Monday, November 8, 2010

How to Fix Marvel Comics (Part 2)

Last week I gave you the first part of my master plan at world domination with Marvel Comics. This week, I give you the conclusion of the post with a few more suggestions Marvel could listen to that might help them win the market again.

4. Give us a good cartoon team-up series!

When I was growing up, Marvel had the best cartoons. Yes, you had the Super-Friends, but Spider-Man, Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and even Silver Surfer had time onscreen. While each series had their share of cool guest stars (and the infamous "Australian Wolverine" from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends), you have to give it to DC Comics for putting out Justice League Unlimited. That short-lived series (one and a half seasons) gave second-tier guys like Hawk & Dove and The Question a full show, and gave fans a real treat along the way. Soon DC had released "The Brave and the Bold" and we saw episodes with Kamandi and Deadman getting a chance to shine! 

Yes, I know Superhero Squad is out there, but that doesn't count. That's just too far down the kid zone for me. There's a fine line that DC captured with "Batman: The Animated Series" and was able to translate into JLU.

And Marvel is developing the Avengers series, but it won't have a rotating roster like I'm talking about, though it's a step in the right direction. Given the Avengers history of former members, there's a lot of wiggle room there. Let's see some cool second-rate folks like Stingray, Union Jack, Sunfire and Havok in animated form!

5. Fix your flagship character!

What in the world has happened to the hero? Ok, I'll give it to Marvel that the Green Hulk/Red Hulk confrontation was an awesome series, and it's nice to see Steve Rogers back in action even though he's not slinging the shield (yet), but do something with Spider-Man!

Ok, I hated "Brand New Day" and everything since. I jumped back on board for "One Moment In Time" thinking I would get some sort of closure, rationalization, or fixing of the whole "Mephisto made it go away" stupidity from years ago. Instead, I got a story so lack-luster it made me think Grant Morrison was writing it.

What has Marvel done to him in recent years? Let's see, there was the whole "Gwen Stacey and Norman Osborn were lovers and had two kids" thing that defiled Peter's memory of Gwen (and ours) forever. Spider-Man dies and comes back as some rabid spider thing in "The Other". Peter sells his loving wife out to Mephisto in order to let his 212 year old Aunt May live again. We get one bright spot where Peter publicly unmasks (a real "WHOA!" moment) in Civil War, but then it all heads downhill from there.

And then, just when you think it couldn't get worse, we get "One More Day" and the whole "none of it ever happened and the last 20 years of comics you've read were just a dream" situation.

There have been very few times in my life when I've literally thrown a comic book down in disgust, but that was the last straw. All we need now is to find out Peter is addicted to crack and is having an affair with the neighbor's dog and we'll have a perfect Quesada storyline.

Give Peter a break, and do something right with the character. I'm not asking you to erase the erase you did (though that would be nice), but I'm saying give us back some essence of the character we've grown to love. My first comic was Spider-Man, and I followed each issue religiously for years. Now all I have are the "Essential Amazing Spider-Man" books to remind me of why I ever cared about the character.

And now we're going to have to live with another reboot on the character in the movies? Please tell me we're skipping the origin this time out though. My parents are both 60 and have never read comic books (though they indulged their son as a child), and they both know Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider to get his powers! Let's face it: another origin story would be a complete waste of film! I can appreciate the need to reboot the franchise after the "disco Peter" episode of Spider-Man 3, but pick it up like "Superman Returns" and have some faith in your audience. Don't take us back to square one, please!

6. Lower the price!

My first comic book (pictured at the right) cost a quarter at the Majik Market down the road from my house in 1975. Today, that same comic would cost me four dollars! No more pages added, and no less advertisements in there...just an incredible price hike that makes collecting multiple titles a thing of the past.

Today, I wait for the trade paperbacks and buy them used on I'm not always up-to-the-minute with stories, but I'm not shelling out $50 a week on stories either.

I know DC is talking about lowering their prices by $1 a book next year, and Marvel is tossing around the idea too. Marvel, don't toss around anything--just do it. I can appreciate the shiny paper the comics are printed on now is supposed to last longer than newsprint and gives much brighter colors, but let's do whatever it takes to bring the prices back down to a sane level. If that means we see cheaper paper, then so be it.

And finally...

7. Move Joe Quesada!

Look, I understand all he's done for the Marvel, and he's had a number of hits, but he was pulled from the Marvel Knights brand (an edgier version of Marvel comics at the time), and he's proceeded to drag the rest of the titles down the edgy, push-the-envelope style since his takeover.

