It was announced Marvel was cancelling a plethora of titles, including the newly launched Ghost Rider (only five issues into the run), Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Silver Surfer, Great Lakes Avengers, and Deadpool and the Mercs for Money. Now, a few years ago, I would’ve cared. Not anymore.

The comic line has become unrecognizable to me. I used to get five or six Marvel titles a month: Daredevil, The Amazing Spider-Man, The New Avengers, Ultimate X-Men and Thor. Now, I only get Guardians of the Galaxy. DC takes up most of my pull-list now.

It seems like after the “Marvel Now” relaunch in 2012, Marvel has been focusing on getting new fans while alienating their already established fanbase. Don’t get me wrong, there is always room for new fans — the more the merrier. However, Marvel forgot the phrase “Dance with the one who brought you.” And the sales figures surely show it.

However, there is still time to turn the ship around. If they follow my steps, they’ll win back all the fans they lost during this tumultuous decade and will successfully make Marvel great again!

Step 1: STOP RENUMBERING BOOKS

This is the biggest sin Marvel has committed this decade. Back in the day, if a book got renumbered like Daredevil when the Marvel Knights imprint launched in 1998, or Thor in 2007, it meant something. Now, all it means is a new creative team is taking over the series. Marvel completely ruined the back-issue market with this tactic. When books renumber, the value of the books in the current run drop. Also, if you want to track down issues you’re missing in your collection, it’s practically impossible to pinpoint where to start.

Just to put it in perspective, there have been THREE issue #1s of Spider-Man (Superior and Amazing) since 2013…

Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
“I’m the first issue of Spider-Man!”- Photo Credit: Marvel
Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
“I’M the first issue of Spider-Man.” Photo Credit: Marvel
Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
“I’M the first issue of Spider-Man!” Photo Credit: Marvel

Not to mention three different Daredevil issue #1s or Avengers issue #1s and various X-Men books. There is no sense of history now and it is a shame.

Step 2: DON’T FLOOD THE MARKET WITH MULTIPLE TITLES OF THE SAME THING

In 2010, Marvel expanded the Avengers line of books from one single title — New Avengers — to three with the addition of The Avengers and Secret Avengers. Now, instead of it being an honor to be an Avenger, everybody and their cousin has a membership card. This went into overdrive after The Avengers hit theaters in 2012. Suddenly there was The Avengers, New Avengers, Secret Avengers, Great Lakes Avengers, All-New All-Different Avengers, Light Avengers, Gluten-Free Avengers (OK, the last two were made up)…

Not to mention the various books starring Deadpool. Yeah, we get it, Deadpool is popular. However, he doesn’t need five solo titles. Marvel needs to learn the meaning of the phrase “quality over quantity.”

Step 3: MAKE BOOKS THAT MATTER

Not every single character needs their own comic book; some characters work better as supporting characters. Now, it seems like everyone has their own title. No need for that. What made Iron Fist and Luke Cage work so well in the 00s was they were supporting characters in New Avengers. They weren’t interesting enough to carry their own titles and Marvel used them perfectly.

And let’s be real, there was no need for Squirrel Girl to have her own series. She works great as a side character, but can’t move books on her own.

Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
AW, HELL NO! YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT! SQUIRRELS, ATTACK!

Step 4: DON’T CANCEL BOOKS OR KILL OFF CHARACTERS TO SPITE RIVAL MOVIE STUDIOS

Now, instead of comics, it seems like Marvel’s priority these days are TV and film. And they will destroy anyone standing in their path to box office supremacy, even killing off characters owned by rival studios if need be. If there ever was evidence to that, it became all too clear back when the House of Ideas gave out explicit instructions to artists during Marvel’s 75th anniversary. They all got memos stating the Fantastic Four — the group that put Marvel on the map in the first place and whose movie rights are owned by Fox — were not to be used in various anniversary celebration artwork.

Not only that, Marvel flat out canceled Fantastic Four in 2015.

Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
The Negative Zone: Not just the nickname of Marvel’s executive office. Photo Credit: Marvel.

Also, Marvel dwindled the presence and importance of all the X-Men titles and killed off their second most popular comic book hero, Wolverine, in 2014’s The Death of Wolverine.

Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
WHOA! Spoiler alert in the title, dudes! Photo Credit: Marvel

And to make their intentions even more obvious, they reproduced the cover to Secret Wars issue #1 on a t-shirt, but replaced the characters owned by FOX with characters owned by Marvel Studios.

Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
Photo Credit: Marvel
Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans
Photo Credit: Bleeding Cool

Marvel is cutting off their nose(s) to spite their face(s). These moves are, quite frankly, petty. It shows they lost focus on what made Marvel a household name in the first place: the comics. Movies are their main priority now. None of these moves happened until Marvel Studios became the top dog in film industry. Now, instead of being inclusive, everyone needs to kiss the ring. Comics should dictate what happens in the movies, not the other way around. As they say, the tail is wagging the dog.

Live look at Marvel right now after this paragraph.

Step 5: DON’T REPLACE LONG-STANDING CHARACTERS WITH NEW ONES FOR NO REASON

Obviously, new characters need to be introduced in the comics to keep things fresh and interesting. That doesn’t mean the long-standing character needs to be replaced. A good example is Riri Williams, the current star of Invincible Iron Man.

Dear Marvel Comics: Please Take These 5 Simple Steps to Win Back Fans

Sure, she may go by “Ironheart” in the comic, but she’s the star while an AI of Tony Stark is the new Jarvis.

Now, we also have Jane Foster as Thor in the comics, while the original Thor is in The Unworthy Thor.

Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, is currently one of two Captain Americas and X-23 is now going by Wolverine.

Look, I’m not saying these characters can’t be in the books, I’m saying they can’t replace those specific characters. Tony Stark IS Iron Man. He’s what made the character interesting. Steve Rogers IS Captain America. Sam Wilson IS the Falcon. Thor Odinson IS Thor. You can’t replace every single ingredient of a hamburger and still call it a hamburger. If they want to make RiRi Williams stand out, make her forge her own path. Don’t have her take up someone else’s mantle. Give her her own identity.

Also, these moves tell long-time readers,”You aren’t our focus anymore. We want new people reading our books. There’s the door.” It alienates them and makes them feel unwanted. Also, these changes seem forced and unnatural.

One more thing Marvel can do is lower the price of books from $3.99 to $2.99. A $3.99 price tag on a comic book that is 20 pages of story and 10 pages of ads is ridiculous. That also deters potential readers from impulse buying.

There is still time for Marvel to win back the readers they lost in the past few years. They need to stop focusing on the movies so much and remember that comics and their fans were the ones who put them on the map in the first place. If they follow these steps, it’s guaranteed readers will come back.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Great Lakes Avengers have been around since the 80s.. and this is not their first title.. It sucks that Marvel is cancelling it, but given that no one bothered to give it a chance because.. Marvel is flooding the market with shit titles you have to buy to go with ever xover and with 100 #1s each with a different celestial body as a cover (for no real reason).. but yeah Great Lakes Avengers was a great title.

    You forgot a couple things Marvel needs to do to get fans back.

    A) Don’t someone who has never written a book in their life just b/c they meet certain quotas. I.E. America should be written by an experienced writer or at least a co-writer so it isn’t an unreadable clusterfuck of bad, but Marvel hired the writer solely because she’s a queer latina.. nothing else. Seriously? Keiron Gillen is a straight white dude and wrote her vastly better.. so why not have him? Or ask him to co-write, co-script, SOMETHING?

    B) Stop letting the same writers that screwed everything up stay on the titles long after it’s clear they aren’t selling. Sorry, but this keeping the same writers forever just b/c they are the only ones Marvel seems to have.. is silly. Switching out for fresh ideas and concepts is great. Bendis and Aaron shouldn’t be running everything (or well anything really.. stop letting them write period.. huge improvement).

