Tag Archives: diversity in comics

Chris Butcher Resigns from His Roles at TCAF as Calls for Diversity are Made

TCAF

Chris Butcher has announced that he has stepped down as the Artistic Director for TCAF, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Butcher cites his need to address his “persistent health and wellness issues” that he has neglected.

Butcher has also addressed criticism towards the festival and organization. They have been criticized for a lack of diversity in input and staff from BIPOC, disabled individuals, and trans people. They organization has admitted it can “do better.” There are also charges that those who have spoken up and attempted to volunteer to help the organization have had their input dismissed. And, when they were engaged not given the support needed and then blamed when those tasks aren’t completed.

Simply put, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)—whose leadership currently lacks Black or Indigenous representation —can do better.

Butcher acknowledges the criticism and in his announcement takes responsibility in the role he “played in devaluing the contributions of members of staff and volunteers.” Part of his stepping away is for himself to “be better.”

TCAF late in June put out a statement in late June concerning conduct and harassment in the comics industry as well as a commitment to ending anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. The organization acknowledges it has a role in supporting diversity in the field and has made a commitment to do so.

We’ll see what steps the festival and organization takes in the coming months and years as they’ve committed this is an ongoing project that they are dedicating themselves to.

TCAF is a comics festival that’s free to attend. It’s a week of comics-related events that includes readings, presentations, panels, gallery shows, and an exhibition area featuring publishers, authors, and artists. It was co-founded by Chris Butcher and Peter Mirkemoe with the first held on March 29, 2003. The show has grown from the original 600 attendees with 25 staff, and 780 creators to over 25,000 individuals in 2016.

(via The Beat)

Nominations for the 2020 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics are Open. Two New Selection Committee Members Announced.

Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics

The 2020 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics is now officially accepting submissions and welcomes two new Selection Committee Members: Artist, Colleen Doran, and Marvel’s Blade and DC Comics’ New Teen Titans creator, Marv Wolfman.

The 6th annual prestigious Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics will once again honor five finalists whose commitment to excellence and inclusion, both on the page as well as behind the scenes, exemplifies the late Mr. McDuffie’s own career producing entertainment that reflects a wide scope of human experience, created by an equally wide scope of human beings.

The winner will be announced via video later this year by returning Master of Ceremonies, actor Phil LaMarr, who voiced both heroes Static/Virgil and John Stewart/Green Lantern in the animated Warner Bros.’ series Static Shock and Justice League Unlimited written by Mr. McDuffie.

The deadline for completed submissions to be received at dwaynemcduffie.com is 11:59pm PST on September 1st, 2020.

List of past winners:

  • 2019 – Archival Quality, written by Ivy Noelle Weir & illustrated by Christian “Steenz” Stewart (Oni Press)
  • 2018 – Leon: Protector of the Playground, written & illustrated by Jamar Nicholas (Kids Love Comics)
  • 2017 – Upgrade Soul, written & illustrated by Ezra Claytan Daniels
  • 2016 – Ms. Marvel, written by G. Willow Wilson & illustrated by Adrian Alphona (Marvel Entertainment)
  • 2015 – M.F.K. written & illustrated by Nilah Magruder (www.mfkcomic.com)

The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics’ Selection Committee consists of prominent comics and animation industry professionals who have themselves demonstrated a commitment to Mr. McDuffie’s vision of inclusiveness in their own lives and work.

This year’s judges are:

