Robot 6

Image Comics pushes the needle on gender diversity

FromUnderMountains-13258After the January Image Expo, Image Comics received some flak because most of the creators on stage were white men. On Wednesday, Publisher Eric Stephenson’s keynote address to the Image Expo held in conjunction with Comic-Con International included the following comments: “If we want to build a more diverse industry, though, if we want to develop a more diverse talent pool, then it is of utmost importance that we produce comics that appeal to as wide an audience as possible …”

That was said within the context of the historic gender disparity in comics, especially when looking at mainstream comics and the direct market. There’s more evidence than ever that the gender disparity in readership is no longer true; women are just as likely to read comics as men. If that’s true, then one would hope that just as many would be likely to attempt to make comics. That doesn’t seem to have come to pass in this corner of the industry, but Image announced a trio of upcoming releases that will hopefully start to shift the momentum in the right direction. If nothing else, these are among the most promising books to be announced at Image Expo, and they build on the gratifying surge in creator-owned comics.

From Under Mountains, by Claire Gibson, Sloane Leong and Marian Churchland, is one of the most exciting announcements. Perhaps the best example of that quote from Stephenson, it also has universal appeal in drawing from classic fantasy, using political intrigue, mythical lands, and knights, witches and goblins. The choice to have the majority of characters be people of color also speaks volumes to the unconventional approach they’ll take with the classic fantasy formula.

While best known as an artist, Becky Cloonan has also written her own fantastic self-published minicomics, such as Demeter and The Mire. It’s rare to see her just taking writing duties, so her upcoming ongoing series Southern Cross promises to be a rare treat. The sci-fi thriller, drawn by Andy Belanger, follows Alex Braith as she tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s death on the way to the moon Titan. It looks like a really creepy nail-biter.

Corinna Bechko’s collaborations with her husband, co-writer/artist Gabriel Hardman, are always worth checking out, and Invisible Republic looks to be no different. The gritty political sci-fi series will explore a woman erased from history for knowing too much. Forty years later, a reporter discovers the woman’s journal and starts to uncover secrets. It’s also great news that Hardman’s Kinski from MonkeyBrain Comics will get released in print.

These certainly aren’t the only female creators at Image (need I mention Saga’s Eisner-winning artist Fiona Staples, or the Pretty Deadly team of Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire?) but the more the merrier to spice up the publisher’s lineup.

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7 Comments

“After the January Image Expo, Image Comics received some flak because most of the creators on stage were white men.” LOL!! Which really says more about the people who notice such things and raise a stink than it does Image themselves. Seriously, who gives a crap what race or gender comics people are or aren’t? As long as they’re talented and putting out good work, that’s enough for me.

““If we want to build a more diverse industry, though, if we want to develop a more diverse talent pool, then it is of utmost importance that we produce comics that appeal to as wide an audience as possible …””

I’m glad to see steps taken to rectify this gender imbalance. For too long, the comic book industry has been the province of heterosexual, white males, but-AND I’M NOT CALLING FOR THEM TO GO AWAY-the more diversity in writers, artists, letterers, colorists, editors, etc, the more appealing comics can be to people who are LGBTQ, People of Color, or women. The readership is there, and they’re asking for more diversity. For comics to survive, they need to grow and learn to reach out to non white, male, heterosexuals in a way they traditionally haven’t.

@Joe35 While that seems like very favored defense against the push for diversity. Yes talent should take the front seat of putting out good work, but problem is that many within the industry are not even aware of more talented creators outside their race, gender or even age. The industry has a bad habit of sticking with people they know. It’s a bit of cronyism going on without realizing it. Hiring friends and people you know is a very common thing in this industry, in fact I will go as far as to say this why many books that are the same idea different publisher and why so many spin-offs are made from big publishers.

Lastly when you notice that there’s pool of same group of people on stage promoting their books, you are seeing behind the fog. You see something you hadn’t realized, and it’s kind of scary how much you are in a bubble.

Drew Melbourne

July 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm

@joe35 The comic book industry is 90% white guys because the industry was pretty racist and sexist throughout much of the 20th century (as many industries were) and has done a bad job of diversifying since.

“We’re not racist anymore, but let’s keep things basically segregated the way they were back then” is not a reasonable argument.

TotalSnorefest

July 28, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Yeah agreed with Tony. Not a lot wrong with the current status quo, but there are other voices out there and I would like to hear their stories in comics. Glad that these creators are setting up shop at Image!

@Joe35: I see your point, but if you’re a member of a group that gets relatively little time in the spotlight (how many prominent comics are really produced by non-white people?), it’s understandable you would look at the race/gender of creators with a bit more scrutiny. Not saying that white people can’t tell stories that won’t be enjoyed by non-white people of course, but there’s clearly a desire for more stories by women for example.

Just last week I read that Boom Studios employs more women just on their title ‘Lumberjanes’ than Marvel did on their entire publishing line that month. Not sure if those numbers are true (it’d be REALLY dissapointing if true); but the point stands. Diversity is not a bad thing, more comics for more people!! :D

I think in the comments I see a tension between two different approaches to combating the discrimination of the past.

The first approach was espoused by joe35. This approach says that since discrimination was caused by hiring people based on their gender/race/etc we should stop doing this altogether. We should ignore the gender/race/etc features of a person when hiring them or buying their work.

The second approach, espoused by commenters like Tony, Cray, and Drew, says that since people of certain demographics were marginalized in the past, we should purposefully include more people from those demographics to make up for it.

The problem is that these two approaches conflict. From the point of view of someone who favors the first approach, someone who favors the second approach is essentially saying that “Two wrongs make a right.”

I honestly don’t know whose side I’m on. I really appreciate the first approach and the way it goes meta-level on the problem. But the proponents of the second approach also make good arguments.

Nice breakdown, Ghatanathoah. How does one lend appropriate time and space to one marginalized voice without marginalizing another?

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