The Black Joke

No, it isn’t about Farley Mowat.

It’s a rant about that Marvel Zombies cover based on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

Non-comics readers…you can skip this part.

…Okay, here’s the thing: there are several factors that contribute to the brilliance of that picture, without which it’s just kind of blah. One, you’ve got to know about SMLMJ, and what kind of book it is. Two, you’ve got to know about Marvel’s recent spate of “controversial covers”. Three, you’ve got to know about the issue that runs underneath those two things: the ongoing attempt by the Quimby Patrol to maximize shock value, which is alienating some of their traditional readership (like for example, me). Four, you’ve got to take into account the issue of how Marvel and DC have been repeatedly called on the carpet lately for visually mistreating their female characters.

All these things combine to produce the feeling I get when I look at this picture. Which is: wow, what a punchline. What a barb. What a black, ironic, nasty joke this is. The artist has done a magnificent job. I’m offended. I’m fascinated. I’m repelled. I’m hypnotized. I see the humour. Ouch. You really got me, there. That stings. Nice burn.

But now…quit it.

I’m not complaining about the picture itself, you see, or its references. Think about it, after all: if this picture had been commissioned for (say) an article that was harshly critical of modern-day Marvel, and especially if it had stolen a march on Marvel Zombies in the process, we’d all be cheering it. “Hee hee,” we’d be saying perhaps, “did that artist ever stick it to you, Marvel!” As an editorial cartoon, this is pure genius.

Unfortunately…

Though I admire whoever okayed this cover for their willingness to say “this is gonna get us creamed, but…damn it, it really is the essence of the joke, and it’s great work, so I’ve got to run it”, I’d admire it even more if I could be sure in my own mind that that decision didn’t also include a little disdain for the fans. “So they’re pissed at the HfH cover, huh? Well, this’ll put the cat among the pigeons for sure!” In that latter construction, the decision to publish looks a little less courageous, and a little more mean-spirited. A little more cynical.

Of course we can still go with “courageous” as our default even so, if we want to be charitable: knowing that the perception of Marvel as a cynicism factory is already out there makes the image that much more likely to raise controversy, doesn’t it? So now we’re talking about the danger of the art being perceived as deliberately provocative. It’s genius, yes, but part of its genius is also that Marvel’s starting to get a pretty bad reputation these days among a certain vocal group of fans and commentators. And, fact: the general public may not have heard of SMLMJ, but we have, so we know just what’s going on here, and just what level of play we’re looking at. SMLMJ is Marvel’s retro-fan/all-ages/girl-friendly experiment, designed as an ameliorative alternative to the main line of increasingly bloody Michael Bay rip-offs and porn shoots. And this Marvel Zombies cover trades on that. To say it doesn’t is absurd, and very possibly an insult to the artist’s professional skills into the bargain! We know what we’re seeing. If you’re a dedicated Marvel fan, and this cover doesn’t make you think of the MJ statue and the HfH cover, then — I’ll just say it — there’s something wrong with you. The picture’s allusiveness is right there in front of your nose. Are you blind? And if you’re even a little bit conscious of the more generalized fuss over Marvel/DC’s treatment of women in their comics, you must think of how bold an image this is to throw out there, with all that other stuff, at this particular time.

I’m not talking about the artist, now. Although I’m sure he was conscious of all this as well. I’m talking about the editors, and their decisions. Their professional decisions, that they’re responsible for.

What makes the joke extra black, as black as tar, is that it can’t fail to be seen as a symbol of everything that the admirers of SMLMJ (myself included) think is wrong about Marvel Comics’ current editorial direction. Everything, possibly, that they see as despicable about it. This is some daring stuff, I swear! This is out there! The fan-teasing, nose-tweaking joke at the heart of the Marvel Zombies thing has never been more blatant, and it’s never been funnier, in part because it’s never been closer to going just a little bit too far.

“Here’s your sweetheart, folks! Like her makeover?”

Oh, you devil. What insouciance. What a slap in the face. Yes, my “sweetheart”, my fond nostalgic feelings about the comics I loved in my childhood…yes, you’re quite right, you have destroyed her. Or, you’re going to. Or you’re in the process of it. Whatever. As I said: nice burn. You got me. Ha! Ha!

