Let’s get one thing out of the way, I normally do not like to call out specific people out of fear of perpetuating bullying and/or harassment towards that specific person, but in the last two weeks, Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso has been saying some really stupid things in regards to Marvel’s real lack of diversity in creator staff for it’s “All-New All-Different Marvel” initiative as well as frankly the last several years. So let’s make this clear: This is NOT an invitation to go make derogatory remarks towards the man and I do not condone that.
The majority of the remarks have come from Comic Book Resources weekly interview column “Axel-In-Charge” for the days of Friday July 24 and Friday July 31. Personally, I’ve found the column to be bland at best, an over glorified and tightly controlled Press Release and chance for CBR to get clicks for exclusive content from upcoming books and chock full of softball questions only to be given useless, ambiguous responses. But a broken clock can right twice a day I guess.
Let’s start with the July 24 interview. The main focus here is addressing the concerns of Marvel’s “Hip Hop Variant Cover Month”. Specifically, utilizing works important to black culture while also skimping out on black voices in the writing, artwork or editorial scenes at Marvel. Now, I cannot speak for black people, nor do I wish to, but I will not lie when I say I totally see the incredibly uncomfortable appropriation of a culture for capital gain here. But it is one specific question that drew attention here:
Let’s get something out of the way in regards to the Big 2: The Doors Are Not Open. There is a very simple way to tell that: They do not accept Unsolicited Submissions. Oh sure, Marvel will have art portfolio examinations at conventions but that is really it. To get writers, voices that are different from the same straight white male perspective? Sorry, chief. You have to pray that someone recommends your work, but it is usually just straight white men recognizing the works they are familiar/comfortable with. Maybe, you’ll get some creators to introduce more inclusive elements, but it’s drip drab. Marvel is too busy giving CARNAGE another damn book.
But that wasn’t the only quote from that interview:
Yeah, you messing with a not small contingent of marginalized people who have legitimate concerns does not make you look above it: It makes you look like ignorant as hell. It pretty much says that “your opinions don’t matter, now hand over your $4 a pop!”
But let us move on to the July 31 interview. Now, during that time, Marvel announced that they would be launching a new Hercules book written by Dan Abnett (The Guardians of the Galaxy book that I really liked) and art by Luke Ross (Captain America & the Mighty Avengers). I was ecstatic! Why? Previous Herc writer Greg Pak confirmed Hercules bisexuality to match with his Greek mythology. That was great and if Abnett/Ross could make it official in story then even greater!
Then came this interview:
I will at least give credit to CBR for going with these questions as well as for trying to get a follow up (even if the fact that Marvel denying the follow up betrays the PR-controlled nature of this column but hey, exclusive content, right?) but the fact of the matter is this: You are already on hot water for your lack of racial diversity in your creative circles and now you decide to snuff out the chances of having the ONLY LGBT solo book on your release schedule. On top of that, utilizing alternate universe versions of characters to make it seem like your universe is more diverse than in fact is really underhanded (worse so considering that the Ultimate Universe and Ultimate Colossus won’t exist Post-Secret Wars).
And I look at this and think: Why would you do that? What would compel you to do that? Listen, you have multiple untapped demographics outside of your “norm” demographic of straight white men. A massive amount of money that could be made by making your universe diverse by having not only diverse characters but being diverse behind the scenes as well. The train of thought where “race/gender/sexuality shouldn’t matter! Best person for the job!” is useless because it assumes everyone has equal opportunity to be seen/heard. They’re not. It is heavily slanted to one race (white) one gender (male) and one (sexuality). And then to get mad when people who don’t fit those boxes have something to say is purely toxic and continues this perpetuating cycle.
This can’t continue. Or it can, but I refuse to be part of it. That is why, come the end of Secret Wars, I will be dropping all of my Marvel support. I will buy Secret Wars #5-8, and that is because I have followed Jonathan Hickman’s brilliant saga for years since his Fantastic Four run and I will see it to the end. But after that? Done. End. Finito. And let me just clarify: This is nothing against any of the creators that work for or will work for Marvel. Under any other circumstances, I’d be all over books by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing, Gerry Duggan, Charles Soule, G. Willow Wilson, Dan Abnett and the multitudes of great artists there. I will miss a lot of the interesting things I wanted to see: All-New All Different Avengers, the Inhumans continuily spanking the X-Men to my delight, Daredevil, Vader Down. But there is one thing above those all that will anger me to not see.
Billy Kaplan a.k.a. Wiccan is not only my favorite LGBQTAI+ superhero, he’s my favorite LGBQTAI+ character. In everything. Of all time. I saw so much of myself in that character and I have read literally every one of his appearances. Knowing that he was such a massive superhero nerd who dreamed to be an Avenger, and knowing that he would finally become an Avenger (not the wishy washy “honorary” at the end of Children’s Crusade) in Al Ewing and Gerardo Sandoval’s New Avengers relaunch, I was so happy. Like, this was it. Wiccan (and Hulking) step through that door, they become Avengers. And there should be no turning back, no regressing back to a Young Avengers team after that. They would finally be Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
But in good conscience, I cannot continue to support this company who is so arrogant and short-sighted like this. And don’t think this is “Oh! So you’re crawling back to DC, huh?!” Listen, I may like DC’s characters as a whole more, but they are just Marvel with a different roster. Sure, they’ve garnered some good will with their “DCYou” initiative but if you think for one second that they wouldn’t burn down that good will in a heartbeat and return to the same old same old… then you have a lot more faith in them than I do.
And you know, at the end of the day, is the saddest thing? People who are marginalized by society because of their gender, their race, their sexuality will get the stories that star people that they could see themselves in by people who have gone through the same experiences they have. But here’s the kicker: It won’t be from Marvel. It won’t be from DC. Look at the New York Times Graphic Novel Best Seller’s List, they don’t exactly set it on fire, do they? Social Media, Patreon, Kickstarter (for all its faults) have made it easier for people to get work out there and make marginalized voices heard more. Is it enough? No, but if Marvel and DC don’t continuously make real big changes to their characters and staffing, they’ll go the way of the dinosaurs. And if that is how it ends up… they kind of deserve to then.
EDIT: Some even more damning evidence and behavior from both Alonso and Marvel PR representative Chris D’Landro: Retweeting a highly offensive photoshop edit in regards to the making of Hercules straight. Both Alonso and D’Landro since revoked those retweets, but not before screenshots were taken, obviously. This tweet is embedded with the permission of it’s writer, John Ernenputsch:
Well this isn’t a good look… pic.twitter.com/D20Axz1dpz
— John Ernenputsch (@jpooch21) August 1, 2015
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