Rather than putting out all its solicitation information at once, Marvel prefers to parcel it out to various sites, so info on February’s releases is drifting out here and there…and among them, more cancellations.

Newsarama reports that PUNISHER MAX will end with #22. The Jason Aaron/Steve Dillon series will be wrapping up its storyline before going to the big longbox in the sky.

Meanwhile, CBR revealed that January’s issue of X-23 was the last. Writer Marjorie Liu has more work coming from Marvel, but it’s all part of a downsizing that looks at each book’s bottom line, says EIC Axel Alonso.

In a recent installment of his AXEL-IN-CHARGE column on CBR, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso noted that cancellations of titles like “Alpha Flight” came in part due to “new budgetary mandates” while the publisher is bolstering its line in a tough economy by shipping extra installments of it core series in 2012. In that light it is important to note two things. Firstly, at #104 on Diamond’s Sale Estimates for October books, “X-23” was not the lowest-shipping Marvel Universe series. Behind it were such comics as “Thunderbolts,” “X-Factor,” “Avengers Academy” and “Ghost Rider” amongst others. Secondly, in the new X-Title solicitations no less than seven books will ship two issues in February including “Uncanny X-Men” and “Wolverine & The X-Men.”


As Graeme McMillan notes, X-23 — which starred Wolverine’s daughter — was the last Marvel book featuring a female solo character:

As hard as it is for me to get my head around that idea, it shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise; Marvel doesn’t have the female iconic lead character like DC’s Wonder Woman, and has struggled throughout its entire existence to try and fill that gap (Who’d be the closest Marvel has to a WW? Storm, perhaps? The Invisible Woman, just by her sheer longevity?). It’s a problem not helped by the fact that a lot of its high-profile female characters are simply variants on more established male characters (She-Hulk – whatever version – or Spider-Girl/Spider-Woman – again, whatever version. Or Ms. Marvel, for that matter, or X-23 herself. And remember the appallingly-named Rescue?), which makes them appear even more like after-thoughts than they may actually be. But, still; this is a publisher that has only recently had a year of Women at Marvel, complete with a Girl Comics mini and a couple of Women at Marvel collections. And now there’s not going to be a regular ongoing series with a female lead? That’s terrible – And I’m not sure whether Marvel, the market or some mix of the two are really to blame.

Although DC has always had a bunch of female-led series — and now boasts BATGIRL, BATWOMAN, WONDER WOMAN, SUPERGIRL, CATWOMAN, VOODOO, and BIRDS OF PREY — they also get the majority of the criticism for their treatment of female characters. Marvel, by contrast, has had a strong female readership ever since the X-Men started leading their sales. If you were to ask the average female comics fan about Marvel’s female characters you would probably get positive chat about Storm, Emma Frost, and the legion of female mutants. Despite that, Marvel just can’t keep a book with a female character going, and even their best known ones, like She Hulk and The Invisible Woman. But even our own attempt to get readers up in arms at Marvel’s lack of female-led books garnered a tepid response. Is Marvel doing something right? Or do they just lack the dedicated female fan base that DC has? And could any Marvel superheroine really sustain her own book?

What do you think?


  1. How about a quick proofread before posting? Bunch of apostrophes missing or put where they shouldn’t be.

  2. I’d love to see a strong female team offering with a “Stellvia” flavor. In the anime “Stellvia” the female leads were not only as good as the males, they did better and saved the world(s). This was because of superior IT and logistics, and, an ability to sublimate their egos for the sake of cooperation.
    They also prevail due to a healthy level of self-doubt that drives them to continually refine their skills and have a “Plan-B”.

    I found that the Simone run of Birds of Prey had a similar flavor. Oracle and Black Canary more often than not finessed situations where male capes would have simply used brute force.

  3. Odd. X-23 sells pretty well at the shop I go too (outselling X-Men Legacy)… but Punisher MAX sells only a few copies so I’m not surprised at that getting the axe.

  4. Bit surprising that x-23 gets cancelled while Daken is starting a new arc, despite x-23 selling 4,000 more copies on the icv2 charts.

  5. As a reader, I never thought of X-23 as a female-lead book just as I’ve never thought of Spider-Man as a male-lead book. Seems weird anyone would be so obsessed with labels like that. I’m just sorry to see it go.

  6. As one of the handful of people who’s actually reading Daken, I can tell you that it’s actually doing a single story split over multiple trade paperbacks. The February solicitations suggest it’s entering the last volume – which sounds about right given the way it’s been building. So they may just be waiting for a convenient break point to axe it.

    The same might go for X-23, which seems to be coming up to the end of an extended road trip theme. It would probably have had to start a fresh storyline with the next issue, so if Marvel aren’t prepared to commit to another year, this would be a natural point to call it a day.

  7. I’ve always thought Marvel missed the boat when they didn’t use Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat more than they did.

