Comic Book & Film Fans! Are You Being Brainwashed? The Answer Is…

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.

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12 Responses to Comic Book & Film Fans! Are You Being Brainwashed? The Answer Is…

  1. tomstewdevine says:

    I want marvel to have all there characters back. IMO they do make better films than other studios when it comes to there characters. As much as I complain about continuity in comics I would love to see the Marvel Film continuity grow, it’s already this new concept in film and it seems to be working very well.

    • Insideman says:

      I agree 100% Tommy. I also like the Marvel Film continuity. Obviously, they don’t have as much time or “space” to delve into character as much as multiple issues of a comic can… But they are doing a better job at showcasing their heroes then the other studios are.

  2. kurumais says:

    very nicely done inside very good piece very enjoyable. and i too believed the world’s greatest comic mag tag line as a kid. but to be fair reading those lee/kirby issues they did back up their braggadocios-ness quite a bit, anyway great job very fun read

    • Insideman says:

      Thanks, Kuru.

      I actually started writing this piece the day the Marvel Now! Avengers covers were released… But I needed to step away from it and rethink parts. It’s one thing to have an opinion– but we like to have FAIR opinions here. If we criticize, we want it to be for real reasons. If we glorify or laud something– we want it to be for all the right reasons (or, at least, the right reasons for us).

      Yes, those early issues of FF certainly deserved the blurb “World’s Greatest”… But as you know, it hasn’t always been the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” every month, every year since 1962… Yet the blurb remains intact. 🙂

      Sadly, the whole “World’s Greatest” idea is completely diluted by the version Marvel started using for Amazing Spider-Man as well… As I don’t think Spidey’s comic is the “world’s greatest” at anything (other than to serve as a great example of HOW NOT TO WRITE A DECENT SUPERHERO COMIC).

  3. Locusmortis says:

    You could almost call it the ongoing corporatisation of comics eh 😉

    I suppose in some ways what Marvel does now is pretty irrelevant to me. Getting the comics to fall in line with the movie continuity would be a major mistake though, I think its pretty conclusive that movies don’t cause a concomitant increase in sales of the comics featuring whatever character. General movie fans aren’t comics fans and trying to appeal to them is pretty pointless and only serves to alienate comics fans. The comics end of the business should go and do its own thing and if corporate had any fucking clue at all they’d see this, corporate edicts kill creativity.

    • Insideman says:

      LM,
      Yes, it is all about the “corporatisation of comics”. And the second Disney spent $4 Billion on Marvel Comics/Studios/Entertainment, the transformation went nuclear.

      As I am sure you will agree, the only reason DC Comics didn’t become a corporate cog in the machine the very second Warner Bros bought them was because somebody in charge at the Film Studio saw value in the characters– but had no idea how to truly monetize them… Other than let “DC be DC”.

      The second Marvel Studios proved they could take a virtually unknown (to the general public) character like Iron Man– and turn his movies into a potential Billion Dollar franchise… Suddenly Warner Bros was jolted from their stupor (where they had been happy to make the occasional Batman or Superman Movie or TV Show)… And that sudden frenzy sadly led to the godawful, ill-conceived Green Lantern movie.

      I can’t even begin to guess the number of aborted JLA, Superman, Batman and Superman/Batman film scripts I have seen…

      Like I said in the piece, the same day I heard Disney bought Marvel– I told everyone who would listen that Marvel would never be left alone by Disney (like Warner Bros had let DC alone for years). Disney would never let “Marvel be Marvel”… Not forever. Disney doesn’t buy anything to leave it alone. (Some things Disney purchases fail, never to be heard of again… But that’s a different situation from what I am talking about.) Disney “Disney-fies” everything they touch. (Sure, they left Marvel alone initially… But a “grace period” usually occurs whenever a successful company is absorbed by another.)

      I also totally agree with you that movies no longer generate significant sales for comics. You’re absolutely right… They haven’t for a long time. (1989’s Batman was the last film to affect the comic marketplace significantly.) But Marvel Studios films are decent– some are even great. As Tom notes above– Marvel Studios films come out way better than what other studios are producing with similarly popular Marvel characters.

      Should this lead to the Marvel Studios “tail” wagging the Marvel Comics “dog”? Absolutely not… But I don’t see the Marvel Film tsunami slowing any time soon… So the films will most likely affect the comics more than they won’t. Like I wrote, Disney’s all about synergy. And some of it makes sense too. Marvel Comics has already shown they are more than willing to flood the market with almost incalculable numbers of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Avengers comics when these movies were released. (I’m waiting for the week when three or four different Guardians of the Galaxy comics are released on the same Wednesday.)

      My prediction for the near future: If you write a high profile Marvel Comic that Marvel Studios is also exploiting for Film or TV… Any big changes or plans you have for your comic character(s) will probably have to be signed off on by more than just Marvel Comic Book Editors (or Marvel Comics Group Editors) one day.

      Disney likes to run a tight, smooth ship. That’s why you also don’t hear Marvel Brass mouthing off anywhere near as much as you used to just a few months ago… And you’ll be hearing less and less of that shit as the comic company is fully synthesized into the Disney fold. Disney doesn’t stand for any type of sophomoric shit in public.

