Point - Marvel floods the markets with event tie-ins
We've all seen how much worse comics like X-Factor have gotten when forced to have event tie-ins.- Klep
Aside from the financial repercussions, we have seen how a line-wide event can affect the long term plans of a title. One example of this is X-Factor, a poster child for such editorial mandates and something I have already written about on my old blog. If a reader is just following some fringe titles and not the summer events, their title will be suddenly invaded by something they do not care about or particularly want to be involved with.
Point - Overexposure of characters
That makes characters not acting like themselves. [...] Inconsistent portrayals along with all these events [...] is a trainwreck waiting to happen. They can't even get a grip on just what the SHRA calls for from the superhero community.- ShadowWing Tronix
One of the main problems with this is that it leads to a "multiple personality disorder" where characters act in different ways when used by different writers.
For example, the Skrulls were sometimes seen as a peaceful transition force with no desire to kill humans. Other times, they were a group of soldiers that were simply doing a job that they were not particularly pleased about and, other times still, as a ruthless force of religious zealots.
Another such example was the handling of Iron Man during Civil War and the Initiative status quo. He was a hero that made the right decision despite everything going wrong and riddled with guilt in one book while a political strawman for Katrina, the war in Iraq and other such things in another book while simultaneously being hailed as the next Dr Doom or Red Skull and used as the mustache twirling villain in other books.
When handling a huge number of appearances that span an entire line of comics for months on end, it becomes obvious not even the best of editors and writers will be able to keep the vision of certain characters consistent and this leads to some very different handlings of the same characters across the board.
Counterpoint - True repercussions
There weren't this many minis back in the day. There was no equivalent for Dark Reign: Elektra. There wasn't a Volcana mini-series that picked up after Secret Wars to show what happened afterwards.- Anonymous
DC's Final Crisis actually did the opposite of Marvel's strategy, going with a handful of tie-ins, and felt the negative criticism of their event not "meaning anything" or "being reflected in other books" and, thus, giving off a general feeling that the event didn't even happen or have any impact.
These specials, miniseries and one-shots show the effects that these events have on everyone around the shared universe. Dark Reign, for example, is providing plenty of tie-ins for less popular or lesser known characters, like Elektra, Young Avengers, Venom, War Machine and so on, ensuring that there truly is something for everyone and showing the impact of the Dark Cabal's rise to power. This is also a great way for Marvel to test the waters for new series that readers might be interested in. The problem arises when the shear number of these tie-ins exceeds the output of actual ongoing titles...
Point - The Marvel Universe is in a constant state of flux
With Marvel there are too many changes, so that when something "big" happens, the gravity of it doesn't sink in.- The Dangster
The problem arises from the fact that the constant changes that the heroes and the readers must endure lessens the impact of the next one and the next one and so on. Additionally, because of the fact that these events happen with an increased frequency, not enough time is given to the aftermath and, consequently, the changes are not taken seriously by readers because they know that, once the next event rolls up, the status quo is going to change yet again.
The prime example I point to for this is the current state of the Spider-Man titles. Hands up, how many people remember or care about what happened to Spider-Man in House of M? There was an incredible amount of potential with his knowledge of his 'perfect life' with Gwen from that alternate reality and him destroying the table in Avengers Tower is a powerful scene reflecting that. Aside from one great scene in Son of M, it was never mentioned again and they moved on to The Other, where he 'died' and received new powers, which were then forgotten in favour of a new Iron Spider-Man costume, which was then ditched and forgotten for the unmasking, which, again, was forgotten for the Back in Black/One More Day fiasco. Not a single one of these changes were explored or touched upon after numerous promises of how each was story driven and how the writers were going to touch on all the questions readers had concerning each "major" change.
Counterpoint - Opportunities for new stories
I was going to complain about the constant events, but Dark Reign really isn't an event. It's a status quo, and its been a really fun one.- Jeremy
The recent Dark Reign status quo is an excellent example of this. It has opened up whole new aspects of the Marvel universe, for writers and characters alike, that, while not particularly original (people have compared it to DC's President Luthor storyline), gives the line of comics a breath of fresh air and writers the ability to explore a world with the villains in charge, show how the public and our heroes react and so on.
Since the beginning of Dark Reign we have seen new teams, such as Dark Avengers and Secret Warriors, and new characters and old favourites get the limelight, such as Moonstone and Dakken. Despite what my, or any reader's, personal feelings about those characters is, it is always a good thing to spotlight new or lesser known characters as it helps create and flesh out a more encompassing universe.
Point - Event fatigue
While these events certainly drive sales in the short term, it reduces the ability of writers for individual comics to develop their characters and write issues speaking to the characters' defining traits.- Klep
Case in point, Secret Invasion started as a self-contained New and Mighty Avengers crossover that Marvel ballooned out to a line wide, 100+ book event and it shows in the strength of the writing. It reminded me of Young Avengers' New Skrull/Kree War that capped off their first series. A simple story like that, if it had been in New Avengers or another popular title, would be ballooned up into a line wide event, despite not having the strength to sustain such an endeavour.
