On -isms: Is it REALLY a Sales Decision?

By | Thursday, December 21, 2017 Leave a Comment
As you may have heard, Marvel recently has officially cancelled Iceman, Luke Cage, The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Generation X and Hawkeye. Additionally, solicitations past February for Captain Marvel, Jean Grey, Defenders, and America don't exist, leading many to speculate those titles are cancelled as well. Although writer Margaret Stohl has said that Captain Marvel has not been cancelled, there does not seem to be any confirmations of those last titles.

It has decidedly not gone unnoticed that all of these titles have lead characters that are women, POC, and/or fall under the LGBTQ umbrella. So are these cancellations REALLY based on sales numbers, as Marvel alleges? Let's take a look at November's numbers...

Luke Cage 11,949
Gwenpool 14,499
Generation X 13,531
Hawkeye 12,113
Captain Marvel 15,037
Jean Grey 16,997
Defenders 23,133
America 8,360

Well, those numbers aren't great, certainly. But of the books that don't seem to be cancelled yet, we also have the following (with their sales numbers)...
Black Bolt 13,000
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl 10,003
Monsters Unleashed 7,406
Iron Fist 17,371
Jessica Jones 19,231
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur21,269
Now, I should point out first that sales numbers by themselves don't mean a book is profitable or not. A lower selling book can indeed be more profitable than a higher selling one, depending on how much the creators are being paid (among other things).

It's also easily noticeable that two of those non-cancelled titles I just listed feature female leads. So clearly, there's not a "let's just cancel everything with a woman in it" mentality going on. Moon Girl's lead is also Black, so a "let's just cancel everything with POC in it" attitude isn't happening either. (Although that Moon Girl is still north of 20,000 certainly helps it, I'm sure.)

I have to say, though, the really low numbers for Squirrel Girl and even more particularly Monster Unleashed give me pause. Gwenpool, Generation X, and Jean Grey are outselling Black Bolt -- now, again, sales numbers don't equate to profitability, but Jean Grey is selling a little more than twice Monsters Unleashed.

Of course, things are rarely made so simple and straight-forward. Just because an editor didn't come in and say, "To hell with all these women and minorities! Let's axe this shit!" doesn't mean that -isms didn't play a role here. It could've been much more subtle. Perhaps the profit numbers were really close, but they looked at the ones from female and minority led titles with a little more scrutiny. Or maybe they were convinced the books wouldn't sell from the start and didn't promote them as heavily as their clearly-more-popular titles, leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don't think we can look at these as a "pure" move to eliminate diversity in their titles. But it sure looks hella suspect, and it's definitely not a good PR move in an era when these types of decisions are analyzed in the public sphere ad nauseum.
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