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Tuesday, November 11, 2014 

Wolverine had to die because of movie ownership disputes?

The Atlantic wrote about the publicity stunt death of Wolverine this past month. They don't start out well, beginning with a fawning over the Muslim Ms. Marvel and Logan's guest appearance there:
Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani-American superhero born in the late 1990s whose real name is Kamala Khan. She’s a Muslim teenager who worries her observant parents when she sneaks out at night, which she does (mostly) to protect Jersey City from evildoers, using her unwieldy shape-shifting powers to grow and shrink in size.

...when Ms. Marvel runs into Wolverine unexpectedly in the sewers of Jersey City, she squees as if she’s just met Hugh Jackman. The selfie cover of Ms. Marvel #7 captures the unfiltered delight of a teenaged Jersey fangirl and the scowl of everyone’s favorite Canucklehead. Alas, for poor Wolvie, the ‘gram would be his last.
It's a shame Wolverine had to be plunked into a propaganda vehicle for the last appearance before his publicity stunt dirt nap. That aside, as if further proof were needed this was a stunt:
Wolverine—James Howlett to his family, Logan to his friends, Wolverine to his teammates, Patch to his enemies, Weapon X to his other enemies, Death to his other other enemies—died last month, in the aptly titled Death of Wolverine #4. He’s survived by Daken (his wicked son), X-23 (his superheroine clone), and Sabretooth (his son, his brother, or his father, maybe?), as well as the ongoing comic-book series that will continue even after his death. May the man who always let ‘em rip rest in peace. He never got much rest from Marvel.
He didn't get much respect from them either after the mid-90s. Like the other X-books, his too fell into decay at the time, and never recovered. From that point, they were banking only on his previously established popularity as the sales draw, not the story merits. By the way, I have to note how laughable the last name given to Wolverine in the Origin miniseries by Paul Jenkins is, because it all too obviously incorporates the word "howl". What's the point of being so predictable and cheap?

When they talk about Logan's creation by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, they say:
In their hands, Wolverine emerged as a creature and a criticism of Vietnam: A restless nomad with no memory for the forces that had forged him, a reluctant but perfect weapon listing always toward a relapse into a savage berserker state. He was walking PTSD. At his most noble, Wolverine was Marvel’s failed samurai, a loner doomed to wander the earth in search of some saving grace. Logan was forever denied Captain America’s domestic morality, Iron Man’s technocratic utopianism, Thor’s assured superiority: And that’s why Kamala Khan draws Wolverine on her notebooks.
So let's see if I have this right: Cap, Iron Man and Thor are "perfect" a la Superman, and that makes Wolverine better because he has all the flaws they supposedly don't? Gee, and I thought Thor did some clumsy things in his own MCU history that would make him a deity with flaws. How ridiculous.
The very best Wolverine story ever told—Marvel Comics Presents #72-84, drawn and written by the incomparable Barry Windsor-Smith in 1991—also concerned this Weapon X program. This arc details how Logan goes from man to beast mode in beautiful books, frequently wordless, almost unparalleled in the medium. More recent series by the up-and-comer Jason Aaron, who’s done the most to define the character over the last decade, have pushed Wolverine’s healing factor to absurd and unsustainable limits. Under Aaron’s tenure, Wolverine led a squad of mutant assassins, the ones who do the work that family-friendly X-Men can’t or won’t do, only to eventually walk away from that life into a different sort of cage: academia. (Long-time fans dissatisfied with Wolverine’s end owe it to themselves to read Mark Millar’s alt-future limited series Old Man Logan.)
No, I don't think so. Millar's always been overrated. But if they're critical of Aaron for elevating Wolverine to endurance limits higher than Superman's, that's flattering. Yes, there is a valid argument Logan's been portrayed too much like a god in the past decade, with Brian Bendis taking it to sheer absurdities in one of the crossover stories he'd written over the years (it may have been Age of Ultron), when Logan, burned to a crisp one moment not unlike the scene in Days of Future Past with the Sentinel, suddenly reintegrates fully. But that doesn't mean he has to be killed off, and certainly not for publicity's sake. As they note, the ongoing solo book will continue without him.
It’s the students who served under him during his tenure as mutant prep-school headmaster and his former teammates from across the planet who are mourning him now. (Specifically, in the limited series, Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy, that runs through December). But his enemies might pour out a can of Molson for the ol’ runt, too. Wasn’t he always just a saké summit away from common ground with the Silver Samurai? Didn’t he marry Mystique a couple times? Every time Wolvie and Sabretooth took it down to claw city, wasn’t that just a family tradition (maybe)? And didn’t Omega Red—well, no, fine. Omega Red flat-out sucked.
If they're talking about the stories Omega Red appeared in, recalling he was created in the mid-90s, I can agree some of those were bottom the barrel, because that's when the franchise really began to collapse under the weight of bad writers like Lobdell and Nicieza. The miniseries they cite is further proof of all the publicity stunting this curtain call was built on. If they really wanted to be convincing, they would've restricted it all to one miniseries, not unlike the Death of Captain Marvel as a graphic novel. Now, here's where they turn to the big theory that Wolverine's a victim of the same motivations that may have influenced the end of Fantastic Four:
Beyond the ongoing Wolverines comic series that will continue under his name—the death of Wolverine doesn’t have to mean the death of a salesman—the Runt will also live on in Hollywood. This is the Wolverine that Marvel Studios, the studio behind The Avengers, really wants to die. So long as 20th Century Fox keeps pumping out X-movies such as 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past every few years, they keep the film rights to Wolverine and his fellow X-Men—lest the rights revert back to Marvel, which sold them off during a financial period darker than Logan’s worst hangover. (Wolverine’s rights were sold years before Marvel Entertainment was acquired by Disney, for nearly $5 billion, in 2009.)

