Marvel Comics has a diversity problem.
The company employs too many morons.
By now, I’m sure you’ve had your fill of the Marvel marketing dunderhead who blamed Marvel’s falling sales and its shrinking share of the marketplace on its female and minority heroes.
But the real problem lies not with its nontraditional heroes but with its approach to selling them, and this all became apparent when I watched the Warner Bros. film “Suicide Squad.”
Yeah, it’s on HBO this month, and I finally got around to watching it. I don’t call myself the Tardy Moviegoer for nothing.
Never mind the film’s merits or faults – its presence and DC’s reaction to it point out very different approaches to readers.
Any film, good or bad, is going to drive traffic to the comics from the curious. And if you go to DC right now, you can find a DC title of the same name staffed with the same lineup of anti-heroes and villains – Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and more.
New readers can instantly connect with the recognizable team. That’s smart business sense.
Now look at Marvel, which is the undeniable powerhouse when it comes to ruling the box office. Its “Avengers” films earned hundreds of millions at the box office. “Captain America: Civil War,” which was essentially an Avengers meeting gone bad, alone grossed over a billion worldwide.
But if you’re looking for an “Avengers” title with a similar lineup – or even looking for the same heroes, you’re flat-out-of-Irving-Forbush-luck, as Stan Lee might say (or not).
Hulk is dead.
Thor and Iron Man have been both replaced by female counterparts.
Captain America? Oh, he’s a Nazi.
Gee, you think that creative debacle – turning the symbol of America’s decency and ideals into the very things its Jewish creators in the 1940s hated – has anything to do with declining sales? Could that be part of the reason why readers are deserting the line?
The triumph of the Marvel movies are due in part to the drumbeat of patience and fortitude by Lee and all those creators who followed him, who spent approximately 50 years building up these characters to the point where they could carry a major motion picture.
New versions aren’t going to have the same popularity, not in a year or two years time. Of course, the books are going to falter – in comparison.
It takes time to build superstars. Look at a character such as Luke Cage, who now stars in two titles and is the focus of a Netflix series. He started as a middling ’70s character and limped along for years. It takes time to build an audience for a hero. Heck, the Hulk was initially cancelled after six months and Stan had to relaunch the character.
Fans want to see the son of Odin, the sarcastic technocrat and the all-American in their familiar costumes and roles.
Marvel has denied them that and now resents its own readers for not embracing these new characters with the same loyalty and love the originals inspire. And the company backlash implies the company was never all that committed to diversity in the first place.
Back to “Suicide Squad” for a second: In a closing credits coda, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) vows to Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to shut down the Squad if it gets out of hand.
The comics cannily picked up on that: DC recently concluded an event miniseries with the Justice League facing off against the Suicide Squad. The miniseries sold out in my area like ice cakes in the desert. The only tie-ins? The main team books. If you were a diehard fan, that meant only three titles to collect.
Compare that to Marvel’s latest company event – (Didn’t “Civil War II: Electric Boogaloo” end like 10 minutes ago?) – “Secret Empire” allegedly will expose Captain Nazi Hydra America’s nefarious agenda and bring the story to some sort of climax.
If you want to follow that story, you have to buy both “Captain America” titles, “Thunderbolts,” “Uncanny Avengers,” “Avengers,””Occupy Avengers,” “U.S. Avengers,” “The Mighty Captain Marvel,” “X-Men Blue,” “X-Men Gold,” “Secret Warriors,” “Champions,” “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Doctor Strange” and “Deadpool.”
What, no “Squirrel Girl”?
You shouldn’t have to go into debt to follow a story.
At Boston area stores, retailers tell me “Secret Empire” is about as popular as syphilis. If they ordered 10 copies, it was nine too many. It’s hilarious to watch writer Nick Spencer spin the series on Twitter as the second coming of the Bible.
Both DC and Marvel have undergone creative reboots in the last couple of years.
In contrast to Marvel – and to its own wretched “New 52” experiment – DC’s “Rebirth” has been a return to classic storytelling with outstanding creators. Somebody behind the scenes – I’m sensing Geoff Johns – really worked with the editors.
Marvel floods the market with product by creators who aren’t up to the challenges. The stories are poorly paced. The art looks rushed, unfinished.
DC set its titles right.
Marvel is adrift and amok.
That’s what happens when money-hungry imbeciles steer the ship.