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Thursday, April 13, 2017 

Despite his liberal stance, the press turns on David Gabriel

Marvel's business manager David Gabriel got a lot of flak from the mainstream press for what he said about failed "diversity", despite how his viewpoint actually reflects what they think. Some of the news sources attacking him include the UK Independent, which says they're "in denial if you think the decline of your comics is because of 'diversity'", even though Gabriel, from what I can tell, was more or less scapegoating the readers and store managers for not buying into their whole forced scheme putting race, religion, politics and sexual orientation above talented writing:
For decades now, sales of comic books have been in decline. What could be the cause? The proliferation of other forms of mass media? The drastic shift in distribution models since the 1970s, first with the creation of comic book stores, then with online vendors, then again with direct-to-consumer crowdfunding platforms? The rising prices of monthly issues, which now average about $4 for 20 pages? According to Marvel's Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel, it's none of these. The real culprit, he said at Marvel's recent Retailer Summit, is “diversity”.
Well they're right that prices play a serious role in the downfall of comicdom, ditto the ghettoization and the continued reliance on pamphlets. But the politics they're going by also have to shoulder blame, because it's really all about the racial/religious/sexually oriented backgrounds of the characters they all but replaced the white heroes with. On which note, they go on to say:
“Any character that is diverse,” he clarified, “people were turning their nose up against.” (By “diverse”, Gabriel presumably meant “not a heterosexual white man”, since in the strictest sense of the word no single character can be diverse.)
Tsk tsk tsk. Missing/ignoring the point. How predictable of the paper. If the characters they forced into the roles previously taken by white men and women were created as their own agencies and not replacements in older costumes, then people would be less bothered. Similarly, if they didn't ascribe such reprehensible ideologies onto them as is the case with the Muslim Ms. Marvel, then we could be a lot more enthused. But the newspaper's crummy writer can't be bothered to consider that, and it doesn't take much to figure out she's not a fan of Steve Rogers as a character or even Tony Stark. Speaking of which, fascinating how there's no mention of the fate that befell Jim Rhodes. I take it a black protagonist isn't diverse enough for them to protest in his defense after Marvel knocked him off in one of their past crossovers?

Another most telling flaw in these followup reports is the absence of Mary Jane Watson from discussion. For people supposedly asking for more women to be emphasized, they sure don't seem very interested in complaining how Joe Quesada and company kicked her to the curb so disgustingly, and think shoehorning her into Iron Man is going to fix anything.

