As Marvel continues to celebrate their 80th anniversary, the House of Ideas has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention.
After all, they’re the biggest producer of comics in the industry. They not only dominate the print books, but they also have a movie company that has produced THE largest money-making film of all time—Avengers: Endgame.
Their Marvel Comics #1000 recently sold very well in spite of criticism over its format of having creators mostly getting only a very few pages in the issue.
Marvel’s also talking about their plans for 2020, which includes reviving a favorite character of mine—Black Knight. Looking forward to that!
I was reading a recent interview with Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski, and I came across something he said that both intrigued and distressed me.
FOCUS ON THE FANS?
Here’s what Mr. Cebulski said that grabbed my attention:
The way I’ve seen myself is as the “fans'” E-i-C – I grew up a Marvel fan, and I never stopped – from six-years-old to 48-years-old not a week has gone by that I haven’t bought or read a comic book… no matter where I’ve been in the world.
My #1 is listening to my team, and my #2 is listening to the fans – including the one inside me. Every day I’m going to continue doing that – the fans’ opinions are important.
This was part of a discussion on how recent E-i-C’s have focused on different areas of importance. Joe Quesada was considered the “artist” E-i-C, while Axel Alonso was thought of as the “writer” E-i-C. Now Cebulski wants to be the “fans” E-i-C.
As I previously noted, I have mixed reactions to this.
Let’s be real here—sometimes the fans are seriously taken for granted. And not only by Marvel, but by many comics producing companies.
There is a perception among many areas in comics that “the best (insert company name here) isn’t as good as the worst Marvel comic.” That has led to some people feeling that it’s up to the fans to get on board with what is being produced instead of considering fan opinion. If they want to be part of “what’s happening,” they need to support the House of Ideas under any and all circumstances.
I know of at least one comics creator who flat-out told fans that HE was the writing genius, and if they didn’t like what he did, well, that just proves they are not a genius like he is.
What some storytellers forget is that the most important part of the process is connecting with those who you are communicating with. In other words, the people who buy your comics.
Having a leader who looks out for the fans, considers their points of view, is going to score points with many readers, and rightfully so. They are buying the product, after all, and their money is what helps keep companies like Marvel as successful as they are.
I remember being at one of the very first comics conventions I ever attended, and it was years ago. I was at a Marvel panel that was talking about Iron Man.
At that time, Tony Stark was wearing a suit of armor that many thought of as the “Coke can” outfit—red and white, just like the Coca Cola cans of the day. (See above.)
During the panel, they displayed many possible suits of armor they were considering. Each elicited varying amounts of applause from the audience.
Finally, the picture of the “Coke can” armor was displayed, to the words, “And the current suit of armor.”
The room fell deadly silent. Then the audience burst into laughter. Not one fan there liked it. At all.
The person on the panel spoke over the laughter to announce, “You WILL see a change. And SOON!”
Every once in a while, it pays to get consumer feedback.
That said, the fans don’t always know what they exactly want.
I remember when the folks producing the Star Trek novels had one open slot in their schedule. They wanted to know if fans would like a Klingon story there. So they asked fans about it in a survey.
The survey results came back this way: 50% wanted a Klingon story and nothing else, while the other 50% wouldn’t even consider buying a Klingon story.
What’s a producer to do?
We as fans are a diverse bunch. As I previously said, I love the Black Knight (BK). Yet, his recent title went down in flames after only 5 issues due to poor sales. I’m sure there are other BK fans, but are there enough to warrant his own title again?
While others desperately love the Fantastic Four (who recently returned from a hiatus) and Spider-Man, for example, some of us feel we’ve crossed those bridges enough times.
You can’t go by me because, when it comes to the House of Ideas, I prefer the lower-tier people like BK, Stingray, and Firebrand. However, I do buy one Spidey title, the one written by Tom Taylor. I am enjoying that book immensely even though that hero isn’t a favorite of mine.
See, this is where fans have a problem. What is it we truly want? For people like me, it’s a good story. I’ll buy comics with characters I despise if the story is great. On the other hand, I’ve met a fan of a specific hero who would sit down and count the number of panels he is in when he appears in any Marvel title. Too few panels meant he would send the House of Ideas a blistering email. Volume means more to him, apparently.
I mean, I can only admire those people who have made the jump from fan to creator. I haven’t been able to do that… yet. Someday I hope I can. But I can tell you (and I often do) when I think something works and works well. My talents lie along different paths.
Just like the Star Trek fans, we can often be divided when it comes to what we want to see. Some people want more Wolverine. Some want more Captain America. It’s a tough call, especially when a storyline starts up, like Cap being a member of Hydra, and fan reaction is immediate… and critical.
Overall, though, what I think most fans want is a good story with compelling characters. Other than that, I don’t know many of us (myself included) really know WHAT we want.
SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING DIFFERENT
I was at a Trek convention recently and attended a Batman panel there, of all things. Several Batman creators were talking about the Dark Knight, and I had to ask… Why didn’t they marry Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle?
I’ve read Batman stories for years, and seeing him married is something I haven’t read since the Earth 2 days decades ago. I was actually disappointed when they didn’t make it happen. After all, Superman’s marriage has been really great compared to the days of when Lois was trying to “trick Superman into a loving, caring relationship.”
Unlike my friend, I don’t think volume is as important as quality when it comes to comics. Marvel right now is generating so many titles, I doubt many fans can actually afford to buy them all. I mean, Mary Jane and Doctor Doom are getting their own series’. The completists and the collectors among us will love the number ones, but what about the average fan? When you live on a budget, you have to be more discriminating.
I appreciate Mr. Cebulski’s interest in looking out for the fans, but I’d personally prefer that the books already being produced had better stories and characters in them instead of new books on just about every character, honestly. And I doubt that I’m alone in this.
And Happy 80th, Marvel!
What do you think? How can comics companies discern what fans really want? Have you ever been disappointed when your “dream team” took over a title with a favorite character? Have you ever been pleasantly surprised when a creative team you didn’t expect much from actually turned an average book into a title you loved? Whatever your opinion, feel free to express it in the space below!