Robot 6

Quote of the Day | The impact of decades of non-diverse superhero comics

“I don’t think Marvel or DC are racist, systemically, nor do I think that anyone there is, either. I am friends with lots of people at both companies and to a person, they’re terrific. Ultimately, people will hire the people that they know and in order to get to know them, you need access to them. I got my access through my day job as a magazine editor in Manhattan. Plus, I’m a dazzling urbanite. But if you’re a black kid living in Detroit or Tampa or Oakland, how do you get that access? How do you know which convention is the best for meeting editors? How do you know which bar to go to?

More importantly, if you’re that black kid (or Hispanic kid or woman of any color) why do you even want to make comics? The end product of decades of stories not told for a diverse audience is this: if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them; and if you don’t read them, why would you want to make them?”

Marc Bernardin, who has written such comics as Static Shock,
The Authority and Wolverine, reflecting on the current discussion about the lack of black writers at Marvel and DC

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Comments

22 Comments

Brilliantly said. I tried to say something similar about the lack of black female superhero writers on COMICS ALLIANCE and pretty quickly got called an elitist hetero white male who didn’t bother to look for any talent beyond others of my ilk. Sigh. Cheers to Marc for saying it better and clearer..
TIM!

That’s sad. That’s very sad.

TONYNEWWAVEREVIVAL

February 6, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Tim, I saw the post you made and to be honest you didn’t make your point very well in the first place. Let’s not act like you made some eloquent comment that got ignored and lambasted just because you happen to be straight and white.

From Rob Guillory;

As a black creator myself, who’s been doing shows for the last 11 years, I can honestly count on one hand the number of black writers I’ve ever encountered. And when you get into black female creators working OR trying to break in, I honestly cannot recall ANY. Now, maybe I’m not doing the right shows, but I’ve been to shows all over the world, and I haven’t bumped into them.

So the problem is either that the black creators aren’t doing enough to be visible, or that the talent pool is just fairly small. I kinda lean toward the latter. That’s not saying anything negative about black creators, but there certainly seem to be more folks of other ethnicities trying to break in than black folks.

Why is that? No idea. All I know is that in any industry that starts out predominantly white, the integration of that industry tends to start slow, with a few creators. Then, as those few creators gain success, other creators of that race rise up, and the talent pool expands. I think that’s the case in comics. Kyle Baker paved the way for guys like me, and I pave the way for the guys after me.

My problem with the article is that I think it insinuates that companies are racist and should be looking at talent with their race in mind.

“Well, this artist’s portfolio is okay, but not spectacular…BUT he’s black, and we have a quota to meet.”

To me, race should NOT be a hindrance OR an advantage. It’s the content of the work that matters, much as Dr. King said it is the content of our characters that truly matters. Let the work speak for itself and leave race out of this.

If we have learned anything from the Big Two’s relentless shoveling and reshuffling of tired, decades-old concepts, it’s that Green is the only color that matters to them. If someone can make them money, they are hired. Period.

But look at the bright side. There’s more money to be made in the independents anyway. Not to mention freedom of expression.

“The end product of decades of stories not told for a diverse audience is this: if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them; and if you don’t read them, why would you want to make them?”

An excellent point. The publishers hire people they know, or people who know people… Which is increasingly common across all industries and businesses. It makes it very hard for an unknown creator to get a foot in the door, and even harder to be entrusted with a character or story of high-enough profile to appeal to the market. Thus, fewer ‘diverse’ stories leads to few ‘diverse’ creators leads to few ‘diverse’ stories, etc. etc.

So……….what’s the answer, then? If you put on your ‘Editor In Chief’ hat for a week, what do you do to correct what you believe is a serious problem? What should DC and Marvel be doing that they are not currently doing, and why would that make the difference?

Based *solely* on this one quotation, this seems like an oversimplification of the situation. Firstly, how is “a black kid living in Detroit or Tampa or Oakland” any different from *any* kid living in those cities in terms of having access to editors? I’m not white, so perhaps Marc has let something out of the bag in terms of some whites only access to knowledge of the “right conventions and bars” to go to, but I don’t see that as being something that impacts race in comics. I’d think anyone could find out how to find and approach an editor.

