If you’ve been following the build-up to Marvel Comics’ All-New, All-Different initiative, you’re no doubt aware of the publisher’s plans to make Iron Man the center of its post-Secret Wars universe. In interviews, new Iron Man writer Brian Michael Bendis has repeatedly said that thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s popular take on the character in multiple Marvel Studios’ films, the Armored Avenger is now one of the most recognizable super heroes in the world.

This is great news for Iron Man fans but, in my opinion, indicative of a larger problem that’s been plaguing Marvel stories for far too long – the need to synchronize the company’s comics with the movies they inspired.

Trading Masks For Sunglasses

The year was 2001 – a simpler time when Marvel Comics was proud to be associated with a major motion picture featuring the X-Men. Yes, long before the reign of the Inhumans and Marvel’s efforts to downplay the significance of its 20th Century Fox properties, the publisher was eager to make everybody’s favorite mutants a little more like their onscreen counterparts.

I assume this is why the forgettable 2001 X-Men Forever miniseries existed. Seriously, all I remember about this six-issue series is it introduced us to naked, scaly Mystique and a Toad that resembled Ray Park in the 616 universe. And these changes last to this day.

Oh wait, they don’t.

Sadly, Marvel didn’t learn its lesson, as efforts to make the comics more moviegoer-friendly continued. Remember when Spider-Man got organic web-shooters in the comics? Good thing too, because that Sam Raimi Spidey series is still going strong.

Oh wait, it isn’t.

Also, I thought everybody agreed that Hawkeye had one of the coolest costumes in comics? Are we really okay with the fact that he traded in his mask for a pair of sunglasses just so he looks more like Jeremy Renner?

Marvel’s latest headache-inducing move took place in its Axis event series, where it was revealed Magneto wasn’t Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch’s father. This revelation was explored in the most recent volume of Rick Remender’s Uncanny Avengers, which was conveniently on shelves while Avengers: Age of Ultron was in theaters. It’s almost as if this storyline existed just because Magneto’s film rights belong to 20th Century Fox and Pietro and Wanda couldn’t be mutants in Joss Whedon’s sequel.

Oh wait, that’s exactly why this storyline exists.

Comic Book Readers Aren’t Stupid

Maybe you’re reading this and think I’m being way too critical of Marvel Comics. I mean, I am, but it’s only because I love the Marvel Universe so much. I want great stories, such as those that were produced by the House of Ideas long before the first X-Men film was released. And I think writers like Rick Remender are hugely talented – in my opinion, his Uncanny X-Force run was, well, uncanny.

But when we’re wasting panel space trying to distance Magneto from Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, or explain how an African-American Nick Fury could exist in the 616 Universe, what are we putting first – the desire to tell great stories or make money?

And yes, I understand that Marvel needs to sell comics to stay afloat, but comic book readers aren’t stupid. They know when something is being forced down their throats (how many Inhumans titles are coming our way?) Honestly, if Marvel Studios had the film rights to the X-Men, Magneto would still be Pietro and Wanda’s father. You can’t tell me it’s far more interesting to have all three of them be the pawns of the High Evolutionary, or whatever that storyline was about.

Also, let’s not forget that all those popular films comic fans and non-comic fans alike love are all inspired by pre-existing storylines. If creators are too busy bringing the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy more in line with their live-action counterparts, then aren’t they limiting their own creativity?

Comics are meant to be fantastical. There are no Hollywood budget constraints on an artist’s pencil or a writer’s imagination. Sadly, if a writer wants to kill off Tony Stark these days, he or she can, just so long as he’s brought back to life in time for Avengers: Infinity War Part I.

Have a Little Faith In People

Again, I get it – comic book publishers need to make a profit. But I constantly hear how important it is for filmmakers to get comic book properties right for the fans. Isn’t it a slap in these same fans’ faces when they’re forced to accept film-friendly changes just to appease moviegoers who may wander into a comic shop?

I mean, that’s why they do it – I’ve read it several times. If Johnny Mainstream walks out of Guardians of the Galaxy and wants more Star-Lord, there better be a comic available to him that features a Peter Quill who looks and acts exactly like Chris Pratt.

Or, we could have a little faith in people to understand that these films are adaptations of storylines that have been going for several decades.

I Speak From Experience

Once, I too was like those comic book novices Marvel is so eager to attract. While I was aware of characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine growing up, it was the X-Men animated series on Fox Kids that got me hooked. After watching the cartoon series’ adaptation of the Phoenix Saga, I picked up my very first X-Men comic – #39 of the adjectiveless series. And yes, despite the fact that it featured the infamous Adam-X (of backwards baseball cap-wearing fame) on its cover, I amazingly stuck with the series.

The point is, jumping into the X-Universe just a few issues before the start of the Age of Apocalypse crossover was no easy task, but I was determined to catch up. Keep in mind, this was before Wikipedia. I learned about the X-Men the old-fashioned way – back issues, trade paperbacks, trading cards and issues of Wizard magazine – and it was a fun challenge.

Today, I consider myself an X-pert. If I could make sense of the hundreds of X-titles on the stands in the mid-90s and stick with them, then we need to stop tampering with comics out of fear that moviegoers will be scared away. I understand that we live in a time when you can order your groceries without having to set foot in a supermarket or get a date simply by swiping right, but I honestly believe that making the source material more like the movies it inspires only hurts the characters and the potential for more amazing stories.

So, to all you non-comic book fans who enjoyed Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron, I have something to tell you. Remember Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man? Well, he created Ultron in the comics, not Tony Stark, and that’s okay.

  • Russ Dobler

    It’s a popular narrative, but it’s largely due to confirmation bias. People see where the movies align with comics, but forget about where they drastically diverge: FalCap, Jane-as-Thor, Thing and Venom in Guardians, Miles Morales’ soon-to-be-huge role, etc. In reality, some things match and some things don’t. That has to kind of be expected.

    • Chris Hassan

      True, Russ. The fact that Marvel hasn’t pushed the X-Men and the Fantastic Four into a pocket universe was a relief (something that was rumored to occur post-Secret Wars). I guess things like the new Nick Fury and Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch no longer being mutants are more “architectural” changes to the Marvel comic universe…much the same way they need to update characters’ origins every few years to make sense in modern times (like how Magneto was de-aged to explain he was a Holocaust survivor or how Tony Stark was injured in Afghanistan). So long as those things are in place, creators can play around in the sandbox with FalCap and Jane-as-Thor.