The UK Guardian's another paper wading in without wearing galoshes, and they don't do any better. The following is hilarious:
But anybody complaining that a favorite character suddenly has a new race or gender must have started reading comics yesterday, because for as long as there have been comic books and black people, white superheroes from Spider-Man to Green Lantern have existed as women or people of color in alternative timelines, as the result of a magic spell, or in the far future.
Well duh, we knew that! It's like he's saying nobody does any history research, or cares about the same. If to replace an old character with a new in the same outfit, that's one thing. But to say it couldn't possibly fail from an artistic viewpoint is another. There have been superheroes of different race in comics for at least 50 years, and co-stars. But replacing established white heroes with Black/Asian/Latino doesn't work unless you do it with respect for the white folks' legacies (which wasn't the case with Steve Rogers), and avoid forcing bad beliefs upon their successors' characterizations, as is the case with the Muslim Ms. Marvel. On which note:
It shouldn’t surprise people that the entrenched superhero readership is resistant to change – but it should push the conversation toward parts of the market where there is growth. As the comics writer G Willow Wilson points out, diverse characters outside Marvel’s “core” of elderly, franchise-friendly creations are doing quite well, especially outside the direct market. Look at Wilson’s own Ms Marvel, Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther, which remains a top 20 bestseller in actual bookstores, according to Nielsen data.
I miss the actual sales figures here. Last time I looked, the Muslim Ms. Marvel's title was dropping to 20,000 or less. It's surely the same with Coates' Black Panther series, and not because of its star, but because the book is so chock full of his awful leftism, it makes it throughly unappealing. I've got a feeling the citation of a propagandist like Wilson is fully deliberate, because her politics reflect theirs. And why is it wrong to be resistant to "change" about the established heroes? If they want to create new protagonists representing their ideas of what diversity should be, that's okay, so long as the new casts are their own agency, as was the case with Black Panther, Black Lightning, Firebird, Power Man, Falcon, Storm, Colleen Wing, Lady Shiva, Vixen, Misty Knight, Cyborg, and even co-starring casts like Robbie Robertson and Glory Grant in Spider-Man. That's why they worked well, yet nobody ever brings them up, or if they do, it's non-committal. The article gets worse:
In fact, why give legacy comics fans what they think they want at all? The notion that the longtime readers somehow have a greater claim on a comics character than the new fan – and that both outrank the artist – has plagued the industry for as long as there have been superheroes; people who spend 20 or 30 years reading the adventure of a single character develop proprietary feelings that have nothing to do with the nature or intricacy of the creative process. Comics fandom has huge problems of sexism, entitlement and plain old cruelty, and it often pours out its vast reserves of ambient rage on the artists themselves.
Ah, I see. Now they're trying to make old timers - and anyone new who takes their side - out to look all like a bunch of vile hooligans. Since when does some alleged newcomer have the right to just come along and hijack other people's work, changing the components of an established character, or even turning the product repellently dark and violent? Sure there's would-be fans out there who could have revolting personalities. But I don't think the majority of admirers of the art form are that deranged. What I do think is that, when you have such a vastly reduced "fanbase" now comprised of SJWs who don't even buy/read the products, it leads to a tragically hostile atmosphere. On which note:
Even in cases when an artist has done something provocative or dumb, the response can be disproportionate – Twitter users told J Scott Campbell, famous for his pin-up art, to kill himself during the backlash to a cover he’d drawn of a teenage girl. Of course, that’s not a patch on what happens to women: Chelsea Cain, who didn’t do anything other than exist as a woman and a writer of comics, had to delete her Twitter account after fans sent her everything up to and including obscene “fan art” of the character she’d been writing. “My day job is writing thrillers,” Cain wrote shortly before leaving the platform. “Bestsellers. Sold millions of copies. Never had to block people until I started writing comics.”
Hmm, looks like they're obscuring how it was SJWs with anti-sexuality mindsets who were responsible for fanning the flames against Campbell. It's just like the losers at the Guardian to do that. When they want to, they'll take the SJWs side, yet when they see it convenient, they'll pretend it was actual fans who were the culprits. And they repeat the falsehoods behind Cain's brief departure from Twitter, which she later reversed. Interestingly, it was the same people pushing "diversity" at Marvel who succumbed to the SJWs attacking Campbell. After all, they were the ones who thought up a black teen girl as a replacement for Tony Stark, who didn't fare well in the recent company wide crossovers (and neither did Carol Danvers, the real Ms. Marvel).
Twinned to that problem is a corporate history built on marginalizing women and people of color and swindling artists out of their livelihoods and the rights to their work. Marvel and DC, now unique in the comics publishing world, hire not artists and writers but stewards, people who may do the work of their careers writing and drawing for flat fees and perhaps a small consideration at the company’s discretion when their work is used in a movie, if the artists themselves remain popular. When a movie opens, it’ll be Marvel’s The Avengers, as though the company logo and not Jack Kirby had drawn the book.
Umm, wasn't Ramona Fradon the artist who created Metamorpho in the mid 1960s? And Carole Seuling the writer who created Shanna the She-Devil in the early 1970s? Though they're right in a sense that Marvel did cheat Kirby out of the rights to a lot of his art drafts. But if they really feel the publishers cheated the artists, how come they're so determined to defend them now? It doesn't make sense to me. If they're talking about the fictional characters, though, I thought the companies once worked on promoting superheroines and co-stars to admire, quite the opposite from what the paper's claiming.

