This letter is more specifically aimed at your aptly named “Cinematic Universe” but it’s also to the overall Marvel Comics Corporation. And while I’m sure you couldn’t give a possum’s furry ass what I think of you, especially considering the enormous success you’ve achieved over the past eight years, I’m gonna share it with you anyway.
As a young boy, I read your comics all the time. I read DC, too, but yours contained an immediacy and a relatability I was drawn to on several levels. Spiderman’s youthful vulnerability, the Hulk’s doomed nobility, and of course Captain America’s struggle with never quite fitting in. Then there was the original X-Men team I was fortunate to read in reprinted form, a true metaphor for being born different and singled out because of it. Discriminated against mutants was a perfect source of relatability for this biracial young’n. The stories in these books were almost as compelling as the artwork.
As I entered my teen years, however, something changed my perspective. A chance encounter at a comic convention, to be precise. Conventions were different back then. Smaller, more intimate, filled with genuine fans. Not the pop culture ludicrousness that exists now.
At the time, the biggest thing going in comics was your original “Secret Wars” mini-series, the epic clash between all of Marvel’s heroes and villains for the amusement of an omnipotent being known as the Beyonder. As I picked up a copy from a dealer’s table, he asked me if I liked the series. I shrugged and told him I did and he nodded. He then asked me the question I’d never asked myself: “Have you noticed how everything they claim is going to change is changed back one or two issues later?”
I stood there, mouth agape, book forgotten, staring at this seemingly wise comic sage. What did he mean? Wasn’t that how comic book storytelling worked? Why was he making me think that was a bad thing?
Then he dropped the bomb: “Have you heard what DC’s doing?”
DC? I read their stuff, too. I loved the Justice League of America and Teen Titans. But Marvel was the king, right? That’s where all the cool stuff happened, like “Secret Wars.” Who was this guy?
Then he told me about DC’s plans to completely revamp its stagnating universe with a mini-series called “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” We didn’t have the term “Spoilers” back then but he dropped some on me anyway, including the fact that Supergirl was going to die.
“Die?” I said.
“And stay dead,” he said.
Whoa! As far as I knew, only one superhero had stayed dead and that was your Captain Marvel, who’d died of cancer a few years prior in a highly regarded graphic novel. But Mar-vell was never an A-List character like Supergirl or the next person he told me was going to die.
My head spun with the possibilities of a comic book universe where heroes could die for good and multiple Earths could be permanently wiped out of existence. I had to see this! It wasn’t that I wasn’t going to still “Make Mine Marvel” but this sounded incredible.
The next few years saw a radical change in my tastes. “Crisis” was everything that convention guy said it would be and, sadly, so was “Secret Wars.” One felt like a revolution while the other felt like a total waste of time, money and talent.
Not much has changed since then. Your books slowly became unreadable until, by the late Nineties, I wasn’t reading any of them anymore. Until I stopped buying comics altogether, DC and a handful of Image titles got my money. You see, I fell out of love with you because you no longer felt genuine. Different names assumed different mantles but you always churned out that same regrettable paint-by-numbers pointlessness that caused me to stop reading back then.
Fast forward a few years and suddenly there are Marvel movies coming out which, until recently, reminded me of the comics I obsessed over when I was a kid. But now they’re starting to look more like the comics I stopped reading and that’s a hard thing to admit. Lately, as a friend remarked, my Marvel apathy is well-documented. I just can’t seem to work up the same excitement for your films and I think it’s because the convention guy’s comments have once again run true. As much as you try and convince us that big changes are in the wind, it looks like the same old bait and switch to me.
So, Marvel. Although I want to fall in love with you all over again, and while I certainly don’t blame you for doing what millions of others love, I don’t know that I can ever feel that way a third time.