Marvel Studios Countdown: How Much Do the Marvel Movies Influence New Comic Books?

Marvel Studios Countdown: How Much Do the Marvel Movies Influence New Comic Books?

Jan 06, 2014

A common misconception about Marvel Studios is that the people there are incredibly invested in what Marvel is doing in its comic books. This extends past Marvel Studios proper and into their agreements with Sony and Fox as well. When Superior Spider-Man launched -- the current comic that stars Spidey villain Doctor Octopus in control of Peter Parker’s body -- fans assumed that the book would run until the arrival of Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theaters. The idea here is that there’s no way Marvel Comics would sell a Spider-Man book without the real Spider-Man, especially while potential film fans might be looking for new comics starring Spider-Man. The reality is that Superior is going to continue its storyline unimpeded, regardless of Sony’s Spider-Man films. While the Marvel movies certainly keep the characters in the public eye, there’s little proof that the films affect the sales of a comic book in any significant way.

I can only think of a few moments in which a comic has been changed to match what’s on the movie screen to capitalize on its box office success. Blade is the most obvious example of a character whose look and characterization have been altered to more closely resemble what’s on-screen, and though the new Blade matches the films, it hasn’t helped keep a Blade solo comic book afloat (his most recent series, canceled in 2007, lasted only 12 issues). The comic book X-Men changed costumes for a short while, into black leather uniforms that more closely resembled the cinematic X-Men. This was only a visual change however, and the stories in the comics at that time were still far removed from what audiences were getting on the screen.

An interesting case is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which was most definitely revived in an effort to synergize with the upcoming film. Up until a year or two ago, the team was more closely associated with its original incarnation of future Marvel heroes, introduced in 1969 and made popular in the early '90s by Image Comics cofounder Jim Valentino. This original lineup of futuristic alien heroes was jettisoned in 2008 for a team in Marvel’s current timeline, using some of Marvel’s fringe characters like Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon. The series only lasted a couple of years, and really seemed like a footnote in the Guardians' history, up until Marvel Studios decided that these are the Guardians it wanted to bring to theaters.

So, in 2013, the team was revived once more in an all-new series meant to synergize Marvel’s monthly lineup with the long-term plans of Marvel Studios (which will include licensing the living crap out of Guardians of the Galaxy). It wants a Guardians title on the stands, but that’s where the connection stops. The movie won’t have current teammates Iron Man (Downey’s benched till Avengers 2) or Angela (Neil Gaiman’s character more closely associated with Spawn than Marvel), and the book is adding Captain Marvel and Venom to the crew this Spring.

Venom in Guardians of the Galaxy is all the proof one needs to see that the two sides, movies and comics, are running mostly autonomously from each other. Venom is tied up at Sony, and it's currently making plans for a Venom solo film. At the moment, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell that Venom could possibly appear in the Guardians film. Obviously, no one at Marvel Studios is dictating to writer Brian Michael Bendis who can or can’t appear in the monthly book, and Bendis is servicing the story he wants to tell with no major consideration as to what Marvel’s plans are with the Guardians film.

Creatively speaking, just because the movies make billions doesn’t really mean that much in the trenches at the comic book companies. Yes, they like to have some books on the stand that capitalize on a movie’s release, but it doesn’t mean either side is dictating major creative directions to each other. Keep that in mind when you hear fans argue that Marvel Comics makes certain creative decisions because of the films. The appearance of Thanos at the end of Avengers might inspire Marvel to publish some new Thanos books, but that doesn't dictate the content or direction of those comics.

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