  • Colleen Doran is a writer/artist, film conceptual artist and cartoonist. She has illustrated hundreds of comic books, graphic novels, book and magazines, and dozens of stories and articles. Her award-winning work has appeared in The Sandman, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and her own fantasy series, A Distant Soil.
  • Jamal Igle is the writer/artist/Creator of Molly Danger for Action Lab Entertainment and the penciller of the critically acclaimed series, BLACK from Black Mask Studios, as well as many titles for DC, Marvel and Dark Horse. He’s been a storyboard artist for Sony Animation and is also a popular guest lecturer on the subjects of comics and animation.
  • Joe Illidge is a veteran of the comic book industry who is currently co-managing editor for Heavy Metal. He’s also a columnist for Comic Book Resources and The Shadow League, and the co-writer of “Solarman” for Scout Comics. He’s previously been a top editor for Valiant Entertainment, Lion Forge Comics, Archaia Press and DC Comics, and began his editorial career at Milestone Media, Inc.
  • Heidi MacDonald is the editor-in-chief of Comicsbeat.com and a former editor for Disney and DC Comics. She can be heard on Publishers Weekly’s weekly podcast More To Come and The Beat podcast Three Women in a Hotel Room.
  • Kevin Rubio is a writer/producer who has contributed to Justice League Action, Avengers Assemble, Thunderbirds Are Go!, Green Lantern: The Animated Series and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He is also the creator and writer of the Star Wars graphic novel, Tag & Bink Were Here and Red 5 Publication’s Abyss Vol. I & II. He is an inaugural recipient of the George Lucas Film Award for his Star Wars short film, TROOPS, a Promax Award winner, and Emmy nominee.
  • Geoffrey Thorne is the writer/Creator of MOSAIC for Marvel Comics, PRODIGAL for Genre 19 and JOURNEYMEN for Dark Horse Comics. He is also the head writer and Showrunner of Marvel’s Avengers Black Panther’s Quest as well as a writer-producer on such hit series as LEVERAGE, LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT and THE LIBRARIANS.
  • Will J. Watkins (Director of the DWAYNE McDUFFIE AWARD for DIVERSITY in COMICS) is a freelance TV and animation writer who is also comic book story/world-building consultant on The Protectors graphic novel published by Athlita Comics. He had a stint as an assistant editor at DC Comics, and before moving to L.A. he co-owned Chicago’s first African American-owned comic book store. He’s currently a staff writer on a cool Freeform show he can’t talk about yet, but that deserves to be made into a comic book.
  • Matt Wayne has written on many highly-regarded animation projects including Niko and the Sword of Light, Cannon Busters, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Avengers: Ultron Revolution, Thunderbirds Are Go! and the 2006 Biker Mice from Mars revival. He wrote the Emmy-nominated Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms and was also a writer and Managing Editor at Milestone Media, Inc.
  • Marv Wolfman is the multi-award-winning writer who created Blade for Marvel Comics, The New Teen Titans for DC Comics, and legions of other iconic characters and stories. In addition to comic books, he’s written for animation, videogames, novels and more. It’s been said that he’s created more characters who’ve made the jump to movies, TV shows, toys, games and animation than any other writer save Stan Lee.

Around the Tubes

Aquaman: Deep Dives

The weekend is almost here! Yes, the days may be blending together but we’re making sure the weekend is defined! While you wait for the weekday to end and the weekend to begin, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

The Washington Post – Newspaper comics hardly ever feature black women as artists. But two new voices have arrived. – Awesome!

WBIW – IU Professor Reads From His 15000 Comic Book Collection On Facebook Live – Only 15000? This is such a great idea!

Reviews

Newsarama – Aquaman: Deep Dives #1
Newsarama – Marvel’s Avengers: Road to A-Day

So About That Epic Rant About Diverse Comics…

Some of you may already have heard about this, but late Friday night, on June 30, I basically got fed up with the whole discussion over whether or not diversity in comics sells, why Black Panther World of Wakanda, as well as Black Panther and the Crew, got canceled (among other titles). I had had a pretty long week of work and the #wellactually cadets were out in full force. So I do what I always do when I’m stressed about something. I research.

So I pulled up over 30 comics that I knew off the top of my head that had diverse characters or creators. African, African-American, Latinx, East Asian, Southeast Asian, Sikh, Muslim, LGTBQ and more. I posted that list pretty fast on twitter. So fast in fact, I completely forgot to give it a hashtag to find it.