Studio shenanigans could be one factor in the death of Wolverine. Deep in the message boards, conspiracists whisper that Marvel has shown its hand, disinvesting creative energy in the print comics whose characters don’t work toward the ascendant Marvel Studios’ bottom line. This week, Marvel Studios announced a slew of new film productions, including Black Panther, Doctor Strange, a different woman named Marvel, the problematic Inhumans—more on them in a second—and Avengers sequels for as long as Robert Downey Jr. can muster a smirk. At the same time, Marvel canceled its long-running Fantastic Four print comic-book line, even in advance of 20th Century Fox’s reboot of the film franchise next year, leading critics to speculate that the horse follows the cart at the House of Ideas.

That may be true. Today, Marvel is putting its thumb on the scale for the Inhumans, a throwback team of super-powered characters who work sort of like the X-Men’s mutants, but without the history (or quality, or thorny Fox ownership). The hip new Ms. Marvel is one of those Inhumans. That run-in underneath the Jersey streets could have launched another classic Wolverine team-up, a pairing along the lines of his endearing apprenticeship of the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde. (Things never worked out well for Logan’s romantic interests, who had a habit of dying violently, but no character in comics had better realized friendships with women.)
What, Superman never did? That's silly of them to say Logan had a monopoly on being a ladies man. But still nothing compared to the disappointment they are with the rather obvious favoratism for the Muslim Ms. Marvel based without doubt on the religion she's depicted going by. Is it possible Logan's offing had something to do with Fox Studios keeping the rights to Wolverine as a movie franchise? It might, but unlike today's comics crowd, most moviegoers are more likely to judge based on the screenplay and not whether the superheroes are still in publication. The same could hold true with Superman if it ever ceased publication, for long after.

Unfortunately the Atlantic's writer fails to note that the print characters don't work because both the writers and the editors are plying their trade under poor intentions while refusing to shift to better print formats. I guess that means they won't be missing Marvel when they do one day collapse thanks to all the mistakes made by the modern staffers.

The Conversation also spoke about this topic, and says:
Among comic book fans, there’s the joke that the only characters in superhero comics who stay dead are Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, Batman’s parents, and Captain America’s sidekick Bucky. For everybody else, death is only temporary – a time-out.

