That escalated quickly.
Disney-owned Marvel Comics continues to take a beating from vocal longtime fans over its gimmicky sales practices and its recent editorial decisions, such as replacing many core heroes with a more diverse cast and a series of endless reboots.
Now comic shop owners are chiming in, echoing the sentiments of these frustrated fans. In a closed door Q&A meeting with retailers at this weekend’s New York Comic-Con, Marvel Comics editors fielded questions about such things as lenticular covers, but attempted to deflect criticism over the direction its comics have taken in recent years.
When the subject of swapping out nearly all of Marvel’s core lineup for other characters came up, Marvel executive editor Nick Lowe pointed out that Marvel has had stand-ins before, such as the time Rhodey took up the mantle of Iron Man.
But all it took was one very outspoken retailer to open Pandora’s Box, shooting back that Marvel has never replaced nearly all of its characters at once and that it’s turning off new readers who were introduced to Marvel through the movies.
According to Newsarama…
The retailer specifically cited examples such as characters that don’t reflect the ethnicity, gender, or sexuality of their predecessors – specifically expressing his distaste for Iceman “kissing other men,” and Thor “becoming a woman.” The retailer’s complaints sparked an outcry among the other retailers present in the room, some echoing his frustration, with multiple attendees raising their voices to speak over each other.
(For those who haven’t been keeping up with the comics, the X-Men’s Iceman (Bobby Drake) has recently come out of the closet and Thor was replaced with Jane Foster a few years ago. That’s in addition to a young African-American girl recently taking up the mantle of Iron Man, a female clone of Logan being the new Wolverine, and an Asian-American Incredible Hulk. Yeah, it’s all really confusing for lapsed readers, myself included.)
The vociferous retailer continued that Marvel has never replaced nearly all of its characters at once and that it’s turning off new readers who were introduced to Marvel through the movies. Marvel editor Nick Lowe defended the choices, stating that Marvel has always been about presenting the present day world.
Lowe reiterated that Marvel is bringing many of its recently-absent characters including Steve Rogers back to the forefront in its “Legacy” initiative, and that Marvel would continue to focus on creating characters and stories that reflect “the world outside your window,” a longtime Marvel adage. He also stated that Marvel will continue to publish characters that fans of all backgrounds can connect to, before closing the panel at the planned time.
However, the backlash from retailers continued after the panel, with several disgruntled retailers apparently cornering Marvel’s VP of Marketing David Gabriel in the hallway afterward. Gabriel, of course, made the controversial remarks earlier in the year about Marvel’s sales slip being attributed to the “diverse books” the company has been publishing as of late.
Is this actually “Comicgate”…?
There’s been some speculation on various parts of the internet that the comic book industry is involved in a “Gamergate” type scenario right now, with many longtime readers being very vocal about their dislike of the far-left political direction Marvel Comics has taken lately.
Accusations of harassment are popping up on both sides, with creators and editors claiming harassment from racist, sexist readers. Vocal critics of what they are calling “SJW Marvel” are claiming that practically the entire comics industry is attempting to silence any and all dissent, going so far as to put their followers up to doxxing individual critics.
One prominent critic of Marvel is a YouTuber called Diversity & Comics, who seems to be getting the lion’s share of creator backlash on social media. He has claimed that not only have Marvel editors put their followers up to posting his personal information online, but also that several comics creators were conspiring in a secret Facebook group to harass him at Baltimore Comic-Con and to have him blocked from attending this weekend’s New York Comic-Con.
The divide between the comic book industry and its fanbase has never been wider, but given the political divisions in “the real world” today, should we be all that surprised?
… or is Marvel Comics (and the monthly comics model) just dying a slow death?
Marvel’s own X-Men comics were all about the conflict between “homo superior” (mutants) and “homo sapiens” (normal humans) as they struggled for their right to exist.
Right now it seems as if comic books themselves are struggling for relevancy in today’s entertainment landscape that has been built largely off of stories that originated in comic books.
But it’s becoming increasingly clear that those films, television shows and video games are replacing the space comics used to occupy for most consumers. Comic books have evolved into other media, and many publishers seem to be having a hard time adapting to those changes.
The comic book industry is very fragile now, and many comics professionals are scared. This is why, in my personal opinion, editors and creators are fighting dissension so fiercely. A healthier industry would simply shrug off the critics.
Expect numbers to continue to decline… and Disney’s intervention.
Despite a few bumps here and there, the overall health of the comic book direct market will continue to decline. This will be hastened by store closings, as there are fewer outlets for comics publishers to sell their books.
Disney doesn’t waste time or money on dying business models — even somewhat profitable ones — and it’s very likely that they’ll step in and do a “course correction” one way or the other. To the Walt Disney Company, Marvel Comics has evolved into Marvel Studios, with the comic books relegated to just being “legacy” ancillary merchandise.
Maybe Marvel Comics should take a cue from Disney?
Disney is pretty good at listening to its customers. In fact, Disney Parks are filled with people constantly surveying park guests about their experience. Marvel Comics doesn’t seem to want to hear anything negative, which is leading to an even stronger anti-Marvel sentiment online.
Like a superhero accidentally creating his own nemesis, Marvel Comics’ own attitudes towards its readers and retailers has likely helped create the backlash it’s trying so desperately to contain.
Fear Not, True Believers
Marvel characters will always live on in some form, even if every comics book publisher stopped printing comics tomorrow. Disney is very good at keeping its IP alive forever (some would argue they’re TOO good) and we’ll have Spider-Man and Captain America stories in some form for decades to come.
And the comics industry will continue to chug along in some form for the foreseeable future, likely making the transition to graphic novels and digital comics. It’s just the monthlies that may soon go extinct, and sadly, the neighborhood comic book shop as collateral damage.
[Source: The Internet]