And now: quit it.

See, the problem with irony is that once it’s out there, you can’t call it back. And irony is what makes this image so cruel, so funny, so intelligent…and, ultimately, so forgivable. As long as you, y’know, quit it now. Because in one second, I’m going to start getting the real strong feeling that we’re not having fun anymore. In one second, I’m going to start feeling like maybe you’re not exactly laughing with me.

You knew it would be controversial. Well, here’s your controversy: I can laugh at this joke, but if I hear Joe Quesada once come out and say he doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about over it…

Then that will mean finally crossing the line for good. And I’ll be GONE.

Because what am I, an idiot? Like I don’t know this was nose-tweaking? Joe, would you really ask me to believe there was no joke intended here at all? Being provocative is one thing. Insulting my intelligence is another. I’m not your fan, I’m not your piggy-bank, I’m not your younger brother, I’m not your whipping-boy, I’m your audience; and if I start sensing anything like contempt from you, then I’ll be out of this theatre so fast…! I’m already halfway up the aisle, if you must know. So the good time to decide if you want me to come back would be, oh I don’t know, now.

“Y’know, we knew that image was going to cause controversy out there. Because it’s a very strong image, even within the world of the Marvel Zombie covers, and we’re aware that there are some people who’ve been unhappy with the content of our covers lately anyway. And we didn’t want to just add fuel to that fire, but…look, ultimately my job is to get the best work out of the creators that I can, and this was very good work, very witty work, and risky, and edgy, and I couldn’t say “don’t use it” when after all it was just what I’d asked for. So I decided to take a risk with it, even though I knew some people would see it as provocative. If you’re one of those people, mjfan2330015, all I can say is…well, first, I’m really sorry you feel that way, but won’t you look at the art again, in context with the story it’s representing? Personally, I think it’s some of the best and most intelligent cover art we’ve ever had here at Marvel, and I hope once you give it a chance, you’ll agree with me. Despite the controversy, I’d choose to run it again in a heartbeat; I can’t remember when I’ve been so impressed with an artist’s performance on a cover assignment. But, if you still don’t like it after that…well, if there’s one thing we’re known for at the House of Ideas, it’s taking chances! So I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

Yes: even something as mildly confessional and mealy-mouthed as that might induce me to take my seat again. But Joe, seriously…I’m giving you just an inch, here. If you try to take a mile from me instead…

Well, ha ha! And nice one: you got you. Because the really funny thing is that I find myself caring for Marvel less and less all the time! Ha! Ha! You really are destroying my childhood “sweetheart”, and you’re doing a pretty bang-up job of it, too!

Ha! Ha! It’s funny, right?

The very least you could do, is to say it’s funny.

Because if you don’t want me to think it is…well then, I won’t. And oh boy, will that be ironic.

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13 responses to “The Black Joke

  1. Why am I a DC fan and not a Marvel fan? I can’t see how it’s much more than coincidence, really; I was exposed to comics of both companies when I was little, and it must have been just the luck of the draw that I happened to imprint on DC. Even when I started collecting comics seriously, there were a few Marvel titles in there, at least until I quit comics for about a decade. When I started up again with the comics I made the economic decision to restrict my collecting to DC, but it was never because I didn’t think Marvel was any good.

    But now, with all these controversies and with Civil War and everything, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be a Marvel fan instead of a DC fan. Would it be harder or easier, more rewarding or less rewarding? I can’t suss it out. I do know that I’m glad I don’t have to have an opinion on all the stuff you just wrote about. Because it doesn’t seem like any fun at all. (Not that DC is beyond reproach, but maybe their indiscretions are ones I can take in stride, or something.)

    I also get the impression from these controversies that there’s a hidden assumption, a sense that we’re nearing the end of something. Like we’ve been waiting for the last straw, and maybe this is it, and then what? Maybe it’s just me. But it’s not true, anyway; Marvel is going to be publishing comics for decades to come, I’m sure. I think it’s more likely that all this Mary Jane stuff is a blip than that it’s something that’ll have large-scale long-term repercussions.

