Marvel’s “Legacy” Won’t Be Enough to Save Industry


The Greenwood Democrat wrote a loathsome piece about Marvel’s “Legacy initiative” that defames detractors and panders in its own way to SJWs:

Marvel Comics is suffering an historic sales slump — and it’s looking to an initiative called “Legacy” to get back on top.

It’s hard to believe, given that Marvel dominates the box office and is ubiquitous on TV. But print sales have fallen off the Bifrost, and that has not only Marvel but rival DC Comics worried, not to mention all of America’s comics retailers. When Marvel stubs its toe, the whole industry yells “Ouch!”

How did this happen? As they say, it’s complicated.

Because men like the columnist who wrote this puff piece want it to be complicated so they don’t have to explain anything truthfully. And why must an entire industry rely on Marvel as a means to survive? It’s idiotic, and any tendency to mimic their own modern business practices (like catering to social justice leftism) is only hurting them even more. In fact, why must retailers rely almost entirely on their wares, and not try to find ways to market independents instead, certainly if they avoid building on the kind of reprehensible PC Marvel’s become notorious for today? If they really want to save the potential of comicdom, they can’t rely solely on Marvel, and not even on DC, which is guilty of the same. Now, here’s where the column gets nasty:

You might remember some controversial remarks by Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel, who explained poor sales in March to by saying, “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. … We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.”

There’s no doubt an element of truth is in there. A casual pass over the message boards at various comics websites will find hateful comments about “SJWs” by people who are incensed by any superhero comic book not aimed squarely at a white, male audience.

Ah, so now this article becomes a disgusting excuse for attacking anyone who really does love the medium and famous creations as nothing more than a white supremacist. Naturally, no comments are made about SJWs who’ve more or less advocated censorship, recalling the attacks on Milo Manara, Frank Cho and J. Scott Campbell’s artwork, to name but some examples. That’s the “truth element” they’re talking about. Reading this, you’d think nobody ever wanted there to be a Luke Cage, Storm, Black Lightning, Sunfire, Misty Knight, Vixen, Sunspot, Firebird, Cyborg, Katana, let alone the co-stars of non-white backgrounds who were more common decades before to boot. And, nothing to say about the sorry state of scriptwriting now prevailing. Reading this garbage, you’d practically think nobody even wanted Wonder Woman or Black Canary around. And given the writer evidently sees nothing wrong with censorship, you gotta wonder why all the fuss about Fredric Wertham years before. Then again, now that I think of it, the fuss all stopped a few years ago when SJWs became really vicious.

But more importantly, there’s also an absolute in serial fiction that fans don’t really like change — they want, as Stan Lee used to say, the illusion of change. If a major publisher replaces a major character with someone else behind the mask, you can bet your last repulsor ray that the original will return.

That doesn’t excuse the poor writing and villifications that have taken place, at both Marvel and DC. And the above doesn’t address Marvel’s offensive shock value marketing of Captain America as a Hydra Nazi either, though it is mentioned later, albeit in a non-commital way.

And when these temporary replacements occur, there’s a very good chance a woman or person of color will be the replacer, while the replacee will almost always be a white male. That’s because most major characters are white males, since most were created in the 1940s (DC Comics) or 1960s (Marvel), when white males dominated most entertainment media.

I notice this part is uncritical of how superfluous these replace-with-POC tactics have become. No complaints about the failure of the Big Two to market their POCs more convincingly, like Power Man & Iron Fist was decades ago. And it doesn’t even mention that Clarence Matthew Baker, one of the most prominent and talented artists of Phantom Lady (later known as a leading member of Uncle Sam & the Freedom Fighters), was of African-American background, and one of the earliest to work in the medium during the Golden Age.

So when Marvel replaced Captain America, Iron Man and Thor in recent years with Sam “Falcon” Wilson, RiRi “Ironheart” Williams and Jane “Mighty Thor” Foster, it was a given that Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and the original Thunder God would return someday. That’s the illusion of change: Things happen, and then they un-happen. And in the meantime, we get a lot of (hopefully) cool stories.

And here, I see that, parenthesis notwithstanding, no complaints about all the poor storytelling Nick Spencer and other Marvel hack writers brewed up either. They did not produce cool stories so much as they did produce a lot of shameless political posturing and social justice preaching, they did not entertain, and if cool matters, how come we couldn’t at least get cool stories in modern times starring the white protagonists, the male Thor, and even the established heroes of different racial backgrounds? Pathetic.

