Marvel and Diversity
Anyone who has strolled through their local comic book shop lately have surely noticed a host of new faces taking on the roles of established heroes (or in the case of Thor and Captain America recognizable faces in new costumes). To say this has caused some waves is a bit of an understatement; on one extreme, waves of new readers are venturing into comic shops for the first time to read the adventures of these new heroes. On the other side of the spectrum you have traditional fans, many of whom are upset at the perceived disrespect shown to characters who hold a special place in the hearts of fans.
This issue has become such a massive talking point as of late as Marvel’s VP of Sales David Gabriel used these new diverse characters as a scapegoat for Marvel’s current downturn in sales. Claiming that comic fans were prejudiced against female characters and characters who were ion racial minorities. Rather than own up to the mistakes many have been pointing out as a reason they have given up on the House of Ideas, new characters who are still building their fanbases like; Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales as Spiderman, and Sam Alexander as Nova were thrown under the bus. Not bothering to look at the tired stream of crossover events that have no meaning like most recently Civil War II. Or in many cases some of Marvel’s most beloved characters have in fact been treated with great disrespect Fans have recently seen; the X-Men pushed aside for the Inhumans, Iron Man in a coma for no reason, the heel turn by Carol Danvers in Civil War II, the pointless death of the Hulk merely for shock value, the Fantastic Four disbanded and turning Captain America into an agent of HYDRA.
Needless to say Gabriel’s comments drew a firestorm of criticism and the clueless executive was forced to back down from his statements. Not only were his comments out of line, but hilariously wrong. Whenever a new collection of Ms. Marvel or Black Panther hit the book stores they establish a firm foothold on the New York Times bestsellers list. In fact Kamala Khan has become a huge cultural icon for many young people across the world. The new series Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has become a hit among young readers through distribution into classrooms rather than through the traditional Diamond Comic Distributors. The current Mighty Thor series featuring Jane Foster has far outsold the same book when it featured the Son of Odin. Now in the role of his former partner, Sam Wilson, the new Captain America is bringing a fresh new perspective to carrying the Star Spangled shield. And readers are getting stories from a point of view they never could under Steve Rogers, as the book looks at issues of; race, police brutality, political corruption, and poverty with fresh new eyes. These new diverse characters are bringing in a new generation of comic fans who will keep the industry thriving.
True may books with these new legacy characters have suffered in sales, but it has little to do with the new character but rather with the poor way they are handled on the creative end. In the case of the Totally Awesome Hulk, Amadeus Cho is trying his best to take the place of the big green guy, but the fact that Bruce Banner was killed off simply for shock value has left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans. And these fans have no problem taking it out on the new teenager parading around as their favorite rage monster. Many Iron Man fans I have talked to like the character of Riri Williams AKA Iron Heart but have big problems with the transition away from Tony Stark. Have a grand story featuring Stark searching for his birth mother, the billionaire is put into a coma and Williams is pulled out of the blue to take his place. Given the popularity of Tony Stark, especially in recent years it is not hard to see why many are upset about his abruptly being taken out of the picture. As the acclaimed writer of Ms. Marvel G. Willow Wilson pointed out in her blog, nobody wants to take up a legacy if that legacy has been disrespected.
Hopefully going forward the house that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and many other built can straighten things out. New heroes such as; Kamala Khan, Mile Morales, Riri Williams, and Laura Kinney have the potential to become every bit the legends their predecessors are, But they will not accomplish this unless those on the creative side of the book put the attention and care into their work to make this happen. This next generation of Marvel heroes are the key to the publishers future, let us hope that they can see it for themselves.