It kinda went viral anyway.

theblerdgurl, twitter,So I took some time and storified my original tweets as well as a few more that replied. But trust me this list isn’t exhaustive. It’s a sample. It’s proof. Proof that diversity sells and that people of different backgrounds/ethnicities/sexual orientations/religions have the ability to write good stories. Even if you’ve never heard of them. And if you don’t see that many Marvel or DC titles, that’s on purpose. I also wanted to show that there are more than two comic book companies in the US (more worldwide) and that independent creators make good work as well. There are links to all of the titles listed. So go buy them. Like now. Enjoy!


screen-shot-2016-01-14-at-6-47-27-pm@theblerdgurl is a commercial film/video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting,  K-Pop listening, blog writing, geek gurl by night. She is on a mission to shine a light on indie, female and comic artists of color and highlights them and their work on her blog theblerdgurl. She currently lives in a century old brownstone in Brooklyn with 2 cats who plot her demise daily. You can also find her on twitter, facebook, instagram,  tumblr  , youtube and soundcloud.

Listen to Regine L. Sawyer & the Blerdgurl Talk Riri Williams, James Rhodes, and Diversity in Comics with Graphic Policy Radio on Demand

On demand: iTunes ¦ Sound Cloud ¦ Stitcher

This past week Marvel announced that Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man will be replaced with a young African-American girl named Riri Williams. The announcement was met with both praise and criticism by the public. Graphic Policy Radio dives into the topic with guests Regine L. Sawyer and Karama Horne (a.k.a. the blerdgurl).

Riri Williams is a 15-year-old African American girl and will be taking over for Tony Stark in the fall, but while Marvel has upped diversity on the page, there are still major issues when it comes to the hiring of creators. We discuss this and more!

Regine L. Sawyer is the Owner/Writer at Lockett Down Productions Publications. She is also the Coordinator & Founder of Women in Comics Collective International.

Karama Horne (a.k.a. – “the blerdgurl”) is a freelance commercial video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting, K-Pop listening, blog writing, superhero geek gurl by night. On a mission to shine a light on both characters and sequential artists of color, she provides commentary, reviews and interviews on her popular tumblr and official website theblerdgurl.com.

Talking Riri Williams, James Rhodes, and Diversity in Comics with Regine L. Sawyer & the Blerdgurl LIVE Tonight

Invincible_Iron_Man_1_by_Jeff_DekalThis past week Marvel announced that Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man will be replaced with a young African-American girl named Riri Williams. The announcement was met with both praise and criticism by the public. Graphic Policy Radio dives into the topic with guests Regine L. Sawyer and Karama Horne (a.k.a. the blerdgurl).

The episode airs LIVE tonight at 10pm ET.

Riri Williams is a 15-year-old African American girl and will be taking over for Tony Stark in the fall, but while Marvel has upped diversity on the page, there are still major issues when it comes to the hiring of creators. We discuss this and more!

Regine L. Sawyer is the Owner/Writer at Lockett Down Productions Publications. She is also the Coordinator & Founder of Women in Comics Collective International.

Karama Horne (a.k.a. – “the blerdgurl”) is a freelance commercial video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting, K-Pop listening, blog writing, superhero geek gurl by night. On a mission to shine a light on both characters and sequential artists of color, she provides commentary, reviews and interviews on her popular tumblr and official website theblerdgurl.com.

Listen in tonight and lets us know your thoughts @graphicpolicy

Riri, Rhodey and Re-Skinning: How Marvel is Misunderstanding Diversity

(originally posted here)

As most of you in the comic book world know, this week Marvel announced that Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man will be replaced with a young African-American girl named Riri Williams. I applaud Marvel’s efforts to give another black female character her own comic. Riri joins the ranks of Lunella Lafayette of Moongirl and Devil Dinosaur and Anwen Bakian as Nova along with veteran Storm of the X-Men as black female characters recently having their own comic book series. However, I am not as excited as I originally was when I first heard the news, as there are no black women involved with the creation or shaping of this character.

This is going to be a bit long, but I ask you to hear me out.

theblerdgurl, riri williams, iron man, marvel, diversity

Riri Williams – Iron Man

Riri Williams’ turn as Iron Man will officially begin in October, but since May of this year, she has actually been featured in The Invincible Iron Man Vol 2 starting in Issue #7. She is a young genius attending MIT (just like Tony Stark was) and basically created her own Iron Man suit in her dorm room from scraps she pilfered from MIT’s labs and her own ingenuity. When security finds out what she’s up to she ends up making an escape in said suit. If it sounds familiar, that’s because part of Stark’s origin story is that he originally escaped from Wong-Chu forces in the Mark I made from scraps that he and fellow captive Ho Yinsen cobbled together. Only Riri did it alone, with more time, sans the heart condition and terrorist organization after her. She also manages to save a few lives in the process. (For a detailed explanation of Riri’s origins please see this article by Evan Narcisse).  Personally, I think it’s amazing that a little girl who looks like me can now read a comic with a genius, natural-haired, dark-skinned sister in it. That is definitely a step in the right direction for a mainstream company like Marvel, but, I have many questions:

Marvel, theblerdgurl, diversity, riri

Bill Foster – Goliath

Why does a black man always die or get maimed near the beginning of a Marvel Civil War? In the original Civil War comic it was Goliath (Bill Foster), and this time it’s War Machine (James “Rhodey” Rhodes) in CWII, and even in the MCU Rhodey’s paralyzed. Why was Riri the choice for the “new” Iron Man as opposed to Misty Knight, whose arm was personally created for her by Stark? Or even Rhodes’ genius niece Lila, (I’m referring to the Earth-616 version) who helped maintain Rhodey’s War Machine armor? Clearly she would know something about how the suit works, right?

Why does Marvel keep “re-skinning” original characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine and Thor? Why not just make new ones? Or at least bring back old ones (Isaiah Bradley, Josiah X or the Patriot?) And how come Riri won’t be called Iron Maiden, or Iron Girl or even Iron Woman (Earth-3490) like Natasha Stark was?

Hey, here’s a thought, call her War Machine. (Since Rhodey clearly won’t be needing the title.)

In addition, most of the current reiterations of characters were brought on when a mainstream character was either dead or depowered (Captain America, Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Wolverine), But now both “versions” of the characters are existing in the Marvel lineup. Are they just waiting for Trump to win office so that they can “Rhodey” the POC versions? (that’s a thing now). Or are trying to create multiple characters with the same titles and powers just different ethnicities, orientations and genders to keep everyone happy? Why are there now more black female characters in the Marvel universe than black male ones, but still no black female writers? Why did they go out of their way to include a Korean-American to write Amadeus Cho as the Hulk (Greg Pak), a Muslim woman to write for Muslim female character, Kamala Khan Ms Marvel (G. Willow Wilson) and black men to write both Black Panther (Ta-nehisi Coates) and Power Man and Iron Fist (David Walker) but they couldn’t find a single black woman to write Moongirl, Nova and now Iron Man?  While we’re on the subject, why has neither Marvel or DC EVER hired a black female staff writer?

Ever.

monica-rambeau,theblerdgurl,marvel,diversity

Monica Rambeau – Spectrum

(DC hired freelance writer Felicia D. Henderson to write for several issues of Teen Titans during 2009 and Static Shock – 2011.) Yes, there have been black characters and POC characters in comics for a long time. All of which of which (with the exception of Milestone) were originally created by white men. Even the Black Panther that everyone is so excited about was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I don’t care how many of you were told that Magneto was inspired by Malcolm X, Magneto’s character was never black and neither were its creators (also Lee and Kirby). Social media banter and indie sales dictate that African Americans do buy a lot of comics, but we seem to have a hard time proving that because buyer fragmentation, comic book shop gatekeeping and uneven distribution don’t provide accurate numbers, and Diamond’s not sharing those numbers with us anyway.

And please don’t tell me that black women don’t read comics. Not only do we read them, I talk to fellow blerdgurls ALL THE TIME who are reading, reviewing, tweeting and BUYING them.

theblerdgurl, moongirl, marvel, diversity

Lunella Lafayette – Moon Girl

The interesting thing about “the whole diversity thing” in comics (and one of the reasons why I started this blog) is that there are plenty of indie artists out there that are creating some amazing diverse characters of color, and have been doing so for YEARS. And in addition to some mainstream titles, that is the work that I like to read and continue to support. What kind of indie comics am I referring to? Feel free to search the comics here on my site, my Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook or IG and you’ll find quite a few.

theblerdgurl, marvel, riri, diversity

“Norah” from Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis

Please do not take any part of this post as an attack on either Brian Michael Bendis or new Invincible Iron Man artist Stefano Caselli. Bendis might have created Riri’s story, but he is a staff writer, and that’s what he gets paid to do. He’s not in charge of hiring new writers or scouting out new talent. My issue is not with him. But Marvel (and DC) will continue to take our money because they know we’ll give it freely, especially if they create a character that looks like us, because they have the money and the resources to get the images out into the mainstream market faster and more efficiently than the indie comic book creator does. They also know, that the image of a smart black girl will sell as seen with the success of Moongirl and Nova.

