The End Of Marvel’s Social Justice Warriors

About a month ago I wrote a column called You’re Creators…So Create Already. It was quite a passionate column with a lot of comments. Mostly lamenting the direction in which Marvel, in particular, had taken in their storytelling. The vast majority of comments lamented the the fact that so many characters no longer bore more than a passing resemblance to the characters that we had grown up with and whether or not that had anything to do with the lack of comic book sales.

There recently has come many reports that Marvel was abandoning the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) storylines in 2017. It seems a lot more than the readers of this column and site have been abandoning the books that are featuring these SJW storylines.

I for one am glad! I know that me writing that column didn’t bring this about, but it is interesting to see the change many of us requested, being recognized by Marvel. I doubt if anyone will disagree that if these storylines were being well received they would keep on printing them. I know that one of the common sentiments that was espoused was that all of us passionate fans of this medium, regardless of our age, were no longer interested in buying this material and obviously Marvel noticed. Sales of many books are dismal, and as many of us stopped buying, it looks like the suits payed attention, and I think a lot of that comes from the conversations in sites like Comic Book Daily.

For more info on this topic, see Marvel Abandons Social Justice Storylines and all kinds of things pop up.

So collectors, let’s look forward to hopefully less lecturing on politically correct issues and return to more entertaining stories!

Continued Happy Collecting!

Dennis De Pues
Dennis De Pues

Dennis is an admitted "Son of the Silver Age", having grown up with the influences of Silver Age greats: Kirby, Colan, Romita and Buscema.Three decades later, he is the creator of Crash!! and Galloway Park. More is definitely on the way.

Articles: 260


  1. There’s a slight difference between removing the politics, which is what the statement released said, versus “abandoning the Social Justice Warrior (SJW) storylines”.

    Comics have always dealt with social issues and should always continue to do so. They should appeal to as many different people as possible so shops can stay diversified and healthy.

    Those who feel comics should only be for them as customers the industry doesn’t need. They are unreliable and I’m one store owner who has been happy to see a wider variety of folks in my store. I’ve grown tired of the old guard constantly crying how not everything is catering specifically to them.

  2. I am certainly not crying, and certainly don’t think everything should be catered to me, but I certainly won’t spend my money on Politically correct product that doesn’t appeal to me, and it appears there are many more people who feel that way.It also appears to me that those mighty warriors are the ones who whine and cry and certainly think that everything should be catered to them,…while sitting in there safe spaces colouring and playing with grief puppies.

  3. The more diverse audience who weren’t buying comics before weren’t crying, they just weren’t buying comics since there weren’t characters to identify with. Once the changes came around, that’s when the complaints started coming, primarily from people who already have 50 plus years worth of stories to enjoy.

    And if someone doesn’t like the books being published then by all means don’t buy them. Others will, and have, judging by the increase in industry sales of the last 5 years.

  4. Thanks for weighing in Jay.As you state”And if someone doesn’t like the books being published then by all means don’t buy them. ” The market will invariably decide, which is really the point.In my experience great stories are the remedy for a diverse audience, not gender, not race and not political correctness.Great stories.

  5. Which is easy to say when you already identify with the characters.

    Marvel was built on the platform of readers identifying with the characters. That is what everyone says when they talk about Spider-Man. He’s the everyman. The FF is a family. And the X-Men have been social commentary since day one. Good stories AND the ability to relate to the characters.

    I’m unsure why creating comics to appeal to a wider audience is such a terrible thing, especially when it has proven to grow and strengthen the industry.

  6. Creating comics to appeal to a wider audience is not a terrible idea.Not at all.Alienating your established base does not seem like a great way to grow your market share to me.By all means diversify,and expand, but do so without eliminating the people who do identify with established characters.You seem to indicate that both established fans/customers and new fans/customers cannot exist in the same marketplace unless the established fans/customers accept the changes they don’t like.Again ,not a great marketing plan to grow your market share. Cutting off ones nose to spite ones face, it would seem to me.I am glad to hear your sales are up over the last 5 years.I can’t say for sure as I am not in the retail comic market like you are,however in the area that I do have personal knowledge it seems that a lots of sales dollars are up but margins are down in many also.

