30 January 2007

"Driving Bigger Wedges in to Society"


I was going to sit this one out but it really does fall right into my wheelhouse...

The unflappable Loren Javier has been hosting a handful of interesting debates over the past couple of weeks at his One Diverse Comic Book Nation blog -- which is showing promising signs of becoming exactly the kind of niche site I think the comics internet needs -- and I've jumped into a couple of them, partly because I appreciate the civil tone he sets, even when he's being unfairly attacked.

After mixing it up with Gail Simone yesterday over The All New Atom, I finally jumped into the debate over the teaser image DC released last week that set the internet on fire with a flurry of responses from "Oh, cool! Pirate Batman!" to "Oh, yet another overwrought cash grab that will change everything we've ever known?" to "Where the white women at?" (None of these are actual quotes...as far as I know, at least!)

I saw it and leaned towards the "Meh." side of the tracks but certainly enjoyed reading through the varied responses, constructing my own mental Fanboy Rampage entry for possible future reference. Javier's latest post, though, struck a nerve, as he wondered aloud whether or not he was being overly sensitive in reference to a comment suggesting he was "driving bigger wedges in to society" with his reaction to the aforementioned image's lack of diversity.

My initial response was, of course, "no."

While I did think the hubbub over the picture's lack of diversity was a bit of a tangential pile-on, DC did leave themselves open for it by promoting the Brave New World of Diverse Comics and instead delivering, effectively, a handful of peripheral token players. The picture certainly can be read to serve as a reminder of who the big guns really are, and will always be, in the DCU, so no, I don't think you were off base in your concern.

The commenter's opinion that "you're driving bigger wedges in to society" is a laughable bit of hyperbole, though. If only we blogger's [sic] had such super powers...
If only, indeed! Just in case, though -- because we all know that "With great power, comes great responsibility. Amen!" -- I've decided to use my powers for good to help DC undo the white thing:

The Brave New World of Diverse Comics
5 Steps to Quickly, Effectively Diversifying the DCU

5) Stop replacing C-list characters with minority alter egos. It doesn't work and it's pandering on one hand, self-destructive on the other.

4) Send Hal Jordan off into space in Green Lantern Corps and make John Stewart the primary Green Lantern in the Justice League of America. Don't make him a background character. Millions of kids know him from the cartoon, so don't make the same mistake you made with Static.

3) Since you're bringing back the Multiverse, introduce an Earth where Europeans didn't run roughshod over the planet and cast all of its superhero icons as minorites. In that Earth's version of the JLA (Justice League of Africa or Asia, perhaps?), have one white male and call him White Lightning. Robin and Jimmy Olsen may also remain white.

2) Hire more writers of color, more female writers and more GLBT writers, ideally in various combinations. (NOTE: WRITERS, not artists.) They're out there, some of them are really good, and even the decent ones can't possibly be any worse than Judd Winick or Jeph Loeb. Let them create brand new characters and give them some real marketing support.

1) Force Paul Levitz into retirement.

12 comments:

Loren said...

Hey, Guy

Thanks for all that you've said about me and my blog. It means a lot to me. But, yeah...it's been a bit crazy and all on my blog the past few entries, huh? Although, I'll admit that anything that engages discussion about the issue about diversity is a good thing. I started the blog not knowing if anybody would want to participate in such a discussion and I'm quite happy that there seems to be lots of people who've joined it -- included yourself who's comments are always appreciated.

Okay, now on to the excellent 5 steps to diversifying the DC Universe...

5) Yeah, I agree. I understand why they did it and can't say that I blame them. It's a somewhat misguided approach by saying, "Love these characters, they're minorities now." Honestly, though, in terms of pure enjoyment, I actually have loved The All-New Atom, Blue Beetle, and Firestorm. They're some of my favorite titles and it saddens me that they're all on the chopping block (er...well...one has been chopped).

4) John Stewart is one of those characters that seems to do well everywhere else, so I don't understand why the main universe can't utilize him as well as other places. I agree with you and Cheryl who commented on my blog -- let's make John the main GL.

3) I say make Earth-D, which appeared in Marv Wolfman's Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis On Infinite Earths where all the main heroes were minorities, one of the 52 multiple earths that are going to be in play. It had a black Superman and Supergirl and a Japanese American Flash. I'd really like to see this universe playing a bigger part in whatever's going to happen.