Let’s be clear, my idea of diversity does NOT mean asking Marvel to hire black female writers to just write black female characters, just as I can’t expect Marvel to force all the white male writers to just write for white male characters. But there are NO BLACK WOMEN writing at Marvel right now, so that’s not even an issue until they hire some. My mother always used to tell me “When you ask for something, be specific.” So Marvel, listen up, I’m going to be VERY specific here:

Start hiring Black female writers to write for any and all characters at Marvel NOW*. And don’t just hire one either.

And for those of you who don’t believe that there are any black women out there actually writing comics, (I get this question at least once a week) I invite you to check out the list below.

I’ve got over 60 reasons why you’re out of excuses.

theblerdgurl,marvel,nova,diversity, riri

Eve Bakian – Nova

 

Current Indie Black Female Comic and Webcomic Writers

This list is comprised of Black women  that I am currently aware of have written comics or webcomics that were printed or released digitally within the past few years. This list does NOT include anyone that is currently working on their first project that is not out yet. I will be adding this list to a larger database that I am putting together so please let me know if I have missed anyone. A BIG thank you to Regine Sawyer of the Women in Comics Collective NY International and Lockett Down Productions Publications for help curating this list!

Alitha Martinez
Amandla Stenberg
Angela Robinson
Ashley A. Woods
Avy Jetter
Barbara Brandon-Croft
C. Spike Trotman
Che Grayson
Cheryl Lynn Eaton
Christina Steenz Stewart
Dana Mcknight
Dani Dixon
Donyale Walls
Dorphise Jean
Erika Alexander
Felicia Henderson
Gisele Jobateh
Jasmine Pinales
Jennifer Cruté
Jewels Smith
Joamette Gil
Juliana Smith
Julie Anderson
Kimberly Moseberry
KL Ricks
Lashawn Colvin
Leland Goodman
Marguerite Abouet
Marqueeda LaStar
Melanie Reim
Melissa DeJesus
Micheline Hess
Mikki Kendall
Mildred Louis
Myisha Haynes
Neeka Neeks (Taneka Stotts)
Ngozi Ukazu
Nilah Magruder
Nnedi Okorafor
Olivia Stephens
Regine Sawyer
Shauna J. Grant
Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs
Tee Franklin
Vita Ayala
Whit Taylor

*Pun intended


@theblerdgurlscreen-shot-2016-01-14-at-6-47-27-pm is a commercial film/video editor by day and comic book reading, anime watching, TV live tweeting,  K-Pop listening, blog writing, geek gurl by night. She is on a mission to shine a light on indie, female and comic artists of color and highlights them and their work on her blog theblerdgurl. She currently lives in a century old brownstone in Brooklyn with 2 cats who plot her demise daily. You can also find her on twitter, facebook, instagram,  tumblr and snapchat.

We’re Here: Black Women Working in Comics

Invincible_Iron_Man_1_by_Jeff_DekalI’ve been a writer as long as I can remember. My mother recalls me sitting quietly in the living room taking construction paper, a hole puncher, yarn, crayons and writing and illustrating my ‘first’ book at 6 years old. As I grew, the stories I wrote became more thoughtful, more complex and somehow I landed in the arena of comics. Comics became my refuge at an early age; granted I’ve always read different types of books and novels, but comics stole my heart. They combined art with the written word; I was just thunderstruck by the perfection of the blending of the two. Creating characters was an ongoing practice for me, at 10 years old I was certain that Marvel or DC would want to buy my characters. My mother even called the Marvel offices for me to see if they would be willing to. Now here I am several decades’ later, writing, creating and selling my very own line of comic books.