    C) Fix the X-Men. Stop the time traveling kids from the past that makes no sense.. stop the rehash same plotline we’ve already read or X-Men fight random group for no real reason except the one you just made up or the Mutants are all dying again because.. reasons. Fix it. Bring mutants back, repower and repopulate the Marvel Mutantverse and start rolling out titles, with good writers (Hey you have James Robinson.. stop putting him on books you are going to just axe anyhow.. and put him on big stuff, let him do what he does best.. write and create worlds).

    D) Finally first and force most, I should not be able to tell a writer’s politics by just looking at the book. I don’t care who they voted for. I don’t care what they believe. I want the character to speak for themselves. Everyone sounding like an ether full blown socialist or a Nazi all the time is getting old. Stop that shit. No Firestar is not going to lecture made-gay-by-Jean-Grey Iceman about talking about a baby’s sex b/c the baby boy has a penis. Stop that. It’s cringey and it hurts to read.

    E) Stop with the Nazi punching. We get it. Your writers love punching Nazis.. but seriously? Every comic seems to have people randomly punching Nazis for no reason. The writing isn’t good enough to support this.. so get your heads out of your ass and develop GOOD villains. You used to have these before you decided the villains were good guys and the good guys were bad guys for no freaking reason.. so get back to building up villains.

    F) Stop the “Sell you a digital comic you don’t want” “free” digital comic.. I don’t want it. I don’t want you selling me shit. Either lower the price and take away the stupid digital comic, lower the price and keep trying to sell me shit, but don’t charge me for it.. or go back to the way it was where I get a copy of THAT comic.

    • Because of the MCU I thought about starting to read comics again after years but after what Marvel has done to hell with them!

  2. Bring back The Incredible Hulk. Or I don’t buy the crap your putting out now.
    Bring back Wolverine.
    Bring back The FF.

  3. 100% agree… Hate what they’ve done to their comics and major characters. What was wrong with the originals? Why did they have to be replaced by ‘What if’ Characters?

  4. Let not forget the move to stop doing digital codes with current books. This single move has reduced my number of marvel books to even less. Now the digital library I have worked so hard to maintain will be stale as of February 2017.

  5. I agree, I pretty much stop reading comics years ago, back in the age of multiple variants of the first issue, prices skyrocketing, you can buy a paperback book cheaper than you can a comic these days. Plus some of the artwork looks like a 2 year old drew it. I have been a fan of Ghost Rider since the beginning, everything was great until they changed everything, storylines sucked, artwork sucked, so I stopped reading them, Doctor Strange the same thing. So Marvel/Disney if you want to keep readers, stop changing things, you are only loosing readers, not gaining any. You have lost me and the way things are currently, you won’t get me back either.

  6. When they announced Captain America was secretly Hydra all along, I was done with them. At a time when our country needs a fictional character that represents all that is good about the USA, they make him evil. It was idiotic

    • While I agree with LOTS of these comments, I have to disagree with this one. Captain America is interesting this way–it’s well-written and (you know, for comics) makes sense. He wasn’t Hydra all along, it was a past changed by a cosmic cube. It doesn’t make much sense, but it DOES make a good pulpy story. The best part is how much of the character remains the same while holding to a different set of ideals than we’re used to. it will obviously be reverted at some point (i.e. Doc Ock is Spider-man) but it’s fun reading until then, which is what comics should be and something that most of Marvel’s comics seem to have forgotten.

    • Except he wasn’t Hydra all along. He had his history altered by a Cosmic Cube. I expect all that will be sorted out following the Secret Empire event Marvel have coming up. Personally, I love the idea. The hero everyone looked up to since he apparently returned from the dead was playing a (very) long con? Very nice twist.