    Which makes it hard to know what to do. There are good reasons for being a Marvel fan, even if those reasons apply more to the past than the present, and you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face*. On the other hand you don’t want to reward or support the kind of nonsense they’re up to. So where’s that leave you?

    *on one comic-book message board, I read some posts by one guy who was apparently a big fan of Ted Kord. So much so that he refuses to give the new Blue Beetle comic a try. To him, Jaime Reyes isn’t Blue Beetle; he’s just a pretender that DC foisted on the world as part of their insidious diversity program. But wait: it doesn’t stop there. When this guy found out that Jaime Reyes was going to be guest-starring in an issue of Teen Titans, he said that he was therefore going to drop Teen Titans. Which will undoubtedly save him some money. I hope he uses that money to buy a ladder so he can get over himself.

  2. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

    *Applause*

    I attempted a similar post a few nights back where I compared the shock of seeing a Human Torch-style Satan in ’70s Ghost Rider comics to the present day spectacle of seeing black super-heroes set on fire … among other “daring” images.

    I wasn’t totally happy with that post, but I’m thrilled to see you sum up the idea I attempted to convey – and much much more – in such a coherent and compelling manner.

    One of the best posts I’ve read in a while, although it’s still not as cool as your Sentry Virus!

    :)

  3. Well, gee, thanks Keeper…and this is gonna sound really, really strange, but…I miss Satan too.

    Oh, no, did I really just say that?

    Did that really just happen?

    No, impossible. Clearly. Clearly.

    Okay, but now just a sec, ’cause I actually have something I want to say about that Falcon-on-fire cover…but first, Matthew: I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this post, this is just an Internet rant, and it doesn’t set out to be a reasoned argument, even though I’ve tried to make it as reasonable as I can. Also, it’s not supposed to be any sort of judgement of history: Ed assures me that today’s Marvel crap actually compares quite favourably with the Marvel crap of the Nineties, and it seems to me that this must be true, from what I’ve seen of the comics of that time. I read an online summary of the Clone Saga that ran to over a hundred pages. I’ve seen the unpromised land, and it’s not as bad as this…

    However, yeah…there is a sort of “last-straw-ness” in the air, isn’t there? I mean, I’ve got no intention of not reading something I like if I like it, but…if you were a Marvel fan like me, Matthew, you’d have a lot of reasons to be pretty fed up by now. DC has hits and misses with its lateness, with its revamps, with its cosmological reorganizations, but to this fan’s mind Marvel mostly just has misses, these days. I hear people complaining about the come-on for Countdown: “what do you mean, “keep buying, maybe it’ll get better?””, they say…but that is nothing. NOTHING. Because Marvel has taken the art of the scammer’s come-on to a whole new disgraceful level. As I’ve said before, Stan may have been a huckster, but if I’d bought everything he said was going to be a collector’s item I’d be an eBay millionaire by now, and most of the time Marvel’s books did in fact deliver on his hype, at least somewhat, and in most cases they exceeded expectations. By comparison, Bendis, Millar, and Quesada just seem like pathological liars and short-changers. And when they get called on it…Jeez Louise, the politician-type shit they try to spin into gold, it’s really alienating. There’s Joe Q. on Newsarama, airily dismissing the complaints of “fanboys”…and you know, he’s right, because most of the comics-buying public isn’t part of this blogospheric band-of-buggered that gets exposed to Millar/Bendis hype and return-fire fannish outrage, and feels the need to comment, and has an unfortunate amount of inside information they can supply to each new Marvel lead zeppelin, and has perhaps an unseemly investment in obscure bits of Marvel’s historical continuity…

    But think about this: who does he think he’s talking to, anyway? Who does he think his audience is?

