For most regular folks, Wednesday is known as “hump day” because it represents the halfway point between weekends. Because if you’ve made it to Wednesday, congratulations, the weekend is almost upon you. But for people like me (i.e., nerds), Wednesdays were the destination point. As a fanboy, I didn’t need to wait until Friday afternoon to reward myself for a week’s worth of work or school. Instead, Wednesday afternoons offered me a respite from the week because I could trek down to my local comic shop. You see, Wednesday isn’t “hump day,” it’s new comics day.
So in honor of this American tradition, we’re going to have a weekly column here at The Nerds of Color that focuses on notable comic books debuting that week. Except this week, that is. I wanted to kick off Wednesday Comics talking about a book that doesn’t even come out for another three weeks. The book in question? Marvel’s hotly anticipated Mighty Avengers #1, which is being reviewed in advance by multiple sites this week. And so far, those reviews cover the spectrum from good to not so great and everything else in between.
Announced to much hype back in June, fans have been wondering all summer how Marvel Comics was going to handle an Avengers book that is mostly comprised of superheroes of color. From one end of the spectrum, the fact that there was even an Avengers team made up of African Americans and women was in and of itself controversial. On the other hand, others wondered how an editorial and creative team that is all-white will effectively tell the story of a team that is made up of black and Latino characters. After the book’s initial announcement, the podcast “The Two Brandons” (by comics industry professionals Brandon Thomas and Brandon Easton) discussed in detail the dissonance between the concept of the book and the makeup of the creative team. Case in point, from IGN’s advance review:
There’s also the fact that this cast is predominantly made up of minority heroes. It’s never been clear how intentional the roster choices were in that regard and whether Mighty is intended as a racially charged book. That approach creates its own set of problems, and writer Al Ewing takes what is probably the ideal path by downplaying the racial angle.
I wonder why the intentionality of the book’s racial make up matters so much to the reviewer. Does it have something to do with the fact that he feels such an approach is, to paraphrase, problematic? Also, why is “downplaying the racial angle” the “ideal path” for Al Ewing to take as a writer? The fact that this is even an issue for this book is precisely the point behind the conversation on “The Two Brandons” (which also includes former DC/Milestone editor Joseph Illidge. Seriously, just go and listen to this podcast. I promise it’ll be worth your time).
There’s also the prickly situation behind one of the variant covers for the first issue. The cover features Deadpool in a banana costume holding a set of maracas superimposed over the team. Sure, it’s a reference to a (really dated) internet meme, but still. Is it really the best cover idea for such a high-profile and “racially charged” book?
Despite Marvel’s best efforts to heavily market and promote the book (potentially racist variant covers, aside) and all of the hype surrounding the team’s roster, it seems that the book will be having a hard time finding its way into local comic shops next month. According to Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, Mighty Avengers isn’t being ordered on the same level as other “Infinity” themed books:
Marvel tried to push the boat out to help retailers up their orders heavily. First, it launches as an Infinity book. Marvel gave retailers 15% discount off their cost of ordering 200% of Age Of Ultron #4, 10% for 175% or 5% of 150% – and making a Skottie Young cover, Blank sketch variants and Mighty Avengers Party variants available to any who did that. And… retailers didn’t bite.
See, here’s the dilemma. There’s clearly a dearth of books in either of the Big Two (that would be Marvel and DC for you non-comics readers) that feature any characters of color, so the fact that Marvel has put so much behind Mighty Avengers is a good thing. That said, what happens if this book is a failure, both creatively and financially? If these early numbers from Diamond are any indication, Mighty Avengers will be seen as a disappointment to the powers that be, adding more fuel to the notion that heroes of color cannot sell in the comics marketplace.
It’s a lot of pressure to put on just one book, I know. But this is what happens when there are so few titles that are comparable. Either way, it’ll no doubt be interesting to see how Mighty Avengers shakes out in “Infinity” and beyond. Stay tuned…