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Friday, April 11, 2008 

You Can't Say That!

So, there we were, the missus and I chatting it up about the utter nonsense going on over at Marvel Comics, which at one time I understand was called the House of Ideas.

“You can’t say that” she yelled.

“Uh, yes I can, in fact, I just did.” I calmly replied, “he hates comics, and there is nothing in print or on tape that can even come close to refuting what I’m saying, is there missy?”

So what was the hullabaloo about? Joe Quesada. Again.

I’ve written before about the editor in chief of Marvel here and here. A few months back it was the news about Ghost Rider that caused the scales to fall from my eyes. Under Quesada’s leadership, and according to the press releases, Ghost Rider is now an angel. That’s right kids, Ghost Rider; you know, the guy with the flaming skull, the guy that rides a motorcycle with hellfire for wheels, well, he is now an angel.

So, you might think the über geek in me, reading that press release might just about have an über coronary. And if you thought that, you would be wrong.

No, the pain in my left arm and chest started after reading Amazing Spider Man, issue 545. With this one issue, Marvel Comics erased over twenty years of continuity by erasing Mary Jane Watson as Peter Parker’s wife! Peter Parker sold his happiness and his marriage to the devil Mephistopheles to save the life of his aunt who had just been shot. He made… a deal… with the devil.

Mephistopheles, using magic, just made everyone forget who Peter Parker was and reset everyone’s lives so as to make sure the Peter wouldn’t have to feel the sorrow of losing his aunt. This, at one time, would have been completely out of character for someone who since his uncle was murdered because he was so selfish, has done nothing but put everyone else’s needs and happiness ahead of his own. Now we are asked to believe that losing his wife is less important than losing his aunt. How Peter feels emotionally now trumps all. Peter Parker gives up his wife so he doesn't have to feel bad. Great responsibility is now great selfishness.

And, oh yeah, that same magic that somehow not only made everyone forget what was what, but also resurrected Peter’s dead best friend Harry Osborn. For crying out loud!

We are asked to believe that everything that has happened for the last twenty years, and 269 issues, happened but never happened. We are told to just forget that dusty old cannon, its just filler between the eras.

Quesada and company have pulled similar stunts before that have caused many a comic book fan to question whether they have any respect at all for what is in comic book canon.

Under Quesada’s leadership, Captain America has been assassinated, Bucky, Cap’s partner who died heroically at the end of WWII was resurrected, Magneto has died and been resurrected more times than I can count, Colossus; an Xman has been resurrected as has his sister Magik, Thor and the Asgard have endured Ragnarok and been resurrected, Iron Man has been turned into a fascist working for the government, both Daredevil and Spider-Man’s secret identity have been exposed to the world, the Hulk has turned from green to red, and the list goes on and on and on. But back to Spider-Man…

What the heck are Quesada and the rest of these people thinking? Do they even know who Spider Man is? Have they ever read any of the forty years worth of back issues? Sure they have, but they have absolutely no respect for the creators and writers that have been entertaining fan boys (and fan girls too) for decades.

Quesada’s excuse is that the comic books we grew up with create too much of a limitation for those tasked with writing the stories. There has been so much history, the reasoning goes, that to reach those who don’t currently read comic books, the history must be wiped out and reorganized to appear fresh. It’s just too hard he cries.

And what of those who grew up reading the stories of the last twenty or forty years? Well, they’re told that what they remember reading really happened, but just like the people of the Marvel universe, they will need to forget it all. It’s like magic, it happened but you just can’t talk about it.

The fans are being told that to reach those who do not read comic books, they need to take a back seat. The fans are being told that while their support is certainly appreciated, they need to think about the bigger picture of growing the audience. The fans are being told that even though Peter Parker married his sweetheart Mary Jane Watson twenty years ago they need to forget it ever happened. Fans are also being told that Peter Parker is no longer a responsible adult taking care of his wife but now lives with his Aunt May again, just like he did in high school.

