Marvel comics are dropping in quality; Japanese comics are dominating the industry

As the comic company tries to solve its diversity problem by making it worse, international comics start to steal their sales

According to NPD BookScans Top 20 Graphic Novels sales, Manga series are overtaking over, with the iconic publisher DC Comics only managing to snag one spot.

Lillian Carpenter

According to NPD BookScan’s Top 20 Graphic Novels sales, Manga series are overtaking over, with the iconic publisher DC Comics only managing to snag one spot.

A follow-up article to “Marvel has minimal diversity, and they must lead the way for change, not profit.”

The comic books industry has a huge fanbase, from readers young to old and various races, genders and sexualities. The company has previously come under fire for featuring primarily straight white male characters, pushing minority groups to the side. Seeking to increase their sales, they started making changes. Somehow, they managed to make the problem worse.

In their frantic rush to get diverse characters added to the cast, they chose the least creative option available and changed their “iconic” characters to fit the diversity quota. Instead of crafting new, original and enjoyable characters with their own stories, they did things like making the Hulk Asian-American and Iron Man a Black Woman. After that wasn’t enough, they started changing character’s sexualities and gender identities left and right, even when it doesn’t make any sense.

The main problem people have with Marvel’s newfound diversity is that they’re replacing the beloved characters that have been fan’s heroes for years. When Marvel replaces their characters with more “diverse” ones, they make the replacements overly powerful and within the universe are viewed as objectively stronger and better than the originals. The new characters are perfect and don’t have any realistic flaws and constantly dump on the original heroes that had their names. Additionally, the “wokeness” of the new storylines make the readers feel detached and uncomfortable. The characters say random things that come off as the adults trying their best to be “trendy” and make their characters talk like teens. Their token Latina character America Chavez’s catchphrase is “Holy Menstruation,” which is generally the awkward vibe the rest of the new woke cast has.

The new Black female Iron Man’s origin story is that she told her teacher that she wanted to be a scientist. The teacher was supportive, which made young Riri Williams angry, for some reason. She demanded that her teacher be discriminatory, to which she was immensely confused, which is a completely reasonable response. Her entire character is incredibly selfish and narcissistic, which makes sense seeing as her entire reason for becoming a hero was because of a desire to be a victim when she isn’t treated with racism. The whole thing reminds fans of the way that closed-minded people view “social-justice warriors” as desperate victims who are in constant need to have attention and “cancel” anyone who doesn’t agree with them.
When Marvel does try to make unique characters it doesn’t sit well with fans either. In 2020, Marvel announced its very first non-binary superhero, which immediately provoked outrage. This anger wasn’t from the conservatives who didn’t agree with the progressive gender identity as one would expect, but from queer fans themselves. The character was named “Snowflake,” a derogatory term often used against LGBT+ teens. Knowing this, it was no surprise that the character was written by a straight, white heterosexual male.

As Marvel comics are taken over by lackluster representation that takes away from beloved and original characters, many comic book fans are turning to different titles. Perhaps the most ironic outcome of this change is the rise of the Japanese comic “My Hero Academia” in America.

My Hero Academia is unusual for a Japanese comic, also known as “Manga,” because instead of fitting Japanese superhero tropes, it’s based on American superhero comics. Its inspiration from franchises like DC Comics and Marvel are very clear, especially to American readers. However, the series is rising above its influences, continuously dominating the comic sales chart, leaving its muses to fail to manage a spot on the top 10 grossing comic sales in America.
So how is this Japanese perception of American comics doing so well in America? There’s a good variety of reasons. Some of the fans’ favorite parts of the series are the well-developed characters and linear storylines, two things that Marvel has lost as they change their characters in attempts to please the crowds.

Another way that My Hero Academia flourishes where Marvel struggles is diversity. The two companies can hardly be held to the same standards of diversity since Black people only make up .02% of the Japanese population. Because of this, racial stereotypes are even stronger, making it hard to find Black representation in Japanese media that aren’t caricatures or offensive.

This makes My Hero Academia’s two black characters all the more groundbreaking. Two of the professional hero characters that make appearances, Ken Takagi and Rumi Usagiyama, are people of color. One of them is a woman who is one of the strongest heroes in the country. These things aren’t shoved in the reader’s face. It’s no big deal that they’re black, and people don’t make a fuss of Usagiyama being so strong despite being a woman.

All of the female characters are treated the same as the boys. Villains don’t hold back when they have to fight female heroes, and the male heroes don’t fuss when they have to spar against their female counterparts. When one of the characters asks another if he’ll hold back in a match against a girl student, he seems confused, bluntly replying that there’s no reason to as there’s nothing meek or fragile about her.

Perhaps most impressive of all is the series’ treatment of LGBT+ characters. Even though Japan isn’t the most inclusive or accepting of trans or gay people, My Hero Academia handles these characters much better than most comics have. There are a handful of explicitly queer characters, like transgender characters Kenji Hikiishi and Yawara Chatora or bisexual woman Himiko Toga. Their identities are simply part of their characters, not a plot point or a big reveal. In addition to these characters whose queerness are bluntly stated, there are also a handful of characters that are queer coded. This means that through subtext and hints made by the creators, the readers often come to the conclusion that they’re a part of the LGBT+ community.

The subject of LGBT+ characters in the My Hero Academia comics is controversial within the fanbase. There are those who “headcanon” a lot of characters as queer, meaning that they personally believe that it is true. Of the opposite belief, there are those who are annoyed that people are reading too much into it and being unrealistic by projecting characters as queer. Although queer coding is a controversial topic, My Hero Academia pulls it off without queer-baiting or playing into stereotypes. This means that most fans can enjoy the series regardless of their thoughts on the topic.

As Marvel licks their wounds from their dropping comic sales, perhaps they should look to where they’re failing and where others are succeeding.