The problem with Marvel movies

They seem to get almost everything right in bringing the comic book experience to live action but I think there is something wrong.

The original comics were expected to struggle but they found an audience that may no longer exist in reality - the audience for physical comics publishing is shrinking all the time or spiritually - rebounding on the appeal of the original creations, reducing them to corporate toys.

I was reading Marvel comics in the 1970s in British black and white reprints and they were also read to me as I was so excited by the pictures. I vividly remember the wings on Namor the Sub-Mariner's ankles as he fought The Mighty Thor in the skies above New York's UN building.

I could only have been about 4 years old but the pictures were thrilling and I later became an avid reader.

I was very grateful to them for teaching me a lot about the geography of New York City and Greek and Norse mythology and the wave of Marvel movies contain exciting moments for me in Thor: Ragnarok and Captain America: Winter Soldier especially.

I broadly disagree with Martin Scorsese's recent GQ interview where he compared them to themepark rides.

I think fans of the Marvel franchises are entertained the most by the character pieces and portrayals that create a satisfying tapestry. Many actors in these films do great work

and the quieter moments and emphasis on character consistency add to the experience. They may seem bombastic and loud but the quieter moments show heart and spirit that other mainstream movie franchises come nowhere near to emulating.

And it is this foundation of character moments that makes the whole enterprise in the end unsatisfying and almost troubling.

When the tiny Marvel office was launching Fantastic Four number one and the publisher moved away from cash-in projects and monster mash-ups they were responding to the efforts of editor Julius Schwarz at National Periodicals - DC Comics - to revive interest in the superhero fad he had lived through 20 years earlier when Superman and then Captain Marvel had found massive pre-War success.

Marvel's titles were distributed by DC who restricted them as a perceived threat to their market dominance.

They were only allowed to publish 8 titles for much of the 1960s but built a flourishing universe very quickly.

I would argue that this universe - which is where the Marvel movie franchises all originate particularly with the work of creator Jack Kirby - was based on an underdog spirit that the Marvel Studios have lacked for a long time.

Now owned by Disney, Marvel create stories for the films that move the characters away from the outsider/underdog inspiration of the source material from the 1960's.

Hence the need for bigger and bigger Universal threats, scaling the stories ever upwards.

It took Fantastic Four 50 issues - five years - to experience the threat of world-eating Galactus.

Spiderman, The Thing, The Hulk, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, Captain America and many others had flaws that made them a very different reading experience to the certainties of Superman's world in the 1960's.

The Marvel heroes showed fear, anger, love, anxiety, shock and angst in a way the DC heroes struggled with and younger readers found them relatable outsiders.

This rebel status was a manufactured conceit in many cases but it separated the Marvel characters from those that came before them in the superhero fictional worlds.

It is very hard to now see the Marvel/Disney box office hegemony with Star Wars, Frozen et alia backing it up creating sympathetic underdog characters as they dominate so conclusively. Socially, politically and economically the West seems to have moved away from a liking for anything other than 'strong leadership'

and being 'on top', itself a total fiction.

The first Iron Man film was a considerable risk and few now remember that it was followed shortly after by the relative failure of The Incredible Hulk.

The appeal of the Marvel characters is in how they deal with failure and the economic realities of modern Hollywood mean it is a failure that Disney will arguably never know again.

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