Over the last few years, Marvel has made a decent push to include characters that aren’t just “straight white males what hit things” in its roster of heroes. Characters like the kid-friendly Moon Girl, a female Thor, Pakistani American superhero Kamala Khan, and many more have all graced the company’s covers in a welcome reflection of the realities of the wider world. (A lot of them are being written solely by men, admittedly, but the intentions seem to be there.) But the company has also seen sales flag, with its comics unable to thrive in the open market despite the current pop culture superhero boom. Now, an executive in the company has linked these two phenomena, telling saying in a recent interview that they’re hearing from retailers that readers are rejecting the company’s push for diversity. According to vice president of sales David Gabriel,
What we heard 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. 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.
As pointed out by io9, though, the drive toward more diverse heroes isn’t the only sales-affecting decision Marvel has made of late. The company continues to pump out line-wide crossovers (including the current Secret Empire, which will head into Generations, an attempt to “right the ship” by getting a number of more “traditional” heroes back in their normal roles), leading to pervasive event fatigue. Not to mention the decision to make Captain America a Nazi, a flagrantly tone-deaf read on the current political climate.
That being said, Gabriel later clarified his comments, nothing that female and diverse characters are still some of the company’s most popular, and that fans of heroes like Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, or Spider-Gwen shouldn’t worry about those characters being taken away any time soon.
[Note: io9, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications]