Diversity blamed for struggling Marvel comic sales?

Without a doubt, diversity is a controversial topic in today’s comic books. Critics argue that Marvel tries too hard to force diverse characters into the story. Existing characters are taken and diversified by having someone else play the role of superhero.

Spider-Man works as a good example. The wide general public considers the character Peter Parker as Spider-Man. But in the comic books, a second Spider-Man named Miles Morales exists. Yes, underneath the mask is a young black man.

Recently, an executive at Marvel seemingly blamed that kind of diversity for the struggling sales of Marvel comics.

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there,” David Gabriel told ICv2. “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.”

“We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

Okay, so Gabriel actually reported on what the retailers were telling him. Still, the comments caught a lot of media attention. Soon, opinion articles popped up online on why diversity was not the problem.

Of course, Gabriel later on had to clarify his statements to ICv2, and make clear diversity is not going anywhere:

” … the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere!”

Whew. That is a relief. Other Marvel readers point out the writing quality is simply not so great these days. Good writing, no matter the characters’ skin color or gender, is the No. 1 reason why people read comics.

Still, some readers just want Marvel to not touch iconic heroes such as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Those Marvel fans think diversity can be achieved by creating entirely new characters and storylines.

Is that kind of thinking enough to hurt sales? Would it matter since it could be argued Marvel is doing the right thing by changing up certain characters (as well as adding new ones)? These are tough questions. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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  • Achirae

    I’m a huge comic book fan, have been since I was a wee lad. Most of my interest used to be in Marvel, particularly Spider-Man and X-Men, with a bit of DC (mostly Batman) thrown in.

    Lately though, my interest has definitely been swinging away from Marvel and into DC. Why? Because Marvel has been showing a trend in ridiculous story arcs, unsympathetic and unbelievable characters, and take-backsies on the shit they do in their crappy, ridiculous story arcs. Oh, and I’m definitely not a fan of “just because” diversity. Female Thor? Black female Iron Man? Asian Hulk? Miles Morales works because he’s in the Ultimate universe and took over for Peter after Peter died, but beyond that, yeah, let’s just mess with the classics because it shoehorns in some diversity and we don’t want to look like a bunch of racist white guys.

    You see hardly any of that with DC. Believable, relatable characters, story arcs that are entertaining, and the characters stay true to who and what they are. No forced diversity, no take-backsies, just quality storytelling.

    I have little enough disposable income as it is, so why am I going to blow it on a convoluted, near-slapstick book that’s going to contradict itself in a month or two?

  • jlenoconel

    Forced diversity. Its being shoehorned into everything these days. Comics, video games, geek fandoms in general. I’m gay myself but do not play video games for diversity quotas. I just want to have fun.