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Marvel Noir

Film Noir has paved the way for many opportunities in the contemporary media world.  The themes of Film Noir, such as  are still prevalent in today’s culture, whether it be neo-noir movies, books, video games, even music.  But one such new medium holding true to the essence of noir are Marvel’s Noir comic books.

From 2009 to 2010, Marvel issued monthly copies of their new comic book.  According to Wikipedia, the central premise “replaces super powers with driven, noir-flavored characterization.”  Several bloggers have taken an interest in examining these elements.

In their blog The Mouth of Dorkness, Brad and Matt discuss and review the noir elements found in these comic books.  Their familiarity with noir is basic as they fail to delve into appropriate detail.  They explain themes of noir, but they, however, did not link it to the Marvel Noir comic books.  For example, they identify themes, such as femme fatale, “moody” art, murder, and gangland war, but they did not explain how these elements are provided specifically in the comic book.  In their last remarks, Brad and Matt personally perceive the comics to be more of a pulp series (a publication that is centralized around a hero avenging innocent victims) than a noir series,  suggesting that some of the comics show no difference from their original stories.  Their last critique was that they hoped to see these comics in black and white print rather than in color as it is.  However, I do not fully agree with this.  Noir doesn’t necessarily need to be black and white to hold true because there are several other elements that make noir noir.  Some of these elements are ones that they have touched on, plus some more.

Noir Daredevil

One things that I have noticed that they have not mentioned in their review was the idea of being a “hero.”  Porfirio (1976) describes the heros of noir to be non-heroic.  Further, he explains that the protagonist of noir is someone that has a past — something has been taken or missing to them (p. 84).  The same could be said about the majority of these Marvel characters.  Additionally, noir heroes are more likely to do things to satisfy their own self-interest.  Take Daredevil, for example.  He was orphaned and left blinded at a young age by a gangster mob (something/someone has been taken and has since been missing from his life).  Since then, Daredevil has set out to avenge his own personal grief (satisfy personal interest).

As for femme fatale, all of the protagonists seem to fall victim to the women in their lives.  The Wikipedia page on each Marvel Noir comic explains the plot of each story.  In class, we discussed that women of noir are not passive, docile, or damsels in distress, instead, they take things into their own hands, which often causes danger for the protagonist.  (Sticking with Daredevil) Daredevil has countlessly followed Eliza (lady-interest) to insure her safety, but she has always lead him into trouble, which results in a fight scene.  Eliza is so independent and opaque that it was a surprise to find out that she was a killer herself.  In the end, Daredevil fought her and left her unconscious (the inevitable punishment that women receive in the end).

Original (Not noir)

As we can see, Noir continues to grow into different types of mediums, still carrying the essential themes and elements.   Marvel included several themes of noir in their adaptation which stim from the original film noir.  Brad and Matt had a good idea in their analysis of  Marvel Noir, but it wasn’t executed fully.  Delving deeper in, we are able to connect these comic books with what has been discussed in class and in readings.


3 responses to “Marvel Noir

  1. The premise of the series itself is interesting: let’s take all these characters with whom we’re familiar for their super-powers, take those powers away, and replace them with noir-ish darkness and drive. I haven’t read these myself, so I’m not sure how they actually turn out, but the idea that a super-power could be replaced by “noir-powers” is fascinating. I wonder what sales have been like and which audiences of the original comics – if any – have found these compelling.

  2. adittman11 ⋅

    That’s what I thought. I was very interested in the shift from selfless power to vengeful drive. The articles claimed that there wasn’t very good reception to these comics. The reception was best with the Daredevil comic, but Spider-Man and Wolverine were not very good. Apparently the idea was greater than the execution, so I assume that, consequently, the sales weren’t through the roof. Also, there is a video game adaptation for the Spider-Man noir comic. Maybe that one is more successful?

  3. It’s hard to gauge success via word of mouth – I wonder if the comics industry has a sales-driven data site like that tracks that kind of stuff.

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