The monthly trip to the comic store is a must for collectors. The lines of new issues and collected books surrounding individual characters, events and teams, can provide hours of enjoyment. When Marvel releases a new film in their line-up, it’s an opportunity to promote their books to the none comic reading public. However, when looking for a starting point, an interesting question strikes. Does Marvel release too many event comics?
Event comics act as a massive crossover, involving multiple teams of heroes coming together to stop or incite a major shift in their universe. The outcome of these events changes the dynamic within each of the company’s title, the same as a real life major event would affect our own lives. One of the first, and Marvel’s first cross-over event was 1982’s Contest of Champions. A three-issue story by Mark Gruenwald, John Romita Jr., and Bob Layton. The story followed The Grandmaster challenging Death to a game to resurrect the Collector. The pair decide to use teams of Earth heroes as their champions in an all-out battle. The short story allowed fans and first-time readers to see the likes of Captain America, Wolverine, Iron Man, Daredevil, and Captain Britain, fight in an all-out brawl for a genuine reason. Giving long time readers a fun cross-over story, and hopefully attracting new customers who would see heroes they might recognise, on a number one cover. Making the company a little extra money in the process. The more well-known and praised event, Secret Wars, debuted 2 years later in May of 1984. Secret Wars was created completely for marketing purposes, to sell toys and comics to new and existing readers. The event was demanded by Kenner toys, the company who had the Marvel toy rights, and was named Secret Wars, because marketing showed that children responded well to the words ‘secret’ and ‘war’. Pure marketing. Since these first two stories, Marvel has produced fifty-five events in thirty-two years.
Surprisingly, twenty-five of those events have taken place in just the past 8 years. Marvel went from producing one event every two or three years, to an average of three every year. From the company’s position, the point of these events has remained the same. To draw in new readers, while shaking up the status quo for regular readers. While new events make sense from a business stand point, as they do bring in money and attract attention. But for regular, ongoing fans, do the constant shake-ups come off as an annoyance, rather than an actual event?
For an example, take Spider-Man. To the public, Spider-Man is Peter Parker. A high school nerd who is bite by a radioactive spider, and now swings around New York in a red and blue suit, fighting crime. For fans who have been dipping in and out of comics for years, and keeping up to a degree on events, we are aware that there are several people in comics that take up the Spider mantle. Right now, there are two Spider-Men running around, plus Spider-Woman, Silk, Scarlet Spider, and an alternate reality Gwen Stacy known as Spider-Gwen. However, event with this surface knowledge, this does not mean that casual fans know the entire story. For many casual fans, there is a limited number of books you can pick up month to month, due to limited budgets. Meaning that without online scans or piracy, it is almost impossible to be one hundred percent up to date all the time. With the increased price of event comics, it leaves readers with a choice, do you buy those event comics in place of your regular books, continue with just your regular books, or spend extra for both. A logical work around, and method many adopt, is to carry on with your usual books, and later collect the event in a complete book, months later.
In the case of last year’s events, Marvel released the highly enjoyable Civil War II, hitting shelves around the same time as the similarly named film, Captain America: Civil War. The similar name, likely to attract fans of the film, even those that don’t read comics. However, those jumping into the comics through this event, maybe confused by the appearance of Spider-Man. When Spider-Man shows up, sporting a different costume than the public is used to. The new readers maybe a little confused, but would assume that it is the same Spider-Man they are familiar with, just in a different costume. However, when his mask is removed, it’s revealed that this is not Peter Parker, but a young boy named Miles Morales. To those who did not know this, they are faced with several questions, who is this kid? Why is he Spider-Man? What happened to Peter Parker? Now new readers have several options, to five up because they are confused, an extreme option. To keep going with the story and hope that it is explained later, it may not be. Take to the internet and do some detective work, a sensible but time consuming and confusing venture. Or continue with the story, and pick up a few solo issues to try and figure it out themselves, the option Marvel would want you to take.
The problem with Marvel releasing so many major events, particularly around the time of the film releases, is that these shake ups could be causing more harm than good. Starting in 2000, there was a line of Marvel comics that was created to help new readers feel more welcome to the world of comics. The Ultimate line of Marvel comics. These comics set all the characters back to their origin, and gave us a clean start in their own world. The popularity of the Ultimate line even influenced the look, and style of the Marvel films, with design and character choices taken directly from the pages. Logically, and especially now, these would be perfect for those wanting to transition from the films to the comics, but don’t know where to start. Unfortunately, this line of comics no longer exists, thanks to the 2015 event comic, Secret Wars, named after the original 1984 event. The universes were merged to create one knew comic continuity where there are two Spider-Men. One Peter Parker, one Miles Morales.
With the overly confusing nature of comics, especially to new readers, Marvels constant cycle of events may be a detriment to the readers. It seems that Marvel has gotten into the habit of thinking that major events need to happen, regardless of the actual stories being told. New readers feel overwhelmed by the amount of information needed just to follow along, while existing readers become victims of reader burn out. If every little event that pops up every few months, is a must read, world changing story that must be read, then why bother reading anything else? If the universe changes every five minutes, then why get attached to it?