Marvel News & Views: Bagley, Bendis, Quesada, JMS

As mentioned in DCNV week, this two News & Views a week is unsustainable so at some point I will switch to the every other week thing as promised. Please, don’t expect otherwise. For now though, I’m having fun doing both at once so I figure why not keep it up.

This week’s theme, in case you don’t get it on your own, are Spider-Man villains (or anti-heroes) that haven’t yet made it into the movies and, for most, probably never will. But, I still love them.

NEWS TIME!

Bagley Just Can’t Seem to Shake That Rotten Bendis

While it was previously reported that Angel Medina would take over the pencils on Mighty Avengers starting with issue #7, allowing co-writer and penciler Frank Cho to take a break and get ahead on his next arc, that’s not quite the case anymore.

According to Marvel and Mighty Avengers co-writer Brian Bendis, long-time Ultimate Spider-Man artist Mark Bagley will be joining the book as the artist for the arc.

See Bagley succumb to familiarity at Newsarama

While I have been enjoying Sensational Spider-Man, I can’t say that my enjoyment of the book has extended to Medina’s art (he did issues ). It is more of an “in spite of” rather than a “because of” thing. So him not filling in on Mighty Avengers strikes me as a-okay.

Plus, I love me some Bagley so I’m never sad to see his work show up on a book I’m reading.

I couldn’t find any really good “Bagley does the Avengers” art online, so you’ll have to settle for this series of headshots…

…and for the founding Avengers fighting the founding JLAers.

There. That’s sort of good enough, isn’t it?

Powers Increases Its…Umm…Power. Oh, and Price

A change is coming in the world of Brian Bendis and Mike Oeming’s Powers.

The continuing story of Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, he an ex-super powered hero turned cop and she, his partner, hits issue #25 this month at Marvel’s creator-owned ICON imprint, and with the issue, a few things change.

Feel your wallet grow lighter at Newsarama

Everyone seems convinced this is an April Fool’s Joke, but I’m pretty sure that it was on the site on Saturday and then updated on Sunday, thus the April 1st tag. Plus, there’s nothing particularly April Fools-ish about it. Unless someone out there really loves the idea of making a joke about comics increasing their prices and the populace going nuts in response.

Actually, I have to say that (beyond a discussion about the proper use of commas) the feedback thread on this one was surprisingly rational and pleasant. Good for you, Newsarama folk, you prove those naysayers wrong.

As for me, it would be foolish of me to get all high and mighty about this price raise. I like the book and I’m sure I’ll like it the same or more with more story. Besides, I already pay $4 a comic for Tales of the Unexpected and I don’t even like the main story of that book (although I LOVE the backup). So, yeah, even if I could conjure the bluster, I really wouldn’t be fooling anyone, would I?

The Powers Encyclopedia will, no doubt, cost a hell of a lot more than 4 dollars. And I certainly don’t need the thing. But, being honest again, this is just the sort of thing I get weak about. I love Handbook or Secret Files and Origins books. One of my favorite things when I was a kid was taking out these two encyclopedias my library had, one filled with superheroes and the other with supervillains, and reading all about them. I wasn’t even a steady comic reader back then. I think in some ways I’ve always liked them more than comics because I was able to sort of imagine my own stories from their bios. Anyway, that Encyclopedia is thus pretty damn tempting.

Please write me and talk me out of it. I’m sure I won’t buy it anyway, but it will be a lot easier for me if when it comes out I’ve already convinced myself that I don’t want it and that’s why I’m not buying it as I opposed to I want it but I’m being sensible and not paying it. Help me. Please.

It’s Friday and There’s Joe…Is There Something We Should Do?

This week we start to talk about Marvel life AFTER Civil War, Joe is joined by a variety of “guest stars” like Brian Bendis and JMS, and more reader questions, including an apology to one fan, and for another… ummmm, is there an opposite of an apology???

Newsarama talks to Joey Q. This is a new thing, right?

Alright, all you “That isn’t Aunt May’s maiden name!!!!!!!!” folk, there’s your answer. It was a mistake and they owned up to it. Now do you like the Back in Black story?

Not that you have to or anything, it was just that every negative review of the book that I read (full disclosure: I didn’t read the story in Amazing and have no intention to) harps on two factors: Aunt May’s maiden name and the length of time webbing lasts. With both those explained here, does the story work for you? If not, then please, dig deeper in your reviews. It’s fine (great even!) to give negative reviews, but I don’t think it is asking too much for you to back up your dislike of it with something more than a mistaken last name and/or a questionable time period for webbing to last.

And off my soapbox I go.

As for the rest of New Joe Fridays this week? Not much else doing. I did enjoy his refusal to answer that one guy’s question though.

