Fortune Magazine Profile Lauds Axel Alonso's Push For Diversity On Same Day Marvel Announces End Of Push

Fortune Magazine Profile Lauds Axel Alonso’s Push For Diversity On Same Day Marvel Announces End Of Push

Posted by March 31, 2017 Comment

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For the past few years, whenever Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso scores a profile in a mainstream magazine, the basic theme is always the same. Alonso is a champion of diversity who wants the Marvel Universe to represent “the world outside your window,” and his push to make Marvel comics more diverse has revolutionized the business. The same formula is applied to a profile of Alonso published today in Fortune. An excerpt:

Two years later, Alonso took the helm. Since then he has overseen a bold refresh of the house’s superhero lineup. While the book side of Marvel is run independently from the big-money movie business, the two are are obviously symbiotic, and the screen often take cues from the printed page. In books now (and someday coming to a theater or set-top box near you?), there’s Miles Morales, a black and Hispanic teenager who donned the Spidey suit in 2011. Three years later a 16-year-old Muslim girl from Jersey City became Ms. Marvel. Now there’s a female Thor, a Korean-American Hulk, and a black girl genius in Iron Man’s armor.

The rush to diversify characters has more to do with business than politics, in Alonso’s telling. “Our creators are itching to show you the world outside your window,” he says, citing a directive he says dates back to the tenure of Stan Lee, longtime Marvel editor and geek-idol extraordinaire. The direction does not, Alonso stresses, reflect the influence of Marvel’s overlords at Disney. It’s organic—”it’s in the air,” he says.Two years later, Alonso took the helm. Since then he has overseen a bold refresh of the house’s superhero lineup. While the book side of Marvel is run independently from the big-money movie business, the two are are obviously symbiotic, and the screen often take cues from the printed page. In books now (and someday coming to a theater or set-top box near you?), there’s Miles Morales, a black and Hispanic teenager who donned the Spidey suit in 2011. Three years later a 16-year-old Muslim girl from Jersey City became Ms. Marvel. Now there’s a female Thor, a Korean-American Hulk, and a black girl genius in Iron Man’s armor.

The rush to diversify characters has more to do with business than politics, in Alonso’s telling. “Our creators are itching to show you the world outside your window,” he says, citing a directive he says dates back to the tenure of Stan Lee, longtime Marvel editor and geek-idol extraordinaire. The direction does not, Alonso stresses, reflect the influence of Marvel’s overlords at Disney. It’s organic—”it’s in the air,” he says.

It all sounds very nice, but, for the past few years, this reporter has warned readers that Marvel’s commitment to diversity was a hollow one, and that the company is more concerned with receiving praise from mainstream media outlets for minimal efforts than they are with actually building a lasting long term comics model that can actually reach the potential mainstream audience that exists in that “world outside your window,” instead of just the much smaller world inside the window of direct market comic shops.

Touting diversity was all well and good for Marvel as long as it was resulting in profits — profits, mind you, that were partially funneled to the campaign of Donald Trump through Marvel Chairman (and Trump advisorIke Perlmutter’s personal donations — but if those profits were ever to dry up, Marvel would turn their back on diversity without a second thought.

Were those the bitter rantings of a jaded cynic who spent too much time observing how the sausage was made as a comics journalist? Well, just take a look at another high profile Marvel story that came out today. You’ve no doubt read our earlier article, but to catch you up, Marvel held a retailer summit at their offices this week to address concerns that sales have been slumping since October. In what appears to be a direct contradiction of the Fortune profile touting the success of Marvel’s efforts, and a confirmation of what Bleeding Cool has been saying for months about Marvel’s plans for a “meat and potatoes” relaunch, Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Gabriel gave an interview to ICv2. An excerpt of that:

Part of it, but I think also it seemed like tastes changed, because stuff you had been doing in the past wasn’t working the same way.  Did you perceive that or are we misreading that?

No, I think so.  I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed.

There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.  Yes, it’s all of that.

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  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.

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.

It was the old things coming back in that time period, three books in particular, Spider-Man Renew Your Vows, that had Spider-Man and Mary Jane married, that worked.  The Venom book worked and the Thanos book worked.  You can take what you want out of who might be enjoying those three books, but it is definitely a specific type of comic book reader, comic book collector that really liked those three series.

Unfortunate timing for both of those stories to be released on the same day, don’t you think?

About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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(Last Updated March 31, 2017 6:00 pm )

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