- Posted by Johanna on June 8, 2011 at 8:45 am
- Category: Superhero Reviews
It’s a known problem — what comics should a fan, attracted by a superhero movie, start with? There are two Marvel movie tie-in magazines out this summer that attempt to answer the question, so I took a look.
Both are priced at $9.99, which seems high to me — for impulse purchases, I expect entertainment magazines to be $5 or $6. The Thor Movie Special is 96 pages, while X-Men First Class Magazine is 104. They have very different presentations, since the XMFC contains glossy paper and cover, making it flexible and easy to flip through; Thor has much stiffer paper and cover, making it feel more substantial. The biggest difference is that XMFC was put out by Marvel, while Thor was released by Disney Publishing.
X-Men First Class
The focus here is the comics, not the movie. Reprints are included of X-Men: First Class #1 and #5 (both by Jeff Parker, Roger Cruz, and Victor Olazaba) and X-Men #1 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Paul Reinman). The #5 story was apparently selected just because it guest-stars Thor.
As you can see from that description, the magazine’s content is based around the original X-Men — Iceman, Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Angel, and Beast, led by a bald Professor X — not the movie cast. Magneto, the breakout character of the film, appears only in the oldest reprint, the first issue from 1963. (Suggestion for future comic publishing: a Magento, Nazi Hunter flashback series, since that was one of the best movie sequences.)
An interview with Jeff Parker talks about other issues from the series and the old, original X-Men comics being an influence. Another interview with Chris Yost plugs an unrelated X-Men Evolutionaries story; I found this piece confusing, without enough context for a new reader. It’s a lackluster attempt to drive readership to something current, but it doesn’t provide any reason for someone who isn’t already speaking the language and following the characters to pick it up.
The best text piece was a feature called “Children of the Atom: The X-Men and the Early 1960s” by V.R. Gallaher (aka Valerie D’Orazio). It actually tackles a subject directly related to the film — how the early X-Men comics dealt with issues significant to the era. It provides needed context to the new reader about the title’s history and aims.
After a lame attempt at humor (X-Men report cards), the issue concludes with character profiles for Banshee, Beast, Darwin (who isn’t black), Emma Frost, Havok, Magneto, Moira MacTaggert (who’s now dead, it seems), Mystique, Sebastian Shaw, and Professor Xavier. It’s a nice attempt to at least mention the movie characters, but the text is written for hard-core fans, referencing too many other stories and heroes that they have never heard of. I would have rather had fresh pieces that explicitly addressed the movie versions, but that probably would have cost too much.
Strangely, there are full-page ads for a bunch of Thor and Iron Man collections and a now-outdated Free Comic Book Day ad (this issue came out May 4), but no ads for X-Men comic books or collections.
Overall, I would say this is useless for the movie fan — there just isn’t enough connection between the content and what they’re looking for. Marvel focused too much on what they wanted to push, not enough on what the reader might want.
Thor Official Movie Special
Thor, on the other hand, focuses on the character as a multimedia phenomenon. It’s full of pictures, and it’s written for a younger audience of kids, with less text and more open design. The Who’s Who profiles are barely one paragraph instead of being pages of unknown cites and names. The Q&A section focuses on the actors and director, with simple questions that explain the plot of the movie.
Picture galleries show movie images and pinups as well as set and costume designs. A comic timeline lists key issues and dates in a fun-to-read format that discusses the history without being overwhelming. There are trivia quizzes and puzzle pages as well. It may be $10, but this is clearly a magazine designed for a kid to spend a lot of time with. It’s almost like a periodical version of a behind-the-scenes art book, although aimed younger.
The included comic was created for this publication. “Citadel of Spires” is by Fred van Lente, Ron Lim, Crimelab Studios, and Don Ho. I would have rather seen something from Thor: The Mighty Avenger, because of the increased role that series gave Jane, but that’s personal preference. This story instead has Loki and the Asgardians. “Citadel of Spires” will also appear as part of Cap and Thor! Avengers #1, available next month from Marvel.