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Marvel Exec Backpedals After Suggesting Diversity to Blame for Comic Book Sales Slump

After being praised for its promotion of diversity, a Marvel executive suggested this weekend that the publishing company’s newest superheroes may have caused a slump in comic book sales.

Last week, while at the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel’s senior vice president of print, sales, and marketing, David Gabriel, created an uproar after implying that the addition of racially diverse and female characters could have led to a sales decline.

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel told iCv2 after being asked what contributed to changes in customer tastes that led to a drop in sales in October-November. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”

He also cited economic reasons and Marvel’s release of “too much product” as other possible causes for the downturn 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,” Gabriel added. “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.”

Gabriel later reached out to iCv2 to clarify his comments, stressing that new heroes Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl are indeed popular and “are not going anywhere.”

“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters ‘not working,’ the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes,” he said in a statement to iCv2. “And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!” he continued. “They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. 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 of our core heroes.”

Marvel has been making an attempt to bring more people of color and women into starring roles in their books in the past few years. Biracial teen Miles Morales became Spider-Man in 2011, Sam Wilson (formerly known as the Falcon) picked up the mantle of Captain America, Jane Foster became the latest Thor, Riri Williams — a 15-year-old black woman — suited up as the newest Iron Man (she goes by Ironheart), Kamala Khan — a Pakistani-American from Jersey City — is Ms. Marvel, and more have stepped into the spotlight of their own series.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Brie Larson is set to play Captain Marvel in a standalone film in 2019.

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