Thor Still Dead? I Say Thee Nay!

His return has been hinted at for months, a bastardized version of him played a supporting role in Civil War, and his fans have been patiently drumming their fingers through it all, waiting and waiting for the real Thor to return to the Marvel Universe.

This summer, the waiting stops, when Marvel launches a new Thor series by J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel. (By the way, if you missed the news earlier this month, JMS’ screenplay, The Changeling will be produced by Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and Clint Eastwood’s Malpaso company, with Eastwood directing, and Angelina Jolie set to star.)

We’ve spoken with the writer previously, but as the launch gets closer, we’re able to get some new information out of him – as well as score some preview pages form the first issue.

Well, there goes Newsarama’s Clor royalties.

Oh, how I long for a Thor book that I’ll enjoy.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my father’s two favorite characters growing up were Green Lantern (Hal Jordan edition) and Thor.

Now, Green Lantern I’ve been able to get into. Although I don’t particularly love the book these days, I’ve read plenty that I have quite liked and some of it involved Hal.

Thor, on the other hand, has more or less escaped me. I enjoyed Simonson’s stuff a good deal, but have to admit that I did find it overly wordy at points. However, with Thor proper, that’s been about as good as it’s gotten for me. I am a huge Beta Ray Bill fan, for some reason, and recently snagged Stormbreaker and read it and liked it quite a bit. However, Oeming’s (the writer of Stormbreaker) Thor found me checking out halfway through the first issue and unable to even sort of care about subsequent installments.

I feel like I should “get” and enjoy Thor as sort of an honoring my father thing, but…I’ve tried and I always come up empty. No doubt just one of the many ways I’ve disappointed my father over the years.

(I kid, I kid. My dad and I get along quite nice. Please hold back on the e-mails of empathy like I got the last time I cracked jokes about my parents referring to me as a mistake.)

Anyway, all of this is a long winded way of saying, “JMS’s Thor? Umm…eh?” (One should picture a handsome almost six foot tall white man with a shaved head saying that statement and shrugging indifferently to get the full effect of what I mean. Did I mention this individual should be handsome? Because, really, that’s key to making the image work for you.)

As far as specifics for the “eh” reaction, here are a few things that contributed.

Donald Blake- This concept was done away with at the start of Simonson’s run. While that always sort of bothered me on an existential level (Did Blake just cease to exist? If so, did Thor have the good sense to alert the good doc’s patients? If not, what the heck happened to ol’ Blake?) you have to admit that the book survived just fine as evidenced by the fact that Simonson’s run is to Thor what Miller is to Daredevil, perhaps even moreso. Thus, this feels like a regression to me and I rarely like those.

Asgard in Middle America- This, on the other hand, I like. Don’t know why, but it makes me chuckle a touch. However, I would’ve gone with somewhere more like Minnesota because it is crawling with Norwegians who’s ancestors would’ve been Thor worshippers. But Oklahoma’s fine.

Art from Coipel- Strong stuff. Something’s a touch off with Thor’s face in the first panel below, but strong overall.

Thor no longer has a Shakespearean flair- Yes, historically, it makes no sense. And? The most glorious thing about Thor is when he says things like, “The Avengers would have a word with thee” or “Have at it!” JMS is right to say a Norse God probably wouldn’t speak in Medieval English (although it begs the question: “And how do we know how a Norse God speaks?”) but he’s wrong to apply it to the comic version of Thor. Or, at least, that’s how I feel.

So, you see? Eh.

When Four Become Five

Before Civil War tore apart the Fantastic Four, before Spider-Man showed his face, before Peter got angry and switched to the black costume — there was peace.

OK, not peace, exactly. Things were pretty crazy, with threats from outer space and underground and every other corner of the globe trying to do what baddies always do: take over the world!

But after a year of Civil War-induced angst and hero-vs.-hero strife, some readers are longing for the good old days.

Fan favorite writer Jeff Parker’s got the answer. In the four-issue mini-series Spider-Man/Fantastic Four , all the troubles of Civil War haven’t occurred yet, and the heroes are teaming up to save the planet from an extra-terrestrial threat that takes the power of five to repel. Debuting in April, the comic will feature art by Mike Wieringo and will even give Spider-Man a chance to be part of the FF team.

We talked to the writer about the series, what readers can expect from the team-up, and checked up on the status of the sleeper hit Agents of Atlas — and where Gorilla Man might show up next.

At least Spidey doesn’t have to wear the bag on his head this time at Newsarama

It looks like it could be fun, but…

I don’t know. I’m just not sure if I’m motivated to pick it up.

I’m totally what’s wrong with fandom, aren’t I?

