As the Marvel mega event, Secret Wars, chugs along giving us more, and more changes I can’t help but see the benefit, and the down side of it. Ever since Disney took hold of the reigns of Marvel, they have been steering it with competent hands. I know any of you that have read my previous articles are scratching your heads, and wondering if this is the same critical writer that has railed against Marvel in the past; yes it is. What I mean by competent hands is this; their business insight is changing it into a new version, one that better reflects the broad spectrum of potential readers.
What I will say about the evolution of Marvel is this, they are taking it in a direction that is more than the domain of the young, white, male. Sure, there have always been readers that don’t fit that mold, but the content of the books hasn’t reflected that. Of course, there have been exceptions to this. Sure, there have been characters like Black Panther, and plenty of female heroes, but if you were to look at the bulk of what the comic book industry was populated with, it was white male superheroes. I’m not saying this was done intentionally, on the contrary, comics as a whole is a genre that is at the forefront of social issues, and equality in their stories, but it didn’t change the fact that the people who created them were all a bunch of white dudes, and you make what you know. So the superhero world being made up mostly with white dudes was only a by product of this, nothing more.
To give credit where credit is due, Marvel was attempting to transition into a more diverse universe, even before Disney came along, but Disney gave Marvel something it didn’t have before, the room to fail in the attempt. The deep pockets of Disney allow for the company to first test the waters by introducing some major changes to major characters, most notably Spider-man. If it failed, no big deal, Disney can weather slumping book sales. Of course, there were other reasons behind the decision to start shifting the emphasis from Peter Parker to Miles Morales, namely the fact that Disney didn’t own the movie rights. But this little project showed Disney that they could do it. They also started introducing other characters, like the new Ms. Marvel, which is a Pakistani Muslim girl. You see, Disney, has come around to the idea to be successful their products needed to have more mass appeal. Appeal to not only the American consumer market, but the international one as well.
So what does all this have to do with Secret Wars? Well, instead of taking the painfully slow burn process of organically changing their characters little by little, they have decided to do it in one fell swoop. With a mega event like Secret Wars, they get to wipe the slate clean and rebuild it in a way they would prefer. After this event, the Marvel universe will be changed forever. I have to say that I like the changes as a whole, because I like to see changes in comics. I like to see the old shaken up. Of course I’m still a fan of the original characters, and I would have preferred to see a natural transition from one to the other, but Disney doesn’t want to wait for all of that.
Secret Wars is taking the best of what Marvel has created over the years, be it in the mainstream or outside of it, and smashing it all together. For example, Miles Morales was part of the Marvel Ultimates universe. With this new shake up, they get to cross Miles over into the main Universe. It also allows them to introduce other characters that are from alternate universes, and bring them all together into a single universe. In the end they have a new, more diverse Marvel Universe overnight, while still keeping the entire continuity in check.
OK, now for the rub. What I do not like about, Marvel, since they have been taken over by Disney is the blatant corporate interference. While some good is coming out of this newest hand of big brother mixing things up, it is still business dictating story. On the other hand, all the alterations to Spider-man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four, are obviously just Disney watering down products they don’t own the movie rights to. This is what I don’t like. I don’t blame them for trying to make a buck, that’s one of the reasons you get into business, but this is not the business of punching out widgets, it’s the business of telling stories. When you confine the storytelling process, to fit strict money making goals, you confine the quality of the work.
Alas, this is the state of the affairs at Marvel, and no amount of crying about the practice on my part will change that. Sure, there have always been gimmicks and tricks used in comics, and this falls right in line with them. Comics have never been 100% focused on a great story, because comics have always been a business. That ratio of business/story, has shifted drastically to the point that the stories are being created now are at best 30% focused on a story, and 70% focused on the profit. So while this is the new world of the superhero comics at the big two, I have to tip my hat to Disney, I mean Marvel, for how they are handling it. I mean they could have just rebooted the whole Marvel Universe, even though that is kind of what they are doing.