You Want Me to Watch What?November 18, 2013
Should you be shocked that Marvel is trying to get us to watch more than just the movies? Long-standing comics fans know better, and so should you.
By all accounts Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t captivated us the way that their older brother has on the big screen twice a year. I’ve gotten a lot of opinions about the show, and most people have expressed patience more than anything else. Quite the departure from the opinions held by most who have seen the Marvel Studios productions; those people tend to leave wildly entertained and excited for future films. Now I know there is a difference between a television show and a movie. With that said, Marvel has long used a formula to try and drum up interest in a struggling venture. In fact, they’ve been incorporating that concept into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the beginning. The episode airing on the 19th will simply be the greatest use of that formula to date.
I of course am talking about the “clean up” of sorts that will take place in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a means to clarify a few things that occurred in Thor: The Dark World. This isn’t the part where I am going to say “spoiler alert”, in fact, I don’t plan on discussing the events in the film that should be cleaned up. Instead, I am going to focus on how Marvel is trying to get more viewers to tune in every Tuesday night at 8pm.
For starters, the first two episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. featured Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill (1st episode) and a cameo by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (2nd episode). The millions of fans who only know the cinematic lore of the Marvel properties were overjoyed when this happened. Although, readers of Marvel Comics have seen this for years. If you pick up a Marvel comic these days there is a good chance that Iron Man, Captain America, or Wolverine is going to be in it. Marvel wants to start getting those casual cinematic fans to start purchasing comics, and the best chance for that to happen is if those comics feature characters they already know.
Most comic fans I talk to are only mildly annoyed by this. They are generally more upset when they find out they are going to need to read an issue of X-Babies to find out what will happen in a plot currently running in Uncanny X-Men. If you are reading the Infinity series or trying to follow along with X-Men: Battle of the Atom, you’re probably shaking your head right now. I could sit here all day and rattle off more examples of this because it has been something Marvel has done for at least two decades. I have a complete run of Amazing Spider-Man starting at issue 400 (early 90’s). Sprinkled in are a ton of Web of Spider-Man and The Spectacular Spider-Man issues I had to read in order to figure out what was happening in the book I really cared about.
Part of my frustration is that I had to spend money on something that I wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. In this situation there isn’t nearly as much of a financial commitment. With that said, I did have to at least purchase a ticket for Thor: The Dark World. Despite that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is free, I am not overjoyed to watch one episode of a series that I don’t currently watch just because the movie “purposefully” left something out so people would tune in on the 19th. Other than Phil Coulson, I don’t know any of the other characters. I am sure they are all rather stereotypical, but still, the thought of having to figure out all their names and “motives” doesn’t excite me.
Most comic fans aren’t surprised by this tactic at all, again, it is something we’ve all seen hundreds of times by now. It is really the casual fans who’ve been surprised and mildly annoyed that they now have to invest more than a few hours of their time twice a year. Perhaps that seems a little high-brow, but the fact is, people sometimes don’t depart from what is comfortable even if it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to do so. Sadly, most of us who saw Thor: The Dark World will be tuning in on the 19th to see what we paid to miss. I am just going to say it now, when the ratings are higher than normal, don’t be surprised when we then have to read a comic book to find out what was missing from that episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.