(Arianna is not only one of my best friends, but she’s my resident comic book geek, writing buddy, and all-around fangirling compatriot. When she’s not working, doing homework or watching one of her many beloved TV shows, you can find her on Tumblr.)
Comic books have always been famous for their instantly changing storylines and character identities. From the very beginning, heroes underwent origin changes—famously seen when they entered the Silver Age—which allowed the writers to draw in new fans while keeping the core of their heroes alive. Recently, DC released the first issue of their ‘Rebirth’—a reboot for a handful of their well-known characters. This had been a popular discussion topic for months, as it gave new fans a place to start collecting but also left the universe in a place well-known to old fans. Now, everyone’s eyes were on DC.
With only even a little bit of comic book knowledge, it’s easy to see how this would prove problematic for Marvel. Everyone had stopped discussing the changes happening in their universe, and Marvel was becoming old news. So they released the first issues of their new Captain America: Steve Rogers series. This move was well thought-out, as the popularity of Steve Rogers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had created a new generation of fans that had fallen in love with the character. It didn’t take long for news of its release to spread, but fans weren’t happy with the new storyline. They were outraged.
In a single issue, Marvel took the beloved Steve Rogers and made him a member of Hydra, an organization written as an extension of the Nazi party during WWII. Led by the Red Skull, Captain America’s greatest enemy, Hydra was always shown to go against the things Steve stood for. This was a major reveal, especially when the writers said it had been building up since around 2014.
Fans felt like their favourite character had been ruined. A hero that had been created by Jewish writers to fight Nazis was suddenly one himself. Captain America has always been a moral figure in comics – someone who will always do what’s right for those around him, no matter the consequences. These writers had turned a famous hero into a bad guy, something that fans weren’t able to accept.
Despite the fact that it’s an alternate storyline, and that Marvel will probably fix it at some point (because let’s face it, that’s what comics do), there lies an even bigger issue here. Lately, it seems writers are more willing to destroy classic heroes in an attempt to get comic book fans talking. Writers are more concerned with creating shock value to earn a profit than simply coming up with new storylines to draw readers to a character.
This isn’t just a problem appearing in the comics themselves anymore. DC’s television show Arrow recently killed off the Black Canary, one of the most famous and beloved female superheroes in comics. In Marvel movies like the recent Captain America: Civil War, the writers chose to kill of Crossbones, a villain that has been in the comics for years. And even in the DC movie Man of Steel, they decided to end the film with Superman killing Zod, despite the fact that Superman doesn’t kill.
These new writers don’t seem to care about the original content they are basing their stories off of, or the morals these heroes have represented since their creation. They are more concerned about earning a name for themselves as someone who changed the character, and the money earned in doing so. The fans’ opinions no longer seem to be that important, despite the fact that comic book culture has always thrived because of the readers. Writers seem more concerned about creating a twist in their story instead of simply writing a well-rounded narrative. And because of this, some readers are simply moving away from their favourite heroes because they can’t stand to watch them change in such a negative way.
Writers need to start listening to their fans, and deciding what’s important: the hero, or how they can manipulate the story to create a profit.