You know Marvel, right? The comic book publishers who also have all the superhero movies in multiplexes and a number of TV shows further pushing their brand. In recent years Marvel has been making an effort to bring more diversity to their comic books however, according to Marvel’s Vice President of Sales, David Gabriel, diversity is having a detrimental effect on their business.
How Has Diversity Been Introduced to the Marvel Universe?
Marvel has brought a greater female presence to its comic books by offering readers new female characters as well as introducing female equivalents of existing male superheroes. For example, Riri Williams is a black female who, under the guise of Iron Heart, has taken over the Iron Man storyline. Elsewhere Spider-man has become a bi-racial character who goes by the name of Miles Morales. Perhaps the biggest step towards diversity is the naming of a Muslim teenaged girl, Kamala Khan as Ms Marvel.
What Did David Gabriel Say?
Gabriel told retailers that sales indicated that comic book fans were keeping to their old favorites and eschewing the new characters and variations. “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” he said. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.” Gabriel went on to say: “I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales … 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.”
Gabriel did later clarify his statements by saying that retailers had told him of their dismay that traditional Marvel heroes were seemingly being abandoned. He went on to say that while some retailers had expressed concern many others had been more supportive and were indicating that a large readership was forming in support of the new direction. He said: “We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”
Is there any truth to Gabriel’s claim?
Marvel does not claim to have diversity as part of its core values. It is tempting for us to be outraged that executive David Gabriel should use diversity in the recent output of Marvel’s creative team as a scapegoat for falling sales but is there any truth to it? If you’re reading this you probably agree that we should all want representations of our diverse society in our popular media. However that does not necessarily mean that we do all want to pay for it. So is there any merit to Gabriel’s views on diversity harming sales?
If sales are going down since the introduction of diversity one cannot argue with the figures. What we can determine, if sales have indeed gone down since the increase in diversity, is that the way it is presented to readers probably needs some adjustment. Rather than blaming the drop in sales on a more diverse approach, Gabriel could look at the way Marvel have attempted the change in direction. Avid comic book readers have said that they support the change to a more diverse Marvel universe but that rebooting old storylines and repurposing old heroes has not led to rich creative output from Marvel writers. Often a more diverse-sensitive interpretation of an old Marvel hero has come by disposing of the old hero in a less than sensitive fashion. Instead of ending a much-loved heroes tenure with respect, and in a way that would allow the character’s existing fanbase to buy into the new interpretation, they were often ended in a humiliating way that would sour the all-important legacy of a superhero.
Are you a fan of the new, more diverse Marvel universe? What do you think of David Gabriel’s views? Perhaps you’re a traditionalist. Are the more diverse characters welcome or do you think they have no place in the world of superheroism?
We welcome your thoughts in our comments section.