An entry from my old Marvel.com blog of a decade-plus past, this one speaking a bit more about the “Core Four” titles that make up the center of the Avengers/Marvel Heroes line. It looks to my eye like the end of this entry may be missing, but I’m posting what’s here at any rate.
A couple more thoughts about the “Core Four” titles that had at one point gained the reputation for being difficult to make relevant to a modern audience.
One of the interesting things about the Core Four is what titles didn’t fall into the category. Spider-Man and X-Men, of course, remained sales powerhouses, propelled in large part by the caliber of talent being used on those books. So they never suffered any. But DAREDEVIL went through years where it didn’t sell any better than those other four books (and often sold worse), and yet the same stigma didn’t attach itself to that title. I think this is at least partially due to the reputation that the Frank Miller runs left on the character, and even the fact that he’d taken a natural turn over the years from the bouncy and upbeat character he’d been at the beginning to something darker and grittier and more in tune with the sensibility of the 80s.
FANTASTIC FOUR also largely escaped being tarred with the same brush. I think this had to do with the fact that it typically sold a bit better than the Core Four titles, and was situated right at the center of the Marvel mythos. But it’s hard to believe that “science fiction adventure family” was considered to be an easier sell to a 90s audience than Thor or the Hulk or Captain America. Ironically, I see the pendulum beginning to swing against FF a bit these last few years, with the charge of irrelevancy being levied a little bit. I don’t believe that’s any more true than I bought the rap about the Core Four a decade ago, but as AVENGERS has taken center stage away from the FF, and the series has continued to drift towards the fringes, I can see how some people might begin to feel this way.
Then you have characters such as Doctor Strange or Nick Fury or Captain Marvel, who carry some cache because of the era of their origins, and who make for strong and popular supporting players in other titles, but who’ve typically had a hard time holding onto a series of their own. These guys and a bunch of other guys like them are constantly being revisited and revamped and rethought, sometimes with good results and sometimes with bad. I think they’ve all got great potential–they’re all terrific characters–but we haven’t quite hit on the winning formula or the winning creative team just yet.