By Gamal Hennessy
Why are the sales of Marvel Comics declining?
Is it because of crossover fatigue?
Is it because there are too many titles coming out every month?
Is it the price tag?
Is it because talent is migrating to more creator driven deals?
Or is it because there are too many women and minority characters with their own books?
There might be several different reasons Marvel is struggling right now, but from the outside looking in, diversity is probably the least of their worries. But even if comic book readers didn’t want their icons replaced, the company could have become more inclusive without being heavy handed.
As a comic book reader, a lawyer who specializes in the comic book industry, and a member of a minority group, I see the current push for more inclusive characters as a good idea poorly executed. Instead of focusing on unused characters they already had, Marvel tried to capitalize on the transmedia success of established characters by giving them a diversity makeover.
Instead of building up Valkyrie or Sif, they made Thor a woman.
Captain America becomes a black instead of just focusing more attention on Falcon or giving Black Panther more time to shine.
Iron Man becomes a black woman instead of pushing War Machine.
Hulk becomes Asian instead of just giving more time to characters like Sunfire or Silver Samurai.
The female version of Wolverine replaces the original instead of just building up someone like Lady Deathstrike.
Instead of using Dust or another Muslim character, Ms. Marvel is co-opted.
Spider-Gwen, Gwen Pool both come off as derivative of established characters when stronger characters like White Tiger and Domino could have been given a chance to shine.
I’m sure you get the point by now.
The corporate page of Marvel states that the company has over 8,000 characters. A lot of them are women and minorities, so why not use them? There’s nothing wrong with trying to expand your market by bringing in new readers who want to see themselves reflected in their mythology. The demographics of the market are changing, the characters can change to reflect the world we live in. But diversity, like anything else, can be done wrong. Trying to ride the coattails of your established properties instead of building a fan base for new characters is an exercise in self sabotage. There might be a lot of factors impacting Marvel’s sales, but building an audience for any character takes time, whether you are an independent or one of the biggest publishers in the world. Short cuts and quick fixes may not be the answer, no matter how big you are.
What do you think?
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