Superhero Diversity: Coming whether you like it or not

Newsrama.com posed the following blog that related to my topic of superheroic identity, diversity and equal treatment in the mainstream comic universes. After having it pointed out to me, I felt the need to address it just a bit more. Here is a taste of the article.

SUPERHERO DIVERSITY

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By Vaneta Rogers
posted: 13 January 2011 04:23 pm ET

There’s no question the world of superhero comics is more diverse than it was 20 years ago, but the effort hasn’t been without struggle.

And despite the best effort of creators and publishers, the most popular characters continue to be a slate of white men.

The best example of the phenomenon is the upcoming Avengers film, where Black Widow will be the one white female Avenger in a team dominated by white male heroes like Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Hulk and Captain America.

But it’s not just an Avengers problem. “If you look at all DC’s major characters, the big seven of the Justice League, they’re all white men with the exception of Wonder Woman, who’s a white gal,” said Judd Winick, who writes for DC Comics. “We don’t really have many people of color who are considered a major character.”

You can read the rest of the article here. I will wait till you get back.

How did we get here?

A young friend of mine asked me “Why are we still having this conversation?” To be honest I had not planned on answering, I felt I made my feeling clear in my earlier post. But I decided that I would try and strip out the vitriol and answer it differently today. So here goes: Why ARE we still having this conversation about diversity in Comics in the year 2011? 135 years after the end of Slavery in the South and 400 years after the arrival of the first African in chains we are still questioning the poor representation of people of color in the mythic realms of superheroes in spandex. We are still talking about it because:

It is more relevant now than ever.

That is why we are still talking about this because the mainstream comic industry is still wrestling with it. They realize their industry is still poorly reflecting an increasing colorful and diverse world. But their readership mostly comprised of white males who buy the bulk of the comics in the US today, would prefer that nothing ever changes. And the industry does not want to do anything that might jeopardize their current income stream.

The reality is this:

The industry will have to take a hit to get ahead. One step back on income while they retool their lineups and as newer readers embrace the lineup, the old guard will have to get in step or find another form of entertainment where the myth of white superiority is still happily being promoted, for the time being. Eventually even that will change, and they will have to let someone else live to the end of the movie. Will Smith has championed that cause in his own movies. We can have and do have potential motivations that are different than expected and that we can bring our own vibrant and energetic nature to the comic industry and the big screen.

BRAVE NEW <economic> WORLD

The Comic Industry is like any other business, they are looking ahead to the future and seeing India and China with their rich cultural heritages and realizing they have no boats in the water in which to move into those markets. Their parent companies are already realizing they will have to do better about embracing diversity if they want to be able to maintain their roles as trend-setters and leaders in this Brave New Economic World (BNEW).

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What this really means for smaller agencies like independent writers and artists is those mainstream providers are seeking creative talent that can move interesting and powerful characters of color. But this is a moving target, so creating one’s one characters and even companies may be a great move right now, and nurturing that talent is also paramount but I suspect for a percentage of the best and brightest, an opportunity to migrate, translate or inculcate your work into the mainstream universe is nearer than you think.

Brother, you should do for self…

And before anyone attacks me with the standard litany of ‘we don’t need anything from them‘ and ‘we can do it without their help‘, I will agree with you, wholeheartedly. And I recommend we get started immediately to provide positive images of heroes for our children and people who want to see a more diverse view of heroes of color. I posit you this: The comic industry’s success has been fueled by their translation of their heroes from their books to the movie industry. And while the technology is still evolving, it has begun to be good enough to allow characters from the 1940s onward to begin their potential migration to the big screen.

In Summary:

It is in Big Comics best interest to find new talent and nurture it. They may not like it. They may not want it. They may not quite even realize it yet, but as the demographics of the nation continue to evolve, they will have to get into the myth-making business for a more diverse population, or eventually as their markets age out, or lose interest, they may find themselves becoming extinct due to a lack of a new emergent market to move into.

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2 responses to “Superhero Diversity: Coming whether you like it or not

  1. Well I totally agree the. Only reasons I haven’t done this myself is lack of the necessary backing. Really could I use the help of writer at this moment lately I’ve been having a creative block. But I’m about pass that and really I want to get back drawing superheroes.

  2. I’m hoping the change from paper to eComics will allow a new economic paradigm to unfold, allowing diversity and new ideas to bloom. Ethnic diversity is clearly a problem. But even pure SF stories (SF without the superhero theme) can’t survive with qn overwhelming swell of ubermenchism. Sadly, DC and Marvel resist this. They want to keep printing paper along with keeping prices at the $3.99 mark. That can’t hold in the future. However, how long both firms can sustain the old system is a big question.

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