Also, I grew up reading comics that starred white heroes and guess what? Being not white and also not racist, I never felt that those stories “weren’t written for me.” I identified with Peter Parker of whomever because of the timeless human themes that were touched upon in those stories, regardless of the race of the character. It’s the notion that a story “written for non-whites” has to somehow take on the trappings of another culture is what usually results in the worst kind of heavy-handed pandering and stereotypes. Just write a good story.

Careful guys. With the exception of Tony (who seems to be trying to start a war of words by essentially repeating what Tim has already acknowledged) this is looking far too much like a civilised, considered discussion about black writers in comics. You know, where people disagree and point out the flaws in other people’s reasoning without resorting to the accusations of “white priviledge” or out and out racism that have appeared in so many other comments sections this week.

Yeah, TONYNEWWAVEREVIVAL. I admitted I didn’t say it clearly. Bite me ya dick.
There, back to civilized.
TIM!

Tim Seeley just dropped the mic and walked off stage!!

pls pls pls pls pls more posts like this, or more diversity

I WANT AN ASIAN AMERICAN MALE as a herooo plss pls i just recently got into comics and it heartbreaks me to see so many lame asian stereotypes, why are there no normal regular asian american males heroes??

just the dead ryan choi (who is taking forever to come back) and a few non importants)

TONYNEWWAVEREVIVAL

February 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

hahaha

TONYNEWWAVEREVIVAL

February 6, 2013 at 1:47 pm

@Ricardo Mo Hey, I didn’t accuse anyone of being a racist or of having white privilege, nor was my comment uncivilized. Superfluous in hindsight, maybe. Uncivilized or trying to start a war of words? No.

Can’t the same be said of TV? Movies? Books? The entire entertainment industry seems to be all about the white male these days.

I guess I’m missing the point here. Are you saying that the industry as a whole needs to be more diverse (editors, writers, artists, etc.) or the subjects and subject matter need to be so? As a white male who grew up in the middle of the country, I had no idea which conventions to attemd or which bars to go into either; but I DID know which stores carried the titles that I wanted to read and was willing to put my money down for them. Was it wrong that I enjoyed Batman over Black Panther or should I have felt guilty because I was white like Superman and liked it when he kicked the crap out of a green-skinned android? We are all a product of our environment but that environment doesn’t have ot limit us. By the time I was 25, I was living in New York, working in the World Trade Center and knew where the offices of both DC and Marvel were. I had also been fortunate to meet a number of professionals in the industry by attending conventions in Houston (my home prior to New York). I believe the bottom line in what I’m saying is this: if you are good at what you do, it shouldn’t matter what color your skin is or anything like that; if you’re good at what you do, it will be noticed. It’s up to you whether you’re going to take advantage of it or claim everyone’s against me because of one reason or another.

Tony, please re-read my comment. I never said YOU accused anyone of being racist or having white privilege. I would stand by my observation that your unnecessary dig at Tim (who had already stated his own failure to clearly express his point) was not adding to an otherwise very civilised debate. Carefully reading people’s comments before reacting would seem to be the way forward.

And in the interest of furthering the civilised debate rather than getting dragged into a pointless squabble, let me add: If the big two publishers made more of an effort to find NEW (as in undiscovered or barely exposed) talent rather than sticking with the same old guys or cherrypicking other publishers’ established talent, they may well stumble upon the next amazing black writer… as well as the next white or asian one. Surely it would be worth the cost of a few more talent competitions, or having an open submissions policy similar to Dark Horse or Image, just to avoid this kind of PR nightmare?

“We are all a product of our environment, but that environment doesn’t have to limit us” – Unfortunately it does limit some people, whether they want it to or not.

I’m with dekko on this one at least in so far as the last paragraph of the quote goes.

“if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them” pretty much describes the vast majority of the big two’s output over the last decade as far as I’m concernded. And apparently I’m in the demographic that these stories are supposed to appeal to.

If the only color that matters to the Big Two is green–what say we do something to make them colorblind?

[More importantly, if you’re that black kid (or Hispanic kid or woman of any color) why do you even want to make comics? The end product of decades of stories not told for a diverse audience is this: if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them; and if you don’t read them, why would you want to make them?”]

