Monday, April 13, 2015

Cartoons Part Of The MCU?

At Emerald City Comic Con, Marvel VP of Animation Production and Development Cort Lane was aked if there might ever be an animated project from Marvel that is part of the Cinematic Universe.  His response was “I can’t announce anything, but things are in the works”.  This statement fills me with a sense of foreboding.  Let me explain why.

I have loved comics since I was a kid.  I remember reading Spiderman and Batman, I loved Superman and Captain America.  I remember getting so excited when the Transformers and G.I. Joe crossed over in a limited series of comics.  And while I read DC (DC and Marvel were really the only two players at the time, especially for kids) I have always been more of a Marvel fanboy.  For the past several years though, I have not been buying or reading comics from wither company.  I either re-read my old issues, or I look for books from independent companies.
Why?  It is not because I outgrew these stories or characters.  I did not suddenly become some sort of hipster who was too cool to read mainstream comics.  The answer is pretty simple.  The companies became so focused on expanding their brand that they for two very important things.  The first is that their customers have limited time and money to spend consuming their product.  The second is that they have to focus on the quality of their product or no one will want it anyway, no matter how loyal they are.

Let’s look at one of my favorite books, The Avengers, as an example.    They were in the middle of a story arc.  I don’t even remember what the arc  was; it wasn’t that great.  It had something to do with a new Captain Britain.  Then that arc was suddenly over before it really felt concluded, and they were doing Avengers Disassembled.  I was mildly irritated that they would just switch gears like that before bringing the original story to a satisfying conclusion.  But like I said, I was not enjoying the first story that much and this new one seemed much more exciting.  Then I found out the new story was setting up the major crossover event House of M.  Then I was a little more irritated.  They broke of the story they were telling just to do a prequel for a crossover?  Well at least once the crossover is done things will get back to normal and they can finish telling the interrupted story.

Then Avengers Disassembled ended without an ending, not surprising since it was just setting up House of M.  Still it was irritating.  This is a book that I had a subscription to.  I had a few well chosen books that I bought every month, and my budget did not allow for buying more than that.  So I could not afford to get the House of M miniseries to complete the story.  I definitely could not afford to buy every title that Marvel was publishing at the time, which was the only way to get the complete story and not be left wondering what the heck people were talking about when they referenced events that took place in another book. 

Then House of M thankfully came to an end.   Even though the Avengers had dissolved, I expected some of the original story threads that had been left hanging to be picked back up and resolved.  Instead, they were all ignored, and they had the jailbreak that led to the New Avengers being formed.  The New Avengers included Spiderman and Wolverine on the team.  Spiderman and Wolverine were already popular characters whose books I was reading.  Part of the appeal of the Avengers was that I could read stories about characters like Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, all of whom I liked but I could not afford to buy their individual books.  But now that the Avengers  consisted of the same characters whose books I was already reading, the case for buying that book was weaker.  And those characters being in the Avengers made for complications in the stories in the solo books, i.e. having to explain why the rest of the Avengers never showed up to help Spidey out or how he could be here dealing with Norman Osborne when he was over there helping the Avengers.

What it all boiled down to was that the quality of the books suffered, coupled with the never ending major crossover events that I did not have the budget to follow.  This drove me away from Marvel comics.  DC did the same thing beginning with Identity Crisis.  I was really enjoying the (I soon learned last) run of Green Lantern with Kyle Rayner wielding the ring.  Then, big crossover event that I couldn’t afford to follow and suddenly Hal Jordan is back as the Lantern.  It was very confusing.

So both companies used mega crossover events in an effort to force readers to buy all of the books they published, disrupting ongoing stories that they never got around to finishing.  The end result, for me at least, is that it drove me away from reading comics.

Which brings me back to the idea of animated works being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Knowing how these companies operate makes me suspicious that this same pattern of behavior will repeat itself here.  Even if the animated shows show for free on a platform that I already subscribe to, I only have so much time to devote to this stuff.  They also run the risk of getting into continuity muddles they was they did in the comics.  That is why DC is constantly rebooting its comics universe, and Marvel has done a lot of more focused, limited resets on characters. 

If Marvel want to make animated features or shows, by all means they should do so.  But keep them separate from the movies and live actions shows.  Don’t dilute the brand by over extending it.  Part of the reason I enjoy the MCU so much is that it tells stories of my favorite characters without all the clutter that comes these days with reading the comics.  They stand to lose that if they follow the same strategy that they did with the comics.    

photo credit: <a href="">Universal Iron Man</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

You can find me on Facebook under the name Geekboy King and on Twitter @geekboyking.

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