The Marvel and DC reboots seem to happen quicker and quicker. Every 2-3 years, the big two stop production of many lines and then re-origin or rework a bunch of characters and teams. On one hand, I get it.
A #1 issue sells better than a #5 or a #25. Also, some characters or storylines get long in the tooth and a refresh isn’t bad. And often, this is a place to sneak in (or boldly proclaim) new diversity to appeal to a broader range of fans. On the other hand, some consumers, myself included, like our continuity and the idea of collecting all the issues and knowing that what I bought five years ago is still cannon.
But I’ve got to say that the quality of the reboots is winning me over. There is so little pure continuity left that the emotional cost of a reboot for me is lower and lower.
For example, in 2012, Marvel launched the NOW! branding of their line. A bunch of new #1 issues came out and many were kicking serious ass (Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Magneto, etc). In 2015, Marvel destroyed the Marvel Universe (surprise!) to make Secret Wars.
As a personal aside, hearing that they were redoing Secret Wars had me a little anxious. I’m old enough that I bought the first Secret Wars series over twelve months in corner stores. I thought a redo would be crappy. However, Marvel made this one much, much bigger in scope, and included most of the current characters in the MU.
They had Doom as the overboss of a patchwork of different zones, each one a little different, but giving Marvel plenty of space to do what they felt like. So they had the Thor Corps of cops working across all places for Doom (along with Doom’s advisor Stephen Strange).
They had A-Force, an all-female Avengers led by She-Hulk. And on and on it went, in a way that was much better than DC’s “destroy the universe and reboot it”, which I felt was resolved so unsatisfyingly that the name of the crisis escapes me right now.
So over the last few months, Marvel has been emerging from Secret Wars with a whole new pack of #1 issues in their All-New All-Different line.
We’ve got a place of prominence for the Inhumans, taking over the prominence formerly held by the X-Men. We’ve got a new Dr. Strange comic to psyche up some fans for the movie (written with tongue-in-cheek by Jason Aaron).
To cover the movies, we’ve got no end to Guardians of the Galaxy, Groot, Iron Man, Avengers, Ant-Man, Captain America or Captain Marvel, which bodes well for what Marvel seems to be trying to do in sustaining interest in the movie properties while prepping others for the limelight.
Some All-New All-Different choices are unexpected. Venom (Flash Thompson) is a space knight. The Black Knight has a series, as does Squadron Supreme, and Scarlet Witch is a mystical noir series that seems to be a cross between Cullen Bunn’s Magneto and Hellstrom.
But most striking to me, although I’m not the target audience, is the amount of young adult or all-ages series that are out there. When I was a kid you went to DC for kids stuff and Marvel for teen-targeted books.
But the slate of YA-toned comics runs from Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Ms. Marvel, Hellcat, the Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl, Spider-Gwen, Spidey, Nova, Groot, some of the Guardians stuff, and depending on how you read them, the Totally Awesome Hulk and Silver Surfer.
While it’s not the tone I gravitate to for myself, I read the first issue of Nova with my 10-year old son, as well as the first two issues of Squirrel-Girl, and it was great father-son bonding.
Now, this post is not just about the comics and what’s on offer per se. A larger theme is playing itself out as well, a positive one. Nowhere in Marvel’s offerings do I find a whole lot of cleavage or enthusiatically-drawn skin-tight outfits as I would have even just five years ago. I’d always wondered how I would share my love of comics if I’d ever had a daughter.
That question ought not come up to anyone anymore. Hellcat and She-Hulk and many other female heroes are being written, drawn and edited by women, in respectful ways.
The Black Panther will soon launch, written by the columnist for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Editor Sana Amanat has taken on a new role in Marvel to expand and diversify the line to attract new audiences.
We’ve seen some push-back from some fans, but overwhelmingly, the majority of fans are embracing the changes, myself among them, as well as legions of new fans who are bringing new money to the table.
Comics are transforming, in the same way that the sci-fi and fantasy and horror fields are changing, and gaming is changing. The future is here and it’s diverse, and new perspectives are making comics far more interesting than they were before.
You should check some of these out, maybe with your kids.
Derek Kunsken writes science fiction, fantasy and horror in Gatineau, Quebec. His next story is appearing in the Apr/May 2016 issue of Asimov’s (on stands at the end of January).