If you’ve followed my work for any amount of time, you could probably at least take a guess that I dislike conspiracies, and you’d be right. Mostly I just dislike the people who believe in conspiracies, because they always seem to be bizarre weirdos that you wouldn’t take seriously even if they weren’t talking out of their ass about ridiculous, paranoid theories.
Every group has conspiracy theorists, and nerds are no exception (in fact they’re pretty much the rule). And one conspiracy lately is that Marvel is “sabotaging” their own characters in comic form, specifically characters they don’t own the movie rights to (Wolverine and the rest of the X-Men, Deadpool, and the Fantastic Four) in an attempt to drive down interest in the movie properties. You see, Fox owns the rights to these characters, and they aren’t interested in giving them up (The Wolverine made over $400 mil and X-Men: Days of Future Past made nearly $750 mil, so you can understand why they might consider keeping them). Marvel wants them back. So the conspiracy, you see, is that Marvel is fucking up the characters in the comics intentionally. People will then say “oh, that character sucks now, I don’t care about them, so I’m not going to go watch that movie”. Then what will happen in this fantasy world is that no one will go see the movies based on these characters that Marvel has killed or made unenjoyable in some way, and Fox will say “oh, these characters aren’t selling anymore, I guess we’ll just sell them back to Marvel!” and then Marvel will be able to reboot the characters and add them to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and order will be restored. There are just two tiny little flaws in this plan… 1) no one cares about comics, and 2) movies now help drive comic sales, not the other way around.
I’ve addressed the “no one cares about comics” thing before, but let’s go over it again with a different example. In early 2014, Wolverine comics (the series leading up to the “Death of Wolverine”) sold roughly 40,000 copies. When you consider that it’s generally the same people reading a serialized version of a comic, it means roughly the same 40,000 people show up every month to see what’s going on in Wolverine’s world. Now, let’s take $400 mil (the amount of ticket sales for The Wolverine) and divide it by $15 (a slightly high average price for a movie ticket) and you get a number of 26,666,667. That means nearly 27 million tickets sold. Even if every person went and saw it twice (which didn’t happen), you’ve got a little over 13 million people who watched The Wolverine in theatres. 13 million people vs 40,000. Even if Marvel’s supposed tactics of killing Wolverine off in order to destroy interest in the character affected those 40,000 people… even if it affected 165,000 people (the number of copies sold of Death of Wolverine #4, the final issue of the series in which Wolverine bites the big one), that leaves easily 12,840,000 people who are still potentially going to see a Wolverine movie based on this flawed math in which I’m totally downplaying how many people actually watched a movie about Wolverine. It’s a drop in the bucket. That’d only be $2,475,000 of lost revenue (Let’s just say $5 million if they all saw it twice) against $400 million. And this is for one of their lesser selling films, do this example with X-Men (using Days of Future Past’s sales) and you’ll see an even better example. Fox won’t give a shit, that’s not going to be reason enough for them to sell the rights back to Marvel.
The truth of it is… Marvel kills its characters off all the time in order to make money, and in fact uses these movies, whether they own them or not, as springboards to bring them back to the comic world. First, you kill the character, hyping it up for several months before, which drives sales (again, only 40,000 copies of Wolverine’s comic were being sold, which spiked during his death to around 4x that amount). They did it with the Amazing Spider-man, the rights of that character being owned by Sony (Sony, in case you were wondering, is not Marvel. Completely different spelling and everything). In issue #700 of The Amazing Spider-Man, they “killed” Peter Parker, which resulted in sales of over 200,000 issues (before that, they were doing around 50,000 – 60,000 copies sold per month). Then, just in time for the launch of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” film, with interest in the mainstream at peak levels, they brought Peter back from the dead with a relaunch, selling well over half a million copies, their biggest sale in years (it’s settled back into a comfortable range around the 100,000 issues per month mark). It’s all over the Internet right now that they’re going to kill off Deadpool in issue #45 (which, according to some shoddy math that ignores a few issues for convenience sake, will be Deadpool’s 250th issue if you add up all of the different series he’s had), and they’re canceling the Fantastic Four comic, which has the conspiracy theorists once again claiming sabotage by Marvel. Deadpool and the Fantastic Four have movies coming out soon, and Marvel has a few fiscal quarters to pad. SO, if they can get the casuals to buy up Deadpool’s “death” issue and the Fantastic Four’s grand finale, and then get them to buy the relaunch in a year or so when their movies come out, they’re laughing all the way to the bank no matter who’s releasing the movie. Of course I’m sure they’d love to have the movie rights to their characters back again, but I guess they should have thought about that when they were hurting for cash and sold them in the first place!
And how come this theory doesn’t apply to the characters they own? Marvel has the rights to the Avengers, and yet they’ve made some pretty dramatic changes to those characters in the last few months. The Falcon is now the new Captain America, with Steve Rogers becoming a de-powered old man. The character of Thor is now a woman, with the original Thor (the Odinson) deemed unfit to wield his own hammer. Iron Man is now a prick… well, ok, not that dramatic of a change, but far more of a prick than he’s been in a while. For some reason, these same conspiracy theorists will tell you that THIS is all for sales, and that all of these characters will be restored just in time for their films. Funny how that works… no no, they’re killing off Deadpool and Wolverine, two of their most popular characters, to fuck over Fox, but they made Thor a woman to temporarily boost sales and then to boost them again when they have the original Thor take over again. Makes perfect sense… if you’re a drooling paranoid delusional moron.
As for people claiming that the X-Men comics are getting shittier and that they’re doing that on purpose to lower interest… have you ever thought that maybe the simple answer is that it has nothing to do with the movies and they just suck because they suck? It wouldn’t make any sense for them to just sabotage the comic so that no one will read them, the only company that really loses on that deal is Marvel themselves. Then they don’t see any revenue from the movies OR the comics.
There is no conspiracy. If that was Marvel’s plan, it would fail horribly. The audience for the films is NOT the same audience who buys comics. The comic buying audience only represents a tiny, miniscule, insignificant fraction of the movie-going public. You may believe differently because that little fraction is very noisy on the Internet, but you need to understand that you’re not the target audience. You’re the guaranteed audience. They know you’re in. Their goal is to convince everyone else to come see a movie about people in weird costumes saving the world from people in weirder costumes, and nothing they do in the comics will be a deterrent to those people… unless they force them to read the comics to understand the movie. Then they’re out.