Marvel Comics has made a concerted effort over the past several years to diversify its line by replacing established heroes like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers with characters like Riri Williams as Ironheart and Sam Wilson as Captain America. The company has also published female-led titles like "Ms. Marvel," "Squirrel Girl" and "Spider-Gwen."
While those moves helped to attract new readers into the fold, in October sales began to falter market-wide, according to David Gabriel, Marvel's senior vice president of sales and marketing. While he placed some of the blame on the sheer volume of comics being released at that time, in an interview with ICv2.com he also pointed to changing tastes. Elaborating, he said, "What we heard [from retailers] was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there. That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales."
"We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against," he continued. "That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked."
Gabriel's statements drew a lot of criticism online, leading him to clarify his remarks in a subsequent statement to ICv2:
Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.
We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more! They've invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. So we're getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we're making is to ensure we don't lose focus of our core heroes.
Marvel's upcoming "Generations" miniseries may be able to deliver something for both audiences, as the 10-issue event will pair 10 original heroes, including Captain America, Mar-Vell and Ms. Marvel, with the legacy characters they inspired.
"We are looking to honor the legacy of the entire universe, so we are taking the iconic legacy heroes and pairing them with the new class,” Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso said of the event. “It very much indicates where we are going in the future with all of these characters and what we’ve been planning for some time for the universe."