Marvel Comics, despite nurturing a swath of new, diverse characters and socially inclusive storylines, has seemed to be the recipient of more bad press than good over the last few years. Now, as 2017 winds down, the publisher has shaken things up in a big way with 15-year Marvel veteran C.B. Cebulski replacing Axel Alonso as the new Editor-in Chief, effective immediately.
Cebluksi's last position was VP, Marvel Brand Management and Development, Asia, where he was tasked with helping to further the globalization of Marvel and its properties. Now, he's being charged with steadying the ship in New York. With all this faith placed in him, by fans and peers alike, CBR runs down some of the things we expect Cebulski should and will attend to ASAP.
Many fans turned on Marvel over to the politically-charged Secret Empire, with a number of them claiming they felt that Nick Spencer rewriting Captain America's history into that of an undercover HYDRA operative supported Nazi philosophies. Given the current political climate in America, and the fascist behavior of the "new" Steve Rogers (which included concentration camps, mass genocide and media censorship) and other iconic heroes who joined him, more than a few readers felt the vent's storyline not only disrespectful to what Captain America stands for, but to the legacy of his Jewish co-creators, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, as well.
As the event ended, Spencer's intended message became crystal clear -- to stand tall in the face of adversity and dictatorship -- but the journey to get to there took too long in the current climate, and was pretty much a public relations disaster. The damage was done and Marvel's image took a hit.
While the role of the artist is to hold the mirror up to society, in the wake of Secret Empire, Cebulski should temper things down a bit and balance these real-world issues with pure escapist superhero adventures once again. While comics can and should make big statements, a lot of readers come in to escape the troubles of the real-world and live vicariously through their favorite superheroes, away from the everyday stress and drama of life. Perhaps the next super-political superhero tale Marvel releases should be more limited in scope than Secret Empire, which touched virtually every Marvel series, making it impossible for readers to ignore.
Return to Creator-Driven Stories
Marvel riled up a lot of the industry this year by downplaying the ability of artists to move books as opposed to writers, barring exceptions in high-profile names like Olivier Coipel (House of M, Siege) or Steve McNiven (Civil War, Old Man Logan). The thing is, when the events these artists illustrated were marketed, they were presented as creative partners, on a 50-50 par with the writers.
Then you've got Avengers vs. X-Men, with writers Brian Bendis, Hickman, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jason Aaron, as well as artists like Frank Cho, John Romita Jr. and Adam Kubert, all promoted as the series' driving force. However, this event didn't come off creatively focused at all, and as it unfolded, it felt like a very editorially-driven storyline, designed to put the pieces into their intended positions to drive the next event, by any means necessary.
Making things creator-driven once more should be a priority, especially when it comes to shaping strong teams and promoting more artists as A-listers. Just look at how DC Comics has been promoting Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (Doomsday Clock), and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (Batman, Dark Nights: Metal) as one of the main reasons to buy into their events. Marvel could, and should, do well to emulate this approach is it shapes its gameplay for 2018 and beyond
With Hickman no longer at Marvel, and Bendis coincidentally switching to DC, Cebulski clearly has his work cut out for him to reestablish a creative equilibrium where writers and artists can pull sales together even greater than they can independently. More importantly, Cebulski needs to figure out how to re-streamline Marvel's creative engine to ensure high quality storytelling, making art and not just products. A big step back towards this would be to ensure that all artists get their time in the spotlight.