In a recent CBR blog ‘editorial’, Jerry Ordway writes about his feelings about the ‘darkening’ of MARY MARVEL. I have to say that I agree with everything Jerry says in his writings. It truly astounds me that it seems as though there are no characters to be spared a transformation to a dark, grim and ‘extreme’ version of their former selves. Don’t get me wrong– I enjoy comic book heroes being put through their paces and facing dark and foreboding threats. I can even appreciate the death of a character or the experiences of a character making them cynical, jaded and … yeah, dark. However, when the entirety of a comic book company’s line of books becomes some shadowed mirror of their former incarnations…I just get tired and lose interest in everything that company might have to offer. That’s what’s happened for me with DC’s books. When I see the image of MARY MARVEL being struck by lightning and transforming into some dark kind-of-slutty teenager in a black cheerleader’s outfit… it makes me wonder why.

I would think that with DC’s new MINX line of comics aimed at girls, MARY MARVEL would have been a perfect candidate for introducing young ladies to a more superhero-themed character. It really doesn’t do DC any good, in my opinion, to guarantee that women of any age will be repelled by their attempts to cater to the ever dwindling male fan base who like their female characters scantily clad…. and dark.

Am I an old fuddy-duddy for feeling this way? I don’t think so. I feel like I’m someone who likes to see some balance in comics that will help them grow… not keep on the path of becoming a prurient niche market.

OK.. that’s it for another week. Have a great weekend, all.

This is Entry 387.


28 Responses to “DARK MARY”

  1. Colin Says:

    Mike, you’re gonna get such a big wet kiss from Bill Nolan at Heroes for this post.

  2. Bill Williams Says:

    I agree with youze guys about ‘darkening’ characters. The response to a darkening world would not seem to lie in seeing how dark you can be.

    Why is it that creators take only the surface gloss of the Watchmen or Dark Phoenix and miss the underlying story?

    And I like the redesign of the site.


  3. Demonskrye Says:

    The really sad thing is that this darker take on superheroes used to be a rebellion against the squeaky clean superhero image back when stuff like “Watchmen” and “Dark Knight” came out. But now the industry is continuing to “rebel” when both they and the readership seem to have forgotten what they’re rebelling against. Dark, gritty, angsty superheroes are no longer new and cutting edge; they’re the norm. Announcements that there’s going to be a new dark edgy take on Mary Marvel or Space Ghost or whoever now elicit more yawns than shock because that’s what we expect. The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Are good stories based on this model possible. Sure. But they’re also possible when your hero is an inherrant do-gooder, and even more so when your hero is a human being, neither ridiculously perfect or ridiculously flawed. I totally agree that we need to get some balance back into superhero comics.

  4. Anthony Hunter Says:

    I personally can’t stand the evil side of things becoming more and more popular. I still like like the good guys being good, and the bad guys being bad… I’m only 24 yrs old, but I seem to apart of a dying breed. I can only me and others like me, can strive to make things good once more!

  5. Jim Harvey Says:

    I agree with you. I also would like to see the market open up to all kinds of stories for all ages and sexes and not just for the “fanboys” that want the dark and grim type of stories. I feel comics are going too far into that direction and are keeping the ever shrinking fanboys niche market but are alienating the casual and new market they could be getting.I am a fuddy duddy and have been reading since 1970 and the amount of different type of stories(genres) is not as vast now as it was then. I am actually cutting out some comics because I can no longer recognize the character i have loved for all these years.

    Your new website looks great.


  6. Brian M. Says:

    For whatever reason, economic would be my guess, the big two have decided to stick with giving their core constiuancy what they think they want – grim and gritty – rather than trying to expand their audience to include tween girls by using an established wholesome female superhero to introduce young girls to superhero comics.

    It’s a shame, because they are definitely missing an opportunity here. One of the morning shows did a piece this morning where they interviewed young girls about the recent exploits of Lindsay Lohan and company. The young gals they talked to, while fans of the tweener star, are not impressed with her antics at all and appeared to be ready to embrace a positive role model.

    Sigh . . I hope the big two wake up before it’s too late.

