Why Did the Marvels Fail? Here Are Three Better Stories Featuring the Marvels To Check Out Instead

December 5, 2023

The best stories featuring The Marvels are not int he MCU. (Image courtesy Disney/Chad Smith/FB)

So, why did The Marvels flop? Anti-Wokeism backlash? The online hate against the film got so bad that even Stephen King came to the film’s defense. The problem with that thesis is that more men went to see the film than women. The myriad reasons why The Marvels tanked at the box office will be studied for years to come. While I give my two cents on the topic, I will also suggest some comic book stories featuring The Marvels that might interest you as well as some rare comics that could be a worthwhile investment for collectors.

When you think about it, this should not be a problem for Disney. The Marvels is technically the first Marvel Studios bomb ever for the film. Marvel Studios has made over 33 films and counting grossed over $30 billion in profits since the first Iron Man film in 2008 and changed how Hollywood made films for the foreseeable future.

Avengers: Endgame grossed over $2.8 billion in 2019. While it is an unfair comparison since Endgame was a culmination of a decade’s worth of stories, The Marvels has made about $197 million during its theatrical run. Even Edward Norton’s sole Hulk film from 2008 made more money when adjusting for inflation.

So, what happened? Why did this film fail? Here are a few theories about why The Marvels failed.

Superhero Fatigue

I thought that this term was B.S. but I think there may be some validity to it. Still, I don’t think fans are tired of superhero films, they are just tired of crap superhero films. And now there are more of them than ever.

Marvel saturated its market with too many films and streaming shows based on its characters. Marvel Comics has over 80,000 characters that have appeared in its comic books since its inception and Disney seems to be hellbent on giving every character their own film or streaming show.

Fans have to watch a bunch of films or shows of middling quality to stay abreast of stories and characters and they have seemed to tap out. Why would they be interested in film stories featuring The Marvels if they gave up on Marvel some time ago?

There was a time when fans saw the Marvel logo as a sign of quality – now they shrug their shoulders.

Confusing Character Intros and Story Arc Disconnect

Continuing with the previous point, Marvel took it for granted that fans watched Disney + shows WandaVision and Ms. Marvel before watching The Marvels. If you never watched those shows then you would have no idea who Kamala Khan or Monica Rambeau are or how their powers work or why they are in the film.

Unless you watched Ms. Marvel then you have no idea why Kamala’s quirky family has major supporting roles in this film. Nick Fury seems to be a different character than he portrayed in the unpopular and maligned Secret Invasion show – it’s a jarring disconnect of character progression.

I think Brie Larson is an amazing actress but she is given nothing to work with as Carol Danvers. Her character, personality, and motivations are truly a blank slate and we can’t connect with her – Captain Marvel is really just a cat lady in space, even if the cat is a damn Flerken.

Zawe Ashton is given nothing to do as the villain Dar-Benn, which is not the actress’ fault.

The Marvels are given nothing to do and have zero chemistry. Monica is angry that Carol never came back for her when Carol was in space. Kamala has a BFF crush on Carol which is not reciprocated. This storyline would have been a great way to mature Kamala and teach her that you should never meet your heroes, but nothing is done with it.

There is a very interesting plotline where The Marvels switch places when they use their powers, but the conceit is never satisfactorily explained and it goes nowhere. (If Dar-Benn’s action initiated the body displacement, shouldn’t she be involved too?)

This film seems like it was butchered in the editing bay – the film was delayed several times to add new scenes. I think this film was D.O.A. before it was released.

Marvel Stopped Trying to Develop Characters

I don’t know why, but I think Marvel just gave up trying after Endgame. They just decided since Endgame made $2.8 billion they didn’t have to try anymore.

Fans appreciated the character arc of seeing Tony Stark develop from 2008’s Iron Man to watching his death in 2019’s Endgame.

The Guardians of the Galaxy had their story arcs from their first film to Vol. 3 which was also released earlier this year. We watched Edward Norton and then the amazing Mark Ruffalo progress the character of Bruce Banner from a reluctant weird hero to Prof. Hulk, which was not that satisfying to me in the end, but it was character development.

Marvel convinced themselves that fans would accept anything with the Marvel logo and stopped trying. Marvel barely does the interconnected universe thing, which they created (!) and the end credit scenes stopped being interesting long ago. Marvel doesn’t try to build characters, link them through long-term storytelling, or foreshadow future events, like Thanos grinning in the end credits scene in Avengers 2012.

Are we ever going to see Shang Chi again? Will we ever see Charlize Theron as Clea or Harry Styles as Starfox or Mahershala Ali, an Oscar winner, as Blade? It takes years to build up a great villain – it took a decade for Thanos to become fully formed as a character in Avengers: Infinity War, fans forget that. Will Marvel really swap out Kang for Dr. Doom without slowly building up Doom?

The people pretending to love Loki season 2 loves the last 5 minutes of Loki. That whole second season was Loki going to college in a nonsensical plot.

