Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Marvel Comics Lost Me

As a 59 year old white heterosexual male I understand that I am no longer a target market. Heck at this point I’m sure my opinion means less to a major corporation then almost any other point in my lifetime. Still why Marvel lost me is at least an intellectual exercise for me to put a rationale on what is at the end of the day an emotion decision. The emotion is due to a parting of ways from characters that inspired my love of comics.

I think first and foremost it is price point. Every Marvel book is now at least $4. The trend to making more and more titles $5 is frightening. Due to a discount structure and the way I buy my books I have never felt the full force of the $4 price tag. I have felt the creep in overall cost. I make a good wage and have an indulgent wife, so how much disposable income I can drop on comics is for the most part at my discretion. A $100 a week in books is not too much. Still I want a bang for my buck and Marvel no longer delivers. The $4 price point “gives me” a “free” digital version of the comic. Problem is I don’t like digital comics and could care less about having a free digital version. I gave away my digital books to a friend of mine. So the extra $1 is a total waste of money. As Marvel is the highest price point of the bigger publishers dropping 5 Marvel books coming out next week reduced the retail price by $20. Image has some $3 and many $3.50 books and DC still has many $3 books. Plus Marvel is pushing that $5 envelope very hard with Secret Wars and Old Man Logan clocking in at $5. So if those five books are a savings of $25. That means I could try 8 DC $3 books for the same price of 5 Marvel books or 6 $4 books from an independent company. Pure dollar and cents make Marvel the easiest to drop.

Next up is the convoluted never ending stories. I love a great epic storyline. Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli is the best Daredevil story ever done and one of the top ten storylines ever done. I have the Artist Edition of the story and recently re-read it. It still holds up as one of the best stories ever done. What we have gotten to in many modern comics is the never ending epic and a cast of characters to make Game of Thrones seem like a small cast. The biggest offender is Jonathan Hickman and his Avengers / New Avengers run. These two books both had around 40 plus issues meandering all over the place with a cast of at least 100 different people. This all lead up to the highly convoluted Secret Wars, which after two issues I gave up. I have a decent IQ, my retention for comics is decent, but the story was not even making any coherent comic book sense. Worse is all the run up to get us to Secret Wars seem to have no ending or basis of impacting anything. I understand that trying to comprehend the Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire can take a lot of time, study and reading to just begin to comprehend all the elemnets. The same with the rise of Nazism in Germany. There are myriad amount of elements that allowed this to happen in a country of rationale people. I should not have to be that involved to try and understand this story line. Worse is that many elements are left on the wayside and scattered like so many Chris Claremont X-Men sub plots. I just ask that Marvel entertain me. What they are doing instead if expecting some cool concepts and pretty art to make it work. It doesn’t work. As educated and literate as many of today’s writers are, the stories told my Miller, Byrne, Shooter and Claremont were far superior.

Another element that has pushed me over the edge is the seeming progressive liberal agenda being pushed in comic books. My personal politics are libertarian with probably a slight left tilt, as I’m very liberal on social issues, fiscal conservative, less government when possible and for getting us the heck out of the Middle East. That is a preamble to the fact that if you want a transgendered hero, more female heroes, more racial differences in your heroes, that is all well and good, but do not do at the expense and denigration of the heroes that had been there before. I think Thor might have been the one that drove me over the edge. Female Thor shows up and she is better than the old Thor. Not only that but it was a lot of male bashing. You do not build yourself up by dragging others down. I for one have always wanted change, so change is good, but change just to change is crap. I think DC, prior to New 52 had the right idea. Mr. Terrific from the golden age had been replaced by a new black Mr. Terrific in the modern age. Michael Holt had a great back story, was a genius and was every bit of the hero. In other words the next generation of the hero. Batman letting Dick Grayson take over and his son be the new Robin was a great change. In fact Batman had a great history and having female iterations of the characters and did a bang up job with a lot of those characters. Heck the FF could have done a great job by letting Valeria grow up and run the next generation of the FF. Iceman could have had a son and he could have been gay. But artificially making Thor unworthy and obviously trying to force fit retroactive personalities on characters who have decades of back story does not work for me. I feel like it is an agenda to diversify. Making the characters look different, but all have the same voice is not diversification. Diversify the voices telling the stories, bring in other writers with different viewpoints and let the stories be more organic. I know from reading a lot of different articles that the color of the writers and editors is lily white and the voices inside would make USC Berkley proud. So whether there is a true agenda or not, who knows, but I feel like who I am is not valued as a customer.
Finally, and perhaps this is the most telling the characters are dead. By never allowing characters to age and move on, the million stories told about the characters have made them dried up worthless husks. Stories are told with no regards for who the characters are, they are told to tell some story either the writer or editorial staff comes up with. The lack of imagination is astounding as writers are apparently unable to writer older heroes, married heroes or whatever the case maybe. Instead gimmicks and time jumps are used to artificially make an event or story. The Cyclops, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Tony Stark, Storm of today are unrecognizable after the many stories have been told about them over the years. In fact most of the characters have few defining characteristics that are stable. No one is who they were and often it changes from comic to comic. There was a time where I felt the characters were so strong that no matter what writer was telling a story you knew how a character would react to a situation because you knew them. Now, it feels like this are just exactly what they are drawings on a piece of paper with words inserted into their mouths by whoever is the current writer.

