Confessions of a Comic Book Guy--Now What
Column by Steve Bennett
Published: 08/01/2012 02:28am
It occurred to me I've said essentially nothing about the whole Marvel NOW! relaunch initiative thing (which I've privately been calling "Marvel NOW! What," which is frankly just not up to my usual high level of snark) coming this October. Mostly because we still know almost nothing about it. OK, to be fair, there has been a general declaration of intent (it's going to be both big and important? Sign me up!) and I must admit I do like the idea of Brian Bendis as the writer of the new Uncanny Avengers title. Especially as it's based on the premise that maybe superheroes might want to do something to actually help mutants for a change. It's the elephant that's been lurking in the center of the Marvel Universe for fifty years; even as a teen I wondered why Mr. Fantastic didn't ever go on Johnny Carson to make a plea for human/mutant understanding.
But for the most part initially Marvel NOW! seemed like just so much comic book business as usual, i.e., DC has a major line shakeup which means Marvel will feel compelled to do the same. Then I saw the design for the "new look" Captain America by Jerome Opena and John Cassaday,* went back, took a closer look at some of the other new Marvel NOW! costume designs, and then it finally hit me. Marvel needs Marvel NOW! as badly as DC needed "The New 52" and for the exact same reasons. Because they had do something fairly significant to the status quo to stop the downward circulation death spiral, sure, but also because they had to make their characters seem a little less old. To be fair Marvel has done a pretty good job keeping their characters fresh over the decades, certainly better than DC has done. Spider-Man in particular seems to get embraced with the same amount of affection by each new generation.
But make no mistake, their characters are the products of the 1960's which is starting to be a very long time ago; I should know, I was there. It was the last time that people in this country lived, dressed, thought, spoke and acted in such radically different ways it might as well be an entirely different planet. And for their new parent company Disney there must the terrible fear that Millennials (a.k.a. "kids today") might just discover just how old their new library of characters really is.
While Ant-Man was one of the original Marvel characters he wasn't (at least in his early days) one of their "heroes with problems," his problem, some kind of unspecific mental illness, only got shoehorned in later on. One of the nice things about Ant-Man: Season One is that this is a given ffrom the get-go, telegraphed by an appearance by Henry "Hank" Pym’s previously unseen father, a verbally and emotionally abusive idiot who could give both Thunderbolt Ross and Charles Xavier's step-dad a serious run for their money in a "Bad Dad of the Year" contest.
In the old days Pym fought crime because, well, that’s just what you did in 1962 if you had a scientific bent and liked to dress up. Ant-Man might be something of a joke today but back then when the superhero field was a lot less crowded he was a superstar... the NYPD might have had problems with Spider-Man but they treated Ant-Man like he was so much Batman (he even had his own large, loyal fan club). But these days he needs a more "realistic" motivation to put on a suit and get small so naturally that means revenge and since Pym's "rogue's gallery" has always been somewhat on the puny side this mean his arch-nemesis... Egghead. Originally a classic mad scientist, the kind frequently mistaken for a pharmacist, in this iteration he's instead an evil for evil’s sake industrialist along Lex Luthor lines.
* I liked the new design well enough but couldn’t help but notice that his "mask" is now essentially a helmet. Which makes nothing but sense, seeing as how Marvel's The Avengers made it abundantly clear just how absolutely unnecessary the mask has always been.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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