Monday, 23 March 2015

Diversity in Comics: You're ALL wrong!

Everyone's catching the vibe

Diversity’s been a big issue for the last few years for the comics community. It’s had so many different arguments for and against it that it’s become impossible to follow either one. What’s worse is that neither of them are particularly “right”. What follows are three arguments from each sides of the issue, as well as the reasons why those arguments are plain stupid.

The “Anti-Diversities”

Why don’t they just make new diverse characters?

Know this guy? Nope, me neither.
The answer to that’s simple: There’s no money in it. You make a new diverse character, and you have to set that name up. If you want to know why this kind of thing hasn’t been done before, look at Scarlet Spider. There just isn’t that brand name there, so it’s difficult for new, diverse characters to get their foot in the door. It’s far easier to make Captain America black, or Thor female, where that brand name can support the diversity. I can hardly blame them for choosing an easier route.
... just ...

This is nothing more than pandering to the PC police!

Pc police, SJWs, the verbal minority, call it what you want; it means the same thing, and it’s rubbish. Look at the sales for female Thor as opposed to male Thor (with the former outselling the latter). You can debate the reason people are buying it all you want, it’s proof that diversity is selling at least as well with the majority as it is with anyone else. Readers want new things done, and maintaining a vice grip on the past can and will stop any enjoyment you may get from a title.

Why don’t we just make Black Panther white, huh?

Apparently, a comic about white Black Panther exists... by
Brian K. Vaugh no less... only as a joke, though.
This kind of comment has come in response to Michael B Jorden as the Human Torch. It’s stupid, because this isn’t a change to the source material, just to a movie version that doesn’t even exist yet.

Well, you say, let’s just change the movie version. But there’s a problem to that, too. Black Panther is an African. White Africans notwithstanding, the dominant race in Africa is still dark-skinned. America, the birthplace of Human Torch, is more multi-racial, the change isn’t as big a slap to Torch’s heritage as a race change for Black Panther would be.
Do I even need to bring this up?

The “Pro-Diversities”

White males have 100% owned comics until NOW!

Actually, 100% is an overstatement. Black Panther was created in the 70s, Batgirl as far back as the 60s, Storm was on the X-Men by the 80s- there was diversity before 2010, and to pretend there wasn’t is ridiculous. There’s no simpler argument than that. It’s silly to blame the straight white male for a lack that never existed.

The only way to bring diversity into comics is to race change!

The only way?
Okay, earlier I said that this was the easiest way to get diversity into comics. By no means did I say that it was the only one, or even the most effective. My advice? Bring non-white, non-male characters into the foreground without changing the race of established heroes. Make Black Panther the leader of the Avengers. Let me be clear; the Avengers- not the Mighty Avengers, not the New Avengers, not the East Coast Avengers, but the actual, adjectiveless Avengers! In the same way, the Justice League doesn’t really need Batman or Superman on the team; why not pass the reigns over to Cyborg or Batwoman? Why not get the best writers on these diverse titles (a Grant Morrison-led Mr. Terrific; you’re welcome, internet)? There are plenty of great ways to bring diversity to the front of the big two beyond a palette swap!

There’s nothing about Character X that is particularly white

Hey, Look: A black Spidey
that isn't Peter Parker!
I most recently saw this from Dan Slott when discussing a black Peter Parker for the MCU. And I can sorta see where he’s going. There’s nothing particularly white about being a science geek, poor, or down on your luck. If Spidey only existed in prose novels, that argument would be fine. After all, in Hollywood’s version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Ford Prefect was cast as a black man and it was fine.

But this is comics. They’re a visual medium, and Peter Parker has always been portrayed white (and yes, this doesn’t bother me with Johnny Storm for some reason; no idea why). To say that this doesn’t matter is to ignore the creative input of the artist, and hold the writer up as the only contributor to the comic storytelling process. That’s bad for artists and bad for the industry as a whole. To be totally honest, people saying the above bolded comment should be ashamed.

So there you go; my attempt at being reasonable while putting hopefully everyone to shame rather than just the ones I agree with.

Who do I agree with?

Guess you’ll never know.

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