by Nevs Coleman

Marvel Craps Out.

I’ll be straight with you from the off: I don’t like Marvel.

Not in a fratboy ‘Oh their comics suck, DC are waaay better,  Nightwing ROOLZ!’ way, but genuinely, I feel they’ve done so many things bordering on the obscene that I am simply not comfortable buying their product and supporting them as a business any more. I’m not perfect, I’ve faltered on a few things in the last couple of years like Kick-Ass, Spider-Man:Fever, Captain America: Who Won’t Wear The Shield, Strange Tales and The Fin Fang Foom special, but I try, where I can, to buy them second-hand so I’m not encouraging retailers to order more of their product.

Apparently people don’t understand why I’d have such a problem with them. Okay, short list: their treatment of Jack Kirby,, Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore, Dez Skinn and even Smilin’ Stan Lee (although I’m sure you can come up with your own examples as well) has been terrible, and somewhat hypocritical from people who publish superhero comics. This continued abuse of employees finally culminated in the exodus of 7 of their top artists in the early 90’s.

I am, of course, talking about Image Comics. I’m still not quite sure if the formation of Image was the worst or the best thing to happen to the Western comics market in the last 25 years. On the one hand, there are now a lot more options available to you as a creator than there were pre-Image. Page rates are way up and creator rights are far more negotiable than ‘If we publish this, we own it, forever’. The people who create the comics are far more recognised than they ever have been, which is how it should be. Whatever anyone tries to tell you, it is the efforts of the people who create the comic that makes it ‘good’, not that the comic features Spider-Man or Batman.

On the other, Image was such a mess when they started out I’m still surprised that there even is a comic industry to speak of. Late books, substandard work, comics launched and then cancelled. The shameless pandering to the poisonous speculator market. The resulting kerfuffle killed many, many shops across America and the UK. Marvel’s reaction to seeing their top talent leave en mass and out-sell them was to ‘spike’ their books. As many titles as possible were released, stupid gimmick expensive covers, huge events that would ‘change the status quo forever’ like members of The FF leaving, Cap dying, too many Spidey/X-books, anniversary issues that were pumped out as fast as possible by people who, diplomatically, weren’t ready to be working on Marvel’s top-tier titles.

When none of this worked, Marvel decided to go into the distribution business. With disastrous results. Not only did they not know what they were doing, but it ended up putting Capital Comics out of business (Diamond’s rivals at the time) and allowed Diamond to sign up everyone else up to exclusive deals. When Marvel’s attempt to subvert the distribution business failed, they went hat in hand back to Diamond, filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy not long after. So if you ever wonder why the dollar to pound rate your comic shop charges seems to bear no relation to financial reality, it’s because Diamond can charge what they like. Because Marvel fucked up.

Now, of, course, it can be fairly said that none of these cock-ups/acts of malice can be laid at the current administration’s feet. These were decisions made before they took over. They’re still benefiting from them, though. Apparently they have tried to make peace with Alan Moore. Still, it’s been well over a year since they announced the return of Marvelman at San Diego 2009. Surely all that hype wasn’t for a bunch of Mick Anglo reprints, was it? It can be said that stupid gimmick expensive covers, and huge events that would ‘change the status quo forever’  seem to be happening again though.  In fact, let’s talk about Spidey for a little bit.

The disgusting transformation of Peter Parker and Mary Jane into a pair of whining losers who would rather make a deal with Mephisto than actually deal with reality was my last straw. The powers that be at Marvel didn’t want their top character to be a divorcee, because that would be worse than surrendering to one of the most evil forces in the Marvel pantheon, wouldn’t it? Marvel cancelled the two auxiliary Spidey books, saying that Amazing Spidey would be put out three times an a month to make up the numbers (thus ensuing you had to buy all three issues a month to make sense of what you were reading. Which is…sort of fine). Except then the cheeky blighters started knocking out Spider-Man Family. And Web Of Spider-man. Oh, and Peter Parker. And any number of mini-series. And Annuals. It’s down to only two issues of Amazing a month now. Thanks.

So, jacked up prices, unnecessary crossovers, ‘special’ issues with nearly half the issue being reprint material, the lovely new Two-For-One practice where a long running comic has its lead character booted off the title, only for said lead to then be launched in their own separate book (See: Incredible Hulk becoming Incredible Hercules + Hulk and Captain America/Steve Rogers becoming Captain America/Bucky Barnes +  Steve Rogers+ Super-Soldier). The sacrifice of storytelling to justify any number of double page spreads/pin ups/the requirement of yet more comics to actually finish the tale being told. Not actually telling retailers that Captain America would die in Cap 25 while securing news time on the mass media so we couldn’t order enough copies to meet the demand until a week later when the hype had passed. Me and Marvel: Done.

Now, on the whole, I’m alright with that. I’m sure the guys at Marvel aren’t really too bothered by the £20 or so a year I would have spent on their product one way or the other.

Until I saw this ad when I popped open my Facebook account a few days ago.

Yes, that really is what you think it is. No, it’s not a hoax.

Now, I think there’s an…acceptable way you can trade on your character’s likeness (if you think making toys out of plastic, a by-product of oil that thousands of people have died for is an acceptable use of the resource, I guess. Good to know the people of Afghanistan died for a few more variant Wolverine figures). It’s alright for, say, to have Hopey and Maggie from Love and Rockets tied in with The Suicide Girls. That’s an adult comic tying in with a website for adults. Using Mickey Mouse to shill whiskey or Dennis The Menace to flog cigarettes would be outside the line, I think. There are some products that just shouldn’t be marketed to children until they understand what they’re getting into.

You can see what I’m getting at, here. Whatever the current administration at Marvel want to believe, Spider-Man, The X-Men are kid’s characters first and foremost. The main reason that sales of their comics have declined steadily since in the 70’s is that their output worked previously on two levels, adventure for the kids and social commentary for the adults. Now there are so many scenes of people arguing in offices and endless convolution that even seasoned fans like me can’t pick up a random issue and work out what’s going, they only work on one level.  If the Hulk and such are now adult fiction, then they shouldn’t be used to sell toothbrushes, boxer shorts, sweets and the like.

In any event, people don’t understand the damage gambling actually does to people. Yes, there are people who can just have a flutter. Spend a tenner on The Grand National and think nothing of it if they don’t win. For quite a few more, it’s spending the child benefit, stealing to feed the addiction, being barred from one Ladbrokes to another, it’s kids left at home to fend for themselves while their parents feed pound coin after pound coin into slots and fruit machines, it’s broken legs after borrowing money that can’t be paid from loan sharks, it’s an addiction that is never cured, only ignored for a while. It’s Pamela Anderson marrying Rick Saloman after losing too much money at online poker to pay it back. If you think I’m overstating my point, try going along to a Gambling support group sometime.

This is the effect gambling has on adults. People who ought to know what they’re doing.

Do we really want to lure kids into it as well?

Help for those with Gambling Addiction HERE.


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