While Marvel Studios didn’t invent the post-credits scene in movies, it certainly embraced it to the point that it’s a signature of its brand now. Whenever I go to see a Marvel movie in theatres, I’m always shocked at the number of people who get up and leave as soon as the end credits begin. When the Marvel brand first started, most people left, with a handful of us remaining for the bonus. Now, I’d say almost half of the audience splits, and given how much fun those post-credits scenes can be and how well known the Marvel brand is for them, I find it incredibly puzzling.
You know what’s even more befuddling? Marvel Entertainment’s new attempt to adopt the post-credit scene in its comics. As of last week, the comics publisher has begun branding a handful of its titles with a “Where is Wolverine?” icon and promising the comic in question has such a bonus scene at the end of the book.
“Where Is Wolverine?” refers to the feral mutant’s resurrection in the Marvel Legacy one-shot a few months ago, bringing the traditional incarnation of Logan back into the fold in the Marvel Universe after an extended “death.” His role has been filled in the interim (and his popularity capitalized upon) by his cloned daughter, X-23, adopting the Wolverine codename, and by a time-displaced Old Man Logan.
Marvel Legacy depicted a non-costumed Wolverine carrying around what appeared to be an Infinity Stone and mysterious walking off into the mist, and since there was nothing announced for him after that, it was a teaser. Well, the teasers are back, it seems, with these post-credits scenes.
Here’s the thing: Marvel the comics publisher has completely misunderstood why these scenes from Marvel the movie studio are popular.
First of all, the initial one-page scene from the first “Where Is Wolverine?” comic — Captain America #697 — isn’t a “post-credits” scene. The credits are found on the first page, and even if they were in the back of the book, comics obviously don’t work the same way as movies. Comics credits take three seconds to absorb. Movie credits take several minutes, and part of why post-credits scenes work in movies is because of the anticipation that’s built up during the wait. Marvel capitalized on that anticipation with a joke scene at the very end of Spider-Man: Homecoming that mocked its signature approach; the joke worked because of the anticipation.
Furthermore, no Marvel movie has ever touted the post-credits scenes. No poster, ad or moment in the movie itself has ever told the audience to wait, to check out the brief addendum. It’s part of the fun, of the cachet. It lets the audience and industry media spread the message. Marvel Entertainment is clearly using these “Where Is Wolverine?” scenes as a marketing tool. It’s urging its readers and fans to seek out these branded comics for material that’s ultimately inconsequential to the larger Wolverine/Infinity Stone story (if the initial “post-credits scene” in Cap #697 is any indication).
Now, from the start, one of the purposes of the bonus scenes in Marvel Studios big-screen offerings was to build the larger, extended cinematic universe. A mention of “the Avengers Initiative” was the crux of the initial post-credits scene in Iron Man, the first of the Marvel Studios flicks, after all. And these comics “post-credits” scenes also flow from the shared continuity of the Marvel Universe.
Honestly, while I think the misnomer of calling these comics vignettes “post-credits scenes” is foolish, I don’t have an issue with their inclusion in non-Wolverine titles. I get the appeal of building excitement for a big epic story, especially one including the return of arguably Marvel’s most popular character. It’s the marketing that’s irksome. The emphasis clearly isn’t on storytelling; it’s on collectibility.
When storytelling takes a back seat to marketing, everybody loses, even the publisher, at least in the long run. I’m sure will be a segment of the readership that seeks out these “Where Is Wolverine?” branded comics, and possibly, it will lead them to discover new characters or creators whose work they might enjoy. But ultimately, if the scenes remain as missable and unimportant as what we saw in Cap #697, those readers will feel burned. The demand for the post-credits comics will no doubt be fleeting, especially once the larger story to which they’re leading up is finally released.
I get that there must have been a meeting in which someone expressed the notion that if people like the post-credits scenes in the movies, they’ll like them in the comics. It’s a shame, though, that greater consideration wasn’t given to the notion that what works in one medium won’t necessarily work in another.