I have been contemplating, like many fans lately, what’s missing from Marvel Comics? The company is still dominating the industry. According to sales figures from June 2017, twelve of the top twenty books were Marvel titles. The only DC books in the top twenty were Batman related titles. So, statistically speaking, Marvel is still dominating the industry. That trend will likely continue with their Legacy initiative beginning in October. However, discussions at the shop and online indicate that a majority of fans are dissatisfied with the current trajectory of Marvel. So what’s the problem?
For fans, the overwhelming amount of titles published every month guarantees that they cannot follow every corner of the Marvel Universe. Further amplifying this issue, Marvel increases its retail price on books with just a few extra pages. Fans are exhausted by “event fatigue”. Once upon a time, Marvel only had a major event once a year (Imagine that!). All these events no longer carry any weight with fans because so many elements of these stories no longer matter. Characters go through constant change and then revert back to the status quo in a matter of months. Marvel also produces multiple tie-in titles with every event that inevitably water down the overall story. Then there are variant covers. (So many variant covers.) Greed nearly brought the end to comics in the 90s. These gimmicks ran rampant during that period. Personally, I hate variant covers. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the artwork (which has been mediocre in many books lately) and occasionally I will pick one up if I like it better than the original. This is rare. Typical fans do not have the income to collect multiple copies of the same title. While DC is guilty of using the tactic as well, Marvel has been on “variant overload” the last few years. Unfortunately, fans are not the only ones facing the variant problem. Retailers have to order extra copies of the regular issue to receive some of the variants. This creates inventory conundrums for retailers. Either order extra books that may not sell or miss out on potential sales by not stocking the variants. If you are in the industry of publishing comics, you should be doing everything you can to support the shops who are selling the majority of your product. These are real world problems. The Marvel Universe itself has its own share of problems.
Since Civil War in 2006, the heroes of Marvel have been too busy fighting each other to protect citizens from supervillains. At times, they have seemed to lose their sense of purpose. There are multiple Hulks, Spider-Men, Wolverines, Iron Men, Hawkeyes, and Thors. I think most of these new characters are interesting and deserve the opportunity to succeed. Many critics (mostly fans) argue that the comic universe does not mirror the popular and successful cinematic universe. Moviegoers who decide to learn about characters in the movies are more likely to find relevant stories in the “back issues” section of their local shop. However, two glaring similarities between the movies and comics is the disappearance of the Fantastic Four and the diminished presence of the X-Men. Neither of these groups exists in the MCU due to Fox owning the movie rights. At some point, Marvel executives decided these characters needed less visibility because Marvel Studios could not use them on film. Why? When those films are released, Marvel still sees profits from toys and merchandise. (Can these studios not work something out?)
I grew up a long-time Marvel fan and lived the slogan “Make Mine Marvel”! Recently, I have really felt that DC Comics is listening to its fans. They are honoring the past and embracing the future at the same time. Marvel Comics’ actions the last several years appear to be made by a company who are using their comics solely to market movies and other media. When a new movie or television show debuts, Marvel launches multiple new titles to coincide with the release. For example, cognitive overload ensues when a new fan of Guardians of the Galaxy comes to the shop looking for the latest issue. There may be two team books and three to five solo titles associated with these characters. (Where do you start?) There should be symmetry when promoting across multiple brands. Each product line should help sell another product. Honestly, I believe Legacy will address some of these concerns and reinvigorate the Marvel Comics brand. (Except variant covers and the marketing department running Marvel.) But where’s the fun in that? So I present to you my plan for “fixing” Marvel.
Keep prices at $3.99 except double sized issues.
Eliminate incentive variants and decreased number of variants published.
Reduce the number of titles. Teams and solo titles only need one book.
Bring back limited series and increase digital offerings with mini comics (10 pages). Digital offerings would be collected into trades.
Divide books into 5 sections and put an editor over each group of books. Restore numbering for classic titles. Digital comics would provide an opportunity to cultivate new talent.
Knights (Street) – Brian Michael Bendis
- Amazing Spider-Man – featuring Mile Morales with Peter as his mentor.
- Luke Cage
- Legend of Iron Fist
- Misty Knight
- Cloak and Dagger
- Cosmos – Jason Aaron
- The Mighty Thor – Jane in Asgard. Odinson on Earth.
- Dr. Strange
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Moon Girl/Devil Dinosaur
- Captain Marvel and the Nova Corp.
- Return of the Fantastic Four
- Warlock: Infinity Guard
Heroes – Mark Waid
- The Incredible Hulk- featuring Amadeus Cho. Banner is Grey Hulk.
- Captain America – featuring Sam Wilson (He’s earned it)
- Black Panther
- Ms. Marvel
- Invincible Iron Man – return of Tony Stark
- Avengers – Iron Heart, Cap, Thor, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye (Bishop), Hulk (Cho)
- Bishop and Barton: Hawkeyes
- Steve Rogers: American Hero
- Iron Heart: Prodigy
- X – Jonathan Hickman (yes, I am dreaming!)
- Uncanny X-Men – Cyclops, Jean, Iceman, Storm, Logan, Colossus, Kitty, Nightcrawler
- Wolverine – featuring Laura
- X-Force – Cable, Rogue, Gambit, Angel, Mystique, Domino
- Magneto and the New Mutants
- The Search for Xavier
- Emma Frost: Hellfire
MAX (Mature) – Garth Ennis
- The Punisher
- Logan – (not Old Man)
- Heroes for Hire
- Weapon X
- Moon Knight
- Venom: Symbiote War
- Tales of the Winter Soldier
- Jessica Jones
Merging multiple titles together would tighten storytelling, enhance continuity, and ensure the best writers and artists are working on books. Fewer titles, while keeping the $3.99 retail, would provide readers a better opportunity to experience more of the Marvel Universe. The X-Men books could be brought “back to basics” featuring the strongest mutant characters in the company’s arsenal. Limited series give creators the chance to tell unique stories that could spawn new titles and impact characters for years to come. Creators should be allowed to comb the Marvel vault to update more obscure characters for a modern audience. Thanks for reading guys. I appreciate any and all feedback.
- Batman 30
- Scales and Scoundrels 1
- Daredevil 26
- Generations: Iron Man and Ironheart
- Journey to Star Wars The Last Jedi Captain Phasma 1
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