Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Fix Marvel Comics (Part 1)

Ok, I've been silent long enough about this. Marvel Comics used to absolutely dominate the market in so many ways. They had the best characters, the best movies, the best cartoons, etc. and DC Comics could only look on in jealous amazement. Today, however, things have changed and DC has swung the tide to their favor through incredible writing and hard work.

If I was allowed free reign at Marvel for six months, I could fix the place up nicely. Here's what I think Marvel should do to bring itself back to at least a fighting chance:

1. Make stories fun again

Go back a few decades and find out why Marvel was dominant. It's because the stories were fun. The heroes were heroic and the bad guys lost with little to no bloodshed. Today, Marvel has decided to go as dark as humanly possible for every story. Blood and gore dominate everything they write. Take the recent "Frankencastle" storyline for Punisher. It starts off with Punisher being decapitated by Dark Wolverine, and only gets worse from there. The new Punisher series that took off after Civil War was amazing, with very little blood involved but excellent stories (Punisher beats down Rhino with the demon glove...Punisher versus Sentry...awesome). Then suddenly it becomes the bloodiest book out there! It's like someone decided the world functions like a Rob Zombie movie and started plugging away!

And for heaven's sake, don't polarize your audience! Yes, there's a place for cutting-edge stories, but when you blatantly take a shot at an entire political party like they did in the recent Captain America storyline where they made the Tea Party folks look like redneck anarchists you're going to lose some readership! Twenty years ago Captain America ran for president as part of a storyline, but it wasn't a direct attack on either party--it was just a good story. I can appreciate that Joe Quesada is in love with our president, but someone in the line-up should have said "You know, this might not be a good idea since we're in last place and all."

Give us good stories that are fun to read and exciting! Give me something based on plot, not on shock value. Besides, if every issue is filled with "shock", then nothing shocks me anymore; every moment becomes the same white noise. Dracula fought the X-Men 20 years ago and the only blood was a little black ink in a few spots. Today that story would run four printers out of red ink for just the first five pages.

2. Bring back variety titles!

Rather than flood the market with forty titles that feature roughly the same 12 characters in some form or fashion, how about putting out something that will give second-tier characters a chance. "Marvel Comics Presents" used to do a good job of this.

The rules are simple: no Wolverine stories...ever--not even guest shots. And let the readers vote on the characters that eventually find their way into the stories. In this information age you could have a poll on the Marvel website for a week and have instant results. Each book would have four stories, with two being single-shot titles and two being multi-issue stories.

Marvel seems to be under the impression that only their top characters deserve a chance, but there are a lot of characters fans love who seldom see print anymore. Go to any comic book convention and see who they dress up as! You'll see an occasional Spider-Man, but most of the time we have obscure heroes that get love because fans care about them. They aren't necessarily mainstream, but they're good.

I would be willing to buy a comic book with a Squirrel Girl story in it if it meant I'd get to read a "Paladin" storyline as well. Likewise, I'd suffer through a Vision story if I knew it was going to be followed by "Nighthawk". See? Everyone wins as you cram 4 titles into 1 title per month!

This brings us to point number 3...

3. Quality not quantity!

Let's be honest, at $4 a book you aren't going to sell me more than six or seven titles a month. My local comic book shop used to have a dozen titles on my pull-list per month. Now he pulls two titles for me. Everything else I buy on a "That looks cool" basis (not scientifically accurate, but it works for me). I don't care how many times you can shove Deadpool into a comic book in a month, or if Steve Rogers is in Avengers Prime or Secret Avengers or Captain America, I'm only going to buy what's good.

Marvel should seriously pare down their title base. They take any successful character and over-saturate the market with it. I never thought I'd see the day when Deadpool would be in more titles per month than Wolverine! And how did that happen? Because Wolverine used to guest star with any and every comic Marvel could cram him in.

Take the line-up to some basic titles and go from there. Yes, some artists and writers would be out of work, but costs would go down significantly as well. You might even be able to squeeze out a few more successful titles rather than throwing anything out there you can print.

DC is stepping into this problem as well with Batman and Green Lantern right now, but even so they're not that bad. Even their flagship hero Superman is only in three titles a month.

Next week, part 2 of my master plan to fix Marvel Comics. I'd love to hear from you on suggestions of what you'd do if they'd get out of the way and leave you in charge a while!

7 comments:

hobbyfan said...

Here's more solutions:

1. Lower cover prices. Reportedly, Marvel & DC are doing just that.

2. Stop overexposing characters just because they're in a movie. 10 years ago, you didn't see 3-4 Iron Man books a month. Deadpool, IIRC was a pipedream away from a series at that time.

3. Get rid of Joe Quesada. The man was never the greatest at deadlines as a creative type, so why is he in a position of power? That question hasn't been answered yet in 15 years!

Brian Reaves said...

Believe it or not, 2 of your 3 suggestions are already on my list for next week's follow-up. Great minds...

Anonymous said...

Good points all. I had started reading Captain America again after 25 years during the "Death" series and was really enjoying it. Then they ran that issue with the Tea Party dressed like a bunch of yokels and rednecks and I haven't picked up another issue and don't plan to do so again. Obviously, comics have changed a lot in 25 years and your political preferences matter a lot more today. What little I've seen of the rest of the Marvel line that might interest me is so confusing that I don't see how I can pick it up without doing a lot of backtracking. Think I'll dig out my old comics instead.

Rick said...

My local comic shop recently had their Marvel books for sale at 50% off. I thought for that price it may be a great deal but I couldn't find any with a plot that excited me enough to buy it for even half off. Lately Marvel is either dull or they insult you. It is never wise to insult people and even more unwise to do so when you are at the bottom of the popularity list.

JoeGKushner said...

Price. When you can download things for free, price becomes a huge bone of contention. No matter of the legalities involved, if people feel they are being robbed payingfor the print product, and it's 'disposable media', as comics are often preceived, the price must come down.

Dustin Hall said...

Re: Politics in comics.

This isn't really new. Remember in the 70's when Cap followed a conspiracy that threatened the country to its head, and at the top he found... Richard Nixon! Who then subsequently blew his brains out, rather than be defeated. Major story-line, as Cap then returned to his 'Nomad' persona for a while.

I also have several issues of Amazing Spider-Man where Spidey went to a rally for Ralph Nader.

In the 80's DC took a ton of jabs at the Reagan admin.

Nothin' new.

dbutler16 said...

Yup, I agree with all of this. Comics have lost their fun, and between the ridiculously large number of titles, and the fancy paper and ink, it's just way too expensive. I'm glad I grew up in the 70s and 80s, when sanity reigned.

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