Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Marvel Reboot?: My Modest Proposal PART II

Today in The Cube:
Save Mighty Marvel from Itself!

Last week I posted my opening salvo of suggestions for Marvel should they go through with a reboot as some hope – and expect – they will next year. The response was overwhelming. My comments on this blog, and on Twitter (@popculturecube), lit up. 

Here is the conclusion to my two-part post of suggestions for the House of Ideas. Looking forward to what you have to say!

5. Family-Friendly Can Be Good
It was announced yesterday that Marvel will be discontinuing its all-ages comics line – known popularly as Marvel Adventures – soon. Though it's expected that the line will be revamped (they've done it before) it brings to mind this fact: there aren't a lot of kid-friendly comics out there.
Originally, comics were aimed at a broad audience – in the 1950s, for instance, comics were written to appeal both to kids of reading age, as well as GIs overseas fighting in Korea. Sales bore this out – until the Kefauver hearings of 1954 brought down comics and essentially whitewashed the industry (creating the now-toothless Comics Code Authority and ensuring that "mature" storytelling would not be present on the page) comics was booming, with titles covering every genre.
Comics – led by Marvel – could do this again. Currently owned by Disney, Marvel has a great chance here to take advantage of Disney's resources and try to make their books appealing not only to the 25-35 demographic that currently buys the books, but to children and even to older adults who read comics long ago and then dropped it. The strategy worked for Nintendo and the Wii, which is now not only a fixture in homes, but also in senior communities across the country.
Most of DC's books are not rated for youngsters. Marvel, with a slumping market share, has a chance to gain goodwill and sales with this measure.
However, they should be cautious: "kid-friendly" should NOT mean "sanitized" or "saccharine." 

6. Maximize MAX
If you want to read a dirty Deadpool or Punisher story, then Marvel MAX, the company's attempt to compete (HA!) with DC's Vertigo imprint, is for you. Apparently it's not for most of you. Punisher MAX was just cancelled, for instance.
DC got it right with Vertigo – the stories weren't just more "adult" versions of tried-and-true comics characters, like MAX is. Vertigo took risks and stepped outside the usual bounds of the traditional superhero genre. Some of the most lauded and influential titles in comics – Preacher, Sandman, The Invisibles, John Constantine: Hellblazer, Transmetropolitan – were Vertigo titles that eschewed the usual capes, tights and cleavage storytelling.
Kick-Ass, perhaps Marvel's most controversial title to date, wasn't even published under the MAX imprint, and nowhere could you see Marvel's masthead. It looked, for all the world, like it was published by some fly-by-night independent company But the title did well and made boffo box office (and there's a sequel being published RIGHT NOW). A missed opportunity to bring MAX out of the dark.
Marvel needs to figure out what it should do with MAX. My suggestion: skip the superheroes and really focus on some creators and creations that are beyond the ordinary. 

7. There is Only One Hulk. ONE!!!
I'm fearful of the day when there will be the same number of Hulks as there are colors of Kryptonite.
Not long ago, Marvel introduced a Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk into the mix. And another She-Hulk came in during an additional crossover event. So that makes a total of two Hulks and three She-Hulks. Plus Hulk has a son on some planet somewhere.
Please, Marvel, for the sake of sanity – there should only be one Hulk, and only one She-Hulk. Remove confusion. Remove madness. Just one of each, please.

8. Keep Secrets
A little something died inside me when Origin came out. The title told the story of Wolverine's origins as a young frontier farmboy named James who discovered his mutant powers and later became the man we know as Logan, the ol' Canucklehead. As the result of the House of M crossover, Wolverine recovered his memories. Ugh. 
Dumbest thing Marvel could have done. Wolverine was at his best when he hadn't a clue where he came from and was searching for answers. The answers were simply banal and unoriginal. 
If a reboot comes, Marvel must be wiser and realize that maintaining a mystique is important. 
There are secrets that must be kept and will keep readers coming back.

9. Other Universes
What if the government harnessed the Hulk as a weapon? What if the Germans or Soviets got ahold of the Super Soldier Serum during World War II? What if Spider-Man was a god to the survivors of a devastating apocalypse? What if the Silver Surfer killed Galactus and usurped his power?
Marvel used to have a title like this – called, appropriately, What If? – that asked similar questions. It's gone now, of course. They tried to revamp a similar idea with Journey into Mystery
It's something I'd like to see more of.
Marvel should be creative with its properties and let a thousand flowers bloom. DC's innovative Elseworlds comics allowed creators to take their characters and, free of any concerns of continuity, play around with them. This produced, for instance, Kingdom Come, one of the best miniseries ever written, which followed older but not wiser versions of the DC pantheon as they dealt with a generation of upstart heroes. It produced Red Son, an examination of what would happen if Superman's escape pod landed in Communist Russia and not the American Midwest.
Marvel would do well to see the creative potential in their titles and run with it.

10. Pay Attention to Female Characters – and Readership!
In its recent spate of title cancellations, it was announced that Marvel was doing away with X-23. With the move, the company ended its last remaining solo female comic.
Marvel's had a rocky relationship with female solo books. She-Hulk has had three series, all of them relatively short-lived and, ironically, all of them headed by men. Silver Sable and the Wild Pack, which premiered in the 1990s with a memorable foil-stamped, 3D cover, had an infamous final issue (#35) featuring that lovable scamp, Li'l Silvie, which lambasted the comics industry for its treatment of female characters.
Marvel has some amazing female characters that have tremendous potential – She-Hulk, Storm, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow – all of whom have had series or miniseries, all of which have failed. The question is why.
Many feel that DC screwed the pooch with its offering of female titles in the New 52 relaunch. The "Too Hot for Comics" controversy, as I call it, in which Issue #1s of Catwoman and Red Hood offended female readers with overt portrayals of sexuality, shows the power and interest of female comics fans, a long-neglected group.
Marvel would do right by looking closer at its demographics and attempting to better cater to female fans, and treat its female characters better. A She-Hulk title, for instance, written by superstar Gail Simone and penciled by Brazilian phenom Adriana Melo would show commitment to fans and also provide a great reading experience for all.

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