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Is Marvel Shelving The Mega-Event After ‘Siege?’

Since the success of 1984′s “Secret Wars,” Marvel Comics has delivered crossovers to the comics crowd with staggering reliability.

From champion contests to apocalyptic ages, civil wars and dark reigns, readers have voted, year in and year out, to uphold the publisher’s mega-event precedent with many of their dollars.

That’s why I was interested to read Dan Buckley’s insights into Marvel’s 2010 slate in his recent interview with ICv2. If I’m understanding him correctly the days of the universe-wide “event” may be tabled at the House of Ideas for the immediate future:

“We’re very excited about where we’re going to take the Marvel Universe in our Heroic Age; we want to go into more of what we’re calling the Heroic Age after Siege. We’re trying to get a little bit more into the families of publishing, not as line-wide, to provide people with very digestible beginning, middle and end content with top characters and top creators in conjunction with the Marvel Universe.”

Marvel’s heroes have been pretty thoroughly disassembled since the early 2000s. Good guys don’t play well together and the bad guys are running the show. While this theme has successfully fueled a lot of conflict for readers to enjoy, it’s also further complicated backstories for the kinds of audiences Marvel’s movies may interest (as well as the average comic book fan who can’t afford 37 tie-ins).

Given this summer’s “Iron Man 2″ release and 2011′s “Thor” and “Captain America” debuts, Marvel’s most heroic Avengers are poised to assemble onscreen before long and its comics could stand to synch up a bit in the name of a clearer brand message.

Judging from Buckley’s remarks, the publisher is fully aware of this and has a plan to convince more folks to make theirs Marvel:

“We’re also developing a platform of products that will be beginning, middle and end, limited series of books that are very driven by having great creators working on some of our top characters. We’re trying to kind of cleanse the palate a little bit. I’m not saying that we’ll never do a line-wide crossover again. I just think the consumers, the retailers, our creators, our editors all need to breathe a little bit and tell some stories that they want to tell amongst themselves or by themselves. Hopefully that’s something that will excite the creative community. We still have to market it and package it in a way that people can understand it and get excited about it. I’m very excited about that approach, with lending the creators a little bit more time to chew amongst themselves.”

Even though it’s clear that Buckley is trying to communicate that Marvel is going to establish a new status-quo without any of the negative connotations that stating so directly could carry (status quo = boring for many), I can’t say I’d mind a breather from tie-in checklists the size of a small child. As far as the delivery system for Marvel’s upcoming approach, it’ll be interesting to see how they connect with consumers. Will they opt for another new universe in the vein of DC’s “Earth One” OGNs? Refurbish the Ultimate line? Cut down on miniseries? Concentrate on trades? Focus more on digital comics?

Buckley’s comments on creator freedom and self-contained storytelling definitely seem encouraging on the surface for many reasons, but with an audience built on a mega-event foundation decades in the making, it will be interesting to see how this approach pans out over the next year and what tools the company will utilize to keep its audience coming back.

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