Can Marvel Survive the First-Generation Curse?

All religions have to solve the first-generation problem before they can become established. If you look at the first Christians—Peter, Paul, John and so forth—they all believed that Jesus Christ was returning within their lifetimes. They had no reason to think otherwise and that’s what they taught to the first few thousand followers.

As the years went on, it became increasingly clear that their prediction might not be correct. Putting aside the fact that many of them would die in equally horrific ways, Christians had to adjust their belief. Instead of waiting for the return of Christ, people would be judged after their death in heaven. The physical return of Christ was still an important idea but it wasn’t emphasized. The small tweak was essential in Christianity spreading and dominating Western history.

Regardless of what you think of religion, the first-generation problem is interesting for any organization today. Look at Marvel and their massive superhero universe. They have released 31 movies since 2008 and fatigue is setting in. Don’t get me wrong, they are still massive blockbusters but cracks are showing.

Ant-Man 2, released on February 17, 2023, had the largest second week drop off according to the Wall Street Journal. The first week and opening night are for the fans. They pack into theaters and will watch anything Marvel puts out. The second week is when non-fans start to come out. Did they hear good things? Are they excited to watch another superhero film? Is it worthwhile?

The first-generation Marvel fans will always show up. However, Marvel needs second-generation (and third, fourth, etc) fans to thrive. All organizations need to grow from their most die-hard supporters to others. To do that, it has to update belief systems. Can a casual Marvel fan watch one movie a year and still stay up to date? Or do they have to watch all three movies plus five TV shows plus other special content?

Marvel is not on its way to extinction but it needs to think about the future. Even cliches get boring after a while.

Photo by Ussama Azam

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