Tuesday, December 13, 2011

C'mon Marvel, pick something and stick with it.

Back in the fast-paced 90's, Marvel developed a marketing strategy that nearly put them out of business. They relied on short-term flashiness, like crossovers and shiny covers with metallic ink to attract buyers, and wound up with a lot of product nobody wanted. Now they're doing it again.

Case in Point: there used to be a series called Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins, a spinoff from Avengers storylines concerning the dreaded return of the Elder god Chthon. Chthon wrote the Darkhold book himself, infusing the pages with all sorts of nasty evilness designed to corrupt and destroy mankind so that he could return to a nice homey apocalyptic world. He must not have used the right glue to bind the pages together, as they got lost and scattered. A mysterious demented dwarf came into possession of some of the pages, and started passing them around like candy to unsuspecting marks. They read the sinister scripture, thinking their dreams would come true, but of course they don't. They turn to soul-destroying shit.

Enter the Darkhold Redeemers. Victoria Montesi is the reluctant descendant of a long line of Darkhold guardians. She is given the task to recover the pages, and receives help from occult expert Louise Hastings, Interpol agent Sam Buchanan, and Mordred the Mystic. The series used similar formulas to the Friday the 13th and Warehouse 13 TV series, where occult investigators recover bad mojo that drives people insanely and murderously evil, and lock it safely away to never trouble mankind again. The occult was big at the time, as DC had Sandman, Swamp Thing and Hellblazer flying off the shelves.

So, how did Marvel screw it up? They made it crossover central, guest starring the Midnight Sons, Ghost Rider wannabes who rode demonic motorcycles with lots of skulls and sulfurous flames of hell spouting out of their exhaust pipes. Doctor Strange also crossed over, as well as Punisher and any other oh-so-hard-edged "dark" trope they could push down readers' throats.

As the Darkhold Redeemers were being overshadowed by these frequent guest stars, Marvel obviously decided the real stars of the series weren't enough of a sell. So, they killed off the dumpy professor, made Victoria a lesbian, and transformed Buchanan from a middle-aged pot bellied detective to a steroid muscle monster with BFGs. (Big Fucking Guns) Those short-term solutions didn't work of course, and the book died a quiet death.

Nowadays, it's Thor that's getting the constant redesigns. Again, Marvel thinks the way to sell the book is to introduce major Earth-shattering events during every story arc, totally scrap any continuity they've established, and bait potential new readers into buying flashy shiny crap.

To wit: Thor rebuilds Asgard. Asgard gets destroyed. It gets rebuilt. It gets destroyed again, and gets rebuilt, only this time it's now a multi-cultural commune overlooked by three goddesses.

Odin had been exiled to eternal battle with Surtur. Thor brings him back. Odin takes over Asgard, acting like Odin always does, bellowing "Never question me" at the Asgardians, and Thor gets pissed. Odin fights Galactus over a seed, then goes back into exile. Oh yes, Galactus lets Silver Surfer go and replaces him with a small-town preacher. Isn't that just so monumental and earth-shattering? I bet they kill off the new herald before New Year's.

Loki comes back as a woman when Thor rebuilds Asgard the first time. Then he becomes a man again. Then he becomes a child and is spun off into another series. He is barely given any time to establish an identity before the MONUMENTAL EARTH-SHATTERING MARVEL ROD changes everything.

Oh yes, Thor dies off-screen, Beta Ray Bill's cousin takes his place, and now Thor's a child trying to escape the afterlife.

Marvel can't be bothered with developing personalities. They'd rather change environments instead, because they can market it as monumental, rules-breaking, unconventional shit that nobody else dares to do. That drove them nearly bankrupt before, but apparently they haven't learned their lesson. As the Thing used to say, "What a revoltin' development!" Thing knows. Thing knows.

1 comment:

  1. Dont beat around the bush, say whats on your mind.. I've kinda given up on new comics for the exact reasons you mention. That and chase covers. I hate those things.