By Carter Glace
One of the pop cultural trends I have found utterly fascinating over the past decade or so is how Marvel and DC have strived to keep their brands and icons relevant in a growing media landscape. It’s no secret that comic sales have stayed relatively consistent over the years, despite the booming success of films featuring the likes of Ironman and Captain America. So a growing question becomes apparent that if people aren’t being introduced to characters through the comics, how will audiences be interested in growingly obscure characters like Ant-Man and The Inhumans?
Both companies seem to understand this is a growing issue. DC has made a massive internet presence with weekly vlogs. both companies have made their catalogues digital, and Marvel’s integration with Disney is free marketing and a home for their growingly connected animated catalogue. And in the most recent attempt to streamline and introduce their massive catalogue of characters, Marvel has created the new web series “Marvel 101.”
Found on Marvel’s Youtube page, the series is a collection of short videos each covering one hero or team, explaining their origins and powers. The initial relase has 20 videos, with one new video set to be released weekly. These initial 20 are largely comprised of characters from the various film and television properties, such as The Falcon, Captain America, Captain Marvel and the like.
Going through the first 20 videos, it is impressive how slickly made and crafted each of the videos are. They cover the key points of each character at a breathless and efficient pace, no small feat given most of these characters have 50+ years of history. The transition through comic panels is absolutely beautiful, as the videos effortlessly flip between comics from the past and present. One of my favorite of the videos ended up being Captain America, as several retelling of his origin story flow together seamlessly. They really are a visual and technical feat, capturing the visual style of each character in a cohesive, fluid series.
I will say though, as a long time reader, they are a bit thin content and history wise. Being around a minute and a half each, the videos cover the basics of each character, not really diving into the various adventures of each of the characters. This is obviously less of a problem for newer heroes like Ms. Marvel and Jessica Jones. But at the same time, these videos aren’t necessarily made for me, but for younger readers or people who aren’t necessarily versed in the comic lore.
In fact, the 101 videos may be the perfect way to counter an issue facing the industry for years: decades long continuity. I’ve always asserted continuity in comic books has never been the issue as people make it out to be, especially now that the internet provides endless information on every single comic panel. But works like this are the biggest counter to the fear of continuity making comic books impenetrable: giving the most direct and efficient explanations of their heroes possible, giving them everything they need going into any film or comic.
I don’t really have that much deep thinking here, I just this is an incredibly impressive attempt by Marvel to try and make their content as accessible an digestible as possible.
Carter Glace is a Highlighter Staff Columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org