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Quote of the Day | Brian Michael Bendis on diversity in comics

Miles Morales“Sure, there are people who look like Captain America who read comics, but there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America. I go to conventions, and you meet hundreds of people over the course of the day, and no two of them look alike. You see women and people of color who love comics, and there’s nothing representing them in a way that isn’t sexualized or something.

“Now, you can’t make these decisions [to be more inclusive] consciously, because then you’re just writing in reaction to things, and that doesn’t work out, dramatically. But subconsciously, if you look at the world around you and see your readers, you go, I wanna write something that I know is true. So you start writing women better and you write people outside of your experience better, because you look at pages of other people’s comics and you don’t recognize it as the world around you.”

— writer Brian Michael Bendis, in an interview with Vulture in which he also discusses why Spider-Man was a multicultural hero even when he was Peter Parker

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The issue that Bendis raises here is that it is exponetially more difficult to write a character that is outside the writer’s own personal experience. People tend to forget that. It can be done, but the level of research on the writer’s part is just that much harder.

If a writer wants to write a character who is an astronaut and the writer has never been an astronaut they have to do research. Writers do research no matter a character’s race/gender, etc. So what?

On the topic of diversity in comics, maybe Bendis could try writing two characters that don’t sound exactly the same.

The way he writes black characters is the best – there’s this Tarantino-esque desperation for “street” approval practically dripping off the pages. Like the way a white guy that thinks he understands black people while living in the suburbs would love to be looked at and addressed by “real” black people. Ex:

Captain America: You’ve got my back?

Luke Cage: That’s the way it is.

Cap: Why?

Cage: Because it’s got to be that way.

Cap: Why?

Cage: Because we’re down like that.

So great. Yes, a Luke Cage-starring Bendis title is always good for some laughs.

Whatever Mr. Bendis is writing, I have to say, its a lot more diverse than a lot of other comic books out there. I’m not for one company over another (and if I was, it would be DC) but diversity in comics is something that should have happened ages ago . . . and if you want well written diverse characters, you need to start hiring a more diverse writing team. Everyone is looking at the characters, why don’t you turn that eye to the creators.

One of the myriad number of problems with comics today is the absolute lack of diverse writers. The artists are there (to some degree, it is a ridiculously male dominated field) but when it comes to writers of popular books they’re mostly white.

Start with the writers and you’ll see more genuine and perhaps legitimate representations of diverse characters.

Also, I have much respect for Mr. Bendis. He’s rocking it on X-men . . . even if I wasn’t too fond of his Avengers run.

BMB, one of the most powerful guys at Marvel, on diversity. And yet, somehow Angela still happened….

Jake Earlewine

May 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I read the entire interview, and I must applaud Bendis for what he had to say.

But I’ll never forgive him for ruining the Avengers. The man never bothered to learn the characters. His dialog is nothing but fluff and his plots stink like a Taco Bell fart.

@ m. Knight, i agree with u in that obviously a writer needs to do the appropriate research in order to properly write a character of different race and ethnicity. However, it is much, much more difficult to write a ethnically different character because it risks not sounding “authentic” at it’s best and racist at it’s worst.

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