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Our Thoughts About Marvel Comics "Giving Up" on Diversity

There was a time when minorities in America believed that becoming more a part of mainstream society was inevitable, that progress would inch forward in all areas of society until prejudice was just something we read about in history books. That time was the 1960s, and the year is now 2017, and that dream has yet to be realized. In fact, it's more like two steps forward and three steps back.

Case in point, Marvel Comics was rapidly leading the way in comics, introducing a host of what it called "legacy characters" who tended to be minorities or women or both as new versions of classic heroes. Wolverine became the female X-23, Iron Man became an African-American teenage girl, the Hulk became the Asian-American Amadeus Cho, Thor became a woman, etc. Comic book readers of all races and genders celebrated the new ideas, except for what we thought were a handful of white male trolls whining about losing their dominance over the comic book industry.

"Whatever," we thought, "get used to it. We're here to stay."

Well, apparently not. Marvel has said in public and private that 2017 will start rolling back on what it calls "political statements," and that basically means bringing back the white males it worked so hard to replace. In the process, the legacy characters will inevitably be pushed aside. Marvel even openly said it was giving up on diversity because "people didn't want any more diversity."


Why? Money. Marvel blames its sales slump on the claim that female and minority-led comics weren't selling well. CBR did a great job of breaking down the numbers to show that diversity wasn't Marvel's only problem (spoiler: all their comics are selling poorly, not just the more diverse ones). Nerdist also pointed out how Marvel bungled its rollout by not hiring more women and people of color to write and draw its books, alienating the very people they were supposed to reach out to, but it doesn't really matter. The bottom line is that Marvel is taking its toys and going home, breaking the hearts of the disenfranchised with them.

On one level, it's the fault of the people of color and others who didn't make these books into the huge bestsellers they should have been by voting with their wallets. We were happy to post pictures of the female Thor on Tumblr, and ignore the latest issue sitting on the bookshelves. On another level, the amount of backlash to even the slightest changes was over-the-top and unnecessary. In 2017, it makes us very sad to see the ugly and vicious things said about adding even one black or female character to comics. Along with other changes we've seen recently, the reaction to Marvel's changes have exposed the idea of living in a post-racial society a complete myth. Racism hasn't gone anywhere, it's just gone into anonymous comments on YouTube and Twitter.

Where do we go from here? Honestly, who knows, but the reality is that women and minorities read comic books now in greater numbers than ever before. A whole generation has grown up in comic shops, and that's not going to change. At the same time, the Internet has given a voice to them, and they have shown that the old ways of pages of white powerful men standing next to stripperific women in worlds where minorities only appear as muggers will no longer be tolerated.

Here's the prediction: all the trolls who will celebrate in the comments of this article and others will see this as vindication of their ugliness. But Marvel will take away its diversity, only to find that sales will be worse than ever, leading them to realize that the problem was never putting women on the front page, and that it might have been saving them from even worse sales. Meanwhile, all you white males who love your power fantasies will be the ones who have to open their wallets to save your precious comics. So if you want to be proven right, in one year, make us write an article headlined "Getting rid of diversity made Marvel richer than ever." Otherwise, in one year, we'll be writing an article headlined "Getting rid of diversity made Marvel poorer than ever."

The ball's in your court.

Oh, by the way, did you hear the one about a Polynesian actor being hired to play Aquaman in 2017's "Justice League?"

What do you think of Marvel's decision?

Related Posts:
Is DC Beating Marvel at Diversity in Movies?

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