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In defense of Marvel and diversity

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This is a long impassioned post in which I try to come to the defense of Marvel comics. The TL;DR is: if you want to support diversity at Marvel, please don't give up on them; please email mheroes@marvel.com and tell them you support diversity in comics.


Marvel has been doing so much amazing stuff with diverse characters and great stories in the past few years that I haven't managed to post about it yet, because every time I start to, I want to post about two dozen awesome things.

But Marvel has made a few significant mistakes in the past couple of years as well, and those mistakes are what almost all of my friends who aren't reading Marvel comics have been seeing.

And so I see a steady stream of posts from friends who don't read Marvel comics saying how much Marvel sucks. And it makes me sad.

So here's what I want to say about Marvel:

They've done an astonishingly good job of diversifying their characters over the past few years. Here are some of the POC and white women who have their own titles: Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Wolverine, Black Panther, Captain America (Sam Wilson), Patsy Walker, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Thor, Hulk, Squirrel Girl, Moon Girl. I've been reading and loving most of those titles. I hope to post in more detail about all of them soon.

Marvel has not done a good job of diversifying their creators. Most (but not all) of the writers on the above series are white men. But they've been taking steps toward changing that. (And I'm pleased that so many white men are writing good complex nuanced POC and white women.)

Marvel has made a couple of serious high-profile mistakes recently. One of them was a reality-alteration storyline where the white Captain America turned into a Hydra agent; that was widely reported in very un-nuanced terms as “Marvel says Captain America has always been a Nazi!” I personally agree with Marvel that Hydra is not the same as Nazis, but I also recognize that it was a bad move and that they should have understood that it was a mistake rather than doubling down on it. Note, btw, that Nick Spencer, the author of that Captain America storyline, is also the author of the great and super-political Captain America: Sam Wilson comic, which takes on race issues in America and corporatism and immigration and all sorts of stuff, from a very liberal standpoint. I was appalled when I saw a friend-of-a-friend say the other day, apparently in all seriousness, “Nick Spencer is a Nazi.” Nick Spencer is making a mistake in not understanding why people are upset about the Hydra storyline, but he's very far from being a Nazi.

Marvel has also done two big ill-conceived-in-my-opinion company-wide crossovers in the past few years: Secret Wars II (which destroyed and remade the whole Marvel Universe, and which I pretty much hated, but it's over now) and Civil War II (which made me sad and was a factor in my unintentional pause in buying and reading comics starting around last October). But I've never been a fan of big crossovers. And the diversity of characters started well before those crossovers and has continued to the present day.

So I understand that people are upset about Marvel's mistakes, and I don't in any way mean to suggest that doing good things outweighs doing bad things. I'm not trying to excuse their mistakes. I know that “but they did something good too” is not an excuse. But I do think that when a company does a whole lot of really really good stuff, it's unfortunate that we tend to cast them as pure evil when criticizing their mistakes.

And now along comes this article, in which Marvel's VP of Sales David Gabriel comes to the wrong conclusion about a sales slump and decides that readers don't want diversity. And once again I'm seeing people say, fuck Marvel, they're evil.

And that makes me really sad, because y'all who don't read comics don't know what you've been missing. Marvel has been going through a diversity renaissance; it's made me excited about comics in a way that I haven't been for decades.

So if you want to push for more diversity in comics, please don't only post about how awful Marvel is. Please also do two other things, if you care about this stuff:

(a) Read some of what they've been publishing (I would start with Ms Marvel, which has been collected into several slim bound volumes).

And (b) write to them at mheroes@marvel.com, and tell them that they've been doing a great job and that you'd like to see them keep up the diversity rather than cutting back on it.

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