Another post from my old Marvel blog talking about the “core four” titles of the Marvel Heroes line.
A little bit later than I’d intended–which is going to become the pattern for awhile, I think, as we deal with some staffing issues internally–but here’s my follow-up to last week’s post about the “Core Four” titles that have the reputation of being difficult to make sell.
One of the things that almost all of these books have in common–CAPTAIN AMERICA is kind of the odd man out when it comes to this analogy–is that their most hardcore, vocal online fan base is an extremely tough audience.
Back when I used to post around the web a bit more than I have the chance to do these days, a certain truism became apparent: The boards with the toughest audiences inevitably belonged to the Hulk and Thor, with Iron Man really close behind. In each case, there was a particular classic run that was held up as the ne plus ultra of the character, against which almost anything that was going on in the books failed to measure up at least with a segment of these folks (And let me state for the record that I’m not speaking of all HULK, THOR or IRON MAN fans here. This is a generality.) And inevitably, whenever the discussion turned towards who they’d like to see handle the characters, the same litany would be heard again: Simonson on THOR, Michelinie & Layton on IRON MAN, Peter David on HULK.
Additionally, and maybe this is just a byproduct of one’s favorite character not being the most popular hero on the block, but all three groups of these fans always seemed to me to be inordinately concerned about the amount of “respect” these characters got in the books–respect being defined as being shown to be powerful and capable, and held in esteem or awe by the other heroes of the Marvel U. This would especially become a heated topic when you got any two of these guys together in the same story–one group would salute the excellent way in which Iron Man was able to come out ahead of Thor, while another group would decry the obvious lack of respect that all of Marvel’s creators and editors had for Thor, allowing him to be momentarily bested by Iron Man, which any sane person knows could never happen. Mix up the character names as you like, the same pattern repeated itself over and over again.
These were also tough boards in terms of inclusion. I saw more than one creator actively chased away from communicating directly with the readers by that small but vocal and entitlement-driven segment of the fanbase who’d accost them about how they were handling the book and the character in question. On each one, there was a doctrine, a dogma, and if you weren’t down with it, you were at the very least in for some tough times.
What all of this means, I don’t know. Could just be the way the scrappy spirit of the underdog has to adapt to a changing world to survive. Maybe it’s like being a fan of one of those ballclubs that never seems to be able to make it to the World Series, or hasn’t been able to for years. Whatever it was, it definitely polarized the audiences for these characters. But at the moment, there seems to be a general (if only momentary) degree of happiness with how these characters and their titles are being treated. It’s not all sweetness and light, of course, and there are always going to be people who don’t like a given series or a given creator’s take. But there is a feeling of stability like we haven’t seen for awhile.
I expect it’s going to last until the HULK issue comes out in which the Red Hulk fights Thor…