Movies & TV / Columns

X-Men Gold Controversy & Secret Empire: Marvel’s Wild Week

April 12, 2017 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! WWE Wrestlemania Special #1, Super Sons #2, and more!

Now, on with the show!

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Last week we discussed, “How is Diversity Impacting Comic Books?” We had a ton of great comments! Here’s what some of you had to say:

Mike Watson: “The problem isn’t diversity, the problem is Marvel. DC has a shit ton of diversity but they don’t want a pat on the back for it. Marvel has an agenda and it sure is hell isn’t about making good comics.”

roXXXas: “Diversity is fine, diversity for the sake of it is grating to most.”

Cami: “Corporate mandated diversity rings hollow and I’m not surprised it doesn’t sell. True diverse comic books like Ms Marvel made with love, that let us peak into a different culture from ours and that remain a fun superhero book, deserve all the buys.”

cheesus rice: “I have what is sure to be a great idea. A new Black Panther Monthly with Rick Jones taking over the role. What the problem is has nothing to do with diversity and it has everything to do with shoehorning these new heroes into iconic roles without regard for the audience that love these older characters. Bruce Banner is the Hulk. Steve Rogers is Captain America [ even thoug Rogers is still Captain America in the comics the charachter has been bastardized beyond all recognition] Why is DC crushing Marvel? Maybe its because Superman is Clark Kent and hasnt been replaced by a 15 year old muslim lesbian. Help yourself to all the diversity you can get your cheetoh stained fingers on but dont do it at the expense of an overwhelming audience that has been pissed on by the current SJW climate. Let these new heroes suceed or fail on their own merit. I said something on here a few months ago about the mcu versions of the classic marvel heroes being the ones that the mainstream recognizes and a few of our more socially ass raped by everything bretheren passed a gallon of blood and called for my execution..Flashforward a few months and i will gratiously accept your apologies.”

The Great Attila: “The problem isn’t diversity per se. The problem is that the diversity is being forced down upon people’s throats and they’re pushing back. The problem these days is that diversity is being pushed upon people and it isn’t organic. The handoff from Steve Rogers to Sam Wilson was seen as organic because Wilson has known Rogers and it makes sense in that world for a black Captain America. So it makes sense. But now all of a sudden, this whole diversity initiative (not only in comics but in entertainment in general) is being forced into society. Just make a good product, regardless of what the makeup of the races are. However, I feel like there’s too many people bitching that there’s no representation, especially in social media.

It’s kind of like wrestling in a sense, and perhaps Roman Reigns is the best example. The guy is being pushed down the throats of fans, but the fans reject him. He might be damaged goods at this point though.”

Matthewdubs: “If the story is good, the story is good. Story first; all else second. If they would just stick to that then we would be good.

And simply make new characters without cannibalizing and ruining the old.”

Al Lobama: “The most recent sales figures for Marvel show that only two of their monthly series sell forty thousand copies or more, and those are both Star Wars books. Their highest selling superhero book is Amazing Spider-Man, which is around thirty-five thousand copies. You can’t even pretend that those aren’t terrible numbers even by today’s lowered industry standards, especially when your company’s flagship title is being outsold by freakin’ Nightwing. So not only is it insulting that Marvel is actually blaming THE FANS for their low sales, it’s also false. It’s not the “close-minded fans who won’t accept diversity” who are causing sales to drop, because sales have dropped across the board for EVERY TITLE THEY PUBLISH. People are barely reading Peter Parker Spider-Man anymore, which you certainly can’t blame on backlash against Riri and Moon Girl.

And while we’re on the subject, what is this sudden fascination with making every “new” character a Teenage Ethnic Super Genius? Besides Ironheart and Moon Girl, you’ve got the new Wasp and Totally Awesome Hulk. That’s just lazy writing if your default setting for making a “hit” character is “They’re just like the original, except they’re younger, hipper, and WAY smarter!!!” If your new MO is different, then give us different! Don’t just give us more of your same different!

Point being, Marvel’s drastic sales dip is the result completely different factors altogether. My first instinct would be to blame the four dollar cover prices and event fatigue, but DC has that exact same problem and that’s not stopping people from buying their books in higher numbers. DC was in this exact same boat last year, and they managed to turn things around with Rebirth, and the key to that relaunch’s success (in my opinion based on talking with DC fans) was that they shuffled around the creative teams and put new people on new books that fit them better. Compare that to Marvel’s post-Secret War relaunch, where they started all the books over with new number one issues but kept the existing creative teams intact (which they also did with the previous Marvel Now! Relaunch). And that, I think, is the real root of the problem. Marvel has had the exact same creative direction for the last twenty years (since the launch of Marvel Knights). Quesada has been at the helm (in one form or another) for going on twenty years, Brian Michael Bendis has been Marvel’s lead writer for going on twenty years, and I think it’s safe to say that fans have grown tired of it. What was groundbreaking at the dawn of the Twenty-First Century is old hat in 2017, and Marvel needs a major creative shake-up to bring some excitement and lifeblood back to their company before it’s too late to right the ship.”

Jim Jones: “Diversity is a buzzword.

A buzzword is never responsible for a decline in sales.

Overtly peddling a political ideology while using a buzzword to reduce it to something for which you can demonize those rejecting it, however, is probably more accurate.

When X-men relaunched in 1975 with a cast that was diverse, it became the most popular comic and remained so for decades.

