Race and DC comics

It’s a rare thing for me to reblog an entire article, but I think that I have to today. Normally I would just link this, but the whole thing sums up how I feel about comics and how fucked up the people surrounding comics are.
So, without adieu, here is an article from the tumblr account “dcwomenkickingass,” a blog that you should have in your RSS feed or whatever newfangled stuff you kids are coming up with.
When a coloring mistake means much more

Yesterday I posted  how DC Comics had published a corrected version of the Flash family from Flashpoint #1. This portrait included the granddaughter of Barry Allen properly portrayed as a black woman. In the pages that were included in DC’s Green Lantern Free Comic Book Day issue, she has been colored and presented as a mysterious white member of the Flash family.

How did this happen? I have no idea. I asked DC if they wanted to comment on it yesterday, but my email has not been responded to. Neither have I seen any explanation. And even if they did respond, I am sure that they would say it was a “mistake.”

But a mistake that changes one of the few women of color in the Flash family, one of the few women of color in the Legion, one of the few women of color in comics is more than a mistake. It’s a painful reminder that in comics, white is the default. White is the majority. White is the easy choice because you have, according to Marvel’s Tom Brevoort, only a 1% chance of being wrong.

One year ago this week, DC Comics killed off Ryan Choi. The only male Asian superhero of prominence was murdered and shoved into a matchbox. The reason? To make the Titans look evil and, of course, to pave the way for his white predecessor Ray Palmer to return to comics. The timing of this latest fumble on race by DC would be amusing if it wasn’t so enraging and sad because

  • It’s not as if comics hasn’t been accused of white washing before.
  • It’s not as if comics hasn’t been called out on the racial politics of returning to “classic” characters.
  • It’s not as if the the most prominent voice for diversity in comics hadn’t just died and his thoughts regarding racial diversity and comic book companies hadn’t been repeated over and over.
  • It’s not as if Tom Brevoort of Marvel, who has previously said positive things about diversity, hadn’t described the idea of a Black Avengers as a contrivance because and, I quote,

99% of all super heroes are white. It’s the law of averages.

This conversation with Brevoort has been written about elsewhere and I was only tangentially involved; the conversation was driven by the essayist SonofBaldwin, but I can tell you it was one of the most disheartening things I’ve experienced during my time in comics fandom. Why? Because it confirmed something I and others have suspected for a long time; that white is the default because anything else is less important and hard. Need proof? Read why there are not more white faces at Marvel comics. Why 99% of superheroes were white and are white. Why a Black Avengers is a “contrivance” (as say opposed to “Pet Avengers”)

Oh, that’s social justice and that’s not their job. Their job is to write

the best, most entertaining stories we can, not to fight for social justice. It’s nice when we can do both, but not job #1.

I had to ask.

Why not make it both? What’s the downside to it? And why is including faces that are non white social justice?

Brevoort’s response?

I need writers to tell stories they believe in, not to parrot corporately-mandated causes.

The downside is when agenda comes before storytelling. That tends to lead to didacticism, and crummy stories.

So says the man whose company published  “Wolverine: The best there is” and so many other comics that make a steaming pile of dog crap look good.

How painful is it to hear a representative of Marvel, a Disney company – a company who does “corporately mandate” diversity – dismiss diversity so casually? As if it was an effort that wasn’t important? As if it were something that in the scheme of things didn’t really count? That the idea of being inclusive is less important than allowing writers to do what they want.

Is it any wonder why their medium is in a slow, painful decline?

And that brings me back to this “coloring mistake”. It is easy for DC to hand wave it. “We were rushed” “There was a miscommunication” “The artist and writer didn’t communicate the right way” I can go on and on thinking up the reasons they could give (because they haven’t given any reason). But the bottom-line is this. Somewhere along the line, somebody didn’t care.

They didn’t care to check. They didn’t care to think that a black woman would be in a “white family”. This is an industry where superheroes are “99% white” and where including characters who are not the white default is considered “social justice”. Where killing off and marginalizing characters who are not white in favor of characters that are white is done over and over. Where we have seen, time after time, readers who are not default of white, male and straight are not a main focus.

I get lots and lots of aggressive responses from people when I post about race and gender on this blog. And many of the responses fall into the same meme, “white males are the majority of readers in comics so why shouldn’t comics consist mainly of them?”

And you know what I say? I say comics is better than that. I say the majority of comic readers are better than that. I say Warner Brothers/DC and Disney/Marvel are better and smarter than that.

You don’t grow a business in a global and diverse world by catering to a minority. And that’s what white males are. Sorry guys, you are a minority. The world is far more diverse than that and is getting more diverse everyday. And it is time for big two comics to smarten up and pay attention. To care. Because if they don’t, the big two comic companies will get left behind.

To less than 100,000 readers a month the Green Lantern is a white guy — to millions of television viewers he is a black man.

To DC Comics, Wonder Woman is a problem that requires constant fixing and doesn’t appeal to their core readers — to the Estee Lauder corporation she is a valuable brand that drives revenue.

To formerly “male-focused” entities such as the NFL and NASCAR women are a valuable, core audience — to the big two comic companies they are an after thought.

To Marvel an all black team of Avengers is a contrivance and the Avengers should consist of  “A team” players — to many sports teams an all-black starting line-up are their superstars and their “A-team.”

In big two comics gays barely exist — in the real world they are everywhere.

The world is changing. It is time to care. Diversity is important. The choice is simple — do it and evolve, or be a dinosaur.

This entry was posted in Comics, General Features and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.