The Fifth Color | The fault in our Marvel stars
The past few weeks have given us drips and drabs of drama regarding two movies on Marvel’s amazing slate of cinematic wonders: Ant-Man lost long-attached director Edgar Wright and hunted down a new one (successfully, I might add; Peyton Reed’s indie-comedy cred is solid with Mr. Show and Upright Citizens Brigade, plus Down With Love is a personal favorite), and Doctor Strange now has Scott Derrickson directing and a slew of casting rumors. It’s made my Twitter feed abuzz with opinions and fancasts and denouncements of studio interference in the creative efforts of the auteur. It seems everyone wants to talk about the next Marvel breakthrough hit.
But not the comics. God forbid we ever talk about the comics. Ant-Man and Doctor Strange are absent from the shelves, outside of cameos in Original Sin, a canceled gig on the FF for Scott Lang and … well, something odd going on with Doctor Strange in New Avengers. As I scroll through Tumblr and Twitter demands about how Doctor Strange and Ant-Man should be presented, no one seems all that keen on picking up a comic with either character in a starring role. When contradicting someone’s fancast, I offered my own choice for Doctor Strange as a Ming Doyle sketch, and was told that “drawings are not good actors.” Oh, man, I hope they were joking …
There’s a fervor attached to the new Marvel movies that I’m sad to see doesn’t extend to the comics on which they’re based. HBO’s Game of Thrones has convinced more people to read the phone book-sized novels more than a multimillion-dollar superhero movie has led people to pick up a new comic. Marvel movie canon is more accepted and understood than comic canon — and, let’s face it, that’s not a problem but a rather comfortable solution. Lots of people don’t even know where begin with the comics based on characters and stories they loved on the big screen without really knowing that those movies are all but primers for the source material. Except Spider-Man, because that’s another can of worms for another day.
Marvel editors and writers have often denied the influence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the comic 616, noting that any similarity is purely coincidental or thought of long before the movies saw the light of day. It makes sense to say that for creative credibility, but would that influence really be so bad? I’m not talking dictation from the studios, just a little nod here and there, shaving off some rough edges, making sure that if movie-goers enjoyed the film, they could come into a comic shop and get something fresh off the shelves they could recognize (I’m looking at you, Spidey). Or better, could influence run in the other direction? It’s no coincidence that the Guardians of the Galaxy was overhauled and Bendis-ized in preparation for the big screen. Let’s look ahead to what kind of comics we could get from the next phase of Marvel films.
Ant-Man will be released July 17, 2015, so there’s some time to get Scott Lang some presence on the shelves. But what kind of presence? Honestly speaking, I don’t think Ant-Man could hold his own in a regular series — and while guest appearances are nice, we’re looking for something that’s going to have his name on the cover, perhaps in a striking font to embed into the brains of movie audiences. He’s perfect for an original graphic novel or a miniseries, something short, fun and informative to get readers ready for a possible longer launch down the road. The movie looks like it’s going to have a fun and comedic tone, and it should be appropriate for younger viewers, as almost all Marvel Studios features have been. A book that retells Scott Lang’s origins, maybe offering his daughter’s perspective on having a unique dad, that all blends into a new adventure with four-color imaginative art with great facial expressions and comedic timing? It’s not going to do Wolverine numbers, but it should catch enough eyes to be viable as a miniseries or graphic novel.
On the other hand, I still think it’s a crime Doctor Strange doesn’t have an ongoing title. He’s too expansive a character to limit his scope and far too easy to use as a narrator for the great unknown. While the movie only really picked up legs recently with the announcement of Scott Derrickson in the director’s chair, I think it’s a good enough excuse to bring Strange back as a regular series. As Derrickson is known for his horror films, let’s focus the series on the Dark Dimension and all the monsters and demons you could shake a stick at. Hopefully, it would focus more on mystery than on effects, as Marvel continues to have a huge problem with the idea of Strange’s power set (recently, he gained even more power at a cost in New Avengers; note how it’s not exactly reflected in Original Sin). Let’s leave the powers for when they’re needed and focus the book around Strange being a surgeon turned mystic investigator. With Wong at his side, he could solve puzzles and mysteries every issue to keep the book quick and sustainable. Like Sherlock with magic. Hawkeye for Goths. The artwork should be wild and dark, both beautiful and monstrous. Heck, make Doctor Strange sexy, tall, dark and handsome; look what Robert Downey Jr. did for Tony Stark.
Both these movies are a long way off, but their comic counterparts are closer than we think, with larger budgets, less production drama and accessible to everyone. I didn’t name any names as far as who should write or illustrate these books because who better to get the real answers from but you, the public! Please be kind in our comments section and give out some ideas for who you think could do these characters justice. Excelsior!