That the Big Three of the Avengers were replaced by, respectively, a black man, a black girl and a white woman is almost beside the point. We know this to be true by judging from the last time Captain America, Iron Man and Thor were replaced.

Yes, this is literally a rerun. In the late 1980s, the originals were taken off the board, and replaced by, respectively, John “USAgent” Walker, James “War Machine” Rhodes and Eric “Thunderstrike” Masterson. In that case, three white men were replaced by two white men and a black one (Rhodey). But they didn’t last, either — and nobody really expected them to.

Missing the boat, as usual. The difference is that Steve Rogers wasn’t turned into an evil antagonist, and neither was Tony Stark, as occurred more recently too. Not even Thor, and if memory serves, he was de facto merged magically with Masterson to save his life after an accident. However, if memory serves, Walker’s characterization was questionable, as he initially came close to being an insulting chauvinist, and that could’ve sped up Steve’s return to form at the time. Should I also note how, in the latter part of John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four, She-Hulk replaced Ben Grimm for a few years while he starred mainly in a solo book for The Thing during 1983-86, which replaced Marvel Two-in-One? And not as a literal “thing” but rather, as herself, a female take on the Hulk. And all this time, Ben was not killed or turned into a nasty villain as DC was doing with a number of their characters during the early 2000s.

Meanwhile, sales don’t bear out the “diversity” charge. Sure, “America” (starring a lesbian Latina) isn’t doing well, but neither is “Guardians of the Galaxy,” led by a white guy. Marvel’s best-selling books aren’t exclusively white, nor are they primarily diverse — “Amazing Spider-Man” and the X-Men books are among Marvel’s better sellers on a monthly basis, but “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” does well in collections, and “Ms. Marvel” (starring a Muslim, Pakistani-American girl) stays alive due to digital sales.

I notice they didn’t include sales figures for digital sales any more than printed pamphlets. And it sounds more like they’re trying to say the obvious, politically motivated diversity has nothing to do with the failure of those books that are sunk in it.

Most people attribute Marvel’s big sales slump to other factors — mainly, Marvel’s awful marketing practices. For years, Marvel has been launching new first issues of all its titles, complete with gimmicks like variant covers, then canceling the titles a year or so in and doing it all over again. Some characters would literally have two or three first issues in a calendar year. This is terribly expensive for retailers, and after a while, even the fans begin to feel jerked around.

Content-wise, Marvel has leaned on massive, line-wide “event” stories that require fans to buy books they don’t want to get the complete story. Ongoing books can’t ever work up a head of steam, as they’re always being taken over by the “events” — and then launching over with new first issues, and often new creative teams.

And who would “most” be? Apologists like the dummy who wrote the column, from what I can tell. Of course they’d try to find excuses to justify the pointless gimmicks Marvel’s using. Granted, they admit the company wide crossovers they’re still hell-bent on resorting to so they can milk the audience of every possible dollar played a role in their downfall, but what new creative teams are we talking about? Not if it’s men like Nick Spencer and Dan Slott, that’s for sure, because so far, Marvel’s obviously determined to continue their employment for years to come, viewing them as acceptable company to keep because of their leftism.

Sadly, event-driven stories are unlikely to stop because — well, that’s about all that really sells well for Marvel, even though poor sales of the recent “Secret Empire” event indicate they’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. Of course, some of those lost sales were to people who were revolted by the storyline, which had Captain America re-imagined as a fascist.

Wait a minute, is he saying people offended by the Cap-as-nazi story were the ones who bought Secret Empire?!? Talk about insulting the fans! And the justification for crossover events continuing is also insulting. Instead of raising suggestions for how to sell better and restructure to meet those goals, he dismisses their current approach as the only way to survive at a time when they’re in dire straits of their own making. And the following is no improvement:

But here’s the good news: All of the major changes of the last few years are heading for a reboot. We know this because of “Marvel Legacy” No. 1, a 58-page, $6.00 book that came out Sept. 27.