      If that’s the ONLY major change that STICKS… I’ll be more than happy if the rest of my opinions, thoughts and theories are all proven wrong. 😀

      • Locusmortis says:

        A slight correction to your comment about Warners buying DC, but it was Kinney Parking Company (who operated parking garages and incidentally was a front for the mob) that bought DC in the mid-sixties. Kinney then bought Warners in the late 60’s and DC was packaged in with Warners when Kinney spun Warners off into an independent entity. And yes, Back Issue and Alter Ego are my favourite magazines by far, you may have noticed 😉

        Actually pertaining to this whole discussion I HIGHLY recommend everyone buy Back Issue number 57 as there is an amazing interview with Jeanette Kahn, I don’t think that most comics fans realise how much we have her, Paul Levitz, Dick Giordano and Joe Orlando to thank for maintaining DC comics as an independent entity.

        I’m not questioning the quality of the Marvel studios film productions, although the first Iron Man film is the only one I’ve seen, it was great. Marvel’s publishing strategy surrounding its films though is awful, flooding the direct market with dozens of titles and mini-series only served to lower the average sales of all those titles and the resultant trade paperbacks sold abysmally, DC outsells Marvel by a huge amount every year with its small stable of “evergreen” titles that sell and sell, year on year.

        As words go, Synergy is one of the ones I hate, almost as much as paradigm, I’ve worked for corporations and its usually management speak for breaking up successful operations and merging them with unsuccessful ones while some consultants make off like bandits with huge bonuses.

        Disney as a company has a lot of of great qualities but it has some shady qualities as well, if it could just be a slightly more ethical company then it would be even more successful in the long run, I’m convinced.

        As for Marvel, I think that as a producer of innovative and interesting comics, its pretty much dead and DC is half-dead or three-quarters dead. Companies like Dark Horse and Image are going to be increasingly the places for creators to go and crowdfunding operations like Kickstarter are going to be more and more important.

        Your analysis is completely right that comics will be different from here on in, whether for the better or worse I can’t say 🙂

        • Insideman says:

          Wow! I thought I knew everything. (Actually, I’ve never thought that.) 😉

          Very interesting info, LM! Thinking back, it makes perfect sense now. I’ve felt more than a few times I was working with “mobsters” in this business. 🙂

          Your comment on Disney is spot on too. Just for the record, I wasn’t going super in-depth into certain Disney “business practices” or behavior. (Which is unusual, since I can often get “off topic”.) I was just stating the obvious, that they are a well-oiled killing machine in the art of product management and promotion. How they got there is a story for another article (and one I am sure has already been told better by someone else.)

  4. NicktheStick says:

    I have talked about this with one of the employees at my LCS. It actually would be quite smart for Marvel/Disney to create more of a coherent and related product from Marvel Studios and Marvel Comics. Not by telling the same stories, but by having the characters the same in both worlds.

    My LCS, while it seems like one of the few, does benefit from the new blockbuster movies that is the Superhero movies. The idea of bringing the comic and movie universe together makes sense as a business/marketing idea. The idea that was brought up in the conversation with my LCS friend, was that the movies that come out are your “events.” It could actually replace the event comic. Now the idea, while a bit tricky, is doable. Movie continuity matters to the comic world. The comic world would play around the movies. Which wouldn’t be that far fetched considering they already do this with the Events that take place. Everything that happens in between the movies would be told in comic form. Kind of like extra stories. They matter, but don’t necessarily need to be read by the movie fans. Also, you have a few years between main titles like Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, so that you could still have stories that are fun and exciting without being bogged down with getting to the new event in a hurry.

    In that sense making the Avengers titles focus on these titular characters. This way the worlds would be combined and the few people that still come into the comic shops after seeing a movie (while they may be dwindling or lacking) would be able to pick up the latest comic and understand and relate to the characters. And as Ed2962 posted a video in the open thread, many new comic readers (if they even stick around) have trouble with the past comic histories.

    All in all, it makes sense on what Marvel and Disney are doing. Though like Tom and Ian mentioned above, the Marvel Studio movies are easily the best. And it would be great to see some of those characters return to Marvel since I have faith in their movie capabilities. Which when you think about it is quite sad, since I don’t have faith in many of their comics, where these movies originated.

    • Locusmortis says:

      You make a good argument there Nick and I respect your views but I have to say I disagree with them almost completely. I believe that the comics should remain comics and the films should be inspired by the comics and not the other way around. Comics are an art-form in their own right and to merely make them an adjunct to the movies would be to diminish them. Putting marketing and business first could potentially make for a (more) sterile product in my view.

      • NicktheStick says:

        Actually, I totally agree with your point. I think that it would also make comics stagnant. In saying that, if Disney/Marvel really wanted to make things work together, that would be the best marketing option. But like I said, I agree that it would make comics even more boring then most already are.

        I 100% agree with your statement, “Companies like Dark Horse and Image are going to be increasingly the places for creators to go and crowdfunding operations like Kickstarter are going to be more and more important.” These companies, and the creators working for them are trying to push the boundaries and make the best comics they possibly can. The best comics coming out right now are mostly from these companies or people. Why not put the future in these creative hands? Make the industry strive to be more like them. Many of these creators do not see a lot of money out of this (exception would be people like Robert Kirkman). They make enough to survive and get by, but they mostly do it because they love the medium.

        While I am may not totally be behind my next statement, an option would be to: Do what I mentioned above with Marvel and Disney. While I love superheroes, the movies are more interesting as of late. I get the majority of my comic nerdgasms from indie books. Let’s have the focus be on them. (Note: I would love just as much to see superhero comics come back with greatness and be better and more interesting than the non-hero stuff I read. But that likely isn’t going to happen soon, or at all. But right now my favourite things to read are non-super books right now.)

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