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Subj: My Ideal Marvel....
Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 10:21:22 am EDT
Reply Subj: What would your ideal Marvel be?
Posted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 at 01:15:59 am EDT

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We've all been critical of Joe Q, Bendis, JMS, and the like (and I'm no less guilty, I admit), but the thing is about criticism is that sometimes critics ought to put up or shut up.

So, if you were running Marvel, how would you run things? Bear in mind that this is ideal, and doesn't necessarily reflect the realities of the comics industry-I suppose it's as much about your ideal MU as anything else.

As for the way I'd handle it...

1) Decentralized storytelling. Characters don't need to continually guest star in each others' titles. If the writer on Spider-Man wants to keep Peter in the Spider-Ghetto, focussing only on Peter Parker and his supporting cast, he's free to do so. If a writer doesn't want the Avengers ever dealing with the X-Men, fine. If the Hulk never crosses paths with Wolverine as long as the writer doesn't want it, great.

Bear in mind, of course, that this only applies to certain characters, most notably the ones with titles. Iron Man may never interact with the Black Panther, but they can both be struggling against A.I.M., for example. Many of the familiar traits of the Marvel Universe-things like Vibranium, SHIELD, Atlantis, gamma radiation, the Mindscape, etc., would all be freely available for use, which shows that, even though there isn't always a plethora of guest stars and crossovers, there's still a lot of common ground. Someone like the Kingpin or the Red Skull, since they're not the focus of an ongoing title, could just as easily be used by different writers without difficulty. Kingpin might have some intrigues going against Daredevil at the very same time he's manipulating Sleepwalker to do something else.

In a nutshell, it basically means to keep the guest appearances and mega-crossovers at a minimum, and let writers decide if they want their characters to team up, fight, or whatever. In Lorendiac's Superhero Writings, Continuity of Isolation would be important, although writers could just as easily have their characters team up or whatever if they agreed on it beforehand.

2) Hands-off editorial control: What this means, basically, is few if any editorial mandated mega-events. Storylines like Maxmimum Carnage and Civil War probably wouldn't happen much if at all, going for things that have a more limited impact, like Acts of Vengeance. Inferno wouldn't require that Spider-Man put his monthly thrashing of Green Goblin on hold just so he can fight demons, for example.

Editorial would only intervene if writers were doing things that would drastically alter the very concept or nature of the character, or if it was so grossly out of character that it all but amounts to self-destruction. I've made it pretty clear over at the spider-forums what I'd put the brakes on, so I won't repeat it here. Another example would be, for instance, turning Hank Pym into a wife-beater; that would never happen on my watch. Lorendiac identifies this as Continuity of Theme or Tone.

I freely admit I'd also put the kibosh on anything that seems too Women-in-Refrigerators.

3) Organic storytelling, both in individual books and as a whole: Something like Civil War would only occur if the line as a whole was in some sort of serious trouble, or if the whole thing was stagnant. Smaller-scale events can happen all the time, of course, but these should be things that only affect a specific title or series of titles, instead of affecting the whole universe, as House of M and Civil War have done.

Same thing for individual stories-let the characters develop more slowly and gradually, instead of injecting all these radical changes one after another. The Spider-Marriage was built up over a few years, and when it finally happened, it was a natural outcome. Jim Rhodes had been developed for years in the Iron Man series, and so when Tony Stark took a hiatus to deal with his alcoholism, it was only natural that Rhodey would fill in for him until he got his head together, and could otherwise pinch-hit in the armor when necessary, such as if Iron Man and Stark needed to be seen at the same time. Portal had been shown to be experienced with the Darkhawk armor and his relationship with Chris Powell had been developed from almost the beginning, so when Chris was indisposed, Charles Little Sky could step up to the plate.

Turning Peter Parker into a teacher would be a natural growth of his interest in science and his previous experience-he was a lecturer at ESU-and would offer a way to expand the supporting cast with his students. The Professor Hulk could be seen as a way to help Banner get a grip on his life and the multiple personalities of the Hulk. All these things work out great-unlike some things I'm sure we can all mention.

Well, that would be my ideal version of Marvel. What's yours?

1) Shorter stories (but with continuing subplots)

I'm not saying eliminate the 'writing for the trade' mentality completely. Let's have more 'one-and-done' stories. Save the mega-6 to 12 part stories and write more 3 to 4 issue stories. But do continue suplots that can organically lead into a future story. So many of the 'written for trade' stories seem to exist in a vacuum... nothing of consequence carries over to the next arc.

2) Anthology series that feature both classic writers and current writers producing all-new stories (ie. no reprint material)

My idea for a book like Marvel Comics Presents would feature 4 short stories that would run for about 4 months at a time. 2 classic writers, and 2 more modern writers. Could be either new tales or untold tales.

So the book would feature for example:
Steve Englehart on Captain America
Roger Stern on Spider-Man
Mark Millar on Wolverine
Brian Bendis on Luke Cage

3) The full-scale return of Editor's Notes, Footnotes, and thought balloons.

This is a staple of comics writing, why abandon it?

4) A Good Continuity Cop on staff

I think Tom Brevoort has been better at this in recent years than anyone, but he can't be everywhere at all times can he? Have someone on staff that has a vast knowledge of Marvel from the beginning and let him be continuity editor on every book (or at least have a team that can fulfill this collectively). Seems Marvel has played very loosely with continuity in recent years.

5) The 'Don't slide back into the '90s rule'.

Watch the number of mega-crossovers and seemingly fringe tie-in books. Also cut back on the number of variant covers. Also, I never want to see a chromium or die-cut cover again.

6) Bring back covers that actually pertain to what is contained in the issue.

The vague 'poster' covers are nice on occassion... but lets get back to actual story content on the covers... and bring back the corner character boxes too!

7) Given the choice of delayed books or substitute creative teams, I will take delayed books.

Sorry, I don't want to buy a book that screams 'shameless filler'. Keep the main book goign with the core creative team, I don't mind waiting. But then again, getting enough lead time on a book so enough material is in the can and can come out on time is good too.

8) Stable creative teams (or at least writers) that can last for a few years at a time on the same book.

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