TIM’S TIRADES

Wizard Ain’t So Bad

I would venture to say that 2006 was perhaps not the easiest year to be Wizard magazine. There were convention problems, there were management turnovers, and there was, of course, attacks from the net. The most well known of these was the Video Blog from Tim Leong of Comic Foundry were he took Wizard to task over one particular article and, through it, the magazine as a whole.

I generally stay out of these fracases because I am well aware of my own biases on the subject. Ben Morse is one of my closest friends from college and he’s a big part of Wizard these days. I’ve met most of the editorial staff at one time or another. I’ve gone out with them. Heck, I’ve even interviewed for positions in the organization twice. So I’m probably not the most objective individual when it comes to Wizard.

On the other hand, I’ve been hearing the same basic set of complaints or “suggestions” for about as long as I’ve read Wizard. They did not particularly ring true for me then, thus I figure, maybe it is not so biased of me to say they don’t ring true now.

Anyway, with the last furor about Wizard having more or less died down, I’ve decided to write about it, and criticisms of it because in this context a.) it should not read like apologism or spin (hopefully) and b.) no one probably cares enough to pay attention to me at this point anyway.

Plus, I love to defend things that no one else ever seems to (see also: me calling hype a good, or at worst, benign thing). I think it is a sickness.

The biggest problem I have about criticisms of Wizard is not actually the criticisms themselves. I don’t think it is invalid in the least to proclaim that you don’t like Wizard because you dislike its humor or you cannot stand its predominant focus on the Big 2. Those are perfectly reasonable ways to feel and act because of those feelings.

It is after that that most critical looks at Wizard start to lose me. The first problem I run into is the disease of all comics fans, they hate something and yet they continue to buy it. I find it very difficult to take your insistence that you dislike everything about Wizard seriously when, at the same time, you buy it month in and month out. By the third month you finished it and proclaimed it unfunny or hype driven or whatever, that should be enough. For many though, it is not. I’m a comic fan, I’ve collected some bad books past their expiration date because there will little pieces of them that I liked but I’ll never quite understand the masochism that leads people month after month to pick up books that they ACTIVELY dislike knowing that they actively dislike them (see also: Starman and Green Arrow. I have much respect for the man and he’s probably twice the writer I am, but man, I’m begging you to let it go).

However, I suppose that is more of a pet peeve so I’ll abandon it for now lest it lead me too far off course.

The second part of Wizard criticism is the suggestions that inevitably follow the “I don’t like Wizard because…” I understand a certain level of commentary on an industry as a whole. I have a great love of newspapers and if you were to get me going, I could go on about how newspapers are killing themselves by going for shorter, more soundbyte driven articles to act more like TV which is a fool’s errand. They should go for longer, more in-depth pieces that TV could never imitate because that will make them unique and that will give people a reason to turn to newspapers in addition to or in place of TV news. If you are TV news on paper but a day later, well that’s not much of a selling point, is it?

However, I’d never specifically say that USA Today should go in this direction. I hate hate hate HATE USA Today and think it is all that’s wrong in print journalism in one tidy package. However, it is also a highly successful endeavor and therefore it would be utterly wrongheaded and idiotic of me to shout to the rafters about how USA Today needs to adopt my beliefs about publishing. The industry should, I believe (because I am a genius), but USA Today is clearly successful in the niche it has dug out and far be it for me to demand they change it all just because I don’t like it. Instead, I just don’t buy the thing. Wizard critics, however, always seem to carry with them a list of demands. It sort of baffles me.

Part of the problem with the “ways to improve Wizard Magazine” is that they often start with a disconnect from what the reality of Wizard is. For ease of reading, I’ll tackle the most common “criticisms/prescriptions for redemption” below in a numbered list.

1.) Wizard does not represent comics as a whole well/Less Big 2, more indie stuff- The criticism is more or less true. Wizard does not stray much beyond the Big 2 for their articles and I cannot remember the last time a drawing cover (as opposed to the photo ones) depicted a non-Big 2 character. If you are not a predominantly Big 2 fan, I get why you would not care for this.

However, this is Wizard’s bread and butter. By now, you know this; Wizard writes about Marvel and DC and throws a bone in the form of one column a month to a smaller press book, a top 5 countdown, and the occasional article to the indie side of things. Asking/demanding that Wizard do more indie stuff is, in essence, asking Wizard to abandon its heretofore successful approach to publishing. Could they? Sure. But why? It’s akin to demanding a hunting magazine that focuses on gun use to do more pieces on crossbows. Sure they are related, but this magazine has carved out its spot by focusing on a specific aspect of the field they cover. Your dislike of the aspect that they are focusing on holds very little water.

