The Problem With Marvel Comics and How They Can Fix It

With Marvel getting demolished by DC in comic book sales, the fanboy community has plenty of fingers pointing in all directions, arguing over what is to blame. Here's my take on what's wrong and how to fix it:

Editorial Opinion

 There's no arguing that Marvel Comics has a pretty big problem. Riding a massive wave of popular and critical good will with Rebirth, DC has utterly trounced them in sales throughout the past months. Looking at the rankings for issues moved, Marvel is quite frankly pitiful, a sharp turn around to their dominance in recent years. So what is their problem? Everyone seems to have an opinion, but there is no one right answer. But whatever way you look at it, it's high time Marvel looks into doing a "Rebirth" of their own line. This article is the first in a series I've composed following the fruits of long periods of boredom turned to thoughts on how to revolutionize the Marvel line to make them competitive again and carry them into the future.

One issue that comes up very often in regards to the current state of Marvel is diversity, particuarily in regards to legacy characters. The goal to improve line-wide diversity is certainly a positive direction to move in, and is perhaps the one field in which Marvel is outperforming DC. However, the vast majority of their efforts in diversifying the line has come about solely through legacy characters, and a massive amount of them all at once. These wide-spread alterations to beloved characters has caused widespread backlash, with many fans ranting against a "liberal PC agenda" infringing on the iconic heroes. I believe that for the most part, these people don't personally oppose improving diversity in the line, although unfortuantly I have encountered far too many posters who have made it quite clear that in their minds the publishers have no business promoting the representation of minorities. But no matter the origin of the view, blaming the "diversity agenda" is ultimately wrong-headed, and making this the problem not only creates an unhealthy perception of the fan community but can also lead to the development of hostilities towards positive trends within the industry.

Instead, the problem lies in that the push for diversity has been caught up in the true driving issue hindering the Marvel line: An excessive editorial focus on "The Next Big Thing". Legacy characters are nothing new, and if just one of Lady Thor, FalCap, Cho-Hulk, etc... had happened at once, I doubt we'd be seeing the complaints we now have. But Marvel's current marketing stratagy is the exact opposite of DC's Rebirth approach, taking the "easy" route. Rather than focus on pure, creative story-telling, the goal has become to drive up sales with major events, resulting in an influx of legacies, drastic changes to major characters, and one major event after another, offering no downtime in between to focus on individual story-telling and character development. The quality of the line is faltering as a result, and this issue is excaberated by a second glaring issue in Marvel's logic. Pricing.

DC taking their entire primary lineup of titles to $2.99 gives them another advantage over Marvel, this time in the field of bugets. It's simply more affordable to follow DC, which makes the odds of a fan following along with a Marvel title they aren't fully commited to even less. And it doesn't stop at the Marvel base price of $3.99. Charging inflated prices for event titles and double shipping books at a higher price point (a problem especially apparent in the just released January solicitations) are major drawbacks. Perhaps the most counter-productive measure, though, is inflating the prices on #1 issues. The logic reads that #1's sell, and therefore they rack up the price to cash in on that phenomenon. But this becomes an issue when trying to attract readers to a new series. For example, the new hero Mosaic recently recieved an inflated price. This is a new hero Marvel is attempting to sell readers on, the last thing the book needs to succeed is a price hike.

Mosaic brings me to my third and final point. Marvel is making a point of taking an easy way out through "Next Big Thing" marketing. And yet they still take chances on the most random things, adding to a narrative of disorganization and "throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks". Avengers: Standoff made a major point of introducing a new Quasar, yet she sat unused and seemingly forgotten, while Marvel goes about giving solo titles to the individual Guardians of the Galaxy and, of all people, Deadpool's Mercs for Money.

In general, the disorganized, scattershot management of the Marvel brand is driving people away, and they can only watch as DC runs away with the ball game. So it's time for a Rebirth. Just like DC, Marvel needs to return to the story and character driven approach that made them great to begin with. Bring back the iconic heroes, and raise up unique minority characters like White Tiger, Cardiac, and Puma who can stand on their own, thus creating lasting diversity. Get the pricing under control. Restructure the editorial staff to be better organized. Over the next few weeks and months I'll be writing up my ideas for revolutionizing the line. One of my dreams beyond the career in Film Production for which I'm studying is to one day right for on of the major comic publishers. Hopefully you'll enjoy reading through my ideas as much as I've enjoyed writing them, and maybe start some good conversations down in the comments about the comics, which all too often get overlooked on this site!
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