Marvel announced more than a year ago that Captain America was an undercover Hydra agent, and fans have gotten more vocal with their disgust over time. However, angry tweets didn’t do much to sway Marvel from its controversial storyline; after a year of Nick Spencer’s Hydra (de facto Nazi) sympathetic Captain America, the publisher announced its next big event after Civil War II would follow the adventures of evil Steve Rogers in Secret Empire. Joining Nazi Cap in Secret Empire is Magneto, who has apparently forgotten that his parents were killed by Nazis.
Many, many fans have had enough, but they’re poised to do the exact wrong thing by boycotting Marvel’s comics.
Hear me out, comic book fan to comic book fan. If you’re not down with Marvel profiting off a story that peddles Nazi-sympathetic imagery as shock-value shlock, boycotting the brand is not enough. Go to your local comic book store, tell the kind folks there that you’re not interested in Hydra Cap or Secret Empire, and then (this is the most important step), buy a different Marvel comic.
Leia Calderon, a manager at Keith’s Comics in Dallas, tells Inverse, “I’ve spent the last five years building an inclusive customer base and I think I’ve been asked about Secret Empire about once a day, both from regulars and the more casual consumer. My go-to answer is, ‘Oh, remember how Captain America came out as a Nazi some months back and no one liked it? Marvel thought everyone DID like it and made this event all about that with even more Nazi allegory.’”
She goes on to say that refusing to buy any Marvel books isn’t a great course of action. As she points out in a terrific tweet-thread, “Shops have already paid for their copies. […] By purchasing books you do believe in, shops can adjust their numbers and budgets for future orders, and carry more of what you want.” Publishers like Marvel don’t keep track of how many copies of a comic are sold at stores — the only number that keeps a title afloat (excluding digital sales) is how many copies each store buys in order to stock its shelves.
Correcting this perceptional imbalance is key especially after Marvel doubled down on its bad PR. Marvel’s Sales and Marketing Vice President David Gabriel told ICv2 their “diverse” books were to blame for poor sales in 2016, which is incorrect.
Gabriel’s lie goes like this: “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.” Meanwhile, the company’s top-selling comics in 2016 include Miles Morales as Spider-Man (a black and Latino young man), Black Panther (a story about a black man from a fictional African nation, written by a black man), Poe Dameron (a minor Star Wars character portrayed in the films by Guatemalan-American actor Oscar Isaac), Civil War II (led by female hero Captain Marvel), Invincible Iron Man (the “black, female Iron Man” Riri Williams) and Champions (a group of young anti-Avengers superheroes diverse in both gender presentation and ethnicity).
Gabriel followed up after the internet ate him alive, adding:
“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. […] And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes. […] So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”
But of course, if “one side of the story” is that Marvel fans want a more diverse superhero lineup, doesn’t that mean the “other side of the story” prefers its heroes male, straight, and white?
Based on Gabriel’s comments, Marvel is not currently in the business of paying attention to what its customers want and is instead hoping to publish shock-value titles like Nazi-Cap, which keeps Marvel Comics culturally relevant. Just remember, refusing to buy any Marvel comics, though your problem is specifically related to Nazi apologists in the company, won’t transmit the message effectively.
Marvel did not respond to Inverse reaching out for comment on this story.