    Because he’s talking to us! And telling us, in just about so many words, that he thinks we’re full of it and irrelevant and stupid. He’s incredibly, embarrassingly evasive. He seems to revel in the making of illegitimate arguments. He’s super-defensive. But why? Stan would NEVER have made this kind of mistake; he would’ve used the narrowcast PR outlet that the Internet affords to appeal to fans better, not piss them off worse. And if he couldn’t do that, he would’ve sent Roy out there to do it for him, and say “hmm, good point, I’ll take it up with Stan.” What Quesada does is just plain dumb: here we are, a small but vocal group of reasonably intelligent, reasonably passionate, reasonably loyal, reasonably long-term readers, the EXACT type of folks who used to make Marvel’s letter pages such an interesting place to be…we happy few, who used to create the illusion of a community of Marveldom in the back pages of the comics, and who still create that illusion of community on the New Comics Weblog Update…and he just doesn’t want to know us at all! But then he keeps coming out here! And then whenever we approach him he keeps brushing us off! It’s infuriating. Meanwhile I feel like Bendis is always asking me if he can “borrow” a couple bucks — ’cause he is always asking me that! — I mean, I like Bendis, but c’mon, he makes more money than me! — and I get the strong sense from Millar that he’s about to tell me that I’m either on the bus, or I’m off the bus. If I know what he means, and he thinks I do.

    And, boy, these guys. They’re fucking shameless. I mean, sometimes DC pisses me off royally, that’s true, but at least they’re not always trying to fucking strongarm me. With the Marvel guys, you can’t even complain. Dare to note the obvious spooge on Colleen Wing’s breast? FUCKING SHUT UP, YOU’RE FUCKING CRAZY! YOU’RE A LOSER! FUCK OFF! This is far, far, pretty far from “Let’s Rap With Cap” or “Let’s Level With Daredevil”…no “levelling” going on here, not at all. Even Weisinger didn’t go any further than calling people idiots for caring about bullshit…

    And then you have your characters being screwed over (yes, that’s a subjective judgement), and your continuity being simply and casually tossed out the window (and hey, that’s an objective judgement)…and I’m used to Marvel’s emphasis on continuity being part of its strength, you know? But now it’s not, and from my perspective the brand is being devalued…diluted…

    Anyway, I won’t go on too much more, but it all adds up, you know? And sure, House Of M wasn’t any worse than Inferno, in fact it was quite a bit better even if the two do share a slightly, um, overexcited Dungeon-Master-ish approach…but the hype, the fallout, the hype, the being told to shut up, the hype, the hype, the endless fucking fallout that never gets done with…and they’re planning to do this for another ten years? And as far as they’re concerned I can just go to hell if I don’t like it? Until you see some picture or read some preview, and it all seems of a piece with all the other bullshit that you’re sick of, and you’re just not willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to it anymore. You’re just not willing to think kindly of it, or give it a break. I mean, if you want to know how pretty a pass things have come to, think of this: I’m not even defending Marvel to people who think it’s kid stuff anymore. I’m seeking out Marvel newbies and telling them not to bother with it, instead. Wow! And that is so not like me! But I am. Not because Brubaker’s Cap or Slott’s She-Hulk is bad, but because Marvel is a brand by its own choice, not mine, and I’m getting to sort of think that brand is an asshole, and hates my guts, and would just as soon I fucked off, so I want to tell it to fuck off, too.

    Ed takes a more phlegmatic approach. “Roll your own reboot”, he says, and he’s right. He’s right! I’ll read just what I like, if I like it, and obviously I don’t really care all that much about this compared to what goes on in real life, do I? But at the same time, this is a blog, and a blog is for ranting, and I feel like ranting, so why not rant? I think the Marvel Zombies MJ cover is funny, acute, vicious, playful, ironic, smart, and pleasingly multivalent. It’s Marvel that I’m beginning to think isn’t any of these things. Fantastic Four, Avengers, and Spider-Man used to be must-reads for me, even when they were bad. I was always curious about what was going on in them. But now, I’m not even curious anymore. Because I just automatically assume they’ll be tainted, and therefore shitty, nine times out of ten. I don’t really care what happens in them! Because I don’t really feel the need to be up-to-date. Because hey, what does “up-to-date” even mean, anymore?

    Answer: not a thing.

    So while Quimby reigns, I’ll immorally (though of course, not illegally) read free downloads, or library copies, when and if I get the chance to. But, I’m off the bus. And I may end up being a reader who’s gone for good, as far as new product is concerned. Because I won’t live forever, you know.

