Marvel Executive David Gabriel told industry website ICv2 a number of comic store owners are reporting that readers are “turning their noses up” at diversity and don’t “want female characters”. He is now facing a backlash from Marvel fans after seeming to blame the company’s declining comics sales on its increase in diverse characters.
In recent editions Marvel have seen a black woman assume the Iron Man suit, Jane Foster take over as Thor, and the Pakistani-American Kamala Khan inherit the title of Ms. Marvel, becoming Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book in the process.
“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel said. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.
“We saw the sales of 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 against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
The major criticism coming from the fans is that the comments were not strictly true. According to a stat-filled report by CBR, three of Marvel’s ten biggest sellers feature non-white male leads: The Mighty Thor, Invincible Iron Man and Black Panther. Meanwhile, titles including Ms. Marvel, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Spider-Gwen all sell relatively well in comparison to series with white male leads with The Mighty Thor still being Marvel’s second-highest selling ongoing superhero series.
As soon as Gabriel’s comments hit social media, he rapidly clarified to ICv2 that the discussion he overheard would not impact Marvel’s stance on diverse storytelling.
“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters ‘not working,’ the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes,” he said.
“And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! 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.”
While Gabriel was quick to backtrack on his comments after social media outcry, the comments remain troubling, showing as a prime example of the struggles facing storytelling that places non-white faces at their centers, even in a world that blindly accepts superhuman powers.