Now, if we look at the situation honestly there is only one conclusion; Marvel Comics management, i.e. Joe Quesada hates Spider-Man. But they only hate the historical 40 year old Spider-Man as they have seen fit to craft themselves a new spider-man marketed to the mid twenty something, I can’t make ends meet so I live off my folks so how can I buy comic books when they cost two to three dollars for a single comic crowd.

Yep, based on what is being said, what is being written, it is plain as day, this is clearly not our father’s comic book company and the people in charge like Joe Quesada hate Spider-Man.

Nuff said.


"...think about the bigger picture of growing the audience."

"...not our father's comic book company."

Methinks you might just have something else on your mind, there, big guy.

I'm just sayin'...



Ok, I know I’m not the best communicator and I should really try and work on that.

What I’m trying to say is that Quesada’s actions are in direct conflict with his words. He says he loves Marvel Comics but then say the only way to reach those who would read comic books is to erase all that has gone on before.

Now, if that’s all he did is talk and opine, that would be one thing. But, what he has done is essentially erase twenty years of history. It’s, at the end of the day, his actions that I find so disturbing.

Nope, this isn't a bust on your communication skills, Frank. Not at all.

In my own, way too glib, way, I was just making a comment on the way in which you described the market/marketing-driven tack that Quesada had taken.

It's very much the same as what the Missourian Synodicrats have been saying to justify all of their changes (church growth marketing, "not your grandfather's church", ablaze, etc...).

It belies the methodology underneath radical change management theory that drives folks like Quesada & SPK.


Ya'know Frank, I've seen it before.

One of my hobbies, ham radio, went through this February of last year when morse code was no longer required for a general or extra class license. Sure, nobody disagrees that when all else fails, morse code can be sent and received over long distances with the simplest of equipment. However, it's just too doggone hard to learn. Therefore it's better to just not require it anymore. Afterall, more people will want to become ham if they're not required to learn code, right. Think of the numbers they could bring in!

Ahh, the depth of the parallels are staggering. Make it easier for the new guy by ignoring what works and dumbing down everything in the process.

And what of those who grew up reading the stories of the last twenty or forty years?

Good question. See, there are so few of you, and your demands that every last niggling detail of every comic book stay consistent with the tortured 40-year back catalog of stories that at times were hastily thrown together, that comic books aren't gaining new readers and slowly losing old ones to maturity, death, and apathy.

Comic book publishers drew themselves into a hole when they decided Bruce Wayne should age, that Peter Parker should get married, and that every story should draw deeply from the wells of past comic books that can only be found in comic book shops for steep prices--they lost the ability to write stories that appealed to kids. Too much [*See Some Random Issue from 1985] and character profiles that don't match the adventures the kids see on TV and in the movies. Now they're trying to dig themselves out of that hole.

You may hate Joe Quesada, but the fact is Marvel run the way you think Marvel ought to be run once was facing bankruptcy.

And comic books are a business, not a religion. Marketing is entirely appropriate for businesses.

Josh, you are unwittingly making my point. Yes there is only a remnant of what there used to be reading comic books. But wouldn’t that seem to be reason enough to protect the “brand” that everyone loves?

DC dealt with the Batman getting older by signing on to the idea of multiple earths where different outcomes could be dealt with without effecting one another’s continuity. And that worked for DC for years. That is why on Earth 2 Bruce Wayne could age and even have a daughter who would grow up to be the super heroine the Huntress. Marvel started down that road by releasing the Ultimate Line where they could write of a teenage Peter Parker still in high school that did not adhere to the known “canon”. Personally, I was ok with that.

Concerning Marvel going into bankruptcy; you are making my argument again. What led up to the crash of the 90’s was the leadership of Marvel selling artists and chromium plated covers as investment without any regard for the content of the writing of the characters that were in the books. ( this was not unique to Marvel, sadly DC fell into this trap as well) People who didn’t care about the “brand” spider-man changed his costume and created more clones than could be counted to sell a new spider-man of the month seemingly every month. The only good thing to come out of that dark era is the mass exodus of talent to startup companies.

Yes marketing is important to a business, but when the brand you are trying to sell is reworked into something that is unrecognizable to the current customer base… New Coke anyone?... how does the brand benefit?

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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