March 31, 2017

Dear Marvel, Diversity isn’t the Problem

Today, there was an interview where David Gabriel said that Marvel’s diverse titles had failed and they had feedback from shops that wasn’t what fans wanted.

Which is… weird, to say the least. Because it isn’t anything like what I’ve heard from fans from all spectrum.

Fans haven’t been happy with Marvel’s books – but it certainly wasn’t the introduction of characters like Ms Marvel, Riri Williams, or Jane Foster as Thor.

What fans were weary of was their favorite characters being pushed aside or misused – see Nick Spencer’s ongoing ‘let’s make beloved characters Hydra’ storyline. Or characters being killed or retired in order for new characters to pick up the mantle.

Newsflash: If you already have a vocal group of people who complain any time you make a change, it probably isn’t going to help if you sideline their favorite character to make way for the New Whomever. That’s fighting an uphill battle to win over an audience.

More importantly – it doesn’t matter what you do with creating new characters, if the writing isn’t amazing. If you look at some of the books and writers who command people to commit to picking up their book monthly, it’s because it’s quality writing.

I know people who will buy anything that Chip Zdarsky writes. Because it’s well done. Same with Brian K Vaughn. Same with Gail Simone. They will commit to a long term story, no matter how high concept the pitch might be, because the writing is solid. These are writers who have earned their trust.

On the other hand, a lot of the regular monthly titles from the big two don’t have that kind of craft. People will argue it’s because they put out more titles a month, so the writers have more work to do – but why put out so much if you aren’t putting out something worth reading?

Do you really expect readers to commit to giant year long story arcs that justify major overhauls of your cast of characters, if the writing isn’t engaging? I don’t care how pretty the covers are, how nice the linework is inside – if the writing is flat or, in the case of Spencer’s Cap suddenly being Hydra twist, is offensive to the core of the character – I’m not going to keep purchasing it.

To me it’s laughable that Gabriel uses a book where Peter and Mary Jane are married as being proof that fans like the older and established – fans were furious when Marvel split them up in the first place, because it was obviously a cheap tactic for publicity. So of course they’d be happy to get a book where they were married – because it’s what makes sense for the characters.

I’ve lost so much faith in Marvel as a company in the last couple of years. It’s been clear that they’re paying diversity lip service, and aren’t listening to what fans are asking for. Which is more diversity in writers, so that you’re giving these new characters a chance to shine. It’s more quality in writing, to bring us back.

Quality, not quantity.