The Problem With Marvel Comics and How They Can Fix It

It’s time to discuss a hard but true fact. It is an extremely hard time to be a fan of Marvel Comics. Right now Civil War 2 is limping to a close, The Clone Conspiracy is starting up*, the leadup to Inhumans vs X-Men is on, and Marvel is launching books as fast as they can only to cancel them almost as quickly. It is a bad time for the company.

Of course things aren’t exactly great on the PR front. The company isn’t looking great for how editor in chief Axel Alonso made ill advised comments about SJWs and several at the company made very questionable comments about Chelsea Cain’s Mockingbird ending as well as the harassment she faced. They’re not winning fans is my point.

But I’m not the man to get too deep into that beyond be respectful, so I’m going to put my advisor hat on and give the company some advice as a reader. No, I’m not a professional writer. I don’t have any authority. I’m just a fan. But I’m a long time fan so let me try.

First off, the event books have to stop. They’re an industry wide problem at this point but Marvel seems addicted far more than DC, which in the entire New 52 did a grand total of one linewide event along with a few smaller family events. Marvel’s events are especially annoying because no matter how much they peddle prelude TPBs, with the exception of Secret Wars and AvX, there’s not been much if any setup for their events in the last decade.

I really do blame this addiction on Civil War, which started from a thin setup and became an iconic event. The problem is you can’t recapture that. Civil War was a fluke. Trying to go back with Secret Invasion (it really wasn’t setup THAT well), Fear Itself, and whatever the hell Axis was can’t do it. Arguably the very worst offender was Original Sin which stormed in promising major changes, disrupted a few books, and changed nothing beyond putting Nick Fury Jr. in place. They try but they fail.

Part of this is that Marvel is at once addicted to shaking up the status quo and bound to it. They won’t ever do a complete canon reboot. But they’ll tell stories that have a shock factor. They’ll make Doctor Doom Iron Man, Captain America dead then alive then old then young but evil, and they’ll do everything to Hulk including killing him. But in time it’ll all revert. I get that comics are elastic and thus stretch back but isn’t this all old now?

Then there’s the relaunches. Marvel Now was a big deal on par with New 52 in terms of linewide revitalization. New teams were put in place on the major books and a few new books were launched. Everything did feel fresh. Then there was another renumbering for several books after Axis. Then there was a renumbering after Secret Wars. In fact some books had two #1 issues in 2015. See how tiring it gets?

The thing is, the endless relaunches only serve to show how desperate Marvel is to grab money. They want everything to feel exciting and new. But when you’re not allowed to feel connected to a story because it’ll get renumbered, usually with a ridiculous new status quo, you stop wanting to try new things.

Which brings me to the other big issue. Marvel is releasing an onslaught of new books onto the market every month with limited hype, usually after an event. Then they find themselves cancelling them 6-10 issues later. It’s getting very numbing to constantly see new book after new book. It becomes very hard to know what merits my time and money.

Part of the problem with the flood is that frankly a number of these books shouldn’t exist. Who is crying out for a Slapstick book? Why is every character who’s met Deadpool getting a book? A lot of these books would’ve been miniseries once upon a time but Marvel has a stated policy of avoiding minis because customers treat them as inessential. The thing is, the flood of new books are inessential, especially when we know they’ll be killed within an arc or after the next reboot.

So with the problem laid out, these are my suggestions for fixing things.

First off: end the event cycle! Try one, even two years without an event. We know they don’t matter and we don’t care anymore. I’m not even going to read whatever Classified Prelude leads into. That’s how bad things are that this exists. We don’t care so quit doing them.

Instead make the books themselves the events. Get great teams on all of your A-list books and make each one feel like an event. That’s what DC is doing, albeit with an event coming in the Winter. But seriously, for one year make a monthly issue of Avengers or Iron Man count.

While you’re at it, quit with the gimmick stories. We all know the dead will rise and the mantles will return to their original holders. In that year, try telling the best stories you can with the status quos we know. Give us stories on par with Armor Wars or Avengers Under Siege.  Give us books we can hand to nonreaders and they can understand.

And seriously, think before you launch books. Yes that’s given us Hellcat and Squirrel Girl but it’s given us dross too. In this hypothetical year, only launch characters you truly think you can sell and commit to 10 issues a piece. Then hype them. Make them seem appealing.

Oh and if DC can do 2.99 SO CAN YOU! Disney owns you. Have them write it off as R&D costs.

I doubt anything I’m suggesting will happen anytime soon sadly. But I really do wish it would. I’ve been a reader for 16 years and I really hate that I can’t be more of a fan right now. As it stands, I’m out the door.

*Actually really looking forward to this one. I love Jackal stories.

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