  7. Good article to update from the last one. I’m glad to see Marvel change direction from preachy SJW nonsense and gender/race bending, but they need to create solid original material again which they haven’t done in almost two decades in my opinion. The market proves that diversity doesn’t necessarily make us ‘stronger’ (whatever that was supposed to mean in the first place) or necessarily make good business sense. Clearly the change in direction is due to overwhelming evidence in the form of sales numbers that their big push for SJW ideology and throwing diversity in our face every five panels didn’t pan out well in the free market. This was predictable from the beginning because the market they were trying to preach down to didn’t exist in large enough numbers to keep them out of the red ink. So Marvel learned a hard lesson: nobody is above the free market.

    This doesn’t change the fact that all the other issues that challenge the comic book industry overall still exist, and until all of the big publishers can find a way to put their product in a cheaper and more convenient package that children can afford and will want I honestly don’t see the overall decline in the comic book market reversing. Kids just don’t read comics anymore in large numbers. They play games on their phone, videogames on Xbox at home and watch YouTube. When comics went off the newsstands, became far more expensive, became more mature themed and focused on the collector’s market they failed to create a consumer habit in the next generation. That is going to be a tough market to win back and it will be an especially tough road for Marvel to regain precious market share in the industry moving forward with the abrupt change in creative direction. The old business adage is true, it’s safer and cheaper to keep a customer than win over a new one. Their movies are definitely still going to be a cash cow but they haven’t exactly translated into stunning sales numbers for their comic books either. Maybe they will start implementing more cross marketing or make an Ultimate type universe line that is in the MCU and can tell stories in between the movies.

  8. I couldn’t agree more Robert! The old business adage of penetrating deeper with existing customers is easier than getting a new one seems to have been forgotten by many nowadays, but it is a proven point.It would be very interesting to see sequential storytelling used in early childhood education to foment a love of reading, and it would be a great way for the makers of comics to not only give back but build a new generation of readers and comic fans.

  9. I’m with Jay on this one. His observation is much more nuanced.

    • Marvel and DC are over 75 years old.
    • How many more Tony Stark stories are left to be told? It’s all been done.
    • There’s no business logic in catering to an aging population. I’m 48 years old. Average male lifespan is 70. Marvel has 22 years left to reach the generation behind me before I knock off.

    Publishing makes less and less money but it must continue (for now) in order to maintain the brands. Comics are a very smart part of a much larger machine. Profits from publishing will be written off in order to be recouped and collected through merchandising, movies and licensing.

    My only criticism is that Marvel and DC should have started their evolution much earlier. Yes there will be pain as they transition but their future is not with old guys like me… but rather the millennials.

  10. Dennis,
    “I am glad to hear your sales are up over the last 5 years.”
    I didn’t say mine were, I said the industry has had growth. In 2016 it surpassed the $1 billion dollar mark for print sales for the first time since the early 90s and it has seen steady growth over the last 5 years.

    “Alienating your established base does not seem like a great way to grow your market share to me.By all means diversify,and expand, but do so without eliminating the people who do identify with established characters.”
    How are people being eliminated? Did Peter Parker disappear? No. Did Odinson disappear? He’s around less but less so than he was a frog or a horse faced alien. Steve Rogers is still there, Tony Stark is still there (and will return), Matt Murdock is still there so I’m not sure how this logic works. No one has been eliminated except FF fans, and that’s hardly due to any perceived “SJW” agendas.

    “You seem to indicate that both established fans/customers and new fans/customers cannot exist in the same marketplace unless the established fans/customers accept the changes they don’t like.”
    I didn’t say that. Both can exist because there is material for both. There are the old characters and the new characters. It just seems that many people, as your original op ed would indicate, want the new gone and we should only have the old. Why should new readers not have a choice? Why do only the old characters get to have stories told? Preventing access to new readers, that seems like bad business.

    Ultimately, when all the original heroes return to their main titles after this summer’s Secret Empire, we will see how well things sell.

    And you guys are aware that comics for kids are at an all-time high for the first time in several decades, right? Not just in production but also in sales.

  11. Good for you for taking a stand for social injustice and rudeness. It’s about time white men got to do and say what they want without regard for the feelings of the people they’re talking about, without people complaining about it. Of all the causes you could champion and devote your time and energies to, this is surely better than anything other social issue you could address. Well done.

