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Wednesday, July 07, 2021 

Marvel regurgitates an insufferable publicity stunt

Specifically, as relayed by Newsarama, they're putting Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange and even Peter Parker in death limbo:
Doctor Strange will be dead soon. So will Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man.

And no sooner did we first publish this than another prominent MCU hero has apparently been murdered in the comic books. Or at least Marvel Comics really, really wants its readers to think the first two will be taking a dirt nap shortly and the third was just killed.

But in case you haven't read June 30's Marvel books yet...

Spoilers ahead for June 30's X-Factor #10

Yes, that's right, it looks like Wanda Maximoff, AKA the Scarlet Witch is apparently dead too, seemingly murdered by her father-figure Magneto (or at least he's the prime suspect).

Now none of these are unusual circumstances. Unlike in real life, death in comic books is somewhat akin to jury duty - it's a nuisance everyone has to deal with periodically but it's only temporary. And, while frustrating, you'll usually be back to your normal life and job in no time.

The death and/or retirement and/or incapacitation of superheroes is also part of a marketing cycle that's particularly useful for characters that are published periodically and indefinitely for long periods of time, and in the case of iconic superheroes - that means for decades, sometimes several times a month for years on end.
As expected, more tired apologia rather than unambiguous criticism of Marvel's staff for resorting to pathetic character assassinations under the flawed notion it'll "create interest". But the more these particular cliches came into use, the more offensive it got, and most definitely when they became the basis for company wide crossovers. On which note, the reporter continues with the following:
During a DC Comics panel at what would have been the 1998 or 1999 Comic-Con International: San Diego, long-time DC editor/executive Mike Carlin answered a fan question about the Superman Red and Superman Blue storyline (the fan was less than enthused, as I recall) that has stuck with me in the 20-plus years since I heard it from the back of the panel room.

I'm liberally paraphrasing, but I believe Carlin's sentiment was to the effect of "Sometimes you have to publish Electric Blue Superman to remind readers how great regular Superman is."

What I think he meant was sometimes when privileged with reading about great and classic characters every single month for long periods of time, readers can begin to take them for granted. And sometimes it takes an Electric Blue Superman, or for another example, someone else in the Iron Man armor like Doctor Doom, to refresh fans' interest in the classic iteration of the characters.

Most major superheroes have died and/or retired during their history (sometimes on multiple occasions), only to triumphantly return to their namesake comic book series eventually with a boost in sales. Readers often react to this common cycle with derision, but as an observer of the industry and sales for over two decades (and the person in charge of marketing Marvel comics to comic book stores for 14 months once upon a time) I can state unequivocally that it works.
Does it? I seem to recall that, Ben Reilly took over as Spider-Man, sales for the franchise suffered. There's minor characters in both Marvel/DC universes who've suffered even worse, like Lilith Clay from Teen Titans, since the publishers figured that, since they're never going to launch series starring such 3rd tier protagonists, it won't make any difference whether they kill them off or not, nobody's going to drop specific series because they got rid of them. Some minor heroes and their co-stars were forcibly kicked to the curb for the sake of SJW creations over the past 16 years, like an Asian Atom, Latino Blue Beetle and Black Firestorm, and Mary Jane Watson was shunned from Spider-Man's cast for nearly 12 years, while the editors vehemently refused for a time to reverse these status quos, no matter how far sales dropped, or tanked for solo books starring the diversity pandering creations. Speaking of Mary Jane, Newsarama does bring up that infamous 90s mess:
In Spider-Man's case, he's been replaced several times as well, including by his arch-nemesis Doctor Octopus most recently and most pertinently by his clone Ben Reilly, who in October will be replacing him in Amazing Spider-Man title for a second time (you might have heard of the infamous 'Clone Saga').
But no objective argument is made whether it's a good or bad idea to dredge up this embarrassment yet again. So what's their point? Apparently:
But what is interesting about this particular cycle is the timing of their deaths or apparent deaths and replacements. Because all are happening right before the characters have high-profile new MCU films coming up.

The comic book switch from Peter to Ben happens in October, just two months before Tom Holland's Peter Parker returns in Spider-Man: No Way Home on December 17, featuring an appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange.
If they're implying the only reason Marvel shouldn't be doing this is because of the potential for a movie to draw in tons of filmgoers (which has proven a failure for plenty of valid reasons), that's stupid. It should be because the audience embraces the established characters, not some hasty creations whose only defining traits under today's standards are whether they're POC and/or LGBT, or even ultra-leftist. They've practically been doing something similar lately with Captain America, more on which anon. And then, the article wonders why the current steps:
Another could be Marvel is engaging in a counter-intuitive marketing experiment. Perhaps where it usually zigs (giving potential new readers something familiar) maybe this time around it's going to zag, going against the grain with an attention-getting 'stunt' (for lack of a better term) to take advantage of the increased awareness.
But no dwelling on if this is counter-productive for their sales and popularity. That's why the whole article thuds. And plenty of commentors on the page felt that way too. For example:
Because the House of Ideas has no new original ideas left...
And haven't had any for 2 decades now. Another:
Sadly, that's the way it seems at present:

Clone Saga, Heroes Reborn, World War She-Hulk, Ben Reilly... and that's just in the space of a few months.
Indeed, that's how pathetic they've become. And then:
I get the Electric Blue theory, but if they also saw a return to 80's and early 90s plotting and character development and arcs with an updated take on dialogue and action, they'd hit far more often than they miss now
More to the point, if they worried about story merit as much as they do about 15 minutes of publicity, they wouldn't be in such dire straits. Next:
The whole sad and tired industry-wide trope of "died and come back" cycle of stories are the sloppiest way of increasing sales and publicity and only ever suggested by bottom feeders, with little else to offer. It's almost as bad as seeing the current fad of changing every single, literally every single, hero into a new ethnicity and or sexual identity. Some of it works, but most won't and then these new versions will be dropped like a hot potato.
A lot of the "dying and returning" cliche has also served to further the use of replacing established characters with cast members of difference race/sexual ID too. In some cases, they'd rather stick rock solid on the SJW concoctions. Definitely if they think they can get away with it. Here's another one:
Ugh, I know every comic is someone’s first, but this kill off/replace hero gimmick is overplayed and annoying. Is it simply impossible to tell good stories with these characters after all these decades? I can’t imagine how the editors can hear a pitch for a storyline like this and not say, “well, we just did that with Superior Spider-Man /Jane Foster/Captain America/Daredevil/IronMan/Hulk/Wolverine” I’m too old for this sh!t. Have fun kids. :)
The whole gimmick practically became repellent decades ago. It's gotten so bad it's not even funny. And if that's all they can think of, no wonder it's not worth reading, nor will the non-existent audience the publishers believe is there care to take a look.

Here's also Polygon's sugary take on the material:
The most anticipated event in the current X-Men lineup is undoubtedly Inferno, but before we get to the part where Mystique burns all of our stuff down with her anger, we have The Trial of Magneto. And now we know exactly what he’s accused of that’s so bad. Insert your Law & Order sound here!

In the pages of last week’s SWORD #6, the Master of Magnetism was seen hobnobbing with the last person you’d expect to be invited to a big mutant party: Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch.

Wanda is mutant public enemy #1 for her role in M-Day, when, in a moment of mental crisis, she magically stripped 90% of the world’s mutants of their superpowers. Then, to make matters worse, it was revealed that she and her brother Quicksilver weren’t really Magneto’s kids, and they weren’t really mutants. On Krakoa, she’s known as the Great Pretender.

But, as Magneto admitted to her in SWORD #6, Krakoa is a place where mutants are given a chance to make new lives free of the transgressions in their pasts. And perhaps part of his new life will be that, after all the years he and Wanda spent thinking that they were related, he should admit that he still cares for her like family. It was touching.

And in this week’s X-Factor, it all went to heck.
So, it's "touching" that their relation status was retconned away? Proof the writer's not a Marvel purist. Otherwise, she would've expressed distaste in how the story relies on House of M's loathsome setups for this newest mess. Which continues with the current X-Factor volume's 10th issue:
The Scarlet Witch’s body was found in a Krakoan anteroom, presumably dead. Magneto wasn’t present, but the issue indicates that this storyline will be seen again in The Trial of Magneto. One of Krakoa’s greatest heroes is now accused of breaking one of its most sacred laws: Don’t kill humans.
And what does that mean? That mutants by contrast are expendable? If anything, this is just distasteful, and besides, if memory serves, didn't Magneto once face a trial in the late 1980s for his past criminal offenses? Plus, just who's "anticipating" this event, really? Far less people than decades before, that's for sure, seeing how low sales are for crossovers these days compared to the time 1984's Secret Wars first went on sale. The page also brings up the stunt Marvel's been pulling with Captain America as a franchise:
United States of Captain America is a new miniseries in which a mysterious killer is traveling around the country, trying to kill people who take the Captain America emblem on to do good — so naturally Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson are on the case, with one new “Captain America” introduced in each issue, with a backup story telling their origin. This week’s was Aaron Fischer, an unhomed queer kid who protects the innocent across America’s railways.
And how does he do that? By helping the derelicts on railways find jobs and homes? The book is written by LGBT ideologues, and with that kind of arrangement, it's pretty apparent this is all a political stunt.

Back on the Magneto/Scarlet Witch/Quicksilver issue, it's additionally head-shaking how they frame it all as "thinking" they were related, along with the millionth use of "revealed", refusing to recognize these are fictional characters and stories. But, that's a prominent reason why these superhero products were ruined 2 decades ago. I hope more people will wake up and not buy these cheap stunts, because they're written to serve as art, but rather, as publicity and political stunts. Which is only leading the industry further into failure.

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About me

  • 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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