    However, if Joe owns up to that MZ cover being funny, I may get back on the bus. See what an easy mark I am? All he has to do is acknowledge me. Because, yes: I’m a Marvel Zombie.

    Oh, and this was a rant too, I guess.

    But now…Keeper: you know, here’s the thing. If that Falcon-on-fire cover was from the Seventies, I’d just naturally assume the story inside it was another broad-strokes ham-fisted four-colour-style garish Hate-Monger “issue” comic about racism, starring Captain America and the Falcon! In other words, a comic I HAVE TO HAVE! But it’s like what I’ve just said to Matthew (and I hope you agree): I’m just not giving Marvel the benefit of the doubt anymore. The cynicism levels are just too high. I expect them to be going for “shock and awe” now, as with poor Bill Foster — say, who mourns for Bill Foster? I do — and screw the older fans if they don’t like it, and that predisposes me to view everything they put out with a jaundiced eye. I read Ed Brubaker weighing in on the Chris Butcher discussion (or whatever it was), defending the cover…and I think he was right. He was right! But at the same time, maybe it doesn’t matter if he was right, because what I feel (as opposed to what I think) is that I’m just about fed up, and I believe there’s a climate of contempt for fans like me at Marvel these days, and I miss Bill Foster, and I hate hate hate the spooge on Colleen’s breast, and all of that makes me suspicious of every Marvel title no matter how much I may like the creative team, and after all it’s not my patriotic duty to give it all a chance, right? This isn’t like buying bonds, or supporting Our President…

    Hmm, wait…idea for a paper…don’t you feel like Joe Q. is a little bit, I don’t know, acting just a tad Tony Snow, at this point…?

    No cultural event or trend takes place in a vacuum, after all…

    I feel for Brubaker, and his collaborators. It’s not their fault. But the thing called “Marvel”, the thing that represents itself as a coherent brand…yeah, it’s Marvel’s fault. They’ll (“they’ll”) degrade any character, kill any character, up-end any continuity (and for once I do not use that as a comics-specific technical term, but mean it dictionary-style), truncate any storyline, reverse any climax, perform any cheap trick…Brubaker’s Cap would never set a black man on fire just to create buzz (as opposed to drama)…but MARVEL would! Hell, don’t we all know they would? Joe Q.’s protestations to the contrary, who expects them to do anything but “go for it” anymore, anyway?

    Now that I think about it, this is just where I predicted they’d be, ’round about one year ago. Caught between the rock of the short-term strategy, and the hard place of the long-term one…

    And you know what amuses me? When complaints like mine are answered by people attempting to school me on the realities of business, on how it’s sales that matter and so minority opinions are irrelevant, if the customer likes it then that’s all that needs to be said, if the market pronounces it good then it’s good, and you should shut your mouth about what you don’t know nuthin’ about…

    I always want to say: hey, guess what, jackass? The market? That’s me. Idiot. Now, just what kind of mental gymnastics were you after me to perform, so that I could feel obligated to continue purchasing something I don’t really like anymore…?

    Forgive me, guys; that was a whole ‘nother post, right there. And! A rant. Because a blog is for ranting, isn’t it…?

  4. Hey, I’m still here.

    It’s not like I need to sleep or talk to my wife or anything, right?

    :)

    I think you’re correct about how Marvel as a brand has created feelings of mistrust and cynicism among long-time readers like ourselves. I just – somewhat sheepishly – admitted I liked the Skrull reveal in New Avengers.

    But why was I sheepish about it? Because, deep in my heart, I know it’ll end badly. Some character I love – Iron Fist? Spider-Woman?? – will be screwed over in the name of “furthering the medium” and I’ll end up – once again – with egg on my face.

    (Hey, I bought Avengers Disassembled at the time so I know of whence I speak!)

    The difference between Marvel and DC 2K7 is that DC appears to want my support – hey look, it’s the Levitz-era Legion! – but lack the will or resources to truly deliver the goods (fill-ins, reboots, storylines just plain abandoned).

