I hate Marvel.
This is no secret.
Yet, it hasn’t always been this way. In the 80's, i loved what they did, their stories being the most exciting out there and their universe being the most expansive and well tended playgrounds in comics. Over time, though it seems that Marvel have lost touch with their fan base and have strayed into a realm of business and callousness, their ideas becoming convoluted and straining the average comic buyers patience. Marvel Now might be a good start to Marvel polishing up their current image, but let me share with you some other things I think they should do;
Do you like, spandex wearing crime fighters of an either street or cosmic level? Good, because you don’t get much else at Marvel.
Where DC have branched out with Vertigo and Image have diversified in the types of stories they choose to publish, it seems that Marvel have committed to a very narrow form of story telling and, perhaps in diversification, there may be more to offer readers.
The Max line was a good start, but really offered little more than a more violent version of existing characters. I think that the appeal of this is pretty limited and a poor substitute for more mature and intriguing writing, such as presented by Vertigo’s takes on existing characters. The Ultimate line is essentially the same as the normal 616 Marvel universe, except that Nick Fury’s black , Spider Man is dead and Jeph Loeb was a dick (Blob eats Wasp!?! REALLY!?!?).
With the massive array of characters at Marvels’ disposal, branching out into a wider variety of story telling would surely not be too much of a stretch. Satanna? Brother Voodoo? An ongoing Dr Strange series in the style of Brian Vaughan’s brilliant, The Oath run? There are a plethora of characters that would lend themselves to a Vertigo-style imprint. Sci fi comics? Does Marvel not have the most epic cosmic settings in all comicdom? Surely there would be a market for some hard sci fi based comics based on some of these properties? Westerns? Human dramas? As The New 52 proved, you don’t necessarily have to rely on imprints, but can simply release and increasingly diversified line up and, it seems, good comics do, fo the most part, attract interested readers.
And what about one of the biggest untapped markets in comics; books for the little ones?
Cater To The Li’l ‘Uns
As a parent who spends a lot of time with other parents and their kids, I know how much of a demand there is for comics that cater to younger sensibilities. Now, I know that these comics are made by Marvel, but what I find with my fellow parents is that they find them impossible to find. The average parent won’t go into a comic shop, but will buy comics from the local newsagent or supermarket.
You know how there are always comments in the Vine regarding people wondering how the hell Archie is still going strong after all these years? Well, I know why; they’ve no competition. I always see Archie and Sonic The Hedgehog comics at my local newsagent, but if I want to find a youngsters comic published by Marvel (DC, et al) then I’m s@#t out of luck. Marvels’ distribution of youngster comics out and out sucks and is a market they could surely excel in, especially with the recent buying of the company by Disney.
I can only assume that Marvel/Disney are simply biding their time before releasing a line of quality Disney Comics for kids (using Marvels’ talent stable) because, frankly, they would be mad not to.
Kids are the comic book buyers of tomorrow and there is going to be a huge slump in the market when our generation passes on if there’s no one there to pick up the torch. Comics for kiddies is a great place to start and utilize a market going unheeded presently. Accesibility and availability. Those are the keys here.
Reduce And Refine
As it has been proven time and time again, ol’ Frank Castle can’t carry a title of his own. Sure, he was big in the 90’s, but then, any ultra-violent, fascist comic character was. The rest of the time, he has coasted on big name talent, but let’s face it, The Punisher was always more effective on the fringes of the Marvel Universe and it was when he dwelled there that he really gained his fame and notoriety. So I say, put him back there. Remember Civil War? It was the psycho in the shadows Punisher that stood out the most.
I think the key to this point is as follows; reduce and refine.
Instead of expanding out the roster of comics being printed every month, why not focus these characters back into strong stories and making the Marvel Universe an actual universe again instead of a thinly spread sales ploy? Remember when the X-Men were in their glory days of massive sales due to the fact that their universe was so full and so exciting? There were so many characters to play with and such a huge universe to do it in. Then they started giving every mutant that showed up their own spin off series, some with multiple and the franchise has been diluted and confused now to the point where no one knows what to buy and why they’re buying it. I think things need to be funnelled so that the comics are fun and full again, continuity being a huge part of this.
It befuddles my tired brain why Marvel have, seemingly discarded the use of continuity when, firstly, it is important to their readers and, secondly, it actually improves sales. Continuity isn’t just a fan-boy nightmare inflicted on editors, but a through-line from one title and one character to the next. Continuity is important, it shows diligence and respect to the fans and the properties the company creates.
Let’s streamline these books. You know why Avengers doesn’t sell as much as it used to? Because the name doesn’t mean anything because there are about seven different teams at one time. To be an Avenger was something amazing (in comics that is) but now I think it’s pretty amazing if a character hasn’t been a member of the Avengers and they are so prevalent, i start to wonder if I've been a member of the Avengers.
And the X-Men used to be a team of outsiders, but now there are even more outsider X-Men teams and even more behind them. It’s like a sulking contest.
I think that Marvel need to start rewarding their readers with a better, more focused universe which will provide better storylines.
Which brings me to my next point…
Reward The Monthly Fan
Last year, the WWE found that the ratings were dropping on their weekly shows and made changes. The reasons were that nothing major was happening on the weekly shows anymore and all the big title changes/fights and stuff were being kept for the pay-per-views where people would have to pay to see any real action. This, quite obviously pissed fans off and they started to lose interest.
Well… guess who else does that to their fans?
It seems, reading Marvel comics for the past decade that nothing much happens in a lot of the headline comics but lead-ins to crossovers, crossovers themselves and then the inevitable fall out from the crossovers. To fully appreciate these you had to, at least triple your pull list for a couple of months and if you didn’t you got a lean, rather weak and badly paced story with a completely unsatisfying and rushed conclusion (Hello!!! Siege!!!!).
When Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Peter David, etc wrote monthlies, you got epic… all the time. You didn’t feel like you were being fleeced monthly into buying the upcoming mega-disappointment, but you felt like you were really being taken into something excited that mattered to that particular title. This, of course, also made you feel like the creators gave a shit about what they were doing whereas, today, there is a general air of disdain and superiority from a lot of Marvel creators; towards the fans and toward the characters.
The comic book fan should be rewarded with great stories. Monthly.
The industry does not exist without them.
Stop looking for quick money making schemes, Marvel and start looking to the big picture. Long term sales; a healthy industry; a cultivated fan base; consistent quality of product.
Have a think about it, Marvel and when you’re ready to give me the keys to the kingdom, just let me know ;P