I wouldn’t really say I’m blaming the fan. The absence of a central comics cheerleader like Wizard, which was always heavily biased to Marvel, which was the first time I heard anyone argue that Iron Man was a worthy contender to The Dark Knight as the premier superhero movie of 2008…I think the loss of something like that, and the fact that Marvel itself gave up the heavy in-house cheerleading, dulled enthusiasm for its comics. So instead it transferred to the movies, which obviously became progressively more and more hyped. In fact, I don’t find it coincidental at all that the movies are considered great but the comics, no matter what they try, are considered weak. Movies dominate our popular thinking a lot more than we think. I was reading a Superman vs. Zod collection last weekend that featured Zod’s early appearances, and it was…shocking! The original comics Zod is a pale shadow of the Terrence Stamp Zod who later appeared in Superman II. It’s almost as if they are two completely different characters, and of course they are. The original comics Zod was really just one of many criminals trapped in the Phantom Zone. The Terrence Stamp Zod of Superman II has no rivals, and he becomes iconic with the simple phrase, “Kneel before Zod.” And that Zod is so dominant in the imagination that he can’t really appear in the comics until Johns and Donner are riffing on Donner’s films, down to the Gary Frank art that evokes Christopher Reeve so obviously.
And the power of negative momentum is never really appreciated. The Man of Steel movies have essentially been riding negative momentum since the latest cinematic Zod got his neck snapped. There was never going to be a redemption from viewers for that Superman. Negative momentum works the same as popular momentum, which the Avengers movies have been enjoying since, well, Iron Man. Even when the solo movies have varying levels of success, it’s never really seen in terms of individual success or failure. If someone severely dislikes, say, Iron Man 2, the Ben Kingsley Mandarin, or the first two Thor movies, or Incredible Hulk so much that it’s not really considered part of the franchise anymore, or Ant-Man…That’s a huge chunk! But you’d never know it because popular momentum of these films means fans are willing to overlook stuff in ways they never will with negative momentum. A success like Wonder Woman is an aberration! It means nothing! It meant nothing to anyone who went to see Justice League, and yeah, that surprises me, but at the same time, doesn’t.
So Marvel has Secret Wars and then Civil War II, and then Secret Empire, and suddenly the whole line is defined by these events, despite the fact that everyone knows everyone complains about line-wide crossover events anyway. Was any of that really worse than when Norman Osborn took advantage of Siege to become a mainstream “good guy” just a few years after Civil War claimed to begin a new bright era? That was the biggest croc Marvel ever did! I view Secret Wars as nothing more or less than the culmination of Hickman’s run with the company, his ultimate Fantastic Four story. But even Morrison barely survived Final Crisis.
Anyway, I guess being puzzled by this sort of thing is a kind of side project for me. It makes sense to everyone else. It’s just as well.