Marvel's '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."

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.

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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