  7. Jeff Parker Says:

    “prurient niche market” – that’s a perfect description. I guess if you want to do the Britany Spears arc, Disney teen to all-growed-up now- Mary Marvel is the obvious choice, though I’d hate it too because I love the Marvel Family beyond all reason. If they’re just making her “eeevil” then big deal, because that means nothing. But if she gets all trampy in a realistic fashion, then may all creators involved have daughters one day.

    I hate myself for chiming in on this stuff, because everytime we do so, we’re just giving the companies a free ad for doing it. You can imagine how much I and Mike and other creators here regularly hear “yeah, but now everyone’s talking about the book!” when talking to editorial, and just like with Nielsen ratings, that’s what sends the vote. And it’s sure not like everything I write is family friendly, but we should set a few characters in stone and draw a line or they just lose identity. I don’t like everything Jeff Smith is doing in his Captain Marvel series, but I’m buying every issue because there is a lot of good work in there and it’s a much better approach to those characters. And I like the way he draws Mr. Tawny!

  8. Alex B. Says:

    I agree totally. I love the old Mary Marvel. I haven’t gotten around to reading the latest countdown yet, but it’ll be a real shame if they go with a darker, “kewler” version of her. Don’t we have enough of that already? It’s hard enough finding female comic book heroes that my wife won’t roll her eyes at already.

    Is is laziness, perhaps? It’s really easy to take something light and make it dark. It all reminds me of the Penny Arcade incident a few years ago when they mocked the American McGee Alice game with their own dark and twisted Little Miss Muffet (which they promptly had to remove after Hallmark threatened them with legal action).

  9. Mafus Says:

    A couple of days ago, I read an article on CNN.com having to do with young girls who are now growing up in our current sex and porn-obsessed culture. A culture where trashiness is celebrated (Lohan, Hilton, Spears, etc.) and the “good girls” (Mandy Moore?) get hardly any coverage at all. A lot of girls growing up today are obsessed with being noticed and it doesn’t matter to them what they have to do to achieve this, according to the article. The Paris Hiltons of the world are their role models. Apparently, getting on the news for having a sex video released online and getting thrown in the pokey are better than no press at all, right?

    Sadly, DC’s strategy may well bring more girls to these books than the alternative. Doesn’t make it right, though.

  10. Victor Torres Says:

    Hi Mike – i read the post…. I don’t think they are going to make her a darker character the way everyone believes. I have been reading countdown and this is just the 1st step in her getting her powers back. I believe the trial and tribulations that she will go through will only make her a stronger better character and put her back on the top where she belongs. I think what they have done with the Marvel family is make them grow up a bit more .. but i don’t think that it will make them a darker family …. just a a little wiser

  11. Scott Says:

    What really strikes me as odd about “darkening” Mary is that part of Infinite Crisis was to lighten up the grim and gritty characters, most notably Batman.

  12. Tom Mulherin Says:

    Mike, I dig your picture of MM, and I understand the concern over what’s going on in Countdown. Victor’s got a point, though. Although things don’t look good for MM, we don’t (as of yet) know how things are going to play out for the character. As such, I’m giving Dini and co. the benefit of the doubt for the present. I don’t particularly mind the new costume, although I do wish they’d lengthen her skirt a bit.

    What concerns me more is the blanket judgment you make about DC’s line of comics:

    “However, when the entirety of a comic book company’s line of books becomes some shadowed mirror of their former incarnations…I just get tired and lose interest in everything that company might have to offer. That’s what’s happened for me with DC’s books.”

    Although this is certainly what’s happening with some characters, and the Marvel family is a notable example, is it really happening throughout the line? Kurt Busiek’s Superman, for example, has been nothing short of joyful, IMO. And both Grant Morrison and Paul Dini have made Batman warmer than he’s been in years (although I will admit that the portrayal of the character is sometimes uneven). I’m told that the current Atom and Blue Beetle are also loads of fun, although I don’t presently read either title. So for all the bad things going on at DC–I’m looking at you, Supergirl–there seem to be lots of good things, too. Finally, and this hopefully won’t be a super inflammatory comment, how is the darkening of the DC characters any less worrisome than what’s being done to Iron Man (or Speedball, dba Penance) over at Marvel? Certainly the current characterizations of these heroes are different (to say the least) from their classic portrayals. By the time Marvel’s done with the current broad storyline, IM may never be a viable hero again.

