With one massive success after another, it’s hard to deny that whatever Marvel is doing at their headquarters is working in spades. From their movies to their video games, the once struggling comic book company is now massively successful and reaping the benefits of many smart decisions they’ve made over the years. It has all stemmed from them creating excellent comic books for people to read, and it’s translated very well into movies and other forms of media.
That said, nothing is perfect- not even Marvel. Over the years they’ve made plenty of decisions that left us scratching our heads at the end of the day. Many times they’ve done something that hasn’t made any sense, and other times, they’ve done things that turned into complete disasters. Anybody who has been a fan of the franchise will be the first person to tell you that (considering I’m a fan myself, I guess that’s a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy).
For those of you new Marvel fans, their success and power has been kind of a new thing, and there are plenty of examples where they really dropped the ball. This has nothing to do with just their movies either. Marvel made huge mistakes in their comics and TV shows as well. We’re glad that they’ve since fixed a lot of these problems, but we hope to never see anything on the level of these 15 instances where Marvel really screwed up.
15. Selling X-Men and Spider-Man
In the early 2000s, it was particularly difficult for comic books. They weren’t at the level of popularity that they are today, and many publishers were trying to rid themselves of the “extreme” changes they made during the 90s. Marvel was no stranger to this, and suffered greatly as a company. In order to keep themselves afloat, they decided to sell the rights to use their characters in movies. This way, they could still write comic books, and others could make movies about the characters to increase awareness for the books. Little did they know that this decision would eventually bite them in the butt.
After Marvel began carefully building the MCU, the lack of characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine became all too apparent. While we eventually did get the wall-crawler after Sony and Marvel managed to strike a deal, the X-Men and Fantastic Four still haven’t come home. We wouldn’t care so much if the other companies could make movies as consistently good as Marvel does, but the horrible truth is that the MCU will never be as amazing as it could be without certain characters. They can’t even use Galactus.
14. The Incredible Hulk
When Marvel began selling film rights to their characters, one of the first to go was the Incredible Hulk. After all, making a movie on a character like that would be extremely difficult, and something that the company decided to leave to the experts. However, as was proven with Ang Lee’s Hulk movie, there weren’t many who could do wonders with the Hulk character. After Marvel started the MCU, they managed to strike a deal with Universal similar to what they did with Sony. The next Hulk movie to come out was The Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately, this movie wasn’t very good either, and is the only movie in all of the MCU that Marvel almost refuses to acknowledge. Granted, it has redeeming qualities, but the overall product just isn’t great. Then there was the issue of actor Ed Norton himself. He portrayed Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, but was booted from the position before The Avengers was made. Many people going into the movie were confused as to who Mark Ruffalo was playing at first. While Ruffalo has since done the character a lot of justice, the sting of seeing the mistreatment of the Hulk is far too real to ignore.
13. Making Their Own Quicksilver
This definitely piggybacks off of Marvel selling their own characters, but none of us thought they would take it a step further like this. When Marvel sold the X-Men, some of the rights to the characters were a bit odd and unclear. This is how they were able to use Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy. However, it was clear that they weren’t exactly happy about FOX having the rights to characters that they wanted to use, so they found some weird loophole that allowed them to include the mutant twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The move for Quicksilver was very interesting, because FOX was in development with X-Men Days of Future Past, which was already announced to feature their own interpretation of Quicksilver. Despite the fact that the MCU is a very high-quality franchise, Marvel wasn’t able to put enough effort into the Quicksilver character to make him stand out. FOX, on the other hand, did wonders with their version of Quicksilver, easily making him the best part of both Days of Future Past and Apocalypse. That was one battle that Marvel didn’t win.
12. Working with Activision
Marvel and DC both played their hands at having great video games made starring their characters, but as of right now, that’s a battle that DC is currently winning. Partnering with companies like Rocksteady and Netherrealm, DC has been able to produce fantastic games like Batman: Arkham City and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel has released some great games as well, having partnered with developer Capcom in the past. That said, they screwed up big time when they decided to work with Activision of all companies to help with their game projects. Activision doesn’t exactly have a flawless track record and isn’t always on good terms with consumers, and that showed in many of the games that Marvel made. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Deadpool, Spider-Man Friend or Foe, and X-Men Destiny were some pretty mediocre games to say the least. Because of this, Marvel fans haven’t had many things to give them their superhero game fix. Thankfully, that is set to change in the near future. Marvel has recently announced a partnership with company Square Enix (the developer of Final Fantasy) to create multiple Avengers-related games. The results could be unprecedented and purely amazing.
