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Why Marvel is slowly killing the X-Men

12 Oct

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With the influx of superhero movies that have been enjoying a great renaissance period in the last decade, the average Joes don’t really care which studios produce which super hero movies. They only care about the finishing product.  Here’s where things get interesting, to the comic book fans who are more invested with the superheroes they root for, they are far more aware of what’s happening behind the scenes than the average movie goers.

Most people know the big two of the comic book industry are DC and Marvel. But within each company itself there are divisions among fans about which super heroes they root for. In the Marvel universe you get your own set of hard core fans rooting for the X-Men, The Avengers, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc. I’m not saying one fan only goes exclusively for one superhero book, that’s silly BUT it is also highly unlikely one fan likes all the superheroes DC/Marvel has.

The Avengers fans usually keep to themselves as the X-Men fans as well. The main reason for this is taste (and money). There are a bunch of Avengers books out there as well as X-Men books. It would be downright expensive to buy all the new issues of Avengers or X-Men coming out. Not to mention each one has enormous wealth of background history within their worlds; consisting of supporting characters, main/minor supervillains, relationship between main/supporting superheroes, etc. It is fairly a daunting task to jump in to a new superhero team book. That is why most comic book readers are picky with what they read.

For a long time, the X-Men have always been cream of the crop of the Marvel universe ever since Chris Claremont era in the 1970’s. The notion of a superhero team consisting of mutants who are born different and sworn to protect the very people who hate them is such an original and downright brilliant/romantic concept. The Avengers compared to the X-Men have always been vanilla. I’m not trying to start a war with Avengers fans but the X-Men stories are far more dramatic and engaging due to this basic brilliant concept.

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X-Men popularity has never been higher in the 1990’s backed by solid writers and brilliant artists. There was also good animation show that brought in younger generation and teaching kids the themes of prejudice, racism and intolerance, it was a pretty cool stuff for an animation show. But the roof fell down when it was announced Marvel was in financial troubles in the late 1990’s, to avoid bankruptcy Marvel had to sell the movie rights of their popular characters. They sold Spider-Man to Sony, X-Men/Fantastic Four/Daredevil to Fox. The Avengers at the time was mediocre and held no interest to major studios so they were back with Marvel.

Ironically selling off their popular characters to other studios forced Marvel to restructure their own Marvel studios to self finance their own movies to keep future rights and profits in house. It also created a strong system and culture like what Pixar did; focusing on getting to know the characters really well and making sure the stories are well developed/structured. The system in place worked so well that by their tenth film (Guardians of the Galaxy), Marvel Studios are so confident they do not need a single show runner to keep their high quality movies in check.

Other studios dropped the ball when the successful team left the franchise. When Sam Raimi left the Spider-Man franchise and Marc Webb took over, it all went to shit. When Bryan Singer left the X-Men franchise for one movie (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Brett Ratner took over, it was deemed the worst X-Men movie ever made. Now try to imagine if Christopher Nolan left the Batman and Superman franchise, Warner Bros would’ve shit blood in their pants. Marvel studios never had that problem.

Marvel relationship with Fox took turn for the worse (not so much with Sony) due to some licensing rights, that Marvel is willing to sabotage their own products in order to not helping Fox promote their next Marvel superhero movies. Marvel will cancel all The Fantastic Four comic books in 2015, due to the reason of poor sales. This argument is hard to swallow for a lot of fans. It’s true The Fantastic Four has never been a big seller compared to Spider-Man or X-Men but The Fantastic Four was the first book Stan Lee created under Marvel and the historical significance is immensely important. Pulling the plug on The Fantastic Four is basically Marvel putting up it’s middle finger at Fox and hoping the movie fails so the rights will go back to Marvel (Like Daredevil did- now Marvel is producing the TV series).

Same thing is happening with the X-Men but Marvel is going through a dilemma. It doesn’t want to piss of the hardcore comic books fans (X-Men books are still selling very well) but it doesn’t want to give Fox any help either. What Marvel can do at the moment is phasing out its support of X-Men (no animation shows, lessening merchandise/promotion, etc) but making sure the comic books fans are happy enough by giving them excellent creative teams. But is this enough?

Nowadays you need multiple media outlets to create a strong brand identity be it through a TV show, merchandising, movies, comics, etc. Marvel half assed attempt effort to promote X-Men is visible and the X-Men fans are starting to notice. Marvel is marketing hard on the Avengers/Guardians of the Galaxy/Inhumans phase at the moment, any characters licensed to Fox is an afterthought. I mean look at the upcoming 75th anniversary Marvel main magazine cover. There is no single mutant visible. No Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Night Crawler, Professor Xavier, etc. None.

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Instead we have a lot of Avengers, Spider-Man and three Guardians of the Galaxy. THREE characters that was two years ago no one even heard of.

Business wise, it makes sense. There is no reason promoting products in which rival studios will benefit profit from but from X-Men fans perspective, this leaves a sour taste and a sign of huge disrespect to Marvel’s own history.

I get that completely, I’m a Marvel kid since I was 13 yrs old. I grew up reading the X-Men and found them to be the most compelling and relatable superhero group. Relatable not in terms of having awesome powers but because the X-Men was the first mainstream superhero group that also had the balls to be the first multi racial superhero group that fought and bled for the people who hated them  and condemned to being an outcast as well.

Being an Asian kid, living in Australia at the time, also staying in a boarding school in an almost all white students environment brought me face to face to experiencing a lot of first hand racism, intolerance and alienation.

I never pitied myself, never ran to teachers and complained. Whatever shit I took, I faced them head on and fought them. Every. Single. Time.

The X-Men became a symbol of my struggle against bigotry, bullies, ignorance and being a minority. To this day the fight continues, even though I’m back in my own country, it has it’s own problems of religious intolerance where radicalism exist to persecute those who are in the minority.

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No other superhero groups have that effect on me.

Yeah sure, The Avengers is a pretty cool movie and I’m happy they are getting the spotlight but they hold no special place inside me. They’re just a bunch of super dudes with powers saving the world and basking in the glory of being the knights in shining armors instead of working in secrecy/shadows like the X-Men.

They are still vanilla as hell though and even worse they are now trying to copy what the X-Men did decades ago (as do many other superhero groups) by going the diversity/brooding/dark route.

Ultimately I just find it surreal/ironic that the parent company has been treating the X-Men like shit. Then again, it’s never been the X-Men way to be treated fairly. And this makes me love them even more.

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