As these stories start in other titles and get thrust into an event book, many people find themselves "forced" to buy these big events in order to follow what your favorite character or team or comic is doing to continue the story you've already invested yourself in. Consumers don't like this and one really bad event is all it will take in order to turn off a whole chunk of Marvel's readers (see: DC's Amazons Attack or Countdown) from buying what are supposed to be your best stories and your biggest draws.
Counterpoint - Sales numbers
Marvel will continue to point to numbers as their reasons for continuing with events and the constant linewide changes.- Kirk Warren
Events provide instant gratification and are a great way to lure in new readers and Marvel knows this. Despite the aforementioned tie-ins, most Marvel events (I'm talking about the main series) can be read from beginning to end and you will get a complete story out of it. There are obvious hints of more happenings before, during, and after the events, which is meant to get people interested in and reading other titles or trades, but that is also the business appeal of events. Until the numbers no longer support this model, Marvel has a justified reason to keep feeding the market what it wants.
Solution - Give it a rest
I have no problem with events in principle and I've actually liked all the recent Marvel events [...], but I'm burnt out. Events are like climactic moments in movies. After the climax, you need to come down - be allowed to rest and recover- Aaron Kimmel
I know this is probably setting the bar a little too high, but Marvel should look at Ed Brubaker's Captain America title as inspiration. It is a title that has only been involved in one event (Civil War), but has been, for the most part, self-contained and has managed to be both a critical and commercial success. Other titles that have been successful off in their own little bubble continuity include Immortal Iron Fist, Daredevil and, despite popular opinion online, Amazing Spider-Man.
Of coure, I am not saying that Marvel should stop doing events either, but they should, instead, spread them out more and concentrate on making them more memorable while exploring the new story telling opportunities they always truppet as reasons for the changes. World War Hulk was two years ago, and it is barely remembered outside of people that read the Hulk, who only look to it for a time before Loeb took the title in a completely different direction that ignored everything that came before.
I believe that one Civil War or Secret Invasion-like event every two or three years is a happy medium that most fans will agree with yet still frequent enough to drive in new readers and reinvigorate certain titles when needed. In between these events, Marvel can still have "mini-events" between two or three titles, such as upcoming Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men crossover or what they are doing with Messiah War over in Cable and X-Force.
There were many comments that I did not get to use for the article, but it was overwhelmingly obvious that events were the main issue that people have with Marvel presently. I know some people dismiss the "event fatigue" as something not to take seriously, but what I saw while preparing this article goes against any such dismissal. Marvel should definitely dial down the events or risk losing readers in the long term.
What Is Marvel Doing Wrong?
One of the most common comments that I got when I posed the question, "What do you think Marvel is doing wrong?", was that being a business and their sales numbers was no excuse for some of Marvel's actions, and I would have to respectfully disagree. I am not saying that anything that sells well is good, but it is in everyone's nature to complain about something that they have bought and do not like.
Something that we should always keep in mind, however, is that we may no longer be the target demographic of certain comics: I, for example, have stopped buying Spider-Man comics because I recognize that that particular comic is not aimed at me anymore. Additionally, most online complaints seem to be aimed at popular, high selling titles, creators or characters, which I find to be rather interesting.
The reason I specifically asked to keep in mind the business aspect of Marvel is because that was what I wanted to focus on, much like Kirk's What Is DC Doing Wrong? series of posts. My concerns (and those of readers) wass for that of Marvel's future despite their current success. Some of Marvel's practices, whether it is the lack of imprints, their big events, or certain business methods, could potentially cause them harm in the long run, both to themselves and to the industry in general. That is what I wanted to highlight and to open a discussion about because, despite whatever personal feeling you have about Marvel or their comics and whether or not you read a whole lot of Marvel comics, I think we can all agree that no one wishes Marvel to collapse in on itself like it almost did in the mid-to-late 90's.
Despite some of my concerns, I still think Marvel is doing great and I read more Marvel titles than anything else. For all that I have written about and discussed about what I think Marvel is doing wrong, there's no denying that they are doing a great deal of things right that I feel are worth mentioning again: Marvel fosters more new talent, Marvel is more visible and reader-friendly to new customers, Marvel uses new technology to their fullest, and Marvel produces some great comics that will definitely be remembered for years to come.
It was refreshing to hear that some people share my concerns and I hope that I have provided enough constructive criticism to avoid coming off as just a raving fanboy crying out at a company. I hope to hear if you, the readers, agree with what I think Marvel is doing wrong. And if you disagree, I still want to hear all about it is you think I missed or got wrong, so feel free to comment below.