And it’s really pretty interesting. “Legacy” introduces us to the “Prehistoric Avengers” — a group that fought a Celestial a million years ago. (Celestials are a gigantic, space-faring race that tends to wipe out civilizations it deems unworthy.) This group — consisting of Odin (before Thor was born), the Phoenix Force (long before Jean Grey), the first Ghost Rider (on a flaming mammoth), and a few other concepts that are effectively immortal — defeated the Celestial, and buried it in what would become South Africa.

Right, so ancient doppelgangers alone make a great story, not the guarantee of talented writing. I’ve seen this gimmick around before, and it’s not doing anything to ensure good storytelling can be rediscovered.

Leap to the present, and guess what’s getting dug up in South Africa? I imagine it’s pretty grumpy.

Not as grumpy as those who truly do love the MCU are feeling now.

Oh, and we learn something’s monkeying with the timeline. A “new” Avenger named Voyager has been added to the team’s history, and nobody seems the wiser.

Except the fans who aren’t fooled by this alone. It’s beginning to sound like a variation on DC’s own “Rebirth” crossover, which shoehorned the Watchmen into the DCU proper and implied Dr. Manhattan was monkeying with timelines.

And did I mention Valeria Richards? The pre-adolescent, genius daughter of Reed and Sue Richards (Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) has been missing and presumed dead since the 2015 “Secret Wars” event, along with her parents and brother, Franklin. But she narrates “Legacy,” teasing a return of the Fantastic Four just as the remaining pair, the Human Torch and the Thing, team up in an ongoing series titled “Marvel Two-In-One.”

If Joe Quesada weren’t still the COO for Marvel enterprises, the return of the FF would be admirable. But he’s still as prevalent as ever, and Mary Jane Watson’s still kicked onto the curb, so I can’t see any reason to look forward to a return by the FF to the MCU proper.

Meanwhile, “Legacy” checks in on most of Marvel’s major characters. And as you’d guess, the status quo and the original characters made famous by the movies are in the process of returning — even Wolverine, who’s been dead for three years. But we’ll also have the new kids, and with luck, the best of both worlds.

Not if the political templates they’re built upon still prevail. The whole structure of the Muslim Ms. Marvel series is as politicized as the religion itself, and only demonstrates why it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. I also think it’s sad how Marvel’s pushed Carol Danvers into the role of the guy who helped her gain powers in the Bronze Age, Mar-Vell of the Kree, and with the way things are going now, and Marvel’s SJW-pandering still prevalent, that’s why I don’t see a Captain Marvel title where she’s removed from the role that really suits her, and shoved into one that otherwise doesn’t, being a success. Of course, her characterization in the Ms. Marvel series from the late 2000s wasn’t good either, recalling how it even connected with Civil War.

Will that be enough to get readers excited about Marvel Comics again? “Legacy” is a sharp-looking package with some interesting ideas, but fans have already registered fatigue with constant events and re-inventions. Worse, “Legacy” will affect every book in the Marvel line, returning some long-running characters to “legacy” numbering (“Avengers” will re-launch at No. 672, for example), but quite a few others will start over with new first issues.

Can Marvel go to that well again?

That comes down to execution. Marvel has to decide if its true legacy is imagination and adventure … or events and sales gimmicks. A whole industry is hoping for the former.

Well I hate to say it, but I believe Joe Quesada’s continued presence as a company exec will only ensure people continue to be turned off, as he can’t be trusted not to fall back on many of the tactics that alienated the audience in the first place, and is evidently determined to ensure Mary Jane Watson will never be Peter Parker’s wife again. Even Dan DiDio as DC’s COO can’t be trusted to stop with all the insulting tactics he was using over the past decade, and there’s every chance he’ll continue as well, alienating most of their own fanbase to boot. Based on that, it’s no wonder few fans will return to read their products so easily, as long as many of the same people responsible for bringing them down are still there. And obscuring their roles in the mess doesn’t help.

That’s why this article is among the worst fluff-coatings of the subject littering the press. It doesn’t admit Marvel’s employing some of the worst writers around or recommend their dismissal, and lets many top executives off the hook too for their own behavior, public or otherwise. With apologists like these doing the talking, it’s no wonder the Big Two’s woes will take an eternity to fix.

Posted originally at: Marvel’s “Legacy” won’t be enough to save industry with these kind of apologists promoting it
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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1