Comics & Graphic Novels

The Lack of Diversity in Comics: What’re You Doing About It?

ImageIt seems like every day I read something, somewhere, about the lack of diversity in comics (not to mention various other pop culture mediums). Sometimes these pieces focus on gender, other times on people of color, and sometimes both. At the recent Image Expo, sixteen comic creators took the stage, with only two being women, and none being of color, and in the aftermath we are once again having this conversation. (Read about it here on Bleeding Cool.) To be absolutely clear, this lack of representation in the creative forces that produce comics is problematic. There needs to be greater diversity on many levels when it comes to comics, both on the creative side, and within the stories that are being produced. But that is only one problem, and not the problem I want to address.

By way of introduction, I am a person of color, and I also happen to be a comic book writer. Last year, I co-wrote the mini-series Number 13 with Robert Love (also a person of color), which was released by Dark Horse Comics. Right now, I’m writing The Army of Dr. Moreau, a digital series that is being published by Monkeybrain Comics. Now, I know that I’m not exactly a household name when it comes to comics (or the world of Young Adult fiction, where I also practice my craft), but I am a professional comic creator, and I’m in the trenches. I’m doing what I can, the best I can, along with creators like Robert Love, Jimmie Robinson, Rob Guillroy, Sanford Greene, Brandon Easton, Keith Knight, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Jamal Igle, Ken Lashley, Jiba Molei Anderson, and Spike Trotman, all of whom are amongst those that are holding it down, while seldom being mentioned when everyone is complaining how little diversity there is comics. And then there’s the long list of people I haven’t even mentioned (my apologies to all of you).

The fact of the matter is that there is a diversity problem in the American comic industry. There are not enough women, LGBTQ, or people of color working at the Big Two (Marvel and DC), and there are very few working for other publishers as well. But there are people working. And to be honest, it gets disheartening to hear people complain about there not being enough creators of color at a company like Image, while at the same time ignoring Jimmie Robinson’s work. It is disheartening to hear people complain that there are not enough books out there with characters of color, when the book I did with Robert Love for Dark Horse (a major publisher), has sales figures that left both Robert and myself ready to quit comics altogether. That’s not to say we didn’t get any love for Number 13, because we did. But our sales were so low that as a creative team we will probably never get to do another book for Dark Horse.

I’m sorry to say this, but if you are upset about a lack of diversity in comics, and you are not supporting the creators that are out there — through both purchases and spreading the word — then you are, in your own way, part of the problem. The fact of the matter is that many of creators that stand a chance of bringing diversity to comics are already making comics. Many are doing it independently, some are at companies like Image or Monkeybrain or Dark Horse. But if fans and readers don’t show support to indie creators that are doing it themselves, those same creators don’t stand much of a chance of getting to move up to producing for a company like Image or Dark Horse. And if the creators working at Dark Horse and Image aren’t moving the sort of units that make Marvel and DC take notice, then they’ll never be invited to play in those sandboxes. That’s just how the industry works.

To recap, there is a very serious problem with a lack of diversity in the comic industry. There. I said it. But there is also a very serious problem with the lack of support for those of us who are already in the industry. There. I said that too. To those of you that really want to see something change in the comic industry — who want to see greater representation both on the creative side and the content side — it’s time to show more support for the people who are actually making it happen.

21 comments

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more, David! We experience the same sentimentality on our site where about 30% of our creators are a collection of the comics minority club you’ve described. http://www.co2comics.com/pages/co2_creators.html

    There is a lot of hype about diversity in comics that is, in reality, just lip service. If the fans and fan press truly want diversity, they need to step up to the plate and support those that are already out there and have been for a long time.

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  2. “It is disheartening to hear people complain that there are not enough books out there with characters of color, when the book I did with Robert Love for Dark Horse (a major publisher), has sales figures that left both Robert and myself ready to quit comics altogether. That’s not to say we didn’t get any love for Number 13, because we did. But our sales were so low that as a creative team we will probably never get to do another book for Dark Horse.

    I’m sorry to say this, but if you are upset about a lack of diversity in comics, and you are not supporting the creators that are out there—through both purchases and spreading the word—then you are, in your own way, part of the problem.”

    The lack of support for a book has nothing to do with the race or gender of the creators and everything to do with the perceived quality of or interest in the work. I’m going to get a Fiona Staples, Becky Cloonan, G Willow Wilson, Kathryn Immonen or Marjorie Liu book because either their work speaks for itself (in the case of the artist) or I’m really sold on the pitch and possibly also the collaboration (in the case of the writers), not simply becuase I’m a proponent of diversifying comics. I don’t feel obliged to support creators out of a sense of loyalty, and the same goes for books featuring non-white male protagonists. Hell yes I’m gonna read Nextwave, Agents of Atlas, Saga, Chew, Down Set Fight, but I wouldn’t read that all-black Avengers book if you paid me, because there are things about the book that don’t appeal.

