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Monday, May 23, 2011 

Tom Brevoort's weak defense of Marvel's current manners

CBR has published another of Joe Quesada's foolish columns, where they draw from reader questions with Tom Brevoort serving as an answerman, at least in theory, but not really giving much insight at all. First, let's take a look what he said about crossovers:
Kiel Phegley; All right! All fan week! Let's get the ball rolling on the big macro Marvel level with Dog asking, "Why do smaller events like, say, Spider-Island and Schism, seem to get scheduled at the same time as bigger events such as Fear Itself? If I'm not mistaken, the same thing happened with Civil War and Annihilation. Might those smaller events draw away a few more dollars if they ran unopposed, so to speak? It's almost like the shadow of the "company-wide" event dooms them to sales mediocrity from the get-go. Conversely, couldn't having something to hook people in sell a few more books during the lean, winter months?"

Brevoort: From what we can tell, Dog, it doesn’t really make much of a difference in terms of sales -- readers are either interested in these stories or they aren’t, and they come out for them regardless of when they’re released. Part of the problem is that we’ve got so much stuff happening in the Marvel Universe at any one time that it’s impossible to not have any overlap. (We certainly don’t want to have huge swaths of time where nothing interesting or important is happening in titles not in the center of a crossover, as they wait for their turn in the spotlight.) But we do this both ways -- "Shadowland," for example, was released without any immediate competition. Thing is, there are only so many months in the year to work with, you know?
Yawn. If recent sales are any indication, they're coming out for them less and less, as the stories have become meaningless, and that's not very respectable of him to treat the audience like they're mindless zombies. He also fails to realize that it's quite possible to have so much going on in the MCU without crossing it over so forcibly with other books. The man's clearly forgotten what it meant to write self-contained stories.

Now, here's where Brevoort provides a lame answer to another writer's question on issues involving sex and violence as depicted today:
Finally, while I know there's sometimes just different standards that different people bring to their entertainment, I thought this long question from EarthOneComics was so polite and well-spoken even though it's a tricky subject for many. He said: "My questions are about the content of your various A rated titles. To give a bit of context, it seems to me that in that last decade or two comics have been infused with a greater degree of violence and sexuality. The amount of blood shed in any given injury seems to be in excess of the actual damage the wound would cause - an example being Spider-Man fighting the Thunderbolts in the New Ways To Die arc. Compare that to the Uncanny issues of Mutant Massacre, a story you would expect to contain lots of bloodshed, and you see a vast difference in terms of what is seen on panel. With regards to sexuality, in some ways I will admit what is portrayed in the books is in line with other forms of media, but sometimes the costumes can be a little too revealing. The occasional use of outright (though shadowed) nudity also strikes me as odd as it never seems to serve the story in anyway - in particular Brian Bendis has done this twice in Avengers. As a devout Christian and a young father it’s unnerving to see what’s out there some weeks and I adjust my purchases accordingly as best I can. I thoroughly enjoy the books I buy and it pains me to have to skip out on some of my favourite characters' stories, but at the end of the day I have to do what's best for me and more importantly my son. I want to know how Marvel decides what's acceptable content in it's books. How are these allowances improving the stories? I get that creative types need to be able to express themselves but it seems to me that MAX and Icon are more suited to liberal amounts of violence or sexuality. If it’s really a comic for as many readers as possible, shouldn’t it try to appeal to the broadest sensibilites as well?"

Brevoort: I think it’s no surprise, EarthOne, that there’s been a greater permissibility in entertainment across all media over the 25 years since "The Mutant Massacre" saw print. For example, language is now allowed on basic cable channels that was considered a little shocking on pay stations in 1986. This is the world and the culture that we live in, and comics tend to keep pace with the larger trends in this regard.
He wasn't very clear here, but even today, language may still be weirdly taboo in Marvel's mainstream books, while violence, in sharp contrast, is still allowed in heavy doses, to the point of where it's leaked deep into the books that were once more family friendly, like Spider-Man and the Avengers. For example, there was that time when Tigra was beaten up by an invisible thug called the Hood. The violence was allowed, but profanity was censored, even in this later age.

Surprisingly, it's not new: although there was some mild profanity in Marvel and DC books published since the 1970s, back in the late 80s, when the Punisher began, there were some issues where profanity was censored yet the violence was allowed to remain. There was even a Black Panther story published in Marvel Comics Presents in 1988, "Panther's Quest" that featured quite a bit of bloodletting yet even there, profanity was not allowed, not even milder forms. Even though the stories were well done and the violence itself served the story plausibly enough, that the editors even at that time would do such a strange thing does take away from the full impact they could've had.
Even within a company like Marvel, there are numerous points of view on this subject, because it’s an issue that is very much subjective. Each person’s personal line for what is and is not acceptable is a little bit different -- and even that might depend on the circumstances. There have been occasions I’ve been privy to, for instance, where a particular editor or creator was against a depiction of violence in another person’s book, but was perfectly fine with doing the same kind of thing in their own book. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s a person making a judgment call based on his subjective reading of the context. I find that there is no absolute right-and-wrong definition that will make everybody happy when it comes to these kinds of questions.
Oh really? This is just as ambiguous, since what if the scenario's he's alluding to were if an editor/writer balked at depicting certain acts of violence within a series that's more family friendly, and it was in a more adult series like the Punisher that they didn't have a problem with it?