11. The Mandarin (MCU)
We have two Marvel villains on this list, and there’s a reason for that. You see, when an original film gets made and ends up being bad, the producers at least get credit for trying and we’re willing to see what they do next. When you adapt excellent source material and can’t make it good on screen, that’s much less excusable, and something we can’t look past. The biggest example of this in the MCU was their interpretation of the Mandarin. Being Iron Man’s archenemy, the Mandarin was intelligent, brutal, and relied on magic to take down Tony Stark. When the trailers for Iron Man 3 came out, many people thought that this was the direction they were going to take for the film. Unfortunately, the trailers were a red herring, and the Mandarin proved to be much different than what we expected. Ben Kingsley ended up playing a simple actor (named Trevor) who just liked women and beer. The Mandarin was never real, and they tried to make up for it by having Aldrich Killian refer to himself as the Mandarin, but the impact would never be the same. In fact, it was a horrible disservice to the actual character.
10. The Clone Saga
It’s true that when things get tough for Marvel and they get desperate, nothing good ever really happens. Multiple times the company has struggled financially, and out of a desire to get back on track, they’ve screwed up big time. One of the biggest screw ups in their comics department was the creation of The Clone Saga for Spider-Man. Their Spider-Man titles weren’t doing so hot at the time, so they had to come up with a new hook to get readers interested again. They decided that having more Spideys would be a perfect solution (and in theory it was), but the execution was plain awful. The series sold relatively well, which made Marvel continue it. As time went on, the story only got worse, introducing new clones, new timelines, and new plot points for readers to get lost in. When I say lost, I don’t mean that in a good way either. I will say that it’s because of The Clone Saga that we have fan favorite characters like Ben Reilly, and it’s because of this story that we could get things like Spider-Verse, but it’s probably best if we just forgot about this comic screw up.
9. Unnecessary Love Plots
This is a serious complain that could take place just about anywhere you look, but it’s in Marvel’s more recent projects that it’s really become apparent (especially in the MCU). Granted, it seems like they’re headed in a much better direction after the release of Doctor Strange, but there’s still a lot of mistakes to remember. What immediately comes to mind is the love plot in Avengers: Age of Ultron between the Hulk and Black Widow. There was no build up to it (so it seemed to come out of nowhere) and it didn’t add anything to the story. If anything, it unnecessarily made the entire film longer and gave kids a reason to scrunch their faces in disgust. I personally hope that Marvel decides to ignore this subplot when the two characters meet up again for Infinity War.
Age of Ultron is not the only offender of this, though. Even Civil War had some elements of this in the dynamic between the Vision and Scarlet Witch. While it wasn’t as contrived as Hulk and Black Widow, it was still something that was clearly there only because the two characters had a relationship in the comics.
8. Ultron (MCU)
Speaking of Ultron, he is the second villain to earn his own spot on this list. After the Avengers fought Loki, who was the original Avengers villain in the comics, Marvel knew they had to upscale for the sequel. Unfortunately, they only upscaled to 1080p instead of 4K (metaphorically, that is). There was tons of excitement and hype going around once it was announced that Ultron would be the antagonist played by James Spader. Ultron is one of the biggest and deadliest Avengers villains from the comics, so there was little doubt that he would be a great bad guy for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to fight. Needless to say, many of us were quite disappointed with the result. Instead of the terrifying powerhouse that he was portrayed to be in the comics and trailers for the film, we got an evil version of Tony Stark, complete with all of the witty jokes and stutters. This version of Ultron was powerful, but nothing close to his level in the comic books, which was just an utter shame. What makes the whole thing even worse is that there wasn’t a lot of setup or story progression in regards to his creation and defection to the evil side.
7. Separating the TV Shows and Movies
After the massive success of The Avengers, Marvel was quickly on the map when it came to movies. Because of this, they decided to create the show Agents of SHIELD, which followed SHIELD agents as they dealt with a world full of superheroes and metahumans. This show proved to be a relative success and motivated Marvel to push further with other TV projects. This led them to create the Netflix show Daredevil, which is regarded by many as a near-perfect project. Since then, Marvel has created other Netflix shows, and will have the respective lead roles come together in a collaboration show called The Defenders. While that’s substantially exciting for fans of those characters, something that has always been on the mind of viewers is this: will we ever see TV heroes in the Marvel movies? It hurts that this would even have to be a question. Seeing characters like Daredevil and Luke Cage fighting alongside Captain America and Doctor Strange would be such a great payoff to all of the hours we’ve spent with each movie and TV show. Many wanted to see these characters in Civil War, but it seems like the TV and movie worlds will only cross over in our dreams.
6. Agents of SHIELD Season One
Speaking of Marvel TV shows, fans of the MCU were chomping at the bit to see what else Marvel was going to come up with after the release of The Avengers. When they announced that Agents of SHIELD would become a thing, like most Marvel projects, the excitement was buzzing greatly. Many people tuned in to the pilot episode, then there were a great amount of doubters. It got some sad reviews across the board, and that in turn didn’t bode well for the success of the show. What made this even worse was that this was Marvel’s first true attempt at making a show in the MCU. And like when you meet a new person, you have to put your best foot forward. By creating a product that was received poorly, it made some people uncertain for the future of Marvel TV. Thankfully, they have since rectified this by introducing the Inhumans and making the widely amazing Netflix shows. Currently, they’re moving forward with plans to create new shows, including the likes of Iron Fist, Inhumans, Cloak and Dagger, and The Runaways.