  12. I hope this really is the end. I want to read entertaining stories; comic books, not propaganda.

  13. For some reason, Dennis, it seems a lot of people are incapable of making their point without sarcasm when they respond to what is essentially your personal opinion about the situation as you see it. As far as I’m concerned everybody is entitled to their opinion, but no one has the right to just belittle another’s because they disagree. I’m afraid this may turn into another one of those situations. Me? I’m not on anybody’s “side”, but I do wish the conversation could be more civilized. I’m sorry your points seem to just bring out the worst in some fellow commentators, and I sure hope they don’t chase you off. Your opinion is valuable and worthy of a polite hearing at least.

    Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

    all the best, mel

  14. Hey Mel,

    • Sarcasm is a form of communication. You may not like it, but it often says more than regular dialogue.
    • You can’t criticize other “opinions” and then hide behind it to justify your own comments. That’s like Donald Trump calling all news “fake” while telling lies himself.
    • I think you DO take a side and your homo-erotic man-crush for Dennis has been duly noted several times, which is fine, but lets be real here.

    No one is chasing anyone off. Dennis is a big boy and he is mature enough not to expect everyone to agree with everything he has to say. If you put yourself out on the web, you gonna get differing view points. Some more educated than others… That’s what these forums are about.

    Instead of asking for “civility” while calling everyone “bastards”, why not be reflective?

  15. Sorry, I guess I should have said,”Don’t let it get you down.” Just an expression. I never meant to call anybody’s mother names, for crying out loud.

    “Homo-erotic man-crush”?!

    Not to be uncivil, but…(expletive deleted)

  16. There is no evidence that the changes they made to appeal to gender and racial minorities worked. In fact, the reason they are changing direction is because it didn’t work. There are still lots of Tony Stark stories that can be told. The question is whether or not they will hire outside of comics to get a writer who isn’t a glorified fan doing a retelling of the classic stories they like. It’s good to hear that children’s comics are selling better than they have in decades, but let’s get real with the numbers: they are only selling better than previously abysmal sales. That doesn’t make the numbers good, it just makes them better than they were before. In 1970 the title Superman was selling more than half a million a month to mostly children. Just one Superman book was selling more than four times the number one book of January of this year at a time when there were fewer people in the market. The industry needs a new injection of creativity that they haven’t had in decades and that will start with creating a new character instead of making forced changes to established ones. It isn’t original, and worse, it’s lazy.

  17. Well spoken Robert. And that’s not my “man-crush” talking, just an appreciation of a well-reasoned argument. Thanks for that.

  18. You know it is always interesting to hear via the responses from people, what they “hear” when they read a column.My original column was called Your Creators…So Create Already. That title to me meant exactly what it said.Create.Be as diverse as you want ,be as creative as you can be , but don’t alienate the base that brought you here .I personally don’t like 2 Captain Americas,2 Spidermans,2 Thors etc and have stopped purchasing the stories because the content leaves me flat and is ever so often preachy in a way I find unappealing.
    I personally would love to see a wider audience.I would love to see comics with increased circulation rather than decreasing circulation.
    Not catering business to a more affluent and passionate clientele, even if it is older,is not very smart since every one of us probably spends a good chunk of change on our beloved hobby compared to a younger demographic.
    New exciting and diverse characters should be created! Again Create already!Give the new readers new characters they can identify with. Create!
    My whole point is to create! Bring in more people ,not less.Add to the mythos ,don’t make the waters so muddy that no one knows what is going on anymore. But then again ,maybe I am just getting too old and senile to understand these complex and progressive story lines, after all there isn’t much time left for me.
    If you like SJW storylines, enjoy them. Nothing wrong with that.I don’t ,so I spend my money on comics created by the non Big 2.I also buy a ton of back issues ,original art and Artists Editions.
    And in the short time I have left on this mortal coil I will continue to do so.My greatest hope for the hobby, is that enough new characters are created and new readers can relate to them to keep the hobby alive.

  19. Historically comic book popularity has always ebbed and flowed.

    – the initial explosion of superheroes in the late 1930s waned and gave way to the crime and horror era of the late 1940s
    – the crime and horror book was legislated out of existence in the mid 1950s opening the door for superheroes to jump back in

    At that time market trends were not fought by the publishers, the old was just discarded in favor of the new.

