Too Much Marvel?

On November 20, Netflix launched its latest foray into the Marvel Universe, Jessica Jones. Jessica Jones is a dark look at the post-super heroine detective adventures of its title character. It is the second Marvel series exclusive to Netflix, but is one of seven Marvel series currently available on TV. This is in addition to the over 17 films that have been released in the last five years and over a hundred different comic book series, according to Marvel.com. Currently, Marvel has movies planned through the year 2019, developing many characters in title films and eventually weaving them into the rest of the universe. That is a lot of nerd content. And it prompts a question. How much Marvel is too much Marvel?

To attend the major releases of all of Marvel’s forecasted films, you’ll likely spend about $90, considering a ticket across the street at Fairlane Mall is about $10. Netflix costs $8 a month for streaming, so you’re looking at roughly $100 for Stan Lee and company to blow your mind over and over for the next four years.

The resources required to launch these films and shows is pretty astronomical. Film budgets are easily in the millions of dollars, due to state of the art graphics and highly paid actors. Bleeding Cool reports that the upcoming Avengers films will have an insane budget of a billion dollars. That’s billion with a “b”.

And let’s be clear. These movies don’t typically win awards. They are the moving picture version of White Castle; you go in wanting something kind of enjoyable but end up a little uncomfortable towards the end and get a pang of regret as you realize that you paid money to feel this way. Throwing that much money at these films, you’d think that everything would be quality. Though it seems that even though these films are big budget, sometimes they sacrifice quality for quantity. Take, for example, the film Avengers: Age of Ultron. This was one of two Marvel films from this year, and the plot is muddled at best.

An additional hit to quality is the lack of diversity in these storylines. Looking again at the Avengers, we see a lot of white dudes. Of course, we are given the occasional token superhero that represents a particular minority such as Black Widow, Falcon, and Nick Fury, who are portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, and Samuel L. Jackson respectively. And while these characters are present in sizeable portions of these films, it is arguable that they are simply there to garner attention for their appearance. Maybe if Marvel studios weren’t operating at such a serious clip, producing so much content in such a small amount of time, we’d see deeper, more developed storylines and characters more representative of their readership, instead of simply casting actors in these high-profile films that don’t reach the full merit of the characters they are supposed to represent.

The renewal of Marvel’s Agent Carter shows that maybe such things are possible. The show focuses on the tales of Peggy Carter (a woman, GASP) who was one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D., the heroic saviors of Earth often flanked by the Avengers. The series is smart and respectful while still packing in action, but the fact that fans had to fight so hard for its renewal speaks a lot about the work that still needs to be done in order for Marvel to get with the times.

Another downside of the “all Marvel, all the time” agenda is that smaller, independent publishers struggle for time in the limelight. Just stroll through the aisles of a comic book store like Green Brain Comics, and you’ll find all kinds of publishers: Dark Horse, IDW, Top Cow. These are all great lines that make great comics, but just get drowned out in the din of the mega-brands’ voices. DC is an offender in this regard as well, but not to the extent that Marvel is. Marvel has overgrown itself. It has become a monster, gigantic and unwieldy like one ripped from its own pages.

Despite all this, we’re going to watch Jessica Jones. And probably all $100 of the Marvel content mentioned above. As much as we would like to protest and ask for better characters and better stories, the reality is that Marvel is in the escapism business and they’re one of the best games in town. We’ll likely never fly or get to punch a bad guy square in his stupid face, but it feels really good to experience those things vicariously. All we can do is whisper our dissent into the void and ask for better things, while we buy our popcorn and Sour Patch Kids.

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