Things for ’10: The New Comics War
Eoin Mason addresses what was the biggest entertainment story in 2009 not just because of its significance, but its future potential across all forms of entertainment.
People had mix emotions when Marvel Comics announced at the San Diego Comic Con that Marvel had brought the rights to Marvel Man to big fan fare after many many years of lawsuits and pending decision making. People were merely speculating on how this would be done and what Marvel were planning for the new character.
This was in July.
Noone in the comic community, or even the entertainment community, thought that Marvel had another bombshell to drop. This one, however, was a nuclear warhead compared to Marvel Man’s mere torpedo.
On August 31st of this year, Disney announced they were set to finalise the deal to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 Billion and the internet exploded in anticipation, rage and, in parts, downright excitement. On the date this article is published, this merger is now 100% official and marks the beginning of what will be the most interesting Disney purchase since Pixar back in the beginning of 2006.
Let’s start from, fundamentally, the most important of them all. Disney has many, many characters under their control. They may not have the film rights to, say, Spider Man and the X-Men, but they have the character rights to them along with Iron Man, The Hulk, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Wolverine, Thor and so many more. When the deal happens, Disney can choose to do whatever they want with these characters.
I put this on here not because of anything major happening, because honestly apart from the possibilities of movies being announced post Avengers nothing will really happen, but because 2010 will be the potential year for Disney/Marvel. The pieces will be placed and we will be finding out what Disney have planned for the company but also what Marvel have planned in terms of books coming out in the new era.
Marvel already announced their big 4 issue event for 2010, Siege, which marks the end of their year long Dark Reign saga that branched throughout the whole Marvel Universe and also marks the first time in a major setting that the original Captain America, Steve Rogers, Iron Man and Thor have teamed up with each other since The original Avengers dissbanded way back in 2005. Joe Quesada, Marvel Editor in Chief, said that this would be the last big Marvel event in a while and would be focusing on smaller events like…
Fall of the Hulks. Since the end of World War Hulk, Jeph Loeb has taken the helm of the Hulk mythos and, depending on who you speak to, he’s either single handedly destroyed it or made it the most entertaining it has been in years. What cannot be disputed is that, throughout 2009, Loeb’s Red Hulk series was one of the highest selling books in comics.
With Fall of the Hulks…noone has any idea what to expect. With so many Hulk entities running around (The Hulk, Red Hulk, She Hulk, Red She Hulk, Hulk’s Son Skaar and Hulk’s Daughter Lyra – yes, some of these are real and created by Loeb) noone is quite sure the fate of any of them. Along with that, for as long as Loeb is on the book, we don’t even know who Red Hulk IS. Will we find out in this series? No idea. All we know is that the direction Marvel is taking is more of these series, but Fall of the Hulks will be the one people watch because of how well it sells but also of the talent involved in writing and drawing (Greg Pak, Ed McGuiness, John Romita Jr etc) the series.
‘But Eoin’, you may ask, ‘What is DC Entertainment doing there? What does this have to do with the Marvel/Disney merger?’
In the same way as Marvel/Disney being a case of pieces being placed on the table, 2010 will be the year that we see what kind of potential DC Entertainment has to compete with Marvel and its new juggernaut big brother.
It is absolutly no secret that DC Entertainment came on the back of the soon to be merger mostly due to the fact that, just a week prior, Warner Bros were rumoured to be considering selling off DC Comics because of the amount of money it has been losing. DC may be good for movie inspiration and box office draws, but that is the only reason they were still with WB. Post Disney/Marvel, DC Entertainment was formed. The idea being that Warner Bros would have more control over DC Comics as well as their animation properties (the made for TV movies and Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and their film properties ( The Flash, Shazam, Green Lantern all coming in the next couple of years with Batman 3 looming in the corner like The Dark Knight himself).
Unlike Marvel, some of these characters have yet to be utilized in the same way. Having said that, DC’s big film for next Summer will be competing with Iron Man 2 in the comic book movie stakes. That film; Jonah Hex.
The mission with this film, which stars Josh Brolin and Megan Fox, will be to overcome the major obstacle against the film. Jonah Hex isn’t anywhere near as well known as some of DC’s other lowgrade characters like Plastic Man, Green Arrow and Super Girl who have all had prominant places in shows like ‘Justice League’ and ‘Batman: The Brave and the Bold’. Jonah Hex needs a push to be prominant and this will be Diane Nelson’s first mission. She may not have the film’s marketing budget, but what she does have is strength in DC’s writing talents and back history.