The point here is that Marvel never took the time to develop Carol Danvers as a character or explain why Kamala Khan and Monica Rambeau needed to be in this film.

After the first Captain Marvel made a billion, probably because it was sandwiched between the last two Avengers films, why not just make Captain Marvel 2? (The factions of Skrull terrorists and the Super Skrull in Secret Invasion should have been the villains in Captain Marvel 2. Still, maybe the Super Skrull would have been a better fit for the upcoming Fantastic Four film)

Marvel fans have been deluged with all these characters post-Endgame who have no character development. There was no character buildup for new stories featuring The Marvels in a new film. No one was tracking Carol Danvers or Kamala Khan or Monica Rambeau in the same way that fans tracked Tony Stark’s character arc from 2008 to 2019.

Hell, more fans were interested in seeing whether or not Rocket Raccoon died in GOTG Vol. 3 than getting invested in film stories featuring The Marvels. This is not about wokeism – remember, more men saw The Marvel than women. The Marvels were never developed as characters for fans to care about following in a satisfying or coherent manner.

(Do me a favor – the next time someone says “woke” as a pejorative, ask them what the word means. The utterer will freeze in panicked bafflement; the word is a Pavlovian response for culture war adherents who don’t know what it means but know they are supposed to get frothing at the mouth angry when they hear the term, just like “CRT.”

Stories Featuring The Marvels

Captain Marvel: The Saga of Carol Danvers (2009)

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and drawn by Dexter Soy and other artists, this story reimagines Carol Danvers’ origin story. You get to see Carol Danvers as a woman and a human being, not the overpowered cat lady living alone in space as portrayed by Brie Larson in The Marvels.

In this story, we find out how Carol joined the military and got her powers. We get to see Carol’s family and also see how she grapples with a devastating death in the family. This comic delicately balances portraying Carol as a superpowered being with cosmic powers and a human being trying to make sense of her family. If you want to understand Carol Danvers in a way you never could form her film appearances, read this comic now. Get it for $16.19 at Amazon.

Ms. Marvel: Last Days (2014)

Written by G. Willow Wilson and Dan Slott and featuring art by Adrian Alphona, this story dramatically shows a teenage Kamala Khan still adjusting to her role as Ms. Marvel. As she faces a world-ending threat and tries to save her imperiled brother, Captain Marvel shows up to help Kamala in her time of need.

This story features a great mentorship connection between Carol and Kamala, one that was sorely missing in The Marvels. Carol taught Kamala that it is always OK to ask for help, especially when you are a superhero.

Get it for $15.58 at Amazon.

Ultimates By Al Ewing: The Complete Collection (2015)

Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau, codenamed Spectrum here, are members of the Ultimates along with Blue Marvel, Black Panther, and America Chavez.

(Monica is also sometimes called Photon. Her superhero journey is a little muddled in the comic books as well – Monica even assumed the Captain Marvel title as an Avenger in the 1980s.)

Ostensibly led by Blue Marvel, Monica Rambeau is also a vital leader on the team and consults with Blue Marvel often about his decisions as a colleague and lover. Blue Marvel is a brilliant and powerful man who sometimes gets tunnel vision while Monica helps him to see the forest for the trees.

Monica’s interactions with Blue Marvel and the rest of the team paint her as a much more interesting character than what we got in The Marvels.

Written by Al Ewing with art by Kenneth Rocafort. Get it for $20.89 at Amazon.

Investment Potential

Comic book stories featuring The Marvels have been around for decades. In fact, the very first appearances of these characters are worth a lot of money, even if the film disappointed.

Carol Danvers first appeared in Marvel Super Heroes #13 way back in March 1968. A copy of this comic with a CGC rating of 9.8 is worth over $3,800!

Monica Rambeau made her first comic book appearance in the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 back in October 1982. A copy of this comic with a CGC rating of 9.8 is worth over $407.

Kamala Khan made her comic book debut in Captain Marvel #14 in August 2013. At the time, Disney had not bought Fox yet. In the 1990s Marvel sold off many of their characters, like the X-Men to stave of bankruptcy. So, any new characters they created for the X-Men could be used by Fox, who owned the film and TV rights then, to make money.

Kamala Khan was supposed to be a new X-Men character – she was instead made into an Inhuman to prevent Fox from profiting off her in live-action films. Now that Disney owns Fox, Kamala was recently turned into an X-Men in her series and in the comic books.

A copy of Captain Marvel #14 with a CGC rating of 9.8 is worth almost $180.

The Marvels is Disney’s first bomb since 2008, which is a remarkable feat. But failure is a failure, perception is reality, and Marvel fans have fallen out of love. Although Deadpool 3 and the Sony Spiderverse films will be released in 2024 (Sony owns the film and TV rights for Spider-Man and all related Spider-Man characters) there will be no new Marvel film releases in 2024. The corporate giant will take the time to re-strategize and figure out what is going wrong.

In the meantime, there are a lot of stories featuring The Marvels that you can delight in reading or investing in as a collector.

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