Tag Archives: Marvel Comics

Superheroes R Us

So also in the realm of superheroes, the comics side of Marvel has been watching the collapse of its sales model, while dealing with a cross-over disaster that had a far right leaning writer making Captain America, the Steve Rogers version, into a Nazi/Hydra spy as part of a muddled multiverse idea. The collapse has not been a new thing; it’s been a process going on since the 1980’s that happened to then coincide with the great shrinkage of the wholesale market for magazines, newspapers, paperbacks and comics that took place in the 1990’s and helped pop the collectors’ hyper-valuation bubble in comics issues. Essentially, the big comics companies tried to increase monthly buys by staging big crossover stories that required buying from four to seven series at a time to follow, while comic prices went up, up, up. These crossover stories often made use of multiple universes to shake series up, allowing them to totally reboot characters and past stories with little regard for consistency.

This was certainly one of the reasons that my husband and I stopped really buying comics way back – it was too expensive to do and our child needed food. But the success of graphic novels, including bound omnibuses of monthly comic issues, and the emergence of highly successful live action superhero movies and animated t.v. series and movies from major comics helped keep especially Marvel afloat for a while. Now, though, retail markets are further squeezed and Marvel has made things worse with poorly planned stunt events, constant reboots and number one reissues to try to generate short term sales instead of reliable regular fans. Economic uncertainty in the face of controversial political events has further dampened sales recently.

When Marvel Comics held a retailer summit in late March with the comic stores, one of Marvel’s vice presidents of sales – a white guy – apparently brought up that some comics vendors were saying the diverse comics – the ones not about white guys and white guy led teams – weren’t selling and that maybe this was the reason for Marvel Comics’ poor comics sales showing the previous quarter. This was flagrantly untrue. Many of the “diversity” comics are Marvel’s top sellers and had clearly brought in more readers domestically and globally. And many of their white guy comics had sales in the toilet and were being axed. The race and gender of the leads in the comics neither guaranteed sales nor that sales would tank.

So why would a senior vice president of Marvel, with full access to the real sales figures, float a lie that was so easily disproven about his own company? And which he had to apologize for and take back not long after? Did some comics store vendors actually say this to him? Very probably. But the comics store owners also have access to sales numbers well beyond their own stores. So why would some of them push such an assertion?

Part of it was clearly deflection. Rather than admit that the problem was an unworkable production, pricing and marketing model, or admit that your store has adapted poorly to pushing your products under current market conditions, it’s an easier fix to blame the audience of the medium for being unreasonably bigoted, which then becomes the big talking point.

But as a form of deflection, it’s a poor one. The vice president’s trashing of his own company’s line was a PR nightmare for them. Presumably this same vice president respects and works with POC and white women artists, writers and editors at Marvel. Why would he then disparage what they do, and which helps pay his salary? Especially when he had said last year that women and kids as readers were a key component of Marvel Comics’ success?

In a word, reassurance. Marvel and the comics industry in general has been run by white guys, like most industries, particularly in the marketing and business end of things of course, but also on the creative front. While others were occasionally welcomed in, mostly they were blocked and certainly kept from obtaining leadership positions of influence if they were around. This has created a comfortable cushion of established and protected practice at companies like Marvel.

That’s changing a little bit. As they recognize the need for greater variety to hold on to and expand a global market, Marvel, like other comics companies, has been putting out more titles that offer a slightly wider range of characters and ideas. With that comes a slight increase in the variety of people who work there and create the titles. This allows Marvel in the long term to grow and expand its workforce and its product line – something that can benefit white guys too.

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Filed under book publishing, SFFH, Social Equality, Women

A Little Cool Art

Comics and graphics artist Nate Hallinan has come up with an interesting series of artworks of the Marvel X-Men characters in an alternate, secondary world medievalish fantasy universe. It’s called, appropriately enough, Medieval X-Men: The Order of X.

Here is the one for Xavier. It looks very much like Patrick Stewart, who played Professor X in some of the X-Men films. The others, however, look rather different from their modern comics selves, with interesting results. He’s written up bios for these alternate characters. Definitely art worth checking out (he’s still working on the series.)

Nate Hallinan, Medieval X-Men

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Filed under Art, SFFH

Well That Was Fast

In July, I gave a Mad Hatter Award Scone of illogic to actor Mark Ruffalo for an interview quote about his new movie, The Kids Are All Right:


The quote was:

“It wasn’t thought of in a boardroom or in a focus group before it was written. It wasn’t made to sell toys or videogames. A lot of movies are put together through marketing. That’s why there are so many s… movies out there.”