Nerdist is another website chiming in, and they're going the defensive route about PC diversity too:
When it’s time to blame someone, go for anyone who isn’t a straight white man. [...]
Oh? That wasn't the case when DC replaced Hal Jordan with another white guy as Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner. And the "creatives" the readership was angry at were white too (Ron Marz and Kevin Dooley). Since we're on the GL subject, I guess they don't care how Alan Scott, the Golden Age GL, was turned homosexual several years ago as part of a "diverse" lineup for the Earth 2 title.
It’s true that Marvel comics haven’t been selling so well in comparison to other publishers; in February 2017, only two of the ten highest-selling monthly comics were Marvel titles. And Marvel has been introducing and reviving numerous “diverse” characters—that is, non-straight-white-male characters—in an attempt to appear less dedicated to preserving the status quo. Right now, Sam Wilson has taken up the shield and name of Captain America, placing a black male hero in the role of one of Marvel’s most emblematic characters. Similarly, who could forget Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl and the new Ms. Marvel? Or the queer Asian-American heroine Cindy Moon, the latest introduction to the Spider-verse? Or Ta-Nehisi Coates/Brian Stelfreeze’s Black Panther and its Roxane Gay-penned spin-off, World of Wakanda?
Fascinating, isn't it, how a new Asian character has to be homosexual too! I get the vibe that, if you wanted to create a character who's Romanian for Marvel/DC, they wouldn't accept unless they were gay to boot. All that aside, they act like nothing's wrong with kicking the older white heroes out of the outfits in the worst ways possible, and they don't consider that if Marvel wanted to, they could always emphasize Sam Wilson in his own original role as the Falcon, and a solo book for the same. Nor do they have any concerns over the propaganda pushed in the Muslim Ms. Marvel title, or the BP title.
...Comic Book Resources has crunched some numbers and found that The Mighty Thor, starring Jane Foster as the Goddess of Thunder, is Marvel’s second-highest selling superhero title; likewise, Invincible Iron Man, which stars a black teenage girl, ranks among Marvel’s top 10 bestsellers. Under Ta-Nehisi Coates’s authorship, Black Panther became the top-selling comic of 2016. Not just the top seller among Marvel comics, but the top seller, period. Maybe it isn’t diversity that’s the problem.
They don't mention most of those series sold little more than 40,000 copies. Some so-called advocates of the art form today just can't be bothered to recognize that due in part to cover prices as much as the interior content, hardly anyone buys them save for the addicts.
But if diversity isn’t to blame, what is? Part of the answer is that Marvel fails at actually putting principles of diverse representation into practice. While heroes who don’t fit the straight white male mold are in greater supply than they were in previous years, most Marvel creators are still white men. This leads to issues such as characters of color whose attitudes towards race come from white authors, which does not sit well with many readers.

The Silver Surfer speaks for a lot of us here.

When Brian Michael Bendis writes Miles Morales as being upset with a fan who mentions his black heritage, or when Nick Spencer has Sam Wilson apologize to Steve Rogers for any activism-fueled anger he may have displayed in the past, it comes off as tone-deaf and leaves readers understandably less than thrilled. The same comic features multiethnic villains who are parodies of the “Social Justice Warrior” stereotype, who shout phrases like “You should be an ally, not helping to defend oppression culture!” and “Consider this your trigger warning!” as they throw grenades at Sam. (Spencer later jumped into a critical Twitter thread by Blerds Online to explain why he was in the right, which didn’t help.)
Here, they're actually getting at something, but I don't think they realized its potential well. It may not be surprising, but Spencer turned against many of the SJWs he was actually catering to. But they fail to note how writers like Bendis and Spencer are of the same political camp as they are, and that could have something to do with their embarrassing focus on race relations. In which case, it's not the skin color of the writers that's a problem; it's their politics.
Hiring more creators of color, more female creators, more queer creators, and really any creators who bring experiences from outside the current bubble to their work would help Marvel to avoid such egregious mistakes in the future. Diversity extends to the people behind the scenes as well as those on the page.
I'm afraid not. Hiring people with a dedication to escapist writing who aren't pushing agendas like homosexuality would help. If they don't know how to leave their politics at the door or keep them to a minimum, as most writers in the past did, then they're simply not fit to take the job.