Hex, as a character, is completly different to what the general public will be used to. A former Confederete soldier now keeping to his morals of truth and justice as a vigilante only equipped with his guns and fists in a post Civil War America. The ‘comic book’ aspect may come merely from his face scars, the Mark of the Demon, which were given to him after dishonouring a Native American tribe after him finding out one of them was going to be betray them and killed him.
Right now, his writing team is Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti who have been prominant on the book since 2005 and is one that showcases Jonah’s life from his beginning right up to his death in 1904 where, in continuity, it is said he was shot playing a game of cards by an old rival.
Odds are, this would be a good time to make the book more prominant in the same way it is usually done in comics with a big event or a spin off title. The spin off title is more likely because Hex’s life is already being showcased by Gray and Palmiotti and it would be crazy to have, say, a title where Jonah Hex goes into the future and joins the Justice League of America…not that that is out of the question, but it would not really do anything for the character and make fans sceptical about it being a cash in. What should be done, in my opinion, is to hype up Hex’s deep range of graphic novels and trades to get readers not just reading his books but possibly non suprhero titles because, as I said before, he’s most certainly not the hero we’re all used to. That is his selling point.
Comics wise, DC are not going to slack after Blackest Night already announcing ‘War of the Supermen‘, which will set to wrap up Superman’s ‘New Krypton’ arc, Green Lantern script writer and former FlashForward writer Marc Guggenheim taking over in Action Comics, a DC ‘Legacies’ series going into the heroes who have very significant histories such as the Blue Beetle along with the long requested History of the DC Universe series and, what many seem as the most interesting, two new Earth One series done in graphic novel formats throughout 2010. Acclaimed Comic book writer Geoff Johns teams with Superman: Secret Origin drawing buddy Gary Frank to take a new twist on the origins of Batman whilst former Babylon 5 creator and Thor writer J Michael Straczynski will take on Superman, hinting at a possible shift in the Krypton part of Superman’s origin.
Did I mention, too, that Grant Morrison is writing the series that’ll bring Bruce Wayne back to the mainstream DC Universe after the events of Final Crisis and Wonder Woman will reach the fabled 600th issue in June? In other words, DC are putting a tonne of eggs in their basket and getting their readers talking, taking full advantage of their roster of superstar writers and creators and looking, in partial effect, to try and help readers understand the new DC Universe after the events have shaken continuity and fan reaction for the past few years.
From all of this, as big as both years will be for both Marvel and DC, the $64,000 question still remains; Will this get more people reading comic books and taking a bigger interest? This is important because, over the last 2-3 years, comics have earned a much bigger stake in the mainstream having features and news stories done to them about guys such as Bendis, Johns, Morrison and Mark Millar, with Kick Ass coming out in 2010 too, sharing the same entertainment spotlight as . The only thing both companies need to do in the next 12 months is to either promote comics in other mediums, such as Marvel with the PSP Digital Comics Reader, or to go all out and try to get comics in major stores. Out of Marvel and DC, Marvel has the best shot in making this happen for one reason; The Disney Stores.
Outlandish as that may sound, there are some Marvel titles out there suitable for a younger audience that can easily be seen in Disney stores like the Marvel Adventures titles, the Super Hero Squad (based on the successful cartoon of the same name) and Disney might seem it beneficial to them to put these in their stores to put more marketability in their purchace Marvel since we all know we’ll be seeing stuffed toys of Spider Man and The Hulk next to Mickey, Stitch and Wall-E very soon.
Warner Bros do not have their chainstores anymore after the lack of profit turned by them so they do not have this advantage. Instead, the possibility of digital distribution may loom soon for DC Entertainment even though they are the only mainstream comic book company presently not on the PSP Comic Reader. DC might have their own plans and could possibly launch something to counter this in 2010. They certainly have the back catalogue of books to do it.
Whatever happens between Marvel and DC, Comic books in general have not as much got their foot in the door as much as thrown it open. Titles from companies independent and mainstream have been picked up in the hopes of producing new films based on the heroes, anti-heroes and other strange characters inside them. Whatever happens in 2010 to comics, it is safe to say that it won’t be the last year they will have their place in the multimedia stage.