Robot 6

Is DC’s New 52 more diverse?

Static Shock #1

The diversity of the new DC Universe has been the subject of a lot of conversations since the New 52 was first announced. DC made diversity a component of its marketing for the new series, and whenever the question comes up, it’s something the company claims to realize is important. Take for instance Dan DiDio’s interview with The Washington Post, where DC’s co-publisher said, “One of the things we looked at was that we wanted the DC Universe to be reflective of our reading audience, and by doing so it was important for us to look at characters like Batwing. We wanted to have a strong black character.” Or his and Jim Lee’s “We Hear You” post, where they wrote, “We’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know … that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.”

That post is important because it’s a reminder that this is something they’re still struggling with. While DC certainly has had issues around diversity and sensitivity in the past, I’m willing to take at face value their claims that they’re working to correct it. Lee and DiDio wrote, “We’re committed to telling diverse stories with a diverse point of view. We want these adventures to resonate in the real world, reflecting the experiences of our diverse readership. Can we improve on that? We always can — and aim to.”

Catwoman #1

How are they doing so far? Now that the first month of the New 52 has come to a close, Siskoid’s Blog of Geekery has done the math and — while there are some caveats and judgment calls involved — it’s pretty bad. Just maybe not that bad, especially in the numbers for racial diversity. Siskoid’s numbers reveal that just 26 percent of the “characters with an important or recurring role” are non-white, but that’s only 10 percent below the percentage of non-white citizens of the United States, according to the last census. There’s certainly room for improvement, but it’s not entirely bleak (said the white guy). It gets worse, though, when you see that 21 percent of the new books have “no non-white characters whatsoever.”

The numbers around gender are even more imbalanced. Only 36 percent of DC’s “characters with an important or recurring role” are female, which is pitiful considering that the female population of the U.S. is slightly more than 50 percent. DC still has a ton of work to do in this area.

And even if it gets those percentages up, that’s not the entire story. As Siskoid’s comment section points out, numbers aren’t as important as story. As we’re well aware, just because a comic has a woman as an important character (or is even named after her) doesn’t mean that it portrays her in a positive way. Something DC needs to keep in mind as it continues pursuing a balanced line is that it needs more books like Wonder Woman and Batwoman, and less like Catwoman and Voodoo.

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Comments

37 Comments

Or, you know, we can accept comics for what they are and stop trying to play Affirmative Action in our fiction. The greatest injustice all of these backseat op-ed pieces can do is argue that diversity is more important than creativity. Let the writers tell the stories they want to tell. Don’t be like the University of Michigan and demand a quota because, let’s face it, that’s just asking for more mediocre comics.

@b2quared

So why can’t we have BOTH diversity and creativity? You make it sound like the two are mutually exclusive and they aren’t.

I think it’s a good thing that there’s more diversity in the line, but how much further does it have to go? The main thing they should do is tell good stories, and you don’t have to be any particular race/gender/sexual orientation to enjoy a good story. There’s no need to force the issue, both the reader and the creators just needs to be more open-minded.
To compare, Miles Morales in Ultimate Spidey doesn’t seem forced because it’s the continuation of a story, but DC did a reboot with very little story structure behind it. Changing iconic characters just for the sake of diversity would be stupid and unnecessary. Ryan Choi will be the Atom. Jaime Reyes is Blue Beetle. Baby steps are fine, and i think what’s been done so far is a good start.

Sean T. Collins

October 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

The most hilarious and disgraceful thing about this debate is the argument made by the kinds of people who throw “affirmative action” around as an insult that we should “let the creators tell the stories they want to tell” and “tell the best stories they can” — it always just so happens that those best possible stories told by creators with total freedom happen to be about straight white dudes, in which non-straight non-white non-dudes are marginalized. What a coinkydink!

According to merriam-webster the definition of diversity is the following: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements OR an instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities.
Often the term diversity is limited to differences in race and gender but that is a limited view. Diversity in the types of stories being told and the personalities of characters are both just as important as racial or gender diversity. Catwoman and Voodoo aren’t the same types of titles as Wonder Woman and Batwoman but they appeal to different readers and that’s a good thing. Making Voodoo and Catwoman more like Wonder Woman and Batwoman would make the DCU less diverse, not more diverse. Publishing Animal Man, OMAC, and All-Star Western increases diversity because readers can pick up a horror comic, an old school all ages sci-fi comic, and a western comic, along with the standard superhero titles. Does DC publish a perfectly diverse line of comics? No, but DC’s line of comics is more diverse than ever and it should receive more credit for that. Maybe someday society will view diversity from a neutral perspective but articles like this continue to perpetuate the narrow view of diversity.

