Believe it or, I really didn’t want to write about Marvel cancelling Black Panther & The Crew with its sixth issue. But first Newsweek reported it, Marvel Cancels Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther & The Crew Comic After Two Issues”, then Entertainment Weekly and The Hollywood Reporter did. This was followed by websites that reported that an “anti-police” or “Black Lives Matter Inspired” comic had been cancelled. While they too reported it was due to low sales, they also took absolute delight (if you’re thinking that’s just my subjective opinion, one headline actually had a “LOL!” in it, exclamation point included) in establishing it was due to the fact that readers didn’t want “diversity” or a political agenda “forced down their throats.”
Maybe. I’m very often wrong, but I tend to think it’s far more likely it had more to do with Marvel once again putting out too many comics featuring the same character simultaneously. I can’t quantify the level of active interest the direct sales market has in Black Panther comics, but I would suggest putting out three (Black Panther, Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Black Panther & The Crew) might just have overwhelmed whatever interest there was. Especially considering the release of the Black Panther movie is a year away.
I might also subtly suggest, fully expecting titles like World of Wakanda and The Crew to financially justify their existence solely from the direct sales market was wishful thinking at its worst. While getting writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yona Harvey and Roxana Gay were, well, definitely coups for the publisher, they're not exactly big “names” inside the direct sales market. Waiting to see how well the trade paperback collections did in libraries and on Amazon, as well as trying to market where likely readers were before cancelling the comics seems more sensible to me,Watchmen Start The ‘Doomsday Clock’”). Frankly, I find myself with seriously mixed feelings about this. I’m not enough of a purist to feel it somehow cheapens a classic of graphic literature*, While I definitely don’t want to see anyone from Watchmen wandering around the DC Universe unescorted, I’m not blind to the freak factor of it as likely to get a lot of people to buy the comics. And I do like that it’s a serialized standalone story and not yet another unwieldy crossover event. Plus, as I keep saying, I’m always looking for something I haven’t seen before. This definitely qualifies.
A little while ago, it was “common wisdom” DC Comics would be concentrating on “meat and potatoes” comics and would avoid anything with “political content.” Anyone still believing that should take a look at a Newsarama piece “JOHNS: U.S. Election & ‘Rise of Extremism’ Inspired Rebirth/Watchmen DOOMSDAY CLOCK” by Chris Arrant. In says that “according to Geoff Johns it is inspired by the recent elections in the United States and a broader wave of extremism in the real world.” But “Johns is careful to say it’s about ‘much more’ than Donald Trump.” Johns is also quoted as saying:
"I feel like there are extremes now everywhere, extremes on all sides. There is no more olive branch. It doesn’t exist. I feel like people, more and more, are separated. They are choosing sides, instead of figuring out how to make life better together. There is a real sense of anger, and frustration, and there is not a lot of compassion, or willingness to understand in the world. Telling a story of two extremes, and exploring what our collective zeitgeist states through these characters is what we are doing. We think it’s important … The truth is, if the world and the country didn’t go a certain way, I don’t know that we would be telling this story. For us, the story would not exist if the last year didn’t unfold the way it did, and the rise of extremism wasn't so palpable."
Here’s another quote from Johns, this one from an article that appeared on the Diamond Preview World website “Geoff Johns Sets The Doomsday Clock”:
“Thematically, and metaphorically, there was no better choice than to use Dr. Manhattan. If you’re going to have a conflict between optimism and pessimism, a battle between the very forces of hope and despair, you need to have someone who personifies the cynicism that has leaked into our hearts and also has the ability to affect the entire DCU.”
*I’m old enough to have originally read in them pamphlet form and still tend to think of Watchmen as the one with the variations on the Charlton Action Heroes, so it’s kind of hard for me to think of it as being a “classic.” For the record, while I’ve been enjoying the recent run of both Superman and Action Comics I can’t believe Dr. Manhattan could beat Mr. Myxlplyx (but then, I’m fairly confident Ambush bug could take him). Although I’m glad Doomsday Clock doesn’t have any spin-offs, I would be totally down to see a rematch in a Mr. Mxyzptik Vs. Dr. Manhattan one-shot.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.