Marvel’s ‘Heroic Age’: The Return of Role Models?

Published 5 years ago by , Updated August 6th, 2012 at 5:19 pm,

marvelheroicagex topper medium Marvels Heroic Age: The Return of Role Models?

When the comic industry was turned on its ear last year by the news the Disney had bought Marvel Comics to the tune of $4 billion dollars, fanboys everywhere immediately started panicking. “Marvel is going to suffer from this,” “Our heroes will no longer have blood and violence in them,” and “Marvel will no longer be dark and gritty!”  I laughed those statements off thinking that Disney wouldn’t try to sanitize something they just paid obscene amounts of money for.

OK, so maybe I could be off the mark a bit. USA Today has a story up today with Marvel’s editor in chief Joe Quesada, where he talks about the future of Marvel’s  characters and where comic fans can expect to see their favorite iconic heroes to go from here. Overall, it looks like the heroes are going back to their roots and getting more old school with their stories.

The story lines over the past decade have gotten very dark and very bleak with Iron Man and Spider-Man going head-to-head, the mutant species almost being annihilated in the X-Men universe and Captain America dying during a superhero “Civil War.” Some fans say they enjoy the “darker and grittier” story lines because they are more realistic and not so cartoony. To a certain extent, I agree with them. Comic books aren’t so much for children anymore (like they used to be); adults are the biggest readers and followers now.

Well, whether it’s due to the acquisition of Marvel by Disney or not, Marvel will be unveiling its new approach to the superhero character in the relaunching of Avengers #1 in May. Says Quesada:

“Heroes will be heroes again. They’ve gone through hell and they’re back to being good guys — a throwback to the early days of the Marvel Universe, with more of a swashbuckling feel.”

And what does he have to say about the Disney purchase influencing this new direction?

“There is no sanitizing of the Marvel books at all. Our philosophy here is to just keep telling good stories.”

spidermousex large by Sam Ward Marvels Heroic Age: The Return of Role Models?

Artwork courstey of Sam Ward/USA Today

According to Quesada, this new approach was something that has been on the front burner for a couple of years and that Disney wasn’t a factor in the decision. Uh huh, OK! *rolls eyes* He could be telling the truth though because Quesada was instrumental in making the Spider-Man makeover a couple of years ago with the “Brand new Day” story line. I’m not too frustrated by Marvel’s decision; it is, after all, their right to change if they want to. I just wish they would come out and say, “We want to really tap into the young male kid demo and we feel this is the way to do it.”

There is a glimmer of hope though that not all is lost: Writer Brian Michael Bendis is on board with the new direction, and he is credited with dismantling the Marvel Universe in the first place. Recently, he was in charge of the “Dark Reign” story line which made Norman Osborn, a.k.a Green Goblin, head of the superhero universe. Bendis says all that will come to a close in May:

“The ‘brand new day’ of the Heroic Age presents a tonal shift to optimism, a world filled with hope but quite hellish villains. The heroes realize it’s a blue-sky world worth protecting.”

Bendis also echoes the words of Quesada when it comes to Disney:

“This was always the plan, and I have the memos to prove it. This was always the whole point — the reunion, the Avengers getting back together, because this is what the world needs right now. Now we get to the good stuff.”

Quesada and Bendis aren’t idiots; they know there will be backlash regarding the apparent cleansing of the Marvel Universe but honestly isn’t it about time? Comics started off written for kids and somewhere down the line, those kids grew up still attached to their favorite heroes or villains and wanted more sex, drugs and violence in their stories. Something the comic book industry was happy to provide in spades.  Now we got heroes that have powers but have ceased to be actual heroes.

civilwar1 Marvels Heroic Age: The Return of Role Models?

I say kudos to Marvel for taking a chance and moving their properties into a more kid friendly direction. Will it pay off? That’s yet to be seen but one question remains – how will this affect the upcoming Marvel films? Iron Man was a huge success and it didn’t go all “dark and gritty” while Iron man 2 is sure to be just as big a success. Now comes the recent announcement that Spider-Man will be going the route of  “gritty”, which would be just the opposite of this Marvel announcement regarding their characters.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

What are your thoughts on the new direction Marvel is taking with its Heroic Age story line?

Source: USA Today

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  1. I wasn't aware this was happening. So they'll be wrapping up the Dark Seige story line pretty quick here, then? I had just dropped my Avengers titles due to how much Marvel just jacked up the price. I might have to check them out again.

