The Bad Optics of Marvel Entertainment

It’s become apparent to everyone that C.B. Cebulski is caught between a rock and a hard place. With the appearance of Fresh Start, nothing has been truly going the way that Disney wants its subsidiary to go. People on all sides of comics are disliking the new direction planned for one reason or another.

The traditionalist dislikes it because they see that SJW Marvel is still alive, just redirected to spread to new books. With writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates going to Captain America, they see more of the same. With the maligned Dan Slott going to Iron Man, they see a man with a chip on his shoulder over a vaulted franchise. With Nick Spencer on Amazing Spider Man, they see the man who destroyed Captain America to lead to Coates’ direction. With Mark Waid on Doctor Strange, they see the Sorcerer Supreme being infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The iconoclastic side of comics dislikes it for the reason they see comics going back to a direction they do not want. They see Thor being turned into a Nordic male. They see Iron Man back as a heterosexual white male. They see Captain America in a non-diversity and non-Trumpian timeline. They also see many of the directions taken by writers such as Mariko Tamaki, Sina Grace and Gabby Rivera being thrown in the trash. They see it as a direction that they do not like, for fear that progression will be killed for money.

The stubborn side sees that traditionalist side as a hate group. They think the traditionalist side wants the old stories back without much diversity. They have went as far as to plot to hijack anything related to #MoveTheNeedle to attempt a movement stall. The problem is, like the iconoclast, they talk too much that the traditionalist sees it coming. They have no real opinion on Fresh Start, to be blunt. The opinion they have is what the Facebook group, Twitter list or comic forum tells them their opinion is.

The last side are the true reporters. There’s more than you think, and they’re not on the five sites listed. There’s beings such as: That Umbrella Guy, Just Some Guy, Yellow Flash, Douglas Ernst, Geeky Bugle, That Comic Awesome, Unranked Chevron, Captain Frugal. People see them as the drama stirrers. Yet, here’s the truth of the matter. They are, yes. But they’re also the guys who bring the muck to the surface that the other three groups try to ignore.

The consensus from the reporters is this: Marvel has a bad optics problem. Optics is what you see when you see a company. The visual side of the coin. It’s an ugly visual, too. The editorial staff front and center is Tom Brevoort, Heather Antos, Alanna Smith and Jordan D. White. Which you can find all the information you want about the top three, but very little on Jordan outside of his Twitter page. Those four are also noted as the most toxic to fans and writers, from reports given out by former employees and current insiders.

The attitude of Fresh Start by the reporters is mixed. Some are seeing the same old tactics that defined SJW Marvel. Others are using the stance of “Trust, but verify.” A few are looking on the positive that this could revitalize the entire industry as a whole. However, there is one truth to this that people should be painfully aware of, and it’s a simple truth. We’re talking, aren’t we?

Marvel Entertainment, and Disney to a point, want us talking about it. The companies believe that any press is going to be good press. Your sites like Bleeding Cool and CBR will cover the press junkets like good press robots do. This isn’t a good press robot, though. We’re about as bad as it gets. Centrist, blunt and honest. Even with bias, we’re blunt.

The bad optics of Marvel comes down to the editorial direction that’s seen in the company. As Yellow Flash has shown in the interview with Jim Starlin, the editorial staff listed has been described as lacking in direction. The huge blowup between Starlin and Brevoort came down to what was described as lazy practices. When a book idea takes over a month to move down the line, you do look at the top of the list. In this case, it was the current Senior VP of Publishing.

It’s no small secret that Brevoort is currently mentoring Alanna Smith to take over as a more prominent editor. However, Alanna comes with her own work issues. It’s known that she’s good at vague Tweeting and then hiding tweet with nonsensical tweets when it may cause massive backfire. This was pointed out by Douglas Ernst in a video related to Marvel where he revealed a deleted tweet that talked about Trump voters. I recommend you watch his videos to get his POV on that matter.

