I have been working a lot of long days here at the comic store so my actual free writing time has been bumped up significantly as of late. I think that’s been reflected in the amount of new readers I have. Hi readers!
As many of you already know I work two jobs; one at a small Comic store in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area not Grand Theft Auto) and another job doing comic book illustration. Working almost full days all week long in the comic field, one can pretty much assume that comics are always on my mind. Always. So I find it strange that I haven’t actually addressed a very important issue in comics that’s very near and dear to me. Equal representation.
I know that some of you may be cringing at this point, you’ve heard it before from feminist bloggers and POC readers and for you readers that have the privilege of being represented it must feel like we’re beating a dead horse. This is a very important topic and I feel as though the comic publishers are finally getting a hang of it (at least Marvel is trying, DC is just slowly getting the general idea in one issue then getting distracted by stereotypes and messing up in the following issues). I’ve heard some people say that women should be happy because now they have Black widow in her own series, a lady as Thor, Ms. Marvel, the new Batgirl and indie titles like Rat Queens. Which is cool yeah, and you girls should definitely by happy with what you have so far. That doesn’t mean it’s equal yet.
You guys want to know one of the reasons why I illustrate comics? Too bad, this is a narrative so your input doesn’t matter and I was going to tell you anyway.
When I was in high school I got into an internet debate with some dude on Gaia (oh such a dated statement really). At that time I wasn’t out as Transgender so I had an account on there as a cisgender bisexual man, my own way of satisfying my inner feelings. That’s beside the point though. He was a straight white guy and he failed to see why this one black gay guy was ranting about the lack of well written representation in comics. Keep in mind this was back when I was in high school so things were a lot more close minded in the comic world, it hadn’t yet hit the main stream so it was still very much a closed off community.
So white guy tells the OP to stop complaining. This is where I came in. I went off on him like we were in a god damn court of law and I was Matt Murdock taking his ass to town. In the end he replied to me with the very well thought out and original come back “Why don’t you write comics then”….so I replied back “okay, I will”.
Now here I am. Trying to make it in the comic world and doing just what that dude said. I will create stories with diverse and interesting characters that people can relate and look up to on a human level.
Having said that though, I really want to go back to why this is so important.
I have heard it said in counter arguments “Why is gender, race, sexuality, disabilities so important to you? Why can’t you just idolize Batman?” Cool, yeah, sure. I do idolize Batman but I would also love to have a character that I can actually relate to. As someone who is constantly represented in the media some guys can’t understand why it’s so important to have a hero you can see yourself in.
I remember when I was little watching Static Shock and there was that moment when the show insinuated that Virgil’s friend Rick was gay (a few years later when I read the comic I found out it was true). At that time I remember Rick instantly becoming my new favourite character. I knew how he felt. I knew that feeling of fear and isolation because I felt it every single day. No straight character could ever make me feel that way up till that point in my young confused life. That is so important that new generations will come to feel that way no matter who they are.
The fact of the matter is, much like becoming immune to pet odor when you have a cat, if you are constantly seeing yourself in characters in the media then you wouldn’t really see that the rest of us barely exist in the eyes of writers. In a way though it does make sense that minorities have low visibility. Since we were kids we were told that if we wanted to be a writer we should write what we know. The majority, not all, of the comic writing work force are straight white males so it would make sense for them to write about “what they know”. I know for some of my straight white male friends they are even afraid of tackling minorities out of fear of misrepresentation, and I can totally understand that seeing as it has happened countless times before. I think that’s when we really need to do two things to help fix this problem.
1) People research
If you’re going to write a minority character and you feel scared of offending them, ask a friend that’s in the same boat as that character. For example, a very talented writer friend of mine (Matthew Rogers) wants to write about a Transgender character and he has asked me if it’s okay to reference me about it so that he doesn’t risk offending the Transgender community in any way. Learn people, then you can write about the things you know.
2) Get more writers of diversity all up in there.
This is a tricky, tricky fix. Now don’t get me wrong, I love DC comics, they can be super cool and their shows are awesome but at the same time they have presented themselves as a shining example for many of my points. Many people have stated that DC purposely turns away POC, female and queer writers (Even other publishers like xenoscope….but why would you want to go near them anyway. Like a dirty dish rag in the corner that you look at and don’t wanna touch). Here is where the issue begins, DC has always said they give everyone an equal shot but their numbers say otherwise. So it is really touchy for me to say one way or the other whether DC is straight up lying through their teeth or if these other writers are just not good enough. Although I doubt it’s the latter, have you read Lobo? It’s just okay really…..
So I fear we find ourselves in a rut with major publishers, DC is floundering and Marvel is fairing better but to be honest they’re both miles away from the indie guys. Image is absolutely slaying them both as far as this issue goes.
To be fair DC has been doing a good job on the female front with their shows, but this is just about the comics so we won’t go there. A round of applause all the same though, you cartoon writers write a damn good Wonder Woman (You know….with a personality outside of “Amazon”) .
I think until the major publishers really catch on fully to whats going on the most we can do is keep talking about it and to keep spending money on the comics that feature more of the characters we want. Marvel and DC aren’t going to create more diverse characters if the titles they have now aren’t selling. So to all you “activists” That bitch about the industry then download Ms. Marvel, you are a huge part of the problem. Marvel is working on new titles with more diverse character because they saw how much money Ms. Marvel made them. Companies understand money, not squishy feelings so learn to battle them on their own grounds.
So be gone, buy a comic and support the writers out there that are kicking ass and rockin’ it. Or write, or draw. Don’t be a backseat activist. Let’s beat this dead horse till the new generation of comic readers have something we barely did; a hero just like them.
So till next time everyone, stay Tobly awesome