What is the "right size" for Marvel's line of comic book titles? What I was a kid gobbling up the 12-cent masterpieces Marvel put out, 12 monthly super hero titles seemed like the right size for the Marvel line to me-- I couldn't afford many more. When I started working in the business in 1978, Marvel was producing about 40 titles (including reprints) and that also seemed to be about the right size for the Marvel line at that time. At the height of the market boom a mere two years ago, Marvel was producing over 100 titles, and most of them were selling oodles.
After the speculator balloon burst (as it inevitably had to). there rose a hue and cry across the land that Marvel was too big, and had too darn many titles out for the average reader to support. Marvel's powers-that-be eventurally took the message to heart and with "Marvelution" began a program to phase out some of our weaker-selling titles, thus reducing the number of titles in the Marvel line to the "right size".
This has meant the cancellation of titles that are bound to be somebody's favorites. Titles such as DARKHAWK, QUASAR, WONDER MAN, SHE-HULK, NAMOR, MORBIUS, SILVER SABLE and NIGHT THRASHER...soon to be joined by GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and WARLOCK, BLADE and BLAZE. All had their fans; all will be missed. All were selected to face the executioner's axe because they were not as profitable as otehr titles Marvel's publishing.
By mid-year we should be publishing about 60 monthly titles, all told. So, those of you who have been clamoring for Marvel to replace the number of titles we publish, are we at the "right size" yet?
-- Mark Gruenwald
On my spartan office walls are two things: color photocopies of Marvel covers from the early sixties and printers' proofs of this month's covers of all the titles in my editorial domain. The early covers are there for inspiration. I gaze at the powerful images, the dramatic color schemes and the hyperbolic cover blurbs, and I immediately know why I've devoted my adult life to heroic adventure. The current covers are there for me to see at a glance how I'm doing in keeping the heroic tradition alive in my editors and my immediate work.
While the ever-changing crop of current covers fits my ideal image of a good super hero cover with varying degrees of success, I know my editors and I are on the same basic wavelength as far as what we're supposed to be doing here. And that's because I think we all agree that heroic fiction is not just mindless escapism, but something with a fundamental connection to the human condition. You've probably heard it before: a society's heroes embody those traits and ideals valued by the individuals who make up that society. And that, to me, elevates the genre of heroic fiction out of the realm of mere juvenile entertainment, although juveniles are developmentally more receptive to hero-identification than the more jaded, world-weary adults they may become.
In this modern age, where real life heroes turn out to have feet of clay, where it seems everyone looked up to by the public turns out to be a drug user, or tax cheat, or spouse abuser, or pervert, have fantasy heroes become passe? Have most people outgrown the need for heroes or the inspirational underpinnings of heroic fiction? I don't know. All I can tell you is I haven't. I can still read a good super hero story with something closely akin to the sense of wonder and enjoyment I felt when I first gazed upon the cover images that adorn most of my office wall space.
Maybe I'm odd. Maybe most grown-ups are too "sophisticated" to let themselves appreciate the archetypal struggle of good versus evil that is still at the core of every Marvel comic. I certainly hear comics readers tell me they've "matured" but Marvel comics haven't-- they're still telling teh same old tales of good versus evil. These readers say they want something more "sophisticated" for their entertainment dollar. Fine. It's a free country.
But for my money, it a heroic tale is well told, it can still speak to me. And speak for me, promoting the way I believe people should strive to behave. Like heroes.
-- Mark Gruenwald
It's a week after the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City as I write this, and my shock and outrage at this senseless tragedy remains undimmed. If the object of terrorism is to create a climate of uneasiness and alarm within a population, the bombing has succeeded. If there was some political message to be conveyed by the cowardly hit-and-run attack, this is what I got out of it: that human beings capable of such senseless carnage fail to live up to the minimum moral definition of human.
I've been around a while, I've met my share of differently-motivated individuals in my time, and I realize that aggression is a part of our animal nature. But I still can't figure out how a person decides that it's all right to commit such obviously outrageous acts against other human beings. Are some people born with morally defective brains, or is this mode of thinking learned somewhere? Does anyone in America purposefully raise children to think killing for a cause is cool? Or is such an attitude a sign of rebellion against the way one is brought up, against the values of the society? Do these deranged individuals know how sick they are or do thew think of themselves as heroes?
I'm not an extermist on the sanctity of life. I believe there are individuals whose behavior is so contrary to the common good that I personally would not lift a finger to help sustain such a person's life. But who can have such a callous regard for human life that you would slaughter dozens of people you don't even know just to make some sort of point?
I deal with heroics and villainy for a living, but I have no answers to any of the questions I've raised. But I can't help but think about them in times like these.
If you would like to help in the relief effort for the citizens of Oklahoma City, contact the Salvation Army (405-270-7800), Feed the Children (405-942-0228 or 1-800-741-1441) or the Red Cross (1-800-HELP-NOW).
-- Mark Gruenwald