    (One obvious point, which I’m aware of, is that neither IM or Speedball have been sexualized in the way MM or Supergirl has.)

  13. Bill Nolan Says:

    Oh, yeah. That’s the stuff! Agreed on all counts, naturally. So nice, I had to comment from on the road in Toronto!

  14. Erik Burnham Says:


    All the fiddling with the SHAZAM mythos to make it more (relevant? edgy? hip?) is just not to my liking.

    And – like or hate his work – Judd Winick is not the guy I’d have heading the charge on Shazam’s direction… he doesn’t do ‘innocent.’

    And that’s a big part of the concept: innocence.


    (Sorry. I rant.)

  15. Gerard Says:

    I agree with your assessment of the “over-darkening” of characters. However, I doubt that the MINX line will be in-continuity, just as the Marvel Adventures line in not in continuity. Sure, this brings up all kinds of problems so far as getting more people to read the mainstream-continuity stories, but I doubt that the MINX line (like the Marvel Adventures line) is intended as a “gateway” experience.

  16. Henry Says:

    I guess I still find it funny how Marvel has gotten tons darker then DC has while DC has lightened up a great deal. Yet DC will always be the one slammed for doing something dark in a story that just literally began. Maybe being exclusive just helps with these types of opinions. 😉
    Plus, I’ve seen more women turned away from comics by Marvel stories and artwork then much of what DC has done.

  17. Jay Says:

    Mike –

    While I can appreciate your comments (and your great sketch!), I can’t see why you single out DC in this issue. Marvel has become a very dark place as well, with characters dying, merging into other characters, turning into assassins, etc. Blame the industry if you want to cast blame, but to single it into one publisher seems unfair and biased to your current employer.

    By the way, in addition, even though COUNTDOWN features this story, Jeff Smith’s Marvel Family tale is very much available at exactly the same time from DC, and it fits the model that you see to want to see of the Marvel family. I would say that gives both sides a chance to select the version that they like. Sounds pretty decent to me…

  18. Stephen James. Says:

    Hey Mr. Weringo I’ve been reading your blog for a long time but this is my first time posting.

    Let me first say that your work on Fantastic Four with Mark Waird was an incredible influence on me, especially the first issue. I love the fact that there some artist that are willing to use a somewhat cartoony (or perhaps a better word is carictured) style in Super hero comics. It helps sometimes to lighten the often dark tone of modern super hero comics.

    Which of course leads to the topic of the post which I do agree with to a certain extent. Some hero’s don’t need to be “dark” (like the Marvels) but others really are helped by it. I mean I think most people would agree that the tortured Matt Murdock that’s been around since the 80’s is far more interesting then his original incarnation.

  19. Kofi Jamal Simmons Says:

    All I can say is, “Thank the Creator for trade paperbacks.”

    I went from being a every week, going to 7-11/Rite Aid to buy comics kid in the early 80’s to a diehard comicbook shop/direct market teen to avid superbuff as an adult. Yet I really don’t buy new books. Way too expensive for what they are offering and the stories, well, they are all lame to me. Heck, in a six issue run you are lucky to get at least on good fight scene in there. So now I get a few comics here and there, mostly from artists and writers I really enjoy.

    On the topic of the “darken heroes,” this is another reason my interest in comics has dropped heavy. It seems like if someone isn’t going to die, someone is become evil. And while I enjoy a hero getting put thru some struggle, but this now become the “in thing” to do to everyone. I hope Mary Marvel comes out way better than before. I respect Dini and his past work to give him that much credit. However I’m just getting tired of damn near every comic and every “hero” becoming anything but heroic.

    I read comics to escape the real world and see the good guys win. It would be nice to see that happen again. But again, I have my trade paperbacks and comics from years/decades ago. If I have to use that as my comics crutch, so be it.

  20. Neil Hill Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Mike. There may be something to the idea that some characters tend to hang on to a more nostalgic image of innonence which is just irresponsible today, but the Shazam/Marvel family for me have always tread that delicate patth quite well and still remain vital and meaningful even today.

