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Ms. Marvel #5 is the most important comic of the current era. Wait, I got ahead of myself.
Comics have distinct eras that you can recognize simply by flipping through an issue. Whether it’s the artwork, subject matter, costume design or the overall presentation, fans can get an idea of when the book came out, and who its intended audience is. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time recommending older first issues to new readers; X-Men #1 is going to seem weird to someone who has never read any X-Men, whether it’s due to the silted language and design of the original or the ’90s posing and over-lettered pages of the Claremont/Lee version. It can seem really dated for new readers, and can completely color a generation of fans’ expectations of what comics should “really be like.” This is my only explanation for the extreme Jim Lee-ness of the New 52 costume designs.
With this is mind, trying to peg the overall theme of the current era of comics is still a little tricky. Do we use the movies as an example of how future generations will view the medium? Will Civil War and Identity Crisis, with their adult themes, be how the early 2000s are remembered? Do we have Brian Michael Bendis to thank for the voice of this modern era?
This brings me back to my cause this week: I would like Ms. Marvel #5 to be the bar by which the current era is measured. This comic does so much right, and is so absolutely inspiring, that I want to see followers, imitators and an entire generation of fans who will expect this level of quality in their comics in the days to come. Did I get ahead of myself again? Let me catch you up.
WARNING: I’ll be discussing Ms. Marvel #5, so grab your copy (buy three more!) and read along!
It looks like Marvel’s emphasis on reaching a female audience may be paying off for Ms. Marvel.
The first issue of the teenaged superhero’s series debuted last Wednesday to a chorus of critical acclaim, just one day after Marvel editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso spoke with The Washington Post about the publisher’s enhanced focus on female characters and creators — along with Ms. Marvel, new series have been launched (or will be launched) featuring female heroes Black Widow, She-Hulk, Captain Marvel and Elektra; under the “All-New Marvel NOW!” initiative. “While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie,” Alonso said in his interview. “If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”
Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about, as it says above, “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. Looks like I’m flying solo this week, so without further ado, let’s get to it …
Since the new Ms. Marvel was announced in November as Kamala Khan, the 16-year-old daughter of Pakistani immigrants, there’s been a lot of discussion about the significance of the character, both to Muslim readers and to comics. But journalist Shehryar Warraich takes the conversation a step further, by soliciting the opinions of Pakistanis.
The United Press International article is an interesting read, as Warraich, who’s based in Lahore, Pakistan, found reactions to be largely positive, although at least one woman expressed concerns that the Marvel comic might be part of “a conspiracy to discredit Pakistani society.”
However, the vast majority of the others quoted in the piece seemed quite hopeful about the potential effect of Kamala, both on Pakistani girls and on the country’s image.
“Pakistanis will feel proud to see their girl helping people and playing a positive role,” author Mobarak Haider told UPI. “Kamala Khan is not only representing her compatriots in this role, but Muslims as a whole. Her character could have a great impact on Muslim families living in the U.S. The concept will make parents understand that by giving girls confidence, they can build a fabulous future.”
The article also provides a good opportunity to link to the Ms. Marvel production blog, which features exactly what you would expect: character designs, process pieces and the like.
Ms. Marvel #1, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, arrives Feb. 4.
Marvel’s announcement last week that a Muslim teenager living in New Jersey will star in the new Ms. Marvel series is an exciting step forward in diversifying superhero comics. And even better is the involvement of writer G. Willow Wilson and editor Sana Amanat, both Muslims, which should bring an authentic voice to the title.
The move is already garnering a lot of media attention, and I expect it will pique the curiosity of a number of people who never really expected a mainstream comic book to tell a story so closely connected to their own. This isn’t the first comic book to do something like this, but it’s remarkably significant.
I’m looking forward to Ms. Marvel, and I really hope the comic finds an audience (I’m also thrilled to see artist Adrian Alphona back on an ongoing series). But there’s no doubting this title is an underdog. Marvel often struggles with keeping solo series starring women; just ask fans of She-Hulk, or Rogue, or Carol Danvers. Poor Storm can’t even get more than a miniseries every 10 years or so. DC may be able to boast Wonder Woman and a number of female-starring Batman spinoffs, but both publishers have had limited success sustaining books that star minority characters. From Black Panther to War Machine to Steel to the current Batwing, there have been valiant efforts that ultimately get canceled. And I’m hard-pressed to think of a significant Marvel or DC book starring a character whose religion was such a strong crux of the premise.
Next Media Animation, the Taiwanese studio that brought us offbeat animated explanations of Miles Morales, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and the superhero brawl on Hollywood Boulevard, again turns its lens on comic books with a particularly biting report on this week’s announcement that the new Ms. Marvel will be a Muslim teenager from New Jersey.
“Perhaps fueled by dropping readership,” the narrator states, “Marvel Comics is really grasping at straws in a bid to find new audiences to buy its outdated printed comics. Marvel’s latest attempt at relevance is Kamala Khan, a teenaged Muslim polymorphing superhero from New Jersey. She will use her gigantic hands and feet to slap and stomp her way through the pitfalls of teenage Muslim girlhood … or something.”
Watch the video below. Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, debuts in February.
Publishing | Todd Allen analyzes the sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles from their September 2011 launch to the past month. Sales of any series tend to drop off from one issue to the next — Allen compares it to radioactive decay — and when the numbers drop below 18,000 for a couple of titles, DC tends to cancel them in batches and start up new titles to replace them. That plus crossovers and strong sales of some flagship titles has kept the line fairly stable until recently, but as Allen notes, the replacement titles tend to crash and burn pretty quickly, and overall sales have dipped a bit. [Publishers Weekly]
History | David Brothers has a great column for Black History Month, featuring Krazy Kat, All-Negro Comics and other titles by black creators. [Comics Alliance]
Retailing | Laura Hudson surveys a handful of retailers about what part higher cover prices may have played in August’s plummeting comics sales. “This summer has underperformed, and I think [the $3.99 price point] is a big part of it,” says Chris Rosa of Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, “but also I think the lack of an event and the fact that the big books at both [companies] are extended denouements to events. There’s nothing really inspiring people to run out to the stores. People are tired of buying four Avengers titles at $3.99 a pop.” [Comics Alliance]
Publishing | Tom Mason looks at the return of Atlas Comics: “If you were 13 years-old in 1975 when the original books were out, you’d be 48 today. In other words, the age of the average direct market fanboy. But in order for these new books to succeed, they’d have to appeal beyond nostalgia because with most Marvel and DC comics at $4.00 a pop, you’ve got to have something special and excellent to lure some of those buyers into your own circus tent.” [Comix 411]