Marvel Comics on 2016 sales drop: 'People didn't want any more diversity'

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Apr 1, 2017

The movies might be making money hand over fist, but sales for Marvel Comics took a hit in 2016. So, what’s the problem? Diversity, apparently. Whaa?

In an interview with ICV2, Marvel's Senior Vice President of Sales, Print & Marketing David Gabriel opened up about the sales downtown and the feedback they’ve received from retailers and industry insiders. Gabriel spoke candidly about the direction of the Marvel line and said some of the publisher’s more diverse offerings were proving to no longer be popular with a wider readership, which contributed to the decline (along with the economy in general).

Here’s an excerpt from his comments:

“I don't know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren't shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that's what we had to react to.  Yes, it's all of that…

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.”

Marvel has undergone a creative renaissance over the past few years, with the introduction of characters like Spider-Gwen, Kamala Khan and Miles Morales, plus the promotion of supporting players like Jane Foster and Sam Wilson into typical legacy roles among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Gabriel later clarified his statement to point that out, noting characters like Ms. Marvel and Spider Gwen continue to be solid sellers. But the numbers don’t lie.

Then there's the fact that DC has seen a major resurgence by getting back to basics with the Rebirth line, and there’s a lot of buzz that Marvel will be doing something similar later this year. Which is fine — comics are a cyclical medium, and that’s what makes them so great — but let’s just hope Marvel can strike a balance between what worked in the past and what still works now.

(Via ICV2)