This weekend, the X-Men comics’ new lead writer Marc Guggenheim and Arrow co-creator/showrunner gave a very telling interview. Talking about the future of the X-Men characters at Marvel he said “It’s more about the X-Men as heroes than the X-Men as a struggling minority fighting for their very existence… That existential crisis is tabled for the time being”.
During their publication, and especially during their eighties revival with Chris Claremont at the helm, the X-Men, New Mutants and X-Factor turned the comics into a social parable, playing up as a power fantasy for oppressed minorities, and giving others an insight into social issues that they might have otherwise been immune from.
Of late this kind of storytelling has become more pronounced, probably kicked off with the likes of The Authority, Ultimates and Civil War, with more recent stories in comics such as Captain America, The Champions and Ms. Marvel wearing their politics firmly on their spandex sleeves.
There has also been reaction from some fan communities and retailers to these kind of stories as having no place in superhero comics, despite all the many examples that have preceded it. Maybe it’s a little more obvious now? Maybe everyone is interpreting everything politically? Maybe fans wish for a time when they didn’t realise their superhero comics had political elements?
Either way, Marvel Comics has been a focal point for this kind of discussion. And last week’s Marvel creative summit I am told by well connected sources who have proved themselves in that past there was more of a focus on what DC Comics internally called “meat and potatoes” comics that preceded their doubling down on the popular characters and bringing back old favourite takes with DC Rebirth.
I am told, as Marvel brings back the X-Men line with a bang, to expect a return to more of a status quo for titles such as Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and more. A more familiar looking Marvel Universe by the autumn – although, just as with Captain America, as classic-look-characters return, expect new characters to keep a number of their books.
I am told that Marvel knows that the upcoming Secret Empire is probably too political for some readers given this current climate but they are in too deep to change direction on it now. They also believe firmly that it’s a quality book – though if people can’t get behind writer Nick Spencer‘s exploration of current politics to read it, that might be an issue. And, just as with recent Captain America issues and the recent Civil War II: The Oath, guaranteed to needle at people’s political beliefs – whatever they are.
I am told to expect that Secret Empire will be a bit of a last hurrah for this kind of storytelling from Marvel for a while. A little how Marvel writers were told to get the use of the Marvel 616 dimensional nomenclature out of their system before it was done away with for good…