I explained why I thought this statement was wrong, stupid and a symbol of the kind of film marketing (shaming) that we really need to jettison. I ended that complaint with the statement:  “But when Ruffalo gets his own action figure for a film, I’m going to laugh.”

A few days later, I did an entry about how Edward Norton had been kicked out of his film role as Bruce Banner, the human who turns into the Hulk, for Marvel Pictures’ up-coming Avengers movie. Norton, who played the role in The Incredible Hulk, had himself replaced actor Eric Banna, who did the role in the first live action Hulk picture, The Hulk.

Little did I know how those two items were going to shortly converge. After many rumors, at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, the Avengers folk officially announced that Mark Ruffalo would be playing Bruce Banner in the big studio movie thought up in the boardroom to sell toys and videogames. I’m sure that no one is going to bother to ask Ruffalo, when he markets for Avengers, to explain why he is now in the sort of movie he called manure. They will probably, though, ask him how it feels to be in a big blockbuster superhero action picture after being more of an indie darling (though Ruffalo does big studio movies all the time.) Ruffalo will probably talk about the legacy of the Avengers, the quality of the movie and those involved in it, how Ed Norton, respected actor, did the role, how his kids wanted him to do it, and so on and such forth. Because it is his job, just as it was apparently his job to trash the Avengers while selling his family drama movie.

Am I going to see the Avengers movie? Absolutely. And I’m sure Ruffalo will be fabulous in it, the big hypocrite. And when his action figure comes out, I will indeed laugh.  Here’s Eric Bana’s action figure:

And Edward Norton’s action figure:

I’m sure that Ruffalo’s will be just as cute. Plus, there will maybe be a nice one for McDonald’s or Burger King. And they’ll probably have him provide the voice for the character in the Avengers videogame. Sweet!

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Filed under Humor, Movies/TV, SFFH

Well as long as he’s green

In 2003, director Ang Lee released a live action feature, The Hulk, of Marvel Comics’ popular superhero the Hulk for Universal Pictures. The movie was a wet, hot mess; it was horror movie dark, scary, loud, chaotic, loaded with flashbacks and torture scenes, and there were problems with the special effects, which was a key ingredient for this particular superhero. Not surprisingly, it didn’t do well, which was not the fault of Eric Bana, who played Dr. Bruce Banner, the guy who gets turned into the Hulk, or Jennifer Connelly, who played his love interest, Dr. Betty Ross. But since it took 5 years to re-jump-start the franchise (which only happened because of Marvel’s ambitious plans,) and since the philosophy of Hollywood is always get new ones and start over, the next Hulk movie, The Incredible Hulk, starred Edward Norton as Banner and Liv Tyler as Ross. Norton is notorious as a hard task master in acting/directing/writing, but he fit right into the role, Tyler was fine, and the 2008 movie was, while not perfect, a considerable improvement. It ended with Banner in his human form being contacted by S.H.I.E.L.D., the ultra secret agency that is trying to round up some superheroes and use them for stuff. With the spies, Marvel, now doing their own films as Marvel Pictures, hoped to tie in together its many different franchises like Iron Man through a movie about the Avengers, which in the comics is a loose team of superheroes who sometimes worked together.

So this week comes word that Ed Norton, who was supposed to be in the Avengers movie as Banner, won’t be playing the role. Marvel claims it’s because he’s a big old cranky pants, (as if his reputation was news to them,) and Norton’s camp shoots back that it was about money. These claims are probably both the truth — Norton wanted more money and probably a bigger role. Marvel is trying to do all these pics on tight budgets and so got annoyed that a Golden Globe winning, Oscar nominated vet wouldn’t go along like a good starlet, especially as they have to pay out the nose for Robert Downey Jr. now. And when you’ve already replaced a role once….

And it’s true — who is playing an iconic superhero or villain character who will appear many times in films is not a big issue. Everybody can be replaced. But it’s also true that cast changes of big leads do start to deflate audience interest in an on-going series, especially if you’re trying to use the character in multiple movie series, as Marvel is doing. If someone is doing a good job, investing the audience in the character, it’s usually a good idea to make more of an effort to stick with the actor, especially for as complicated an enterprise as the Hulk in live action.

But the split has come and now Marvel will try to grab mileage out of the re-casting. I’d suggest bringing Bana back as Banner myself. But with Sony dumping the Spider-Man gang in a sudden re-boot, these kinds of casting carnivals make me less interested in the Avengers  film, not more.

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Filed under Movies/TV, SFFH