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April 3, 2017 12:55 PM EDT

Marvel’s vice president of sales, David Gabriel, faced criticism after saying retailers attributed the brand’s recent sales drop to readers’ reluctance to embrace new female characters.

In an interview with ICv2, Gabriel said that retailers at the Marvel Retailer Summit said that fans weren’t as taken with Marvel’s new crop of female heroes, which includes a black female Iron Man. “I don’t know if that’s a question for me. I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers. What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity. They didn’t want female characters out there,” Gabriel said. “That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not. I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.”

“We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against,” Gabriel continued. “That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

Gabriel later issued a second statement to ICv2 clarifying his remarks — and promised that the new female heroes were here to say.

“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters ‘not working,’ the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes,” he wrote. “And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more,” he added. “They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”

Motto has reached out to Marvel for an interview with David Gabriel, and will update as soon as we hear back.

[ICv2]

Write to Samantha Cooney at samantha.cooney@time.com.

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