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Thursday, December 04, 2014 

Fortune fawns over Marvel's dishonest diversity

Fortune wrote an unobjective look at Marvel's alleged efforts to appeal more to women and minorities, but, they're writing it a bit too late:
What will it take for comic books to move from cult niche to universal entertainment? Marvel has a plan — and it involves deviating from their standard cult niche characters.
Unfortunately, I think the only move they're making is for movies, not comics, which still remain firmly jammed in a niche.
Last month, at a special event in Hollywood—one that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige opened to fans, rather than the usual officials-only press conference—Marvel announced two new films in development: Captain Marvel and Black Panther. The former has a female lead, the latter a black male lead. The announcement by Feige, who landed on Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list in 2012, was only the latest example of Marvel highlighting more diverse characters.
Are they really going with "Captain" and not "Ms"? I wonder if it's because they're worried that the setup they're currently using - Muslim girl sporting the name Ms. Marvel - will draw attention to that character for the wrong reasons? Could be. It's a shame they just had to go out of their way to craft something so obviously PC, because I think the Ms. Marvel title works much better for Carol Danvers, the only Ms. Marvel for many. Even though the time's long past that it could've worked out successfully. In fact, what brought down the 2005 series in the end were the editorially mandated connections to crossovers like Civil War.
In the last year alone, the comics giant has launched 13 new comics series with female leads (Captain Marvel; Ms. Marvel; Black Widow; Elektra; Storm; She-Hulk; Thor; Angela; Spider-Woman; Silk; Gamora; Spider-Gwen; and Squirrel Girl); it announced a new ABC television series with a female lead, Marvel’s Agent Carter, that will premiere in January; it launched a Women of Marvel podcast in June; and its social media team created a Women of Marvel Instagram account that showcases female characters and female Marvel employees.
My, aren't they behind the times. Some of those series (eg-She-Hulk) have either been cancelled or are in jeopardy of going that way. It's not too hard to guess why. The writing could be tedious, and even women probably concluded as much, despite all the press claims to the contrary. None of which factors into this article, told from a very superficial perspective.
The growing audience — according to Facebook data, women already comprise almost half of the fans of comics and their characters — is proving profitable. The renewed focus on diversity, along with the rise in digital sales of comics, has bolstered the comics industry at large to some $870 million in sales in 2013, according to Comichron. [...]
But how much of that profitability goes to Marvel? How do they know the new lady readership isn't taking a fancy to products by smaller publishers who know better than to aggravate people with publicity stunts? They're just taking the buyers for granted, acting as though objectivity and critical perspective isn't important to women any more than racial minorities. By doing that, Fortune is only insulting everyone's intellect.
“Women have been reading comics for a lot longer than people even talk about,” says Sana Amanat, an editor at Marvel who works on a range of titles including Hawkeye and Elektra. “But I think that female readership went away for a few years, and now they’re coming back, and they’re also being a lot more vocal.” Marvel is listening. And fans are listening, quite literally, to the podcast and to the panels, which happen at conventions like the New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con, where people line up hours beforehand for a seat. “The panels started really as an expansion on the fact that there are a lot more women working in comics now, and it came from the higher-ups wanting to have more diverse voices working at Marvel,” says Amanat. The podcast began this year as a monthly feature, but was popular enough that it is now weekly.
Women may be coming back, but unless they can offer proof positive in sales figures, they're not coming back to Marvel. If the menfolk aren't, why should the women?
It was Amanat who re-imagined Ms. Marvel. The original Ms. Marvel character, Carol Danvers, first appeared in the 1970s, but in 2012 Marvel updated her name to Captain Marvel. “My senior editor wanted to make a push for a character and a book that he could give to his daughter,” says Amanat. “From there, it expanded into changing her entire look. Carol Danvers went from wearing, essentially, a bathing-suit and thigh high boots to full uniform—now she looks like she’s a fighter pilot, and we focus more on her skills as a fighter pilot than her feminine wiles.” This year, Amanat and Marvel re-created Ms. Marvel as a new, separate character: a Muslim-American teenager. That comic series launched in February and was a hit; the paperback collection of the first five issues, which came out in October, was a New York Times bestseller and is still rated no. 1 in all graphic novels on Amazon.
And anybody who discovers it sells well below 40,000 copies a pop can only shake their head at how the magazine never asked for exact figures, never questions how low sums can be taken seriously when videos and music tapings sell far more in millions, and never asks why the new character's background has to be built around a religion whose Koranic verses they won't even be open about.
The launch of the new Ms. Marvel character, Amanat says, has inspired people across the company: “A few years ago, you couldn’t have a female-led comic series on newsstands and have it last. We were canceling those titles because they weren’t selling. And now we have a Muslim-American female character and not only is it selling, it’s a bestseller. That’s a big sign of how far we’ve come. And it has spurred this whole dialogue about the importance of having minority characters in comics, and even about what it means to American.”
What a giggle-inducer. They recently cancelled She-Hulk, and Storm could be next...because they haven't been selling well. The Muslim Ms. Marvel series sold only around 32,000 last time I looked. Why wouldn't I be surprised if any paperbacks they have in store aren't doing much better? Indeed, what's so best-selling about that?
All of this outreach comes after years of missteps that made the comic book community seem not always welcoming of its female fans. For instance, the art in some comics has repeatedly been criticized for highlighting its female characters’ sex appeal over storytelling. Last summer, a variant cover of Marvel’s new Spider-Woman series raised eyebrows for its depiction of Spider-Woman on her knees atop a skyscraper, posed in an anatomically bizarre contortion. Two years before that, a popular meme showed how ridiculous male superheroes would look if they were drawn the way female superheroes are—that is, more like eye candy than empowered role models.
Complaining about sex appeal is an awfully progressive, politically correct argument that obscures more challenging concerns like violence and villification against women in comics. This is yet another article that won't explore issues like the recent degradation of Mary Jane Watson, Scarlet Witch, Wasp, Jean Grey, or even Gwen Stacy in retrospect. It doesn't even mention that time when Spider-Woman was held hostage in the nude by the Wizard. Absolutely no questions raised whether women like Mary Jane as a leading lady. So what does Fortune really care about? Just money? Without a heart, there's no money.
With Marvel rolling out so many new titles aimed at more than the stereotypical male comic book geek, and its competitor and peer DC making strides as well (the company just announced a 2017 Wonder Woman movie), it’s a happy time for fans of comic books, and for fans of the growing industry.
But not for fans of Marvel and DC products. Today, it's the smaller companies that are gaining, not the Big Two. Yet it's uncertain the industry is growing. If they do, it would depend on their willingness to abandon an outmoded format like pamphlets and go for betters ones like paperbacks.

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The whole "reimagining" of Ms. Marvel as a manly, butch "feminist" icon is ridiculous. There was nothing wrong with her previous code name and look and the new Ms. Marvel is just a slap in the face to everybody who has been persecuted by that intolerant and Judeophobic religion.

And no wonder the idea to turn Carol into Captain Marvel was this Muslim editor's. She had to cover the character up.

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