Robot 6

Marvel.com editor breaks down why some characters can’t make an ongoing series work

Why is it that certain characters can never seen to make an ongoing series work? They are either B-List players from mainstream titles looking to break out on their own, or new characters introduced that never seemed to take hold on the sales charts. Fans can speculate, bloggers & journalists like me can make conjecture, but what if an actual comics insider breaks down the subject?

Marvel.com editor (and friend of Robot 6) Ben Morse has discussed this topic at length in a column he calls “Why Won’t This Work?” over at the blog The Cool Kids Table, where he posts with other Wizard alums Rickey Purdin (DC Editor) and Kiel Phegley (CBR’s News Editor). Morse has reviewed several characters and their inability to make a long-term viable series, such as the most recent post about Marvel’s Deathlok. Morse isn’t afraid to look at DC either, spending time and words looking at DC’s Martian Manhunter and Steel, and our own Kiel Phegley got in on the act, talking about Marvel’s Captain Marvel.

This is definitely a subject ripe for further review, and we hope Ben and the CKT crew do more of this in the future. What character or team would you like to see them review?

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11 Comments

I would suggest Gambit, but I know the answer: nerds hate him.

Gambit just needs the right writing and art team! He’s a great character, just look at his first series it was a success.

Man, the fans are going to rip these people to shreds…

Namor/Aquaman. 70% of the earth is water. Most of the depths – yet to be fully explored – contain creatures that seem to exsist almost in spite of their harsh nature. Sharks get a whole week annually to kick ass. Yet the kings of the sea get no love perpetually.

Not saying I like them either, but you want a topic, there you go. Discuss that.

Imperius Rex

Sir Manley Johnson

March 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm

You know it’s not really the character alone that carries the book. It’s that character, the world they inhabit, the relationships they have with other characters. If a character isn’t interesting it’s because the writer hasn’t given them a real relationship to the world they inhabit or with other characters. Think about series, TV shows, movies you enjoy and you will see how this works. You need a cast of characters. Superman would be nothing without Metropolis, Smallville, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen, Archie would be a dud without Riverdale, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and Reggie. You get the idea.

There are many characters that seem to be stuck in the not quite ready for primerime lane.

Some that standout to me:

Doctor Strange – I can’t wrap my head around why he can’t sustain an ongoing. In a panel from BKVs’ The Oath mini, there was the line “I hate magic. There’s no rules”.

I think a lot of creators feel that way or think something to the effect of they have to write a book about magic.
That line of thinking is a bit of a self-imposed shackle.

Yes, Strange is the sorcer supreme. That doesn’t mean every story must focus on magic.

And the fact that magic has no rules should be an plus.
No limits.

Namor – Yes, he currently has book of his own but, honestly, how well do you think it is doing?
How many of you are reading it?

When I saw Namor being included in X Men fold, I thought it was the start of something.

It seems that regal/ royal/ political characters are a tough sell. (Think Black Panther, Aquaman , Wonder Woman)

I felt that by having him join the X Men, Namor could finally deal with a part of his heritage that we so really see.

The truth is that, like many in the real world, Namor is a mixed breed.

Hell, he’s really Tri-racial. ( Atlantean, Mutant, Human)

But instead, he facing down second rate vamps or tail gating Wolverine into hell.

And you know hell is hot so that’s built in drama right there.

Silver Surfer – Like Doc Strange, he is another character that’s struggled to maintain a title since is Stan Lee was penning his tales while a seminal artist gave the stories visual life.

Everytime, the Surfer has to serve Galactus.

Makes the big ol Purple Planet Eater more a ball and chain than devourer of worlds.

Their relationship can come off at times like that of a prostitute and their pimp.

He’s no good for you, Norrin. Fly away.

I know there’s currently the Annihlators, some members from the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Kree, the Inhumans, probably some defected Skrulls, the Star Jammers, the Shi ‘R empire, and more roaming the spaceways but really… Is space that crowded?

I mean, it’s space.

Is that not what the Surfer wanted to explore and see?

Well then, let’s do that with him.

There are no weak characters, just weak writers.

In any sane environment, the perception that a character – especially one created as a supporting character in other stories – doesn’t ‘work’ as the lead of a series would mean no longer publishing that character as such. It might also mean deciding the character/series was best left to be forgotten.

But this is Marvel and DC.

“There are no weak characters, just weak writers”

Completely agree here.

“I hate magic. There’s no rules”

Excuse me? Did whoever wrote that know that systems of magic *with specific rules* have always existed? (I’m not saying they are real, only that people believed in them.) To say nothing of fictional systems as in “Dungeons & Dragons”. Even Strange himself has some clear limitations on what he can do, and specific named spells (that was in fact the hallmark of the original series.) Hell, Green Lantern is more open-ended than Strange is! Though it is true that some writers don’t understand this and use him as a walking Deus Ex Machina sometimes. But that’s THEIR fault. They have no excuse for not doing the right research, not in the Internet age.

The reason Gambit will never work is not that “nerds hate him.” It’s the blasted Cajun accent.
The Cajun accent is so rare that most of us *never* hear one spoken. When we do happen to hear a genuine Cajun accent, say, on TV or on a trip to Louisiana, it’s so unfamiliar that we think the speaker must be faking it.
Now you try to make that work in a comic book character’s dialog, and either the average reader can’t “hear” the character’s voice, or makes the dialectic rendition sound even *more* phoney in his mental attempt to recreate an accent that he doesn’t really know.
And the whole problem is compounded by modern comics’ penchant for 1st person narrative caption box, so we’ve got the problem of Gambit “thinking” in a Cajun accent throughout the comic as well as speaking in it.

I think with the right push Gambit would have some sucess at an ongoing. He has more chance then his other X stars (Wolvie and rip offs need not apply).

Also it seems that Marvel won’t really give a chance to it’s x-men stars at a solo ongoing as they would anyone else. We’ve seen Black panther, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Spider girl, Venom etc many attempts at ongoings that just didn’t stick

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