What the HELL is this guy talking about? Is this simply a case of seeing what you WANT to see? Because in spite of a dearth of representation, I assure you there are plenty of Black, Hispanic, and Asian fans following mainstream superhero comics. This isn’t new, it’s been that way for decades. Even with a thriving alternative Afro-centric comics renaissance happening at the moment these fans are still craving for more representation from the Big Two. And some of these fans do want to make the transition to professionals to share their unique perspective with everyone. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not out there…

I think it’s important to share the next portion of Bernardin’s statement, for I think many will only read what is posted here:

“But we do exist. I don’t know if we are legion or if there are mere dozens of melanin-charged writers who haven’t gotten their audience with the gatekeepers for one reason or another — but I do know that it should probably be someone’s job to find them.”

We do exist. I am a black woman who at one time wished to write comics. I know of other black women who are currently writing comics: Marguerite Abouet, Carol Burrell, Spike (C. Spike Trotman), Alitha Martinez, Ashley A. Woods, Regine Sawyer, Jennifer Crute, Starline Hodge, etc. You’ve likely not seen them at many conventions due to the miniscule budget that self-publishing provides, but they exist. Perhaps they are not in great numbers, but they exist and are doing everything financially possible to increase their visibility (websites, interviews, etc.). When established male creators at well-known publishers go on popular, high-traffic websites and state that black women who write or wish to write comics don’t exist it makes it harder for the black women writers that do exist to gain visibility. People will make no effort to seek them out. An offhand comment, even one that is well meaning, can have a negative impact and be demoralizing.

Andrew Allenpeat

February 7, 2013 at 6:39 pm

If there’s one phrase I’m really tired of hearing it’s, “the big two only care about one colour: Green.”

If that’s true, then why does Rob Liefeld continue to get work? I’m sure any of us could name a creator or two who still continues to get work despite being a proven money loser. Hell, Hawkman just got cancelled for the fourth time in my lifetime (I’ll be 44 this year). If DC cares so much about money, why do they keep trying to push unprofitable characters and concepts.

In fact, if the big two care so much about money then why have they allowed their sales to slip year after year, decade after decade, without cleaning house and hiring competent people?

Personally, I don’t think ANYONE at the big two is racist and if they are they’re hiding it very well. I just think the “only care about green” comment is based on wishful thinking. What DC and Marvel editorial care about is playing with their little fanboy toys. Upper management just cares about holding onto their jobs for a few more months, before they can transition to a “real” job.

BTW. if editorial only hires people they know, I happen to think that’s worse for the industry than hiring based on race (and I’m a black man). If the same pool of people are getting work, then where are the fresh ideas going to come from? Where’s the next Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, or Frank Miller going to come from? Hiring from the same pool of people isn’t just bad for women and minorities. It’s bad for all the genuinely talented white male creators too.

It’s bad for the industry.

Hire people who are good, not the guy who kisses your ass at SDCC.

This is the most ill-informed quote I’ve ever seen as to why Readers of Color don’t buy comics. We don’t buy comics not because there aren’t Black or Brown people in them. We don’t buy comics because they cost too much. We don’t buy comics because comic book publishers abandoned the newsstand market so we now have to travel hours outside of our communities in order to get comics. We don’t buy comics because of stupid marketing tactics like having a different artist for the cover from the artist who does the interior pages.

Sure, it’s nice when we get a Falcon, Blade, Milestone Media, Princess Tiana (the exception to my rule because I won’t buy a Disney Princess product unless she’s on it), etc. But I’m 40 years old this week, and I’ve been reading comics for more than 30 years. I started because my cousins (who are the same age or older) had trunks full of comics that I used to read whenever I went over to visit them; I read How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way cover-to-cover repeatedly just for the art, not the lessons. A Black character (lead or supporting) will certainly pique my interest or endear the character to me, but the lack thereof will in no way, shape, or form cause me to not buy comics. Now, expensive cover prices, lack of convenience, and alienating marketing tactics THAT will and has (thank you publishers of the 1990s) keep me from buying comics.

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