Why Marvel Comics Cancelled Its Controversial Crossover With Northrop Grumman

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The annual New York Comic Con usually centers around the celebration of superheroes and comic books by fans. This year, however, things didn't go quite as planned for comic book giant Marvel Comics. A few days before the convention opened, the publisher announced that it would be debuting a new comic book at a special panel featuring members of the Avengers teaming up with a brand-new group of superheroes. But the night before, Marvel abruptly canceled the panel, the comic, and an entire business partnership after outcry from fans and comics creators alike.

For many readers who spoke out against the comic on social media, the problem was that the comic was part of a partnership between Marvel and the defense contractor Northrop Grumman. The new team was named after the company (the "Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus") and the comic featured recruitment ads and promotional materials. But while Marvel said their intention was to promote careers in science and technology, many comic fans were upset by what they saw as a promotion for a company whose multi-billion dollar business centers on the development and sale of things like missiles, drones, and other military hardware.

Promotional comics are nothing new: For years, superheroes have helped sell everything from Twinkies to Kentucky Fried Chicken, or fought crime alongside superpowered football players. They're generally quirky, if somewhat generic, and are often seen as more of a silly side-note. However, Marvel's decision to partner with the world's fifth-largest defense contractor hit a sore spot for some who pointed out that this was ironic considering the origin story of their flagship character Tony Stark—better known as the Avenger, Iron Man.

"A big arc in their Iron Man comics is Tony turning away from this exact line of work because he realizes that what he's doing is effectively creating weapons and distributing weapons and contributing to violence and issues around the world," says Julia Alexander, senior entertainment reporter for the website Polygon.

Fans weren't the only ones who quickly pointed out that Marvel's partnership with Northrop could be problematic. Several current and former writers and artists spoke out against the collaboration on social media, and in some cases said they were considering quitting over it. Finally, after news that people were planning a protest outside of the panel, Marvel announced first that the event was cancelled, and then that the comic itself would no longer be published.

This event has been canceled.

— Marvel Entertainment (@Marvel) October 7, 2017

Marvel has since pulled out of the partnership with Northrop altogether.

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