Marvel Drops Northrop Grumman Partnership After Backlash

A planned New York Comic Con event unveiling the partnership between the entertainment company and the defense contractor was canceled hours before it was due to begin.
Courtesy of Alex Ross/Marvel Entertainment

A planned partnership between Marvel and the defense technology company Northrop Grumman has been cancelled hours before its official unveiling at New York Comic Con following a wave of outrage that met the first tease of the team-up.

The partnership was originally announced Friday afternoon in a tweet reading, "Marvel and @northropgrumman join forces! Come check out the #MarvelNYCC booth tomorrow at 3pm EST." A digital comic appeared on Marvel's website, promoting the partnership, with images suggesting that Northrop Grumman was the "reality" to the fantasy of Marvel's Tony Stark and the Avengers.

Reaction was both swift and harsh, both at the convention and online. But response went beyond the fanbase, with some Marvel creators also commenting on the partnership on social media. Marvel author Saladin Ahmed wrote: "so hey: Marvel's mythos is powerful & ubiquitous I intend to use it to tell stories that scorn war & greed my best answer right now, sorry."

The proposed Saturday event was cancelled late Friday night via Twitter, with a statement issued by the company soon after. "The activation with Northrop Grumman at New York Comic Con was meant to focus on aerospace technology and exploration in a positive way," it read. "However, as the spirit of that intent has not come across, we will not be proceeding with this partnership including this weekend’s event programming. Marvel and Northrop Grumman continue to be committed to elevating, and introducing, STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] to a broad audience."

Sources within Marvel told The Hollywood Reporter that, although the partnership was intended as a promotional tool for STEM in schools, the company's swift reaction demonstrated how important fan response was, and confirmed that the entire partnership with Northrop Grumman had been cancelled beyond the Saturday event.

The digital release of Avengers Featuring N.G.E.N.S., a promotional comic created by Marvel Custom Solutions — a long-standing ad agency inside Marvel that has produced promotional material for clients including Western Union, Lexus and Harley-Davison in recent years — was quietly withdrawn, and print editions to be distributed during the Saturday event will not see the light of day. (Marvel declined to comment on what would happen to the material.)

The cancellation of the partnership with Northrop Grumman is the second surprise New York Comic Con-related cancellation of a Marvel project; earlier this week, Netflix pulled a panel promoting Marvel's The Punisher following the Las Vegas mass shooting last weekend.

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