Are the stories good? I couldn’t care less about the color or gender of the characters.

Sean T. Collins

October 6, 2011 at 9:47 am

Finally, cyborgs, cowboys, and people who talk to dead animals have the representation they’ve fought for all these years.

There are three titles starring black characters. There were none a few months ago. And we are still saying not enough. Why DC is the publisher being attacked and blamed for destroying minorities in comics is amazing.

not to mention the atom and Cyborg being a main JLA’r, Blue Beetle, Voodoo. At least there are clear, honest attempts to do this and this is the publisher we attack.

when looking at the numbers, are things better or worse than before the relaunch? that might be the proper yardstick here. acknowledge room for improvement, but see how much improvement there is over the older titles.

Marvel has the exact same problem. Look at the x-men line — a franchise whos core is about diversity and outcasts and minorities — and almost all the books feature a mostly exclusive white cast. Granted they feature a large cast of female characters — unlike marvels avengers — and they do have many nonwhite characters, but they just go under or unused.

I don’t think any are arguing that diversity is more important than creativity. Indeed, I suspect that most would say that increased diversity would result in MORE creativity, because you’d have a broader range of voices telling a broader range of stories in a broader range of settings.

Heck, I suspect that if you asked most writers, the good ones will probably say that they appreciate diversity initiatives, at least after-the-fact. It’s easy to get complacent, write only what’s familiar, and (as you advance to editorial) hire people who do the same things you do. Sometimes you need a push to step outside that comfort zone, notice your own unconscious-but-no-less-real bad habits, and work at creating something that more people can identify with or find interesting.

If DC is trying to be more reflective of its “reading audience,” I’d say they’re doing a pretty good job seeing as how I only ever see straight, white dudes at my LCBS. If anything, they are actually more diverse than they need to be. Honestly, I think it’s great if there is more diversity of characters/creators, but the reality (at least in the greater Pittsburgh area) is that the typical comic fan is white, male, and likes the ladies. If DC really wants to reflect its audience, maybe it should make some of the characters, I don’t know, huskier.

Mea, admittedly it’s matter of degree, but at least to some extent they are.

When you are telling an artist that a character has to look a certain way,act a certain way you, or be of a certain gender/ethnicity you are, by definition, curtailing creativity.

Of course, whether that’s an unfair imposition in an industry filled with copyrighted, heavily trademarked super-heroes is another matter.

“Only 36 percent of DC’s “characters with an important or recurring role” are female, which is pitiful considering that the female population of the U.S. is slightly more than 50 percent.”

If the idea is to accurately reflect the current reality of the American populace, wouldn’t a better measure for DC to use be the percentage of females currently involved in either highly physical or physically dangerous jobs? After all, I’m sure there’s many people out there (theoretically, or course) who wouldn’t become either super-heroes or villains if they gained powers of some sort. It would take having a certain personality type for that final step to happen.

This is getting tired.

Hey female creators, if you think you have a good story to tell or are a great artist, this is your chance to jump on the boat at DC.

DC can’t hire female creators if they don’t have an interest in the medium.

I love seeing characters of all cultures and races in comics and media in general. But i cant help but get the feeling that the people complaining about lack of diversity are just racists themselves. Sure that sounded harsh, but this is ridiculous. They seem worried about the wrong things… “I’m not equally represented in entertainment media!”… how about “Entertainment Media as a whole is being slowly destroyed by reality TV and lack of actual writing”? Someone always has something to complain about, the joys of being alive i guess, but come on… i can name tons of non-white or non-male characters that i love just as much if not more than the white male characters that exist. If Entertainment Media isn’t representing you guess what? Create something that does.

It would probably be a good idea to compare how DC is doing with how TV is doing. Or the movies. How many TV shows have minority leads at the moment? How many films have females with large roles? Diversity seems to be taking a big hit of late as everyone is going after the same young white male audience.

All things considered, I think DC is actually doing better than anyone else right now with minority and female characters.

One point I’d like to make is that ALIENS have no ethnicity. So, Starfire, for example, counts as a woman, basically, but not white, black, asian, or hispanic.

Everyone seriously needs to get over the Catwoman complaint. It’s tired and boring at this point.

I find it hilarious that there are people who troll the internet and leave comments about how diversity is stupid (or, to be specific, leave comments about how complaining about a lack of diversity is stupid).

Frankly, I think The New 52 is a total bust when it comes to a diverse and balanced cast of characters. DC was doing a better job only a few years ago — Vixen had an awesome mini, Power Girl and Mr. Terrific were at the forefront of the JSA, there was that fantastic Terra miniseries, McDuffie diversified the JLA a TON, etc.