    The only characters that never stopped being in print were Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

    I guess back then these publishers had nothing into these heroes and dropped them like a bad habit. Today there is too much economic potential tied to a character like Thor so when sales start going south publishers start reaching for ideas. The ideas they’ve come up with so far don’t seem to be working so I.m sure they’ll try other ideas.

    But maybe its a losing battle, maybe they need to go back to horror and crime or fantasy and sci-fi. These are the things Image Publishing is meeting success with.

  20. The beauty of sequential storytelling is that with the right collaborators any genre can be exciting.Image has done some great runs over the last few years and I for one have thoroughly enjoyed the diverse subject matter.Velvet,Fade Out,Invisible Republic and Lazarus to name a few. Rucka and Lark, Brubaker and Epting, Hardman and Bechko.
    Who can forget the classic run of Tomb of Dracula with Wolfman/Colan/Palmer at the helm in the 70’s.Or as the recently released Kirby/Sinnott Fantastic Four Artist Edition so powerfully reminded us ,the 50 issue run that changed comics forever.
    Not all attempts are winners but it is better to attempt something great and fail ,than attempt nothing and succeed.

  21. Well spoken Robert. And that’s not my “man-crush” talking, just an appreciation of a well-reasoned argument.

    So Mel, does this mean that you’ve jumped on to the sarcasm band wagon? Jerry Seinfeld thanks you.

    There is no evidence that the changes they made to appeal to gender and racial minorities worked. In fact, the reason they are changing direction is because it didn’t work.

    I would say that the popularity of Spidey Gwen, Silk and Morles says otherwise. Not every idea will stick and each attempt will have varying degrees of success but I don’t think we can accuse the publishers of not trying. The effectiveness of their ideas is one issue and we can debate this till we’re blue in the face but my main point is that guys like Dennis, Mel or myself should not be their focus.

    That doesn’t make the numbers good, it just makes them better than they were before.

    Hey… are we talking about vinyl records again?

    Years ago I worked on the rebranding of Legend, the premiere computing company in China. Their sales were on the rise and wanted to expand internationally. As soon as they were rebranded as Lenovo, sales dropped, despite the promises made by the branding company I was working for. However, this was quite normal since since change creates loss of equity. But, they stayed committed and rebuilt recognition on a platform designed to reach a NEW international audience…

    I criticised that the name “Lenovo” as being dumb and having no meaning. It took the “Le” from Legend and coupled with the Portuguese word for new “novo”. The result was a French sounding word for a Chinese company that had no connection to Portugal. Still, a name is only one aspect of your identity. They stayed committed to their plan and today, they enjoy global recognition in a similarly shrinking desktop market.

    I don’t know if Marvel’s plan is the right solution, and in all honesty… nobody does. It will take time and more effort before we can make such a determination. But what I do know is that they must change with the times, the internet is impatient, and they should no longer view the old guard as being their audience.

  22. They should view their audience as their audience regardless of age .A successful operator of any kind recognizes they need to cater to both the audience that brought them and the audience that will allow them to grow. They are both vital to the success of the operator regardless of age or demographic. You need two oars in a boat to propel it forward.

  23. Chucky, you just never give up, do you? Don’t you realize I was just lowering myself to your level of discourse? So, kindly accept the apology for my ill-chosen use of words and maybe apologize yourself for your own.

    Thanks to the rest of you for trying to salvage the discussion.

  24. But if all the old guard has stopped reading these books, as many of you claim, and the market has grown, which we know it has through the sales data, then I guess there is evidence that the changes made have worked. They found a new audience.

  25. They did create. They told stories that weren’t being told. That’s being creative.

    And by your own admission, you don’t like 2 Caps, Spideys or Thors so the problem is not with the industry not being creative or creating, the problem is with you not liking what has been created. Big difference.

  26. At the expense of the old.We aren’t “claiming” it Jay, we are living it.This is not an either or argument, a large portion of the audience does not like what is going on.That is fact.Again , if you like what you are reading ,good on you.Many of us don’t.It would be wise for the publishers to pay attention to the deep pockets of the passionate fans.

