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Friday, January 09, 2015 

A supposedly "accessible" Ant-Man book

The Washington Post spoke with Nick Spencer, who says the new Ant-Man solo book he's writing will be "accessible" to new readers, but there's catches suggesting otherwise. First:
Spencer — who recently ended a 17-issue run on Marvel’s well-received comedy hit “Superior Foes of Spider-Man” (the success of which Spencer attributes to him getting the Ant-Man job) — is looking forward to the experience of writing a comic book with a connection to Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe.
When I think of it now, chances are more likely that critics in the comics world and such were predisposed to favorability. After all, it's long been the norm by people who really think the medium must be presented as positively as possible, and no complaints made about why these overrated writers and their so-called stories - which were far from a success on the sales charts - are just dragging down the quality and losing audience well before they reach the stores.
Despite the character’s growing recognition factor thanks to Hollywood, Spencer is aware that for many readers, this could be their first experience with Ant-Man. (He also notes that the book gives a brief look into the history of the character and the men who have worn the suit before.)
That's the problem. Nobody encourages the readers to check out the Silver Age archives to learn how it all began with Dr. Henry Pym, not even to read about the debut of Janet VanDyne, the Winsome Wasp. Nobody even encourages people to read the stories from the late 1970s (Avengers #181 and Marvel Premiere #47 from 1979) to learn how Scott Lang got the role. And the paper seems oblivious to the following eyebrow-raiser:
“Scott has never had an ongoing [series],” he added. “It very much honors the characters’ past.”

Ant-Man’s past is checkered with something not known to most Marvel heroes: unreliability. Spencer paints Scott Lang as a guy who has always been around, just never for long. It’s a reputation that haunts Lang in Ant-Man’s first issue, especially when he’s applying for a job with Tony Stark (who, in his current Superior Iron-Man role, has no issue with letting Lang know how much of a flake he is).
Is that so. I wonder how that qualifies as "accessible"? Are readers supposed to get a perpetuated vision of Iron Man as a nutcase? Sorry, but Spencer's only furthered the proof Marvel's staff has no interest in repairing the MCU to make it as accessible as it once was. If this is how Iron Man's going to be depicted, ditto Spider-Man, why should we buy Spencer's claim his take on Lang is accessible either, or that it honors his past?

Once, the idea Lang would be cast in his own solo book might've sounded great, but the time for one has long been missed, and now, it's too late. Besides, if this is an ongoing, it's not too difficult to guess it'll be caught up in this year's company wide crossovers along with everything else.

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I'm not so sure if the fans of contemporary comics really want an "accessible" comic. Most of them seem to prefer team-ups, crossovers, and line-wide tie-ins.

Even back in the Bronze Age, you would sometimes see letters published in solo titles, asking why Superman didn't call on the Justice League to help him fight Brainiac, or why didn't the Avengers and Fantastic Four show up to stop Godzilla. (Conversely, they would also ask things like, "How can Thor be in New York with the Avengers fighting A.I.M. when in his own series he's in Asgard fighting the trolls?")

Martin Pasko once described a conversation with a fan who seemed uninterested in Frank Miller's "Ronin" because he thought it was set in feudal Japan. When told that the series was set in the future, he said he would be willing to read it after all, because there was a possibility that other DC heroes could appear in it. But, evidently, there had to be at least a possibility of crossovers for the kid to consider it.

Similarly, Pasko said that when he was writing E-Man for First Comics, they would get letters asking, "If this comic was published by Marvel, could Spider-Man guest star in it?"

Naturally, DC and Marvel would like to attract new customers, and one way to do that would be to publish "accessible" comics that would appeal to people who only know the characters from movies and TV. But long-time, hard core comics fans may have a "get off my lawn" attitude toward people who are not "real" comic book fans.

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