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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.