Marvel headed for the B-list?

Ghost Rider This past Saturday, the LA Times ran a piece about how Marvel, now Marvel Studios the feature-shingle of parent corporation Marvel Entertainment now has to resort to their B-list of characters now that their A-listers, the Fantastic Four , Spider-Man and the X-Men have now run their courses as franchises and are only going to become more expensive with the increasing salary demands as the actors who created the onscreen characters are likely only to become more and more expensive.

Sure, there’s an Iron Man movie in the works, an Ant-Man movie and ‘ Fantastic Four II ‘ coming this summer. But as someone who grew up with Marvel comics and saw their subject matter mature even as I grew older, I look at the cultural landscape and mostly what I see is erosion. Marvel’s breakthrough studio effort was their first ‘ Blade ‘ movie, rated-’R’ and intended for an adult audience remains its best effort. Since ‘Blade’ it has been mostly been down-hill, though ‘ X-Men 2 ‘ was better than expected and an accomplishment in itself for trying to tackle many of the subversive subtexts of the original comic-book – race, class, sexual and ethnic divisions up and down American society. In an expected devaluation we now have ‘Fantastic Four II:Rise of the Astroglide Surfer to look forward to, in all of it’s whap-whap PG-13 glory. At least the comics were about more than spectacle.

At least it looks as though DC has the right idea, by enlisting Zack Snyder (‘ Dawn of the Dead ‘, ‘ 300 ‘) to execute ‘ Watchmen ‘. During the ’80′s and ’90′s these books all became Swiftian metaphors for their primary audience – the disaffected youth of the Reagan and Bush I eras. To turn the clock back and turn these heroes into cheap, live-action Saturday Morning cartoon characters risks the loss of that original audience.

At least there’s still DC’s WildStorm and titles like ‘ Ex-Machina ‘, ‘ Y the Last Man ‘ and J. Michael Straczynski’s ‘ Supreme Power ‘ for us adults to hang onto.

My great-aunt used to call them ‘funny books’. Funny ‘ha-ha’ was as far from my experience as she could have possibly gotten.

One Response to “Marvel headed for the B-list?”

  1. Arguably, concerning Marvel’s break-though effort with Blade, they were dipping into the E-list, Snipe’s portrayal showed how moving these characters to film could breath new life into them. Sadly, it became tiresome watching Wesley growl and pose.

    Which brings to mind- who are the A-list characters at Marvel? None of the FF could exist as an A-lister on their own. I wonder if many of the X-Men beyond Wolverine would draw the kind of readership that is received by Spiderman, the Hulk, or Iron Man. Thor is getting his own movie, and even though they brought his original title to an end, they’ve re-introduced him. So given that the Avengers who consist of a gaggle of Marvel A-listers (in the original team) and their movie isn’t coming out until after the Captain America, Thor, and E-lister Ant Man movies are established, I have to say that even a year after after the LA Times opinion article ran, the premise that Marvel must now ‘resort’ to B-listers is clueless. Moreso that it posits Luke Cage and Cloak & Dagger as ‘headliners’ and Thor as a ‘lesser light’.

    With the success of Iron Man at the boxoffice (A character who has held his own title for as long as Iron Man has isn’t second-tier), the re-launch of the Hulk with a whole new cast, and speculation of a Spiderman 4, a Wolverine movie on the way and talk of a Magneto movie, there’s plenty of Marvel A-list still to come.

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