All of that has led me to leave Marvel behind. My wallet thanks me and I have my collection of great stories to re-read at some future time. As Disney moves to make Marvel more of a licensing publisher operation I’m sure financial success will continue. For me the fun and desire to read the current stories is dead. Sadly something of my love for these characters has died also. I guess we will always have Amazing Spider-Man 31-33, as opposed to Paris.


6 comments:

  1. Well said, my friend. While I haven't given up of the MU yet, it is highly tempting to do so. Although for me Marvel Comics are the cheapest, since I can sell the code for $2 off the cover price and possibly resale the physical book for $2 later. It makes me try out more titles.

    And I actually like most of the Secret Wars book in terms of the storytelling, but like I said to Rusty yesterday, if this is just an "imaginary story" that isn't going to matter longterm -- I can't afford it.

    After Herb's death, I started rereading the Trimpe Hulks, and I enjoy that era (and most everything Bronze) so much! I will continue to reread these stories the rest of my life. So, I'm looking into getting more masterworks (even if I have the original issues) as they move into my favorite runs. The upcoming ASM MMW in Dec IS my favorite Bronze Age run, the one I started on back in 1977 (ASM #172).

    The books I really enjoyed from Marvel this past year were Hulk, Ghost Rider, She-Hulk, Black Widow, Punisher, Daredevil, and Silver Surfer. Definitely not the top titles like Avengers and Spider-Man. The Iceman retcon totally drove me away from Bendis' X-Men series (now on sale at my eBay store), which was ending anyway. It stopped being what I loved about it a few months before Black Vortex. These books were mainly free of the regular EVENT proceedings. I met Gerry Duggan at Awesome-Con on Sunday and told him how much I loved his Hulk run. Apparently, that is not a universal opinion, but I thought how he found a way to reasonably have the Hulk eventually turn into Maestro was brilliant. Plus, it was flat out FUN like an old Trimpe or Buscema book. The best thing to happen to Spider-Man was Doc Ock taking over. Since he died it has been the same-old-same-old loser Peter Parker.

    With this "not a reboot" looming, Marvel has pushed the characters to even more unrecognizable places (Superior Iron Man) and the heroes (especially the Illuminati ones) aren't the same at all -- they're just moral less jerks. "Oh, we'll just hand select the best and brightest minds to survive The End". "We'll kill universes to save our own." blah, blah. Give me the Perez' and Byrne's FF any day.

    I don't know what I'll continue with after Secret Wars. It'll depend on the creator to some degree. I love everything drawn by Evan "Doc" Shaner. His SHAZAM Convergence series was excellent.

    Anyway, I could funnel funds into upgrading my Bronze issues and get more satisfaction. Image unfortunately is a bit too mature for my tastes and I sold (for a horrible price) a bunch of books that were great stories, but just not for me.

    Did you waste any cash on Convergence? That was a total joke. And of the numerous tie-ins, only these four I found worthy to keep: Superman, Swamp Thing, SHAZAM, and Booster Gold. I feel a post bubbling up about that debacle myself. Although, I have signed up for Justice League, because the Darkseid War feels like the Crisis level event that Convergence was supposed to be. And I plan to try out Cyborg, because I really enjoyed David Walker's SHAFT mini-series at Dynamite. I've been getting DC's Flash too due to the awesome art by Brett Booth -- in addition to all the TV tie-in books.

    I recently cut back significantly on my sugar in take to lose a few pounds. I think my wallet would appreciate a reduced comic load too. I do like the Darth Vader book of the new Star Wars series.

    And what's wrong with a multiverse? Spider-Verse introduced so many "diverse" Spider-man characters only to KILL them -- including the REAL Peter Parker, Mayday's father.

    So glad you're back even if only for a little while.

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  2. I tried a read a secret war tie in and realized for $4 cover and the story it was not worth it. I have nothing vested in these characters at this point.

    Also with Marvel's announcement today of 60 new #1s, eight month time gap and some changes to some continuity - this is a re-boot.

    Sadly I did waste money on DC's Con Job or Convergence. Very little was any good, but it did end up netting me two pages of Tim Truman original pencils of Hawkman, so in some ways it was worth it.

    Thanks for the welcome back - I may once in a blue moon pontificate again.

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  3. I can't believe they're sticking with old-Cap and Falcon-Cap. The only thing that interests me is the Thing in Guardians. I'll probably follow Daredevil and possibly Hulk as long as he doesn't pull a Jenner.

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  4. I think the Hulk is going to be odd, so not quite a Jenner, but I'm sure it will be off the wall in some way.

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  6. I started reading comics when they were $.30 a piece. I bought a ton of books back then. I started dropping titles when they hit $.75. I can't IMAGINE spending $100 a week on comics! I'm out permanently.

    Comics also lost me when they started emulating Tv scripts. The stories run on forever. I just got bored. I'll always love comics & follow them but I doubt I'll ever be a monthly buyer again.

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