If these corporate comics companies think that fans like to just complain about this stuff online but they’ll keep reading the books anyway, then they’re wrong. I don’t support narrow-minded comic books, just like I don’t support narrow-minded people.

Sean – I’m right with you here.

I just don’t get people who feel so victimized by the addition of characters of color, or female characters, or gay characters. The straight white male heroes ain’t going anywhere, and there are still PLENTY to choose from. If you’re straight, male, and white, you’ve had the luxury of being able to see yourself reflected just about everywhere, and you’re going to continue having that luxury. It’s petty to wish to deny comics readers who aren’t straight white males that same reflection of themselves.

I teach middle school, and let me tell you. The message sent by having more diverse heroes isn’t lost on them. As Paul Wellstone said, “Everyone does better when everyone does better.”

Im a straight white male and i love the additional of types of characters. i just want good characters. thats what matters. it wouldn’t matter to me if they were all black women. or asian men. or white men. it doesn’t matter.

The problem is both sides aren’t the same way.

There are certainly white people who hate to see diverse characters just as much as there are obvioulsy people out there who hate white characters. it’s pathetic.

Judge them on the content of their character… not the color of their skin…. i think someone famous said that once.

I don’t feel victimized by the inclusion of more diverse characters. I’m a black English major. I still prefer to have a deluge of white characters with great stories rather than have to try to pigeonhole several “diverse” titles in an effort to make the DCU feel more PC. It’s ridiculous and insulting. Most of the black characters at DC were created because someone thought there weren’t enough black characters. Consequently, they all come across as stale cardboard cut-outs who talk and act the way the rest of the heroes do because aside from the color of their skin, nothing else is there to define them.

A title like Batwing is creative, unique, and as an original voice. A title starring Black Lightning, John Stewart, etc. is just another attempt to up the minority count in DC Comics.

they are doing a crap job because they aren’t trying. the only reason they claim, in public, to be interested in diversity is to get people off their backs.

it’s a lie. always has been and, until there’s a regime change, it always will be.

and it’s a false paradigm to posit that one is automatically sacrificing quality if you try to up your diversity quotient.

in fact it’s such a ridiculous thing to say I’m amazed anyone would for fear of looking like an idiot.

@b2quared: I totally agree that great stories will always trump artificial diversity. However, I don’t think that a desire to tell a great story and a desire to diversify are mutually exclusive. For example, I just read the first issue of Black Lightning (1977) a month or so ago… it’s fantastic! Has the character always been used in the best way possible and is he a holdover from an era when forced diversity was almost always the ONLY diversity? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean his stories will always suck.

@Paul Allen: “Everyone does better when everyone does better.”

GOOD QUOTE!

It is so disheartening to see people rationalizing a lack of diversity. Race doesn’t matter so diversity isn’t an issue? It doesn’t work that way. If race doesn’t matter then you shouldn’t have ANY problem with it being pointed out that comics could be a little more diverse. Yeah, diversity for diversity’s sake, because why the hell not? It’s just nice, dammit. Of course, it shouldn’t be editorially mandated, but it can’t hurt to maintain the discussion and have it be something that creators are thinking about and inspire them to consider all their options when creating new characters. Honestly, I don’t see why writers wouldn’t be eager to write characters of different ethnicities, ages and genders – one of the great things about reading is enjoying characters that are different to you, in minor or major ways, it stands to reason that it’s one of the great things about writing too.

As a Hispanic, I can tell you for a fact that many of us don’t think that a lack of Hispanics in the domain don’t necessarily mean a lack of diversity. And the ones that do just want a G.I Jose(Family Guy reference). So that oughta shut em up(lol).

Plus, in my opinion, I believe the comics are diverse. There’s many writers with Latino/Hispanic descent. But the reason they are there because they wanted to get in the action. And Blue Beetle may be the answer to the Cartels in Mexico–literally. And not to mention the stories itself are as diverse as you can get. They are very creative.

And that’s all I want. A good story. I don’t want a mandate into the comic book industry. I want someone who’s passionate and didactical. What’s the point of hiring minorities if they don’t have the passion to write comics? What’s in their background? Or experience? And that’s the point. And trust me, diversity comes real quick without dichotomizing the in-group.

jesus, some of these posts make me sad.

thanks, DC. 40+ years of racism and sexism has inured your core audience to even the base concept of diversity. bravo.

i’m sure you’re pleased. just the same way the last guy on the Titanic was pleased everyone else fell off first.

Do better.

Lots better.

