Thursday, June 4, 2009

Marvel and their love of, shall we say "gimmicks"

You know, my last post got me thinking. Thinking about how much Marvel absolutely loves to jump onto various gimmicks. I know, I know, DC is just as bad, as is just about every other publisher in the market, at times, but Marvel seems to really be using the same shtick over and over. Characters we've known and loved for years get re-envisioned, as girls time and time again.
I'm all for NEW strong female characters in the super-hero segment of the market, but sometimes it feels like a novelty for novelty's sake. So, the new Bucky could well be a girl. At least Brubaker is writing this one, if ANYONE can make it work and not come off like a gimmick it's him. So, there's that. But just look at the list of various characters that have become chicks over the last few years in the Marvel U. Black Panther is the first to jump to mind. I don't really understand WHY this had to happen. Black Panther was doing just fine, his book was selling relatively well, and had a decent fan base. Why does the character suddenly have to be female? How about coming up with some ALL NEW female characters or better yet, spend some time and effort developing the female characters they already have in the Marvel U. There have been a few attempts at that here and there over the years, but that just can't seem to make it stick. Very disheartening. How about hiring more female writers to write these female characters? Again, it has happened a bit here and there, most notably Kathryn Immonen has been awarded with a number of writing gigs recently at Marvel. Kudos to her, but I would like to see a bigger female presence at Marvel, at at DC too. There are plenty of women working behind the scenes for comics, many many editors are female, there are a few artists here and there, but let's get MORE women writing female characters. This is not a new complaints, this idea has been batted around a million times, and it does happen occasionally, look at Gail Simone on Wonder Woman, but I want MORE! I would like to see a woman writing Supergirl, and maybe Gotham City Sirens. Nothing against the present writers, they are actually doing a fine job with their female protagonists, but I'd rather see the novelty of more female writers than the novelty of turning various characters into female versions. Anyone remember the female Ultimate Vision character from a few years ago? Or how about X-23. Did we really need Wolverine to have a daughter? Or for that matter, now a son? Then there was that female Scorpian character from a few years back. I don't mind characters like the American Dream or Spidergirl. They have their own mythologies, and to be quite frank, especially when we are talking about Spidergirl, her book has been going for many years in various incarnations. Congrats to Tom, Ron, and Sal for that. Spidergirl can now be read online at and collected at a later date in Amazing Spiderman Family, fyi.
The other notable gimmick that Marvel seems to be using IMO is the word "Dark". Let's see, "Dark Avengers" ok, neat idea, I was on board for that one. "Dark X-Men" and "Dark Wolverine" did we REALLY need these two books? And let's not forget the tag line "Dark Reign" on half of the books that ship from Marvel. I just think a little goes a long way.

So in summation. I'm sick of Marvel's gimmick of turning established characters into female or creating a new female counterpart. I also think the word "Dark" is being a tad bit overused, but that could just be me.


  1. I do agree that Marvel's reliance on gimmicks is killing me. Every time they start the hype machine to roll out one of their "big announcements" I just try to look away because this reader has just been burned too many times before. It's no wonder that I'm only reading Marvel books that exist at the fringes of their continuity (except for Cap, that is).

    I do agree that they need to try to get more female characters and writers in the mix, especially ones that are not simply female versions of current heroes, or new versions of female versions (New She-Hulk, I'm looking at you). Though I did like the new Scorpion they rolled out a few years ago, who naturally was wished out to the cornfield as quickly as she showed up.

    The female Bucky that's been glimpsed scares me, since she's identical to the Bucky from Heroes Reborn...and we do not need tha tto be revisited again. I love Brubaker and he's great an all, but,

    Anyway, keep up the good work Lori!

  2. I like to stay as far away from the gimmick frosted Marvel books as much as possible, even the more interesting ideas always seem to end in a disappointing mess that doesn't live up even halfway to the hype. I've also noticed Marvel likes to kill off a major character about once per year. We all know these gimmicks sell books, but the stories suck, and tie in to all the books we actually do enjoy. Agents of Atlas Dark Reign began with the premiere issue and went on for 5 months. Next we may get 5 issues of "War of Kings".

