Is Marvel Comics Exploiting Diversity?
I’ve been seeing an increase of stories recently online & on social media about Marvel Comics and it’s continuing sales slump. Most of the articles bring up the hot topic of diversity, some say that Marvel’s record low sales of their comics books are simply because of rising cover prices & lack of fresh new ideas for their characters. Others say that it’s directly due to it’s attempt at diversifying it’s star characters by changing their race, gender & sexual orientation. Most of their popular character’s titles have had a bit of a revamp lately, for instance Wolverine is now female, so is Thor, so is Iron Man, Cap is black, the Hulk is now Korean-American etc. etc. You get the point. Could these changes really be the reason why sales are down? Do people just simply hate diversity in the Marvel Comics titles?
I really doubt that it’s really that simple, though rising cover prices and lack of fresh ideas definitely doesn’t help their low sales. What I see personally happening is a bit of a trend within Marvel Comics that feels a bit insincere. I honestly don’t really mind that the traditional characters have been replaced but I do feel Marvel’s move to make all these changes to their most popular titles feels as if they’ve been exploiting diversity to make a quick buck. What I’m saying is that it feels like Marvel is just trying way too hard to be current on these topics rather than crafting interesting stories. I don’t believe you can simply take all of your money maker superhero titles, simply change their identities and expect them all to suddenly bring you boatloads of cash because you finally decided to make them more diverse. It’s just not that simple folks.
I think Marvel has decided to update their traditional heroes without really crafting a way to make the transition flow naturally and feel sincere to new and old fans. It’s new changes feel forced, as they seem unwilling to create new characters or introduce lesser known, more diverse characters who already exist into the limelight. They still believe that their classic heroes can undergo a quick facelift and bring in the same, if not more revenue. This shows me that Marvel is a bit out of touch with what people really want from a comic book these days and truly may have run out of good ideas. Of course we all can admit that comics have needed to be much more diverse and inclusive for far too long. I get it perhaps the characters of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark have reached a point where there’s just not much more to tell. We’re tired of the rich white billionaire superhero right? I know I am at least. Does that though mean that we really want X-23 to suddenly decide she needs to “be” Wolverine? Is that the answer? Or isn’t X-23 awesome enough as….well…X-23?!
I think Marvel is missing the point, I do admittedly miss some of the “old” characters. I’d love to see a new Wolverine title with Logan return but this time use the character sparingly. We don’t need Wolverine in several solo books AND every X-Team & Avengers book out there. We want Logan to star in intriguing, thought provoking, gritty, violent stories. We don’t want Logan/Wolverine to be more watered down schlock like he has been in the movies until recently. Work in diversity if need be, but don’t force feed it because you think that will bring you some sort of monetary gain. Us comic readers can see through the BS and we know when incorporating “diversity” is actually an attempt to cash in on us.
I’m a long time collector and I’ll use an a couple examples of ways Marvel diversified one of it’s comics back in the 1980’s. The John Byrne Alpha Flight run from 1983 introduced us to Northstar, who was Marvel’s first gay superhero, sadly at the time Byrne wasn’t able to come out and simply say “Northstar is gay everyone”. But it’s clear now when you look back that he was indeed gay. It wasn’t broadcasted, but implied and eventually fully revealed in the early 90’s. I would have loved for it to have been more out in the open, but I guess it was a sign of the times. Point being it didn’t need to be a constant focus to get it’s point across to readers (though it should have had the freedom to do so). Another character, Guardian (also called Vindicator) who was Alpha Flight’s Captain America style leader faced his dramatic demise in issue #12 of the series. His wife Heather Hudson spent a lot of time depressed and unsure how to move forward without him. Eventually though it was her who would become the team’s leader and don his traditional costume as the second Vindicator. It felt like a natural, emotion progression that really meant something to fans of the book. It wasn’t a quick process either.
So today Marvel feels more obsessed with making money than actually telling great stories. Let’s face it, there are a ton of awesome publishers out there that are doing excellent work, incorporating diversity, telling fresh stories and taking real chances in ways Marvel can’t even begin to understand. They don’t need to simply change peoples identities, they just craft cool new stories with unique characters. If Marvel could stop trying to envision giant amounts of money and start looking at developing real compelling stories that have real consequences rather than continuous rebooting, perhaps their sales would be up. Marvel has a vast and nearly endless amount of superheroes to take a chance on & they should be willing to create new ones as well. Just settle on who’s who now (no matter who ends up in the costume) and let’s get back to compelling story telling. You might think you’re pleasing the masses, but if it feels like you’re desperately pandering you’re not going to fool anyone….