Much has been made of late of the huge problems Marvel Comics is having in terms of its crashing sales. How bad is it for Marvel? Well, as of right now 30 of their titles are at such low levels of sales that in past years they would have all been canceled. That's about 60% of their entire current offering.
And all this is happening at a time that in every other respect, Marvel is huge. It's doing great in the movies, with almost everyone agreeing that Marvel's movies are, at least for now, totally owning DC's attempts. Marvel is doing hugely well with its TV and Netflix series as well. Of course, these are being run by different people than the comics division, which is largely still around as more of a legacy rump of the incredibly profitable Marvel empire, and as an idea farm (although there are very few new 'ideas' coming up in the current comics that anyone would think worth emulating).
Some people on the Left have been frantic to claim that the problem is not diversity, in spite of one of Marvel's head honchos having claimed it was. And in fact, they're kind of right. The problem isn't diversity! There hasn't been a 'diversity' problem in comics for decades. There's tons of female characters, non-white characters, and even quite a few LGBT characters that comics fans love.
It's not about diversity, it's that Marvel Comics has, using the shield of 'diversity', reoriented itself as a Ctrl-Left propaganda machine that no one actually wants to read.
This video does a fairly good job of analyzing what's going on:
The "diversity" claim is a cover, which allows the Ctrl-Left to make the damning indictment of the entire comic-fan hobby they always wanted to make from the beginning. They set out to produce shitty ideological-indoctrination comics, and while they may have fooled some of the higher-ups into thinking that the plan all along was that these would be embraced and be popular and bring in a whole bunch of new readers, the real motive was always to be able to revel in elitism when the titles failed. To claim, much as the indie-Forge game designers claim when their shitty RPGs don't sell, that the real problem is that the fandom is "toxic". The next step being to go even further into punishing the fandom and trying to exterminate the hobby as a whole for its alleged 'sin' of not falling in line with the dictats of the Ctrl-Left overlords.
It isn't about "diversity" at all. It IS about the comics having been taken over by a group of Ctrl-Left totalitarians who are writing what reads like blatant propaganda with heavy-handed ideological messages they want to shove down the throat of a readership that they very clearly seem to despise.
Comic book readers have always liked plenty of "diverse" (non-white, non-male, Latino, Asian, Native, non-straight, 'differently abled', non-model body-type) characters.
They've always hated tokens and preachiness and writers who seem to have contempt for them.
Now, some analysts have tried to dodge this accusation by claiming that Marvel's real error lies in its habit of making a confusing slew of 'event' metaplots and multipleinterlaced titles for its characters. That there's too many Avengers titles and storylines for anyone to be able to keep track.
I would agree that this is not a good business strategy for various reasons, but at the same time you can't claim that this is the sole or even the main reason why Marvel is failing so badly. The cycle of 'special stories' and overarching meta-event "crises" etc., is a strategy that has been done in comics for decades, by both Marvel and DC. I agree it's a huge problem for comics, and responsible for the long slow decline in comics over the last few decades as only increasingly more hardcore-fans can be bothered to buy stuff. But that can't be the sole or primary cause of the blame for Marvel's current woes. There's a reason DC is not doing as poorly. It's because Marvel has a writing team that actively despises its own readership, and think it's their job to "educate" them. Or just to "punish" them and write stuff that will impress Tumblr-activists who would never ever buy a comic anyways.
Also, to some degree, these issues are connected. The author of the article I linked to above doesn't seem to get it either, because he talks about how each of the main Marvel heroes (almost none of which are currently headlining their own titles, substituted instead by invented female, black teen female, Asian male, Muslim teen female, or other characters) have been replaced before.
Yes, that's right. That's part of the problem.
For a long time now, comics writers have failed to understand that comic book superheroes are not literature, they're Legend. They're archetypes.
The multi-issue crossover soap-opera style format that most DC and Marvel comics use today are actually awful for superheroes because they presume comics are a type of literature rather than a type of mythology. That's because with very few exceptions (guys like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison), most of the people writing for comics today -even the well meaning ones- are so overwhelmed by the relativism of our modern world that they don't even know how Archetypes work anymore. They can't "do" myth.
You can't just fuck around with the formula willy-nilly. You can create brand new archetypes, which can become successful, but you can't decide that because you don't like the character's race, or gender, or what they stand for (like, "America") you can get to switch them around, kill them off with a hip cool new diverse replacement, or turn them into the Nazi. But the real problem, fundamentally, is that you have Captain America being written by people who despise both "captains" and "America". Of course they'll make him a Nazi; these are people who already assume that all blonde-haired white-skinned Americans with a history of military service are Nazis!
The earlier crop of the comic writers for the last 20 years or so were not much better at understanding the value of archetype. But at least they actually liked comics. And they actually liked heroism. They actually believed, with that special kind of starry-eyed naivete comic book fans can muster, that there's such a thing as good and evil, and Doing the Right Thing. But when you switch over the well-meaning albeit myth-illiterate comic-fan writers with a bunch of Ctrl-Left activist writers who consider comics "toxic" and are on a crusade to purge them, that's the recipe for Marvel losing 60% of its readership.
Granted, DC is not without its problems. But it is doing better because the people running it at least still seem to get that comic book readers are interested in comic books. I know, crazy notion, right?! And that those are the people they are writing for, not for leftist Tumblr-fans who'll nod approvingly and retweet Salon articles ABOUT your comic reinventing Aquaman as a black transgender woman in a hijab, but won't ever actually buy the comic itself.
This video sums up the difference between the two companies right now quite nicely:
Is there a way back for Marvel? Lately the claim has been that they plan to dial things down, to restore the notions of heroism which are so important for the comic genre. That their characters, diverse or otherwise, won't just turn into mouthpieces for the authors' feminist fanaticism about how evil and useless men are, or comic stories turning into MSNBC-worthy anti-Trump diatribes, or leftist wish-fulfillment about conservatives all being klansmen, or vicarious revenge-porn about a Milo Yiannopoulos stand-in being blown up by SJW metahumans.
They promised this dial back right before Marvel's current comic writers, as if in defiance of their own higher ups, went and made Captain America a nazi again, for the second time, in utter contempt of the massive backlash from the fans when they did it the first time around.
So it's very clear: the only way Marvel's comics department is going to climb back out of the cesspool it's dug itself into is if they get rid of absolutely everyone who is currently writing their comics. And replace them with people who at the very least actually like comics and superheros. It might be too much to hope, in our modern times, that they could find people who would also understand the real nature of Myth.
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