The key to what Marvel does better than anybody else in the industry, and what keeps us on top, is creating stories that have a resonance with our readership. So regardless of the project, finding those touchstones is job number one. Bill Jemas used to ask, “What’s the metaphor?” whenever talking about projects, and while he tended to become dogmatic about his approach, there’s a definite validity to it. Civil War was a massive hit and appealed to the mainstream because the underlying metaphors connected as well with a civilian audience as with the faithful readership. While it’s a realm of fantasy, the Marvel Universe works best when it mirrors the real-world concerns of its audience.Of course, that's only half the equation. After all, one of Marvel's current big successes are the World War Hulk series and its various spin-off titles and crossover stories - whose metaphorical qualities are rather moderate, unless you count that ancient and basic human fear of being run over by a steamroller.
No, what makes World War Hulk a hit, clearly, is the beautiful simplicity and accessibility of the premise. It's the Hulk beating up everyone else in the Marvel Universe! It's an immediately graspable concept, immediately appealing to both superhero comics and mainstream audiences.
Over at DC, meanwhile, the serpent keeps eating its own tail with byzantine exercises in navel-gazing like Countdown, which are having even the hardcore fans scratching their heads wondering what on earth the story is meant to be about.