Lately, Marvel has been causing quite the controversy for the creative decisions being made regarding some of their most popular characters. In particular, the recently announced changes Captain America and Thor have had fans in an absolute furor. The fact is that many of us grew up reading these stories and all of us have an idea of who and what those characters should be. Does that mean that publishers and creators should always bend to the cries of the masses? If you ask comic book extraordinaire Brian Michael Bendis, you’ll quickly understand that this is not how creators believe comics should work.
For over two decades, Bendis has been giving comic book fans plenty to love. If you are even a casual comic book reader, chances are very likely that you have held a Bendis book in your hand at one time or another and you probably loved it. From Ultimate Spider-Man to Daredevil to Avengers, and even his highly acclaimed original series, Powers (which will soon be a live action series on the Playstation Network), Bendis has paid his dues in the comic book industry in spades. As a creator, he is now seeing changes made to one of his lead characters in the Powers live action adaptation, namely, the ethnicity of the character. During his part in Howard Stern’s Marvel/DC Town Hall, Bendis made it clear that it is the talent behind these adaptations that remains crucial. When asked by Screenrant how he felt about some of the negative responses to the “risky” moves made by adaptations, Bendis had this to say:
“I do think that in comics, it’s almost our obligation to push and pull, and try new things… I said online – people are kind of upset about Thor or Captain America, and things that are happening – I remind them politely that the best things you remember about your favorite character, in the history of this character that you’re so worried about holding onto… the best things about that history are the craziest things that some creators decided to do. Granted, some of your least favorite things are the craziest things that some decided to do. But you don’t know until it’s all over what those things are going to be.”
For those who may have been living in an alternate reality or possibly under a rock for the past month or so, the changes that Bendis is referring to include the recruitment of Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) as the new Captain America and the gender swapped Thor, who will be female in upcoming issues. While many fans of Captain America were quickly on board with the natural progression of Sam Wilson’s character, others were quick to criticize the move, especially in light of another recent controversy regarding his roll in the hay with Jet Black after a few drinks. Oddly, the controversy surrounding that subject was actually regarding Jet Black’s age, which some understood to be around 15 years old (she’s actually in her 20’s in the story), rather than the fact that they may have been drunk before they took their relationship to the next level. Thor’s fandom, on the other hand, was not quite as supportive of the God of Thunder’s sex-swap.
The moment the announcement was made regarding Thor (she will not be She-Thor, or Lady Thor, or any sort of female counterpart to the character – she IS Thor), the internet cried “foul”. There are plenty of supporters of the move and many are looking forward to where the story goes but, while plenty, it is safe to say that this is the minority. Was this a necessary move, as one could argue for Cap? Maybe not, but it is definitely a statement that Marvel wants to make their universe as diverse as the world around us as are willing to take those chances.
If you are one of the fans who are still crying for their childhood origin stories to be the be-all-end-all of their character, it really is time to embrace this change. Bendis continued his statement:
“Our favorite things that any creator ever did that made us want to be in comics was, you know, Frank Miller on ‘Daredevil.’ That was not what that book was about before he got on that book… I think of that while I’m writing: that the boldest things are the things that I loved. And not just imitate their bold move, but then make my own bold moves. I just politely remind people [of that]. “The people who are just agitated to the point of rude… fuck them. I don’t care about that, and that noise.”
On any given day, most comics that are worth reading explore facets of their characters that may have never been explored before but because many of these are newer books without a history that goes back 50 years or more, these often go unnoticed. Being passionate about your favorite characters and/or your favorite series’ is a part of being a fan and anyone who read these stories as a kid may find it tough to transition from familiar territory to uncharted waters but, as most life-long comic book readers will agree, it’s that transition that makes comic books a legitimate form of literature. There is no growth
without change and if you are someone who refuses to grow with your characters, keep in mind that you have decades worth of material to reread or even discover. Not only that, but the creators of your favorite books are ready to leave you in the dust. For those of us that embrace these changes, we are no doubt in for a wild ride in the coming months and years, and I for one cannot wait.
Still think that your outrage will change the direction that comic book creators take? Bendis has this final thought:
“I will tell you, almost across the board for comic creators, if you yell in their face they’re just going to do it more. That is not the way to stop them from doing whatever they’re doing with Emma Frost. Do not yell at me. I’ll do it more, I’ll lean into it. And I won’t even realize I’m doing it.”