    Oh, and I really like your Mary Marvel sketch, Mike!

  21. John Christ Says:

    Personally only buy dark superhor comics, political comics, or “dick n’ fart” joke comics. The characters I could never get into were the goody goody ones like Superman or Cap (pre Civil War).
    But that said, I don’t think that all characters are able to evolve (devolve) into a dark storyline without losing an integral part of what makes that character recognizable. I’d put Mary Marvel in that category and would have to agree w/ you that the darkenign of her is not only unrealistic but flat out pointless.
    You can darken Spidey up, his origins almsot demand a periodic death, but you can really have Mickey Mouse runnign around trying to avenge a dead Minny, makes no sense at all.

  22. Michael Says:

    Oh this is so getting linked on my blog! I couldn’t agree more Mike. Why single out DC? Because it should be a counterbalance to Marvel. Why bother picking up DC if Marvel is doing dark better? It feels like I’ve been pounding the blogs, groups and the like for five long years trying to call attention to the darkening of characters that don’t need to be.I was gonna post a long reply here but instead of taking up Mike’s site (which I love the redesign man! Awesome, and Mary looks quite fetching!), I’m gonna blog this if anyone wants to read it at my MySpace blog.-Michael

  23. michael Says:

    OK, I hope I’m not posting twice here, something seems wonky….anyhow, I just wanted to say that it feels like I’ve been saying these exact things for over 5 years. I do see DC going to dark. While I trust Dini to a large degree, remember he doesn’t get final say. Didio does. And we know how much he just loves fun. I’m not meaning to spam but I’m gonna post the rest of my reaction on my MySpace blog (click the name I think), and Mike, that’s a great sketch of Mary!

  24. Diego Jourdan Says:

    Is it me, or are the superhero franchise companies repeating the exact same mistakes of old? Costume changes,character deaths, crappy crossover events…all in the name of what exactly? Sinking the whole market into another huge “mid-1990’s style” slump? For bigass corporations they sure don’t seem to learn form their mistakes.
    Fortunately there’s still plenty of indy books and comic-strip compilations out there, or i’d just stick to real (as in PROSE) books!

  25. Oz Says:

    With artist/writers like Jeff Smith and Mike Kunkel doing Shazam stories for DC, I’m not too worried that the entire mythos of these characters is going to be tainted or left in the hands of writers/marketers who have no care for the history of these characters…

    I think Jeff handled them extremely well.
    I can’t wait to see what Kunks does with them!

  26. Tom Mulherin Says:

    I read Countdown 46 today. While I still don’t agree with your characterization of DC as a whole, Mike, I don’t like what they’re doing with MM. I was hoping they wouldn’t go that way and they did. And don’t even get me started on Pharyngula. Gross.

  27. Fabio Says:

    Mike I love your style!

  28. Jack Brooks Says:

    I’m a long-time lover of action and sci-fi stories, who’s still kicking himself for discarding my original copy of the “Gwen Stacey Dies” issue of Spider-Man. My son’ll be off to college in two years, and we could have used the $$ help!

    Does anybody other than Kurt Busiek know how to write “goodness” anymore? IMO, it’s takes a certain amount of sympathy with the downtrodden, and the experience of watching somebody real (like a father, a kid sister, a grandmother, a good friend, or anyone brave) be kind, or do something admirable, unselfish, sacrificial, or right, to write virtue well.

    I don’t think comic-book writers understand virtue. I think most of them are guessing at it. That’s why they complain about Superman being bland. Superman is only “bland” to a writer who’s never met a masculine guy who also has high ethics and is optimistic about life. I agree with Tolkien and C./S Lewis — the virtue characters ought to be the ones bursting with vitality and color, because they’re the ones capable of understanding love and friendship. Tolkien deliberately depicted evil as ugly, draining, empty, and selfish. The villainous characters shouldn’t be the “really interesting” ones.

    I think most comic-book writers’ minds are blackened by pornography. Many of them pornographize anything they get control of. Don’t any of these guys have little sisters? (I consider the bloodletting in modern comics to be a form of porn; violence is depicted with the sole intention of causing crude excitement, just like porn). I bet very few of them are dads, or dads of little girls.