5. Civil War
Before you get ready to kill me, understand that I’m not talking about Captain America: Civil War. Instead I’m talking about the Civil War comic event. While you might still be ready to throw me overboard, just hear me out. The concept of Civil War was impressive. Pitting the Avengers against each other was a move that would surely attract the attention of the public. For about the first half of the book, it worked really well. However, as the conflict escalated, the quality of Civil War declined. The storytelling felt very rushed, and there was no satisfying payoff to all of the conflict. Furthermore, Iron Man’s popularity was placed at an all time low after he recruited villains for his team and took over as the director of SHIELD. Despite how fondly you might look on this comic event, the reviews for it weren’t very positive. Civil War was far from perfect, and for some reason, Marvel decided to repeat the conflict again with Civil War II. This time it was Iron Man and Captain Marvel at odds with each other. Hey, at least the comic inspired a pretty great film.
4. Spider-Man: One More Day
One reason that Civil War was poorly received is that it spawned one of the most maligned comic books stories of all time: Spider-Man: One More Day. You see, readers had spent a lot of time with the wall crawler up until that point. He got married to Mary Jane Watson, graduated college, and had a good relationship with his Aunt May. He had his ups and downs, but he’d been pretty successful all things considered.
However, things changed after the event of Civil War. Peter Parker revealed his identity in order to go along with the Superhero Registration Act, and this fed to the events that took place in One More Day. Aunt May had been shot, and Peter was racing around through all kinds of ways to save her life. Eventually, it was the demon Mephisto that offered him the chance. But in order to save his aunt, Parker would have to give up his marriage to MJ. Much to the dismay of readers everywhere, he agreed, and his life was forever changed. The memory of him revealing his identity was also erased, thus negating the entire purpose of him doing it in the first place.
3. Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn
For those of you keeping score at home, we’re three for three on Spider-Man. Peter Parker was easily Marvel’s biggest character. Unfortunately this led to a lot of experimentation story-wise and led to some of the worst comic books of all time. Another infamous one on the Spider-Man list is Sins Past.
The story begins with Peter hearing about a set of twins that Gwen gave birth to before she was killed by the Green Goblin. Confused and wanting to know the truth, he set out to find them. After he did so, he even tested them to confirm that they were Gwen’s children. However, he was not the father. Gwen’s daughter revealed that Gwen had been involved with Norman Osborn, and the twin children were his. What makes this event all the more painful to watch was how Gwen described Osborn as “magnetic”. I don’t care how charismatic Norman Osborn seems, he is the Green Goblin and should not be fraternized with. Second of all, introducing a twist like this was the single most uncomfortable thing that Marvel ever did in the comics. Lastly, it was very forced and stupid. It’s these kinds of moments that make people shy away from comics.
A lot of times, comic publishers will create stories based around shocking or interesting ideas that will drag people in (see Civil War). Sometimes this can lead to some disastrous consequences, and that’s very true of the arc known as Ultimatum. This story took place in the Ultimate Universe, and practically killed the positive image of that universe. There are so many things wrong with Ultimatum, so much so that it can’t boil down to just one thing. The comic attempts to gain the reader’s attention by getting a lot of big and epic set pieces that, in the end, don’t make any sense whatsoever. Then there’s the issue of the over the top violence and gore. There are multiple instances of cannibalism in this comic, and pretty much every Marvel hero you can think of dies when everything is said and done. The book series also establishes a lot of weird plot points but doesn’t spend any time explaining how they were able to occur. This arc has been so poorly received that many regard it as the worst comic book of all time. I’m not sure that it’s that bad, but it’s definitely not good.
1. Copying DC Characters
Think of some great Marvel character off the top of your head. Thanos, Hawkeye, the Vision, Ant-Man, etc. Marvel has told some great stories following some pretty well-written and imagined characters. However, not all of them were quite as original as they might lead you to believe. The truth of the matter is that DC was often a pioneer when it came to coming up with new characters that had all kinds of different powers. Then Marvel would often come along and have their own variations on these ideas. Thanos was modeled after Darkseid, Hawkeye was modeled after Green Arrow, Vision was modeled after Martian Manhunter, you get the idea. When it became clear that this was the case, this tarnished Marvel’s image in the eyes of the public. While they still had purely original characters like Spider-Man and Wolverine, they will never be completely rid of the fact that many of their characters are copies and/or knock offs. I will say that sometimes this move has resulted in some pretty amazing characters, but for the most part was a poor decision on their part.