The opinions of this piece are the expression of the author and do not necessarily represent those of BagoGames as a whole. Enjoy!
Looking over my Twitter feed, I found an article that inspired me. The article in question was penned by NotSafeforWerk.com’s @ikearstin. Kearstin is a rather fantastic cosplayer, who just added “writer” to her resume and talked about her feelings on Thor’s recent feminine reboot and the feminization of male characters in general. Seems she isn’t really a fan of that concept for comics or cosplay. I can’t say I am, either. It really got me thinking: Marketing ploys are great for sales, but are they good for the stories? Are politics? Is Religion? Is race as important as a good story and great art? I think not. So why do we buy what we buy and read what we read?
Pull lists are funny things. It’s hard to put into words. The how’s and why’s of what many comic readers pick is often a mystery. I myself often read books that I do not enjoy just to stay in the know and I know some folks will finish a writer’s “run” on a series they don’t like simply for the sake of completion. People drop books because of art or a character’s departure and some people follow each and every event and tie-in. I, for one, usually despise tie-ins. They often have little to do with the actual event.
Recently, Marvel explored just how Angela (a character from Spawn comics, published by Image) came to be here in the Marvel Universe. Original Sin-Thor and Loki – The Tenth Realm mini series aimed to explain all of that. Adding a new character to a universe, from another universe is hard. The new character usually doesn’t fit for a long time. Angela went from demon hunter (in Spawn comics) to Guardian of the Galaxy (in the Marvel Universe). That’s a big leap and I feel she was used just to sell the final issue of Age of Ultron. I don’t feel she’s being utilized well and I can’t help but think this is marketing 101 to boost sales at it’s worst. We already know Angela’s going to be Asgard’s Assassin thanks to upcoming comic previews, but they managed to fit her in, albeit not well.
On the other side, we have a great many writers taking established characters and making a clear political or religious stance. I won’t name names, and I ultimately don’t care what my favorite heroes politics or religions are. I don’t read comics to read the author’s opinions about LGBT, racism, religion, or politics, though.I read for a good story. I’m not saying “do not try to represent diverse heroes and villains.” We live in a diverse world, comics should reflect that. There is, however, a difference between representing people and forcing an opinion.
These things shouldn’t define the character in question. Their origin and need to fight for good and justice is far more important. People are just people…actions make heroes and villains. Benjamin J. Grimm, the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing, is devoutly Jewish. You can bet his aunt Petunia that that isn’t why he gets up every morning and gets ready for some clobberin’ time. He does it out of loyalty to his ever growing family. He does it because people like Victor von Doom exist. He does it because this world needs heroes and he has the power to do something good.
Hulkling and Wiccan of the young avengers are two young men in love. They also do what’s right, even at the cost of their own relationship, because they’re heroes. These characters could be of any race or creed and I’d still enjoy reading about them. Their powers, actions, and wit is what interested me. It’s the details of their lives trickled into the books that’s kept me reading. None of this is crammed down our throats and none of it defines them solely based upon one aspect of their life. I’ve mostly talked about Marvel, though. What about DC?
Batman is, among many things, anti-gun. His parents were shot by a mugger, after all. He’s never gone and used his billions to push gun control laws on panel in comics and Bruce Wayne has no need to get political or religious because “I’m the Goddamn Batman!” (Thank Frank Miller for that one).
There are so many more marketing tools open to comic creators. Changing or removing a character’s powers, shuffling around creative teams, even changing costumes can breathe new life into the books. Marketing disguised as story can’t ever seem to amount to more than fad. Thor might enjoy some sales boosts from the novelty of a woman wielding the hammer alone, but I can almost guarantee by next May and Thor 3, Thor will be a guy again when Marvel’s cinematic universe reinstates the status quo.
Comic creators will claim that the movies have nothing to do with plotting of comics, but comics advertise cinema now, not vice versa. Why did Superior Spider-Man end prior to Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s theatrical release? Why does Phil Coulson work for S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Avengers comics when he’s only existed since Ironman 2? Movies are what guides comic content and it’s studio’s agenda onscreen that perpetuates the aesthetic changes, much less idealism.
Good stories sell books and good characters sell their impact. Swapping genders isn’t character development: it’s marketing better suited for Saturday morning cartoons. A man named Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost proved this when they created X-23. She’s defined by so many things at this point and being a feminine clone of Wolverine is just a drop in the bucket. Curtis J. Weibe likewise proved the same with Roc Upchurch’s artistic aid in Rat Queens. The book’s vibrant, natural three dimensional characters bring a diversity that feels right, you know, like real people.
Anyone who tells you that every story worth telling’s been told needs a bigger imagination. These people do a great job and they’re bound to do better beyond the industry’s cheaper ploys. Maybe the next Lee and Kirby have yet to be found. I know they’re out there and I what they’re what the industry needs.
How hot button of a topic is this for you? What do you read comics for? Tell us in the comments below!