I don't think you should fire him, just move him back to what he's good at. Let him have an edgy brand of Marvel and he can corrupt it as he sees fit. Let someone else fix the rest of it. Give Quesada five titles and leave him alone for a while. He can put Obama on the cover of 3 of them, then let Kevin Smith write a 4-issue mini-series that'll take 3 years to complete. That should keep him happy for a while.

The fact is that Quesada is a talented guy, but he lives in a bubble as far as what he considers entertainment. While folks do enjoy movies like "Saw", most of the world doesn't let that become the only thing they watch. Some of us do enjoy a hearty helping of "Batman Begins" and even "Toy Story" every once in a while. He needs to move beyond the "dark is goooooooood" phase now.

Next week, I present the epilogue of this rant: a quick overview of one storyline Marvel could use that would allow it to hit the heights and finally use one of their secondary characters as a heavy-hitter...with no explosive blood scenes but good entertainment!

That's my take on what could turn Marvel around, among other things. Agree, disagree? Comment away!


Rick said...

With the new spider-man movie I still think they should have the origin. Just don't make the whole movie about it. Maybe a quick flashback. If they do it like Superman Returns I hope it is better written and directed. That stunk up the theatre. Superman goes into a bar and has a beer. We find he has a child out of wedlock and won't marry Lois. It felt like Quesada did that movie. When I read and watched Superman in comics and TV and movies Supes didn't drink and while I wasn't crazy about the Chris Reeves Superman sleeping with Lois I know he would have married her if she got pregnet.
Frankly I wish Quesada would give up on comic books and do ads for magazines or something.
I have been saying for years they need to lower the prices even if it meant going back to the cheaper paper. Just lowering the prices by $1.00 won't bring me back. They would have to lower it to at least $1.00 per issue to get me back.
WHEW! sorry for the long comment but I am done for now.

riddla sizzla said...

I particularly agree with the "quality not quantity" and "reduce the price" points.

A great comics run used to take place in one monthly title that formed the "true" story for that character or team - i.e. Amazing Spiderman, Uncanny Xmen. If you wanted to follow Spiderman's main story you would pick up Amazing Spiderman each month. The other Spidey titles were optional but the "real" Spidey saga was in Amazing. The spin off titles didn't really "count" towards Spidey's saga.

Somewhere Marvel got into running as many books as a popular title or team could support. The problem with that is, which title reflects the main developments with that character? It dilutes the excitement fans have for that character or team when there are like 5 titles without a clear "flagship" title and at $3.99a comic we aren't going to buy them all.

Marvel's solution - any important events happen in crossovers! That is good for selling trades of the crossover events but not good for supporting the monthly titles. DC is also guilty of this - Brightest Day? But DC is not nearly as bad as Marvel for this.

So what is Marvel's business, selling monthly comic titles, or selling trade paperbacks of compiled cross-over stories? More and more it is the latter. I wonder, if they carved back on the number of titles, and ensured each character or team had one truly flagship monthly title and then a few additional spinoffs for side stories, would Marvel do better? I can tell you we would all be alot more excited for those few monthly flagship titles. I think Manga in Japan has stayed true to this. The reality is the vibrancy of the monthly titles is being abandoned for endless spinoffs, crossovers, trade paperbacks and film projects.

On the price and paper used, to be honest I never really took to this newfangled glossy paper. Something about the newsprint is better. I understand your buying the used trades - great idea. My modus operandi of late has been scouring the bargain bins in local comics shops and picking up 70s and early 80s gems for between 25c to $2 a piece. There's some great stuff to be found and I can spend about 5 bucks and come away with a stack of comics!

So here is my idea - radically cut back the number of titles to consolidate the stories into fewer flagship titles and cut prices by using cheaper paper, yet use only the very best artists and writers. The result? Monthly comics we can get excited about again and sales should go up.

Reg said...

How would you fix DC comics?

Brian Reaves said...

Reg, good question. I'll have to think about that one...

Joplin John said...

God bless you, man! You've hit every nail perfectly on the head. I'm all for expelling Joey Quesadea. A friend of mine mentioned an interview with him that he'd read in Maxim or somewhere where he basically said he didn't care about the long suffering Marvel fans (you know, the ones who've kept them alive all these decades!)but was more interested in tomorrow's readers...ugh.

Mind if I add a suggestion? You want good Marvel cartoons? Hire Bruce Timm away from WB! He's a true fan and would be able to take Marvel (toons at least)characters back where they belong. Great blog, I'm happy to have found it!

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