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Early last year the murmurings began; Marvel was going to war with Sony and Fox over the movie rights of the X-men, Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Of course, they denied it. It was soon after that the announcement came that they were ending the Fantastic Four in 2015. Crazy! We said. Impossible! We rationalized. Well, the FF are no more. But, also nearly a year ago, we were told that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch would be retconned to rewrite their origin and make them 'not mutant'. There were denials and, once again, we rationalized and scoffed. And, yet, this very month in the Uncanny Avengers, the High Evolutionary announces that he created the twins and 'masqueraded' them as mutants.
So, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that the rumors that the X-men were going to have a 'whole new world' to play in were literally true. Although people denied and we rationalized and scoffed. But, that's exactly what's happening. The more Marvel tries to tell us that the MCU won't effect the comics that much, the more we realize that we are being handled. The announcement also came this month that they WERE putting baby in the corner and separating or segregating the mutants from the planet due to their fatal reaction to the released Terrigan Mists. Hmmm. So, the Inhumans have single-handedly run the mutants off the planet and have taken over as our resident freaks hated by the general populace.
So, Marvel's evil plan is coming to fruition. It only leaves us to wonder what glories we are to witness in the Secret Wars as Marvel goes to write a new destiny for the company.
And, YET, I am here to tell you that I understand what and why they are doing it.
Now, mind you, I did not say I was happy about it. If you know ANYTHING about ole BDC, you know that I am old school through and through. I was born about the same time as the Marvel revolution and live and breath continuity. SO, you can imagine my horror at the past years moves. The last thing I want to see is the past fifty some odd years wiped away in an instance like it never happened. BUT, as a writer, I can see that it was inevitable.
Once Marvel entered the comic movie fray and became the staple, the comic book game changed. Marketing super-heroes became big business. And their market was unlike anything they had ever dealt with before. At first, I'm sure the big comic companies thought their market for the movies would be the same as their market for the comic books. Boy, were they wrong! What they found was that they were prepping a whole new generation of fans of the genre along side the old school, devoted readership. This left them with a balancing act that became massively difficult to pull off. But, as the box office draws reveal, they have become masters at that balancing act.
And, what's more, they HAVE to be masters at this act. Because, in the position they're in, they are poised on the threshold of a brave new world. It's a crossroads of sorts. A decision had to be made to make a concerted effort to work hard to gain the approval, adoration and devoted readership from this whole new market of fans that had been drawn in by the wonder of the movies. Here, they had a chance to bring in new readers into the comics that, until now, had only seen these heroes in action in the theater. They had their attention. NOW, they had to keep their attention.
And, WHY, you may ask? I've heard facebookers and twitter chatters accusing Marvel of just being 'too damn greedy for their own good'. And, at first, I was one to totally agree and join their rage online. But why DOES Marvel do what they do? Do they work so hard just to make art? Just to give of themselves tirelessly to the story? Well, they do, but the bottom line is profit. GASP! How dare they! Right? I mean, why can't they just write the stories without thinking about he bottom line?
Simple answer; because without profit there is no future for the movies or the comics. Marvel does what they do to get paid. The writers, artist, directors, actors, etc. may LOVE what they do and live for the art, but they're not going to do it for free. They can't! We know that's insane. So, it's all about comics sold and butts in the seats. And, thanks to the exponential success of the movies and the mob of people flooding to see super-heroes that NEVER read a comic book, the 'butts in the seats' are now a whole new market that Marvel CANNOT ignore.
IF Marvel is to succeed as a comic book company, their only hope is new readership. It has always been this way. But, unlike decades before, they now have millions of people's attention. So, it would ignorant of them to not take advantage of this new market. It's about profit. It's also about longevity. It's about the future of comics themselves. SO, as much as we all hate to admit it, the comic medium that we fans know and love NEEDS the movie goers to translate into new readership. If Marvel is to have a future, they will need be welcoming to this fan base. And THAT means being welcoming to newbies.
The struggle has always been how to continue a long running story with its many characters and continuities and, yet, be accessible to someone who is not a part of the 'initiated'. Marvel is standing on over 50 years of continuity. This has passed through an inconceivable mass of writers, artists, editors, characters and survived massive near world shattering events. As much as I love the Marvel continuity, it has become an incoherent mess. Try to explain any characters history over the past decades to someone NOT on the inside, and see if you don't get blank stares. I hate to admit it, but it's time for a change.
Add this to the current situation with it's 15 year buildup of comic movies and a whole new fanbase just waiting to be initiated and you can see why were are where we are. Marvel must bring the general public along slowly with the movies and have a comic product that is friendly to these newbies without totally being insulting to the old school. And I think Marvel is doing their dead-level best to do just that. Although they have now Sony jumping through hoops for them, thanks to the whole hacking fiasco (nice timing, right?), they still have to deal with Fox who, contrary to the naysayers, are showing success in bringing the X-Men to the public. And, I think, they may just be on the verge of doing the same for the Fantastic Four. That is yet to be seen. But, the facts are, at least the X-men won't be returning to Marvel any day soon. I'm sure Marvel wishes they hadn't sold the rights, but also know that if they hadn't at the time, Marvel would have fallen into the abyss of comic collapse. No, it is merely the nature of the beast and must be lived with for now.
So, reconnecting Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch's lineage and sending the other mutants to the stars may not be what we want or like. But it may just be the best way to write around a bad situation. I dare say the members of the Fantastic Four will be around for the big stories too although that first issue of SECRET WARS seems to plead a different case. The good news is Marvel still produces Mutant comics. They still sell and money talks. Plus, I'm sure they're holding out for the day that Fox returns the precious cargo back safely. But, until then, Marvel is forced to write around the situation and segregate the Mutants from the others as to not totally confuse the new readership. This is imperative. It is necessary. Whether we like it or not.
But, seriously, if you have read the first issue of the SECRET WARS, you can't possibly tell me that Marvel isn’t' writing some great stories! Facing the end of everything, the Marvel Universe stood tall and was written well. I have nothing but confidence in where Marvel is taking the comic universe. I mean, they've done a massively amazing job on the Movies. I'm sure there will be hits and misses as usual. But, all in all, I expect the next few years to be a great time to pick up a Marvel comic whether you've never done so or, like me, couldn't live without it.