From Tom Brevoort’sBlah Blah Blog:
Q: Why do booked with international lead characters seem to struggle in the US market, like Captain Britain & MI:13 and Alpha Flight? yes, i know that Wolverine’s Canadian, but APART from him.
A: I don’t know that it’s any one thing, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that it’s all part of the same phenomenon that makes it more difficult to sell series with female leads, or African-American leads, or leads of any other particular cultural bent. Because we’re an American company whose primary distribution is centered around America, the great majority of our existing audience seems to be white American males. So while within that demographic you’ll find people who are interested in a wide assortment of characters of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, whenever your leads are white American males, you’ve got a better chance of reaching more people overall. That’s something that continues to change as the audience for what we do gets larger and more diverse-but even within that diversity, it’s probably going to be easier to make a success of a book with a female or African-American lead before it is a British or Canadian-centric character.
I mean, I know what I want out of comics, but that’s often diametrically opposed to what Don DC or Maria Marvel wants. What I want? Young Liars, Unknown Soldier, all that stuff that’s great, that’s head and shoulders above the pablum? That doesn’t sell. It’ll move 20k out of the gate, then drop to below 10 and be cancelled within a year and a half. Young Liars is gone now, Unknown Soldier is probably on the way out, unless it’s trades do gangbusters.
In short, we, as in the comics reading community, get the comics industry that we deserve. Our buying habits decide the output of the companies. And if people only want stories starring classic characters, stories that “matter” and pay homage to the knotted and twisted chains of continuity… you’re only gonna get stories starring white dudes, with the occasional green chick or redhead playing the background.
Case in point: Hawkeye vs Luke Cage. One has been put into a leadership role on the team, gained the respect of Captain America, and been in New Avengers from the beginning. The other has returned to life after a controversial death, and enjoyed a new lease on life and the return of his long-dead wife.
The last Luke Cage miniseries, barring the recent release of Luke Cage Noir, was the Azzarello/Corben miniseries at the top of the decade. Hawkeye’s latest was New Avengers: Reunion, telling the story of his reconnection with Mockingbird. That was this year.
I’m not judging here, this is value-neutral. But, if you’re going to go, “Our best-selling comics tend to be about our universe and continuity. We should do more of those so we can stay afloat,” you’re going to get comics starring people with several dozen years of Marvel history. All but two of those people are white, and the two are Black Panther and Falcon, who no one cares about anyway.
So if the audience wants stories that matter, you’re gonna get stories starring white dudes. It’s not even racism. It’s mathematics.
The only problem is that it’s also a self-defeating cycle. You aren’t going to bring in a larger audience by telling the same old stories about the same old people because, wait for it, they’ve been ignoring those stories forever. You’re gonna have to take risks, and telling stories about Barry Allen ain’t it. I applaud Marvel for being willing to stick with Black Panther long enough for it to find an audience for that very reason, and I recognize that companies have to make a profit. At the same time, though, I don’t have to read books starring boring characters.
Good on Brevoort, though. He’s a stand-up guy, and it’s nice to see a dose of realism in comics.