Saturday, September 11, 2010

From Your Perspective, What is Marvel's Flagship Title?

Doug: Ah, this may be a tough question. What lens am I going to look through to analyze this? Is it my Silver, Bronze, or Modern (whatever...) Age lens? Do I factor in periphery products like films, cartoons, action figures? Do I consider the presence of such and such a character in the public conscience of Joe Shmoe on the street?

For simplicity's sake, I think we can narrow the focus to four core titles, keeping in mind that the presence of splinter-titles shouldn't necessarily enhance your judgment, nor should lack of splinter-titles hinder your vote. Those titles are, in alphabetical order:

Amazing Spider-Man
Fantastic Four
Uncanny X-Men


Inkstained Wretch said...

I've gotta go with Fantastic Four here. It was there at the beginning, defined the Marvel style and remained strong throughout the years.

Anonymous said...

Well, as much I loved the days of the Claremont/Cockrum and Claremont/Byrne X-Men, I can't call them the flagship book because they became too much a representation of what went bad with comics and also too much their own little company.

The FF and the Avengers laid the groundwork for the "Marvel Universe" during the Silver and Bronze Ages, so in some ways they both deserve some recognition.

But! If really, instant Spidey the most recognizable Marvel character?

Sean Strange said...

Fantastic Four seems like the only answer here, at least from my Silver/Bronze Age perspective. FF started the Marvel Age of superheroes and introduced more key characters of the Marvel Universe than any other title. Just go down the list: the Skrulls, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Doom, the Watcher, the Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Adam Warlock, etc. In a lot of ways Marvel has just been fleshing out what Jack and Stan created in the glorious pages of the 1960’s FF for the past 40 years!

Anonymous said...

While it is my least favorite, I have to say that Spider-Man is Marvel's flagship title.

It may have to do with the single hero versus team (which certainly is what makes it my least favorite), but the focus on Spidey is always on Spidey.


Rip Jagger said...

When I was reading back when, the flagship was the FF despite their fading away when Spidey caught the imagination and later when X-mania broke out. The Avengers have the bully pulpit these days, but I'd say Spider-Man is the current tentpole title that the others spin on.

Rip Off

Chuck said...

I agree with Rip.... and what seems to be unfortunate is that once a title is a flagship, it can't seem to recapture the magic that made it a flagship.

It's seems imposible to match the grandeur of Lee/Kirby FF, the angst of Peter Parker/ MJ/Gwen ,and the wonder of the New X-Men. It's way too early to come up with a superlative for the Avengers, but that is the franchise carrying Marvel right now.

Doug said...

Sean Strange makes a point much along the lines of my thinking on this -- you can argue that even Spidey spins out of the FF. The rogues gallery, the angst, the supporting cast (although Spidey's was built before the FF's family began to extend with Wyatt, Crystal, the Inhumans, etc.) -- much of this is Lee/Kirby, and they never did it better than in the Fantastic Four.

So while perhaps in the public conscience there's no contest between Spidey or the X-Men and the FF, I'd still have to say it's the seminal influence across the Marvel Universe.


david_b said...

Sorry, late on this, but thought about it over the weekend and wanted to comment. It's so evident that each age had it's own. In my opinion, Silver (60s) was FF, Bronze, (70s) was Spidey perhaps Avengers and later Hulk, 80s was X-Men (once Wolverine took off..), late 80s/90s was Spidey due to McFarlane's art.

If we're talking Flagship titles, I guess it depends on several litmus's..: Sales/Readership, Marketing (exposure), Influence (mentioned here a few times) over rest of Marvel universe..

Does anyone dare to ponder what the flagships were for DC over the Ages..?

LOVE this site..!!! Thanks for the daily excellence, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Another good question. Thanks, Doug.
I think the answer to this one depends on how you want to take question.
Very surprised that you didn’t include Hulk on the list. In the Bronze Age, he surely was THE face of Marvel at least to the non-comic reading world (don’t agree? Match this wouldn’t like me when I’m angry).

I think Spidey is the definitive character. As you say, the whole Marvel soap opera is there....the teen angst, the real life, girlfriend trouble, Aunt May doing the dishes in between bouts of getting attacked by Doc Ock. Everything missing from Superman is there in Spiderman.

FF are of course the start point, but does that make them the epitome? They are more or less a family unit, which is actually unlike any other comic.

X men certainly carry the meta-story, the theme ( racism, man’s inhumanity to man) in every drop of ink, it’s inherent in their mise en scene, and it’s a very Marvel thing. With great power....

But actually, leaving aside who was most famous, who got there first and who has the most back-story flying around, if I take your question literally i.e. Which one is the flagship, which ship has all the top brass aboard, it’s the Avengers. Everyone who is anyone from Hulk, Thor, Cap, Iron Man forwards has been an Avenger. All the good writers (Stan, RT, Englehart, Roger Stern, Shooter, Michelinie ) were there except Gerber ( I only recall one SG issue). The art wasn’t always so great, but superb long runs by John Buscema & Tom Palmer and George Perez early work, Byrne of course, and flashes of genius from Adams & Smith. The huge (in scope) stories started with them. The long story arcs started with them (Englehart), likewise the assimilation of all the past history into stories ( although these days, this ret-conning business seems to involve just making it up retrospectively without justifying or explaining). Actually, and this might be the most interesting point, the blurring of the lines between heroes and villains (in both directions) began with them.


William said...

Hate to post a comment on such an old topic. But, I just discovered your awesome blog about a month and half ago and I've been playing catch up and reading many of the older posts. I keep wishing I would have been on board back then so that I could have chimed in with my 2 cents. So, I figure what the heck?

I think the question can best be answered like this...

In the the 1960's Marvel's Flagship title was definitely the Fantastic Four.

In the 70's to mid-80's it was Amazing Spider-Man.

From the mid-80's through the 90's it was the X-Men.

And today, I'd say it's the Avengers.

What with all the movies like Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America and the upcoming Avengers. Plus the fact that just about every Marvel Comic these days seems to be tied in with the Avengers in some way or another (including Spider-Man), I'd have to say that the Avengers is currently Marvel's flagship title.

Andreas Krauß said...

In the Sixties, it was The Fantastic Four, because it created about 80% of the marvel Universe.

In the Seventies & early Eighties, it was The Amazing Spider-Man.

In the late Eighties to the late 2000s, it was The X-Men franchise.

But for the last few years, it is The Avengers.

Andreas Krauß said...


Wow. Grat minds think alike, it seems.:)

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