BY MATT TUCK
Go ahead and put The Marvels #1 on your pull lists because this one is guaranteed to be a sellout.
What’s so special about The Marvels #1? First, there will be new characters making their debuts in those pages. Secondly, it has more of those stellar Alex Ross covers, and there are plenty of cover hunters who would buy one just for the artwork, and I wouldn’t blame them. Put the two together, and it is a recipe for an issue that will quickly top the sales charts, even if no one really knows what the series is even about.
THE NEW CREW
Who are these new faces? Marvel has released concept art for the three new characters, all designed by Ross, which will surely be a selling point for this issue. Not much is being revealed about them aside from the art and their names: Warbird, Threadneedle, Kevin Schumer, and a redesigned Lady Lotus, who first appeared in Invaders #37 in 1979.
Past that, everything is a mystery, but that is par for the course when it comes to new additions to Earth-616. The one to watch appears to be Threadneedle. In comments to ComicBook.com, series writer Kurt Busiek specifically mentioned that Threadneedle would be “one who’s outright weird and cosmic and will usher us into a bigger, stranger, deeper world.” Obviously I am drawing conclusions, but that is a big hint that this will be an important figure going forward.
THAT NEW CHARACTER SMELL
This series was initially slated to kickoff last year, but the pandemic helped push the release date to the end of this month.
The big question is, what is The Marvels about? That seems to be a mystery in itself. In the same interview, Busiek described the plot in the most vague of terms, simply saying that it is a “smorgasbord” of characters, timelines, and places. I guess he wants to keep us guessing.
With so little known about an upcoming series debut, it seems clear that Marvel is utilizing their tried-and-true sales tactic: introduce new characters. If you want to get collectors to buy an issue of your comic, just sprinkle in a healthy dose of new faces. That is not a criticism. For years, there have been reports of declining comic sales for the two giants of the industry, Marvel and DC. A couple of years ago, the word on the internet was that Disney was considering shutting down Marvel Comics. Just last year, DC terrified its fans with massive layoffs, and there have even been rumors that AT&T, after purchasing Time-Warner, has considered selling the publisher.
Obviously, none of those rumors have proven true, but it does raise awareness to the current state of the industry, at least when it comes to printing new comics. I love both Marvel and DC, and I want to see them both stay in the business well into the future. If marketing new characters helps them stay afloat, by all means, keep working the formula.
The problem with this approach is that it makes things harder for collectors. Just keeping up with the onslaught of new characters is daunting. I gave up years ago. When both companies debut so many fresh faces, it gets to be more like a job and less like a hobby to grab all the first appearances. Then there are the numerous covers and subsequent printings, and that’s not addressing the price tags for those ratio variants.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
It seems that every month, Marvel, DC, or both are introducing new characters. It is a gamble on which ones will pan out and become the next big thing. Judging by what I am seeing on social media, these new characters are not generating as much excitement as they once did. If that is the case, should the publishers back off the formula for a few months? That way, when there is a first appearance, it can be a bigger moment for collectors. I doubt they will, but it is food for thought.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.