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Coulson Syndrome: Marvel’s Method of Bringing Film & TV to Comics

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Coulson Syndrome: Marvel’s Method of Bringing Film & TV to Comics

Superhero comics are odd, to say the least. They’re ever expanding, ever growing, and are constantly being adapted. Sometimes, though, the people doing the adoption introduce something so cool and so beloved, that the comics need to steal it for themselves. DC does this—like Superman’s ability to fly, or Harley Quinn as a character—but recently, Marvel brought this concept to a whole ‘nother level.

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To be fair, superhero comics aren’t the only place you see this happen. Heck, the writer of the book Disney’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was based on decided to write a sequel erasing his original work, substituting what happened in the movie as canon because he thought it was better. It happens with TV shows, movies and even books. For instance, George RR Martin has reportedly been inspired to beef up Osha’s role in a forthcoming installment of his Game of Thrones novels due to Natalia Tena’s portrayal of the character on the HBO series. Though in comics (or, heck, any long running series), adaptations with big dividers between the source material and recreation, start to become a little slippery.

Marvel Comics, in recent years, has decided to make more of its world look like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And why not? The MCU makes billions, while Marvel’s publishing line has a ceiling in the millions. If comics sell better when they resemble the heroes on-screen, then it’s better for the company.

The question is, do they really sell better, and does this rampant adaptation of adaptations add to or lessen the impact of the comics? Is the Marvel Universe becoming better or worse because of the constant back and forth between comic and film? The problem with figuring it out is that this type of cross-pollination is so rampant, you see it in every single corner of the Marvel Universe. Marvel Studios introduces a black Nick Fury, so Marvel Comics reveals its Nick Fury had a secret son who happens to be black just so happens to call himself Nick Fury, and ends up replacing his father.

When S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson graduated from a background role in the films to helming his own show, his character was introduced in the comics. Eventually, he got his own book, which saw many characters from the show migrating into comics for the first time. Those who already exited in the comics, such as Deathlok and Daisy Johnson/Quake, were changed to more closely match their show’s counterparts. In Johnson’s case, we got a complete overhaul of her powers’ origins, and she was nicknamed Skye because that was her original name in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This isn’t limited to introducing characters or character changes, either; entire Marvel Comics plot arcs revolve around what’s happening in the movies. Superior Spider-Man ended with the return of Peter Parker just as the latest Spidey movie, Amazing Spider-Man 2, came out. Malekith returned to menace Thor in the comics right as he debuted on screen. And when Marvel Studios (loosely) adapted Civil War, Marvel Comics had a second Civil War!

The Defenders came back, this time with the same line-up as the MCU’s Netflix series; and Daisy’s Secret Warriors from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. are in the comics as well, albeit with a different cast than their television counterparts.

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