  2. This is really spectacular news. My kids have gotten old enough now that they want to read comic books. They love the Ultimate Alliance game and like to look through my old comics. I went to buy them an Avengers book and realized there was no way I was going to buy it for my kids. What am I greeted with in a fight scene but a female “hero” screaming out “Get back here BITCHES, your ASS is mine”.

    No way do my kids get a comic book handed to them by me with language like that in it. If Marvel is now going to clean up its image I am all for it. The sex and language have been cranked way up in the last ten years, not to mention the violence. The blood and gore these days far exceeds anything they had when the original comics code was put in place. If they really want to make some headway they should reapply that standard.

    And while they are at it they should get the old stands put back in the 7-11's. Bring back the newsprint and lose the fancy paper. Put comics back into the hands of kids. What kids going to save up a twelve dollar a week allowance to buy his four comic books at the local convenience store?

  3. I don't believe this has much to do with the merger with Disney, just mostly coincidental. I've been reading the latest avengers storylines and it was quite obvious that after all thats happened to them, the writers were bound to build that bridge again.

    Im in my late 20's and as much as i've enjoyed all the adult orientated marvel stories I have to admit it's kind of sad to see that the main books aren't geared mostly towards the younger market, they mostly just make offshoots that aren't part of official cannon and I don't think young fans really want that.
    Of course they shouldn't alienate the adult market completely but I do think a more PG13 tone in the more popular marvel books would make sense, although some characters like Punisher or Ghost rider wouldn't really work with such a dramtic tonal shift.

    The movies I don't think will be affected much. PG13 I think marvel have come to realise should always be the rating they aim for with their properties since they would maximise audiences, and today you can pretty much get away with alot with a PG13.

  4. I don't believe that for a second. Not buying this b.s. at all. The beginning of the end.

  5. The beginning of the end for what? And what exactly aren't you buying? Are you saying I made the story up?

  6. The only question I have with making titles more kid friendly is what kid can afford what is it now… $4 a comic book? That's insane and why I recently cut back my “hold” list big time.

  7. Just a couple of things i want to get off my chest

    1) Im glad that a company that influences SO MANY young people has made a stand to be the right role models. Marvel SERIOUSLY needs to stop selling porn to kids.

    2) When it comes to movies, which is about telling a STORY (script) theres NO PROBLEM in making a story with great moral and good role models and STILL be dark and gritty. It doesnt have to be “Kick-Ass” but it doesnt have to be “The Wiggles” either. The ratings are there for a reason, OR just let Nolan direct all superhero movies and well be fine.

    3) Although this reminds me of how South Park truthfully pointed out Disney sells sex to teens with things such as Purity rings…. i think that FINANCIALLY this is a great move… just think of all the “nice” or “Christian oriented” families that will now approve of Marvel movies to their kids while AT THE SAME TIME keep the original fanbase.

    Lets face it, Disney is a success genius.

  8. This could be great. People should think about this as a natural cycle. The comics are going back in the direction of what made people love them in the first place. Granted, I would prefer that our favorite heroes don't become 50's era caricatures again, but a return to the “immovable object” style morality and (appropriate) positivity would bring back a little bit of nostalgia for older fans. I am in full support of Marvel doing what is necessary to hook a younger generation to the comics. It'll help keep them around forever!

  9. This is great, part of the reason I stopped collecting comics was that I was sick of all the deconstructing going on, even in the DC universe. Somewhere, people decided that heroes that inspired people weren't worth writing, opting instead for heroes we could “identify” with. What we got were super-powered narcisists with problems normally not seen outside of a Springer special. Kudos to Marvel for moving to make our heroes heroic again. In case they haven't gotten the memo yet, someone tell DC.

  10. I think you've missed the intent of Quesada's comment. Tino's right, all their “darker” stories over the past 5 years have been putting the characters through the wringer so that they can breathe new life into them again. They haven't been hiding where these stories were headed, and have said over and over that they were “breaking the toys” to put them back together again, so that the heroic status quo will look fresh again. They haven't stopped being heroes, they've just been up against horrible odds.

    Disney has nothing to do with this. I promise you. That may change in ten years, but as long as the current CEO is in charge of Disney, they're going to let Marvel do what they do best. The more heroic focus doesn't mean more kid-friendly.

    As far as language in comics… Marvel got rid of the Comics Code years ago and has been policing their own books. There are ratings on the cover and Marvel offers things for all ages. The Marvel Adventures line is for kids.