Understand what the real problem with ‘diversity’ is, and it’s not actually inclusion. It’s the post modernist ideology that often comes smeared with it. The problem is VERY MUCH bad writing.”

Kyatollah: “THAT’S ALL I CAN STANDS, I CAN’T STANDS NO MORE!!!

First, anyone complaining about new heroes or diversity needs to CHILL. First, legacy characters have been a thing practically as long as comics have. How many people see Jay Garrick as the only Flash or Bette Kane as the definitive Batgirl? Some characters stick, some don’t. However, there’s a deeper issue.

Many comics fans don’t like change. They want their same tried and true heroes to remain as presented when they were kids. Thing is, nostalgia and progress rarely coexist. The reason most heroes were white males is because publishers didn’t give a damn about any readers who weren’t white males, or at least willing to accept white and masculine as the dominant perspective. However, geek fandom has grown steadily more inclusive as a whole over the decades (look at Star Trek and Power Rangers, for instance.) Given the expanded demographics of the market, one has to adapt to at least offer something for everyone. Certain characters lend themselves to legacy and diverse identity better than others, but the effort is appreciated. Stan Lee has always said that a big part of Spider-Man’s everyman appeal is that he could be anybody under the mask, and the staying power of Miles Morales is proof of that. (The last heroes of color I can remember getting movie adaptions so soon after their debuts were Spawn and Steel and… well… he’s got a lot of room to jump those hurdles.) And just about every argument about Kamala Khan replacing Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel overlooks that Carol stepped up to be CAPTAIN Marvel after that mantle was left open for YEARS. Marvel Boy flopped, as did Genis Vell, so what would possibly make more sense than Carol taking the title?

Some things may be a little over the top, but comics recognizing they have more than white male readers is no bad thing. I think the problem is the lack of consistency. So many cataclysmic events, so many new #1’s, so many titanic shifts in status quo… you get left with no natural entry point for new or returning readers if you don’t balance the changes year to year. Since 2011 we’ve had Fear Itself, AvX, Original Sin, Axis, Spider-Verse, Secret Wars, Civil War 2… it’s exhausting. Scaling back the events and just letting the characters live for a minute would do wonders. I have no problem with changes as long as they mean something. Captain America was dead for a few years. Mutants were endangered for a few years. The SRA lasted a few years. We had time to feel the impact because they took their time planning the aftermath. Comics need the long game at times. If you do too much too quickly, it loses long-term impact.”

To read ALL the comments, and there were some great ones, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we discuss…

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Marvel’s Wild Week!

Marvel can’t seem to catch a break but not everything is as bad as it seems. Take the trailer they released for their upcoming Secret Empire event, featuring some new art and sit-down interview snippets from series writer Nick Spencer and Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort:

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Before we jump into the thick of things, I had originally had planned to talk about comments from Marvel’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Gabriel made at a recent retailer presentation and subsequent interview with ICv.

No, not the comments about diversity that we covered last week. I’m talking about his remarks about the upcoming Secret Empire and how Marvel would be putting to bed what he calls “big crossover events” for “at least 18 months.”

I thought that was a pretty big deal.

“Hopefully, you guys will be happy to know that at the end of Secret Empire, we do not have any big crossover event scheduled,” Gabriel said during the retailer presentation. “We haven’t even talked about one for 18 months, at the very least. Those will be away for quite a while.”

To be clear, Gabriel is referring to mega-universe-wide events but we’d still get smaller crossovers that would be marketed as “events”. “If you have another idea for what we should call those stories, please help us,” Gabriel said.

I would have loved to have seen your comments and thoughts on that. Thanks to Ardian Syaf, we won’t be focusing on that.

Marvel has fired the X-Men Gold artist after the controversy over the politically charged hidden messages in the first issue. “Marvel has terminated Ardian Syaf’s contract effective immediately,” the company said in a statement. They went on to say that Syaf’s work will still be seen in X-Men Gold # 2 and 3 because the next two issues of the bi-weekly series have already been shipped to the printer. “Issues No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 will be drawn by R. B. Silva and issues No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 will be drawn by Ken Lashley,” the statement continued. “A permanent replacement artist will be assigned to X-Men Gold in the coming weeks.”

You can be sure they are going over pages with rabid eyes, looking to avoid the controversy they are currently going through.

It began when astute readers pointed out that Syaf had included some anti-Christian and anti-Semitic messaging within the pages of X-Men Gold #1. Even more readers came forward to share that the messages seemed to be referencing the current tensions around Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who is facing accusations of blasphemy against Islam and is currently up for reelection.

As the news spread, and the story was picked up by media outlets, Syaf made a post that saying his “career is over now.” Marvel released a statement on Saturday explaining that it was unaware of the meaning of these references inserted into X-Men Gold and that the artwork would be removed from all upcoming versions of the issue, including the digital version and trade paperbacks.

Syaf had to know what he was doing and the consequences of his actions. This is also an example of editors failing to ask questions. Rare is it that artist put something on a shirt or wall that’s meaningless. Even rarer are readers who don’t actively search out these “Easter Eggs”.

When it comes down to it, Marvel rightfully fired the artist and said all the right things to start to quell the drama. Others have used this as an opportunity to make a quick buck. I was on Ebay and noted that X-Men Gold #1 is selling for close to $30. Gotta love the speculation market!

What do you think of the decisions Marvel has made recently? Excited for Secret Empire? Will Marvel stick with it’s “No Big Events for 18 Months”? Did Marvel do enough in the Syaf situation?

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That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!