Prose and Cons: Do Marvel Novels Defeat the Point of Comics?


Newsarama reported just a few short days ago that Marvel will begin a series of prose novels (like, real books with words!) starting with an adaptation of Civil War. Keep reading to find out: Are prose versions of Marvel comics a good idea? What kind of readers are these books for? Has there ever, in the history of human civilization, been an example of a person advancing their love for the Marvel universe through books without pictures? Is that person writing the post you’re reading? And is he really as handsome as he seems?

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Marvel Novels are a ‘comin

I love reading comic books. This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s found their way to the site and was sober enough to view the URL: Comic Book Herald. And even though I’ve come to love comic books as much as I do – and despite the fact that I read an inhuman amount of comics almost daily (sometimes, yes, about the inhumans) – I make a distinction between comic books and commonly accepted literature. There are comic books… and then there are books.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to argue that comic books can have an equal educational and artistic impact. This defense-mechanism, the one that screams “comic books are for smart people too!!!”, is familiar to all comic lovers and is at the forefront of most social interactions that evaluate the intellectual merit of the medium. The unfamiliar look down on the genre as a lesser, more childish subculture of entertainment. If there’s one separation the non-comic reader loves to make, it’s that comic books most certainly are not literature. They’re for those in perpetual adolescence. You keep your Hulk, I’ll stick with my Hemingway, thank you very much.

This artistic worth of the entire medium will not be resolved in this space, but the new Marvel prose line offers an interesting potential rebuttal for those who would so readily dismiss the genre. What happens when you take one of the best-selling comic books of the past decade and adapt it to a novel? Do the core concepts behind the comic evolve? Can the story take on a greater thematic purpose?

The answer, plain and simple, is probably not. Civil War, despite its interesting analysis of freedom-at-what-price and the American way, will not become War and Peace by virtue of replacing the drawings with paragraphs.

That said, I see a lot of value in Marvel novels. When I was in high school and very much out of the comic book world ( I had a weird comics growth. Didn’t touch the medium from the ages of 13-20, I somehow got my hands on a copy of Marvel novels. Not comics. Novels.

Simply put, the books ( it was a trilogy I gave my Dad as a gift) were pure, unfiltered comic book/fantasy/sci fi madness. The plot involved major Marvel villains taking control of the cosmic cube and bending reality to their wills. I only recently recalled the series was called the X-Men: Chaos Engine Trilogy (the books transitioned from Dr. Doom, to Magneto, to the Red Skull). To recap: these books involved the whole Marvel U blended into one ( a new concept for me), alternate realities (another primarily new concept to me), and books. Like words without pictures.

My dad lent those books to an uncle of mine and no one has seen them since (this would be the same uncle who lost a #1 x-men in a freaking basement flood). I have no idea how those books would hold up now. But what I do know is that I freaking loved those books. Found them absolutely enthralling.

Other Marvel books could be similarly effective for individuals interested in these characters. This is easy to overlook, but there are tons of people interested in these characters who have never touched an actual effing comic. There are so many popular mediums boosting these characters now (animated tv series, DVD specials, movies) that you can build comics fans in other ways. It’s actually a potentially brilliant move (albeit one that requires a patience I don’t expect to see).

You can read an interview with Marvel EIC Axel Alonso here about his plans for the novel line.

Do you think this is a good idea for Marvel? Share your thoughts in the comments! Thanks!



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3 Replies to “Prose and Cons: Do Marvel Novels Defeat the Point of Comics?”

  1. Marvel is just copying DC yet again. DC has been putting out prose versions of some of their more well known story lines (particularly the Crises) for quite a while now. I own a prose version of “52”.

    1. Not surprising – after all, we’re getting Marvel NOW! in the wake of the New 52 (course, Marvel swears they’re not the same!). How was the 52 novel compared to the comics?

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