We comic readers always take notice when our four-color heroes make the leap from the pages of the medium we love to the big screen. DC and Marvel have had a lot of success in recent years, with comics flicks seeming to top the wish lists of movie producers. Obviously, one of the reasons the more iconic heroes connect so well with moviegoers is that they remember them fondly from their youth. From comics at camp to cartoons on Saturday morning, millions know these characters and are willing to plunk down cold, hard cash to reconnect with those imaginary friends from their youth. Given the power of that nostalgia, the new movie incarnations of those fondly remembered characters end up being simplified, adapted and sometimes reverted to forms they’d shed decades before. As a result, comics publishers often scramble to bring back old ideas and circumstances so the masses can find something they recognize in the comics of today.
Take, for example, the incorporation of the black Spidey suit and the villainous Venom into celluloid lore with this May’s release of Spider-Man 3. In reaction to moviemakers’ resurrection of the idea of a black suit, Marvel is dressing its best-known super-hero in his dark togs once again. The publisher has wisely taken advantage of the decision as a marketing opportunity, telling comics readers for weeks now to keep an eye out for its “Back in Black” event.
I doubt any readers familiar with recent Spider-Man storytelling will believe the black suit will be back for long. The Iron Spider suit lasted less than a year. The Spider family’s time in a dee-luxe apartment in the Stark Tower sky only lasted so long. It’s fleeting. “Back in Black,” as snappy a slogan as it is, isn’t exactly going to give Marvel zombies goosebumps.
But Marvel is tweaking its properties to parallel a big-screen foray in 2007, and neither Sam Raimi nor Tobey Maguire has anything to do with. There’s a Marvel comic out now that has quietly taken a couple of its characters back to the Silver Age and forward to the silver screen. And that comic is Annihilation #6. Yes, seriously.
Yes, there’s Nova, all battle-damaged and intense on the cover. The climactic conflict in this issue is between the C-list hero and Annihilus. Elsewhere in the comic, we see Ronan the Accuser leading an alien army against a generic cosmic villain. But don’t forget — also involved in the Annihilation event have been the Silver Surfer and Galactus.
Slated for release the month after Spider-Man 3 is another Marvel movie sequel: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. If you’re a fan of super-hero comics, chances are you’ve downloaded the teaser trailer featuring a fairly cool sequence in which the Human Torch chases the Surfer through New York. Honestly, I didn’t much care for the first FF flick, but the teaser trailer has titillated and tempted the fanboy within.
What makes the events of Annihilation‘s conclusion important to Marvel’s movie marketing and publishing plan is a key development: a reunion between creator and creation. After 40 years, Marvel has once again paired the Silver Surfer with the Devourer of Worlds in its shared super-hero continuity. It’s a smart move, especially if one assumes Marvel plans a new Galactus/Surfer comic-book story to coincide with the June 2007 release of Rise. We’ve seen a Fantastic Four teaser image, illustrated by Michael Turner, in which the two characters appear with a couple of FF members, so such a story is probably more of a safe bet rather than an assumption.
Will it make for good storytelling? I have no idea. That all depends on the writing and the art. I’ve been reading an enjoying Fantastic Four, so I would imagine I’ll find out. Do Marvel’s (and DC’s, for that matter) efforts to synchronize its movie properties with its comic-book counterparts make for good storytelling. Not directly, I’d say. I’m sure some good stories have arisen out of such decisions, but it’s not a matter of cause and effect, but coincidence.
Storytelling shouldn’t be a consideration anyway. We’re talking movies and mainstream super-hero comics. This is a matter of commerce, not creativity. Business is boss in this regard, as it should be. I would imagine some readers will react negatively to the Silver Surfer being recast in the role of Galactus’s herald in the comics, arguing it flies in the face of the peaceful and noble personality that the character has developed over the years. A more realistic perspective is called for, though. The Surfer is a beloved character, yes, but he’s also a commodity.
And movie money trumps comic-book bucks every time.