Marvel Comics has recently turned to its readership and said, “It’s not us, it’s you.” Responding to slumping sales in its comics division, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel had this to say:
“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.”
Let’s put this in context. Marvel, which once touted itself as the “House Of Ideas” has, at least in part, embraced the diversity which it now claims is killing it. Let’s not forget that Marvel was the first major comics publisher to feature a gay wedding on the cover of its wildly popular Astonishing X-Men in 2012. Recently, they have introduced an African American man as the new Captain America, a Muslim American woman as the new Ms. Marvel, an original character named Cindy Moon who happens to be a Queer Asian American, along with an African American female who has taken over the Iron mantle once considered the exclusive territory of Tony Stark. Yet, their sales have slumped. Is this a rejection of diversity, or perhaps something else?
What Marvel fails to address are two glaring issues (ha…I said “issues”, get it?). First, for several years, Marvel has been force feeding its readership a constant diet of “Universe Changing Events” where major characters die, are reborn, or the entire Marvel Universe itself is upended. This isn’t just hyperbole. This is happening on practically a yearly basis. The end result? Stories that are impossible to follow, tons of inconsistency and the alienation of fans who are long time readers. Second, while Marvel has done a bang up job of introducing a host of diverse characters, that has not translated into its writing staff. Sure, it’s great to offer up characters of diverse backgrounds, but if the individuals writing those stories are unable to convey the experience of diversity and struggle, then something is lost in translation.
Unable to turn the mirror upon itself, Marvel has now pointed its web shooter at its customers and has blamed them and their dissatisfaction with diversity for its current dilemma. Remember, Marvel, it was you who once told us through wise old Uncle Ben, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. It’s time to take responsibility for your own failings and set the House Of Ideas on firmer ground.