The Verge, in their commentary, almost suggested they realize Quesada/Alonso erred, but ultimately goofs:
But creating a false distinction between politics and “stories about the world” is a mistake. American superhero comics were political from their earliest days, and Marvel’s are arguably more political than they’ve ever been. Captain America punching Hitler in 1940 is a bold, obvious statement. But exploring the specific experiences of Muslim Americans like Ms. Marvel’s Kamala Khan and queer Latinx Americans like America Chavez is no less political. Discussing how power and identity work in America is an inherently political act, even more so during an era when identity, and stories about it, have become so controversial and polarizing.
The difference is that back then, nobody was pretending evil ideologies weren't. If they were willing at the time to be honest about nazism, why do they pretend by contrast that Islam's not evil? Just recently, Ardian Syaf gave strong hints of what it's really like.
I think the focus needs to be on stories featuring characters who resonate, facing threats that are either fun, or strike at who they are as people. (Or whatever Rocket and Groot qualify as.) That’s hard to do — though not outright impossible — when the reining paradigm is “Events sell,” and new initiatives are designed to create headlines instead of strong narratives. It’s why Cap is a Nazi right now, for reasons too convoluted to go into here. (And yes, I know Marvel is distancing Hydra from its ties with Nazi Germany.)
Again, it's true the crossovers are part of the problems. But to say "diversity" at the expense of the white heroes isn't is a big mistake. Why, they just mentioned one of the biggest problems affecting Steve Rogers now. If they insult his legacy - an approach that's been going on as far back as DC's abuse of Green Lantern in the 90s - how do they expect anybody to appreciate what they're doing now?

Then, there's Vox, who were just as pretentious:
Saying that diversity, female superheroes, and nonwhite superheroes are the reason sales are down — essentially what those retailers claimed — without questioning it or challenging it isn’t a good look for a Marvel representative. What’s worse is that Gabriel reiterated a vocal dissent from some retailers and seemed to apply it to the whole market.
All this coming from people who aren't questioning whether it's in good taste to do it forcibly at the expense of the white heroes, replacing them in their codenames and costumes.
...Characterizing diversity as a trend that kills comics is a slippery slope, and not a fair assessment. There have been A-List comic books that feature marquee characters such as Tony Stark/Iron Man that bumble into mediocrity. There are also a lot of bad books featuring white male characters that live on the bottom of the comic book ecosystem, but retailers don’t up and tell Marvel to stop making white male characters because their books don’t sell
And Vox doesn't tell them they should search for more talented writers, and stop blacklisting conservatives. So what's their point?
Many people also buy their comic books in collected volumes (trade paperbacks) and/or digitally, and the digital market has been growing. According to a 2015 report from the digital retailer Comixology, comic books featuring female leads dominate in digital sales. In a 2014 interview with Marvel’s Sana Amanat, Amanat said that Ms. Marvel was the company’s top digital seller. There are also comic books like Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur that do well online, in trades, and in the Scholastic arena but don’t have stellar retail sales.

What gets tricky is that companies like Marvel aren’t usually very open about releasing digital numbers. On top of that, retail sales are the biggest driver of which comic books get green lights and which ones get canceled — even when an audience doesn’t really know a book exists (because of a lack of marketing or the lack of stock on shelves), or because they don’t know the ordering and preordering system.
On digital sales, they may have a point, but how do they know many people are buying the paperbacks either? I've looked at charts on occasion, and they don't seem to be doing much better than several thousand sold. In hindsight, many of them aren't selling the millions, even if they're good stuff. If not, then it does little good to point out paperbacks when not many are buying them either, due in part to the story quality.

