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No Girls Allowed Redux

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Ms. Marvel is set to end with tomorrow’s #50. Is the cancellation proof that female focused comics don’t sell or is the series’ longevity proof otherwise?

There is an accepted belief that comic books starring female characters do not sell. I spoke about the subject in this column almost exactly one year ago when Birds of Prey was cancelled. In that column, I refuted that argument. But the cancellation of Ms. Marvel with issue #50 surely will reopen the debate.

The series is being cancelled due to poor sales. The writer of the book, Brian Reed, admitted as such in an interview with Newsarama. It lost just over 24% of its sales volume in a year’s time. It still ranked in the lower part of the Diamond 100, which normally would make it safe from cancellation, but trends indicated it would not remain there for long.

If you believe female comics do not sell, all the proof you need is that Ms. Marvel was cancelled because it wasn’t selling. If you believe the opposite, the fact that it lasted 50 issues is proof that it did sell, at least well enough to make it to that milestone. And this is where a back-and-forth argument would begin.

By hitting 50 issues, Ms. Marvel lasted longer than Blue Beetle, Captain Britain and M.I. 13, Midnighter, and many other male-starring features. Lasting almost four years is an accomplishment for any book with any star. It just doesn’t happen that much.

But the naysayers would probably mention that the longevity of the series lies in the fact that it closely tied in with a number of Marvel’s blockbuster crossover events. It crossed over with Civil War for three issues, “The Initiative” for five, Secret Invasion for five and “Dark Reign” for 13. Over half the title’s run was a tie-in to one event or another.

The counterargument to this is that those “Dark Reign” issue came at the end of the run, when sales were in decline and cancellation became imminent. The crossover didn’t help the book then. The other side could argue that during that time Carol Danvers was replaced as the lead character by the villain Moonstone, which might have chased the regular readers away, proving the book had a sizable loyal readership before that.

Do you see what I am getting at here? The success or failure of a female-driven series might not be wholly laid on the doorstep of it being female-driven. If we can call Ms. Marvel a success, and I’d imagine it would be pretty safe to call it that, it was due to better than average stories and better than normal promotion. It you have the right amount of each, then you can have a success, no matter whether the main character is female or not.

What is puzzling is why Marvel would cancel the series when the company is undergoing a yearlong initiative dedicated to women. Yes, issue #50 is a good one to go out, but sales were not bad enough to demand cancellation with that issue, especially when a major marketing campaign about women in comics was about to begin. It is not unrealistic that the sales on Ms. Marvel would have benefited in some way from this effort.  

Unless, of course, there were plans in the offing to bring the character back in a brand new series some time before the year was over. Nothing has appeared in solicitations as of yet, but many fans on the internet are spreading rumors that it will happen, and that this time, Carol Danvers will be Captain Marvel, not Ms. Marvel.

Regardless, the end of Ms. Marvel may or may not be the result of people not wanting to buy female-centered books. But its lasting 50 issues does prove that if you do it right, female book can have some success.

Also out this week:

Adventures of Simone and Ajax:

When your main characters are a 20-year-old girl and tiny green dinosaur, you can expect a lot of things from a story. You can expect a lot of charm, a lot of humor, and a fair bit of cuteness. You get all that with this series, but with a healthy dose of parody and satire mixed in.

This graphic novel collects stories with the characters that appeared on the ComicMix website from 2008 to 2009. Created by Andrew Pepoy, perhaps best known as an inker on such titles as Fables, Simone (the girl) and Ajax (the dinosaur) go on adventures that wink at The Maltese Falcon, Santa Claus and the jungle girl titles. And that is just the tip of the parody iceberg.

Andrew Pepoy (W/A), IDW Publications, $19.99. Original Graphic Novel.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z Update #1:

DC Comics made a lot of fans happy when they recently announced that they were bringing us a new, 18-volume, Who’s Who series later on this year. Of course, when you stop and realize that DC is getting kudos for something Marvel has been doing for the last several years, it takes a bit of the shine off things.

The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe has been brought to you by Marvel over the last few years through a series of character specific specials and several miniseries. To keep Marvel fans up to date on what happened since the last edition, we get this one-shot that tells us all about the new She-Hulk, some of the Golden Age characters featured in The Twelve, and updates on older characters like Nimrod or the Gladiator.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Weird World of Jack Staff #1:

It’s a known fact that Jack Staff started out as a proposal for a revamp of Marvel’s Union Jack character. I’d imagine at the time, Paul Grist was disappointed and more than a little bummed out. But it turns out that the rejection was the best thing to happen to him, because if the proposal was accepted, we wouldn’t have this series, or at least in the form it is in now.

This series works on two levels. It works on the level of a superhero action story and also on the level of a homage/parody of the best concepts American and British comics have to offer. This latest adventure spans decades and will lead up to the ultimate battle between good and evil. Just what Jack Staff fans have come to expect.

 Paul Grist (W/A), Image Comics, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

Ghostbusters Holiday Special: Tainted Love:

If you are thinking of a holiday the Ghostbusters would be best suited for, it would obviously be Halloween. But for those of us who have been scared by the prospect of making a commitment, terrified about getting the right gift, or haunted by a past love, you realize that Valentine’s Day is a holiday that is just as well suited for the busting of ghosts.

This one-shot will focus on Winston as he develops an attraction to a woman with a ghost problem. Unfortunately, the ghost has a similar attraction to the woman and refuses to leave. This case is not just a job, it’s a love triangle, and the only way Winston can come out on top is to trap his spectral rival. But that is not as easy as it sounds. Luckily, Winston has friends on his side. 

Dara Naraghi (W), Salgood Sam (A), IDW Publications, $3.99. Special.

Avengelyne vs Koni Waves:

Avengelyne, one of Rob Liefeld’s post-Image breakup works, is a fallen angel who fights demons and other baddies on Earth. Koni Waves is an investigator of the paranormal who has fought her fair share of supernatural villains in her past. But when an investigation ends up with Koni getting possessed by a demon, the two not only meet, but also engage in an all out battle.

It’s been about nine years since Avengelyne was in a comic book and almost three years since this comic book was first announced. This is a long time to wait if you are fans of these characters or just fans of scantily clad demon hunters. But fans of Avengelyne should pick this one up because there will be important information revealed about her future in the comic.

Mark Poulton (W), Stephen Sistilli (A), Arcana Studio, $3.95. One-Shot.

We Will Bury You #1:

The phrase “We Will Bury You” is most known for Nikita Krushchev’s utterance of the words in the 1950s. But Heroes’ star Brea Grant and her brother Zane will be moving it to the 1920s in reference to a flapper-era zombie plague that will rewrite the history of the decade.

The actress, who played Daphne on the hit NBC show, appears to be a fan of comics and a history buff to boot. While there were no outbreaks of the undead in the 1920s (that we know of), Grant has worked hard to capture the sounds, the jobs, and the feel of the time period. Just something that will separate it from the other zombie comics out there, which is not a bad thing.

Brea & Zane Grant (W), Kyle Strahm (A), IDW Publications, $3.99. One-Shot.

Black Lantern Green Arrow #30:

There wasn’t any info in the solicitation for this one, because, I guess, they didn’t want the fact that Green Arrow was going to turn into a zombie to be spoiled before that issue of Blackest Night came out. So, I can’t really recap what this one is about, other than Green Lantern will apparently be facing his Black Lantern-ized buddy.

But lack of information probably won’t hurt this issue’s sales. It will still sell like gangbusters, which is what the title needs because the series constantly ranks outside the Diamond Top 100. Whether or not it keeps those buyers when the non-Black Lantern GA returns in issue #31 is anybody’s guess. Although there is a storyline involving GA’s maimed ward coming up that might keep people interested. 

JT Krul (W), Will Conrad (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Devil #1:

Manga is incredibly popular in the U.S. and has taken up most of the bookstore shelves devoted to graphic novels. But there is a divide between fans of manga and fans of Western comics. The styles are too different. The manga is brought over in the form it appears in Japan—read from back to front, black and white, with exaggerated characters, etc—which is too difficult for some Western audiences to get into.

This series marks what could be a bridge between the two styles. It is done by a manga artist named Torajiro Kishi and a big name anime studio named Madhouse Studios, but it is done in a Western style. This allows the non-manga audience to experience a master manga creator at work and could broaden the horizons of some Western comic fans to make an effort to read some manga. 

Torajiro Kishi & Madhouse Studios (W/A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Zombies vs. Robots Aventure #1:

People live in fear of losing their free will and being forced to submit to things they can no longer control. This fact of life is what zombie fiction and robot-based fiction have in common. Whether it be Dawn of the Dead or Terminator, humans are prisoners of a world they didn’t create, and they are forced to make a hopeless fight against unfavorable odds.

However, if you have zombies fight robots, then everything will be all better! One will take care of the other and then humanity can pick up the pieces. The war between the undead and never alive is the focal point of this anthology, which is set in a world where zombies duke it out with robots on a regular basis.   

Chris Ryall (W), Various(A), IDW Publications, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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