Now, here's where Brevoort really teeters into a laughable statement:
At Marvel, we’ve got broad guidelines about what we think is acceptable in all of our different titles, but we will adjudicate specific instances are acceptable or not. There’s a different yardstick we might use, for example, when dealing with "Amazing Spider-Man" and "Wolverine." But for the most part, we depend on our individual editors to use their own judgment when it comes to these matters, only involving people further up the chain of command, such as myself, Axel, Joe Q, Dan Buckley or Jim Sokolowski, in an instance where the decision could have a greater impact on our business, or might have ramifications beyond just publishing -- the greater the impact, the more people who might be consulted. And then we make the best call that we can.
Oh, they've got broad guidelines alright. Ones that make it acceptable to depict graphic gore in the X-Men and even that horrific scene in an issue of Spider-Man #526 where Morlun returns from nowhere and devours an eyeball, yet profanity still looks otherwise taboo. Why, there's even smoking that's taboo. When Joe Quesada took over as EIC, he immediately set around to banning the depiction of cigarette smoking, probably even if depicted negatively. So, no more humorous scenes of the Thing and She-Hulk smoking since that time. And when they published the awful Sins Past storyline, it was told that Quesada decreed Peter Parker never had sex with Gwen Stacy, because he says so, and apparently to make Gwen (and by extension Mary Jane Watson) look like a kind of baddie along with Norman Osborn.

In fact, these guidelines of theirs have increasingly shut out conservative viewpoints altogether, seeing how their current stable of writers like Matt Fraction resort to such awful assaults on conservative standings.
But make no mistake, one of the fundamental appeals of comics, and Marvel comics in particular, is the fact that they’re dangerous. They’re edgy. There’s an aura of the illicit to what we do that’s extremely attractive to our audience, and a necessary part of our appeal. Marvel Comics have always been dangerous and on the far edge of popular culture -- those Frank Miller "Daredevil" and "Wolverine" comics, for example, while they might seem a bit quaint by today’s standards, pushed the envelope when they first came out. We try not to do violence simply for the sake of violence and sexual material simply for the sake of sexual material, but in that same spirit, we’re likely going to be more permissive than some. The vast majority of our titles are rated at the T+ level or higher, which means that they’re aimed at a teenaged audience. And that audience is exposed to far greater amounts of violence and sexuality at an earlier age than anything you or I would have experience in our youth. Video games alone have redefined the standards for where the line is when addressing that audience. And it’s an audience that doesn’t want to feel talked down to, or that will accept a sanitized product. In a very real way, parents aren’t supposed to feel completely at ease with them -- that’s part of why kids like them!
After all these years and their degeneration into sleaze, that's really rich. What about all the violence and even gratuitous sexual relations in Ultimate X-Men? Violence and sex alone do not a good story make; it's how well they suit the story that does. And when Brevoort says their current output is aimed at teens, I'm afraid it's at those who don't care about good writing. Or, put another way, they're so juvenile, it's no wonder they no longer please anyone. Why, he's practically given teens a bad name, making it sound as though they have no sense of judgment.

So long as Brevoort remains with them, he too is a serious liability to Marvel. He may have once been decent enough, but today he's lost any talent he might've had, and is not helping Marvel one bit.

Once, Marvel was edgy and creative. Now, they're bankrupt.

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So Graphic violence and highly sexual
content as well as child killing are okay were as saying words like F**** or S**** as well as smoking are not go figure.

How hypocritical

Marvel's about as "edgy" as a cue ball, no matter how you define it. And whatever "edginess" they possess is one scandal and Disney decree away from disappearing.

And Brevoort's simply lying/mistaken about who Marvel's target audience is. They're going after 30-somethings who grew up on superheroes but now want something more "adult." They have no interest in targetting future generations. They have decided they're in a failing market and are simply looking to cannibalize whatever existing middle-aged customer base remains. (Same goes for DC.)

Their supposed "all ages" comics are almost laughably labelled. There are no mainstream MU comics I would feel comfortable with my children reading any time in the next decade. No heroes, no morals - and that before the profanity, sex, violence, and the like.

Marvel hasn't been "edgy" since the 1970s with the occult stuff. And even though they may be aiming for shock value, that's no substitute for good stories and art.

Brevoort = moron.

Miller is poop too. Not total poop like Brevoort, but him and Starlin and O'Neil were three major guys that got the ball rolling downhill.

Frankie helped turn Murdock into a total a-hole, something which they've built on in recent years.

Sex n' violence. Obama is kewl, religgin' sux! Let's keep those creepy, county-registered middle-aged guys in stormtrooper costumes happy. Keep wavin' that flag of moral nihilism in comics. Teh CBLDF Roolz dOOd!

"This is the world and the culture that we live in, and comics tend to keep pace with the larger trends in this regard."

So they're all dangerous and edgy while blindly parroting current trends. I see. Man, they are truly living on the edge.

"In a very real way, parents aren’t supposed to feel completely at ease with them -- that’s part of why kids like them!"

They're sleazy garbage, and kids just LOVE sleazy garbage! You're a genius, Tom!

"The vast majority of our titles are rated at the T+ level or higher, which means that they’re aimed at a teenaged audience."

So Marvel is basically targeting teens for what's often little better than soft porn?

I think I'd be better with the soft porn, as at least that doesn't claim to have artistic integrity.

Speaking of the faux profanity, you ever notice how prominent it has been in the past 10 years? I won't blame it all on Bendis, but he did start the trend. And then it's like every other panel with profanity this or that.

The MU has a real pottymouth problem, and it does become a turnoff over time.

And second what everyone else said.

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