What is Hurting Marvel Comics?
Marvel Comics, one of the biggest publishers in the industry is facing declining sales and is losing fans, but why now after all this time is Marvel being beat out by DC Comics and small publishers? Too much change too fast.
If you are an avid comic reader like myself, you have definitely seen the ads in your comics. “EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE!!” or “WHICH HERO WILL BE KILLED!!” What I’m talking about are pages in the comic that advertise massive events that will include all of the characters engaged in some sort of war to determine the fate of the universe; something along those lines. Lately Marvel has been pumping out events too fast for a normal comic readers with only a $20 weekly budget to buy comics. ($20 can get you around 4–5 comic books)
Last summer Marvel had their second civil war book, Civil War II involving deaths and changes to major characters. The following fall Spiderman got his second Clone Saga (haven’t been able to read ot but hopefully it’s not as frustratingly confusing as the last one!) In the spring Monsters Unleashed happened and now for summer 2017 we get Secret Empire. Most of these stories can contain 6–8 books ranging from $5.99-$4.99 each and on top of that these stories bleed into other series so if you want to get the whole story you’ll have to get maybe up to 3 books from multiple series ranging from $2.99-$3.99. Now with these small price tags and the fact that they come out on a weekly basis it might not seem bad but when you read other series whether or not it’s from other publishers or just a series not affected by the event you’re going to have to pick which ones you can buy. Not only are these events costly but they take everything you know about the Marvel Universe and flip it on its head. In 2015 Marvel had their second Secret War in which universes merged into the main 616 continuity (the main Marvel Comics universe) and with each event characters die, factions disperse and war with each other, new characters emerge and overall everything become a confusing convoluted mess that is rather hostile to newcomers. Comic book writer Jonathan Hickman stated “I think maybe the lesson might be that continuity eventually swallows everything.”-Jonathan Hickman. However Marvel has created a new line of characters to capture new fans but that presents it’s own problems.
Times have changed significantly since the first days of comic books and media in general. Issues regarding race and gender have become much more serious as now, society has matured, accepting people of different races and sexual orientation whereas going back to the 40’s or even 60’s this was not the case. As someone who thoroughly enjoys comics, you can bet I was glad to see these major publishers (mainly Marvel) usher in a new age of characters with varying ethnicities and fans to enjoy them such as Miles Morales: The new Spiderman being both African American and Puerto Rican. Or Kamala Khan: The new Ms. Marvel, a Pakistani-American, and a major Muslim Superhero. And most recently Riri Williams: an intelligent young African American girl who has now become the successor to Tony Stark Iron Man. This brings up the question: What happened to all of the classic characters? They’re gone. The classic characters of Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, as well as many others have disappeared being killed off or being changed in such a way that they are no longer recognizable as the icons we once knew. in various stories these characters are fading away only to be replaced by these new diverse counterparts. Fan backlash against these new characters is being written off as comic fans being bigoted sexists individuals who want only their straight, white, male superheroes. This is not the case. Fans are angry that the characters they have been invested in for years on end are gone, and now that their favorite characters no longer exist in the stories they read they stop buying the new comics. Sure these new characters attract new fans but Marvel is losing loyal fans faster than they are gaining new ones. Another issue is that most of these characters appeared out of nowhere. Sam Wilson was the Falcon for decades and even started in Captain America comics so it made sense when he took up the mantle and fans were accepting to this new take on the character. Riri Williams appeared from nowhere and suddenly she takes over the Iron Man books? It confuses fans and forces them into characters instead of gradually getting used to them.
DC comics, another publishing giant in the world of comics has had major success with their Rebirth movement, instilling new values and concepts while preserving classic characters. If Marvel continues to witness the failure of these diverse characters they might interpret this as diversity is bad for sales and stop introducing fresh, diverse characters altogether and unfortunately this may be the case, Bleeding Cool magazine has interviewed Marvel VP of sales David Gabriel about the declining sales and here is his interpretation of them: “We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against. That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”-David Gabriel. There is nothing more sad than a company not listening to their fans. Going off of numbers and not listening to the customers justification is very idiotic.
Taking a Page From DC Comics
DC Comics recently kicked off a massive sales spike with their DC Rebirth line. DC took classic characters and updated their looks, values, and format to create new, fresh, and exciting stories that the fans can’t wait to get their hands on. The best part is no major continuity changes have been made. (There is one complex story on the horizon but nothing is expected to change) If Marvel had gone this route and slowly introduced the new characters, by the time they took center stage no dilemma would exist.