With all that said, in addition to being a writer and a business owner; I happen to be a Woman…a Black Woman, working in Comics. To some, that might seem like an anomaly, a fluke, a unicorn among purebred horses. But I am, none of these things, I’m just me; a person who loved comics so much that they wanted to write and create them. Nevertheless, there was some rigorous discussion this week about Marvel Comics introducing a new Iron Man; a 15-year-old black girl named Riri Williams. There was an overwhelming amount of support via social media, to see a young black woman take over the mantle of such an iconic character in the Marvel Universe. At the same token, there were equal concerns that the creative team did not include a woman, let alone a black woman, writer. To some, this fact doesn’t matter; the only thing that does is that the journey of Riri is done justice and that the story is thoughtful and engrossing. To others, they want the same exact thing from this revamped series, however, would like the addition of authenticity: a Black Woman telling the story of her fictional counterpart.

In a world whose history is filled with white, male writers who write or have written various books about multicultural people whose lives did not reflect their own; their perspectives, thoughts, and creativity is, (up until recent years), never questioned. However, when people of color question it or voice a desire to write their own narrative; it tends to fall on deaf, skeptical ears. As an Independent Comic Book Creator, I would be the first to tell you how important it is to create the books that you want to read; especially if you are writing books that marginalized audiences are hungry for. Before the massive amounts of revamps and reboots in mainstream comics that allowed the emergence of more visually diverse characters; there was and still is the indie comic book scene. We foresaw the need in the market for more characters representing marginalized communities- those characters reflected us; from our skin color, culture, gender, orientation and more. Our books and stories were a love letter to our communities simply saying ‘I see you’.

10891987_397898237042596_647221445357882096_nOn the flip side, as a Comic Book Professional, the most important factor for a company, in general, is to hire whoever is the best person to tackle the job. Storytelling both visually and written should hold precedent above all else and it is the fans whose opinion matters most because they are the ones that will keep the book going and on the shelves. This is all relative; all companies want to make money, expand their business, and work with talented people. There are certainly plenty of talented Comic Book Writers that happen to be Black Women. They exist; we are everywhere. Although it seems to some that we are hidden or are far and few in between, our numbers are larger than people think. A few names are:  Jewels Smith, Taneka Slotts, C. Spike Trotman, Micheline Hess, Shawnee & Shawnelle Gibson, Shauna J. Grant, Dani Dixon, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Nilah Magruder, Vita Ayala and the list continues. Many of us are making and selling our own comics and are happy with that, others are open to freelancing and working with other companies. Having choices is amazing, but only if one would can be afforded the opportunity. We can’t attempt to play on the field if we’re not even considered for the game. Until that happens, we will continue to journey through this industry; steadfast and unafraid, making a way for ourselves to hone and succeed in our craft. If anyone really wants to find us, they know where we are.


Regine Sawyer1Regine L. Sawyer is the Owner/Writer at Lockett Down Productions Publications. She is also the Coordinator & Founder of Women in Comics Collective International.

 

For more information about Women of Color working in the Comic Book Industry. Check out these websites:

Cartoonists of Color: http://cartoonistsofcolor.com/

Women in Comics Collective International: www.womenincomicscollective.org

Women in comics 1LOGO

Sunday Roundtable: How much does the diversity of the characters or the creators affect what you read?

JLA Roundtable diversitySundays are known for experts sitting around tables pontificating on today’s hottest and most debated topics. We’re keeping up that tradition with our own Sunday Roundtable where the Graphic Policy team debates a topic.

On tap this week?

How much does the diversity of the characters or the creators affect what you read? Is it something you think about when reading comics?

Elana: It’s a huge issue for me. I pay attention to it closely

Brett: So, the reason I ask and threw this up there as a topic, there’s only a handful of creators I actually follow, and most of the time, I couldn’t tell you who is writing or drawing what.

It’s something I care about (different voices is a good thing), but not sure how much it actually impacts my buying or reading habit.

Having varied creators and characters is a great thing, even just for the variety, but I really wonder how much it impacts folks in their purchasing or reading?

