series that were generating quite the hype because of some really stupid reasons. It isn’t because the books were bad or shaping up to be boring, you’ve never had a problem with that in the past (*cough* almost every event since, and including, “Civil War II” *cough.*) It couldn’t be because of changing ideas of what the characters were doing, you’d already delayed “Vision” by two years and “Shadows of Vader” is operating in a series that lives and breathes stories that take place in different eras of the same character.
It reeks of bad faith, especially because of the sudden nature of the cancellations. At least with the firing of Wendig, we were given a reason for the firing and as stupid as it is, there is an official line to get angry at. For Chelsea Cain’s work, we only have some speculation, unless I missed the memo, and Marvel’s poor track-record with her work to go on. It’s not a good look when you’re firing creators you hired not because of some abhorrent thing they said or did nor because their work was shoddy nor because they used their platforms to harm, harass and hurt but because they expressed their opinions on their personal social media.
You also made certain that Aud Koch’s work wasn’t exposed to your fanbase which is a huge, huge travesty.
Keep the Dark Horse Numbering
This might be a recurring theme with me but I enjoy the idea of dual numbering. I grew up reading Straczynski’s “Spider-Man” which had the weird dual-numbering of the era. For a while, those were gone, replaced with endless relaunches and new number ones from marvel. Then, Legacy came about and while it was a confusing mess to start, I rejoiced! Big numbers were back and once we settled in, and arcs were clearly marked on the covers, it was easy to find yourself within each title and they stopped feeling like disjointed relaunches and instead like ongoing adventures wherein the character was more important than the creative team.
This is what’s going on with DC right now. Titles that Marvel would have certainly turned into new #1’s, like “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman,” keep their continued numbering but with an added push based on the creators coming to the title. I’m really glad that this happens because it keep the character’s adventures in order while still allowing readers new jumping on points.
Marvel, however, doesn’t agree. However, the smartest thing Marvel did when butchering their Legacy initiative was keeping the Legacy numbers on the cover along with the new ones. Basically, an inversion of the start of Legacy. This is good. It keeps us connected to the past while still reminding us that this is a new series.
I don’t love it, because it’s indicative of Marvel’s desire to continually relaunch for no good reason, but if a series is going to come back after ten or more years and retain old numbering and new, that’s pretty nifty.
Publish Fewer Titles
Marvel feels bloated. There are a LOT of titles coming out of it with a lot of tie-ins and a lot of minis and maxis that bloat the line. If you’re going to have 8 Spider series out, even if 4 of them are only two issues long, could you at least have the main title be a part of it too? This also touches on a different problem Marvel has, namely, none of their books feel connected. “Fantastic Four” was off doing its own thing before “Marvel 2-in-1” even got to re-introducing them, “Spectacular Spider-Man” is barely referenced in “Amazing” and now we’re getting a THIRD title by Tom Taylor, which is going to be great but as it stands, we’d be better off setting it in a different universe if the titles aren’t going to reference each other.
It’s the perils of the shared universe. How connected do you make things? Go too far and you risk being like the New 52. Go too little and you have current Marvel where “Spider-Geddon” can happen, “Spectacular Spider-Man” can be occurring simultaneously, and “Amazing” is off doing its own thing while there are way too many tie-ins that really aren’t that special. It hurts the universe and it hurts the line. Not everything has to be beholden to continuity but ignoring it altogether is a bad sign.Continued below
Keep Bringing Back Obscure Characters
The one good thing about Infinity Wars is that it’s allowed for creators to play with some of the stranger Marvel characters. Well, it’s allowed one creative team the ability to do that – the rest of the event has been a bit of a slog featured familiar characters that really don’t matter. The return of Nighthawk and Sleepwalker may not be anything special but that, combined with the X-men resurgence, has meant that a lot of obscure characters are returning to the forefront.
They may not stick around long but being reminded that the Marvel universe is more than their headliners and the ones who’ve broken out in the movies is a big ol’ win in my book. It may even lead to some fun, new titles that you never would’ve expected. I mean, Squirrel Girl started as an obscure Ditko character and a member of the Great Lakes Avengers and is now one of their best titles! Take the risk Marvel!