The Marvel Comics universe has been through a lot in recent years, from numerous events claiming to alter the status quo to other characters inheriting legendary mantles held by those who've held those identities for decades. While some of these changes may have performed well in previous years, in 2016, the comic book company's sales weren't as high as expected. While there are numerous factors that can be attributed to the decrease, Marvel's Vice-President of Sales, Daniel Gabriel, noted that "change in tastes" seemed to have played a big role, specifically with books promoting diversity. As he put it:
What we heard was that people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there. That's what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don't know that that's really true, but that's what we saw in sales.
Marvel has certainly taken great strides this decade to highlight diversity in their books, namely through better non-white and female representation. Examples include Kamala Khan putting her own spin on the Ms. Marvel identity, America Chavez taking over as the new Miss America, Sam Wilson serving as Captain America (something which Bucky Barnes had done only a few years earlier), Jane Foster obtaining the power of Thor, Amadeus Cho becoming the new Hulk, the list goes on. However, David Gabriel stated that efforts to spotlight new, female or diverse characters didn't go rewarded in terms of sales in 2016. He continued:
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. 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.
David Gabriel later clarified after the original ICv2 interview was published that the company had heard that some Marvel fans were not pleased with the "false abandonment of core Marvel characters," but that contrary to claims that these new characters were "not working," Marvel won't be getting rid of any of its new heroes, specifically naming Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales and Moon Girl as examples. Nevertheless, in the earlier interview, Gabriel mentioned the books Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, Venom and Thanos as "old things" that harkened back to a classic time period and sold well. He also said in his update that Marvel will be "getting both sides of the story" in terms of growing its lineup of new and diverse characters/titles, while also not losing focus on the core heroes.
It remains to be seen what major shifts will happen at Marvel in terms of this kind of content, but while we check back at our comic book stores and digitally each month, we also have more entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to look forward to, and you can check out what's coming to the big screen next here.