    I’m with you on most of your argument, but this sentiment bothers me, or at least the way its expressed.

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  3. Reblogged this on 10Starr Nation Media Official Blog and commented:
    I’m in agreement with David on most of the points here. The problem in my opinion is less that fans are unwilling to support content and more so that the content isn’t a) appealing in and if itself or b) known on a wide enough scale to draw interest over a well known series. Just as an example: I am a huge an of the now defunct Milestone imprint owned by DC in e 90s. As a kid (and especially now that as an employed adult I have the means to acquire more) I collected the Static comics and the idea of a hero of color was enough to sell me on that first issue. As an adult I’d like to think that for the most part I’m a bit more discerning in my selection of content to read. Not to say that i won’t pick it up and skim it based on a diverse cast, but the story and art have to catch my eye as well.

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  4. Mr. Walker, I can agree that the ‘diversity in comics’ conversation largely ignores minority comic creators who craft books from their perspectives; this regrettable status quo happens, I think, because most comic fans don’t read indie comic books. People look for comics as nostalgia, and for most fans any comic or graphic novel that does not promise characters from childhood will not be purchased. That being said, financial loyalty to minority comic creators based on some race or gender tribalism is neither logical or helpful.

    I’m not going to buy a comic from anyone unless I’m strongly interested in that comics’ content. This site often promotes the work of comic writers and artists just because they possess some type of Asian ancestry (on Wednesday afternoons, before anyone’s seen the quality of their work), and I’ve always found those endorsements foul. You are correct in that Dark Horse and DC and Marvel will not work with comic creators (minority or otherwise) who cannot point to a fairly high sales record of previous comic work, but I suggest that it’s a fault of the industry itself that the large mainstream comic companies do not express interesting in developing minority talent along while they search for new comic audiences to whom the industry can sell minority creator comics. If DC and Marvel and Dark Horse believe in ‘diversity’, I do not see why they express so little interest in minority creator development; they don’t have to be comics’ answer to Motown, but it would help.

    Because at this point, minority creators (especially in superhero comics) are left in an untenable position, where they are asked to craft stories for prepubescent suburban White boys that can be considered products of an ever-diversifying comic landscape so long as we recall the racial and gender backgrounds of the creators. Further, the subset of the comic buying audience that wants a more diverse comic industry are asked to prove they are down with the cause by supporting whatever minority comic creators come up with, just because we share melanin or support double X chromosome artists.

    I would applaud a more diverse comic industry where people of color, women, and LGBT writers, editors, artists, colorists, and presidents staff exponentially more positions in indie and mainstream comic companies. But I’d rather read more complex and interesting comics as well. I’m a consumer, frankly. The plight of the minority comic creator is a major concern in this debate, Mr. Walker, but it’s not the only one.

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  5. Same with movies, when Black Dynamite came out…opening weekend, I sat in a theatre with about 10 people on a friday night….but people want to complain about Tyler Perry and slave movies.

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    1. Stumble upon this blog pretty old yeah consumerism is an odd beast . Issue with consumption is you want perfection but refuse to invest in it and perfection translate anything that momentarily distract me enough to pay for it LoL..

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  6. I would say the biggest problem is the Geek media. They are the tastemakers. They are very hard to give coverage to ANY independent creator. Its too easy to praise and give props to the popular creators and companies. Try to get coverage if your book has no FOC on the diamond catalog. You wont even sniff sales. I think in general avoiding the “floppies” is the way to go. Your not going to get your comic past the Wednesday crowd easily.

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  7. anybody who says we don’t create work that is competitive with anything done at the Big Two (god forbid superior to it) needs to get out more.

    And you’re perfectly fine to buy whatever you want for any reason you want. You just don’t get to whine anymore about there not being enough product to fill that need. you don’t get to whine about it not being good enough to compete either.

    If one persists in presenting such an argument, one is presenting a lie.

    The product is there. More is coming. If you avoid it or fail to even look at it when it’s presented, you have no one to blame but yourselves. And, when the white audience discovers some of these titles, as they surely will, and embraces them, as they surely will, many of you will pretend you were with us all along.

    you will be lying.

    People have been whining about this for decades. “why won’t someone DO something?”

    Well. We have. We are.

    Now it’s your turn.

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