I don’t know that I’m the best person to speak for Mark Gruenwald — but I think at some point after the Scourge storyline he reconsidered the idea, coming to the conclusion that it had been a mistake to kill of a bunch of characters he didn’t see much potential in, since other creators might see things he didn’t.
As a storyline, though, it certainly generated a lot of interest and excitement, and is doubtless pretty defensible on that front, even if the idea of cleaning house of lame characters wasn’t the best of ideas.
I liked that Mark valued the rich history of the characters and wanted to build on it. Where I disagreed with him, I think, was that he occasionally tired to be a caretaker or gardener (or even janitor) of the Marvel Universe, trying to neaten it up to make it more orderly and sensible, rather than just ignoring the bits he didn’t think worked.
For instance, I’ve been told that Mark didn’t much like the concept of the Cat People who were tangled up in Tigra’s origin. And as a result, he kept trying to fix or eliminate them, explaining away or getting rid of a concept he just didn’t care for. But as a result, he wound up writing or commissioning more pages of Cat People stories than had ever existed before he got there.
That strikes me as counterproductive — probably better to just ignore the Cat People, unless you can use their existence as the basis to build something cool and interesting and compelling.
But then, in the wake of Scourge’s bloodbath, many of the characters turned out not to be dead, or were revised by having someone else take on the identity. So it’s not as if lasting damage was done to the creative potential of those particular concepts. And Marvel did build something cool and interesting out of the Scourge idea.
So was it a good idea or not? As with anything else, it’s in the eye of the beholder. It’s fun to play around with the history of these characters, to work with all this pre-existing context and texture, rather than treating the characters and their world shallowly. If the audience likes the results, great.
On the other hand, if it just feels like continuity-spackling, then it feels like wasted potential all on its own. So you’d better get a good story out of it.
I don’t actually remember how that first Scourge thing ended, but that would be the real test: Did it end well, in something that felt like it was more than just eliminating a bunch of lame villains? If so, then it was probably worth the journey.
My own experience with the Scourge storyline extends to a) the Marvel Handbook entries for the victims and b) buying the two-part conclusion in Captain America out of curiosity long after the fact. I didn’t experience the story “in the now,” which might be part of my fascination with it - “huh, wow, all these guys dead at once? Wait, the legendary continuity king was behind it…?” So my view is kind of off-kilter - and, ah, I don’t feel I’m qualified to talk about the quality of the conclusion, because I never actually read any of the build-up. That’s the burden of coming in to the Marvel Universe through quarterbin-scrounged back issues of the Handbook and trading card biographies, I suppose… conclusions with none of the questions.
Thank you very much for your time, and for entertaining my question.