Saturday, July 2, 2016

Can we just retcon today's Marvel Comics?

The bad ideas keep coming from what used to be known as the "House of Ideas", Marvel Comics.

They already had to backpedal on last month's publicity grab by having it revealed that Captain America had false memories implanted to explain his supposedly being a Hydra shadow agent. Like, we knew that would happen, but not this quick. As I wrote at the time, Marvel was looking to steal the spotlight from rival DC and grab a cheap headline. Unfortunately for Marvel, the shock value is now non-existent after a decade of lame stunts.

Unfortunately, it's about to get worse.

Sometime in the late 80's or early 90's, I forget which, some genius decided that since the super soldier formula made Cap practically immortal, they just had to make other characters immortal. They'd like you to believe that Wolverine, a character who's been around since the mid-70's, had been born in the 19th century. Talk about the old cliche, "if it isn't broken, you don't fix it". Marvel, unfortunately, doesn't ascribe to that theorem. Around the same time, they made the supposition that the Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff, had been given a formula similar to the super soldier serum. I seem to recall a storyline running in Captain America where the Widow and Wolverine were the guest stars, with flashbacks to, I think, though I am not 100% certain, World War II. The Wolverine part of the equation I got at the time, because he's one of Marvel's most popular characters, and his appearance means a few extra copies get sold.

Now, the Marbleheads are trying to claim that Tony Stark---Iron Man---was adopted, and for the next cheap publicity grab, their storyline in International Iron Man claims that Tony's biological mom is none other than the Widow.

Believe it or else, despite the success of the "Avengers" family of movies over the last 8 years, the comics aren't flying off the shelves on a consistent basis, and so Marvel resorts to these cheap stunts to try to boost sales and avoid having to cancel books that they don't want to cut due to the movies. My Marvel reading list presently consists of only a couple of books, and this is largely because Marvel insists on charging $4 an issue. DC cut the cover price on their main line books to $3 per issue, and they're seeing a surge in sales as a result.

Some decisions made the last few years have been sensible (i.e. Sam Wilson as Captain America). Others questionable, such as what has been described above. The big problem is that the only cha-chings Marvel hears are at the box office when the movies come out, and they have one more movie left this year ("Doctor Strange", out in November).

It's time, then, to leave well enough alone. The more Marvel reboots and retcons story ideas and characters, the more tangled the history becomes, no matter how hard they try to fix it. Here's an idea for Dan Buckley and his crew. Follow DC's lead. Cut the cover prices down to a more respectable level. That's what a lot of your movie fans are waiting for. Stop alienating the older readers by insulting their intelligence. Stop treating your audience like they have attention deficit disorder.

Let me make a wrestling analogy here.

In the 90's, comics & wrestling fan Vince Russo was writing a monthly strip for the then-World Wrestling Federation's monthly magazine (now defunct), in addition to being head writer for Monday Night Raw. After leaving the company in October 1999, he resurfaced---literally---in World Championship Wrestling as a writer and an on-camera performer. He thought that he could still do the same things, but without Vince McMahon to keep him focused. WCW went under less than 18 months later. After 4 tours of duty with Total Non-stop Action (TNA) Wrestling from 2002-2014, Russo still hadn't figured out the formula that made him so successful, and he alienated the fan base with his recycled bad ideas. Today, he's not working for any promotion, because they've all smartened up, wise to the fact that his peak had come and gone.

Marvel needs to see that their readership base is dropping because of their books being overpriced and because they're tired of the cheap stunts to grab meaningless headlines. DC has the advantage here, as opposed to the movies. For Marvel to get their books in sync, financially, with their movies, they need to move in a different direction. Yesterday.

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