Welcome to Nerd Fight, where we aim to discuss the hard-hitting (and sometimes the not so hard hitting) issues that plague the comic book industry and the books we love to read. Our goal, to tackle these topics head-on and let you, the fans, decide.
Today we will be discussing an issue that has confounded many a nerd.
WHY DO THEY CHANGE MY BELOVED COMICS TO MATCH THE MOVIE AND TV ADAPTATIONS! OR WHAT IS THIS CRAP CHARACTER DOING IN MY COMIC?!
My co-writer Gene Selassie will be taking the stance against this very act and I Marco Lopez will be speaking for it.
ROUND ONE: FIGHT!
Marco: Right off the bat I'm going to tell you that I don't see the problem. This has been going on in some form or another since comic books were first adapted to another media. Kryptonite was first created for The Adventures of Superman radio serial. It was a plot device drummed up so the actor who played Clark Kent and Superman could go on vacation. It was then adapted to the comic's years later. And I think we got some pretty neat stories out of it and as some would believe not so neat stories. But we also got one of the best villains in Metallo. And as I said Kryptonite was not the only instance. There is Phil Coulson, X-23, Firestar, Harley Quinn, JIMMY FREAKING OLSEN FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY! Comics being adapted into other media and those adaptations, character creations, plots and in some instances better origins or additions to the origins of a character in turn being used in the comics themselves is a time-honored tradition. Good or bad it's here to stay and not going away.
Gene: It has always been the case, but all that you listed are supporting characters or minor plot elements. And in most cases, it was tolerable. It's been the past decade and a half where the big two (specifically Marvel) have gone overboard with this. Anyone can go to Comichron.com or any other number of sites to check sales data.
Did changing Tony Stark in the comics to the snarky man-child from the movies cause sales numbers to skyrocket? Did making Peter Parker's web shooters organic do it? Did hitting the reset button on Starlord, undoing nearly a decade of strong character growth so he'd match the movie version, make Guardians of the Galaxy the top selling comic for at least three months? Would turning Deadshot black in the comics create any sales spike, or would that just be Jim Lee's art selling it? Did giving the X-men black costumes around the time of the first movie help them move major units, or was it just the fact that GRANT FREAKING MORRISON was allowed to soft reboot the franchise and mold it as he saw fit.
I have no problem with characters like Firestar or X-23, that started in another media. I do have a problem with Phil Coulson and 'movie' Nick Fury in the 616 universe, namely because of how clunky and poor they were executed and that they were shoehorned, like most of these instances, since 2000.
Maybe if Marvel executed these better, they would actually reap the results they were looking for. But in all, I see it as the equivalent of someone bashing their heads against a brick wall for 16 straight years and expecting gold coins to ooze out of their ears instead of gray matter.
ROUND TWO: FIGHT!
Marco: Then really what it comes down to is execution. Because there is no concrete reason as to why publishers (and honestly we're talking Marvel and DC here) do this. Because I don't know of any instance where this has happened outside of the big two. But there isn't anything to say that this is something that should never be done. Because, again, it's ultimately down to the execution. You yourself pointed out good examples in Firestar and X-23 and piss poor attempts in Coulson and movie Nick Fury. By the way, I'm gonna have to disagree with you on Coulson. I like the way Mark Waid and Nick Spencer have handled him but I will agree with you that his whole introduction was weak. If I'm not mistaken Battle Scars was also where Nick Fury Jr. made his transformation into Ultimate Nick Fury. That whole comic just seemed like a six issue excuse to introduce movie Fury into the comics along with Coulson.
And no it didn't lead to any higher sales as far as I know, but it really is a nitpick to get upset over such an issue. Comics and specifically corporate superhero comic books are malleable. They change with the times and the media. And I can definitely understand wanting the comics to reflect a little of the movies when the movies are making hundreds of millions and with some films, over a billion dollars. Also, comics, like film, are first and foremost a visual medium. So when people see on a shelf in their bookstore or comic shop an issue or trade of Avengers or Battlescars and movie Nick Fury and Phil Coulson are on the cover, well, that's an instant trigger to your brain to grab that off the shelf and look through it.