      This, though, is the problem with comicbook storytelling. In other forms, stories have a beginning, middle and end. In comics, the beginning was back in the 60s, in most cases, and there’s no end in sight for the biggest ones. It is possible to do it, and do it well. Hickman did it with Fantastic Four and Avengers. Grant Morrison did it with New X-Men. I think that’s what Jason Aaron is doing with both Thor and Dr Strange (expect him to leave once those stories are done).

      I believe American comics need to take more risks and look at the success of 2000AD. They’re not afraid to kill off popular characters, and not bring them back. MACH-1 being a case in point. Same goes for Johnny Alpha. He died. When he was brought back recently, it was because his creator had a new spin: We’d read the legend of Johnny Alpha, Strontium Dog, now we were getting what actually happened. In Rogue Trooper, Rogue went out on a hunt and never came back, after he’d got Gunnar, Bagman and Helm regened (we’ll gloss over the clusterf**k of Friday). We also know that Judge Dredd is getting older. He’s going to die at some point, then that will be it. He will be replaced by someone else from the Fargo clone batch (Probably the current Judge Rico), but Joe Dredd will die, and the man who fought in The Apocalypse War, had multiple run-ins with The Dark Judges and so on will no longer be strapping on his Lawgiver and prowling MC-1 on his Lawmaster.

      May that’s what Marvel need to start doing. Maybe that will bring in a whole new bunch of readers AND keep the ones who’ve been there all along. If a character dies, leave them dead. Leave James Howlett encased in adamantium. Leave Scott Summers and Jean Grey in their graves (and give the younger versions a chance to escape that same fate – there’s some good stories there).

      Marvel have attempted this, but it seems forced and it all being done at once has been a stupid move. It’s sensible that Tony Stark would get too old and hand over Iron Man to someone else, and why couldn’t it be Riri? By the same token, why shouldn’t Bruce Banner, if he finds a way, cure himself of The Hulk and pass it to someone who wants it? If Bruce’s successor is an established character, so much the better.

      As a reader, I wouldn’t mind, so long as the story was good. Passing on the mantles because of in-story reasons makes it more accessible. Passing on mantles purely as a publicity stunt? Nah. Can’t be doing with it. Like I said, the ideas were solid – a new generation of heroes – but the execution was ham-fisted to say the least. That’s what’s lost Marvel readers. Not the increase in diversity, but the suddenness of the change and the sheer volume of change, all at the same time.

      How to fix it? Not a reboot. Bring back the original characters and keep the new ones as supporting cast, so they can step up when needed, eventually taking over when the story demands it, not when editorial and above think it’s a good idea to create a sales spike.

  7. I don’t agree about putting effort behind b or c characters, that I would encourage more of frankly but one thing that has dramatically lessened my Marvel pull list every week is the crap thrown at X-Men fans. It started before last year, around the time of the Schism storyline and the destruction of Cyclops’ character and now, Emma’s. Marvel has been shutting down on the X-Men as we knew them for the past few years and everything that I once loved about them has been replaced by characters I don’t understand, care to know about or put investment in.

    This whole Inhumans push was disheartening from the start and it still is. I cam across a comment about Soule being instructed by Marvel a few years back to make the Inhumans happen and boy, did this creator try his hardest. Perhaps he’s been successful with a few fans, old and new, but not with this one. Love all his other stuff. Just with the Inhumans…that was a big no from the start. Placing them directly against the X-Men after test running it with the Avengers was so transparent, I got secondary embarrassment from the effort.

    Also, Bendis was either stretched too thin or just didn’t have it any more when it came to the X-Men. I paid for single issues that were simply dialogue stretched out over 20 pages, repeatedly, and it got to a point I needed to address my blind loyalty to Marvel. Marvel comics is no longer Marvel, it’s Disney, and it shows. I appreciate your optimism, but I have none. I can’t even imagine what Marvel would need to do to get back the dollars they lost from me. I really don’t.

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