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Why Marvel's 'Season One' Graphic Novels May Not Be Such A Great Idea

Is it really necessary to re-tell these classic stories when Marvel could easily reprint them?

Several days prior to this year's San Diego Comic-Con Marvel announced that they would be launching four graphic novels titled 'Season One' which will focus on four of their biggest properties. These graphic novels would serve to tell the origin stories of the original X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil and Spider-Man, respectively.

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The announcement was later confirmed at SDCC 2011 and when Vice President at Marvel Tom Brevoort revealed in an interview with USA Today that the focus for these graphic novels would be to draw in a new, younger audience and introduce them to the origin stories of some of Marvel's biggest characters.

"We're hoping to introduce folks who have never read any of these characters to these characters in this format, and also provide an interesting and illuminating story for people who have read a lot of Fantastic Four and Daredevil," says Brevoort, Marvel's senior vice president and executive editor.
"If you want to dip your toe in the water and find out the essence of what Marvel is all about, here is a nice place for you to start in big, sizable, meaty chunks."

The way Marvel sees it, publishing these graphic novels is their way of giving a younger generation of fans who have never read the Steve Ditko, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stories an opportunity to see them told through the perspective of new creative teams. But is that a good thing? And if they they have to re-tell these classic tales, why do they have to be retold by new creative teams? What's wrong with the original stories?

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The way I see it is this: the original origin stories of these characters are classic, however in terms of the current Marvel continuity they are irrelevant. These characters are different now than they were when they were first created -- some of them don't even exist in the regular Marvel universe (Yeah, I'm looking at you Jean Grey and Johnny Storm).

These origin stories are classic tales told by comic book greats, so why should they be re-told by a new creative team? What's wrong with the original stories? If the publisher wants to draw the attention of new audiences to these classic origin stories, why don't they simply compile the original stories told by the original creators and reprint them into a graphic novel like an X-Men omnibus, for example? Marvel could even brand them the same way, marketing them towards new readers and selling them in the same format.

In fact, the publisher could even throw in a modern version of the characters by including issues of a recent story arc in the back of the graphic novel, demonstrating to the reader just how much these characters have evolved over the course of their character history. They could even include an accompanying wiki for the characters and allow the reader to judge for themselves how the character have changed over the years.

Based on Brevoort's quote, the purpose of these books is to target a new and very different audience. The question remains, however, what is the ultimate goal of the publisher in releasing these 'Season One' graphic novels? You would think that if you want to draw in a new audience, you would give them an accessible story that would make it easy for them to jump into the current ongoing story arcs. However, based on what we know about these books, drawing the reader in for more don't necessarily seem to be the ultimate goal.

Even if these books sell, shouldn't the publisher want the readers to come back for more? The problem with the 'Season One' graphic novels is that while they are introducing these characters to readers "for the first time," what will these readers read after they complete these books? Take for example the 'Season One' X-Men book which highlights the original team (Cyclops, Beast, Jean Grey, Iceman and Angel). If a new reader were to pick up a current X-Men title they would find out pretty quickly these characters have all radically changed and some aren't even on the X-Men team. And what about the 'Season One' Fantastic Four? Currently, there isn't even a 'Fantastic Four' ongoing title, not to mention one of the original members is presently dead.

While we shouldn't judge without having read the books, it's a little hard to believe that these books will be a "nice place to start" knowing what we know about them so far. My only hope is that the original stories told by the comic greats will not be forgotten. What do you think of Marvel's 'Season One' graphic novels? Do you think it's a good idea? If you found yourself at a book store, would you pick this up? Check out the 9-page preview of the 'Season One: Fantastic Four' graphic novel as well as the covers of all four 'Season One' books below.

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