  27. Jay ,I am not trying to make you concede to my point,I am just making you aware of the fact a lot of us don’t the changes to our liking on established characters.Changing the gender, or the colour or the costume of established characters is as Robert stated in an earlier response is lazy.It is not important to me that you agree with me at all,it is important though that you care enough to take the time to comment.Thank you.

  28. But you are not the only ones reading and when a company needs to grow, they need to diversify. When that happens, yes, some will not enjoy the product. But to sacrifice what was developed just to return to the days old is backwards thinking. Move forward.

    And the numbers show that those lost were less than the audience gained.

  29. How is it lazy to develop a new character, albeit in the vein of a concept, a new supporting cast, new relationships, and new audience? How is it lazy to tell stories that had not been told before.

    Claiming books are lazy because you don’t like them is not a strong debating point.

    And before you bring up the “just make new characters” topic, we all know that system does not for a variety of reasons and it’s the the purpose of making the changes creators making to existing characters. It’s so the audience can identify with a character they care about. Women like Thor but wish they could identify with the character more, so, here’s a female Thor. Audience grows, the new readers branch out, both characters exist and everyone wins.

  30. I never once said we were the only ones reading.I am just giving my reasoned thoughts on the subject.It seems that with Marvel deciding the direction they have been going is not as great as you do there may be something to the argument that you say is backwards.

  31. And now print comics are at a 25 year high, surpassing $1 billion in sales in 2016. And that’s with continuous, steady climbs over the last 5-10 years. So something is working.

  32. These replies did not attach themselves to the proper comments and can’t seem to be deleted. I apologize for the confusion.

  33. I’d say that Marvel did try to cater to a new audience and it doesn’t seem to have been super-successful. Some of the things I read were also just very poorly written. It’s like they thought “let’s hammer the political message in there, because those millennials seem to be on board with Buzzfeed and Gawker and Vice, so this is how we’ll get them”. It was too obvious and not entertaining and far from clever or interesting storytelling. Not all of it, I do think that Spencer’s Sam Wilson book was pretty good, as was Mockingbird. But how many tongue-in-cheek-inner-monologue-books-featuring-millenial-young-women can the market digest? And more than the SJW thing it was many different things that killed Marvel’s moment after Secret Wars. Like the the overall event fatigue. And the excessive renumbering. The seemingly random launching of books without any serious commitment to keep them around — byebye reader-confidence! Add to that the exit of some of their biggest creators right after SW) and the crazy pricing. 10$-single issues? Really? Lastly, DC did a fantastic job with Rebirth and all their new boutique-imprints (Young Animal, Hanna Barbera, Wildstorm…). So, I’d say it’s a whole mosaic of reasons why Marvel is where it is right now. What I want to see is a more cohesive editorial approach, less books, better curated creative teams, a healthy mix of classic series/characters and fresh wildcards and also some more diversity regarding the GENRES of the books.

  34. Jay, overall sales in monthly comics haven’t risen, especially for Marvel, and that is company we are talking about. Again, it is about market share and monthly comic sales. Marvel is losing market share and needs to reverse that. And yes, gender bending a character is lazy. Race swapping a character is lazy. If a character is well written a reader doesn’t need to have every single trait in common with them to relate to them and enjoy their story. That’s the job of a writer. Simply trying to tick every gender, race and lifestyle box on a roster of characters is a quick race to the bottom of market fragmentation. Have comics exceeded a billion in sales? Not with the monthlies. For starters that number doesn’t take into account inflation of the dollar and the higher and higher price they charge per issue. They are getting more money out of the comic book customer per issue but not significantly growing the customer base. But let’s forget that for now and just look at that one billion dollar number. To simply look at one number as a sign of success out of context in an industry with such a wide range of products is really rather short sighted. That one billion dollar figure just so happens to include TPB sales and all digital sales, which mean that they are getting a huge boost from the classic stories as collected in those premium formats and sold through big box book stores and online. That skews peoples assumption that they are talking about monthly funny books sales. A more descriptive number is Diamond Distributions sales figures for comics sold to comic book shops that do not include TPB or digital, since monthlies are what we are talking about in this thread. For that we see 2016 reported $382 million in sales, down from 2015’s $388 million. Sales overall are down despite companies like Image posting some of their best sales to date (2016’s no. 1 book was Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York #1 published by BOOM!.) Despite some of the biggest comic book films hitting theaters, the biggest super hero TV lineup of all time, videogames and huge marketing efforts that put comic book characters in the forefront of pop culture in 2016, monthly comic books sales were lower than the previous year. That is why Marvel is changing direction.