Before it’s too late.

because so far it’s been mostly crap with occasional gold. you want the opposite ratio. trust me.

The whole Voodoo thing is getting tired. This book has been hilariously and hysterically misrepresented. “The whole book is stripping!!!” Well, no. there are roughly 8 and a half pages of voodoo stripping when counted accurately. There are three pages of the strippers back stage. So we know that just about every blogger with an agenda has overtly lied about the book, now what? Is 8.5 pages of stripping ok? Is 8.5 pages of stripping still an outrage? Are three pages of strippers back stage just as outrageous as 20?

I also love the criticisms by the femfans that “they didn’t even portray stripping accurately!!” “No stripper would leave money on the floor!” “They’re announcing her when she’s already in the process of stripping!! This is an OUTRAGE!”

Well, did they portray the shape shifting alien accurately? Yeah.

Let me just add my own bit of ridiculous hyperbole so as to blend in around here. If you don’t like Voodoo then you hate all minorities and women. If you don’t like Voodoo then you probably love Mein Kampf. If you don’t like Voodoo then you probably hate Chaz Bono. If you don’t like Voodoo then you’re probably a child molester.

When they were number crunching, why not discuss how many characters are left handed? I mean we lefties are roughly 10% of the population. That’s more than the GBLTQ by any measure! Yet we get no respect or anything to combat the centuries of oppression.

At least Marvel accepted us, we had both Thunderstrikes, for example. How am I to validate my existance without a ‘Batman of Southpaws’ or a Leftie on the Justice League?

(Do I really need the sarcasm tag?)

no, because equating left-handedness with ethnicity or gender shows you’ve got too long a way to go to actually participate in discussions like this.

just sit back while the grown-ups talk.

or did that need a tag too?

awwww poor geoffy boy.

Did I hit a nerve?

Geneticly caused? Check

History of Discrimination? Check

Minorty not represented in comics? Check.

Poor Geoffy, someone found a minority he doesn’t care about. How… insensitive of you!

Now hush yourself and let us adults talk while you try to deal with your bigotry and hatred of those different than you.

sad and common attempt to turn a legit discussion of real issues around. you think it’s a joke so therefore it must be a joke. no thought whatsoever that you might be wrong.

this tactic may work with the other lame brains but, as I said, this is a conversation for adults.

if you honestly think left-handedness is somehow equivalent to any of the other things mentioned you are either a moron or…

well, there’s no other option, really.

but you don’t really think that. it was just your pathetic attempt at sarcasm because, in your heart, you don’t want to see the groups discussed get a fair shake. it scares you in a way you don’t feel comfortable mentioning anywhere but on the internet where it’s still safe to be a bigot.

like many of your ilk, too many of whom are comic book “fans,” the problem for you isn’t holding racist or sexist attitudes or exhibiting the attendant behaviors. it’s getting called out on them.

good luck with the real world.

Awww poor sinisterphobe Geoff is.

Tell me Geoffy boy, how is it different? Except that Lefties didn’t march for equality or demand leftie diversity?

The_Livewire, I’m left-handed too. Though I was allowed to use my left-hand for writing in school, I understand that not everyone was and you’re right that there’s a history of discrimination. Even those of us who weren’t forced (often painfully so) to switch to our right hands had to learn some ambidexterity simply because schools didn’t provide us with left-handed scissors, etc. I’ve never felt the need to protest this, but I won’t deny you your right to. Just don’t say that lefties haven’t demanded lefty-diversity though, when that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Unless of course you’re not serious, because you know damn well there’s a difference.

Oh it started as not serious.

But now Geoffy’s amused me. We Lefties fit every definition of a ‘minority’, yet such a suggestion that we’re under-represented in comics is met with hostility.

I mean we adapted, we thrived, if the last few Presidents of the US are any indication. Heck my dad was a ‘broken leftie’ and that may have saved his life.

I’m all for ‘diversity’ in comics. Just that diversity means more than colour of skin, or choice of bed partners. Skinny Amanda Waller is a blow against ‘diversity’. Whether you agree with Babs-as-Batgirl or not, getting her out of ‘the chair’ is a blow against ‘diversity.’ Not everyone is going to like ‘diversity’ I mean the new Titan has been attacked as a walking stereotype. But you can’t deny that flamboyantly gay people exist, or that showing them is ‘diverse’.

Geoffy’s Sininster-phobia just amuses me. Apparently he feels that addressing certain minorities is good, but if others raise their complaints it’s ‘stupid’. I just find it wonderful to see such small minded intollerance and bigotry as Geoffy openly on display. All the better to mock him.

And … that’s it. Comments are closed.



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