A Talking Racoon and a Tree-Man Walk into a Bookstore…

...and he said, "Wrecked him? Damn near killed him!"

…and he said, “Wrecked him? Damn near killed him!”

Let’s put aside the fact that there is a movie coming out soon that showcases a talking tree and a rocket-spewing racoon as they and their three buddies try to save the galaxy (or steal it in the process). What’s interesting me is that Marvel’s going whole hog with this process with a tour around their galaxy via a tie-in book that highlights our favorite outlandish space rogues.

Now that the Avengers have produced more money in two years than some small European-city-states do in a lifetime, Marvel is taking a few more chances than they once did. Ant-Man, for one, would have been a skit on SNL had Edgar Wright not taken an interest (and Marvel not footed the bill). Guardians of the Galaxy is another, of course, but Marvel’s playing it smart. This is not just a transmedia project that ties comics to films to books. This is map for the future of Marvel content.

Let’s face it, the company is reaching the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the quality of characters they’re putting out. X-Men, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four, and a few others (most notably Iron Fist) are all lost to other studios or development hell. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the rest of the Avenging Crew are winding down their tours of duty or else are planning for it. We’re getting Luke Cage on Netflix and Agents of SHIELD on TV, but the former is a year away and the latter is an unending nightmare from which we cannot awake. That means Marvel has to expand their horizons in a BIG way.

Like, galactic-sized.

Like, galactic-sized.

So, let’s add this up…

  • Marvel’s taking chances
  • Profits are rolling in.
  • They need to expand.
  • They are exploring Marvel’s galactic side of the comics.

…which means that things like The Infinity War and Warlock are only a matter of time. With bigger stakes in Avengers 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy about to showcase Marvel’s wild side, audiences are being prepared for a knock-down, drag-em-out fight that could launch a thousand starships… just so long as Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t flop.

I’m not saying it will, but there’s certainly a secondary motive to Marvel’s outreach. So far, mainstream audiences have lapped up every superhero that’s been thrown at them (with a couple notable exceptions) but there’s no guarantee that that will continue. Avengers 2 is almost guaranteed to spontaneously turn into gold coins upon being released but everything else is up for grabs. Marvel is testing the waters here: are audiences prepared? Because if they’re not, Marvel’s going to have to go back to some more mainstream-friendly fare…

Which means a Hulk reboot, a Daredevil reboot, and a Cloak and Dagger movie. Not exactly prime cuts…

...and DC is waiting in the wings for even one slip-up.

…and DC is waiting in the wings for even one slip-up.

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