  11. About time, I gave up reading weekly comics in the 90's (thank you infinity crisis). I really loved early marvel, and DC. But the constant cross overs and lack of Heroics sent me scuttling back to the classics. Having a 2year old son I look forward to introducing him to comics, and now hopefully he can have forge his own relationship with a modern take on them.

  12. I think this is great news, why shouldnt superheroes become the posetive role models they once were?
    The capacity to tell great stories with some of these amazing characters shouldnt be limited to them being gritty and violent.
    I havent bought a marvel comic for several years, nothing seems to grab to be honest, I've gone back to DC completely, Batman,Superman,Green Arrow for me.

  13. This right here. This is the reason Comics are not for kids anymore. Kids cant afford them.

    Didnt Marvel (currently also) have a line less mature so to speak? Something that was already back to the roots?

  14. Batman and Green Arrow… not gritty and violent? Positive role models? The boy scout maybe… but Bats and GA?

    Sorry why cant there be mature comics and kid comics? Because unless the kid comics are 50 cents they wont be bought.

    It is like the Sports card industry. A few years back (and some still do) UD and a few others made 99cent packs. Well the money is not there on the return, there is not enough kids collecting for fun so it doesn't work well.

    The comic industry pigeon holed themselves into this with rising cost. Im just as happy reading a comic on “news” print. They dont have to make everything super glossy with protective shielding and glow in the dark ink.

  15. I did mainly mean Superman in the role model part, and while GA may be violent at times I think Oliver is a decent enough guy, at least he can crack a joke and a smile.

    But Batman, no, not a great role model for anything.

    For me Marvel's Comic books have been lacking in decent stories over the past few years. Nothing Spiderman or X-men related has caught my attention. DC just have better writers.

    And the rising cost is getting ridiculous, the prices of some one shot comics are absurd.

    maybe you are right about their being kids comics and adult ones, my younger brothers were always trying to read mine, and I wouldnt let them.

    Marvel Age/Adventures was the book line I was trying to remember.

    Marvel Adventures is an imprint of Marvel Comics intended for younger audiences, including small children. Unlike the standard comics published by Marvel, which often take place in story arcs spanning several issues, each Marvel Adventures comic tells a standalone story.

    The idea was initially established as the Marvel Age imprint in 2003. The Marvel Age name had last been used as the title of a promotional magazine published by Marvel from 1983-1994. The initial idea for the imprint was to reuse the early plots, written by Stan Lee in the 1960s, in a modern day setting, with new writers and artists retelling the stories.

    However how many “kids” do you know that would want to spend $2.99 on a comic book? Especially if for $2.99 you can get one that is “grittier”, cooler and all the ther people are reading?

    As for writing it seems to teeter back and forth. There are times that DC is just better then Marvel and vice versa.

  17. I don't really agree with this analysis either. I was a Marvel fan in the 90s and when I got older, the younger generation under me were more interested in video game and cartoon interpretations of heroes. Comic books were “old stuff.” So the readers like myself, who were aging got more adult stories since we were the primary customer.

    With movies like Iron Man out, and people really responding to it because of its “light, fun, adventurous” feel, I think the public – and most importantly, young people – have once again become interested in the core heroics and adventure that once made comic book heroes into icons.

    Marvel is simply following suit, and trying to steer a very big ship in a new direction. “The Siege” is a way of rebooting the Marvel Universe, and this article (and some of the comments) fail to address that DC has been keeping readers on the edges of their seats (kids included) and their current storyline is about the dead coming back to life and slaughtering people!

    It's never been about how gooey sweet and Beaver Cleaver or Dark and Emo a comic book is – it's always been about the escapism and sense of epic adventure that thrills the reader. If you capture that sentiment, that thrill, people will read and be happy. If not – if you get too heady or too soap opera or too therapist couchy – people won't respond as strongly.

    I think the movies have had the biggest influence on all this, not Disney. Just my two cents :-)

  18. You're right, the move IS most likely a response to the recent string of “family” oriented comic book movies rather then a Disney order to clean things up.

    Still, it can't be hurting Disney's feelings too much either :)

  19. I haven't read any of the more recent comics, but if they have language like that in them, I am all for Marvel doing this.

