'Progressive' Changes Part Two: Root Problems

Female Thor

It's such a shame to change what just shouldn't be changed.

Justin Knight

By Justin Knight @StoicWriter

I was originally going to leave it there with how I felt about comic adaptations and so on but I came to a sad realization that even the source material had gone through some unwelcome changes in many people's eyes, including my own. Of course, these views can be dismissed quite easily but there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way to some extent. This much I have noticed on Twitter alone, which has been reflected in the sales of what I'm going to mention. This second part primarily focuses on Marvel Comics as they are the most popular. DC have been guilty of using cringe-worthy dialogue when Wonder Woman used the ridiculous term "mansplaining," but in my eyes, it is with Marvel where the worst has happened.

The first gripe myself and many other people have had was with the new Thor, turning "him" into a "her," seemingly in favour of appealing more to female readers. My opinion was why change a pre-existing characters to suit a different group of people when you can just make a new one, but opinions like that were branded sexist and the creative team responded in issue five of the series where she beat up a villain for "saying 'feminist' like it's a four-letter word, "creep." For a lot of the feminists -- more so the ones online -- it was celebrated as a victory but it just came across as cheesy, and when I saw it I could only shake my head and be thankful I had not brought any of the issues. It came as no surprise to me when I found out that it had dropped in sales by around 54%. It amused me more that the same news outlets that had celebrated the strong sales of issue one were strangely silent when those sales dropped. I can only wonder why.

Another example was Angela: Queen of Hel, and this series didn't get any negative attention until issue four featured what appeared to be redacted insults directed at the main character's gender. Fans were confused and asked the series writer, Marguerite Bennet, on Twitter what was going on. Bennet confirmed that it was in fact her, and not Marvel, editorial that had put in the redacted dialogue. She would later start blocking people with dissenting opinions and tweet about it with some amusement. However, at the time of this writing, four issues have been published and the sales of each have dropped massively from issue one. Issue four has sold less than half the numbers of issue one, and that must be troubling for any publisher.

X23 - Female Wolverine

At the time of this writing, I am collecting the new Wolverine series, featuring the character X23 taking over the mantle after Logan's tragic passing, and after being the character for so long. The series is not bad so far but it feels so run of the mill, and I really hope it ups the ante soon. Collecting this series seems like a contradiction to what I have written, but this is a change I had no issue with, and as I have said, Logan has died. He was killed by the very stuff that has made him so strong for so long. X23 has taken up the mantle so that she can honour her father, and this to me seems quite fitting. I am reading it to see where it goes, but as I have been collecting the series I was made aware of an article that had appeared online. When I read it I was quite bothered to say the least.

A man called Vernon Wiley of The Comix Gallery in Illinois had written a post on a retailer-only board which was reproduced in the article, asking for feedback from other retailers that have experienced a large shift in sales of Marvel and DC comics at the time. He went on to say that while Marvel's sales were okay, they had been truncated by an avalanche of products that had been sent out to retailers. He said that his shop had been open for over twenty years and he had never seen anything like it, hoping that the publishers would see the numbers of falling sales, and then do something about it. He got a response from Cliff Biggers of Dr No's in Georgia who certainly agreed with him and went into more disturbing detail with his own experiences as he started out by saying, "We're seeing the worst falloff of Marvel and DC sales in the store's 38-year history." That alone made me pause for a moment, but then I had to read on to see what this gentleman meant by that. He pointed out that both companies were losing long-time readers who felt that the company's output no longer reflected the sort of comics they enjoyed. The stories were "lacklustre, unfocused and excessively long as companies think in terms of collected editions, not individual issues," and "the tone is mostly dark and uninviting."

That quote got to me in particular as the new Wolverine series was currently five issues in at the time of this writing, and still felt like it had yet to impress. A glance at the sales charts showed that it started off well with strong sales of issue one (probably down to multiple covers of that issue) but then sales of issue two were half of that. Issue three doing slightly better. Biggers also mentioned that his Marvel readers were complaining that the artwork seen in their comics and that it was seen as cartoony, manga-influenced, quirky and that to them the concept of a house style has gone. This was a worthy point, as the art in Thor was basic at best. Wolverine's was okay, but it was nothing standout and detail was minimal, especially with the covers. Granted, these are only two instances, but I have yet to think of a real standout example of an artist working at Marvel, and that's a real shame. The worst point that Biggers made was that for the first time in his store's history, he was ordering single digit amounts on more than half of the line in the Marvel section, to be fair, those figures included collected editions and second prints of some titles, but it still included what he described as "an inordinate number of ongoing titles."

Seeing this really made me both feel concerned and wonder about what he was saying, so I chose to take a walk and get a second opinion.

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