Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett looks at Marvel EIC CB Cebulski's comments to a Swedish interviewer, thoughts on a movie or TV show based on Ms. Marvel, with a side trip to look at The Phantom.
In the article, he also talked about how Marvel wants to show reality and how social media is a tool that helped Marvel find creators "with authentic voices so that the characters that already exist and also new faces can reflect the changing lifestyles, diversity, culture and global society we live in." But in a vast understatement, the article says this kind of "change is not always appreciated," in particular when it came to Ms. Marvel, saying "fans raged all over the world about her." Unfortunately, it doesn’t specify which fans in which countries were upset and why, all of which would be interesting to know. But according to Cebulski, those opposed are "a small, loud minority protesting just about everything we do. It does not matter whether it is skin color, sexuality or Peter Parker's marital status." And they react this way because it’s not "their Marvel," something he considers "very dangerous." The company moderates social media and sometimes has to involve the police in situations that "have become threatening." I wish I knew more about that too.
Mindy Kaling says Marvel's 'interested' in developing Pakistani-American superhero Ms. Marvel. It’s gotten a lot of online attention, which is kind of odd, seeing as how it’s kind of a non-story; since the actress (The Office, Late Night) and cartoonist (she wrote and drew Badly Drawn Girl for the Dartmouth College's newspaper from 1999 to 2001) has "no information about any tv or film adaptation." Though in Mindy Kaling Confirms Marvel Talks About Ms.Marvel Adaptation she says how instead of a movie the character might show up on the Disney+ streaming service. And I must admit a Ms. Marvel TV show is probably a whole lot more likely than a theatrical movie.
Marvel Studios Promises More Diversity and Inclusivity in Phase 4 and Beyond, and they’re developing a Shang-Chi movie (see "Schang-Chi News"). Which is a good place to start given the success of the movie Crazy Rich Asians (which cost $30 million and made $238.5 million worldwide) and the way both Black Panther and Captain Marvel each made $1 billion plus. And if done correctly, a Marvel movie with an Asian hero could be big in the Chinese market, which is becoming increasingly important seeing as how Avengers: Endgame' Grossed Less Of Its Money In America Than Any Marvel Movie (Box Office).
As Crazy Rich Asians producer Brad Simpson told The New York Times in an email, "Audiences are tired of seeing the same stories with the same characters. And we have to give people a reason to get off their couch or devices. We have to give them something different."
But given all that, Marvel probably still considers a Ms. Marvel movie "too risky" as it asks a mass audience to connect with a character who is not only young, brown, female and Muslim but unknown to most people given she made her first appearance in 2013. A Ms. Marvel movie would also have to overcome having its lead character with an unusual name, costume and "silly" powers which, let’s face it, are at best unusual and at worst kind of ridiculous. Even if the special effects were meticulously done there is a good chance upon first seeing her powers demonstrated on the big screen audiences could laugh, which wouldn’t be an unreasonable reaction given they’re pretty much the same as those of Elasti-Girl from The Incredibles movies. All of which would be fine if Marvel decided to make it a movie like 2002's Bend It Like Beckham, a blend of teen drama, romance and laughs but with superheroes instead of sports. Which sounds more like a Disney movie than a Marvel one and seeing as how no one wants to make the first Marvel movie to underperform at the box office (something which would be very bad for the brand), doing it as a made-for-streaming movie or series would be the safer, not to mention cheaper, choice.
* Though The Phantom did briefly resurface a couple of times. First, he appeared alongside Flash Gordon and Mandrake the Magician as part of 1985’s Defenders of the Earth animated series, a collaboration between Marvel Productions and King Features Syndicate. Then in Phantom 2040 a French-American animated series from 1994 (best known for its usual character designs from Peter Chung, creator of Aeon Flux). As well as the unsuccessful 1996 feature film (which wasn’t nearly as bad as most critics thought) and the 2009 Syfy mini-series that had nearly nothing to do with the character (the less said about the better). While it wasn’t the biggest of hits, Defenders of the Earth is probably the best remembered, having generated its fair share of merchandise as well as a short-lived comic book from Marvel's Star Comics imprint. While the show doesn’t appear to have a fervid online fanbase, with pre-awareness being priceless and revivals of other 80s cartoons like She-Ra and Voltron already running on Netflix, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this one eventually gets rebooted as well.
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.