Cyborg #1Elana: For me a HUGE part of what i read is who is writing or drawing it. That’s how I can go so long without reading books about my favorite characters (like Green Arrow). I will always at least look over anything coming from a diverse team. I will always give it a once over. Unless it’s about fighting robots. or video games. But you knew that ;p

I am more likely to give a book a chance (if I am unsure of it) if there is diversity in the team. I kept reading Black Widow long after I should have stopped because I love Noto and she’s BW.

Oh, the only reason I tried Cyborg was that there was a black writer on Cyborg. Cyborg has been a highly problematic character for me for the reasons that Son of Baldwin laid out in his essay. And my gamble paid off because that book is great.

Elana: Another white writer on Cyborg would have botched it again, chances are. But Walker rehabed the character for me and made the book both interesting and politically significant in it’s discussion of blackness and disability. and also aliens. So that example incapsulates to me why I look for diversity. It makes better comics and it’s the right thing to do.

Brett: Yeah, hearing about an interesting character or creative team will get me to look. And yeah, Walker being on Cyborg definitely got me more interested in trying the book out (and happy I did).

I’m not sure I could tell you all the creators of the comics I read though, which is what got me thinking about this.

Daphne: This is a huge issue for me, and it definitely affects the comics I want to spend my money on. I think about these things because I’ve grown up wishing I could see people like me in comics – seeing nothing but straight white men when I’m none of those three things is discouraging and there’s this impression or implication that they’re “normal” and anybody else, well, isn’t. It can make a person feel unimportant when there’s no representation for them in fiction, and I avoid supporting projects that just whitewash everything and ignore the contributions and presence of everyone who isn’t white.

It does go a bit deeper than that though, of course. Knowing a writer or artist has actually undergone or is aware of the struggles and disadvantages any given monitory faces means the stories and plot beats feel more genuine. It’s easy for people who don’t have that person experience to emphasize the wrong aspects of a scenario, or to come off as vague or patronizing. Nobody likes to be ignored, and nobody likes to be patronized either.

Elana: Well said!

Brett: Can either of you think of comics you didn’t read or did read because of this?

Airboy02_CoverDaphne: When I heard the outcry about Airboy using transphobic language and dialogue in an issue I decided the skip the whole thing. I don’t have the time or energy to waste forcing myself past something offensive in the hopes it doesn’t happen again, if the writers who used that plot element or dialogue in the first place clearly don’t care or see why somebody might have been bothered. I’d rather vote with my wallet and go onto something else. I did actually go back and buy the Batgirl trade paperback where they fixed all the dialogue that was kind of iffy and questionably transphobic because the writers did such a good job being compassionate and understanding and admitting they messed up. That’s admirable, a heck of a lot more so than throwing up their hands and saying “everybody is too PC, I give up trying to do anything because you’re all crazy SJWs” Jerry Seinfeld style. If you can’t tell a story or a joke that doesn’t involve punching down at somebody who likes or admires you, the problem is your lack of creativity, not the audience. Or at least that’s the way I’ve always felt about stuff like that.

Brett: I think that’s my big question, it’s an issue that’s important, I want more diversity in characters and creators, but can’t think of a comic where it’s actually impacted my reading it. Walker on Cyborg got me more interested, but I’d have probably read at least the first issue or two.

Elana: I’m sure there have been books where i said “ugh, another white dude writing xyz”. I definitely think the team on Birds of Prey upon the new 52 launch made me less enthusiastic. The only reason I’m thinking of picking up Superman (a comic i have never read) is gene luen yang. When Batgirl relaunched I was skeptical of the premise until i saw the strong, feminist, costume design and that Babs Tarr was doing art. Then once I began reading it I saw that the male writers on the book were strong feminist voices. But I did not assume that from the initial pitch. So the involvement of a female artist with a feminine sensibility on the title vouched for the men on the team. And now I’m a convert. Fletcher is on my short-list of dudes that can write women (him, Rucka, Whitley, Gillen).

I find that most of the best artists in comics are women or gay men. The broke-back poses, bad anatomy, blank facial expressions, people wearing casual clothing that no humans actually wear, lack of developed aesthetic sense, is almost universally men coming from within the standard comics system. It didn’t used to be this way. Prior to Liefeld even straight white men could draw ok. But that turning point really led to a huge downward slide that we are only now working our way out of. and the improvements and changes are largely driven by people from outside the comics club.

