David Gabriel, Marvel’s vice president of sales, had an interesting theory last week for why comic sales were dwindling: too many new “female characters,” too many new “diverse” characters, and not enough core, classic Marvel characters. Speaking to ICv2 at the Marvel creative summit, Gabriel cited other factors to explain the downturn as well, including general anxiety around the time of last November’s election, but reiterated that the “nose-turning” done in response to the company’s efforts at inclusion have been taken into account. In Gabriel’s words, the diversity model is “no longer viable.”
There have been reports over the last few months indicating this change in direction. In other interviews, Marvel executives have steered away from “diversity” and preferred to use the word politics as the trend worth reversing. “There’s been this massive discussion about inclusion and diversity,” Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso said recently. “But Marvel is not about politics.” (Funny: The company’s CEO seems to disagree.)
Gabriel, for his part, stayed tentative in his claims, explaining that their substantial change in strategy was based on “what we heard” from retailers and “a guess.” (“I don’t know that that’s really true,” Gabriel actually said of the anti-diversity claims, before apparently repeating them as fact.) Indeed, the resulting decision, at least based on his and Alonso’s comments, is pretty strong for mere guesswork. Gabriel has already walked back his statement somewhat, awkwardly providing clarification to ICv2, and it remains to be seen how quickly or robustly this creative shift will take effect. In any case, let us all prepare for another cycle of kneejerk responses to smaller sales numbers, even as the evidence all around us continues to indicate that inclusion is more of a scapegoat than the real culprit.