I decided that I would have to write one more thing about Marvel comics and its continuing circling of the drain. I thought I could leave it alone after the last piece that I had written but sure enough, something came along that I couldn't ignore with regards to the whole thing.
Bleeding Cool, a website that I don't hold in high regard, published a story featuring an interview with David Gabriel, Marvel's VP of sales, and his views on the company's position. When asked why the company's sales fell so much, he commented that readers were "nose turning" at the things they had been doing "successfully for the past three years". He followed this up with the almost breathtaking line of "what we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there."
The comments went viral and there was quite a response, my own included, and Gabriel was forced to provide an update to Bleeding Cool as to what he meant. I will give Bleeding Cool their dues, they have covered this thing quite well and even explored that part of Marvel's fall was a lack of superstar artists to drive those sales. I can think of no major artist that works for Marvel, not one, they all left to do work for independent companies. Image comics was created after several of the top artists walked out after the way they had been treated, paving the way for the likes of The Savage Dragon, Spawn, and of course, The Walking Dead.
What bugged me about Gabriel's response was that he totally missed the point of it all. Nobody out there in their right mind gives a toss about the race or gender of the characters as long as you get a good story out of it. Saga, the Image comic by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples, is a perfect example of this. Marvel, however, seemed to be doing its best to shove various politics down the reader's throats, jokes at their expense, and of course, changing long established characters to suit a different audience. How did that do? Well, here are a couple of examples:
All-New Wolverine 1 sold 119,786 copies
The latest issue sold 29,255 copies.
Captain America Steve Rogers 1 sold 99,768 copies
The latest issue sold 36,610 copies
Thor 1 sold 150,862 copies
The latest issue (now Mighty Thor) sold 40,175 copies
Angela Queen of Hel 1 sold 39,271 copies
The last issue (canceled) sold 14,091 copies
I could go on and on about this, but the point is clear. In more ways than one, customers simply were not buying what Marvel was selling them. But in the company's mind, it was us the consumer who were to blame for this.
The writers of some of these comics have pretty resistant attitudes to the whole thing on Twitter. In part, I do not blame them because I'm guessing they have taken some abuse over all this (please don't do that) but their defiance in defending their material is just as forlorn. Jon Del Arroz, an author friend of mine on Twitter, took a look at some of the Marvel staff and the way they behave on social media in a blog piece, they are almost identical in their attitudes and dislikes, no real diverse opinions among them. Jon would later update this more in another piece, it helped show to me that these writers have helped chase off readers with their attitudes. Even G Willow Wilson's response in her blog about the whole affair was quite telling, especially when she mentioned social justice.
As I read into this whole thing, I came to realize that I was basically beating a dead horse by continuing to talk about it. I simply will not waste my time anymore with the company as it appears they are not going to change anytime soon. Readers like me have been made to feel like they are unwanted, that they are old news. Fair enough, our money will happily be spent elsewhere without regret. Indie comics, like indie authors, are more worthy of your purchases because they respect their readership and feedback.
Without fans who appreciate your work, the work itself becomes flat, flavorless and avoidable. It looks like Marvel forgot that along time ago.