  20. Personally I like this move, but ONLY on characters that are truly used as Role Models. Like Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, etc. There should be a division with this new direction of keeping characters seperate from others in terms of tone, like I do not want to see The Punisher or Daredevil lose it's grittyness.
    But I applaud Marvel and Queseda for doing this. You need have things run its course. How long can it be before this “dark” thing gets too old. I mean, I see people complain when a reboot is going to take a Dark and Gritty tone, like that batman movie.
    Also, just because we have heroes as role models, does not mean you cannot have impactful stories. I have this 3 issue old Spider-Man comic which were the drug issues. What about when Gwen Stacy died in the old comics? That was when the CCA code was enforced.

  21. Are we realy sure they mean they are going the honey fairy world way?
    I think juts just want to bring the marvel world back to be place were the good guys rule.

    I followed the marvel universe through civil war till today and it realy is about time for a good shift again. That doesn't mean there cant be any dark and evil storys Or less violence or language. They just say it is time to bring an end to the evil reign and the mass destruction the marvel universe was forced to endure. I mean honestly how long would Osborne be the head of everything?

    I dont think the writers would be forced to clean language and behavior of guys like wolverine, deadpool and co. and i would definatly stop collecting if they do.

    I can understand when ppl say less sex and violence but I grew up with those comic and i want them to grow with me and not reset for a new generation of kids. They can have their own universe. See Ultimate Marvel or make a complete new one.

  22. just to clear it up – I grew up with those comic and then eventualy stopped (i think around “age of apocalypse”). I started again when Civil War came out ^^

  23. To quote Charles Barkley:

    I'm not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids.

    Sorry none of these “characters” should be role models. While they can instill good values and teach lessons (gee so can prior literature) they should no more be a role model then Charles Barkley is.

  24. That quote is hilarious.

  25. I kinda have mixed feelings about this. I didnt really get into comics until about five or six years ago, so to me the dark and gritty feel that Marvel brought about has always been like that. the dark tones made for good stories. but I understand why they want to scale the dark and gritty tones back. theres no way Id let my little sisters read some of the comics I have.

    I think it would be okay if they scaled back the dark tones in stuff like Spiderman, the Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor and others (Id like to include x-men in that list, but thats always been a bit darker), but stuff like Deadpool, Ghost Rider, and Runaways need to stay dark. those franchises just wouldnt be any good if they were child apropriate.

  26. agreed. I dont see any reason why there cant still be darker stories even if were going back to the early style where heroes got to be heroes and villains were still villains.

    and isnt kids having their own comics why they created super hero squad?

  27. I saw this just one hour ago. I had actually copied the site on marvel for all here to see. I guess screenrant beat me to it. Dear fellow screenranters, I am cryin' over here. somebody please tell me it's all a dream…or a nightmare. Please.

  28. I didn't buy Quesada's bulk about…nothing is going to changte at marvel and that the characters won't change, either.

  29. And what about the adults? Adults don't deserve their own superhero comics? The kids have their own comics, the company's name is DC. Marvel has moved itself, as far back as the 80s, as a comic book company whose product has attracted adults. I am for the scaling back of the lewdness in the books, and the scaling back of the language, but i am not for the child friendly storylines. This is particularly why many many many fans of marvel are adults, because their characters deal with adult situations and issues–Wolverine trying to control his anger/berserk rages, while trying to be a team player. His situation deals with working adults today, who would like to throw a fist into their co-workers jaw, but for the sake of the company and their own career choose to endure the hardship.

    Then there is Siryn, fighting alcoholism, who at the same time, for a while was trying to lead X-force. Reminds me of any parent suffering from alcoholism, yet at the same time trying to be a true example to their children of what a good/responsible person is.

    How about Bruce Banner, who for decades was being chased by the US military, for “crimes” committed by his alter ego, the Hulk, who Banner, for decades, could not control. Sounds like that innocent person who is accused of a crime he or she did not commit, yet has their name run through the mud by the media.

    Luke Cage, who just had a child with Jessica Drew, while leading the Avengers. Sounds like any parent, who has loads of stuff on their plate, while trying to rasie children.

    Sue Storm, having to deal with the advances of Namor, yet she is a married a woman. I think that alone reveals the adult situation in itself, and what things people involved in such a situation actually have to deal with and even feel.

    It is bad enough that these supposed production studios turned our characters into sesame street (which i did enjoy when I was a kid) when Disney did not own them, now you are telling me, that I cannot expect to see a good adult oriented movie based on my characters, which have become adult oriented over the past 30 years, just because Walt Disney believes there is not enough child friendly movies for children, even though Disney itself has a horde of kid stuff in their possession for kids?

    During this purchase, Disney said they wanted to attract the young,male adults. How is that going to happen?