This Friday, after what seems like an endless wait, Thor: Love and Thunder is coming to cinemas. As it does, fans will indulge in the penultimate episode as well mrs. Marvel, which ends its six-episode season on Disney+ next week. This isn’t the first time Marvel has doubled down on content. Last year, Spider-Man: No Way Home fell during the middle Hawkeye‘s streaming run, and Black Widow open same as Loki was finishing his first season. Just a few years ago, fans had to wait months between new series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; now, there’s often more to watch at once—and it’s only going to get worse.
Or rather. To be clear, this is not a tirade against gluttony. We’ve already done that. Instead, it’s about finding a balance in your Marvel media diet. For all the arguments that the superhero market is a bubble about to burst, people are looking for this content. Three big-screen movies and anywhere between four and five Disney+ projects a year don’t seem to be keeping up with the demand for the Marvel brand these days. Now, in the space of a decade, Marvel has successfully recreated the comic book experience in mainstream media.
That’s not to say that Marvel invented good comics – they’ve been around ever since Superman: The Movie came out in the 1970s and Tim Burton fell in love with Batman 1989. And the studio hadn’t invented serialized storytelling across multiple platforms either. Star Trek used to do this when it had two shows and the occasional movie coming to theaters in the early 90s. Rather, it’s that Marvel releases so much content that fans are forced to pick a character, faction, or story and stick with it.
To understand how this might go, think back to Marvel in the 80s and 90s. As the company’s popularity exploded thanks to the work of creators such as Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson and others, new series and new heroes were constantly added to the Marvel lineup. Some were spin-offs with existing characters—the Punisher was a villain in Spider-Man comics for more than a decade before becoming his own publishing success—while others were cut entirely from new material in hopes of finding unexpected the next big thing, even if they would quickly melt into creative limbo. (Ouch, poor Slapstick, poor NFL SuperPro, poor US1…)
However, during this time, Marvel’s work began to exceed what any person could reasonably read. As the company’s line grew past 30, 40, 50 issues a month, only mega-fans — the self-proclaimed “Marvel zombies” — could manage. The average fan began to choose what to follow; “Marvel fans” became “X-men fans” or “Spiderman fans”.
The company knew this and even leaned into it for a while. In the mid-’90s, he replaced his editor-in-chief with five group editors, each overseeing an element of the line broken into popular brands or “families” of comics. However, this attitude did not last – in the end, the editor of the X-Men group was promoted over the others.
We’re not yet at the stage where Marvel is producing as many shows and movies as they once did with comics, but in terms of the hours of attention needed to keep up with everything, fans are probably reaching a similar breaking point. Despite the (perhaps now abandoned) motto that claimed “everything is connected,” the more Marvel Studios produces, the more important it will become for audiences to choose the stories and characters they want to follow and leave the rest behind… unless I want that only watch Marvel Studios productions from now on.
It’s a shift in attitude that will likely have the same impact on Marvel Studios as it did on Marvel Comics, allowing creators to become unknown and move away from a single, company-wide tone, freed from the expectation of appealing to the widest possible audience at all times. Something like mrs. Marvel shows how good Marvel can be when it gets specific—and who doesn’t want to see more of that? So vote with your streaming dollars and hours, Marvel fans: You’re only going to make the MCU a better, more interesting place.