Marvel Q&A At New York Comic Con With Retailers Goes Bad

A closed Q&A between Marvel Comics and comic book retailers erupted at the New York Comic Con on Thursday after one retailer became vocally critical of the publisher’s decision to change the ethnicity, gender, and sexuality of some of the classic characters, Bleeding Cool reports.

The tensions began when an unnamed seller “specifically [expressed] his distaste for Iceman ‘kissing other men,’ and Thor ‘becoming a woman,'” Newsarama writes. “The retailer’s complaints sparked an outcry among the other retailers present in the room, some echoing his frustration, with multiple attendees raising their voices to speak over each other.”

As Marvel editor Nick Lowe attempted to calm tensions, the original retailer further complained that comic fans leave his store “when they see that Thor is a woman and Captain America is a black man,” and called for Marvel “creating new characters and not messing with the old guys. The old guys are solid.”

“The words ‘black,’ ‘homo,’ and ‘freaking females’ were used multiple times,” Bleeding Cool adds.

Marvel has been heavily criticized for a lack of diversity, although the publisher has experimented with a black, female Iron Man; a biracial Spiderman; a female Thor; and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. Still, the company’s vice president of sales, David Gabriel, recently blamed poor sales on the fact that “people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there.”

Many fans have dismissed such excuses, including comic book author G. Willow Wilson. “Who wants a legacy if the legacy is s—ty?” she wrote. “Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is the world.” Jeva Lange

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I don’t know the true motives of the ones that objected about the direction that Marvel has gone but I will tell the reader what my favorite comic retailer told me recently; that he used to order Marvel books at a rate that was far greater than other comic book publishers in his store but now that is not the case. Marvel’s sales have gone down because people who read comics are not pleased with the product being produced.

Is it because Marvel does not care what the majority of readers want, perhaps? Or is it that they can rewrite the characters in a way that portrays how the world looks in their eyes and not the way Stan Lee and Jack Kirby saw things in the sixties? Maybe it would be better if they just killed off all the original heroes and created a new Marvel, some think that would be more honest. People are very emotionally attached to the comic heroes they like and want good stories they can read about them. Such is the anger of breaking up Peter Parker with Mary Jane and Marvel dissolving their marriage and also Clark Kent with Lois Lane which DC corrected in “Rebirth” by the way.

The defining moments of a hero are how he or she reacted in life’s circumstances and the people they love and care for. You can relate to that hero because he strikes a cord in your life and overcomes the odds to help the people that are in danger. Their life speaks to you and you don’t like it when the foundation status of the hero changes. While I wish the retailers in the story did not call the replacement heroes with such ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation slurs and disrespectful names, I understand their frustration especially from a monetary view.

Is this a battle they can win and influence the biggest comic book publisher in the world, probably not I think? I said once that comics and the related material reflect society itself and is ever changing. We are seeing the media in general change from the ideology of the past and develop into something else and some people don’t like it. Our understanding about science is changing which is the root of science fiction and the doorway to the comic superhero world and related movies and TV. Things in the world are in turmoil and many beliefs are changing and it has spilled its way into the entertainment world and comics.

The reality of this is it is just fiction and I think more people will be very selective about what they read and watch as entertainment. That is OK and should drive the market in the direction of quality and perhaps learning better to relate to the readers or they will lose their readership all together. Like my grandma used to say “it will all come out in the wash”. I still love comics and the creativity involved to bring it into my hands because sometimes we need to enjoy a good story and art and escape our trouble for a few minutes. Thanks for reading comic fans and stay tuned for more. 🙂 Walt