Some time ago, there was a Chase bank commercial featuring nondescript cosplayers attending a comic book convention. In it a guy in a superhero costume walks out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his flashy boot. Another masked man quietly points this out to the fellow cosplayer and the day is saved. The announcer then comes on and talks about how Chase banking (or a bank card or something) is everywhere you are and can save the day while the cosplayers in the commercial buys a bunch of stuff with a Chase bank card. The first time I saw this commercial I said good-bye to the nerd fortress we had all built over the years because comic book fans were no longer a niche market; comic book readers are now a major demographic.
This shift comes as no surprise. Look around your homes, fellow nerds. Look upon your geek empires of light sabers, busts of comic book characters, action figures, variant covers, rare comic books that are appraised and sealed away forever, and the long boxes that hold your years and years of weekly comic book hauls. If you tallied up how much you have spent on that over the years, you would understand what corporate America sees in us: profit. We are no longer viewed as Al McWhiggin or Comic Book Guy; we are seen as adults with disposable income with specific interests. This capitalist revelation is also compounded with the wild success of the Marvel Movie Universe, a franchise that is not only getting long-time comic book fans into IMAX 3D movies for $15 per person, but it is also bringing in a new audience. The new audience won’t stop at the films, they want the comics too. A new audience means that comic books need to be accessible to new readers while maintaining the old readers that got them to this remarkable financial success.
All of this financial success and the acquisition of a new audience means that change is inevitable. You can’t fork over fistfulls of money to the films and then wonder why your comic books are changing. I’m not happy about the changes that are rumored, believe me. This rumor that’s floating around that Bruce Banner will be Iron-Man when the dust from Secret Wars settles isn’t sitting well with me, but there is nothing set in stone. There is absolutely no reason to throw my hands up, scoff, and declare that Marvel has lost its mind because nothing has happened.
Marvel is expanding the universe to draw in new readers and to keep it from having a white, 1960s feel. Sam Wilson as Captain America, a cancer-stricken Jane Foster as Thor, a gay Bobby Drake, and Miles Morales as Spider-Man are all amazing ways the Marvel Universe is expanding to include everyone and construct a universe with a diversity that expands beyond alternate worlds. The universal praise I’ve always heard about the Ultimate Universe is that they were able to experiment with the characters and have them do more interesting things. Why can’t that be canon? Why can’t that be the 616? Why can’t the main universe’s characters be the interesting characters?
The Monkeys vs Robots first podcast touches on the problematic way that reboots have no guidelines or rules, so anyone can make up anything they want on a whim. It’s right: Reboots are generally awful because the publisher can hit the reset button at anytime like a little brother who just lost his last life in Super Mario 3. However, though Marvel has done this in the past (because at this point we all see Jean Grey as a way to reboot a story in case it isn’t popular), Marvel isn’t DC. DC will reboot anything at any time, throw the word “Crisis” on it, and change their universe because they do not know what to do with their characters. This is also why their reboots and their movies are not as successful as Marvel’s; DC still hasn’t figured out how to make their flagship character, Superman, work – what do we expect? DC represents reboots at their absolute worst; Marvel, generally, isn’t too terribly awful when it comes to reboots.
Every threat of a reboot comes with the same outcry and the same groaning. The New 52 was wonky because nothing lead into it. Nothing lead up to the New 52, we just knew it was going to happen. Marvel, however, is putting their top architect, Jonathan Hickman, in charge of this to ensure that this reboot isn’t a complete disaster. Hickman is being backed up by heavy-hitters like Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Cullen Bunn, and more who are helping pave the way to a new world. If our world has to change, why not wait and see what these visionaries have to offer?
Reed Richards has been telling us for months that “Everything Dies.” This is the death of the Marvel Universe as we knew it, but it is the birth of a new world we can forge with new comic book fans. Let’s just settle down, have some fun, and see what happens.