Why is it every month we have to read more articles and videos about how diversity is killing comics? Specifically Marvel comics but many talk about comics in general. Let’s just focus on Marvel comics since that is where all the actual data is used from. It’s easy to cherry pick numbers and tell any story you want. Trust I did it plenty of times earning my degree in college from iffy data based on surveys we didn’t conduct the right way.
Before we discuss the actual problems we should point the real reason you see this over and over is that it is clickbait. Or whatever sort bait that is considered with videos. Probably still clickbait. It’s easy to get someone who doesn’t either buy or care about comics to click on an article about diversity if you claim that sexist white men lack change. This is the same reason South Park always replays the “They took our JERBS!” rednecks in their show so much. It’s funny but provides easy political commentary on an easily shamed “other” group.
Do Marvel fans hate diversity? The answer is actually is a mixed bag like all real data samples. See Marvel actually has more than one type of fan. It has the casual movie audience who reliably sees its films every year and is somewhat familiar with its comics. Then it has the comic readers who go into comic shops every week to pull their favorite subscriptions. There is also many other subgroups but let’s focus on these two as they make a majority of the news.
We need to be honest here and acknowledge these are two wildly different groups in terms of all demographics. The MCU has done pretty good job at mass appeal. While the actual comic book readers are still more or less who it has always been. This may change in ten or twenty years when kids who grew up with the MCU grow up to be in the same age bracket that core comic readers are in now, which if I remember correctly is 18-41. Now when I say core, I don’t mean the casual reader who snags a copy here and there or buys a birthday present. I mean the guys or gals who have been buying the same weekly issues for years.
This is what I think is Marvel’s actual problem. In forcing diversity on their reader base they killed off all or erased all their legacy characters. I know to the casual Marvel audience this doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is. Imagine if Jon Snow was killed off and we had follow around someone new to be the hope of the North that you had never heard of or seen on the show. You’d be upset too after following him for 6 years at this point. You might even stop watching the Game of Thrones in general. That’s basically what these readers are doing.
I will say a lot of readers are resistant to change. And there are some who won’t accept a woman as their new hero. Let’s get this out there. Yes those people exist, and they might be the loudest sort but focusing them doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s like when Sony painted all those who didn’t want to see the Ghostbusters remake as sexist. Maybe people are just tired of remakes too.
A side note on legacy characters. It’s related but might not be completely on topic. It kills me to quote Mean Girls but, “Stop trying to make [Inhumans] happen [Marvel]! It’s not going to happen.” People love the X Men and as interesting as Blackbolt and Co. may be they are not the X Men, and they never will be the X Men. Get over it and just bring back the mutants already. We know you having a tiff with Fox but their crappy X Men films (Except Logan, First Class, Deadpool and Days of Future Past) will only lead fans to be curious about the stories about them that don’t suck. Let’s face it sooner or later they are going to screw up the Dark Phoenix Saga again and people will want to know what it’s supposed to be besides Brian’s Singer’s mental disability version.
DC is killing it
So DC also has their fair share of new diversity heroes. Know why they don’t get the hate that Marvel does? You can still read about their legacy characters if you want to. That’s right Marvel take notes. This is how you introduce new characters. You give them a place alongside the legacy heroes and see if they find their audience. If they do great, good for you, if they fail, well at least you tried. Not every series is golden or meant to last. Some get cancelled and resurrected decades later even better.
The best example I can think of this is with the Green Lanterns. For the non-DC fans out there the new Green Lanterns are Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, an Arab and a Latina. Fairly diverse for new content, however if you just want to read about Hal Jordan and John Stewart you can in Green Lantern Corps. Not all new content is for everyone.
Although by and large fans have accepted both Simon and Jessica and the reason is simple. They had a choice. People like choices they don’t like ultimatums. If your choice is limited to read about this new person who replaced the character you loved or read another comic series. Many people will just read something else and wait until their hero is resurrected, which they always are at some point. In the comic universe all you have to do is wait long enough and you get either a soft or hard reboot.
Some people right now are just waiting for Jane Foster to die so they can get their Thor back. I can hardly blame them. We have the right to drop any series that no longer meets our expectations. We even have the right to complain that our hero was replaced by a substandard stand in. I complained pretty hard that Andy Wheatfield was replaced as Spartacus even though I knew the reasons why. The new guy (his name escapes me he was that forgettable) just didn’t measure up.
Personally I think the Foster’s Thor is pretty cool. Mostly because she came with a built in time limit, she has cancer and every time she wields the hammer it flushes the drugs out of her system. Being Thor will kill her eventually. Plus we’ve already seen in Unworthy Thor that Odinson is back and it’s only a matter of time before he is reunited with his hammer.
All right I have no idea why Marvel can’t see this in the numbers, but people hate quarterly events. Sure annual events are OK. Crossovers are fun and all. However heroes should be able to tell their own story without waiting for another tie in or event.
We may have ourselves to blame for this one. The legacy events of the past were amazing events and people still talk about them. The original Civil War was fantastic. So was the first Secret Wars. However as they sold more they became less about story and more about cash grabs which turn people off. It’s understandable that a business has to do what it must to stay afloat, but are events really the only way to do this?
The MCU is also partly to blame. Marvel feels the need to have certain events tied into the movies. (Cough! Civil War II!) However is unavoidable at this point. There is no stopping the MCU train short of an actors strike or an Escape From LA type earthquake that separates California from the mainland. We’d probably still use boats and choppers to keep the business going if that happened.
There is no one thing that is killing Marvel comics. It’s not sexism, racism, or really any other kind of ism. The people who fall into those groups are typically not large enough in numbers to topple giants like Marvel. It’s Marvel’s own stupidity at the decisions they have made in how they have run their comics division that is killing Marvel Comics.