I suspect that as a result of the new open-ness in style, exposer to non-western comics art, tumblr and increased awareness of the work of women, people of color and queer men in comics the next generation of artists (straight guys included) will be more developed and nuanced in their style. The big two seem to be finally loosening up on having a really ugly house style. You can thank women and gay men for making those improvements. May the end of the need for the need for EscherGirls.com be near.

Alex: Usually when I plan to pick up a comic I do so based on the character/characters involved, or the brief snippet I’ve read about the comic, and sometimes, if there’s a specific creator involved. I rarely, if ever, make my decisions based on the diversity of the creators.

Monique: It’s quite an issue for me but because I love comics I don’t think about it too much? However the lack of diversity in most aspects (gender, race etc.) is concerning. For example, I was so excited for Vixen, but I didn’t realize how short it would be? I was shocked when the end credits came on after like 5 minutes

Joe: This is a great discussion and sometimes a hot bed issue. For me it’s only when forced diversity tends to ruin or muddle long standing continuity for the sake of shock value. I do not agree with this philosophy. The biggest example of this is what DC Comics did with Wally West. A character that was my entry and conduit into the comic book world. I grew up as Wally grew up. When DC did the new 52 reboot it destroyed all this. However I don’t have an issue with him being African American per se, as I love the CW The Flash show and he surely will be on that. I just would prefer creators make a new character i.e. Miles Morales than force feed diversity on an existing one.

Daphne: I don’t buy the forced diversity argument. Nobody claims “forced science fiction” when aliens show up in a comic book, and if a character who isn’t white showing up in a story feels like some kind of intrusion it’s time to take serious stock of that franchise and the story they’re telling. There’s nothing forced about being inclusive and portraying a world where white isn’t the default – because it isn’t, in the real world. We don’t live in a population of 90% white Americans and their comedic brown friends.

Brett: Can either of you think where it hasn’t worked? Marvel’s move of diversity in characters has all felt pretty organic so far, and made sense to me.

Lois_Lane_106Daphne: If we go back to stuff like Lois Lane going “Superman, you have to use this machine to turn me into a black woman for 24 hours!” in the I Am Curious (Black) comic, sure. But that stuff was forever ago. So far what Marvel and DC have been doing makes sense to me and feels natural. Especially when it comes to titles that aren’t forever tied to one individual person but things like the power of Thor or name Captain America.

Brett: Yeah that Lois Lane story is infamous at how tone deaf it was.

Joe: Daphne, agree with the sense you’re using it. However I was implying to changing the race or background of a long standing character simply for pandering or shock value. i,e, Wally West the second Flash.

I am a huge fan of race in succession characters. Such as Sam Wilson as Captain America or Miles Morales as Spider-Man even Nick Fury in the Ultimate Universe. Those are all great successes and fantastic characters. But I wouldn’t be like lets make Bruce Wayne Asian all of a sudden. When creators have compelling stories and reasons I’m all on board, but if not then use that creativity and create a new character. It’s shoddy and uninspired.

Alex: To play devils advocate: what difference is there between Ultimate Nick Fury and New 52 Wally West?

Brett: Samuel L Jackson doesn’t play Wally West. And with that we’ll wrap up our discussion. What about you the readers? What do you think? Sound off in the comments!

More on DC Comics’ Post Convergence Diversity

A bit ago, DC Comics announced what their post DC Universe will look like after their Convergence event. The name of the game is diversity, in both series, stories, and creators. How does the 49 comics and their creative teams stack up? I did my best to count the numbers, and while we can argue what’s a male led comic, female led, or team, you can’t argue about the creative teams.

When it comes to the comics themselves out of the 49 titles, there are roughly:

Woman Led714.29%
Male Led2244.90%
Team2040.82%
 Total:49

When it comes to the new creative teams there’s 86 announced creators so far. There’s two I was unsure of, but I went through the names, and looked up folks I wasn’t familiar with. The count is:

Male7283.72%
Female1213.95%
?22.33%
 Total:86

This of course doesn’t look at ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. (hello Midnighter series!). The above might not be perfect, but that’s an impressive shift in the right direction! Congrats DC Comics!

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