Also, they chose to the two biggest publishers in the field as focal points. You have to admit that that makes a large amount of sense.

2.) Wizard does not represent comics as a whole/Less superhero, more non-superhero stuff- Basically, everything I said above applies here.

3.) Wizard is not a good ambassador to comics/More of an effort to be a steward and turn people on to the field- This one is partially Wizard’s fault because their excuse when it came to covering upcoming stories with a head full of hype but not objectively reviewing that story was something to the effect of, “We see our job as advocating for comics and we therefore focus on the positives” or something thereabouts. The reality, however, is this. Wizard is a business, not an ambassador. It is not their job to advocate for comics. It is not their job to bring in new readers. That is the comic publishers’ jobs. In the same way Entertainment Weekly does not and should not be trying to drum up movie box office receipts, Wizard should not be in the business of growing the comic industry. They’re just there to report on it.

Truth be told, yes, I’d like to Wizard be a bit more expressive about books that are worth reading that are going under. To again go to Entertainment Weekly, look at how they talked about Arrested Development before it was cancelled. I wouldn’t mind seeing Wizard do something like that with Manhunter on the DC end or Iron Fist on the Marvel side or any other number of good but low selling books. But I don’t see it as their responsibility and there is a big difference between, “Wouldn’t be great if they mentioned…” and “They should be speaking out for…”

4.) Wizard is an unending hype machine/They should be more “honest” in their articles- I am telling anyone who has ever talked about Wizard this right now and I am saying it out of love. This. Will. Never. Happen. Not because Wizard is some sort of evil empire, but because it is just not feasible.

Write an article about 52 before it hits stands and proclaim it “largely an exercise in continuity porn and bilking the consumer for more money” and watch how quickly articles from DC dry up. Write an article about Marvel’s decision to unmask Spider-Man and write it off as, “perhaps the largest mistake Marvel has made with a character who’s appeal they have largely buried with mistakes over the years” and see if Joe Quesada returns those interview phone calls next month. Heck, even an article that referred to an upcoming event as appearing “highly mediocre” would probably buy you some time in the doghouse.

It is a game, yes, and that can be annoying. But if you are an entertainment magazine (in that you cover a field or fields of entertainment) it is a game you must play. You write the articles that feed anticipation before the product arrives and then, when it does, you review it fairly and evenly. Wizard has, historically, had problems with the second half of that equation, but over the past year or so they have begun to develop a reviews section that goes a long way towards addressing that issue.

5.) Wizard receives a lot of ad revenue from the same companies they are writing about/ Wizard should have a more diverse ad pool

I absolutely agree with this, but I’m not sure what we can do to bring about a solution. With a lot of magazines on the entertainment beat, there are plenty of outside advertising dollars to be had. Shoes, alcohol, cars, etc. For Wizard, however, the reality is those ads are far harder to come by. They are a magazine covering the news of a very small portion of the overall entertainment industry. Thus, like most hobby magazines (mags that cover topics like wood working, fly fishing, the Civil War, etc) the bulk of the advertising dollars come from companies in the field. How Wizard can escape that fate, I do not know.

6.) Wizard is “The Guide to Comics” not “The Guide to Items Tangentially Related to Comics”/More comic content, less pop culture content

This, too, is a charge that has much merit to it. However, it also often times reeks of comic book fans insular attitudes towards this industry (see also: all the complaining every time an “outsider” writer is given a book). For that reason, it is hard for me to parcel out how much of it is genuine desire for comic content and how much of it is born of the fear of ever encroaching “outside influences” coming to “ruin our comics”.

But yes, Wizard could stand to do a bit less of the video game, horror movie, and the latest in anime focus and more of the comic stuff.

Wizard is by no means a perfect magazine, it should be said. It can be repetitive (witness this month and last month’s Civil War articles and tell me if you really needed them both), its humor does sometimes miss the mark in cringe inducing ways, the characterization of female or minority superheroes can be problematic, and sometimes the whole endeavor can seem like one long in-joke. However, in many ways, that is a reflection of the industry it is covering. Comics has a well documented history of indulging in juvenile humor, treating superheroes who are not white males with casual disrespect, wrapping itself over and over again in layers of stultifying continuity and trotting out endless epics that start to blend together and feel all very been there, done that. If anything, that is Wizard’s biggest problem. It can distill everything you like about comics into a monthly magazine, the big moments, the colorful clashes, the rise of a former C-lister, the cool villains but it cannot help but bring along the stuff we do not like either. If Wizard suffers from any sort of malady, it is one that it inherited from the industry it covers. To paraphrase, Wizard is exactly as the comics industry has made it.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE #1

People love Dan Slott. Me, I like him. He’s sort of like Kirkman to me. People love Kirkman, I shrug say, “Yeah, he’s pretty good.” Same deal with Slott.