    I don't get the female version hero thing either. Sex change is almost as inevitable as death with Marvel. I thought the decision to make Loki female in the new Thor was very odd but the stories explanation is pretty interesting. Why create a female Black Panther and throw away the Wasp or dozens of other great female characters? Marvel seems obsessed with all that is new and different (but really same). I'd like to see more female characters in prominent roles (heroic or non-powered) and I'm saddened to see so many disappear.

    I'm all for more female writers, but I'm not necessarily convinced they can write for a female character any better than a male writer, at least in the realm of comics. I think it's great to see Gail Simone writing Wonder Woman, but it's still not the best the book has been. Perhaps the sex of the writer should be irrelevant. A good writer should be able to write equally well for characters of both sexes. Example S.E Hinton's "The Outsiders" is a classic novel about teenage boys. Could a man have written the story better?

    A lot of the female comic book characters were created by men for a male dominated audience, and to an extent are mostly adolescent male fantasies. It's changing slowly, and thats good but I don't think we're there yet. However, there is no doubt that these characters have made an impact on female readers, although they were mostly written by men for boys. Even still, I would have to say, changing attitudes of male writers and new female writers are bringing us better stories. I have no problem with Gail Simone writing Superman or say Palmiotti writing Powergirl. If female writers can write them better that's great, but it's not a given. What really matters is that thankfully the days when Sue Storm cowered behind Reed and Ben are over.

  3. Nope, you're not the only one who feels this way, Lori. This is only one of several reasons why I haven't bought a Marvel comic book in quite a few years. The whole Civil War mess really lost me. Yuck.

  4. Regarding gimmickery:

    I've always been convinced that good stories are the best gimmick you can use to tout a book's strengths.

    I understand that sometimes a title has to be hyped in order to get people to buy it. I am also enough of a cynic to know when a company is pimping something just to get that quick cash infusion, after which they couldn't care less what happens to the book/books in question.

    For example, I remain firmly convinced that Marvel knew, from the very beginning, that the whole 'Heroes Reborn' debacle was doomed from the outset, but because it sold some books early on they were content with what they got out of it and were perfectly fine with letting it die out.

    I am also 99.9% againsts killing characters and/or replacing them with another person because for the most part I just don't accept the fact that a character has outlived their usefulness and must be murdered in order to be replaced. I think good writers these days know that killing a character (unless it's the starting part of a 'slow burn arc' designed to eventually bring the character back in spectacular fashion, a la the current Cap goings on) is lame and it takes far more talent to write compelling stories with that character that will excite the fan base.

    Grant Morrison did it flawlessly with Superman All Stars, and we all know Superman is a VERY difficult character to effectively write good stories about because he can do everything and hs only one weakness.

    To this day, Dark Phoenix remains my only exception to the rule of (no deaths), and hell they eventually brought her back so she could fall in love with Wolverine because it wasn't enough for Marvel that Wolvie usurp Cyclops' place as the most important X-man. He might as well steal his motorcycyle and girlfriend, too.

    Regarding well written female characters:

    As for female characters being effectively handled, I think the problem is as Terry said: these characters were created by male writers to appeal to the adolescent male power fantasy. There have been a few great examples of female characters in comics over the years, most notably John Byrne's version of She-Hulk and the Invisible Woman, Neil Gaiman's Death and Matt Wagner's Christine Sparr. There are probably some others, but for the most part they're just there to have perfect bodies, big boobs, tittilate and ultimately annoy.

    There was a recent issue of Hulk where all of these girl super heroes came together to beat up 'Rulk', and while he was pretending to be knocked out, they started talking about 'girlie things.' I didn't really think this was funny, but kinda degrading and insulting. So what you're telling me is that females can't ever be as focused or business minded as their male counterparts? At some point, they're ALWAYS going to talk about boys, share make-up tips and be generally flighty? I liked the story, and I understand it's supposed to be a tongue in cheek situation but I just feel you don't need to destroy the mystique of the characters in a supposedly 'canon' book in order to write an amusing story.

    I think the trick with female characters is in illustrating that their bugaboos are the same for them as a male character's foibles are to them. The problems, obstacles and hangups that women face on a daily basis affect them just as much (if not moreso in this male dominated society) as the issues that men have affect them. The writer that does THAT and pulls it off amicably is the writer I want to see writing female characters in comics.

    Sorry this response was so long. It made me think, what can I say?