It has recently come to the attention of Marvel that although people keep fighting and arguing for diverse comic books, they are not selling very well. Do the people who actually read comics want diversity? Is it just argued because people like the idea of diversity? This upcoming March, Marvel plans to cut at least five comics that would fit in the diverse category. According to their VP of sales, “What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales”. This shows that people are putting input into an area they really shouldn’t be. This is like telling a musician he needs to change their style and then still not buying their music or supporting them. Other retailers have come out and said the same thing about these diverse comics not doing well in their shops too. In 2017, only one female fronted comic was in the top ten comic book sales. Even though sales overall seem to be down, there are still some diverse comics that stayed valuable and wanted during resale such as, Wonder Woman, Captain Phasma, Rat Queens, Harley Quinn, DC SuperHero Girls, and Paper Girls. These are all comics that have been around for a while. Diversity may be wanted, but it has not been able to prove itself in single issue sales.
Comic Sales Figures Prove To Marvel: Diversity Isn’t The Problem
5 thoughts on “Diversity in Comics”
Comics sales is an incredibly complicated matter, with a lot of factors in play. There is a great essay (albeit a very lengthy one) called The Problem with Comics that takes a deep dive into explaining the issues with the comic book market.
I should also mention the much more relevant follow up essay, Shut the Fuck Up, Marvel. Both essays can be read on twine for free. I would probably look at this second once since it has more to do with the subject at hand.
Sorry, this will be my third and final comment. I keep leaving things out and I’m not able to edit these, but just to do a quick summary of some of the problems with comics sales:
1. Marvel mainly focuses on the sales of printed comic books, which overlooks digital comics sales which in this day and age make un a significant portion of sales.
2. Comics sales are viewed by how much brick and mortar comic shops order and these are typically done three months in advance. Comic shops are usually going to go with the mainstream comics that every already knows. (Spider-man, X-Men)
This means for a smaller, lesser known series, if that first issue wants to sell well than people have to go to their local comic shop and put it on the pull list three months in advance. A comic they may not even know about yet. Meaning a lot of these newer, less mainstream comics are cancelled before they get a good chance to spread by word of mouth.
The article linked in the original post makes the additional argument that plenty of collections of these are selling well and the focus of single issue sales may be the real problem. I’ve been into comic shops and I usually feel very weird in there. It may be hard for people, even people who have access to a comic shop nearby, to feel welcome in that environment if they are a newcomer.
I don’t think this is a question about diversity, but rather how so many on social media are becoming keenly aware of the politicization of popular entertainment. Diversity, for instance, has highly associated with the progressive left, and therefore many who are right-leaning probably won’t be buying comic books from Marvel because they do not support progressive politics. Many on the right have come to associated “diversity” with “non-white” or more specifically normalizing the reduced presence of people of European descent, as a group.
For me, personally, I hate putting up with a narrative that promotes any current political nuances. I don’t like being preached to. Take this for example:
Marvel doesn’t simply create a female Thor and leave the readers to figure her out for themselves. Instead, Marvel creates a narrative within the comic that draws attention to the politics of the day, which distracts from the process of giving female Thor a natural character progression in the eyes of the reader. This is why I’m not particularly interested in a reading comics that are less about the development of the characters–the people–within the story and more about making a political statement. Here’s a particularly poignant response from social media about this: