The Gold Standard: Marvel’s Diversity NOW! Initiative

I miss Spider-Girl.

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I know, I know, as infrequently as I seem to show up to expel my sage words of comic wisdom, that never seems to be forgotten. I loved that book, and I miss it every day. I miss the idea of a Marvel canon that actually moved forward, of characters finding their eventual destinies, of generations actually spinning out of the silver age of Marvel, as opposed to just locking that entire generation in at a set point in time and making it last for fifty years.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, Marvel NOW! is all sorts of new and exciting with all sorts of new avenues to the future, but look at them. Just…just look at them and tell me that you actually see long term potential in any of these, and not just Marvel doing a short term status quo shake up before getting back to basics.

 

  • Wolverine dying
  • Falcon as Captain America
  • Thor can’t lift his hammer, so now there’s Lady Thor
  • Parker Industries
  • Smart Hulk
  • Steve Rogers is old

 

I can’t imagine the majority of these still being relevant talking points come 2016, especially the Captain America stuff. Remember Bucky Cap? That was a thing, and it was going pretty well, and then we got a Captain America movie. What does Marvel do? They kill off Bucky Cap so Steve can have his job back, then unkill Bucky because he was A) popular and B) had a major role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That’s Marvel, in a nutshell. It’s why Starlord looks like the Andy Dwyer Chris Pratt version. It’s why Nick Fury is black. It’s why Agents of SHIELD is getting a book despite the canon’s not resembling each other at all.

Now, before I rant too heavily, I do want to praise Marvel for making a good call with having Sam Wilson become the new Captain America. If you’ve gotta replace Cap, Sam SHOULD be the top choice. I said the same thing back before Bucky Cap became a thing. It’s not even a diversity thing, it’s the fact that Sam has been Steve’s best friend and partner since the seventies, and that it makes him simple to ease into the role. He retains the supporting cast, he’s able to continue different plot lines, and it doesn’t necessarily jettison Steve out of the book despite him being an old man. He’s the smart choice.

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That said, it’s 2014, why are they just now prepping for Sam’s first ongoing solo series? How has he only has a mini series to himself since debuting? How has he always been the back half of “Captain America and…”? Marvel has literally never given him a chance to succeed on his own, always labeling him a bit player, or a high quality supporting cast member, but never assuming he had leading man potential. Making him Captain America changes that because the name Captain America sells books regardless of who is wielding the shield. Just like how Iron Man is going to sell whether it’s Tony, Rhodey, or anybody else, and how Spider-Man didn’t take a sales dip for Ben or Otto as Spidey. Like how X-Men sells regardless of which characters are on the team. That’s Marvel, everything is so well branded that they have a built in readership just on name alone.

Right now Marvel is getting all kinds of love for their love of diversity; because Falcon is Cap, because Thor is a woman, because Ms. Marvel is a Muslim girl. Marvel is forward thinking, Marvel is progressive, Marvel is speaking to the readers of today, yadda-yadda-yadda, etc etc etc.

This is Marvel that we’re talking about, who are somehow receiving praise for their support of female characters. Do a few attempts at ongoing titles right now completely erase their awful track record? Black Widow just had the tenth issue of her solo series, which is a milestone since this is her fifth solo series, and the only one to surpass six issues. Carol Danvers is Captain Marvel which is an upgrade, and they just relaunched her book so they could raise the price by a dollar and bring on an actual artist (the book is pretty damn good, actually). Elektra just got cancelled, again, after Marvel brought over the Batwoman creative team to launch it and try to piggyback on the overblown controversy concerning DC’s mandate against marriage.

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Spider-Woman is getting ready to get a new book with a pair of awful covers, and some terrible Greg Land art (I haven’t seen it, but it’s Greg Land, so it has to be terrible), and it’s in such heavy demand just like that long awaited Bendis six issue ongoing series that spun out of an event two years beforehand. Storm has an ongoing series, which is one of those “Really?” moments that I love so much; because this is her first actual ongoing series attempt after a few minis in the nineties. First attempt, sit on that, this is Storm, former leader of the X-Men, the picture of the diversity they’re bragging about, and Marvel has never barked up that tree before. Oh well, who the hell cares, THOR IS A WOMAN NOW!

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How many solo titles has Luke Cage had? Yes, he’s the leader of the Mighty Avengers (for now), and he previously led the New Avengers, and is a lifelong Hero for Hire, but why hasn’t Marvel gone with Luke Cage #1 as an attempted ongoing? Why is Falcon the new Captain America when the last time they gave him a solo run was a four issue mini in the eighties? Black Panther tends to get real and solid attempts as an ongoing, but at the same time, they let BET President Reggie Hudlin write a version that was offensive to everybody who read it, and in the process pretty much shit all over the critically acclaimed Priest run (which was ended for the Hudlin run). Because it mattered more to have T’Challa get married to Storm and call her ‘Boo’ then to ever bother mentioning the amazing work Priest did.

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Marvel only has balls when it fits their marketing strategy, and that is based pretty much entirely around movies with a lesser emphasis on hot button issues.

Honestly, I wouldn’t be so irritated by it all if it didn’t feel so damn forced.

Falcon is the new Captain America, but the second he debuts there’s going to be a ticking clock over his head until Steve come back.

Thor is a woman, until Thor is Thor again.

Wolverine is dead up until they need to bring him back, then Wolverine is going to be back to normal.

Peter Parker is going to have his own company all the way up until he doesn’t and he’s taking pictures for Jonah again, because who really thinks that he’s never going to be shuffled back to that? Anybody else remember when he was a high school science teacher?

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The problem with shuffling up the status quo at Marvel is that they always leave themselves ways to snap back to what came before; there is no risk of actual change anymore. Superior Spider-Man was awesome, but everybody knew that Peter would be back within two years (in time for a movie), and sure enough, he was. Avengers: Age of Ultron is out next year, what are the odds that Steve Rogers is a powerless old man in the books while kicking ass on the big screen? What are the odds that Marvel skips on that money? Hell, what are the odds that shiny new Steve Rogers Captain America number one (which will probably have a super shiny chromium variant) doesn’t cost five or six bucks?

Really, all of this is why Marvel desperately needs a regular What If?! title, so that they can ask these questions in the healthy environment of a one and done story, or a brief mini. Where they can tell their story without having to snap back to status quo once it’s done, which in the case of most stories, just castrates them. I mean, I’m not saying that they can’t shake up the status quo, but there are better ways to do it. A Falcon number one is worth a thousand times more than a Captain America number one where Falcon is Cap, because one of those things has a chance at longevity.

 

Next time!

  • What if we had What If?!
  • Whatever happened to Elseworlds?
  • Spider-Girl?
  • Booster Gold and the Old 52

 

The Gold Standard

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