Now, what is the percentage of people who went home with the comic after looking through because of a visual trigger? Who knows, but the fact that they're looking at it has done the job. Also, it's a bit easier for a comic book store to point to something when a customer walks into their shop and says do you have any Phil Coulson or Nick Fury stories? You hand them classic Nick Fury and they might look at you funny. I, in turn, would look at them funny cause we would be talking some Jim Steranko, Jack Kirby and others here. You would have to be insane to not want to read any of that, but again people are visual creatures. Non comic fans are not going to take two seconds to flip through classic Nick Fury and read some of it to see if it's good. A trade or issue with movie Nick Fury? I'm guessing that's an instant buy when you come out of the cinema.
Gene: You are correct. That is one thing I definitely forget at times. It seems there's a mindset that the current crop of potential readers have to be coddled into reading comics and that they look for any reason they can to not continue reading. We both can agree that when executed correctly, this is not a problem. I had no qualms with the introduction of Diggle from the Arrow TV series into the New 52 Green Arrow comic. Nor would I have a problem if there were a Legends of Tomorrow comic that mimicked what the TV series was doing.
It's when lead characters are wholesale changed (Iron Man, Starlord) or ridiculous plot elements are brought in (Xavier/Mystique secret past, Nick Fury Jr, etc) are the norm and not the exception and they're handled so laughably bad that anyone who has read more than three comics in their lives can see right through, therein lies why I have all but given up on the big two (up until Rebirth, which has renewed my faith in DC).
THE WRAP UP:
Marco: I think at the end of the day we can all agree that no matter how many times they decide to change something at DC or Marvel to match a movie or TV show or bring an element from that into the comics that there is going to be something you won't like about it. Because it's human nature to always want to find something wrong in the thing you love and bitch about it. Or at least if not human nature it's geek nature. And there is not anything anyone can do but accept it and move on, or speak with your almighty dollar and say HELL NO! But no one does that. So it's just going to be a constant cycle of complaining and the one thing we nerds like to do best is complain. It explains why people have runs of Chuck Austen's Action Comics and Uncanny X-men in their long boxes, instead of the recycling bin where they belong. So ultimately, what I think I'm trying to say here is this issue is really a non-issue and the geeks of the world need to move on. EMBRACE CHANGE!
Gene: I am all for change in comics that makes sense. The underrated Geoff Johns Avengers run made complete sense after the team had their biggest saving of the world moment, they were made Ambassadors, given complete diplomatic immunity worldwide. Grant Morrison's X-men run was a long overdue step forward for the mutant rights conflict. Wally West was the perfect person to become the Flash and I'm still not cool with Barry coming back. I'm fine with Supergirl's dynamic in the comics resembling the TV series as they made it MAKE SENSE. As long as certain companies (Marvel) keep shoehorning these changes that have logic that's held together with spit and paper clips, I and many others will continue to speak with our dollars.
We hope you all enjoyed this inaugural episode of Nerd Fight. If you liked it, if you loved it, or if you thought it was meh or complete crap (let's be honest, some of you are saying this to yourselves right now) then comment below and tell us what you think. But don't forget to join us next week when we discuss the topic of changing the ethnicity and or sexual orientation of long standing characters and introducing minority legacy characters. Is it real change and does it create diversity? I will be speaking against it and Gene will be speaking for it.
Marco Lopez and Gene Selassie are the co-owners of the website Atomic Rex Entertainment. Where you can find the ongoing weekly web comic Massively Effective, that Marco describes as Abbott and Costello in tights. Along with the first issue of Gene's comic Rock Paper Scissors that he describes as Goodfellas with powers. Also hosted on the site is Marco's web strip series Orion's Belt that follows an afro-Latino family of adventurers in space and their anthology series A Shot of Whiskey.
Marco has also written for Zenescope Entertainment and Lion Forge Comics.