Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Marvelously Obscure

In the summer of 2014, Marvel released Guardians of the Galaxy and it was a runaway hit. In the fall of that same year Disney released Big Hero 6, which is also a Marvel property, and it too was a big hit. When both were announced many thought they would flop, because they were not the more popular and well known of Marvel properties. Except for Howard the Duck and Man-Thing, the obscure characters tend to do well or sometimes better than the more well known properties.

The first successful Marvel film was Blade. Blade was a supporting character in Marvel Comics’ Tomb of Dracula from the 1970’s. He was a minor supporting character that gained some stature as the series continued being published. When the film came out and became a surprise hit everyone was shocked. Marvel had not had a hit in film.  It did not help that the quality of those productions, Howard the Duck (1986), Punisher (1989), Captain America (1990), and Fantastic Four (1994) were not the best. Many of these were made by lower budget production houses.

When the Marvel movies started to breakout many people did not know who the X-Men were either. There have been some duds; this was before Marvel started to produce their own films as their own studio. The Marvel Studios as we know it started with Iron Man. Since that started they have been putting out many of the Marvel Comics heavy hitters. In my opinion that would not have been possible if not for the success of Blade (1998). Blade paved the way for the X-Men films, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, and ultimately the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The reason why I think the more obscure Marvel properties are so successful is because the audience has no expectations. That means they can sit back and enjoy the ride. They do not see a new version of a character they think they know. They are able to take the film at face value. Also when I say obscure I mean obscure to mainstream films audiences. Comic book fans may be very familiar with these characters, but to the average folks out there, they have no clue.  It is easier to suspend your disbelief if you are new to a character.

Some characters people unfamiliar with Marvel’s comic book line up would be thought to be obscure are not.  For example Ant-Man, Black Panther, Wasp, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Quicksilver are all considered A-List Tier 1 Marvel characters.  Plus they are all Avengers.  Like the obscure, the least familiar characters because of mainstream influences are also clean slates. Hopefully after the third Captain America, Thor, and the Avengers: Infinity War films, we will see some of the more obscure and unfamiliar to mainstream audience properties utilized more.

With the first Marvel comic I bought for myself being the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, there are few characters that I am unfamiliar with and most of those popped up since 1995. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is one of those properties, I have glancing familiarity with the character, mostly second hand through Wikipedia and the like. I am not familiar with where the Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) has gone since 1995, specifically since she gained the Captain Marvel moniker. Big Hero 6 I had a vague sense of those characters. With the Guardians of the Galaxy I knew many of the characters, but the film went in new and unexpected directions. Being unfamiliar or vaguely familiar definitely helps. This Has Been My Not So Humble Opinion. 

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