    Marvel, though, appears contemptuous of its history and the readers who, you know, honor that history. Mr. Q himself nearly acknowledged as much last week, when he stated that if he were in charge of DC he would (not exact quotes) “advance the characters, which angers long-time readers but necessary to the industry’s future.”

    So see, if you disagree, you’re killing comics. (Or at least that’s the way I read it, because as you say that’s the vibe Marvel gives out.

    Lately, I’ve been considering “rolling my own reboot” because there are Marvel titles I still enjoy and when I tried to go cold turkey I was only lured back to the fold by Agents of Atlas and Union Jack.

    And the heroes I love do still exist, in fact the classic Spider-Man and Fantastic Four are doing quite well … OUTSIDE OF COMICS. Cartoons, movies etc. etc. will always hew more to the Stan, Jack, Steve version of the characters. (And I really doubt that Spider-Man 4 or 5 will adapt The Other …)

    But, yeah, long story short it’s easy to assume the worst with Marvel because you can just hear JQ say “Go For It.” I think the company would be better off if the guy just shut up.

  5. Brubaker said, after bringing Foggy Nelson back in DD, that he wanted to reply to every person who wrote in saying “screw you for killing Foggy”, and tell them “come on, you think I’d really kill Foggy?“. And that makes me like him, but…two things, and the first one is that I almost want to reply to him “Dude, you brought back Bucky! How’m I supposed to know what you’ll do next?!” But then I stop myself, because bringing back Bucky actually wasn’t too bad, was it? However, the second thing: “Dude, you work for freakin’ MARVEL! I’m surprised Quesada didn’t call you on the phone and TELL you to kill Foggy!”

    So it’s not Brubaker’s fault. But, it’s not ours either, eh?

    Any idea if Joe Q. has backed-and-filled on this MZ MJ yet? I really am afraid to look…

  6. I see your problem, guys, and I am here to tell you that I have a solution to your pain.

    Drop. The. Books.

    Seriously. Put them back on the shelf. Now. All of them. Put them back.

    I was ever bit of a marvel junkie as anyone else. But the reason I was a marvel junkie was that I loved the characters. The shared universe thing is cool, certainly, but I kept coming back for the characters.

    Think about it. What are the great moments in comic history that you personally remember? Not the larger sweeping arcs, but the single panels that just succinctly and precisely identify one of the characters.

    “Ben, somehow I don’t think we’ll be looking for the lost Arc of the Covenant.”

    “… until icicles doth ornament Sutur’s fiery realm!”

    “You know what they say: good always triumphs over evil because it’s nicer.”

    I wouldn’t expect most people to recognize those quotes. Not even most marvel zombies. But they stand out in MY memory. Those are MY heroes that said those things. Those are MY ways of defining MY favorite characters.

    But those characters don’t exist any more. They’ve been revised and redefined and, frankly, I don’t recognize them. And QMB can claim it’s in the name of character development, and they might even honestly believe that. But the characters these guys have been developed into aren’t ones I like.

    So I put the books down. I pick up other books I and see if I can’t find someone else I like. And, you know something? There’s better stuff out there.

    Okay, yeah, it kind of sucks that you have to essentially experiment all over again to find stuff you like. But trust me, it is SO incredibly worth it. I care more now about Megan from Local than I do about Mary Jane. Mary Ann from Wonderland has greater depth than Sue Richards amy more. The Black Coat is more adventurous than Daredevil these days. And, hell, the eight pages of the Black Summer preview had a more engaging relationship between superheroes and the government than all of the “Civil War” books combined!

    Turst me, you’ll feel much better. And the next time QMB puts out a absurd, tweak-the-nose-of-the-fans cover, you can comfortably glance up, shrug and say, “Meh…” before dropping your eyes down to a more entertaining world seen through the lens of Viper Comics. Or Oni Press. Or Slave Labor Graphics. Or Avatar Press. Or whoever’s putting out books that you actually like!

  7. I’d like to think they put that much thought into the concept of that cover; most likely someone thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be kewl to have MJ on the cover as a zombie!” and said same to Suydam, Suydam, creative fella that he undoubtedly is, decided to play on that other cover, and off they went.

