Marvel comics executive blames “diversity” for slump in comic-book sales

And some readers aren’t happy

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Comics giant Marvel has come under fire for suggesting poor comic-book sales could be related to a greater emphasis on diverse characters, at the expense of existing superhero figures. 

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The comments were made by the company Vice-President of Sales David Gabriel at the Marvel Retailer summit when asked about falling sales in 2016, with the company’s original comic-book arm failing to keep pace with the massive success of its movie universe.

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel told ICv2. “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.” 

Gabriel’s explanation has since caused a backlash, with many fans and critics suggesting that Marvel is shifting blame onto readers for the poor sales, rather than addresing other legitimate problems like the company’s reliance on confusing crossover “event” comics, rising prices and a “brain drain” of artists and writers to other more creator-friendly companies.

Following this Gabriel released a clarifying statement, promising fans that newer and more diverse characters weren’t going anywhere and pedalling back on some of his more candid language.

“Let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere!” he said. “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.

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“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.”