That said, I’m looking forward to this, his latest project. It has the whiff of inexperienced heroes to it, which I always dig, and I’ve already seen some group shots that included some favorites of mine that I can’t believe anyone else even remembers, nevermind would put in a comic (BENGAL?!). So, the combo of inexperience and obscure is too much for me to resist. Hope it lives up to expectations.

OMEGA FLIGHT #1

It has always been my contention that damn near everything terrible in this world can be blamed on Canada. (Credit where credit is due…Universal Health Care is okay…I guess.) Thus, as the superhero-ed avatar of this decadent nation, Alpha Flight has never curried much favor with me.

But then, Alpha Flight never had the likes of Beta Ray Bill and Spider-Woman (Arachne now, I think?) on it until now. And it was never drawn by uber talent Scott Kolins whom I sort of love. So, the rules have changed.

Plus Omega is so much cooler than Alpha.

RUNAWAYS #25

Okay, so I don’t agree with Whedon taking them to New York, especially so soon after Vaughan did it. But, whatever. It’s the Runaways, my favorite book, being written by Joss Whedon. I think I’ll give the book the benefit of the doubt for now, at least.

I asked about Ms. Marvel and you all delivered. First up, the man that got the ball rolling.

Hi,

You asked me to write back so here it is 😉

Awesome call on Stegron. I never gave him a second thought but that issue of Sensational drawn by Clayton Crain with him on the steps of the museum at the end sold me. I’d actually like to see him again as a returning villain in the future. Likewise, Chameleon’s little group might have looked hilarious on the initial pitch but when in action they too came across really well. Thumbs up to Sensational for using lots of C tier (can we go lower -‘D’ perhaps?) guys and making them cool. That’s what comics should be about!

As for Ms Marvel and why she is suddenly in favour, I have no idea. I guess someone at Marvel thought she could be their answer to DC’s Super Girl/Power Girl? Maybe someone wanted to have another ‘powerful’ Marvel female at the forefront who wasn’t an X-man. Perhaps She-Hulk felt she was carrying the burden alone? Maybe Joe Q just like blondes in boots? Her presence in the Ultimate Alliance game probably helped as my casual-comics-fan-brother now recognizes her when he wouldn’t have before.

I do think her character is one of those ‘has a lot of potential’ ones but I would rather see them flesh her out in her solo title before committing her to crossovers, team books, summer events, etc, etc.

Keep up the great work!

-Adam May

Thanks Adam, I will try. And thanks for the response. A lot of your reasons make sense. Especially the blondes in boots thing. I mean, who doesn’t like that. That’s the reason Captain America’s so popular, right.

And now some thought on the same matter from the message board.

Ms Marvel’s popularity jump is because of 2 things.
#1- She is a niche character getting some exposure and treated as something more important than a panel filler (see:Goliath) by writers who use her. Carol Danvers is well connected, from the Avengers to the X Men to the Starjammers to SHIELD- Carol has an ‘in’. Couple this with her ‘desire to be a better superhero’ and she can be utilized nearly anywhere.

#2- Marvel is puttting her everywhere ,on everything. This instantly makes fanboys decide that the character is the BEST thing ever written in the GREATEST issue ever published every time they appear, regardless of whether they actually do anything in the story or not.. See also : Wolverine, 90s Punisher, Ghost Rider, Sentry, Spider-Woman, Jessica Jones. The more fans see someone, the more important that character is considered.

-Dhaise

#3- Unlike most of Marvel’s female characters, she has the advantage of a) Not being derived from another popular male character (see Spider-Woman/Arachne/Arana, She-Hulk, Wasp, X23); b) Not being personality-neutered by Chris Claremont (see ALL X-Men characters; although ironically he did literally steal her personality at one point, via Rogue); c) Being a heavy hitter with some flashy powers (see Elektra, Black Widow); and d) Working as well on her own as she does with a team (see Sue Storm).

I know as far as a) is concerned, she has a strong connection to Mar-Vell, but it’s not like a straight derivation.

So she actually is a mainline female character that others can identify with. In essence, she is becoming Marvel’s Wonder Woman.

-Beadle

Thanks to you guys as well. You’ve all been quite helpful.

Another Marvel News & Views come and gone. But the experience need not end here. Keep MNV alive in your hearts all week by visiting the message board, e-mailing me at parallax2@juno.com or IMing me at parallaxX2. Talk to you at one of these outlets soon.

Un Gajje Hates That Florida Won. A Lot.

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