    I get the joke, and it’s just not one that I find all that amusing. I’m in the minority, but I’m used to that! Maybe I’m just beyond sick of zombie this and zombie that, even though I did participate in that meme the other day. I am nothing if not contradictory in nature.

    I guess I sound like I care about it a lot more than I really do!

  8. SKleefield,

    To be honest with you, I DON’T buy those. I’d like to, but as you said the characters I love have been altered beyond recognition.

    But I’m a curious fellow, so I do flip through old favorites from Marvel & DC to see what they’re up too before I buy ReGifters or something else I can read without feeling stupid.

    (Which this week DID include two Marvel titles – World War Hulk because it was good, dumb fun and featured JRJR art and Marvel Adventures FF, which is exactly the sort of super-hero book I enjoy reading!)

    And, hey, blogs exist to vent steam right? If I can’t complain about Mary Marvel on the Web, where can I go?

  9. I’m with Johnny B on this. Far less thought went into the conception of that cover than you’ve devoted to its deconstruction above…and to attribute any subtlety of motive to Quesada here is to grant him more credit than he’s earned. Marvel thinks the words “Ultimate” and “Extreme” still carry weight instead of being automatic self-parody. Marvel is now a comics company run by Beavis and Butthead for hypothetical readers Beavis and Butthead: “Heh! Heh! We should, like, have more boobs on the covers!” “Yeah! Boobs, boobs are awesome!” “You know what would be extreme? If we had this chick, only she was a zombie, and she was like all messed up cause she’s a zombie!” “Yeah! Yeah! That rocks! Chicks are dumb! Zombies are cool!” I really honestly don’t think their self-awareness goes much further than that.

  10. Well, when you put it that way…

    It sucks even more!

    Yeah, hmm, maybe I’m not a typical geek after all, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought “zombies! Cool!” to myself, at any point, ever. Not that I’m averse to zombies. But they don’t make me go “whoo-hoo!” Not the brains-eating kind, anyway: mostly, I see those guys as focussed-application critters.

    Showing my age, I guess…

    Anyway, I’ve noticed the zombie wave passing and for the most part thought “huh. Zombies, again. Well wouldja look at that.” But I’ll admit to a curiosity, now, about when it’s all gonna come to an end. Well maybe “curiosity” is putting it a bit mildly…if we don’t reach the crest of this wave pretty soon I’m gonna have to take a long nap…

  11. And, I also want to say, although I’m sure you all have already assumed this about what I’m on about here…but in case anyone stumbles in, and gets me wrong…

    The MJ MZ cover bugs me. But, there’s nothing wrong with it except that I don’t like the Marvel Zombies very much, and that I’m feeling pretty disenchanted with Marvel’s direction these days, and the MZ are a pretty good emblem of that, as SMLMJ is a good emblem of what I’d rather they were doing, so the combination of references in that image just turns me off.

    The Cap cover does NOT bug me, and I like Brubaker and Epting. But I’m feeling disechanted with Marvel’s direction these days, and I wouldn’t put it past the men in charge to think that I would be bugged by that Cap cover, and therefore try to shock me out of my shoes with it. And that suspicion DOES bug me.

    The Heroes For Hentai cover does MORE than just bug me, because…well, because wow, come on. But, it would still be nothing more than just one of the many over-the-top salacious images that make me shake my head and laugh at how transparent things are, were it not for the fact that Marvel editorial (and their hangers-on) stubbornly continue to insult everybody’s intelligence by saying that they don’t see it, nope, hey maybe you’re the deviant weirdo here…and that definitely, definitely, definitely compounds the sin.

    And this isn’t a courtroom, so Marvel can’t count on, and doesn’t deserve, any presumption of innocence from me. They’re becoming a bit unsavoury, in my opinion, and that’s that. So, in the absence of any noises of contrition from the top, the hell with them.

    That’s about it. I think that’s reasonable. Although I don’t know why I suddenly care about being reasonable. Maybe it’s because they’re all being so steadfastly unreasonable, that I feel like I’ve got to pick up the slack.

    Anyway.

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