Marvel, Thunderbolts, Avengers and Integration

As much as I like the media, I don’t care about the Avengers or X-men or their battles. For me they exist in their other media, the cartoons I grew up with, the movies I watched and for the X-men the games I played (god I hated the Sega Genesis one where you started in the Savage Lands).

So when Avengers and X-men fight and the Axel Alonso talks about Marvel NOW changing the Avengers and the X-men, I’m not excited. When I see him talking about new costumes and new teams and these new starting points I’m not excited.
The last time I wanted to buy a Marvel comic was when I heard from Ziah about Thunderbolts.

Marvel Now Preview Image
Marvel Now Preview Image

Thunderbolts Spoilers Ahead under the fold along with business talk.

It was towards the end of Heroes Con and our group, Joe, Ziah and Tim had gathered up for some soul food and we started talking about comics. Ziah is excited because the Hulk is fighting cyber-bears from Russia. That sounds awesome. And then he mentions that Man-Thing finally spoke in Thunderbolts (currently Dark Avengers) and I almost squealed.

Man-Thing, the sort of but not really Swamp-Thing knockoff, got teamed up with the Thunderbolts (the supervillains who are doing good) as their van. When I stopped reading during Fear Itself (due to finances) Man-Thing was on this journey of being awoken to his full potential as this nexus point. And so Swamp Thing who has never talked – finally saying something? That got my attention.

Sufficient to say the hype was lived up to.

Dark Avengers 176 by Jeff Parker, Art by Kev Walker, Terry Pallot
Dark Avengers 176 by Jeff Parker, Art by Kev Walker, Terry Pallot

Everyone who hears Man-Thing hears their own version of him – it is universal translation stuff and it is fantastic.

Dark Avengers 176 by Jeff Parker, Art by Kev Walker, Terry Pallot
Dark Avengers 176 by Jeff Parker, Art by Kev Walker, Terry Pallot

This was a real moment, a moment of progress that was driven by character and from a single creator (Jeff Parker). It wasn’t editorial saying “We need a reason for Man-Thing to talk”. It was Jeff Parker going on this journey for fun.
And fun is what we need in comics. More than Earth changing events. More than senses shattering issues. More than marriages or murders or any of that other stuff.

Kyle Starks summed in general from the big two as “Everything is more a photo op more than a story arc.” There is a lot of truth of in that. They can sell a single issue where two superheroes the public didn’t care about are getting gay married. They can see the Avengers and the X-men fighting. They can sell Johnny Storm dying and coming back in the same year!

But they lost the ability to sell comics to me. I care about the tiny things – the characters and their interactions with other people, expressions of emotion that don’t end with laser canons, I care about two background characters discussing BBQ. I like the real life stuff – not just rape and abortions and murder real.

If you guys don’t take yourself so seriously Marvel, you can take me back.

But that isn’t the entire issue at hand here. With my mindset I represent maybe 2,000 readers. That is 1% of the readership currently of your biggest selling title.

Marvel, you have people who get more into comics through the outside media than anything else. Avengers, Spider-man and all of your other series speak more to the public, not comic readers and there are more people who watched Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes than those who bought Avengers Vs X-men (and the miniseries tie-in for Avengers:EMH). Make shows that tie into the main universe! Make films that are literally saying “This is canon stuff, you picked up the movie and watched it. Now you can keep reading the adventures in comics.” What if instead of having the events being based around something in comics, what if they were based on the fallout of movies.

Get people to see background characters and let them know how to keep reading. “I liked the wizard guy with the coat – Doctor Strange – can I read more without it being confusing?” That is where you can get the new readers – by integrating things.

And yes, there are issues with this – “I don’t want to read something if I have to watch the movie as well.” There are less than a percent of the current paying readership who might say that. But if these movie tie ins are there but still stand on their own, congratulations, you still have the old readers and the new ones.
I’m not sure. You could reboot or make a new focused universe that ties into the comics. I mean don’t just toss out a limited movie or tv show tie in either.

Integrate, integrate, integrate.

But what is integration? Integration is not making Nick Fury have a black son also named Nick Fury who ends up losing an eye just so you can add in a black Nick Fury and his best friend Phil Coulson. Don’t replace stuff to fit in with the non-comic universe especially if you say you aren’t going to do that.

And please – get good teams on the work, make smart choices and don’t believe the hype that there is no such thing as bad press.

Put on good writers to plan your reorganizations – not editors. Read more reviews from people who want comics to be better for cognizant reasons like David Brothers or most of the team at Comics Alliance. They treat your work as actual media to be discussed, not just a disposable art form. They raise up real issues that they have with the business and my god does it probably heckle you but – it needs to be done.

Posting more press releases without conversation won’t help. Blind integration won’t help. Not integrating won’t help. And just doing big events under your hype machine won’t help anyone if people hearing about it lack ties to the work.

Marvel, I’d like to come back to you and your big title comics. I’d like to write for you in the future. But first I’d like you to do some things for me, to help yourself.


Luke Herr

Luke is a writer and an aspiring professional comic writer who is also the editor in chief of Nerdcenaries. He currently is working on a graphic novel called Prison Spaceship.