I openly admit I'm disappointed. Given how often Marvel has taken advantage of PR missteps and outright mistakes that DC has made, you'd think they'd be acutely aware of how things can spiral out of control and operate more effectively. Marvel has a teflon reputation, and despite a number of past instances like the alleged destruction of First and Eclipse Comics or taking steps to insure no one becomes a superstar artist after the Image Revolution, everyone still loves Marvel. Marvel is the Big Show. Marvel knows what the fans want.
I'm not sure if this has anything to do with Ike Perlmutter becoming more involved in President Trump's cabinet, but Marvel has been undergoing a sciesmic shift this the election, doing things that suggest Perlmutter isn't really involved in the company anymore. The biggest is the new detente between Marvel/Disney and Fox, culminating in the X-Men returning to TV and to comics. That's great for the fans, I won't argue that. But Marvel is also starting to do stupid stuff. It's stupid because, with comics struggling to survive right now, they can't afford screw-ups like this.
So, Marvel had itself a little retailer summit this week. Marvel took it upon itself to discuss the state of their business. ICv2 has been writing it up, and what Marvel basically said was this -- you know those asshole fans who say we are gouging them but will still pay $10 for a first issue and $5 for each issue of a mini and buy relaunches all the time? Well, they're our future. Marvel Vice President Of Sales And Marketing David Gabriel flat out stated, "When we're going from the $3.99 to the $9.99 Spider-Man we almost tripled our sales. Yes, there were incentives put on it. There were some variants, but to see triple sales on the $9.99 Spider-Man book and to hear from half of teh retailers saying, 'This helped make our week,' and then another portion of the retailers aying, 'Shame on you Marvel for making us more money,' we sit back. The only thing we have to look at are the numbers and comments like that. We'll go with the numbers any day, because we're interested in making us and you money." In other words, comic fans need to line up, bend over, and timidly ask for it gentle.
Be tthat as it may, that wasn't the really whoopsie. That came with Marvel announcing the end of trying to make comic books more diverse. Once Secret Empire is done, that's the end of it. Fanboys were cheering this as the end of bringing Identity Politics and Political Correctness into comics. Because God forbid anyone besides straight white males find entertainment in comic books. Well, since you are so determined to keep out new readers and not share the treehouse, you better be ready to pay up to keep this ship afloat. You know how you keep saying you're the real customers and you better be kept happy or you'll take your money elsewhere? Well, they are providing your egos and worldviews with justification, so it's a two-way street. Make it rain, fuckers.
P.S. Fortune magazine just published an article praising Marvel Comics in general and Axel Alonso in particular for diversifying their comics. The article came out the same day news broke of the, "Screw diversity," policy.
Marvel attempted to simply make their stance pragmatic, blaming the market for the books not taking off and not the culture of exclusion for anyone not them than die hard comic fanboys have created (I've heard plenty of smack talk about how new fans coming into the field because of the movies and TV shows aren't "real fans". They are making the Bronies look tolerable in comparison). Gabriel stated to ICv2, "I don't know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren't shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable. We saw that, and that's what we had to react to. Yes, it's all of that." He summarized as follows -- "What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. 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." Please notice Gabriel isn't saying Marvel rejects diversity. They still believe in it, but the customers don't want it, and they're just giving the public what they want.
Bull. Fucking. Shit.
Marvel has had it's own success with diversity before. Ms. Marvel. Female Thor. Miles Morales. These were all ideas that were intitially shouted down by fans as pandering, and instead great into and became their own successes. You want to see real diversity? Go outside of Marvel. Over at Rooster Teeth, which is basically just a bunch of people doing things for no other reason than they think it would be fun and cool, they have created a series called RWBY which shows empowered, dynamic, and diverse women as heroes, and it has become so popular that streaming services are featuring it and the first season got into movie theaters as a megamix. There are still people demanding Disney make Leia Organa an actual Disney Princess. Don't give me, "It's what the public wants." The public wants more. I saw it at the comic cons I sold my stuff at. They just want it done right. And what Marvel is basically saying is, "Oh, doing it right is too much work when it's so much easier to make money on suckers who will pay $10 for a book they dream about flipping on eBay some day." Saying "the market doesn't want diversity" is bitching out. Full. Stop.
Marvel doesn't mind going against the Fanboy Collective when it suits them. Once again, look at Secret Empire. One of their most legendary heroes, Captain America, who was created specifically to fight Nazis, is now a Nazi. And the story STILL doesn't make any sense to me -- I say again, ALL CAP NEEDS TO DO FOR HYDRA TO SUCCEED IN THEIR PLAN TO CONTROL THE WORLD IS TAKE A VACATION! HOW IS ALL THIS BACKSTAGE MANUVERING EVEN NECESSARY?!? I get that they are trying to make a metaphor for the backlash against social progression and the rise of anger that helped Trump get in office, but...that's not selling the story. Instead of creating a story where someone like me will go, "...really? Okay, let's see where this goes...." (see, for an example of this done right, The Man In The High Castle). It's selling it based on a stance that is communicated just by the summary. The summary is all there is. There is no reason to invest any time or money in following it, because there's nothing to indicate there is anything else there. We know what is going to happen, especially with the "meat and potatoes" reboot of the Marvel Universe waiting on the other side.
As of this morning, Marvel is attempting damage control, "clarifying" the stance I wrote above that they hear the audience saying they want diversity, they're all for it themselves, it's just the market forces, so blame them. Or start ponying up. Once again, the longtime comic fans are acting like assholes. It's kind of like my reaction the first time I saw a group of Magic The Gathering players and how they behaved -- I thought to myself, "Why would I want to hang out with these jerkoffs?", and I didn't bother trying to join the crowd. The social interaction, debating characters and powers and meeting at the Rick's Place that is the local comic shop, that's part of the culture. And instead of trying to change that culture, Marvel is reinforcing it, then blaming people for not wanting to be a part of that culture. That's not how it works.
Meanwhile, DC is cruising along with its line-up, with a Wonder Woman movie around the corner, Batgirl and Gotham Sirens in development, and tons of diversity in their comics. And, unlike the nonsense of the DCnu, this stuff is selling. Not because people are rewarding stances with their money, but because DC is trying to make the stuff people want work. Much as I rag on things like the Suicide Squad movie, they are at least trying to make it work. They may not always succeed, but they try. Just a year ago, people were complaining about Watchmen being made canon in the DC universe and how lousy the DCnu was. Now? Not a peep, and everyone is slamming Marvel. DC has finally caught a break from all the criticism, and now Marvel is putting their face in the path of the fist.
The comic book market deserves to fail.