The voiceover is from a cell phone video Stan Lee made in 2017 (no doubt at the urging of Marvel execs or editors) that seemingly chastises some comic book fans for their intolerance and bigotry.
2017 was the year almost everything went wrong for Marvel Comics. After replacing several of Marvel’s most prominent characters with diverse “stand-ins,” comic book sales were in the gutter and backlash from retailers and fans was fierce.
The decision to swap out recognizable characters like Tony Stark, Thor and Bruce Banner during the height of mainstream excitement for the MCU, coupled with some really dubious business practices, spelled disaster for the comic book direct market and led to the ousting of Marvel’s then editor-in-chief Axel Alonso.
(Oh, and let’s not forget that ill-conceived Captain America storyline that basically turned Cap into a Nazi.)
Despite Marvel’s precarious financial situation being very much their own doing, comic book fans were blamed.
Like everything else in the country at that time, comics became hyper-polarized and comic creators went to “war” with some comic book fans on social media.
This lead to the situation referred to as “Comicsgate,” a portmanteau of ‘comics’ and ‘Watergate.’ (Apparently attaching “gate” to anything means scandal now, I guess.)
Depending on who you ask, Comicsgate was either a bunch of bigots trying to keep women and marginalized people out of the comic book industry, or a bunch of oldschool fans trying to save what they loved about a dying industry and calling out misbehavior by professionals.
There are two sides to every story, of course, but the comics media mostly ran with the “bigot” narrative, often citing the worst examples of behavior they could find by people who claimed to be part of Comicsgate as a reason why the whole movement was without merit.
Marvel, of course, likely viewed these fans as a threat to their bottom line. But who could call them off?
Oh, Stan Lee! Mr. Marvel himself. So Stan was recorded giving a speech about diversity and inclusion and the “world outside your window.”
It’s a great speech, but it’s highly unlikely that the then 93-year-old Stan Lee was keeping up with Twitter drama and fully understood what was going on.
Some comics fans believed Marvel execs were weaponizing Stan to attack the fans who felt they were defending his (and other creators’) legacies, while others thought he was referencing the then-recent Vegas shootings (although the FBI found there was no indication those were racially motivated.)
Here’s some of the text of his message, with the bits Disney has used in the trailer highlighted in bold.
“Marvel has always been, and always will be, a reflection of the world right outside our window. That world may change and evolve, but the one thing that will never change is the way we tell our stories of heroism. Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion or color of their skin.”
“The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance and bigotry. That man next to you — he’s your brother. That woman over there — she’s your sister. And that kid walking by — hey, who knows, he may have the proportionate strength of a spider! We’re all part of one big family — the human family — and we all come together in the body of Marvel.”
Cleverly edited snippets of Stan’s speech can be overhead in the beginning of teaser trailer for Phase 4 of the MCU.
Will Phase 4 of the MCU actually offer ‘escapism’ as promised?
The trailer is meant to give fans “the feels” and seems designed by Disney to encourage people to come back to the theater for “escapism” and also to embrace the massive changes coming to the MCU roster after Avengers: Endgame.
However, some fans are worried that the next Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be overly political, and point to things that directors have said about diversity and inclusion as evidence that Phase 4 will be too “woke.”
Will the MCU Phase 4 be Marvel Comics 2017 All Over Again?
Should Disney double down on overt “woke” political messaging in its Marvel movies, will audiences accept it? There’s some supporting evidence that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier numbers fell off once the Disney+ show dipped a boot into addressing racial injustice.
If that’s indeed true, then maybe people are tired of having today’s headlines screaming at them as they try to escape into a fantasy world for a couple of hours.
With Tony Stark and Steve Rogers out of the picture, Disney will have to figure out what works for the MCU going forward. A few missteps could make Phase 4 look like Marvel Comics in 2017… but on a much bigger scale.
Sadly, Stan Lee passed away in November 2018, a little over a year after recording this video. And disgustingly, some media outlets chose this time to attack his character as most of the world was mourning his passing.
But I guess Disney finds his words useful now, to promote movies featuring characters he didn’t have a direct hand in creating.
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