Heather Antos is also noted to be woefully unqualified for her exact position. Her profile does give you the inkling of a BFA in Cinematography and Film/Video Production. While it would be good for Marvel Cinematic, it’s not so good for Marvel Comics. Editorial work in comics involves more literature and more technical writing than the average man can handle. It also requires an eye for the arts, as well. Even if you’re not entirely able to draw, telling if something is not spatially intelligent in design is always needed. This is shown quite well with the recent editions of Spider Man: Renew Your Vows. As was joked by most reviewers with the “horse teeth effect”, the book did not look good visually.

Which is a good segue, the bad optics of the editors in the forefront has lead to bad visual optics on the books themselves. The now canceled America was a terrible book on two fronts. It was terrible on the story front. It was terrible on the art front. Not all books have to be a hit on both ends, but the book needs to be a hit on one end or the other. The editorial has to tighten up any hanging chads in the story line. They’re also responsible for any art issues, such as the aformentioned horse teeth. In America’s case, book two has the “brown” character of America Chavez looking lobster undercooked pink.

Bad visual books combined with bad visuals from the editorial staff bring a very bad picture to Marvel Comics as a whole. #MakeMineMilkshake was not the sole catalyst for what was to come and what still is. It was something that was brewing already with the traditionalist fronts. The average Joe Q. Fan saw the staff that wasn’t minding their books at all. The optics of multiple massive story arcs that irreparably damaged their heroes were enough for a bit of a revolt.

In hindsight, what are the bad optics of Marvel Entertainment? They are as follows:

  • Editorial staff that doesn’t do their jobs as technical editors.
  • A culture that doesn’t appreciate all forms of fan. Just the fans who fit on a checklist.
  • Books that reflect the culture of the editors, and the writers under them.
  • Mismanagement of talent from the writers to the internship.
  • Bad social media management on the account of the company.
  • Bad representation on social media, up to isolating and swarming dissident views.
  • Blocking dissenting opinions from paying customers.
  • Visually appalling books from artists also in the circle of the editors.
  • Bad literature on the front of the books, such as run-on sentences from veteran writers.
  • The tactics of “listen and believe” from the editorial staff.

Those aren’t the solid ten points, mind you. However, it is ten that get into my psyche. The literature part gets to me the most, as I have a minor in that field. I’m sure Douglas and Umbrella could say much the same due to their leanings with grammar. For Flash, he dislikes the art directions as a whole, from what we discuss. Others are quite appalled at the social media aspect of the staff.

This started out as something that would have been one focused, and that would have been on Tom Brevoort himself. However, the bad optics of Marvel isn’t just one thing. A plethora of issues that create a badly drawn pictograph that the public shies away from. This is a giant shame, as well. For comic books to steer away from bad optics and back to a normal situation, you need the general public to buy in.

Perhaps, this is where Douglas’s “Trust, but Verify” quote comes in. Ta-Nehisi Coates is one thing to the traditionalists, but he’s another to the general public. They see him as a writer for a major publication, The Atlantic. While his stories aren’t great for public consumption, he is a public figure in a sense. Alonso may have pulled that trigger before Cebulski, but it’s not the worse decision from a business POV. In fact, this is something that could happen…

Coates is weighed under the expectation of the American public, and he produces another substandard book. Of course, that would be it for his career at Marvel. Ike Perlmutter and the board would question the decision of John Nee on allowing the work to continue as publisher. From there, Cebulski and Brevoort would be front and center on why they neglected quality assurance on their end.

The flip side. Coates could get in and listen to Cebulski and other editors. He takes their advice in stride and produces better books than Mark Waid and Nick Spencer with the Cap run. It would prove the traditionalists wrong, but they would take the loss in stride. As pointed out, Coates is a good writer. He’s missing something in his writing in translation from long form to storyboard. If that’s found, then I would be happy to be wrong.

Until that point, we’re just left with the bad optics for the time being. Can they be cleaned up before July? I can’t answer that. I’m not exactly an insider at Marvel. The final idea is this… Marvel has a bad image problem, altogether. Its employees are running the asylum. The question that I’m not sure people want to ask, but will happen if this bad optics is not resolved. If that Fresh Start fails, we may hear this from kids:

“What’s Marvel?”

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