Politics aren’t Killing Marvel Comics, But Marvel’s Politics are

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It’s almost common knowledge by now that Marvel Entertainment (the branch that oversees the comics, not Marvel Studios which produces the films) is in dire straits in the direct market. There is no single reason why, rather its a collective list of issues such as price and over-saturation of product. The scapegoat of diversity has been heavily criticized as well as unproven, Marvel Comics across the board are struggling with Amazing Spider-Man #789 the only Marvel comic making it into the top ten of a limited survey sample of comic shops across the nation in October.

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From Generations Iron Man Iron Heart #1

This is shocking as many thought Marvel Legacy would act in the same way as DC Rebirth did for their main competitor and revitalize their lineup. Instead, so far there seems to be no positive change. With no concrete evidence, I propose its because what Marvel has yet to change its the way its presented itself for the last three years. Co-opting Hip Hop imagery for their covers while failing to represent African Americans inside the company to make comics due accusations of cultural appropriation, CEO Ike Perlmutter supporting Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy and eventually working in his administration that has pushed for things antithetical to the themes Marvel Comics represents, planning and then canceling a tie-in comic with defense contractor Northrop Grumman are some noteworthy examples.

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Concurrent to most of that, Marvel’s various series have fallen under what many are calling a “SJW mentality”. SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) as defined by Urban Dictionary:

“A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.”

Marvel recently created a comic depicting a new Wasp to encourage young girls to join the STEM field, a solo series starring an openly gay Ice Man, two spinoff series for Black Panther, and a new replacement for Tony Stark/Iron Man in the form of Riri Williams. In short, there’s what Marvel preaches and what it does in reality. It’s this contradiction that I think is preventing Marvel from its uphill climb back to prominence in the industry.

It’s not even that the subject matter is too controversial, DC has been publishing series for female and queer characters for awhile now, as well as series with Black and Asian leads written by creators that resemble those characters.

What I think is sending mixed signals is doing all of the aforementioned changes to their products, and blatantly turning Steve Rogers, a icon of American exceptionalism and famous anti-Nazi smasher, into an allegory for fascism.

It proved to be a poor choice, it regards to fan reception if not sales as well.

With Marvel’s CEO’s political affiliations known, it makes the “Captain Hydra” thing seem less like a spoof but some sort of meta affirmation of the Alt-Right movement in America right now. Whatever writer Nick Spencer wanted to say with this change to the character, it wasn’t one fans heard.

Now Marvel wants to reconcile its classic stable of characters with its “future” ones. If history is any indication, this is lip service and hype for cosmetic changes. Marvel was the king of the sales and quality comics a few short years ago with A-list creators and intriguing new directions for its characters. Gradually, that faded out to more output and relaunches ad nausem to try to hold on to the Diamond Sales chart. None of that really speaks to where Marvel’s heart lies outside of the almighty dollar. Which  is fine, unless Marvel claims otherwise.

This isn’t a case of “One Hand Washes the Other”, its “The Right Hand is choking the Left”. Marvel has to pick one direction to go in, and commit to it. If it wants to be a force of change in the Industry, that’s great. If it wants to compete with DC and return to its place as the House of Ideas, not gimmicks or cash-grabs, that’s good too. But it clearly cannot do both, and very soon it may be too late to turn the ship around…

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7 thoughts on “Politics aren’t Killing Marvel Comics, But Marvel’s Politics are”

  1. Ya, I never read Nazi cap (maybe half of an issue max)… and I read 25 plus issues a month on the Marvel U app. Something about it rubbed me the wrong way. Ultimate cap is one thing but 616 cap… is a beacon of hope… and should remain a beacon. Yes, I like my heroes fictional… that way they can’t disappoint me.

    As for Tony Stark.. meh… I’m fine with hologram Stark as a Riri sidekick.

    I’m surprised that numbers haven’t picked up with Legacy characters returning frankly.

  2. I definitely think the alienation of fans because of over diversifying plays a huge part in the sales dip.

    The main players of the cinematic universe are Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Odinson, Bruce Banner, Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff.

    Just a few months ago you could only find Natasha as Black Widow in the comics. Every other hero comic title was starring someone else..

    And most of these comics were actually really good, that is the sad part of it all.

    It happens in DC too. Just look at Gordon being Batman. How many fans stopped reading there? It is always a risk to switch up major heroes, although Marvel made some cool choices, they did too much for the general public to handle at once, I think.

    1. Who is in MCU has absolutely no effect on sales. Currently, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil all have ongoing series and a new Defenders book and all except Daredevil are struggling as much as everything else.

      The reason why Marvel replaced Thor with Jane and then Tony with Riri and Doom is that both of them failed to perform on the same sales level as Spider-Man. They had solid B-Lister sales that could get them years-long runs, but Marvel wanted their MCU staples to be in Top 10. They outright admitted that they want Tony to be the face of comics as he is of every other part of Marvel, be it cartoons, games of MCU. But after 100k on the first issue and gave him their best-selling writer to do so, his book went back to the same sales he had under Gillen and Fraction.

      So they did what it took to get Spider-Man back to the top 10 – Spider-Man has been consistent top-seller ever since #700 and Superior Spider-Man, where he’s been replaced by Doctor Octopus.

      1. “Who is in the MCU has absolutely no effect on sales”

        How is there a Guardians of the Galaxy book that sells any copies at all? I don’t mean to say MCU is the only driver of comic sales but come on man you can’t say the two are totally unrelated.

      2. We can’t really compare Spidey to IronMan though can we. There is probably some kid in the Amazon jungle with a Spiderman shirt.

        I haven’t looked at the numbers but it would seem a bad idea from a sales standpoint to change all of the Avengers (at the same time) who are now (recently) known from a multi billion dollar movie franchise. We also have to consider digital sales and Marvel Unlimited readership if we are being honest about impact. It’s just obvious to me that sales would dip just because comics fans like consistency (and some are racist, sexist? I guess). Having said all that… hands off my Jane Foster Thor… Seriously… If you put your hands on her she may just smite you with that hammer of hers.

        1. Frankly I also think that while sales dipped on Avengers related titles (I surmise)… the last few years also brought new blood into the hobby (I also surmise). So… out with the old (if they want to punish themselves) and in with the new.

  3. Politics aside, the Hydra Cap story was junk.
    I’m currently far more interested in what Marvel is putting out over DC. I like the diversity and, frankly, the stories are better. These characters are 50, 60, even 70 years old, yet the fanboys want to read the same thing over and over again.

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