A year and a half ago, comic book fans and retailers started rumbling about problems in the industry, driven by Marvel and DC Comics’ insistence on pushing extreme left-wing politics in their comics. The “Big 2” companies in the comic industry made many fans feel they weren’t wanted. Instead, they chased a new, “diverse” demographic, fueled by identity politics.
Their marketing tactic was based on replacing characters like Thor and Iron Man with female or minority counterparts, and interjecting political commentary on the 2016 election into their stories.
Last month, comic companies descended on San Diego Comic-Con to unveil their new products and tease storylines for the forthcoming year. It appears these industry giants haven’t changed with their attitudes toward customers. The market, however, has turned its eyes to new properties by independent creators.
Meet the New Boss, Same As The Old Boss
Marvel took a step last year toward a shift in their corporate culture. They fired their long-time editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, who famously stated “writing comics was a hobby for white guys” in The Guardian in 2016, and went on to say pushing identity politics was good for business. C.B. Cebulski replaced him, who had a positive reputation in the business at the time. Fans were cautiously optimistic about the replacement, but the sentiment didn’t last long.
A year after Cebulski’s tenure began, things look exactly the same at Marvel. The company still has largely the same creative staff, but has shuffled their teams on different titles. Marvel launched a new run of Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who wrote a rant in The Atlantic arguing the election of Donald Trump surfaced a long-standing culture of “white supremacy” in the country.
His handling of the character came soon after Nick Spencer, right after Trump’s inauguration in 2017, turned Captain America into an allegorical Nazi in order to attack right-wing America. Spencer wasn’t fired for his offensive performance on the patriotic character, but rewarded with a higher-profile book: “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
Since The Federalist exposé on Marvel creators’ anti-conservative social media rants last April, several backed away from Twitter and Facebook. Writers Dan Slott and Mark Waid deleted their Twitter accounts after coming under immense fire for their political tweets directed at fans. Spencer protected his account, meaning only approved readers can view his tweets, and has posted he is no longer updating on Twitter.
Not all of their writers have disappeared, however. Black Bolt writer Saladin Ahmed posted a tweet on July 19 accusing Israelis of being “part of the white supremacist fascist order that’s cohering globally,” continuing a long-standing tradition of Marvel contractors making bizarre political rants.
Marvel hasn’t shown a commitment to altering their content, who they’re hiring to create the content, or their creative talent’s online ramblings. There is still not one writer or artist currently working for Marvel who publicly holds conservative or libertarian views, even after the shift in editorial direction.
DC Comics Is Pushing Leftist Agendas Too
A lot of fans turned to DC Comics in the last several years because of Marvel creators’ behavior toward half of American voters. But DC Comics has been no better. The Batgirl comic recently moralized about how terrible it is to be “misgendered,” which is social justice-speak for someone mistakenly calling a person by the pronoun that accurately describes his or her sex.
DC followed up on gender identity politics by running a storyline about Supergirl having a “non-binary friend,” a rare mental illness where a person believes he or she is neither male nor female. The promotion of extreme identity politics within DC Comics storylines has been steadily escalating over the past several years, and readers have been slowly dropping the books that were once seen as a good alternative to Marvel’s political grandstanding.
DC Comics recently doubled down on their political hires by announcing they would publish a comic by Zoe Quinn, an ex-nude model famous for exploiting gender politics for her career advancement. Quinn publicly admitted to using quid pro quo sexual intimacy with video game designers and journalists to gain favorable publicity for her projects.
When the situation was brought to the public, Quinn accused the video game industry of being riddled with misogyny, and claimed she was a victim of online harassment. The mainstream media was complacent, disregarding her public statements and actions to present her narrative to the contrary. The Daily Dot, New York Magazine, Polygon, and hundreds of other outlets only reported on alleged harassment Quinn received, not her provocative antics.
DC is also launching three more identity politics-driven storylines through their Vertigo imprint. In one, witches fight magic that’s forcing women into being housewives. The second is a magazine hailing prostitutes as heroes, fighting against the state, with a cover featuring a salacious lesbian kiss.
The third is perhaps the most egregious of the three. The “Bordertown” preview shows several white Americans shouting “Make America Great Again Mother-F-cker” and rambling incoherently about immigrants before they head into the desert to presumably hunt down minorities. The company’s content is highly politically charged, and they appear to be going down a path similar to Marvel’s in recent years.
Independent Crowdfunded Comics Change The Game
The big comic companies are no longer entertaining a mainstream youth demographic, but actively attempting to socially engineer Americans through propaganda-style storylines, dialogue, and characters. It’s clear through their continued attitude toward fans that they don’t care about sales or reader reaction.
The audience is, accordingly, turning away in droves. According to BookScan, graphic novel sales fell by 12 percent by units in 2017, which followed two years of large gains. That large drop is a similar number to what we saw in the National Football League, when players began kneeling for the national anthem and displaying politics on the field.
Customers paying for entertainment don’t want angry politics interjected into their fun. Comics is an industry designed around escapism. It’s no surprise to see these terrible sales numbers in the wake of so many political controversies.
Yet readers aren’t giving up on comics completely. Ever since Richard C. Meyer released his “Jawbreakers: Lost Souls” comic on IndieGoGo earlier this summer with more than $300,000 in sales, independent creators have made a push to change the industry by crowdfunding their own projects. Much like the political initiative to “#WalkAway” from the Democratic Party that’s been gaining steam, comic fans are walking away from the establishment legacy companies
After Meyer’s success, former DC artist Ethan Van Sciver launched Cyberfrog on IndieGoGo. His comic has been the most successful crowdfund to date, with a record-breaking $538,456. Veteran comic writer Chuck Dixon, creator of the supervillain Bane of Batman fame, has released three separate crowdfunds in the past quarter, with close to $100,000 raised between them. His current project is titled “Trump’s Space Force” and draws a number of popular conservative media personalities into the comic.
Other former Marvel and DC artists have joined in on the crowdfunding wave, such as Mitch Breitweiser, whose Red Rooster has made more than $144,000, and Mike S. Miller, whose Lonestar has raised more than $45,000. The successes in comic crowdfunding in the summer of 2018 don’t stop at the stars in the industry. Lesser-known conservative-friendly creators have also funded projects such as Flying Sparks (by the author of this article), Stardust, and Jack Irons. The independent crowdfund projects associated with an industry rebellion have raised more than $1.25 million.
The new business model for independent creators is to circumvent DC and Marvel’s monopolistic distribution that makes it very difficult to break into comic shops. If the successful crowdfunding trend continues, we could see a watershed moment in comics like the Amazon Kindle was to bookstores. Regardless, Marvel and DC need to pay attention to what the fans want if they intend to remain competitive in the comic book industry for years to come.