  35. Spidey Gwen was successful if success is defined as selling reasonably well for a couple of issues while continuing Marvel’s mission to have death mean as little in their universe as it does in DC. But I don’t consider a character cashing in on fan nastolgia from forty years ago posting a number two issue with less than half the sales of the first a huge success. By issue 5 Spider-Gwen had gone from 254,074 to 67,697 in sales. Gwen Stacy on a cover of a #1 certainly had collector’s attention it would seem. The second volume has done much the same, getting a reasonably strong no. 1 at 192,103 in sales but by issue 6 was only 46,060. Silk no.1 sold 74,501 and slid down from there. Both Spider-Gwen and Silk no.1 got topped by Orphan Black no.1 (497,002!) and Darth Vader no.1 (Interesting that both no.1 and 2 top selling issues weren’t superheroes.) If these numbers are what constitutes success for Marvel comics now then they need to make some bold changes indeed. I personally didn’t like the character of Silk, again they couldn’t even come up with an original or interesting origin for her other than the spider that bit Peter Parker actually bit someone else too. Essentially the same happened to Miles Morales, an Oz enhanzed spider bit him too… Real creativity on display there. Resurrecting a dead character and having the radioactive spider bite someone else as well… twice. If that is what passes for originality the industry is in dire straits. These are all examples of what I said before: glorified fans were hirred as writers and rehashed stories they like rather than actually creating something new.

    Your Lenovo analogy, while interesting, doesn’t apply well to comic books. One is a high ticket item that experience depreciation very differently from a lower ticket item that has artistic merit and all the emotional attachment that comes with that. Lenovo computers are a product that is incomparable in any realistic sense to the product that is a comic book. The Four P’s for a computer and a comic are so drastically different that it isn’t a useful comparison in my opinion. The fact that monthly comic sales were down last year despite the characters being at the forefront of almost every other entertainment medium is telling, even more telling that Marvel’s marketshare lost ground to DC and smaller publishers like Image and BOOM!. The fact that ScreenRant needs to inform people about these derivitive ‘new’ heroes in an ad laden list post is also telling. Eleven of those fifteen ‘new’ heroes are little more than deviations from established characters. Gwenpool (seriously?) is gender swapped Deadpool, then we have black woman Iron Man, Viv Vision is Visions daughter and… alot like a female Vision predictably, the daughter of two established characters in a Captain America costume, Totally Awesome Hulk is Cho as the Hulk instead of Banner… do I really need to explain further down the list why this is getting both repetitive and derivitive for consumers?

    Vinyl sales are up year on year while at the same time the format takes larger and larger market share. The same cannot be said of monthly comics so we aren’t talking about vinyl again. But we CAN if you want. Because vinyl is a cool format and I am always down to chat about it.

  36. The cost of the hobby has gotten absolutely insane. I remember seeing the $10 price tag and having that same reaction. No creative team stays on a book for more than six issues because they want to get that TPB out ASAP. This also means stories have insane decompression now. I save my beans now and buy some of the Undervalued Spotlights featured on the site.

  37. Thanks for taking the time to get all the numbers together in your post Robert.They certainly are very telling indeed.I think it goes almost without saying that many of us are longing to find great new material, and the fact that we are finding some, and that they usually aren’t super heroes is also telling.
    It seems some people have a hard time differentiating between wanting good new storyline/characters and “living in the past” when all we are saying is you can have one and the other at the same time.If we didn’t care we wouldn’t take the time to engage in the discussion and your input is certainly appreciated here. All the best!

  38. Another white latino Trump fan wants to complain about a liberal slant in comics. *Yawn* There is nothing wrong with a writer infusing his own political views into a story. Were you complaining about Steve Ditko pushing his libertarian agenda in The Question? The fact that you have to use the pejorative term “social justice warrior” to describe views you disagree with shows that you’re just upset with the liberal views in these stories.

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