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Friday, April 11, 2014 

Is Kevin Feige really a Marvel fan?

That's what Bloomberg Businessweek says about the Marvel Studios executive, but there's reasons why I'm skeptical:
Feige identifies himself as a Marvel comic fan, but he’s a recent convert. Growing up in Westfield, N.J., he was obsessed with movies such as the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones and Star Trek franchises, Back to the Future, and the first RoboCop. When he read that George Lucas had studied film at the University of Southern California, Feige decided to do the same. After graduating, he worked on three movies for producer Lauren Shuler Donner. The first was Volcano, in which lava bubbles up from the La Brea Tar Pits and threatens Los Angeles. “It was my first movie, and we were blowing things up,” he says. The second was You’ve Got Mail. He taught Meg Ryan how to use America Online.

The third movie was 2000’s X-Men, which director Bryan Singer was making for Fox. To better understand the genre, Feige immersed himself in Marvel comics. “I did a much deeper dive than I ever had before,” he says. What he discovered was extraordinarily rich. In the 1960s, the writer Stan Lee and a team of artists including Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko transformed Marvel into the nation’s leading comic book publisher by creating a generation of superheroes with complicated inner lives. Spider-Man could scale walls like an insect, but his alter ego, Peter Parker, was bullied in high school and couldn’t get a date. In 1966 the New York Herald Tribune called Spider-Man “the Raskolnikov of the funnies, a worthy rival to Bellow’s Herzog for the Neurotic Hipster championship of our time.”
For somebody who says he's a Marvel fan, or any company's fan, he sure hasn't done much on his part to save the publishing arm from the dire strait they're in, thanks in no small part to Joe Quesada. Granted, Feige may have read a lot of older material, but many of the stories they're using for adaptations are brand new.

And that's not very accurate that Peter Parker couldn't get a date. He came close with Liz Allen, the first standout female member of the supporting cast, and Betty Brant was the first girl he was seen dating seriously, before Gwen Stacy and then Mary Jane Watson came into the spotlight.
As Feige consumed stacks of Marvel comics, he wondered why others working on X-Men didn’t do the same. “I would hear people, other executives, struggling over a character point, or struggling over how to make a connection, or struggling over how to give even surface-level depth to an action scene or to a character,” Feige recalls. “I’d be sitting there reading the comics going, ‘Look at this. Just do this. This is incredible.’ ”
I once found out the director of the X-Men movie, Bryan Singer, wanted no comics on the set while they were filming it. Obviously, he didn't have much faith in the material himself, or the actors' ability to avoid delivering cartoony performances should they read even one pamphlet. Still, this is one thing where I'm in agreement with Feige on. Not so much on the following, though:
Arad and Feige spent much of their time trying to persuade executives making Marvel movies at Fox, Sony, and New Line not to screw them up by deviating from the original source material. They cut up comics and created guidebooks to get their point across. “I was like a preacher,” Arad says. “I would go in and say to these people, ‘Look at the comics. You can cut the panels, put them together, and you have a beautiful storyboard.’ ”
There's just one little problem: the original source material today is barely recognizable from what it was like in years past. Put another way, if they were worried about the movies doing it, how come they have no qualms about Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso doing the same? Speaking of which:
Typically, movie studios hire outside producers to make individual films, but Marvel thought that would be the road to ruin. Instead, it formed a six-member creative committee with people steeped in comic book lore. Feige was a member, along with Louis D’Esposito, co-president of Marvel Studios. It also included some guys who actually made comic books, such as Dan Buckley, president of publishing; Joe Quesada, Marvel’s chief creative officer; and the writer Brian Michael Bendis. People in Hollywood sneer about the idea of making movies by committee; it’s supposed to result in lifeless products. But it worked for Marvel, in part because the members were willing to go along with Feige on key decisions. “Kevin is essential,” says Alan Fine, president of Marvel Entertainment, who oversees the group. “He’s the key to how our characters translate into filmed entertainment.”
People who did otherwise terrible jobs in comics were hired to work on movies to boot. I'm honestly not happy, because they didn't deserve the jobs. Quesada breaks up the Spider-marriage, and what happens next? He gets a job with the film production division. That Feige was willing to work with Quesada and Bendis puts his fandom in question, IMHO.

And if the third Iron Man movie was made by committee, that's one of its kind that certainly didn't work well.
Despite the shouting, everybody agreed on a fundamental principle: The movies needed to please the hard-core comic book readers first. “Really, you have to start with the loyalists,” says Quesada. “If the loyalists reject it, then we feel that everyone is going to reject it.”
Why should loyalists listen to him? Many of the loyalists parted ways with Marvel after Quesada destroyed the Spider-marriage. If the movies need to please, why mustn't the comics do the same?
When it was time for Marvel to make The Avengers, Feige was nervous. Combining Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the Hulk would sell tickets, but making a film with so many superheroes meant more action, more fights, and more mayhem. That may sound splendid to a modern producer, but it might not leave room for the dramatic elements that draw larger and repeat audiences to Marvel films. “I was afraid the movie would just become a bunch of explosions and visual effects,” says Feige.
Ironically, that's exactly what the comics have become, and worse: as mentioned before, they've been reduced to hero-vs-hero quagmires, as seen in Avengers vs. X-Men.

The success of various Marvel movies is great on the surface, but for a comics purist, they're a mixed blessing at best, since no matter how well the movies are handled, the comics back home became a terrible mess. And not a word from Feige about that.

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