If you said, “The covers to Marvel Now! Avengers #1, #2 & #3,” you aren’t looking close enough. If you said, “A triptych cover sales gimmick,” you’re describing the obvious. If you said, “More Marvel crap,” you’re just being testy and not joining in the fun.
What you are looking at is the Marvel Comics Universe– as seen through the eyes of the Marvel Studios Film Division.
Despite oddly going right to left manga-style, each of the three prominent characters featured on these Marvel Now Avengers comic book covers is featured in the exact order of Marvel Studios future film release schedule. Iron Man (the biggest character in all of the three covers) has his next film coming out first (Iron Man 3), followed by Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
What you are seeing here is calculated. Not calculated in a bad Machiavellian sort of way– just orchestrated with the intent to exploit prominent movie characters to hopefully increase book sales and promote upcoming films. When corporations buy companies– if they’re run correctly– very little is left to chance… And anything and everything is seen as a way to promote something else. It’s all about synergy. Makes sense. If you’re going to publish an Avengers comic, why not use the characters making you the most bank at the box office?
I am not decrying what’s happening here. To do so would be idiocy and tilt against an irrevocable fate. Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment and there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it. So, for a change of pace– why don’t we all just relax and see what happens next? The same day news of Disney’s buy swept through Hollywood, I said the House of Mouse would integrate the House of Ideas into their unparalleled corporate publicity and merchandising machine sooner rather than later… And these Avengers covers incontestably prove they have.
How else do you explain the following? Where is Wolverine on the cover of Avengers #1? Where is Black Widow on the cover of Avengers #2? And where in the holy hell is Spider-Man on the cover of Avengers #3?
Is Captain America more popular than Wolverine? Are Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man or (gasp) Hawkeye more popular than Spider-Man? Of course not. But here’s what you have to remember: Marvel Studios owns the rights to produce Avengers movies and Thor movies and Captain America movies and Iron Man movies… But they don’t own the rights to exploit Wolverine or the X-Men or Spider-Man on film. Those rights all lie in the hands of other studios.
Dissecting these Avengers covers led to another serious epiphany last night. As I noticed Spider-Man appearing in the upper right corner of Avengers #3— almost as an afterthought… I finally figured out why Marvel Comics has dissed the Wall Crawler so royally in what should be a triumphant year celebrating his monumental 50 YEARS as one of the most popular heroes in comics…
Marvel Studios doesn’t own the movie rights to Spider-man– Sony does.
If Marvel Comics had busted a gut making 2012 The Year of the Spider(Man)— they would have effectively also promoted The Amazing Spider-Man– Sony’s reboot of the film franchise… And why in the HELL would they want to do that?
No one at Marvel will cop to this, of course… But it makes perfect sense for them to wish all Marvel Heroes licensed to these outside studios will appear in films that will fail just enough to allow the characters’ movie rights to revert back to Marvel Studios.
Which would also explain why several higher-up Marvel Comics employees are seemingly now involved in a not-so-subtle campaign to make a distinct differentiation between Marvel Studios film product and the Marvel hero movies made by other production companies… With the overall message seeming to be that only Marvel Studios can make decent movies based on Marvel characters.
The scary thing is, the Powers That Be at Marvel are probably right.
Marvel Studios films have been– almost without fail– better than the Marvel Superhero Movies made by other studios. And the reason is simple: Most mainstream movie suits have no relation or connection to this material… And very few grew up loving the comics like fans do. That’s why these people change character origins without blinking an eye… Or throw popular costume designs into the shredder… Or actually think making a Spider-Man movie without the key phrase “With great power comes great responsibility” somehow makes a better Spider-Man film. (You’ll note these are also the same idiots who have INSISTED the worn out, goofy phrase “I’ll be back!” be spoken in every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie since the original Terminator film.)
Are comic book fans and comic book film fans being brainwashed by all this? Of course we are! Like any for-profit company, Marvel has been expertly brainwashing comic book readers from the beginning. Why else has the blurb “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” been emblazoned on the almost every cover of the Fantastic Four since Issue #4 came out in 1962? Who determined that? A committee from the Comics Code Authority? A poll of nascent comic fans? No! Back in the 60s, most kids who reverently read comics rarely knew any other comics fans. There were no clubs to speak of… No true comic book conventions… But yet, the Fantastic Four is– and apparently always will be– “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” (I’m assuming somewhere around 2018 the Fantastic Four will become “The World’s Greatest Comic Download!”)
I don’t know about you, but when I was kid– I actually believed that line. Stan Lee wisely went to great lengths to make certain the Marvel Bullpen was seen as a group of comic book loving crazies who did nothing all day but create genius and have tons of fun doing it. Those Marvel Bullpen Bulletins pages (a new one often appeared in every week’s new batch of Marvel comics) were one of the main reasons I couldn’t wait to grow up and become a comic book writer. I wanted to be paid to have fun.
The idea that any studio other than Marvel doesn’t understand how to translate superheroes to screen is out there– and it’s a continuous din that gets raised by someone at Marvel every chance they get… Or at least whenever non-Marvel Studios Marvel hero films are released. Marvel Comics higher-ups usually make certain to note when a movie is not made by Marvel… Always expressing Marvel’s desire and hope to one day have all their characters back. It’s a thin and precarious slope to walk– since Marvel doesn’t want to 100% piss off their early film partners that are now their main competitors… But Marvel wants their characters back. The result of all this? The key phrases being pushed in the media seem engineered for one ultimate outcome: To give the general perception that Marvel Studio film product is superior to Marvel films produced by outside entities.
To their credit, no one at Marvel is outwardly dissing the Marvel character films produced by others. But will licensing rights continue to be an issue? You bet your sweet ass they will! Marvel Entertainment won’t rest until all their characters are back in-house– available for exclusive Marvel Studios exploitation. You might think this is all little disingenuous– for had these other studios not stepped up and taken risks (and the first X-Men film was a huge risk), Marvel would have never gotten the financial backing to open their own studio and produce their own Iron Man film.
But hey, Marvel Entertainment is owned by one of the biggest dogs in Hollywood now. And in a town that lives and dies on the phrase, “What have done for me lately?” you can hardly blame Disney for wanting all their “toys” back.
And they will get them. Just sit back and watch.