Marvel Comic Books: The Industry Standard?

It’s no secret that Marvel comic books are the best selling comic books in the American market. Marvel holds the highest percentage of the market share as it has for many years, just above main rival, DC Comics. But does this really mean that Marvel comic books are the standard for the industry? Are they the best written and best illustrated? Are they diverse and varied enough? Do they really captivate readers that much, or is it mainly due to diehard fans of their characters or creators buying up books just for that reason alone?

Of course, that’s not something that can be easily discerned, if it even can at all. Things like this are largely subjective, and no study in the world could possibly gauge the reasons behind all the buyers of Marvel comic books purchasing the books. But one can look at the market, and look at the books being produced by Marvel and by other companies and develop their own opinion.

Naturally, though, opinions are completely polarized between fans of Marvel comic books and fans of DC comic books, each despising the other. There are plenty of fans that enjoy books from both companies, mind you, but generally even these fans have their loyalty to one company or the other. Then there are those fans who hate superhero comics altogether and choose to make all their purchases in the indy market. But marginally, this is a small group compared to those who are fans of the Big Two. Even the market shares of the two largest indy companies, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics, while competitive, are still far below the massive shares Marvel and DC claim.

But listening to the complaints of fans, at least on the internet, and sometimes in the local comic shops, there are many dissatisfied customers with many of the books from both companies. But since the topic is Marvel comic books, the major crossover events of the past few years bare mentioning, as they have gained equal amounts of acclaim and disdain by Marvel fans and non-fans alike.

Many are sick and tired of the massive crossover storylines that, because of the problems of the 90s, feel like they are merely thinly veiled marketing ploys to force readers into buying more books than they normally would to get the full story. Others enjoy their superhero comic universe being united and the effects of world events materializing throughout all the Marvel comic books. But most agree, outside of these crossovers, and of course the main books (the Spider-Man books, X-Men books and Avengers books) not much else is that great right now, nor has it been for sometime. There are exceptions, like Runaways and Thunderbolts, but by and large it’s substandard fare. Even the major books, like Uncanny X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man, weren’t that great a couple of years ago by the standards and opinions of many.

So why do Marvel comic books outsell all others and remain the dominant brand in American comics? We may never know for sure, but one can guess that it’s a combination of all the reasons mentioned above.

Not much different than African Americans felt not too long ago, or even how Native Americans felt when their land was stolen from them. Wolverine and The X-Men suffered the same type of bigotry, abuse and segregation from the get go. But despite their tribulation, they still helped anyone they could. Some, like Wolverine, became bitter for a time. But by and large, they lived their lives the best way they could, proving humans wrong in the process.

Over the years, the X-Men became more accepted by society for a time, but eventually it would all come crumbling down. A radical church group would crucify some of their ranks, then the majority of the mutant population suddenly became powerless and normal. This reignited the hatred for mutants, because most had just come to accept their existence, not like it. With the possibility of “no more mutants” a reality, closet hatred came to the forefront again.

Still, the X-Men maintained their cool, for the most part, and proved to be better people than those spreading their messages of hate with words and weapons.

The X-Men are a symbol in comics, and in society as a whole. They show how hatred and ignorance can be overcome, and how being different can be a great attribute and not a flaw that we need to expel or feel sorry about. There is strength and power in being unique that those who allow fear and hate to run their lives will never understand. Maybe they should crack open an issue of X-Men from time to time. Maybe seeing their ignorance and stupidity displayed in full color will somehow enlighten them. Maybe, just maybe, by reading the stories of how these unique and wonderful beings are harassed and persecuted on a nearly daily basis will make them think twice about their own actions. One could only dream.

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