Marvel’s VP of content and character development Sana Amanat recently appeared on Reveal, a radio show and podcast created by The Center for Investigative Reporting and RPX, where she claimed Marvel used Stan Lee to fight against Comicsgate late last year.
Reveal host Al Letson specifically asks Amanat about Comicsgate and how Marvel deals with the “victims” of Comicsgate criticism. Their discussion begins around the 43:00 minute mark.
“A lot of the way that we deal with those kinds of situations, and I’m not HR, is specifically internal. I have had conversations with the women who have been victims of this. I’m a victim of it, and I’ve been dealing with it since I joined Marvel. I think it’s really more about making sure that we create a safe space for them to be able to feel like they can talk about the issues that they have. We are not trying to further the public face in this. I think it’s important they have privacy and that their name isn’t smeared and continued to be smeared. The more that we repeat it, the more that people will pay more attention and have a bigger target on their backs. And we want to make sure that they are safe.”
Amanat then goes on to explain how Marvel Comics responded to Comicsgate. She specifically notes that they used Stan Lee to address Comicsgate:
“In terms of how the industry responded, we knew the best way for Marvel to respond to something like this was having the legacy of Marvel, Stan Lee, say something and he did.”
Letson then plays a clip of Stan Lee’s message to fans from October 2017.
Stan would declare in that video:
“Marvel has always been and always will be a reflection of the world right outside our window. That world may change and evolve. But the one thing that will never change is the way we tell our stories of heroism. Those stories are groomed for everyone regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin. The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”
Amanat would go on to discuss why they used Stan:
“His soapboxes, his letters columns were all about the concept of equality and being good to one another and caring for one another and the importance of these values and inserting them in our heroes.”
She would add:
“He realized the importance of responding to it and we had a great video of him trying to encourage our fans to be positive, and stop saying hateful things.”
After confirming they rolled out Stan Lee to fight against Comicsgate, Amanat would address the actual criticism of Marvel’s recent crop of books specifically that their more diverse titles were financial failures.
“I’d say rats to that. That’s not true at all…No, I don’t think that’s true at all. I think that yes some books succeed, some books fail, and if that happens it has nothing to do with the fact that it’s a brown character. It has to do with the fact that we have to make sure that we one, our audiences get excited about the stories and we know that these characters can have a further impact because we are telling our audiences, our readers, look there is every kind of hero out there. You are reflected in our pantheon of heroes.”
However, back in March of 2017, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel actually stated:
“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.”
Gabriel would issue a correction after the story was published and was highly criticized by a number of people in the media:
“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.
We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more! They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. 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.”
And in fact, the overall industry saw a decrease in sales between 2016 and 2017 from an estimated $1.085 billion in 2016 to $1.015 billion. ICv2’s John Jackson Miller placed the blame for the decreased sales on a “lackluster response to new periodical offerings and consequently, graphic novel sales.”
Following a disappointing 2017 which saw Marvel pushing its “Secret Empire” storyline which turned Steve Rogers aka Captain America into a Hydra-loving Nazi agent as well as a linewide reboot with Marvel Legacy, they hired a brand new Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski in November to try and right the ship.
What do you think of Sana Amanat admitting to using Stan Lee to fight against Comicsgate? Do you think Gabriel was speaking the truth when he noted their sales on “diverse” titles were down?