Mar­vel at this dodgy ar­gu­ment

Mar­vel comics’ David Gabriel says he has “heard” that di­ver­sity doesn’t sell. From who ex­actly?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Don­ald Clarke

This week’s prize for the best ac­ci­den­tal evo­ca­tion of Trumpian rhetoric goes to Mar­vel’s vice-pres­i­dent of sales. Speak­ing to ICv2, David Gabriel (for it is he) of­fered a ver­i­ta­ble mas­ter­class in the art of re­tool­ing hearsay as ev­i­dence. Gabriel ar­gues that the comic book gi­ant’s ef­forts to increase rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women and mi­nori­ties have dam­aged sales.

“What we heard was that peo­ple didn’t want any more di­ver­sity,” he said. “They didn’t want fe­male char­ac­ters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we be­lieve that or not.” There was more. “I don’t know that that’s re­ally true,” he flapped. “But that’s what we saw in sales … 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.”

It’s hard to know where to be­gin with this. But the “what we heard” and the “I don’t know that that’s true” could have been lifted un­al­tered from a Trump cam­paign speech. I don’t need to back up Claim X be­cause I’m not nec­es­sar­ily sug­gest­ing Claim X is true. I’m merely ar­gu­ing that some peo­ple – a lot of peo­ple, the great­est peo­ple, let me tell you – be­lieve Claim X to be the case.

It’s also worth con­sid­er­ing the phrase “any char­ac­ter that was di­verse”. We use the word “di­verse” to de­scribe bal­anced rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ma­jor­ity and mi­nor­ity de­mo­graph­ics across a genre, medium or in­di­vid­ual art­work. Ask­ing any one char­ac­ter to be di­verse re­ally is un­rea­son­able. But if Mar­vel man­ages to pro­duce an Avenger who is black, white, Asian, gay, straight, male, fe­male and just a little Swedish then good luck to them.

Never mind that. We know what Gabriel means. He is sug­gest­ing that comic-book read­ers don’t like black or fe­male char­ac­ters. He is ar­gu­ing that they don’t like gay or bi­sex­ual char­ac­ters. He has “heard” that such peo­ple like their he­roes to be straight white men. Won’t some­body save us from the mar­ginal en­croach­ment of di­ver­sity to a hith­erto vanilla main­stream?

To be fair, Gabriel did ap­pear to re­alise that he’d taken the con­ver­sa­tion in an un­help­ful di­rec­tion. “We have also been hear­ing from stores that wel­come and cham­pion our new char­ac­ters and ti­tles and want more,” he said. “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 [on] our core he­roes.” This man hears a lot. Doesn’t he?

He’s now ar­gu­ing that, whereas he ap­proves of that les­bian su­per­hero who works on an anti-bul­ly­ing pro­gramme, he feels that Mar­vel should fo­cus on en­dan­gered clas­sics such as Spi­der-Man, Iron Man and Thor. Yes, Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, with $1.2 bil­lion in re­ceipts, was the most successful cin­ema re­lease of 2016. But there are cor­ners of the Crab Neb­ula where it barely sold a ticket.

If you want to read comics that re­flect so­cial di­ver­sity then you are still bet­ter off seek­ing out in­de­pen­dent ti­tles. But Mar­vel has cer­tainly widened its hori­zons in re­cent years. The cur­rent Ms Mar­vel is a Mus­lim girl called Ka­mala Khan. Riri Wil­liams, a black en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent, has nudged Iron Man aside to be­come Iron­heart. The com­pany’s flex­i­ble way with par­al­lel uni­verses has al­lowed a teenager of black and His­panic de­scent to be­come Spi­der-Man.

None of this wob­bles the su­per-pil­lars of the Mar­vel Man­sion. In a few months, we will see yet an­other cin­e­matic ver­sion of Spi­der-Man. This will be the third launch for Spidey since 2002. Lack of in­ter­est briefly killed the X-Men comic in the 1960s. De­spite the con­tin­u­ing, ter­ri­fy­ing rise of di­ver­sity, those mu­tants are now health­ier than ever. Lo­gan is a hit on film. Le­gion is a critical smash on TV. Both are X-Men spinoffs.

Yet a ca­bal of young white men re­mains deeply threat­ened by even the slight­est ef­forts to make films, comic books and video games re­flect the makeup of con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety. “Cir­cle the wag­ons. Fem­i­nists are com­ing to scalp our frail egos,” they type. “Crouch behind the Red­dit stock­ade, So­cial Jus­tice War­riors are build­ing an­other bon­fire. All lives mat­ter. When’s In­ter­na­tional Men’s Day?”

I can’t say for cer­tain that any of this is hap­pen­ing. But it’s what I’m hear­ing. That’s what peo­ple are say­ing. Good peo­ple. The best peo­ple. Let me tell you.

Ka­mala Khan is Mar­vel’s first Mus­lim char­ac­ter to have her own comic book

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.