Marvel’s announcement last week that a Muslim teenager living in New Jersey will star in the new Ms. Marvel series is an exciting step forward in diversifying superhero comics. And even better is the involvement of writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat, both Muslims, which should bring an authentic voice to the title.Perhaps Blake would do well to study the meaning of taqqiya (deception), and would explain why that's just not so. And why this is just a step backwards in diversifying, contrary to his naive beliefs.
The move is already garnering a lot of media attention, and I expect it will pique the curiosity of a number of people who never really expected a mainstream comic book to tell a story so closely connected to their own. This isn’t the first comic book to do something like this, but it’s remarkably significant.How, exactly? At one time, launching a new character straight off the bat worked. When they were their own creation and role, that is. But these days, it takes more than just that to do so. If you're introducing a new character taking up a mantle once used by another, you have to build them up before tossing them into the designated role proper. By the time Wally West took over for his uncle Barry Allen as the Flash, he'd already had a quarter-century worth of history in the DCU, and that's why his ascension from Kid Flash to adult Flash worked. By sharp contrast, when DC's editors in the 90s introduced Kyle Rayner into the role of Green Lantern, forcing Hal Jordan out in the horrific manner they did, one of the main problems is that Kyle was a totally brand new character stepping into the role first taken by veteran characters like Alan Scott and Hal. Unlike those guys, Kyle had no established history in publication, and, unlike Connor Hawke, illegitimate son of Green Arrow, and Jack Knight, younger son of Starman, he had no relatives or other close friends/connections to superheroes in the DCU, nothing to give him any significant link. It shouldn't be a surprise then that he couldn't hold even a newbie's attention for long, what with writing that was as fun as watching paint dry, and rendered him a cypher.
In the case of the new Ms. Marvel, what may undo this book in the end is something similar done with Kyle Rayner's introduction - publicity stunt tactics, along with the fact that they're trying to force a horrific belief system down everyone's throats while remaining dishonest about it.
I’m looking forward to Ms. Marvel, and I really hope the comic finds an audience (I’m also thrilled to see artist Adrian Alphona back on an ongoing series). But there’s no doubting this title is an underdog. Marvel often struggles with keeping solo series starring women; just ask fans of She-Hulk, or Rogue, or Carol Danvers. Poor Storm can’t even get more than a miniseries every 10 years or so. DC may be able to boast Wonder Woman and a number of female-starring Batman spinoffs, but both publishers have had limited success sustaining books that star minority characters. From Black Panther to War Machine to Steel to the current Batwing, there have been valiant efforts that ultimately get canceled. And I’m hard-pressed to think of a significant Marvel or DC book starring a character whose religion was such a strong crux of the premise.He's getting at something he'd probably rather not: when DC published their Justice League/The 99 crossover miniseries a few years ago, it ended up dumped in stores, premiering with very low numbers and no fanfare, a telling sign that store managers - and even DC themselves - must have realized they had a dud on their hands that quite a few people were realist enough to see through, and didn't want to risk having something gathering dust on their shelves that nobody wanted. This could end up the same way, as even some Muslims don't care for such a series beyond its obvious propaganda purpose.
Readers and retailers are notoriously uneasy about trying a book that could be considered at-risk. That’s why Marvel and DC fall back on their major brands: They know they can market Wolverine because enough of their customers faithfully follow the character, even while complaining he’s in every other book. Instead of buying what sounds interesting, too many readers would still rather support what they can be assured will be around for the long run.
As for series starring minority characters and women, a plausible reason why they haven't succeeded is because in some cases, if not all, they've been very rushed, though nowhere nearly as much as this new example. Though I must point out that in the case of She-Hulk's newer series, they did more than a bit to sabotage its success by relaunching it with another number one issue, and in the end, I'd say that with people like Dan Slott writing, that's why it just wasn't worth the effort.
There’s also the issue of the Captain/Ms. Marvel brand: Despite the acclaim of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Carol Danvers run, Captain Marvel has never proved itself to be a character that can support a franchise. The fact that the character’s superhero name has changed from Ms. Marvel to Warbird to Captain Marvel to whatever else demonstrates the branding challenges. The original Captain Marvel, Mar-Vel, was never a stellar seller, either, despite the acclaim of “The Death of Captain Marvel” story. Despite a few teases, there’s a reason he’s never been brought back to life, after all. An attempt in the ’90s to introduce a new male Captain Marvel didn’t work out either. It’s not that it can’t work, but most retailers know at least some of that history and order accordingly because they don’t have a lot of faith in the name bringing in readers.If he's alluding to Peter David's two different volumes starring Genis-Vell, son of Mar-Vell, there's a reason for that: Bill Jemas, who turned out to be the worst thing that could happen with Marvel at the time, forced David into a competition with an Image-style title he would write called Marville. A real waste of trees and monetary resources that may have ultimately discouraged readership for David's writing too.
And his citation of Jim Starlin's 1982 graphic novel is ambiguous: no, Mar-Vell of the Kree hadn't been a big seller during the 15 years he was around, but the GN was written with the precise purpose of giving Mar-Vell a very respectable sendoff at the end, since, unlike a lot of the shock deaths you read about today, with one person being killed by another, he died of cancer. And Starlin took by far the best path, far from forced, and more's the pity his example never inspired later writers and editors to try the same approach.
Either way, how could the Capt. Marvel of the times be a big seller if the ongoing series came before the GN and not after? Poor Blake, he's all confused.
And since when didn't Ms. Marvel, if we go by the solo book that was around in 2006, not theoretically prove itself successful? As badly as it was handled with ties to crossovers like Civil War, it still ran about 50 issues. Yet I must concur that, based on the hints I gave, it wasn't a success. But that's mainly the fault of Joe Quesada and company, who precipitated the modern crossover disaster and squandered any potential for character drama by forcing the crossover illness upon that series to boot.
That’s a lot of bad news for the upcoming Ms. Marvel. If it’s so doomed, why did Marvel even bother? Whether or not the book succeeds, it’s clear Marvel sees something changing in its readership. There were lots of reasons why Miles Morales as Spider-Man should never have worked — and yet, there he is still web-slinging two years later. Yes, sales have weakened. Whether the character stays around following the current “Cataclysm” event running through the Ultimate Universe remains to be seen, but the character has been demonstrated to be more than just a stunt. It’s also possible that the book’s sales were pulled down, at least in part, due to the imprint’s luster diminishing over the last five years or so; it’s not just Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man‘s sales that have weakened, but the entire line’s.I wonder if it's because they hope to flood the bargain bins with tons of unsold copies? I'm honestly alarmed at how the upper echelons of the conglomerate that owns Marvel today see nothing wrong with their wasting tons of money to publish series they have no idea how to market along with series that only serve as political propaganda. Money that Disney would surely think better spent on projects with more potential.
And poor young Blake, what a shame he thinks a character written as an Islamist is a big deal...but not one who's of French, Armenian, Romanian, Australian, Macedonian, Ghanian, Swiss, Finnish, Peruvian, Chilean or Croatian background. Or, more precisely, how facinating he never thinks to write suggestions for publishers based along those lines, nor does he encourage old and new writers to take up the challenges themselves. Seems like people of his standing would rather comment on what's already been done than make suggestions for what could be done. So I guess we know who's failing the comics then. It's the opinionators, maybe more so than the publishers they pay lip service to, because they don't think creatively or try to encourage and inspire a wide array of ideas.