SDCC: Marvel: Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Panel
[Reader question:] Tom, why are people so concerned with a lack of diversity in a comic? “The Flash Family has become too white with the absence of Wally’s family”, and so on and so forth.I don’t understand this kind of logic. How do you place value of story on race?
[Tom Brevoort:] I don’t know who you are, obviously, but just based on your question I would posit that you’re a white male. I think you cannot overestimate the power that readers, especially younger readers, seeing a heroic character that resembles themselves, can have. For white guys like me, that’s easy–there are hundreds of them. Not so for almost any other demographic you might choose to name. That’s why, I think, people are supportive and even delicate with any character of a particular race or orientation or background. It’s a diverse world out there, and any time we can reflect that diversity in a meaningful way, it’s worth doing.
–Marvel Senior Vice President – Publishing Tom Brevoort, responding to a reader’s scratched-head incredulity on the issue of diversity in comics, and doing so a lot more calmly than I probably would have.
It’s supremely satisfying to respond to an apparently sincere, genuinely-didn’t-know-the-answer question like “Why are people so concerned with a lack of diversity in a comic?” with a blend of condescension, snark, exasperation, and rage. I mean, where are you at in your life that you’re comfortable expressing a sentiment like “Nope, don’t see the big deal about diversity. What am I missing?”, right? But Brevoort didn’t do this, and good for him — I think he’s right in the way he first characterizes and then responds to his questioner. A lot of people have simply never been in a position where they didn’t see themselves reflected in virtually all of the art they’ve chosen to consume, superhero comics included, and have never stopped to think what it would be like not to be able to take looking like every member of the Justice League who isn’t Martian for granted. Believe me, I know that sometimes ridicule and anger is the only appropriate response — people who go out of their way to describe non-white characters in offensive terms, or treat the question of diversity with the reactionary fervor of someone desperately trying to preserve their already generous piece of the pie, deserve no less. But at times, calmly walking them through the reasons why “people are so concerned with a lack of diversity in a comic” is a much more effective tactic.
Picture whole communities of readers with far too few opportunities to recognize themselves and their experiences in the heroes they read about. Picture a fictional universe the whole point of which is that it’s chock full of wonders, yet bears barely a passing resemblance to the scope and variety of the world we see outside our windows every day. And oh yeah, picture the near-total lack of downside for incorporating a more diverse array of characters — seriously, what’s the harm? Now, perhaps, you can see not just why people are concerned, but why it’s pretty much a no-brainer to try to address those concerns as fully as we all can.