I see dots; I connect dots. This is A Conspiracy!
While I was a bit hesitant to buy into the conspiracy that Marvel Comics was doing away with a lot of the Fantastic Four and X-Men comics, promotion, merch, and pretty much anything else with a 4 or an X on it because of issues with movie licensing, the latest batch of news has pushed me over the edge, and I am now a believer. I guess it makes sense from a financial standpoint (although I still can’t get the numbers to add up) but, numbers aside, it seems like a pretty mean thing to do to us, the fans and readers. But, when I dug a little deeper into Marvel’s Movie history, the timeline shows just how cutthroat Marvel has been with cross-promotion in film.
Marvel sold the FF, Spider-Man, X-Men, and other movie rights to various studios starting way back 1986, but things didn’t really get interesting until the turn of the last century. 20th Century FOX drops X-Men in 2000 to a $300 million box office, Columbia releases Spider-Man in 2002 with a $800 million haul, and things snowballed from there. Film after film starring Marvel’s cast of characters were coming out, most of them were terrible, and here Marvel was missing out on the action. But the publisher began to formulate a plan, and here’s where the conspiracy comes in.
The reason licenses like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and the X-Men had more appeal than the Avengers (the ultimate end of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe) was because of the state of the comics starring those characters at the time. The 1990s were a great decade for both Spider-Men and the X-Men in uncountable ways. There were so many great stories, characters, and comics that came out in these years, but, by the end of the ’90s, the Avengers were in a state of near obscurity. No one wanted them.
As the 2000s went on, and the sequels for these now very popular movie franchises continued to make money hand over fist for their new owners, Marvel needed to inject some new popularity into their only real chance for a movie franchise: the Avengers. But, before you build something new, you have to tear down the old. Avengers Disassembled was this tearing down of the old, and when it ended in January 2005, it left a single book, and the crux of this conspiracy, in its wake: The New Avengers.
While Spider-Man and Wolverine, (let’s face it) the star of the X-Men films, were soaring in popularity due to feature films, Marvel saw a way to utilize this popularity to re-energize its now one and only chance at a Marvel Cinematic Universe by adding both Spider-Man and Wolverine to its one and only Avengers roster. As New Avengers continued to reinvigorate a stale stock of characters that included both Iron Man and Captain America, along came 2008, and the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.
The rest, as they say, is history, and brings us right back to where we began as we see Marvel, now sitting alone on the top rung of the superhero movie ladder, use the same strategy that originally bolstered the Avengers back to the heights of even being a viable film franchise, only now in reverse, using the same strategy to hold down their movie-making competition. It’s media synergy on a level not seen since Star Wars originally premiered, and it shows absolutely no sign of slowing down as these companies continue to vie for the rights to make movies that we love.
They say competition is good for consumers, but in this case, I’m not so sure that it is. Although, this is all conjecture, and I have nothing but a historical timeline to justify the opinion, but, if I’m right, we owe a lot more to those relatively bad Spider-Man and X-Men movies than we thought.
Keep those tin foil hats on tight, Geeks. The truth is out there.