This video calling for diversity in comics has been doing the rounds lately and obviously getting a lot of reactions, which is pretty inevitable since it’s deliberately provocative stuff. It seems like the most common reactions are along the lines of…

“yeah, I get what you’re saying, but do you really have to insult a genre and all the creators involved in it, just in order to get your point across?”

“practise what you preach, why is a creator working on indie superhero comics calling for ‘diversity’ when he doesn’t provide it?”

“instead of pointing out flaws in the industry, highlight qualities and strengths instead!”

…all of which have a point. But no matter how much I agree with these reactions, I also can’t help agreeing with the video! It also has a point, and no matter how crudely made, it’s an important one. If you strip away everything in the video except for the statistics, you’re left with a very odd truth: Comics is a storytelling medium capable of depicting pretty much anything, and telling pretty much any story in any genre to any audience, but almost all the money in English language comics is funnelled through two publishers who publish essentially one genre, distributed by one distributor to a niche audience through specialist stores.

Take a minute to really think about that. Forget how we got here and what’s keeping us here and see where we are, and it’s jaw-dropping. It’s like a fucking huge elephant in the room… everyone can feel it, but many are reluctant to talk about it, most likely because they’re friends with it.

The major hurdle in coming to fully appreciate this odd picture is assumed superiority or moral high-ground. It seems that by campaigning for more diversity, you’re doing the “right” thing, and putting down all those people doing the “wrong” thing: superhero comics become the enemy, as does everyone who works on them. The implication that’s hard to avoid is that anyone who aspires to work for DC or Marvel or superheroes in general is poisoning the industry, and if people calling for diversity really think that, then no wonder there are so many people reaching for a contrary opinion when they hear someone being loud about it.

But I really don’t think that’s right: it’s perfectly possible to want something different without actively hating how things are. Diversifying doesn’t necessarily make things better (that’s a matter of opinion), itjust makes things bigger, which means that more people with different tastes can find something they love in comics.It’s possible to admit that DC/Marvel have a stranglehold on the industry whilst acknowledging the hard work and success of other smaller publishers, and the good work that comes out of the big two. I hope it’s also possible to make noise about this issue of diversification without pissing creators off, or pissing over their personal tastes.

Seeing this video and the reactions to it has made me come to a tipping point. I don’t want to piss anyone off, but I do want to support the message. The comics I like reading and the comics I want to make fall outside what is currently lucrative, but I’m going to give it a try anyway, and I want to encourage other people to do the same, even if it leads to us all going bankrupt!

Comments

  1. emma vieceli says:

    What a lot comes down to is audience. Readers need to adjust their thinking as much as creators, if not more, if any true diversity is going to survive in the industry.
    This includes buyers putting their hands in their pockets or on their ‘like’ buttons (lol) for original art as much as they might for yet another fanart…I was inspired to rant a bit about this with Pud after the AWA debates going on about their Artists Alley. It’s so sad that artists who are hoping to make money from art would be so hard hit by a limit on fanart, but I can see why they’d feel that way and, in that case, it’s the audience who are to blame.

    I won’t delve too much here, but yeah – in short: Agreed ^_^
    And diversity does not mean ‘slag off what’s there’ – you’re right. It means ‘build on what’s there and spread out’. It’s an inclusive term. It’s frustrating that some people aren’t seeing that.

  2. Oh man, I’ve been noodling around the idea of posting a response to this too, since I watched the video and read so many blogs and tweets, and had several discussions about it…. yeah after reading this I’m moved to write a response!

  3. aqws says:

    So superheroes are back in vogue thanks to the movies and Marvel & DC have tunnel vision for the spandex.

    But to be honest I feel like we have more- I guess you’d call it “pulp fiction” graphic novels and comics than ever before.

    We have a lot more pulp now, what with Manga and scott Pilgrim and webcomics and so-on. They’re still “fantastic tales” but they’re romance, or sci-fi or fantasy. Not exactly rocket science, just good pulpy fiction.
    I see the very fact that Freak Angels exists as testament to this.

    I feel like everyone is forgetting what a decade of foil covered tiny-waisted women feels like.
    Marvel reprinted “Skydoll”, and “Universal War One” from Soleil a few years back. Again, Fantastic Tales- but not superheroes.

    One day we’d like comics (and Manga) readers to leave Pulp for the wide world of anything and everything, but I really think we’re moving into the world of pulp fiction slowly but quite successfully.

    Maybe the video should’ve been a celebration of that and of Marvel and DC’s contributions. Still, a call to arms is always appreciated.

    ~John~

  4. TeamSmithy says:

    The major criticism I’ve seen of the statistics on show is that they only represent the direct market sales of floppies (or singles, or whatever the hell we’re calling them nowadays). Maybe people are focusing on such a narrow field (which doesn’t seem to be particularly healthy financially for anyone at the moment) that they’re not considering the other formats out there where they might have more success putting out non-superhero work. The fixation on monthly issues seems born more of nostalgia than anything else and might be the thing standing in the way of more diversity in comics instead of some kind of supposed diabolical superhero Illuminati. It’s a precise market place based around superheroes and movie memorabilia tat if you’re not selling superheroes or movie memorabilia tat you’re going to have a hard time of it. You can either tough it out or find another way.

    This same argument for diversifying comics genre pops up pretty frequently, frankly I preferred the ‘New Mainstream’ movement from a few years ago. It may have inspired some incredibly dull and lackluster books but at least it was focused on creating something and not just whining that you should have more money and that ‘the man’ was keeping you down.

    (I apologise if this makes no sense, my copy editing leaves a lot amount to be desired.)

  5. Rainbow says:

    There’s already diversity in comics, unfortunately yhe market is dominated by the costume-shperhero kind, maybe because is that the general public wants. I’ve read traditional as well as Indie comics, including gay comics (Cavalcade of Boys by Tim Fish is great!) and Science Fiction comics by the French Leo that doesn’t feature superheroes. My latest discoveries are Freakangels, that I’m loving tanks of your art (and Warren writings, obviously) and the strange Cerebus of Dave Sim.If one is willing to explore, as I’m doing, the comics world, he/she has all he diversity he/she can ever want!

  6. Anonymous says:

    The superhero aspect of comics will always dominate in my opinion.

    The reason being is the type audience it attracts. It’s the kids just finding out about the genre that drive the industry in that direction. That group tends to devour anything they can get their hands on until they reach a certain age and then you get a large percentage that tire of it and move on and away from the genre entirely.

    Another percentage stays with it but their tastes turn to something more mature. The latter is far smaller than the former. It’s just a normal progression for the audience that will consume this type of work. Heck I remember spending every dime of my paper route money when I was eleven on the latest superhero comic from Marvel each week for years. Once I got older I bought far fewer comics as my tastes moved towards the “graphic novels” with more mature themes and content.

    So, is it any wonder the big two know where the money is to be made? Or where the talent wishes to concentrate effort? You can’t have one without the other in my opinion. Sort of a Yin and Yang thing. I say long live The Incredible Hulk, “Hulk Smash!” :) and Freak Angels. You CAN love both.

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