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!