WandaVision is the most marvel comic show in the Marvel universe yet, if not in material at least in design. It’s a dense plot that will be published on an episodic basis, with roles and environments that are seemingly impenetrable to new fans much so that Marvel Studios has even gone so far as to create a clip show that captures the crucial moments of the 23-odd films that accompany it.
It would seem like WandaVision will be heading into the same issue that has been haunting conventional comics for years—high requirements with complicated plots, character dynamics, and mythology that span generations and serve to mislead and scare away new readers—but WandaVision probably wouldn’t have the same problem.
Pick up some random episode of Spider-Man or Iron Man, and you’re likely to be puzzled by the contents, until you’ve discovered an especially open entry ramp like an imaginative redesign (for example, Jonathan Hickman’s latest X-Men books) or a self-contained crossover. Comic sales are just great, but the business itself is a drop in the bucket to the huge influence of the Marvel blockbuster movies on pop culture. And the greatest books of all time can’t come close to success.
The fact that WandaVision is not especially open to new audiences is not a warning against it: it is a spin-off of what is undoubtedly the most popular movie franchise ever made in history, and it is the sequel to Avengers: Endgame—making it a must watch. Comic book movies and shows are no longer tiny underdogs who aspire to draw new audiences who are not the typical comic audience—now they’re popular entertainment. WandaVision doesn’t have to appeal to a new audience; it’s free to get as crazy as it likes with an unprecedentedly broad audience that Disney hopes will sign up for monthly Disney Plus packages to watch.
In reality, Disney Plus’ very presence allows Disney to make WandaVision more pretentious to new viewers. And besides, all the Marvel movies you need to learn about WandaVision are already on streaming.
If someone opens up WandaVision on Friday and chooses to store it while they’re working through the rest of the Disney Plus MCU, then Disney wins just as much as they would have watched WandaVision themselves. Even Marvel Legends—a recap show—requires a Disney Plus membership to view, and finishes each episode with a list of shows (also streaming on Disney Plus) people can watch to understand better WandaVision.
WandaVision is one of the strangest Marvel results ever. It’s not a show that the studio hoped to use to kick off its TV activities. (This title goes to the delayed—and more mainstream—Falcon and Winter Soldier, which will follow in March.) Because of the sheer momentum of the Marvel machine, it doesn’t have to appeal to new audiences, even if the first few episodes also prove that it’s odd enough—and removed enough—from the main movies that viewers still can come to it as their own thing.
But Marvel’s media steamroller is so huge and consistent that it doesn’t really matter what Disney Plus kicks off the show. The business has earned over the viewers. All WandaVision has to do is give them a reason to sign up.