Marvel publisher Dan Buckley gave a three-part interview with comic industry blog ICv2 this week in which he discussed the company's performance in 2014 and its strategies for the year ahead. The interview ranged across digital sales, graphic novel sales, and the impact of the Marvel movies on the comics -- but of particular interest to ComicsAlliance were Buckley's comments on reaching a more diverse audience of new comics customers.
While acknowledging that Marvel and the industry at large has never done much consumer research, Buckley said the company has been "aggressive in trying a lot of diverse product over the last two years," as part of an initiative spearheaded by Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. According to Buckley, the results of that outreach have been very positive.
Although cosplay has been present for decades within the comics, anime, and sci-fi/fantasy fandoms, social media has played an integral role in the thriving communities of costuming that exist, such as Cosplay.com and the Superhero Costuming Forum. Over the years, the cosplay community has evolved into a creative outlet for many fans to establish and showcase some impressive feats of homemade disguise, craftsmanship, and sartorial superheroics at conventions. In honor of the caped crusaders of the convention scene, ComicsAlliance has created Best Cosplay Ever (This Week), an ongoing collection of some of the most impeccable, creative, and clever costumes that we’ve discovered and assembled into a super-showcase of pure fan-devoted talent.
I'm not excited for Sam Wilson as Captain America, and I'm not excited for a female Thor.
Now, I don't think these are totally wrongheaded things to do. I admire the impulse behind these changes, and I believe they come from a good place. In the abstract sense, I love the idea of Marvel featuring, in big, bold style, the adventures of a black man and a woman against the hordes of iniquity. I believe at least part of the motivation behind these changes is genuine in its altruism, and that it is not entirely invalidated by profit-seeking impulses. I want to believe in this initiative. I want to be excited. I do not want to be the curmudgeon in the corner, needlessly nitpicking everyone else's good time to pieces.
But it feels like a gimmick, and functions like a gimmick, and that’s because it is a gimmick. I give it perhaps two years — two years that only the most hard-core aficionados will end up able to recall, alongside their recollections of the foil covers era and that one time Doc Ock was Spider-Man.
In an interview with The Telegraph's Radhika Sanghani, Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso offered some insights into how he regards the superhero comic industry's treatment of female characters -- and his own intentions towards diversity.
The interview is chiefly noteworthy for confirming what already seems apparent from recent changes in Marvel's line-up, namely that Marvel understands and is responding to demographic changes in the marketplace. "We believe there's an audience of women out there who are hungry for this [product] and we want to make sure they get it," said Alonso. "This is affirmative action. This is capitalism.”
Marvel launches the eighth of its nine solo titles with a female lead in November with Spider-Woman #1, and the book sadly already has a cloud over it. A variant cover by master erotic artist Milo Manara stirred enough controversy last week to garner mainstream attention. The cover featured Spider-Woman with her apple-shaped butt raised high in decidedly unheroic manner. It was exactly what one would expect from Manara, who has created a number of superheroine illustrations for Marvel, but the image suggested a particularly overt tone of sexual objectification that could alienate the sort of readers who attended the Women In Marvel panel at San Diego where the series was announced.
As far as I can recall, Marvel has more female solo titles now than ever before, with a ninth title, Angela: Asgard's Assassin, launching in December. On paper, that suggests a laudable effort to reach out to superhero comics' growing and under-served audience of female readers. Yet the Manara incident serves to remind us that books about women can very easily be targeted to a male audience.
There's currently an unspoken contest between Marvel and DC to see who can produce more comics aimed at a female audience. It's possible the contest only exists in my head, as I've been keeping a tally of solo titles with female leads for the past several months -- but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that editors at the two publishers have also been keeping track.
I was excited for Ms. Marvel from the moment it was announced. I reblogged it, retweeted it, called my mother about it, chatted it up at my local comic shop. But secretly, I was more than a little certain that it would suck in all the usual ways. Sure, the cover was splashy, and sure, I was hearing good things about G. Willow Wilson. But I was girded for — and expected — twenty or so lackluster issues before cancellation.
The first issue came out, and it was good. Really good. It was bright and fun and electric with personality in every way a comic can be, from its color palette to its ending splash. Still, though, I was unconvinced — fantastic first issues have given way to mediocrity before.
But the second issue was great. And the third. And the fourth. And with the fifth issue and the first arc completed, I feel that I can finally let out the breath I've been holding and say that Ms. Marvel is truly wonderful work.
Monica Rambeau is on her fourth superhero codename. In the pages of Mighty Avengers she's Spectrum, having previously gone by Captain Marvel, Photon and Pulsar. The Captain Marvel identity now belongs to Carol Danvers, also on her fourth codename after Ms. Marvel, Binary and Warbird. Her first codename now belongs to Kamala Khan, the fourth Ms. Marvel after Danvers, Sharon Ventura and Karla Sofen.
But Carol is actually the third woman (and seventh character) to call herself Captain Marvel in the Marvel Universe. The second woman was Phyla-Vell, who was the fourth Captain Marvel after she was the second Quasar, before she was the first Martyr, before she saved herself the trouble of another codename by dying. Oh, those women! They never know who they are!
Last week's Emerald City Comicon kicked off, for me, with the Carol Corps Celebration at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. Hosted by a bevy of nerdy Captain Marvel enthusiasts and featuring some of the finest cosplay I saw all weekend, proceeds from tickets and exclusive merchandise went to benefit the Girls Leadership Institute. It's a rare thing for fans and creators to celebrate a superhero character in such a thematically specific and highly interactive way -- Carol Danvers is a military pilot, after all, and the new Ms. Marvel is herself a member of the Carol Corps -- and a woman superhero at that. But the event was an absolutely joyful experience that spoke to the good work being done in these comics and readers' enthusiasm for great women heroes (both fictional and real-life).
James Baldwin once described America as a "country devoted to the death of the paradox." He was right, of course. We're more comfortable seeing things in extremes, in black and white. A person from one culture or background can be instantly labeled as an upstanding citizen, exemplifying everything good about "real America." Superman is from Kansas, not San Francisco.
But if you're from another background, you can be instantly labeled as something else entirely: lazy, entitled, a thug, "Un-American." To many, there are those who fit into a certain label based on where they grew up, what school they went to, what church they attend. To think otherwise, to consider that there is more to us than blanket, largely basely assumptions, isn't as easy. And for many, it's too uncomfortable. It's too much work.
Ms. Marvel #1 stands in stark contrast to that sentiment. Written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, each major character introduced in this first issue is a celebration and exploration of the paradox. It is a book full of characters who remind you of people you know, or people you knew. It's a book that's unique, but nonetheless familiar. It is also, by almost any measure, one of the best first issues of a superhero comic in years. And, if we're being honest, it probably needed to be.
The comic book, animation, illustration, pinup, mashup, fan art and design communities are generating amazing artwork of myriad styles and tastes, all of which ends up on the Internet and filtered into ComicsAlliance’s Best Art Ever (This Week). These images convey senses of mood and character — not to mention artistic skill — but comic books are specifically a medium of sequential narratives, and great sequential art has to be both beautiful (totally subjective!) and clear in its storytelling (not so subjective!). The words and the pictures need to work together to tell the story and create whatever tone, emotion and indeed world the story requires. The contributions of every person on a creative team, from the writer to the artist(s) to the letterers, are necessary to achieving a great page of sequential storytelling.
It is the special nature of comic books that we’re celebrating in this recurring feature: Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week).
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