On the other hand, Lifezette's one website that's taking a right-wing view of everything, and getting a better grip on the issues:
Gabriel’s blunt talk was a bit much for media outlets and social justice warriors who have praised Marvel for abandoning old characters in favor of new, more ethnically diverse ones. [...]
Exactly. This is the very point I was making. They continue:
A slump in sales for Marvel is likely indicative of the same issue experienced by last summer's "Ghostbusters." The film seemed like a brilliant idea. It was a female-led extension of the classic comedy starring Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. However, fans turned against the film when they found out it was a simple remake of what had come before — and the trailers were just not funny.

Distributor Sony and the filmmakers pivoted their pitch, and suddenly anyone disagreeing with the new film was a misogynist. The movie predictably flopped and was reported to have lost $75 million for Sony.

People have criticized Marvel comics in similar fashion. When some of the most popular characters on the silver screen are Tony Stark, Thor, and Spiderman, why outright replace those characters with ones that have nothing to do with the movies?

And, above all, why not create something fresh and original rather than toss aside beloved and popular characters? That alienates fans and puts them in an impossible situation, in which criticizing it seems akin to being a hatemonger.

Beyond this, Marvel’s push was incredibly aggressive. One character after another hit the bricks in a relatively short period of time. The goal of the company seemed to be less about storytelling and more about an agenda to say all the "right things" that would please all the "right people." Yet if the storytelling is no good, customers will flee.
This could easily describe how DC went about using the Identity Crisis miniseries as a lead in to their own plans for "diverse" heroes who weren't much of anything beyond that, and IIRC, some of their apologists took the same approach as Marvel and Sony did. Is it any wonder they failed, and are still bound to end up that way?

And then, Front Page Magazine points to something we shouldn't overlook - that the characters with PC components will be paired with the veterans:
The Marvel-Disney Kremlin will be sticking with Muslim Marvel and Biracial Spider-Man and Angela Davis Iron Woman and Korean Hulk and Transgender Punisher. But they'll also be pairing the garbage PC characters everyone hates with the characters readers actually buy and enjoy. Want to read them? You'll have to eat your politically correct spinach. Pairing unpopular characters to make them popular has never worked before. But when leftists take over a company, they put PC ahead of profits.
Yes, I noticed that news. DC could be doing the same. If the new PC characters retain those PC definitions that make their creation poor, why should anybody want to read them? And then Marvel will still look for scapegoats.

Hot Air also had something to say:
I hope they have better marketing people on the job than the one quoted in this article because it sounds like they’re taking away precisely the wrong message here. It clearly looks like someone is trying to turn this into some sort of social justice warrior battle when the far more likely explanation is that it comes down to simple brand management and marketing. Making a statement such as, “people didn’t want any more diversity… didn’t want female characters” simply sounds ignorant. What people actually don’t want is you messing around with a known, established brand which your customers grew up with, along with their parents and even grandparents. In some cases you’re messing with legendary figures which predate Christianity.

Here’s a clue for the folks at Marvel. Thor was a dude. He was a big, massively muscular dude. And yes… while I’m sure I’ll be crucified for saying it, he was a white dude with blonde hair. Because he was Nordic. That’s not a racist thing… it’s just the genetics of the folks who dreamed him up. Making him into a girl isn’t suddenly going to change history.
It's the same with DC. Turning the Silver Age Atom into an Asian, Firestorm into a black teenager, Blue Beetle into a Latino, the Golden Age Alan Scott into a gay man, The Question into a lesbian, Manhunter into a woman, and former Kid Flash Wally West into a black delinquent isn't going to change history. And when somebody finds out just what kind of nasty circumstances DC's staff put the white heroes who originated the first 3 roles through just to get to that point, you can be sure somebody's going to feel rightfully disgusted and won't keep reading the PC stories at all costs.

If there's anything the bad press sources tellingly showed no interest in commenting on, it's that there are Spider-fans out there who'd very much like to see the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson marriage restored, along with the times when continuity was in better shape. If the MSM doesn't want Mary Jane around...well, I just don't see why they're advocating "diversity", and thus, they have no business claiming to know better than anybody familiar with past history of both DC/Marvel.

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