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Wednesday, January 24, 2018 

Just how does he propose Marvel move forward?

Hollywood Reporter propagandist Graeme McMillan said Marvel should stop thinking of themselves as an underdog. Except it's unclear if he actually believes that himself, and besides, if this is the case, they've actually done it for a surprisingly long time already. Namely, by throwing away great opportunities when they had a chance to prove themselves bold for the right reasons. The article begins:
With this week's news that John Nee is taking over as publisher, Marvel Entertainment's comic book arm finds itself in a position it's not been in for almost two decades: with fresh blood at the head of the table. Alongside Nee, C.B. Cebulski was named editor-in-chief less than two months ago, having spent years outside of Marvel editorial. Could this be the chance to start over that the company has been looking for?
I'm really not sure McMillan means what he says, if the non-troversy that Cebulski used a Japanese pseudonym is something he despises. Though as recent writing assignments suggest, Cebulski still isn't the godsend we're hoping for.
Marvel has, as I've previously pointed out, been struggling for some time when it comes to its comic book fortunes. It's not that Marvel's comic book sales are so bad that they're losing money for the company — Marvel was still the most successful publisher in the North American market in 2017, in terms of dollar share. But the combination of precipitously falling sales over the past couple of years and a number of PR disasters have given Marvel Comics the appearance of a company in need of saving — or, at least, in need of a significant overhaul and change of direction. Now, with new management, the opportunity to start over would appear to be presenting itself.
Oh please. With pathetic below-a-million sales receipts on each title, they haven't been successful in a long time. That's practically why they finally merged with a conglomerate in the form of Disney, which even gave them an extended lease on mandating Mary Jane Watson never be Spider-Man's wife ever again, and she's not mentioned in the article at all, even though she's part and parcel of the overhaul and direction change Marvel badly needs.

And then, an important reminder why C.B Cebulski's appointment is not a guarantee of good news:
It's worth noting that the old guard has hardly been swept away: Dan Buckley, who had been handling publishing duties from 2003 to this point, remains as president of Marvel Entertainment overall and says he'll provide editorial and creative input alongside Marvel mainstay Joe Quesada and Cebulski. Similarly, Marvel's comic book editorial team remains essentially unchanged from the days of former editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, so it's unrealistic to expect a significant shift in direction as soon as Nee and Cebulski have warmed their seats.
See, this is the leading problem: nothing's truly changed. Quesada and Buckley, two of the leading embarrassments who brought down Marvel are still there, and there's every chance they'll prevent Cebulski from taking key steps to provide the apology Marvel fans are looking for, assuming he really wants to. There's only so many SJWs still dominating their staff, it'll take years to clean away the stench.
Nevertheless, new leadership makes a new corporate culture possible and allows for some changes that are necessary if the company wants to turn its fortunes around. I took to Twitter earlier this week to ask fans and creators what changes they'd want to see from Marvel; the answers ranged from paper stock to hiring practices, but one takeaway was clear in 90 percent of responses — the company needs to be less conservative, or at least appear to be.
Now it's clear McMillan's not serious. They have been far from conservative for many years already, pushing shiploads of liberal platforms into their products as we've seen of recent, and not many of the respondents said they found it a turnoff. Besides, if he were really serious about wanting Marvel's output to become readable again, he would've given his own opinions, and in his own words, he could've said there should be an end to the draconian editorial mandates that pushed Mary Jane out of Spider-Man, resulted in busloads of crossovers every year, and flooded much of their books with rabid leftism by vicious writers that alienated the audience. Yet he failed to do that, and it just demonstrates the lack of interest even guys like him have in turning a bad situation around.
The self-image of Marvel's comic book line in 2018 is a curious one. Despite being the source material for arguably one of the most dominant forces in Western pop culture, owned by one of the largest entertainment corporations on the planet and publishing some of the most famous superhero characters ever, Marvel remains trapped in the idea that it's an underdog. [...]
The sad reality is that, if we think of that in terms of missed opportunities, Marvel, most surprisingly, has missed tons for decades: they never built up characters like the real Ms. Marvel when they had the chance, and even in the 80s, there were instances where they censored content in the Epic imprint. I even thought it was hypocritical when they'd blot out raw profanity in some of the more violent superhero tales they published, like in the Punisher, and a story starring Black Panther in the 1988-95 Marvel Comics Presents anthology, even as they had no issue with jarring visual violence and bloodletting occurring in the pages of these stories. If they couldn't build up certain characters based primarily on story merit and got cold feet about raw content in their creator-owned books, that's what I'd call thinking of themselves as an underdog, or missing huge opportunities to prove their ability to take comics out of the ghetto and into the mainstream. And they're not alone, if DC's recent decision to stop selling pamphlets in Barnes & Noble says something.
This corporate mindset drives decisions that hurt Marvel's chances to expand its audience; its backlist isn't kept in print for fear of financially overextending itself. The same argument explains why the company rarely promotes titles outside of the comic stores market and comic press — failing to court the very audience that series like America, Black Panther: World of Wakanda and Iceman were created to appeal to — as well as the high pricing (Marvel titles regularly sell for a dollar more per issue than DC titles) and high volume of comic book output: Sure, four simultaneous X-Men series might cannibalize each series' sales, but it's a more reliable brand than one X-Men book and three other series with lesser brand awareness.
Sigh. He's taking everything out of context again. They DID court those audiences they thought were out there...and they just didn't buy them. Not just because the prices are gallingly expensive for so little, but because many of the SJWs they sought as customers aren't interested in buying the products so much as demanding they be launched as a means of damaging the Marvel brand's reputation with the wider public and alienating readers further. Even the SJWs who were backing Aubrey Sitterson as a GI Joe writer didn't come out en masse to buy his awful books, so much as they did try lying and smearing the Joe fans as sexists and racists. That's no way to build confidence, let alone friendships.

However, if the backlist they speak of is the older content from better days, they certainly haven't done much to ensure the Marvel Masterworks paperbacks continue publication, and even the Epic Collections haven't covered everything that matters. Sometimes I've even noticed paperbacks that could cost more even as the content they have doesn't amount to too much (I once saw a paperback containing 2 reprinted miniseries, namely, The Many Foes of Spider-Man, from the early 90s, at $24, even though there were only 8 issues at best for both. That's an awful lot to pay for just that much.) If anything matters now, it's the older stories from pre-2000, and not all the terrible social justice hammering they've become notorious for today, but so far, they simply haven't done a good job.

And that's what you could call a case resulting from underdog thinking. Furthermore, if McMillan's content to let Mary Jane Watson be dropped down the memory hole, and not champion a leading example of a badly mishandled character who needs restoration to better status, then he's not standing up for Marvel fandom so much as he is for whomever he considers acceptable in the higher ranks of the company in terms of political correctness.

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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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