2) Absolutely YES.

1) I'm not going to comment on this one because I never want anybody to lose their job. But...:)

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Earth-D, you say? I had no idea such a place ever existed.

[Googles...]

The Justice Alliance! Tanaka Rei! Posthumously debuted in 1999 retcon, 13 years after it was destroyed offscreen in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Sigh...

Still, I'm going to have to track that mini-series down! (Was it any good?) Hopefully Superboy punched those walls hard enough that they can return in some form or another.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Guy,
Yes, indeed, hire more writers!!! Mr. Reads and I, just ten minutes ago, tried to name more than 5 women writers in comic books today.
We only came up with 3.
Great post!
Ciao,
Amy, who reminds the Publishers that she is, indeed, quite available

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

There's a ton of women writers out there working in comics, just not too many doing stuff for DC and Marvel, even on a freelance basis. And while I'm sure there's many who'd have no interest, the difference between having a "passion for" diversity and a "commitment to" it is that with the latter, you go out and find them.

Loren said...

Guy,

The Legends of the DC Universe: Crisis On Infinite Earths was actually a one book special. Rumor has it that Marv Wolfman was hoping that, as a result of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a merged Earth would have more diversity in it and that some major characters would have reflected a more real society. The only character to, sort of, get a revamp of such a sort was Wonder Woman who they ultimately made more Greek. Anyway, Earth-D represents the Earth he felt New Earth should have been like.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Ah, Marv! He's one of comics' real stand-up guys. I'd love to see a DCU with him and Tony Isabella running things, and a team of fresh new writers given the creative freedom (and solid contracts) to crank out new stories of all genres and styles. That'd shake the DCU up real good without any concern for it losing its sense of history. If only...

Amy Reads said...

Hi Guy,
There's a ton of women writers out there working in comics, just not too many doing stuff for DC and Marvel, even on a freelance basis. And while I'm sure there's many who'd have no interest, the difference between having a "passion for" diversity and a "commitment to" it is that with the latter, you go out and find them.

Yes, exactly! And I did mean the big publishing houses like DC and Marvel. I think women writers are starting to corner the webcomic market, and huzzah indeed for that!
Ciao,
Amy

Tim O'Neil said...

The mistake DC made with Static was that they didn't own the character and thus had no reason to promote him above and beyond a few (ahem) token gestures.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Tim: I was obliquely referring to this with the Static reference. Also, I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Milestone owns the copyrights to their characters but DC owns the trademarks, so there'd have to be some mutual agreement for either side to do anything with them in comics.

James said...

Guy,

I totally agree with point #2, but I would add that the writers should offer stories about minority characters who deal with their identities in the context of larger stories. For example, a story where John Stewart saves NYC from Sinestro on national television, but drains his ring in the process and needs to get across town. Next, a cameraman shoots disheartening (but strangely comical) footage where Stewart can't catch a taxi like Danny Glover.

I would love a story where a Black metahuman realizes that no matter how many supervillains he defeats for the public good, the public's racism still affects his life.

I certainly don't want minority writers hamstrung by having to promote identity politics stories only, but if minority writers force minority characters to deal with their inherent identities, cool. If not, then it's still great to hire them, but as a comic consumer, I don't really benefit.

occasional superheroine said...

From my observations, I think #2 on your list is the most important -- more diversity in writers and editors. Diversity in comics can't be mandated in a memo or quickly tossed together whenever somebody levels a charge of bias. It must flow organically from the creators. One day I'll write a post on this. In the meantime -- good work bringing these topics out into the open.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

James: I totally agree with you, and as Valerie pointed out, diversity can't simply be mandated, it has to be organic. A diverse staff will organically produce diverse stories.

I find it interesting, though, that there always seems to be a caveat when it comes to minority writers, that whole "as long as they're not pushing an agenda" disclaimer. EVERYBODY has an agenda of some sort, whether conciously or subconciously. It's just that the average white male's agenda typically mirrors what we all see everyday, so it's not as glaring. For some, at least. I find it somewhat blinding on a regular basis.

Valerie: It's always good to hear from someone who's actually been on the inside and I look forward (with a bit of dread that comes from expecting my worst suspicions to be confirmed, unfortunately) to your thoughts and observations on this particular matter.

Keep up the great work on the blog, BTW; you've been an inspiration!