Is diversity killing Marvel sales?

Short answer: no. Long answer:



Good gods do I hate most of what Marvel has been doing in the 21st century, from the debased widescreen storytelling to the shitting on everything its characters stand for, but what it has done right is providing space for more diverse superhero comics, both character and creator-wise. I stopped being a regular comics buyer, let alone a superhero floppies buyer since, well, the start of this century and getting a view of what the industry is like a decade and a half later I’m glad I did. Everything this dude listed as being more of a problem than Marvel pushing diversity is shit I’ve already seen in the nineties, then secondhand in the naughties, just more chaotically and more intensive. Pushing more titles, an obsession with events, an overwhelmingly short term focus at the cost of a long term vision: we’ve seen that all before. It’s just the speed that’s different.

The end result is a constant churn that just zaps all of my will to invest time and effort into the Marvel Universe — and I’ve been a Marvel fan for thirty years now. Best I can do currently is reading the “fringe” books: the Hawkeyes and Ms. Marvels that do new things at the edges of the Marvel universe, but even these get weighted down by events and extraneous shite. What I wouldn’t give for having a gimmick of just having twelve issues of a series coming out in a year with the same creative team, without crossover events or other crap cluttering it up.

None of which has much to do with diversity and its supposed flaws. Diversity is actually, as any fule should know, Marvel’s greatest selling point. Every time a white, male hero is replaced by a hero of colour, a woman, or both, it’s an immediate attention grabber in the way “the death of…” stories were in the nineties. Each new diverse hero creates immense goodwill among non comics readers, if done right because there’s such a hunger for heroes that look like America in the 21st century, Trumpian backlashes nonewithstanding. And if only Marvel could have a coherent, respectful way of marketing this diversity and not let it be buried under an avalanche of shite only diehard floppy readers care about, things like the Miles/Gwen romance would set the world alight, rather than being a one-week wonder…

First impression: Grimoire of Zero

A young witch hires a Beastfallen tiger man to be her bodyguard and occassional (involuntary) bed during her quest for her stolen grimoire.

Grimoire of Zero: tiger men make the best beds

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho/Grimoire of Zero is a classic quest fantasy, which is unusual in anime. The first episode is mainly setup, with a meet cute when our nameless tiger man protagonist — on the run from a murderous witch — lands in the soup of Zero. She saves him, he runs away when it turns out she’s a witch as well, then she shows up again to steal back her soup. Long story short, she recruits him for her quest to get her grimoire back and the end of the episode has them setting out together. What makes all this fairly standard setup sparkle is the interaction between the Mercenary and Zero, who hit it off immediately. It’s hard to do this sort of banter well, to have two people snipe at each other without it coming over too spiteful or too artificial, but this episode managed to keep a light, funny tone to its banter.

Grimoire of Zero: grim and gritty background

The light tone of the interactions between Zero and the Mercenary does clash somewhat with the grim and gritty background it is set against. We’re in a world were witches are real and persecuted by an almighty Church, burning them to death. So far, so Catholic, but while I’m feeling sympathetic to the witches, at least some of them do seem objectively evil. Meanwhile there are also the Beastfallen, human/animal hybrids created by witches and which occassionally pop up among normal humans, as in the case of our tiger man Mercenary. Who seem to be hunted by humans and witches both from what we’ve seen from the Mercenary’s background. It feels inconsistent with the lighter, cuter mood between Zero and Mercenary. How the show will reconcile this will be interesting to watch.

First impression: Eromanga Sensei

Based on a series of light novels by the writer of My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute and this time the twist is that the brother isn’t related to the little sister he fancies.

Eromanga Sensei: hot for sister

Really, you don’t need to know more than this. Our protagonist is really, really fond of his little sister and wants to fuck her. She’s a NEET and has been holed up in her room for a year, ever since their parents died. He is a light novel author who has been writing since middle school to make money to feed himself and his sister. His novels have mostly sold on the strength of the illustrations by one Eromanga Sensei and — surprise surprise — it turns out to be his little sister.

Eromanga Sensei: girls love dick

The first episode was a bit coy about what it wanted to be, but luckily the first minutes of episode two made clear this show is trash and no longer hiding it. Having read the manga spinoff I know more or less what’s coming and I’m fine with a bit of this sort of trash to watch, but really, there’s nothing much worthwhile about this one.

First impression: Tsuki ga Kirei

Two class mates get traumatised by their families when they unexpectedly meet up at the same restaurant.

Tsuki ga Kirei: family is always embarassing

There is after all nothing as embarassing as your family prematurely meeting the boy/girl you may be developing a crush on. Nothing certain here yet, no contact. Just coy glances when he/she isn’t looking, looking away when he/she notices, an acute awareness of the other’s presence. Most romance stories in anime start when boy meets girl and one or both quickly falls in love. This sort of drawnout, uncertain longing is rare. I like it better than the usual anime shenanigans, the slowness and mundanity lending realism to the story.

Tsuki ga Kirei: slightly anxious

The girl, Mizuno Akane is sporty enough to be on the track and field team and suffers from anxiety enough she carries around a small stuffed potato thingie to calm herself. It’s an anxiousness not played up as cute, but something she just has to deal with in her day to day life. Not overdramatised, nor debilitating, but just something she has to deal with. As she had to do in episode two, when she lost her safety potato and promptly lost her baton during a relay race.

Tsuki ga Kirei: slightly dorky

The boy, Azumi Kotarō, is a bit of a dork, in the literature club, aiming to be a writer and in love with Osamu Dazai‘s writing, who seems to be the sort of writer slightly dorky, intellectual teenage boys would fall in love with. His joy at getting a text from Mizuno to the point of shadow oboxing is exactly the sort of thing a teenage boy would do, having to get physical to deal with his feelings. He feels real, and the fact that he couldn’t “save” Mizuno in the second episode, even if he did find her potato thingie, helps. In short, I like this mundane, realistic, slow love story because it’s so different from any other anime romance.

First impression: Hinako Note

Crippingly shy girl goes to Tokyo for high school and to join its theatre club, to overcome her shyness.

Hinako Note: friend to all the animals

A by the numbers slice of moe show, with the main girl being a friend to all the animals, if barely able to talk to people. She’s adorable, in a very much infantilised way. Grown up in the country, she turns into a scarecrow when shy or embarrassed, immediately attracting each animal in the vicinity, which the old farming couple she lived near exploited mercilessly to keep the animals of their fields. She’s so tongue tied she can’t even thank them for the vegetables they give her for her help. There’s room to explore such a debilitating level of shyness, but I figure it will only be used for cuteness or humour here.

Hinako Note: imitating Lucky Star

Two episodes in, nothing much has been done with the theatre setup yet, but we have met most of the main cast of loveable weird girls. Here they’re seen performing a Lucky Star tribute. Each of them so far is mostly defined by their eccentricities: one likes to dress up as a maid, one is the reasonable, motherly type, one likes to eat books, etc. Our main girl, for all her shyness, quickly becomes comfortable with them. So far, little has been done with the whole theatre aspect of things, further underscoring the idea that this is very much a show only interested in slice of life cuteness. And since it’s the only one airing this season, save for the latest season of Natsume Yuujinchou, I think I’ll keep watching this in the hope it will get a little better.