The Editor’s Notes: Marvel NOW!’s Failure of the Fearless Defenders

The Editor’s Notes is an opinion column allowing our writers to express their honest feelings about comic books, the comic book industry, and all that it inspires. The views expressed within belong solely to their author.

Fearless_DefendersLast week, Fearless Defenders went out not with a satisfying bang but with a very confused whimper, but on the whole it was a good series with critical acclaim to go around. So, why did it fail?

The Marvel NOW! relaunch came about as a way to compete with DC’s New 52 reboot, but it also existed to try and establish some much needed gender diversity among its titles (Racial diversity was, regrettably, lacking). Captain Marvel continued into Marvel NOW!, and launched with it were Red She-Hulk, Sif’s tenure on Journey into Mystery, ­X-Men, and Fearless Defenders. Of those series, only X-Men and Captain Marvel remain standing, and Captain Marvel will be getting a relaunch in next year’s All-New Marvel NOW!. Of the canceled titles, Fearless Defenders lasted the longest, but like its sisters fell to low sales. All of these books had potential and good to great writing, so why the failure? The issue was that Marvel very much dedicated itself to putting out these female-lead titles – step one in a diversity initiative – but then did not follow through with them.

It was a bizarre move for those books, Fearless Defenders in particular. Marvel doesn’t have very many A-List female characters, and the ones they do have were mostly in X-Men. If these books were to succeed, they needed to be promoted and marketed properly. Red She-Hulk and Journey into Mystery weren’t renumbered for Marvel NOW! and started at #58 and #646 respectively – why do that? Why not relaunch both titles at #1 like everything else? Already it puts them behind. To look specifically at Fearless Defenders: this book was, obviously, a new edition of the Defenders – a team whose last series was also cancelled by #12 – and more specifically it spun out of the limited series The Fearless, which came out in 2011. The brand wasn’t recognizable and the timing was poor. Instead, why not have called it Fearless Avengers, since the Avengers are the hot brand right now? That would have boosted sales. But more than that, Marvel did not push this book. Marvel pushed Captain Marvel and X-Men, C.M. especially, and so they are still around. But Sif, Betty Ross, and Val and the gang were just left to fend for themselves. This was a terrible choice!

Fearless Defenders was populated by B and C-Listers – wonderful B and C-listers, but B and C-Listers all the same. Valkyrie and Misty Knight are great characters with great history but they are not going to sell a book on their own. This book needed to be promoted and pushed if it wanted to succeed. Tying into a big event like Infinity was a good choice but at #10 it came too late and came with too little. If you’re going to tie into Infinity, make it vital to understand something in Infinity. Mighty Avengers did a much better job with this: it dealt with Luke Cage fighting Thanos’s invasion of Earth and it made a three-issue pilot arc out of it. Good work! X-Men was a part of the huge Battle of the Atom crossover, and important reading for it. That’s the sort of synergy Fearless Defenders needed. Outside of event comics, F.D. could have been integrated with other books by including cameos, crossovers, or just gold old-fashioned marketing. For example, Misty Knight or Valkyrie help out in an issue of Avengers, are amazing, and name-drop their team and how crazy it all is. A little shilly, but it gets the job done. Marvel could have promoted F.D. as the must-read title of the year: It’s got everything you want! Hot girls, great fights, mystery, romance, action, adventure! Read it all in Fearless Defenders! But it got nothing. It’s like throwing someone with no swimming lessons into the deep end without supervision and expecting them to not drown.

fearless_defenders_03-009Marvel did step one but its lack of follow-through killed all of its female-lead titles. Fearless Defenders could have easily been Marvel’s answer to DC’s Birds of Prey. But while Birds of Prey ran for over 100 issues, Fearless Defenders was canned at an infuriating dozen. All-New Marvel NOW! is going to give gender diversity a second shot with She-Hulk, Black Widow, Elektra, a Captain Marvel relaunch, and Ms. Marvel. Maybe Marvel has learned from the failures of Fearless Defenders et al, but if not these ladies are likely looking at ten to twelve issues as well.

For fans interested in Marvel keeping its doors open to diversity, just about the only thing you can do right now is buy those books, and keep buying them. For Marvel to give diversity – gender, racial, sexual, etc. – a push, readers need to push them to do it. Write, tweet, tumbl that you want diversity, constantly, and when that diversity happens: reward it. All-New Marvel NOW! is giving it another shot, and so we need to be there to reward it. Buy Black Widow. Buy Iron Patriot. Buy Elektra, She-Hulk, X-Men, Captain and Ms. Marvel. Buy Fearless Defenders.

About Anne Mortensen-Agnew

Anne Mortensen-Agnew is a painfully lawful good, lifelong superhero enthusiast currently residing in Los Angeles. She attended Loyola Marymount University, netting a degree in English and Screenwriting, which she uses to legitimize constantly talking about superheroes. She has twice written term papers about Sailor Moon. Talk to her about them. When not writing for Kabooooom!, she spends her time reading Marvel comics, complaining about DC's editorial staff, and writing comics of her own. You can find her sitting on her couch, or on Twitter @AnneMAgnew

2 comments on “The Editor’s Notes: Marvel NOW!’s Failure of the Fearless Defenders

  1. The sad truth is that Marvel has no interest in diversity past a token effort to make headlines for one day and then move on to the next over-hyped event.

  2. A “Fearless Avengers” comic as opposed to Fearless Defenders might have fared better. A line-up with: She Hulk, Valkyrie, Black Widow, Namora, Elektra, and Mockingbird would have been a lot better (a re-imagined Spiral would be awesome too).
    Misty Knight is not who I would imagine leading a superhero team. A team consisting of Jessica Cage, Colleen Wing, Dakota North, Julia Carpenter and MK as a new Heroes- I mean- Heroines for Hire makes a lot more sense! (maybe as a 501c)?
    Anyway, thank you for your article even if it took me the better part of a year to read it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *