Marvel Comics decided to abandon their pandering to the progressives and feminists. I have noted several times that for all the political bootlicking Marvel engaged in, it did not result in strong sales. While one can argue that the films and TV shows provide greater revenue streams for Marvel and Disney, the comics still need to make money to justify their publication.
Marvel’s sales have not fallen so low that the publisher would close its publishing branch, but they have not been that good. The Star Wars books sell better than many formly popular superhero titles. This is primarily due to Marvel scrapping or demoting the original heroes.
Marvel did this to bring in new readers. Yet rather than try to win over those who love the films and shows, Marvel decided to appeal to the far left. They introduced identity politics into their comics, and took to alienating their core fan base. These are the same fans who stuck with Marvel after the horrendous Spider-Man clone saga storyline, the company filing for bankruptcy, and the insanity of repeatedly relaunching titles for the sake of quick #1 money grabs.
Comic book fans are among the most loyal fans. Few things run them off of their favorite books. For some reason, Marvel decided to do three of the most likely things to cost them fans: remove their favorite characters, tarnish the histories of those characters, and insult the fans who complained. The latter proved most insidious because the insults accused fans of racism, sexism, homophobia, and bizarrely resorted to stereotypes about comic book fans.
As Marvel did this, their new politically correct fan base proved not to be fans at all. As Marvel published book after pandering book, the books enjoyed initial high or good sales only to drop most of their audience within the first quarter. The prime example of this is the recent Black Panther book, which lost 70%of its audience in one month.
Coupled with this was DC Comics’s decision to forsake the unpopular New 52 “soft reboot” and return the post-Crisis universe most readers grew up with and loved. In the fall of 2016, DC’s Rebirth line dominated sales, proving that comic book fans, ever loyal, will buy your books if you give them the characters they like and stories they want to read.
This left Marvel in the curious situation of having the most successful superhero film franchise – – a dozen films, most of which earned $1 billion at the box office – – while their comics floundered with unfamiliar, clunky, token characters that look and read like poorly written fan fiction.
In this situation, Marvel had only three practical decisions: ignore the low sales and continue to push the politics, try to balance the politics by introducing right-wing ideas, or ditch the politics.
They chose the latter, and the reason is damning:
Of late this kind of [political] storytelling has become more pronounced, probably kicked off with the likes of The Authority, Ultimates and Civil War, with more recent stories in comics such as Captain America, The Champions and Ms. Marvel wearing their politics firmly on their spandex sleeves.
There has also been reaction from some fan communities and retailers to these kind of stories as having no place in superhero comics, despite all the many examples that have preceded it. Maybe it’s a little more obvious now? Maybe everyone is interpreting everything politically? Maybe fans wish for a time when they didn’t realise their superhero comics had political elements?
Either way, Marvel Comics has been a focal point for this kind of discussion. And last week’s Marvel creative summit I am told by well connected sources who have proved themselves in that past there was more of a focus on what DC Comics internally called “meat and potatoes” comics that preceded their doubling down on the popular characters and bringing back old favourite takes with DC Rebirth.
I am told, as Marvel brings back the X-Men line with a bang, to expect a return to more of a status quo for titles such as Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and more. A more familiar looking Marvel Universe by the autumn – although, just as with Captain America, as classic-look-characters return, expect new characters to keep a number of their books.
In short, Marvel will ditch the politics because they got away from telling stories. They will put their iconic heroes back in place, and they will do what they should have done with the new characters in the beginning: give them their own titles and let them earn a fan base on their own.
The irony of the complaints about politics in comics is that comics have been political since their inception. What made Marvel’s recent attempt so grating is that most of the stories preached to the audience. They were completely one-sided, never allowing for any (ironically) diverse opinions. Bitter diatribes against upset fans accompanied the lack of nuance.
Had anyone approached politics from the perspective that those with different politics are not evil, this have gone over better. But the incessant need to snap at critics, non-progressives, and the fan base and make them like the poor storytelling backfired.
One would think Marvel would have seen what happened to the gaming industry when they attempted this tactic. The reason GamerGate won is because the gaming industry is a business. The consumer ultimately has the power. If you take away what they want, they will stop buying your products.
This is what happened to Marvel. They gambled with their fan base and lost. However, unlike the gaming industry, this did not begin and end within two years. Marvel has been at this since 2011.
While the direction change may bring back some fans, the intensity of the Marvel hate might keep plenty of fans away. In both the short and long term Marvel may have cost itself a large chunk of its base by pandering to people who do not buy their products.