It’s not every day that Marvel Comics unveils a new set of superheroes, and given the Marvel brand’s popularity over the past few years, it may come as a surprise to see them go down so poorly. The two which really received a negative reaction are Snowflake and Safespace. Their introduction goes a long way in explaining how Marvel is continually misjudging its audience. Here’s a look at why these characters have completely missed the mark.
The characters are being introduced as part of Marvel’s The New Warriors, a run in which former teen heroes step up to impart their wisdom on a new generation of young characters. Snowflake and Safespace are psychic twins, blue and pink-haired respectively. The former can materialise snowflake-shaped projectiles for throwing, and the latter can materialise pink force-fields (but only when he’s protecting others). Snowflake is also Marvel’s first non-binary character, a piece of inclusion that the company is really touting.
According to their character introduction page, “they’re hyper aware of modern culture and optics, and they see their Super Heroics as ‘a post-ironic meditation on using violence to combat bullying’.” It goes on to explain that their names come from “the idea that these are terms that get thrown around on the internet that they don’t see as derogatory. [They] take those words and kind of wear them as badges of honour.”
Fans have also questioned whether it’s appropriate for two cis white male creators to attempt to represent this community in the first place
Character designer Luciano Vecchio is queer, and creator Daniel Kibblesmith is an ally to the LGBT+ community, as highlighted by The Mary Sue, but the site has a lot of criticism for the reveal. According to a piece by Princess Weekes, it’s true that “representation matters, but it needs to be a lot more thought put into it than this.” Her article offers numerous examples of criticism: by using an inverted blue and pink as the colour scheme, the characters still imply gender norms. It’s possible to read the reclaiming of these terms as a futile act, or even a piece of mockery. Fans have also questioned whether it’s appropriate for two cis white male creators to attempt to represent this community in the first place.
Then, we have the other side of the political spectrum – those who don’t subscribe to a progressive ideology are looking on with bemusement and derision. A Twitter commentator reacted to the unveiling of the New Warriors heroes by sharing the official art and stating: “Marvel in 2020, still wondering why nobody buys comics anymore.”
It has been suggested that the naming is simply an attempt to infuriate the ‘get woke, go broke’ crowd, but the bait is so low-hanging and the interest is simply not there. By pushing characters like this, Marvel is simply conforming to an image of it that already exists, one which has been pushing the right away for a number of years.
Marvel has turned out a progressive superhero that even progressives don’t particularly like
I’ve written before about the decline of Marvel Comics, and one of the reasons driving it is the company’s insistence on catering to a vocal progressive sphere. As I said before, it has turned any existing fans, and those who applaud the moves generally aren’t actually buying the comics. In this way, Marvel is achieving support from online commentators, but this kudos simply doesn’t translate to sales. Unfortunately for them, Snowflake and Safespace haven’t even managed this and they’re being slated on both sides. Marvel has turned out a progressive superhero that even progressives don’t particularly like.
It’s very rare for a story like this to achieve a level of consensus across the board. Unluckily for Marvel, the consensus is overwhelmingly negative. Snowflake and Safespace are silly and no matter how good the ideas behind them, their execution has been handled poorly.
As a Twitter user notes, “the entire comics community uniting and roasting the hell out of Snowflake and Safespace is one of the greatest things I’ve seen in years,” but it is still a phenomenal misfire for the company. Marvel has really misjudged its audience and pleased no-one in the process, and that’s not how you run a business.