Originally posted on Feb 18th 2017
I’ve had this post brewing in my brain for a while now but it’s the announcement of Marvels latest super, mega, world changing, crossover ‘Generations’ that has given me enough impotence to write it down. I like Legacy heroes I really do, I love the Flash and Blue Beetle, Robin and the Atom. I even like Nova, some of the time.
So the question is why have Marvel been getting it so wrong?
So for those of you who don’t know a legacy hero is a hero who passes their title down to the next generation when they’re done with it, usually due to being dead. The Flash is probably the best known example of this with Barry’s death in ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ giving Kid-Flash the kick up the caboose to up his game and step up to the mark. Now you may notice I’m talking a lot about DC here when I should be discussing Marvel and that’s because legacy heroes are kind of DC’s thing. Sure we had Ms Marvel and Peter both pass on their names but that was typically a fairly temporary thing. It wasn’t until fairly recently that Carol Danvers stepped up and became Captain Marvel and everybody was fine with that, it seemed like the kind of logical thing that Marvel, the company and the character, should have done ages ago. This likewise left the mantle of Ms Marvel open for Kamala Khan who came to inject some much needed diversity in the mostly white male superhero population and I highlight that diversity because it’s gonna become important later on in the post.
Still Kamala was popular enough and likewise so was Miles Morales who took over for Peter in the Ultimate Universe. This shake up to the Ultimate universe was much needed to highlight that it was indeed different and far more unpredictable than the mainstream 616-verse we are all familiar with. He was so popular in fact that before too long he was practically carrying the whole universe by himself, a fact all to visible when they pretty much engineered ‘Secret Wars’ as a way of getting him over into the mainstream Marvel-verse before blowing up that reality. Since then we’ve had Falcon take over as Captain America and a woman take over as Thor, soon we will have a teen girl take over as Iron Man and nobody seems able to see that they can’t and or won’t last. To see why let’s go back to DC.
Bruce Wayne is Batman, I know this and you know this. It’s not a comic book fact anymore but common knowledge to the man on the street. In fact only Zack Snyder is stupid enough to think we need to cover the how’s and why’s ever again. But he hasn’t been the only Batman swooping low over Gotham city. In the late 2000’s Dick Grayson took over the cape and cowl and then again in 2015 so did Jim Gordon. These were two decent runs starring two characters pretty much as old and established as Batman himself but nobody expected them to last. They were just doing their job shaking up the bat-family and larger DC-verse and telling very different stories about a very different Batman. We knew that Bruce would be back soon enough and once that happened nobody even considered the idea that we would want two Batman knocking around. Heck even the league of Batmen was fairly soon dropped so we could focus on the one and only.
Right now we can get away with two Spidermen because they both serve very different jobs. Peter can’t pretend to be the plucky under dog hero any more after serving on The Avengers and teaching at the Xavier institute; he runs his own big business and has a private jet ready to take him all over the world. Thus Miles serves as the street level rookie kid we kind of want when we pick up a spidey book without stunting Peter’s growth. He is the exception I guess that proves the rule. Because right now fem-Thor is still flying because Odinson hasn’t yet got his groove back, Captain Falcon is still twirling the Frisbee because Steve Rodgers is too busy twirling his giant villains moustache. Once those two are back to normal and they will be, probably by the time Infinity Wars hits theatres, then we won’t need their understudies anymore. Heck they can’t even pretend Tony is dead at the moment, out right stating that he is in a coma that could give way to drinking and snark any day now.
Soon the Avengers will assemble once more and we won’t need the understudies. Maybe Falcon will be able to take some of the praise and press over to a new Falcon book but what will the others have to fall back on. Once Bruce comes back from the grave Amadeus Cho will go back to being a bit part in other peoples comics. Thor has already grabbed a hammer in the recent ‘Unworthy’ storyline, in theory he’s pretty much back. All he has to do is figure out if the writer had a decent reason for making him unworthy stowed up their sleeve or if it was an ass pull all along. My worry is that when this new band of culturally diverse heroes goes the way of the Dodo people will cry foul, people will blame racism and sexism and other -isms without realising that this is the way it’s always been. They weren’t designed to last, just shake things up a bit and stop it getting too stale and dusty. You want a new culturally diverse hero you create a new hero or give them a title that’s not being used any more not one they need to just keep warm.
But maybe I’m wrong, maybe the way to beat Evil Steve Rogers will be his death at the end of the ‘Secret Empire’ super, mega, world changing, crossover event this summer because Chris Evans probably isn’t signing up for too many more movies at this point so why not have the comics reflect who’s taking over. Robert is now on a movie by movie basis for Marvel and costing them an arm and a leg doing it so maybe when Tony comes back he’s gonna be a small and ever dwindling part just like in the movies. Thor is soon to meet the end of the Gods in Ragnarok so maybe the new line up is indeed here to stay. What do I know? Let’s try asking Thunderstrike.
With Marvel now blaming their failing on the female and diversity market I found this post from Gabriel Wilson writer of the new Ms Marvel. I’m going to share it here because I think it ties in nicely and maybe helps make part of my point better than I did.
1. This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?
2. Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*
3. Never try to be the next whoever. Be the first and only you. People smell BS a mile away.
4. The direct market and the book market have diverged. Never the twain shall meet. We need to accept this and move on, and market accordingly.
5. Not for nothing, but there is a direct correlation between the quote unquote “diverse” Big 2 properties that have done well (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, Batgirl) and properties that have A STRONG SENSE OF PLACE. It’s not “diversity” that draws those elusive untapped audiences, it’s particularity. This is a vital distinction nobody seems to make. This goes back to authenticity and realism.