Monday, January 29, 2007

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

First, did you all check out Milo George's Civil War commentary? I don't expect you did, which is why I'm including the link.

Anyway, I feel compelled to mention the whole Captain Marvel business... because really, this is something you couldn't make up. Literally, it is impossible for me to imagine a more left-field "revelation" for Marvel to tote out at the bottom of the 9th of their big crossover spectacular - such an important revelation that it isn't even mentioned in the core title! (Or, at least, not with six out of seven issues in the can - and I don't think they're going to have a lot of room left over for ol' Cap in issue 7 either.) It's fun to watch Marvel these days, because it seems as if they are making the majority of their editorial decisions with a dartboard - DC's decisions, while perhaps just as bad in some instances, at least have some grounding in previously established stories, however tentatively or selectively. Marvel, it seems, is just making it up as they go along: hey, let's make Speedball into an S&M hero. Hey, let's make Iron Man into a super-villain. Hey, let's bring back Captain fucking Marvel!

I could beat on Marvel all day, and while that would be fun it would also not be that original or satisfying. What is fascinating to me is why they chose to do this - what profit they saw to be made from bringing back a character who has been dead for twenty five years. At the end of the day, I am still just flabbergasted - literally floored - by the decision-making process here, or lack thereof. Captain Marvel is famous for one thing: dying. His books never sold particularly well. He was never, with the exception of a handful of cosmic storylines, that big of a player, and after his death his position in the cosmic corner of the Marvel U was successfully occupied by both Adam Warlock and, later, his own son. No one was clamoring for Mar-Vell to return. No one. It's one thing to be shocking and unpredictable, it's another to just sort of pull stuff out of your ass. And this definitely qualifies as pulling something out of one's ass.

I know I'm not the only person to be harping on this, but still, it really is sticking in my head. As a creative decision, it makes no sense. As a business decision, it makes less sense, because you can conceivably get more mileage out of Captain Marvel as a legitimately dead hero than as a live one. Dead, he was a spur for any number of characters, concepts and potential spin-offs. Alive, he's just another schmuck who gets canceled in a year, 18 months tops. (As much as some may have bitched, you can't really make this argument for Bucky - his death was so distant in fanboy memory it didn't have any currency, so bringing him back was the most legitimately interesting thing you could do with the character.) Dead, Captain Marvel was unique - the only super-hero to die, and stay dead, from cancer. Alive, he's a carbon-copy of at least half-a-dozen characters I can think of, off the top of my head.

It's not as if Mar-Vell was some sort of sacred cow. It's just that very few people currently reading comics care about the character in any way. Hell, there are probably as many people reading comics who care more about Mar-Vell's son being canceled and killed as his father. I am old enough to remember Mar-Vell, and I just don't care - perhaps I'm not the target audience, but still.

The weirdest part here is just how far Marvel seems to have gone in order to stymie reader expectations. When the book was originally solicited, it didn't obviously say who was coming back, but it teased that it would be the return of a long-standing character who'd been gone for a while. Everyone automatically assumed they were talking about Thor - a character whose return would actually, you know, make sense given the context. So I guess from that perspective, the Captain Mar-Vell revelation was pretty good, in terms of surprising the readers. But in terms of it actually being something that people wanted to see? Um, no. I don't even read any Marvel books regularly, and this is incredibly weird. Imagine if you're actually reading and following Marvel and the Civil War books - this must seem like nothing short of a third-degree Indian burn.

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