Marvel Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski recently attended TerrifiCon in Connecticut where he sat down on a panel with writers Nick Spencer and Charles Soule on a panel moderated by reporter John Siuntres.
During the panel, Cebulski was asked by a fan about how Marvel Comics would address political and social issues in their comics moving forward.
As reported by i09, Cebuslki responded:
“Marvel has always been, as Stan [Lee] always said, ‘the world outside our window.’ It’s the reflection of the modern times that we live in. Marvel has never shied away from that, around what happened with 9/11 or what we were doing with Secret Empire. And we’re going to continue that tradition. There are a couple of [upcoming issues] that are going to reflect things that are going on in the real world.
However, one of the things I want to make sure is when we do tell these stories—I don’t know how to put this in the right way—they still have to be entertainment. If we want to see the real world, we can turn on CNN, we can turn on the TV, we can pick up a newspaper and see what’s going on there. And yes, it’s our responsibility as a comic book publisher, especially Marvel, given the history that we have, to reflect those times, but they still have to be fun.
We can’t get too deep into the politics. And the characters can take sides, choose sides, turn evil, turn back to good, but they still have to entertain. That’s first and foremost, no matter what real-world events we are going to reflect, they are going to be fictionalized and they’re going to have the classic spin that Stan always brought to them. They will be serious, but they may make you smile.”
Cebulski’s statement interestingly reflects comments Stan Lee made back in Wizard Magazine #48 back in 1995. In the article titled “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby?” by Beth Hannan Rimmels, Lee noted:
“I think all entertainment is self-regulating. Our job is to please the public. As soon as we stop pleasing the public, we stop earning money. If we’re going in the wrong direction, people will stop buying the books, we’ll realize we’re wrong and we’ll change what we’re doing. It always works that way.”
Reading Wizard from 1995. An article about female characters in comics actually. Found the last paragraph from Stan Lee to be noteworthy. @EthanVanSciver @mbreitweiser @DougTenNapel @AbacusMike #comicsgate pic.twitter.com/o5QCdAkejy
— Sean Krummel (@SeanKrummel) August 29, 2018
And the comic book industry is suffering. As of the latest Comichron report from July, the comic book industry is still down 7% with total comics shipped.
However, the July report also indicates that total comics shipped in dollars is actually up 1%.
But the total market including graphic novels and comics is still down 2% year to date.
What that tells me is that the comic book buying audience might be shrinking, but the publishers are able to get more money out of those who are purchasing comics. They are doing this through higher cover prices. Specifically in July, Comichron points out that DC Comics’ Batman #50 led the way in total copies shipped at 440,819 at a $4.99 price point.
Cebulski is saying the right things here. Comics should be fun and there is definitely a place for political commentary in comics as some of the most entertaining comics have done including Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War, and Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson’s God Loves, Man Kills. Even recently Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman: White Knight is a great example of an entertaining comic series that touches on a number of political issues.
And Marvel has had some hits like Donny Cates’ Thanos and his current Venom. They are serious, but can also put a smile on your face. Let’s hope Marvel makes more comics like that!