Robot 6

The Fifth Color – Marvel Queens

the fifth colorOh man, I have never been so glad I do this on Friday.  Hopefully, Dear Reader, we’re far enough from Monday and the hyperventilating, bad joke-cracking, internet outrage over the Big Announcement has passed the majority of us by.  Either you’ve read or listened a little more to those on the inside, fears, doubts and flailing have been soothed or at least put to bed for now as the fallout of this 4 billion dollar purchase of the House of Ideas is going to take years to have any sort of crazy effect on the brand we love.

Then again, some fans may still be unsoothed and are continuing to photoshop Mickey’s head on Marvelman in milking out that one last drop of sneering humor.

We here at the Fifth Color have decided to eschew all ribbing and ranting at the House of Mouse… except for one thing.

You see, after making beloved children’s fairytales that generations of fans have grown up on, someone in marketing realized that they have a lot of stories… and a lot of girls at the center of these stories.  Pretty girls who overcome a lot of danger or cruelty or just sleep a lot.  These girls are heroines, adventurers or just sources of adventure and that makes them idolized.  In an obvious move to sell some more t-shirts, mini-movies and create a brand, Disney took all their heroines, dubbed them ‘princesses’ regardless of sovereignty and BAM! Put ‘em on a lunchbox.  And the lunchbox sold well, and it was good.

Now everyone take a big pink slippered take back of what the common Marvel fan might think of a ‘princess’ and let’s look at who we have.  Spider-Woman, She-Hulk, Jean Grey, Sue Storm, the Wasp- errr, uhm, Photon, Firestar, Stature, Black Widow… it would be silly of me to list the kick-ass female roster of the Marvel Universe but it certainly would pad out my word-count on this article.  There are just so many women in the Marvel U who are indeed, heroines.  Beautiful women who overcome a lot of danger or cruelty… heck, you could say dying is a lot like ‘sleeping’, right?  They’ve stood side-by-side the Mightiest of Heroes or the Strangest of Teens and yet, we still don’t have a Wonder Woman.

There is no iconic female in the Marvel U that has been marketed towards the public, given her own face time and, for lack of a better term, lunchbox.  It’s not like we’re strapped for ideas, people!  Why can’t the average Joe in our demographic recognize Ms. Marvel when the company is in her name!  Superman has Supergirl again and Jessica Drew is just now getting into the limelight?  By all of Bendis’s praising, she should have been big since the ’70s!

ladies of disneyOkay, okay, it took Disney a long time to figure out their goldmine too, and when they did, they grouped all their girls together under a banner and took them as they are.  No one’s changed and outfit or a hairstyle since we first saw them; Ariel is even back to Mermaid status, legs be damned!  They can even throw in Jasmine and Mulan for some local color (though I’m not sure Mulan is technically a princess…).  But the point is that everyone looks the way they did in their movies, no story has changed, no ‘modernizing’ needed.  The characters have been touchstones to little girls everywhere, a g-rated ‘I’m a Samantha!’ quiz, so why mess with anything that already works?

The Women of Marvel have been a diverse and fascinating bunch since the beginning and no one can take that from them, not seasonal event, not new bold direction, not even ‘modernizing’ for the new era.  What does hurt them is disuse and reinvention that takes them further and further away from the characters that caught our eye to begin with.  There are a lot of strong archetypes,  ethnicities, body types that can be found in anyone’s imagination or real life.    I know I think of myself as a She-hulk kinda gal,. so why don’t I have book to read anymore or a t-shirt to declare myself with?  Once people get to know the women of Marvel, they’ll love them for their strength and originality and personal triumphs if only we got them all together for a big show of faith.  Don’t change a thing, don’t invent some crazy reason for them all to be together other than a fond friendship and respect.  It will sell like gangbusters.

Hopefully, someone in marketing is looking at their internal memo with the Mouse ears on it and thinking about how to turn this to their advantage.  It’s going to be a long time before Disney will hold any real sway with our Bullpen, so let’s enjoy the good of it while we can.

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Comments

3 Comments

Mysterious Stranger

September 4, 2009 at 4:52 pm

” … heck, you could say dying is a lot like ‘sleeping’, right? ”

That made me laugh so hard I snorted. That little statement right there is so completely on the money. I wonder if the editors at Marvel as children were told that great-aunt Betty/grandpa/cousin Phil were just “sleeping” after they had passed away.

Marvel Writer: … too bad we can’t use Jean Grey. She’d be perfect for this story.
Marvel Editor: She’s just sleeping. Why don’t we wake her up?

I seriously doubt Disney is going to take an active interest in the stories Marvel is telling. As long as they get those fat licensing checks from all over the world for Spider-man/Hulk/Captain America backpacks/lunchboxes/underwear they won’t really care about the actual characters themselves. They have the girl market cornered with their princess stuff already and don’t need Marvel for that. If anything they’ll use Marvel to get at that elusive boy demographic, something that eludes them no matter how hard they try. You don’t see a lot of boys clamoring for Mickey Mouse sheets or wanting to dress up as Donald Duck for Halloween the way girls want to be Belle or watch High School Musical over and over and over again. Pixar has helped them gain some in the boy demo with Cars but not like their princesses. With Marvel they’ll finally have a stable of established characters that appeal to boys. They just need time to figure out how to work them into their overall global marketing scheme.

Disney does have the “girl” market cornered, but they’re also dealing with a lot of well-founded complaints that they’re shoe-horning all girls into the “princess” mold. Like Carla said, you can’t really count Mulan as a princess, and in in most other marketing that I’ve seen, she’s the one most often omitted.

It’s been speculated that the main reason Disney bought Marvel was to go after the pre-teen boy market. But they’d do well to go after older girls as well with the characters you mention. They wouldn’t even need to do much re-jiggering, just produce something that’s kind of out of continuity, like the Marvel Adventures line. I always thought it was cool they put Storm in Marvel Adventures Avengers and turned Janet Van Dyne into “Giant Girl,” which is way cooler than “The Wasp.” Produce a couple more lighter-in-tone comics with loose continuity and strong female characters, and they could be on their way.

“Jessica Drew is just now getting into the limelight? By all of Bendis’s praising, she should have been big since the ’70s!”

Jessica Drew had her own ‘toon series in the early 1980s. It tanked and took her comic down with it.

Marvel has tried to come up with the big breakout female lead since at least the early 1970s. Remember THE CAT? Flopped. (Though echoes of the concept live on in Tigra and Hellcat/Patsy Walker.) MS. MARVEL? Not even the team that made the X-Men the great 1970s comeback story could rescue that book. SHE-HULK? Failed four different times now.

You -could- say they made it work once, with Red Sonja. But they don’t even own the character. Never did.

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