Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Bit of Perspective

Just as an addendum to yesterday's Vault entry, you know when Stan says this?

Here are the kinds of new titles Marvel was coming out with about that time.

Omega the Unknown (1975)
Howard the Duck (1976)
2001, A Space Odyssey (1976)
The Eternals (1976)
Godzilla (1977)
Star Wars (1977)
The Human Fly (1977)
Ms. Marvel (1977)
Red Sonja (1977)
Logan's Run (1977)
Machine Man (character introduced in 1977, got his own series in 1978)
Spider-Woman (character introduced in 1977, got her own series in 1978)
Shogun Warriors (1979)
Devil Dinosaur (1978)
Dazzler (character introduced in 1980, got her own series in 1981)
Savage She-Hulk (1980)

So now you see what Stan the Man meant by "blockbusters only." A few observations:

Marvel was going crazy with the movie tie-ins at the time, obviously. Star Wars hit huge and lasted for 107 issues. But Logan's Run was not a hit and lasted only 8. Kirby's 2001 lasted 10 issues, and a character from the series (Machine Man) was spun off into his own book the next year. Japanese licensed characters Godzilla and Shogun Warriors had brief runs as well. Real-life stuntman The Human Fly didn't last long, either.

Results were similarly hit-and-miss for the original characters as well. Kirby's creations--Machine Man, Devil Dinosaur, and The Eternals--were all canceled fairly quickly. Howard the Duck and Omega had very limited shelf lives. Red Sonja (a spin-off from Conan) lasted only 15 issues in her own book.

Marvel also tried introducing a range of female counterparts of their male signature characters. So we got Ms. Marvel (23 issues), Spider-Woman (50 issues) and the Savage She-Hulk (25 issues).

I understand that Stan the Man's appearance in Nova was a joke. Just like the FF story in which Stan agrees to do a special issue featuring the Impossible Man (which would presumably be the issue we were reading at that moment), he changes his mind as soon as the Impossible Man has left, because Marvel would never publish such a silly-looking character (said as he walks past a poster of Howard the Duck).

In Nova, he's saying that Nova is not a significant enough hero to rate a Marvel title, when in fact, we are reading him in a Marvel title at that moment. So Nova is clearly going to be more significant than Stan the Man thinks.

But the joke turned out to be on Stan, I think. Because none of the "blockbusters" published by Marvel in that period turned out to have legs. Star Wars and Spider-Woman were the best of the lot, but none of the others were able to sustain a title for more than 25 issues (two years of a monthly title). The characters have (mostly) survived in Marvel continuity and been reborn and rejiggered in attempts to make them more appealing, with some notable successes, but none of Marvel's "blockbuster" characters from the late 70's were successful out of the gate.


Marc Carlson said...

OTOH, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk currently have their own titles (ok, technically, they just canceled She-Hulk, for the 3rd time).

TheyStoleFrazier'sBrain said...

Yes, and Nova and Spider-Woman are still kicking around. Nova is on his (I think) fourth series now. Even Devil Dinosaur gets a guest-starring gig every once in a while (like in the current miniseries Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #2).

But really, aside from She-Hulk, the other characters have been passed around like a collection plate. The current Nova is apparently not Richard Rider anymore. Ms. Marvel has switched identities and powers a few times. They're on their (I think) third Spider-Woman.

To me, none of them merit the title "blockbuster."