    My impression is that she has always been popular among Marvel’s readership, at least among those who followed the X-titles, and people like Joss Whedon and others have said that the character has had a direct influence on their work.

    However, first they threw her out of X-men and into a smaller title, and then when she returned, everything was a mess. It didn’t seem that the writer’s knew what to do with her. Then she all together left the X-men and besides the odd miniseries and cameo, she was in limbo.

    And when they finally brought her back, they put her in a huge planet sized bullet and even the characters of the X-books didn’t seem to miss her.

    I’ll soon be 40, and I’m sure I have many people my age with me when I say that she was my window in to the Marvel world while I was growing up. And she was growing up with me. She was the girl next door type. Natural beautiful, skilled at nerdy things as well as being able to kick your ass. You know, the sort of things a nerd crowd really goes for.

    I might be wrong, but I think showing a teenage girl character like that was not very common in 80s and early 90s. And when the people who write characters like that for TV, movies and other comics say that Pryde was role model, maybe even a blueprint, I’ll take their word for it.

    I think Kitty would have been able to carry her own title, but not these days. Mind you, I wouldn’t complain if Marvel gave it a go. Hear that, Marvel?

  8. Another point to consider here is that if X-23 represents the new cut-off point, then you’d be left with a Marvel Universe that consists of a mere 17 properties – the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Deadpool, the FF, Hulk, Iron Man, Journey into Mystery, Moon Knight, New Mutants, Punisher, Spider-Man, Thor, Venom, Wolverine, X-Force and the X-Men. (And arguably I’m being generous by counting all of those as separate properties.)

    To that, you could probably add future launches Winter Soldier, Scarlet Spider and Defenders (though I wouldn’t be confident of Scarlet Spider meeting these sales targets). But basically, they’d be relying on multiple titles to pad out the Marvel Universe line. For example, once you take account of the extra issues on some titles, Marvel will be publishing the X-Men TWICE WEEKLY in February. Can that really be sustainable? The lower-ranking X-Men titles aren’t exactly selling in great numbers as it is.

  9. “Can that really be sustainable?”

    You’re right on the money, but I get the impression that Marvel is structurally incapable of doing anything to break out of this circle.

    Producing ever more of the stuff that already sells is all they’re set up to do. If push comes to shove, Marvel would rather put out ten Bendis-written Avengers books per week at $ 5.99 a pop before it would even occur to them to rethink their strategy.

    DC, for all its faults, still has a degree of long-term thinking in place that allows them to keep things like Vertigo or the occasional JONAH HEX around and keep collections in stock.

    At Marvel, that sort of long-term thinking seems to be what’s getting people fired. All they know to do, as a corporate entity, is to put the pedal to the metal and increase output and prices.

    Which only works to a point.

  10. The original CBR article says that Marvel didn’t confirm anything, so I’m waiting for the actual solicitations–Marvel’s left stuff out of advance solicits often enough. And the team book X-23 just joined is missing from the advance Avengers solicits too. Coincidence, or crossover announcement coming?

  11. It has been pointed out by others that X-23 was not the only current Marvel solo title to feature a female lead. There is also Ghost Rider though I suspect it will soon be cancelled.

  12. Sad to see X-23 go. Punisher MAX was probably overdue for the chop (in spite of Dillon’s sheer awesomeness). X-Factor will probably only stay until they can wrap up the next couple of arcs (and they don’t want to drop too many titles at once), although it may be the consistency of sales (dedicated fans) and critical praise that keep it going.

    IMO Marvel can’t go on like this. No female led titles is bad, but probably symptomatic of the declining market dominance of superhero comics.

    If releasing a some comics in Digital format only in the coming years, as more people own tablets/readers, is a way to cut costs and keep more titles running then maybe that should be explored. I fear digital, but if it keeps more writers and artists employed then it’s for the best.

    Maybe superheroes are in terminal decline, and if so: long live the post-superhero comics world. Don’t get me wrong, I love superheroes and they won’t disappear but variety is the spice of life. The comics industry should embrace a diverse audience with a plurality of genres. Image is pointing the way.

  13. >Producing ever more of the stuff that already sells is all they’re set up to do.

    Yeah, line extensions and increased frequency are all that’s shoring up their bottom line. I’m bracing myself for “Wolverine and the New Avengers” next Summer. Personally, I dislike bi-weekly comics and am inclined to drop them from my pull list. While I’m sure Marvel would prefer a strong, varied line they’re now trapped in a death spiral. However, Disney may leave Marvel alone as long as they meed quarterly targets.


  14. I think the key verb here is “boasts.” Marvel has always had more interesting female characters — just because they don’t have their own solo books doesn’t mean they are bad characters. And vice-versa. Marvel is largely a team book line — so moving X-23 to Avengers Academy and X-men doesn’t necessarily mean a dilution of the character. It’s an inclined plane, absolutely, but how anyone can call Marvel’s female characters “appalling” as opposed to DC’s mystifies me. Whether or not Pepper is called “Rescue,” she named herself, which is absolutely in character. And in recent issues, she has started to realize she needs weapons, etc. Marvel’s characters — esp. their female ones — develop over time. IN my humble opinion, I think that’s what Marvel does in the right direction.

    And surely they are working on Spider-Woman and X-23 movie/TV possibilities, right?

  15. Punisher Max is a low-selling book, but it does seem to be telling an extended storyline which is building to a natural conclusion. To be honest, Marvel being what they are, I’d have expected them to cancel the book at the end of Aaron’s run, if only with a view to relaunching it.

  16. I get Marvel’s Google+ feed, and yesterday they asked followers which of this week’s titles they were buying, and whether in digital or paper formats.

    I didn’t see anything (among the comics and GNs) that I would buy (waiting for the John Carter, Princes of Mars trade).

    But I did count seven X-titles (eight if you include the Wolverine index) this week. Four Avengers titles (not counting the single-hero titles like Hulk and Captain America). I remember when there was ONE X-title a week (X-Men, New Mutants, X-Factor, Classic X-Men).

    Here’s the question: If customers were confused by the Thor glut last year, won’t they be confused by multiple gluts this year, as Marvel increases frequency of issues? Did comics shops sell lots of Thor comics last Summer when the movie screened? Will history repeat this summer when the Avengers movie screens? Are there any classic Avengers storylines to sell as graphic novels, similar to the healthy backlist of Batman graphic novels?

    If Marvel puts all of their fish in one barrel, it’s quite easy for competitors to shoot them.

    Either Marvel continues to be profitable (and maybe produce comics worth reading), or it begins to collapse and Burbank steps in. At which point, things get interesting for Marvel’s CEO…

  17. No worries folks, a relaunch (and renumbering) is probably around the corner sometime in 2012! That seems to be what Marvel does best lately. Hopefully of the new stuff they will launch (like defenders) will be good, they hve to find a strategy to counter Dc 52. Or more heads will roll at Marvel.

  18. I really think Marvel should do a Birds of Prey style (pre-DCnU style BoP) book with Sue Storm in the center. I think a book like that would be awesome. A lineup like:

    Sue Storm

    Something like what Gail was doing at one point with an ‘unlimited’ format that allows the core team to augment however they want.

    With a decent creative team, I would buy that book in a heartbeat.

    To the main point of the article, I think it’s the kind of thing DC would try and Marvel would put out as a one-shot at best.

  19. Brad said:

    “I think the key verb here is “boasts.” Marvel has always had more interesting female characters — just because they don’t have their own solo books doesn’t mean they are bad characters. And vice-versa. Marvel is largely a team book line — so moving X-23 to Avengers Academy and X-men doesn’t necessarily mean a dilution of the character. It’s an inclined plane, absolutely, but how anyone can call Marvel’s female characters “appalling” as opposed to DC’s mystifies me.”

    I’m not sure, look at what has happened to Ms. Marvel since her book was axed. She hasn’t really had an interesting plot in New Avengers over the last few years. She-Hulk (Jen Walters) virtually disappeared for a few years after her book was axed. I would argue that since the marriage Storm has been pushed almost entirely into the background. I have not been happy with how Marvel have been handling most of their female characters. I think one problem is that many team books are filled with characters that are also featured heavily in other books and they tend to hog the pagecount. Traditionally the X-Men were an exception but those books have been very heavily weighted to just a few characters with the rest serving as background characters. Hopefully that will change with Regenesis and we will start to see the spotlight spread around much more.

  20. Marvel is doing what a company in a dying niche business would do: trying to get as much money out of the customers who inhabit that niche (AVENGING SPIDER-MAN) as it can before it shuts down. DC isn’t taking that approach, at least.

    Many of Marvel’s heroines are second-tier characters, best suited for group books. Ms. Marvel was highly regarded for a while, but her powers are a mess and she lacks a supporting cast.

    A writer might put together any number of second-tier heroines for a one-shot story, but what’s the reason for them to stay together after that? That’s a problem with any group book: coming up with a reason for them to be facing a dramatic situation. Are they forced into one, or do they go out and find one?

    Marvel’s had Lady Liberators twice: 1970 (AVENGERS #83) and 2008 in HULK.

    It might be that most of Marvel’s customer base right now resist buying titles with female leads. That’s something that market research could determine.


  21. “Marvel is doing what a company in a dying niche business would do:” Pfft. What isn’t a dying niche business in America these days?

  22. extremely sad to see the book being cancelled…i still have secret hopes and dreams they find a way to toss X-23 back into X-Force, at least that book is still solid. X isn’t just a good female character, she’s a really good counter-culture character, too. shame to see they’re getting rid of Ghost Rider, but the new direction wasn’t something i was very interested in. hoping to see X move through the Avengers Academy and onto a main team quickly, she’s currently a favorite of mine. I wish they’d done something more with The Wasp, she was another female character I always liked.