In one of the most no-brainer interviews conducted with ICV2, Marvel vice president of sales David Gabriel finally acknowledged that shoehorning in divisive, poorly written, forced-diversity, tokenistic Social Justice Warrior topics actually took a toll on the sales of Marvel comics.
First up, Gabriel acknowledged that adding in all the diversity changes to their core cast and bringing in new replacements to fan-favorites may have scored them social justice points with the media, and a lot of back-patting, but it didn’t translate into sales…
“I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed.
“There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable. We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.”
Tastes didn’t change; consumers simply stopped buying. That’s not to mention that SJWs are notorious for being vocal on social media but not actually following through with financially supporting the media they talk about.
We recently covered the downturn in sales over a fiscal period for some of Marvel’s comic books, and it showed that Marvel’s line of comics centered around SJW talking points had major drop-offs in sales. In one case, the Hellcat series – before being cancelled – saw an 81% year-over-year sales delince.
Writers and artists adopting the politically correct, oftentimes “regressive” leftist ideologies have seen their comics tank and get cancelled. Heck, even websites like Comics Alliance — focusing heavily on “diversity” and “progressivism” — couldn’t turn a profit focusing on SJW topics, and thus has shut down.
Based on comments and discussions from around the web, a lot of readers just find the writing and story quality poor all the way around.
Nevertheless, in the same interview, Gabriel stated…
“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.
“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.”
I don’t think it was that people “didn’t want female characters” — given that recent properties like Nier: Automata, Horizon and Senran Kagura topping sales charts shows people actually do like quality made, female-led media — but they didn’t want politically correct, SJW-themed comics with poor writing and forced-tokenism ruining their favorite brands, stories and established characters.
Based on comments from around the web, there was also a lot of negative feedback on Marvel and DC running too many events and crossovers, which made it difficult for people to keep up with their favorite characters.
Artist and illustrator Virgil Millington literally brought up this topic on a CBR article, where he stated…
“The biggest problem is in the first line: “diversify its line by REPLACING ESTABLISHED heroes”.
“Try creating new heroes, instead of taking away/killing off/orientation swapping favorites of (and alienating) the people who have been supporting the company for years and sometimes decades.
“It’s not a case of people not wanting “any more diversity”. It’s people not enjoying the particular changes Marvel has chosen to make. Create compelling NEW characters without sacrificing the old. Simple!
“Also: and yes, Event Fatigue is a problem as well.”
Readers complained to retailers and distributors about the SJW topics diminishing the quality of many of their favorite comics, and opted to stop buying comic books. Some retailers literally wrote to Marvel telling them to stop politicizing comics with SJW topics. It was killing sales.
Marvel responded by saying that they would go back to more traditional comics starting this fall.
The exact same thing happened in the realm of gaming as well, with the SJW-themed game Sunset failing to draw in a sizable audience, even with a sizable marketing campaign, as noted by The Astronauts. Heck, we also saw this happen with movies when Sony tried it with the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters.
Gabriel’s comments, after creating a backlash from the usual outlets and pundits, ended up seeing the sales executive offering an amended comment to ICv2, where he stated…
“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.
“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more! They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”
One of the things gamers have been telling publishers is that if they want to do the SJW thing, they can, but don’t ruin established franchises to do so. Make new games, with new characters, and they can do all the SJW politicizing that they want with those new franchises; just don’t ruin the old brands or try to trick people into thinking the game is something it’s not (which is what happened with Gone Home, which was promoted as a horror game).
Some developers have taken to that advice, with Horizon: Zero Dawn being a new IP that carries a certain brand of storytelling that was approved by feminists, while other developers have still tried to co-op established brands and force in SJW talking points to inculcate gamers, which is what happened with BioWare’s highly controversial Mass Effect: Andromeda.
Gabriel is right that there is a small contingent of consumers in the market who do like the SJW talking points and who do like the politically correct tone that some artists/designers/creators have used to create media, but based on the sales statistics the vast majority of people are not on board with the whole SJW ideology; even less-so when it means co-opting established characters and brands to push SJW ideologies.
Marvel appears to be in a pickle, though, because the media are hard-left SJWs but the majority of their comic book consumers are not.
Do they continue to win virtue signaling points from the media by funneling money into projects that cost them more than they make in return? Or do they bite the bullet and get scorched by the media by focusing on bringing in creative writers and artists who have more than Tumblr-tier fan-fic creations on their resume to re-establish the brands and heroes that made them popular in the first place?