World of Wakanda was announced to great fanfare last year, bringing togetherauthorRoxane Gay, poet Yona Harvey, and artistsAlitha Martinez andAfua Richardsonthe first Marvel comic helmed by black women. Itstarred a pair ofDora Milaje, the Black Panther’shighly trained force of female guards, whose ranks includeLupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Florence Kasumba in the upcoming movie. (Kasumba’s character was recently a source of controversy, because while she’s gay in World of Wakanda, this won’t be the case onscreen.)
This is the secondBlack Panther spinoff to be canceled this year.Black Panther and the Crew got canceled last month after just two issues, despite being written by Ta-Nahesi Coates and featuring an all-star teamincluding Storm and Luke Cage. Both comics were canceled due to poor sales, which as The Root points out, is hard to deny forWorld of Wakanda. It went from about 57,000 sales on issue #1, to about 14,000 on issue #6.Black Panther and the Crewdebuted at 35,000, which brings us to a growing problem in comics publishing: these sales figures rely on a byzantine system that most readers don’t understand.
As we’ve explained before, Marvel sales are falling overall, and it’s partly because they rely on a flawed system. Publishers focus theirattention on preorders from comic stores, meaningBlack Panther and the Crew got canceled due to “low sales” for issues that hadn’t actually come out yet.
If you pick up your comics a month late, or buy them digitally, or wait for the collected volume, then your sales aren’t valued as much as preorders.The system is unintentionally weighted toward longtime fans who understand the preorder market. And a comic likeWorld of Wakandaisn’t necessarily aimed at those die-hard fans. It’s a spinoff starring queer African women who aren’t superheroes,which could (in theory) attractnew readersfrom Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey’s non-comicsreadership.
Cancellations like this will keep happening as long as Marvel and DC prioritize preorders. However, it would probably help if the comics were better promoted.World of Wakandaand The Crew gothigh-profile announcements in theNew York Timesand Time, but when the comics came out a few months later, their publicity was limited to smaller outlets. (In the case of The Crew, its cancellation may have gotten more attention than its launch.)If publishers explained the preorder system to new readers,or ifcomics likeThe Crewwere cross-promoted through connected properties like Marvel’sDefenders Netflix franchise, then they’dhave a better chance at survival.