Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Not All Followers Are True Believers

There were some interesting thoughts expressed by writer Kelley Sue DeConnick in a recent Time magazine article on the Captain Marvel movie to be released in 2017, as well as observations by the article's writer on the efforts to throw the theatrical spotlight on female characters such as Carol Danvers, Wonder Woman and the Black Widow. When reading such articles and interviews with Marvel staff, you sometimes get a sense of their occasional tug-of-war with what's become a sometime-thorn in Marvel's side: social media, which of course offer near-instantaneous reaction to Marvel's announcements of its plans for its characters, reaction which at times may be negative and go on to play out more publicly in other news media. Marvel, a business entity, can't afford to be seen bowing to public opinion on how to treat its characters, and thus naturally pushes full speed ahead, tactfully brushing off whatever criticism flares up.

For Marvel Studios, that kind of disdainful response comes a lot easier--you certainly can't argue with success, and Marvel's film productions are raking in the cash and then some. Yet Marvel Comics seems to be finding its own efforts to veer away from past standards and develop new directions for its characters a more difficult hurdle to clear than its theatrical sister which has mostly made adaptations of existing characters rather than radically altering them. And so reading between the lines of these interviews can often raise an eyebrow, as the company's slights toward social media reaction (often denounced as "nerd rage") become more apparent.

"The usual suspects get very angry, and they’re certain Marvel is ruined forever, and then everyone forgets about it and we just keep going. It’s been the same way for 75 years." - Former Editor and now VP for Marvel Animation Steve Wacker

"I can say unequivocally that there’s no amount of negative feedback we could get right now out the gate that would stop us from publishing this story because we think it’s worth publishing. And that’s that." - Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso (on the Thor character being changed to a woman)

Subtle. And leaving little doubt as to the target audience.

As for the reaction to Marvel's variant cover by Milo Manara of Spider-Woman #1, the company declined to comment in regard to Jessica Drew's questionable pose. I don't know how many spider-characters feel compelled to hoist their butt into the air once they've reached the top of a building--if they're crouching because their spider-sense is detecting a sniper, are they hoping to distract the shooter with an erotic pose?

Now that Marvel's readers are no longer limited to the carefully controlled pick-and-choose format of the comic book letters page, it remains to be seen whether the company will be able to transfer the adeptness and customer-friendly feel it was able to demonstrate in that forum in prior decades to an online medium where thousands upon thousands of readers need no longer roll the dice with a mailed letter. Outlets like Twitter are something of a two-edged sword--a corporate presence can benefit from the exposure while its customers benefit from an open-door policy, yet those customers won't necessarily be all smiles and appreciative, nor is it always possible for the welcoming host to turn a deaf ear to criticism. Even silence tends to speak volumes.


Kid said...

All that detail in the body, very little in the face - bit of a give away.

Anonymous said...

I think I have stated this here before but I do think it bears repeating.

In 2010, Marvel Studios launched a new Avengers cartoon series. They started it on the internet with small stories that featured Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Ant-Man/Giant Man and the Wasp. Folded in Hawkeye, the Black Widow, The Black Panther, SHIELD and a WWII Captain America. By time it got to TV, the first episode was Earth's Mightiest Heroes banding together to face a menace only they could, uh, face.

The series was really, and I do mean REALLY, good. I liked it. It was smart, funny and very much the old stories come to life. And then........THE MOVIE JUST BLEW UP. In a big way. So they scrubbed that series and came out with Avengers Assemble. Which is just not what Earth's Mightiest Heroes was. But AA works really hard to bring kids into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And I just weep.

The Prowler (They don't write 'em like that anymore, They just don't write 'em like that anymore).

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