A closed Q&A between Marvel Comics and comic book retailers erupted at the New York Comic Con on Thursday after one retailer became vocally critical of the publisher's decision to change the ethnicity, gender, and sexuality of some of the classic characters, Bleeding Cool reports.
The tensions began when an unnamed seller "specifically [expressed] his distaste for Iceman 'kissing other men,' and Thor 'becoming a woman,'" Newsarama writes. "The retailer's complaints sparked an outcry among the other retailers present in the room, some echoing his frustration, with multiple attendees raising their voices to speak over each other."
As Marvel editor Nick Lowe attempted to calm tensions, the original retailer further complained that comic fans leave his store "when they see that Thor is a woman and Captain America is a black man," and called for Marvel "creating new characters and not messing with the old guys. The old guys are solid."
"The words 'black,' 'homo,' and 'freaking females' were used multiple times," Bleeding Cool adds.
Marvel has been heavily criticized for a lack of diversity, although the publisher has experimented with a black, female Iron Man; a biracial Spiderman; a female Thor; and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. Still, the company's vice president of sales, David Gabriel, recently blamed poor sales on the fact that "people didn't want any more diversity. They didn't want female characters out there."
Many fans have dismissed such excuses, including comic book author G. Willow Wilson. "Who wants a legacy if the legacy is s---ty?" she wrote. "Let's scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is the world." Jeva Lange
Editor's note: This story originally mischaracterized a DC character as a Marvel character. The mention has since been removed. We regret the error.