Saturday, October 9, 2004

Self Deception

Joe Quesada recently told Newsarama: "Speaking of which, we haven't even talked bout how Marvel is the only publisher really creating a significant amount of material to reach the kid's market right now and in a significant way. I'm very surprised that this hasn't been more openly discussed across the boards or within the net news community. I mean we could talk Avengers and Spidey all day, but Marvel Age is really the most important news of the year."

The very day I read this I also heard a father ask the clerk at a comics store if a Marvel Age title was appropriate for his young son. Obviously the Marvel Age series--like much of Marvel's product in general--isn't well marketed. Any of the DC kid-friendly superhero titles are immediately recognizable as such by their cartoon design.

Even worse is that Marvel Age shows Marvel at its most cynical. DC at least comes up with new stories for its kids books but Marvel can't do anything but recycle its past in things like the increasingly superfluous Ultimate line and now the almost completely mindless Marvel Age. (Though this may be a snap judgement since I've only read a few M.A. issues and thumbed through some at the store. Still, the press releases show Marvel bizarrely proud of not doing anything remotely original with M.A.)

But Quesada's statement is just ridiculous (actually "a lie" might be more appropriate) when you consider that DC for years has published clear-cut kids books, usually Cartoon Network tie-ins but the ones I've read have all been quite respectable. Or is it just that like so many fanboys Quesada thinks comics begin and end with superheroes? When Wizard recently ran a Marvel vs. DC story it completely left out this aspect. So who has consistently published children's comics? That's DC. Which one publishes crime, fantasy and horror titles? DC. Which one constantly experiments with non-superhero titles? DC. Which one publishes manga? DC (though they're admittedly playing catch-up but when Marvel decided to do manga they merely stuck superheroes into a manga style; DC is doing the real thing). Which one is publishing actual British and European comics? DC again.

The point is that Marvel is so firmly tied to superheroes that it's starting to look more and more anachronistic. At the same moment that they're putting their characters back into costume and promoting cross-book tie-ins, the rest of the comics world increasingly moves beyond superheroes. If Tomine or Ware ever wanted to work for the Big Two (though since Ware published Jimmy Corrigan through one of the largest publishers in the world he might not be interested) it's almost certain that Marvel would only have them doing guys in tights but DC could at least offer the possibility of doing something else.