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Marvel's "Fresh Start" is About Business, Not Identity Politics
Marvel Comics is gearing up for another reboot of its comic book line in less than a year with "Fresh Start" coming in May, following from September's "Legacy" revamp. I'll be sad to see the end of the current iteration of The Mighty Thor series, with Jane Foster wielding Mjolnir, but so far it seems to be gearing up for a satisfying conclusion. While I think it's a bit odd to have two complete reboots of your brand in less than a year, some people are concerned that this reboot is meant to cater to a more "conservative" wing of Marvel's fanbase by rolling back some of their more diverse characters, like Jane Foster's Thor or Riri Williams as Ironheart, into their original white, male alter-egos. David Barnett writes in The Guardian:
If Marvel is indeed pandering to a more conservative readership that has grumbled incessantly about the proliferation of black, LGBT and female characters in recent years, then – given the phenomenal box office success of Black Panther this last week – there’s something decidedly rotten in the state of Fresh Start.
Maybe they’ll get back some of white, male Middle America that’s drifted away, but comics are and should be progressive and transgressive. Rather than winning back that demographic, Marvel’s execs should perhaps be looking at the news footage of those astonishing survivors of the Parkland school shooting in Florida, and listening to what those kids are saying about change and reform. As far as I’m concerned, Marvel, that should be your market.
The problem with a person who has no financial interest in a company's success, meaning that this person stands to lose nothing if their advice is faulty, telling that company who their market should be is hopefully self-evident. Marvel makes money by making a product that people want to buy, not by catering to the sensibilities of political ideologues who may or may not purchase comic books in the first place. For example:
And two gay characters with their own titles – Iceman and America Chavez – had their books cancelled at the end of 2017, not long after an industry breakfast that Marvel hosted for comic shop owners at New York Comic Con, where some retailers lambasted the diverse additions, with one repeatedly insisting that kids didn’t want to come in to his store and buy a comic that featured “Iceman kissing dudes”.
Whatever moral outrage you might want to express about kids potentially not wanting to buy comic books with openly homosexual characters is irrelevant to the fact that these titles obviously weren't selling enough to justify their continued publication. If it is the case that people who buy comic books don't want to read about homosexual characters then it doesn't follow that Marvel should be responsible for taking a financial loss to try to force this content on unwilling consumers who will go elsewhere to find what they're looking for and take their money with them.
Unless Barnett is suggesting that Marvel has willfully chosen to forgo profits simply to cater to white, heterosexual males, the simple fact is that the people he wants Marvel to market to have clearly shown little to no interest in the comic book titles that he is lamenting the demise of. So it's either that progressives obsessed with identity politics generally don't buy comic books or they decided that these titles weren't interesting enough to warrant the expense of reading them. Regardless, Marvel has no moral obligation to take a financial loss to publish comics that no one (Be they "conservatives" who might think homosexuality is icky, or progressives who may or may not be interested in comics in general or these comics specifically) wants to read.
In short, if the people Barnett wants Marvel to gear their content towards bought the comics that he's criticizing Marvel for canceling, he wouldn't have had a reason to write his column in the first place. Unfortunately for him, Marvel has to actually make money in selling comics otherwise they're not going to be around to publish any comics at all.