In “Sadly, Not An April Fools Joke” News from over the weekend, ICv2.com reported Marvel’s David Gabriel, SVP of Print, Sales & Marketing, blamed diversity for slumping comic book sales in October 2016.
In an interview published on the site on March 31, he said, “…any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.”
Later, ICv2 added a note to the post stating that Gabriel contacted them to clarify that this was what he’d heard in candid conversation with retailers. The addendum from Gabriel went on, padded with some damage control language that rang a bit hollow saying retailers and fans are excited about these faces on the rack, etc.
Sigh. If this doesn’t sound like one step forward and two steps back, I question every moment of my youth spent celebrating the catalog of Paula Abdul.
When Marvel’s 2015 reboot had women or minorities on 1/3 of the covers, it seemed as though someone in the fancy offices saw the success DC was having with Batgirl, Wonder Women, Harley Quinn, Black Canary, et aliae, and thought it was time to break out the old
rip-off competitive gloves. They would have had me, too, if it wasn’t for those pesky “comic book retailers.” (Air quotes used for the exact reason you think. Something ain’t right there. If you look at the retailers around these parts, embracing diversity seems to be playing in Peoria.)
As others have pointed out, and I echo, when old boy Spidey’s sales slump he gets a makeover and maybe a movie to introduce him to a younger audience for good measure. When Spider-Gwen has a bad month, she is a failed attempt at representing 40% of your current audience, conservatively estimated, and she’s taking the whole damn ship down with her. I don’t number well, but if 50% of the population identifies as female, I *think* that also means that audience also has a larger growth potential. Someone call me on my bad numbering, please, if I am wrong.
When it comes to things we shouldn’t have to protest/talk/worry about we seem to have slipped down the rabbit hole. Though it shouldn’t, a statement like that coming from someone with a full-on, abbreviated title at Marvel stings. That sting is the reality of what we see in most of what we’ll call “geek media” (because this is bigger than just our pen-and- ink heroes) cast in stark contrast to all of the con panels, well-written articles, and classes about the importance of diversity in comics.
So, we need to talk about it again and some more.
For the last few years, Super Heroines, Etc. has been bringing the discussion about diversity in pop-culture and media to the Wizard World Comic Con stage. Last year’s discussion about Villainesses seems to have had a little more company, as there were several other panels specifically addressing diversity in media and fandoms. SHE would like to invite you to join the discussion again this year, this time we’ll be talking about Feminism in Geek Media. Here are the details:
Yes We Can!: Feminism in Geek Media
Where: Wizard World, Room 144
When: Friday, April 7 at 4:30pm
How: Buy Tickets for the Day or Weekend Online or Day Of
What: Join us once again as this year we take a look at how women are changing the landscape of comic books, video games, film, and more. We will discuss women creators, unusual controversy, and media that we love. (More)
Join the discussion Friday, speak with your dollars Wednesday, (new issues of Jessica Jones, DC Bombshells, Harley Quinn, and Paper Girls, to name a few), or preach it on social. While Marvel might not listen, there is more than one place to publish a comic book series.
Melody Meiners is a freelance writer, developmental editor, and ghostwriter for hire located in St Louis, MO. When she isn’t writing or reading words, she spends her time devouring all of the pop-culture or teaching fiction writing and literature classes for STLCC @ Meramec’s CE program. You can find her on Twitter (@cosmosgirl) when she really should be writing, and you can read her pithy jokes about her children on her blog (MrsSmartyPants.com).