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Captain America is Dead – Marvel Mucks with the Comic Book Formula

Don’t mess with the formula.

The fans love the formula. A fond familiarity with the formula is what keeps the fans coming back, time after time.

Changing the formula is not unlike afflicting your girlfriend with gangrene. She still somewhat resembles the ol’ girlfriend you know and love, but you sure don’t want to sample those goods any more.

There are a few simple, long-standing elements to the comic book formula:

  • Icons never die. At least, not permanently.
  • Heroes face internal conflict, but they’ll always be good guys at heart.
  • Superheroes have secret identities. Not only is this a rule, it’s just good common sense, people.
  • Women are all unnaturally beautiful and have big breasts. Ancillary: All women are skinny.


Just your average, run-of-the-mill, ridiculously-proportioned comic book babes.

Marvel, you’ve screwed with the formula big-time in the last few months. The Cap is dead. (Not that I had any affinity for the big dork, but… still.) Spidey has revealed his identity to the world. (In a press conference, no less.) Iron Man has officially become a fascist douche. (Ok, some of us think he’s always sort of been a douche… but a fascist? No way.)

Don’t think that I don’t see what you’re doing, Marvel. Over the last couple of years you’ve been setting the stage for a major “reset” of the Marvel Universe, killing off presumably stale characters like Hawkeye, the Vision, and Thor, while applying unnervingly dramatic character developments to fan favorites like Spider-Man.

But Ol’ Cap wouldn’t have endured an “attitude” change so well, would he? Who wouldn’t scoff at an X-Treme! version of the patriotic boy scout? Time to kill him off!


This guy hasn’t looked cool for over 60 years.

Marvel, I suspect these moves all point toward a Marvel Universe of brand-new core characters and revamped existing characters with “all new attitudes” (and costumes, and related characters, and headquarters, and…) I hope I’m wrong, but I worry that we fanboys should brace ourselves for lots more X-tremeness! and flash-in-the pan sensationalism. I hope you don’t throw good storytelling and compelling character development out the window when you abandon a richly-developed history and a stalwart formula.

Don’t mess with the formula.

Just ask Coke.

UPDATE: WIRED jumps on my bandwagon, lamenting Marvel’s abandonment of “characters and themes that good, talented writers have spent literally decades building upon.” If only semi-major news outlets would substantiate my opinions more often…

DOUBLE UPDATE: Talk about sensationalism! Marvel jump-started a veritable media frenzy (as far as comic book news can create a frenzy in mainstream media) with the supposed death of Captain America. Now, I haven’t verified this with my own two beady eyes, but Hero Hunt News is reporting that issue #1 of Marvel’s Initiative–also released yesterday–reveals that Cap survived the shooting and is being kept “alive in a hidden location.” If this turns out to be true, Marvel has officially sold its soul for pimping the “Death of Cap” story and speculators everywhere are kicking themselves for scooping up copies of Captain America #25 on Ebay for $25.

1 comment… add one
  • NinjaJJ October 15, 2009, 12:46 am

    This is why I read marvel only

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