Then even Bucky came back from the dead.

So it may not be surprising that comic fans are fairly muted about the recent death of mega-popular mutant superhero Wolverine. That’s right, the metal-clawed, super-healing bezerker-do-gooder played by Hugh Jackman in six X-Men movies finally croaked fighting the good fight in the pages of Marvel Comics last month.
No, it probably shouldn't be a surprise there wasn't much fuss in the end, not just because some people have long come to see these stunts for what they are, but also because the writing has long been very, very bad, and at the least it's just no longer interesting. Same with Fantastic Four. It reminds that a decade ago, there were fans outraged at Bill Jemas because he wanted to take Mark Waid off the book and mandate it to what he thought would make the perfect tale (something Dan DiDio later did after the 52 miniseries from 2006, most ironically, because that mini was trash to start with). There were people who wanted to cancel their orders for FF, and at the time, Marvel's management board decided to take steps to oust Jemas. Or so it seemed. Today, as writing became even worse, more dreary and people reevaluated Waid's own run to boot, all the buzz FF once had is pretty much gone, with some figuring it's for the best Marvel's first family come to an end as they seemingly are. And maybe the same holds true for Wolverine - that his ending now is for the best, because so long as you have awful people in charge who don't relinquish their jobs to anybody with more responsibility than they have, there's just no point in seeing Wolverine continue, though at this moment, his solo book still does. Reminds me of the Perry Mason reunion TV movies, which kept going for 4 more entries even after Raymond Burr's death in late 1993. I think they should've stopped then and there, but they continued, and the remaining entries just didn't have energy without him.
At one point in the history of superheroes, characters “returned” in the form of descendants and legacy-bearers. Barry Allen may have sacrificed himself as the Flash, but his former sidekick Wally West assumed the mantle. The Blue Beetle died? Meet the new Blue Beetle.
They forgot to mention the original Beetle, Dan Garrett, from the original Charlton line. And they don't mention how the 3rd Beetle was the product of a leftist mindset that believes in terminating older heroes in the worst ways possible before replacing them with leads meant to reflect "diversity" not based on storytelling quality. Yet some progressives tried to spin the case as one where the new character finds a following despite the dismal sales, and for many years now, DC's still been keeping the newer one in the costume despite the fact nobody cares, and remain oblivious to how there are minority members around who do judge by storytelling quality, not diversity.
...superheroes like Wolverine die very often, and they come back from the dead just as often. The easy answer for the question “Why?” is sales – a cash-grab gimmick by companies to satisfy readers' thirst for high drama.
I'm afraid that's only half true. With speculators creating misleading pictures of comicdom today, only the cash-grab is what matters to them.
However, there is a far deeper, far more interesting answer: selfhood.

In literary theory, it is commonly accepted that readers, particularly fans of a certain genre, gravitate towards relatable characters and protagonists. The characters don’t actually have to be like the readers or closely resemble them, but they do have to be recognizable. You don’t have to have Superman’s powers or be from Krypton to understand the pressures of his dual life: country boy in the big city, milquetoast at work with daring extracurricular hobbies, and orphan with a vast network of friends and family. Readers attracted to Superman likely see something of themselves in Superman.

And that’s the trick: Readers value characters who exhibit selfhood, but characters also influence how readers understand their own selfhood. If, say, enough Sheriffs in a series of Westerns give their lives to save their townsfolk, then readers could start valuing such sacrifice as a more and more salient trait of selfhood – both in other characters as well as in themselves.
That used to be true, but today, it's unclear what anyone is reading them for. And shouldn't that be "readers who value writing with an emphasis on selfhood"? Alas, that's not the case now. No, the only case is speculators and obsessive addicts who don't judge by writing and only buy because think they must support the product no matter how bad its scripting becomes.

In the end, did Wolverine die because of squabbles over the rights to movie adaptations? We may never know, but if he stays dead, it'll probably be for the best.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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