I recently got back on the horse and started writing about movies again. My last blog post highlighted changes to my viewing habits and additions to my collection. It was far less snarky than previous entries. In this post I will discuss the three Marvel films released in 2017, and take a moment offer my take on Marvel comics in 2017.
I don’t get to the theater much anymore, but I was able to watch several movies in the comfort of my own bed. In fact, I only went to the theater four times over the course of the whole year. I’m actually surprised I went that often, as I enjoy spending free time with my baby and wife, and I am pleased with my home viewing setup and patient enough to watch most films in their home-release phase.
Three of the movies I watched in theaters were Marvel films: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok. I thoroughly enjoyed all three from an entertainment perspective, and I feel that the Marvel movies have hit a balance that pleases moviegoers and fans alike. (The fourth movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will not be discussed in detail here in this post, but in short, I hated it.) Since I don’t attend the theater often, when I do go, I want to see something I know I will savor, that will also be diverting.
While some are cynical about comic book films dominating the current movie-going climate, I don’t agree with the argument. I can appreciate both the entertainment-oriented flick alongside the thinking-man’s film, and have a separate set of expectations for entertainment than art. I think many movie-goers fall into this category. Going to the cinema is about entertainment, and it is easier to digest an artistic film in the comfort and quiet of your own home. I also think part of the cinema experience is about spectacle, so I don’t think these superhero films are going anywhere anytime soon. The formula that these movies follow is just like a good pop song. It may use the same chords as the last one, but the lyrics are different and it is catchy nonetheless. In some ways, they are the perfect form of the modern blockbuster.
If I had to pick a favorite of the recent Marvel bunch, it would be Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, though the other two aren’t far behind. I’ve fell in love with the dynamic that James Gunn has brought to the Guardians. Maybe its overwhelming success can in-part be attributed to the fact that there are no preconceived notions on what these characters should be or how the story should be approached. They’re a fantastical and colorful approach to the comic genre, which has very much tied to “realism” for most of its existence. Either way, I eagerly await the third installment of the Guardians franchise. The inclusion of new characters like Adam Warlock, and other unique potentials like Bug, Jack Flag, and Moondragon to the third film can give the franchise a lot of room for creative license.
Moving on to Marvel comics, 2017 wasn’t such a great year for Marvel in print, as it seems they have alienated a lot of their fanbase and lost a lot in sales as a result. I’ve read that they’ve dropped an estimated 10% in print sales (mostly due to a decrease in sales from their overpriced floppies), whereas DC Comics have grown by about the same number.
Some will point to needless rethinking of established characters at their core being a driving factor in the slump. I think the problem is more simple. Marvel insists on yearly overarching events interrupting comic runs and, more importantly, they charge too much for mediocre physical comics. I’m a fan of comics in print, but it’s hard for me to justify spending $4-5 and issue, especially when I can get Marvel Comics Unlimited for the same amount every month. Plus, I like being able to have comics on demand, versus visiting a comic book shop, where I’ve typically felt unwelcome. I think we are going to see many comic shops go the way of Blockbuster Video if they can not adapt to new trends.
I’m not of the belief that print is a dying format and I think this is reflected in DC Comics recent growth. I merely think Marvel’s pricing does not reflect its quality, as it is more expensive than DC, and DC readers seem to be more satisfied with the product. I bring this up is because I’m interested to see if this downturn in sales and disinterest in current releases has any long-term affects on future Marvel movies releases. Since many of the films are drawn from comic stories at a basic level, having a disappointing recent set of stories to choose from may reflect negatively on the films. Also, I want to see how comic book retailers adapt, as Marvel commands a serious presence in these stores. (Basically 40% of the entire market is Marvel)
That’s not to say that I haven’t read some excellent Marvel comics for the first time this year, but they’ve all been at least a few years old. Some of my favorites have been Beta Ray Bill’s introduction in Thor by Walt Simonson, Cable & Deadpool, Spider-Man: Blue, and Abnett and Lanning’s Guardians of the Galaxy run to name a few.
Overall, it has been an up and down year for Marvel. I don’t expect to see so much success at the box office while Marvel in print struggles. Something will have to change as they’re two sides of the same coin at this point. With Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Ant-Man and the Wasp all on the horizon, I don’t see the comic book blockbuster going anywhere any time soon. (Funny enough, none of these titles would have had audiences buzzing a decade ago.) With nothing to get me engaged with print comics or setting foot in a comic store, I think something will have to change in 2018 for Marvel comics in print. Or perhaps we are seeing the end of the comic book store.