Monday, May 31, 2010

Marvel Comics enters...The Disney Age?

"I'll stack 'Mary Poppins' against any cheap and depraved movie any day." -Walt Disney

A recent article in USA TODAY considers the speculation that Marvel's move away from the "grim and gritty" to "The Heroic Age" may be related to the recent purchase of Marvel by Disney: "All this would be of interest only to comic fans except it comes just months after Disney purchased Marvel for $4 billion and as Iron Man 2 and other Marvel films are on the way." Given Walt Disney's quote above, and that company's reputation of "sanitizing" its acquired properties, it's not an unreasonable speculation. Still, Marvel's Joe Quesada insists that the shift was planned beforehand: "Quesada says that Marvel's return to "good guys" was in the works for two years, was finalized eight months ago and that the Disney takeover had no role."

He adds that "There is no sanitizing of the Marvel books at all," he says, promising stories will remain "edgy" and contemporary. "Our philosophy here is to just keep telling good stories." This claim is bolstered with the " participation of writer Brian Michael Bendis, who was chief architect of the "disassembly" of the Marvel Universe in the first place." Bendis says that "the 'brand new day' of the Heroic Age presents a tonal shift to optimism, a world filled with hope but quite hellish villains," Bendis says. "The heroes realize it's a blue-sky world worth protecting."

Though I called him a liar regarding the "Tea Bagger" incident of Captain America #602, I'm inclined to believe Quesada on this one, for the same reason; I suspect that part of the change was swept in with the "change" promised by the election of Barack Obama. When was the last time you saw a sitting president on the cover of Spider-Man? Or tell Captain America that "this country's going to need to call on you for something much bigger"? (Though it should be said that Obama is a self-professed comics fan, especially of Spidey and Conan the Barbarian. But would they have done that for Dubya?) But for a less political testinomy, witness Marvel's 1985 story by Mark Millar, published in July-Dec. of 2008. Millar who did his own 180˚ turn from his darker material like Wanted, Civil War, and Kick-Ass said of that story: I really wanted to create a book set in the slightly more innocent Marvel Universe of old. It's where heroes were absolute heroes, and the villains were creepy villains. That’s 1985."

(I wondered whether or not Millar's change-of-heart was also inspired by Obama, but I'm not so sure, given this quote: "I'd obviously vote for Obama...but I worry about the messianic hope America has invested in [Obama]. He's a good orator and I agree with him on most things, but he's still just a guy from Chicago. Let's not go overboard.")

Anyway, agenda or not, the point is that the change was already in the air. That said, it will be interesting to see what kind of heroism emerges. But for those who fear that the "Disney Age" will neuter the "hellish villains" of Bendis, I'll present in an upcoming post a theory that there is enough violence in the Disney vaults that the "heroes reborn" would be foolish to underestimate...