Marvel and the Non-Comic Book Fan

I don’t generally interact with other reviews and blogs here, mostly because I figure everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

But this article, posted at the Variety site last week, annoyed me, partly because his not-all-that-thinly-veiled hope that Marvel fails spectacularly feels mean-spirited to me, but mostly because he’s excluding the possibility of my existence. And I resent that.

So…just to straighten a couple of things out:

I’ve never read comic books. Might I enjoy them if I did? Sure. But as a child, I was enormously proud when I moved beyond picture books to ‘real’ books – told without illustrations – and nothing about comics ever tempted me back.  And now? While I accept that actual stories with good plots and interesting characters are told that way, my TBR pile of regular books is infinite, so it’s unlikely I’m going to turn to comics any time soon. No offense.

But that means, yeah, I don’t know beans about the comics origins of the stories Marvel is telling and don’t have a clue who Thanos is, beyond what the films have hinted at. And I’m still enjoying them. It’s not uncommon for stories to introduce a character, hint at who he or she is, and then make you wait to find out. This isn’t any different to me.

(And indeed, to suggest that non-comics fans will eventually tire of not immediately knowing the background of every character and possible plot direction would seem to suggest that all films based on stories originally told in other formats are doomed. I’m really glad no one’s told Peter Jackson that.)

The second thing that annoyed me was the comments about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Look, I get that the ratings were ‘tepid.’ (Though I remember wondering weeks before the pilot even aired how anyone living on planet earth in this day of TV ratings thought it was going to be the blockbuster many (not all of them associated with Marvel, Disney, or ABC) were predicting.)

But here are some things I also know:

  • I watched out of both a love for The Avengers and a love for, and trust in, Joss Whedon
  • Although the fall and early winter episodes were less engaging than I’d hoped, I kept watching – in part, again for Whedon (the only reason I watched Buffy season two was good friends who kept saying, ‘stick with it’) but also because it didn’t feel like a complete waste. Since I’m not one of those people who watches TV out of habit (I watched three shows during that time period. Three.) that means there was something there for me, never mind that it wasn’t The Avengers every week, as some had apparently been expecting.
  • *whispers* I’m pretty sure that the ‘something there for me’ was Coulson, who I absolutely and unreservedly adore.
  • And then, right around the time of The Winter Soldier’s release, the story took off, and I was hooked. No, I wasn’t watching due to how it was being promoted (you caught the part about me watching three shows, right? If I were subject to being influenced by promotion, I’d probably watch a lot more TV.) I liked the characters, liked the story, and liked the intersection between the films and the series.
  • I can’t wait to see season two. I’m invested, I want to know what happens to SHIELD with Coulson at the helm, I want to know whether or not he’s losing his marbles, and I want to watch the writers explore all those threads they left dangling. (Skye’s father, what happens to Ward, what effect Fitz’s declaration has on his relationship with Simmons, just for starters.)

Aside from Bones, I don’t have a particularly good track record with TV shows. The ones I like are quite often canceled (The Finder, Almost Human), so I’m used to feeling discounted by the critics and the networks. (I want a sign that I can wave in the TV executives direction: “I’m here. I’m watching. And I have money to spend on your advertised products…”)

I know that SHIELD wasn’t universally loved, particularly in the first half of the season, and I have no idea what the ratings will be for season two. Maybe people who got bored last fall caught up after The Winter Soldier, and will be back for more. Or maybe they won’t.

But I’m here. I’m watching, and I liked the show – even without being able to repeat the entire history of Hydra as according to the comics.


2 thoughts on “Marvel and the Non-Comic Book Fan

  1. Me too. Mostly.

    I’ve actually started getting into comics in response to the MCU. Which isn’t to say that I suddenly understand all the backstory of all the things, but the movies have sparked an interest in comics and a few characters in particular (mostly Black Widow, can I just BE Black Widow?).

    The trouble with movie adaptions of anything is that they’re not going to be able to fit everything that was in the original into the movie. It’s not going to be the same. And if people are insistent on accuracy then they’re never going to be happy with the result. Movies (and TV shows) have to be sustainable on their own without the backstory. If it’s not then they loose the entire audience. I think Galaxies was. But I can agree with the article you mentioned that there is more potential for a ‘bad egg’ in the future if this makes them too cocky.

    • I should have made clearer, I think, that I wasn’t disagreeing with the possibility of Marvel having a flop at some point. The Hollywood law of averages isn’t in their favor, and some would say they’ve already pushed in that direction with IM2 and Hulk.

      I just don’t see any reason for the failure to necessarily be tied to non-comics fans being confused by plots. That’s why the article felt mean-spirited to me, as if he was wanting to justify his position and the handiest target was, ‘well, someday non-comics fans might get plot-lost and not show up.’ It could happen, sure. But looking at the stories they’ve told so far, it feels like a reach to me. For that matter, (and very much IMO), I don’t think the problems with IM2 and Hulk were due to too much comic mythology.

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