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Is the lack of racial/cultural diversity in mainstream comics a problem?
MasonEasley
post May 12 2011, 03:01 AM
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A very interesting article emerged on a blog that I read from time to time. It's entitled; Race + Comics: When is Diversity ‘Contrived’?. Basically it talks about the pretty apparent whitewashing of American comic characters, and the call to create a "black Avengers" team, something that I think is pretty dumb for multiple reasons. The main reason being that there shouldn't be a black Avenger team because something like that just sounds terrible and contrived, and the other reason being that in 2011 America, the main Avenger team shouldn't be so mono-racial that we actually need a black Avenger team.

In 1990 when I started reading X-Men, the roster looked like this;



Now from my understanding, the team isn't nearly as diverse as it was back then. That was 20 years ago, when the US population was a lot less diverse than it is now.

In modern America, White children in the minority in 10 states, and the white majority is expected to become a minority population within the next few decades. The recent film, Fast Five had a bigger opening than Thor at the domestic box office, and the former featured a multiracial cast in the multiracial city of Rio De Janeiro.

My point is; X-Men pulled me in when I was a kid because it mirrored my America. My America 20 years ago was a pretty diverse place. I never ran into any Cajuns, but there were a lot of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and white people. The America I live in now is even more diverse. I live around Africans, Caribbean people, Hispanics, Italians, East Indians, etc. and I live in Ohio! Yet I pick up a copy of Avengers and this is the team;



If I was a kid, that wouldn't pull me in. Frankly, it doesn't pull me in now.

I don't think we need a black Avenger team. However, I do think we need a few more people of color on the Avengers (and other groups). Especially if that comic is supposed to reflect a world like our own.

This post has been edited by MasonEasley: May 12 2011, 03:02 AM


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Guest_cougar18_*
post May 12 2011, 05:04 AM
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If one checks out DC's titles, there is a significantly more prominent number of minorities present in their books. Yet when one looks at Marvel, they seem to think that shoving an alien into the team covers the whole 'minority' slot.

It is sad, too, when one looks at that old X-men cover, they see a multi cultural group of different races and nationalities. Irish, English, Asian, Black, Canadian, Native American, American...and those are just the guys and gals from Earth. If they look at the titles now...it's ridiculous how little minorities are present.

Apparently Cardiac, an african american, is being rumoured to be returning to MArvel comic books. Hope he gets more respect this time out.

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ChadStrohl
post May 12 2011, 08:21 AM
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This is a tough one to examine. There's so many layers here that it's hard to really get a grasp of the why's and why not's.

Claremont nailed it with his X-Men team back in the day, but he did it well. Nothing should be shoehorned in without some kind of point of reference or it does come off as some kind of placating move that seems more a gimmick than anything.

Honestly, I never gave much consideration that the X-Men (then) had so much cultural diversity. I just loved the characters. I never saw it as an issue of color or culture, though maybe that was just my naive youth shining through.

The second thing has to be the audience and the business side. If my memory serves correct, I read that the initial comics audience was made up primarily of suburban white kids and they were made by (predominantly) Jewish creators. That serves to explain why nearly every comic character reflected the same. It's kind of like asking why they're isn't any more cultural diversity in rap videos. It's all about the perception of the audience and what that culture appears to be. I never got into much of the burgeoning rap scene in the late 80's and early 90's because it wasn't speaking to me. But that's overgeneralizing I know, since the music industry is made up of many genres, wheras comics is not. I use it only as an example. I'm certain there has to be many unique forms of cultural traditions where diversity isn't questioned.

So while I celebrate the need for culture, I don't know if I buy into diversity (as defined by what I think it means today). That sounds terrible I know, but I'll try to explain. I adore culture and knowledge. I accept and make every effort to undrerstand the values of others and how they see the world around them. I do not, however, have to think like other cultures or adapt them to my way of thinking. That is what cultural diversity means to me. Culture and acceptance is a two way street and its a constant idealogical tug of war between acceptance and segregation, because we all struggle with both in nearly every aspect of our lives - that's how clubs and cliques and all that form. Because we celebrate our diversity by finding others who are not diverse. Strange yes, but real.

So, I don't think comics have been "whitewashed". I think they're just as white as they've ever been, because that's the shift to the norm as it stands with the audience in general. The change here must be two sided - and very chicken or egg. There must be creators that can show diversity and an audience that can or will accept it. I think this is a very doable thing as long as it's done with characterization and not plot. When a character acts, the audience is merely watching and learning. When a character is forcing a point, the audience will react much in the same way a teenager reacts to a scolding parent.... shut down.

So the challenge here is to creators to "speak the truth" and let the audience hear that truth. I don't want to cast labels on anything here, but I'll refer to The Samaritan (spotlight on Vic). When I read that I could tell it was very steeped in a culture that was not mine, but that did nothing to sway me for or against the story. It wasn't shoved down my throat nor was I asked to hold it on any higher or lower level than my own existence. It simply was. I was seeing something different and learning something in the process. And while the main character is not the same color as me, I could identify with his values, which is more important than skin color any day.

I'm not even really sure I've said anything important here, and I doubt I've answered the question, so I'll try the short answer...

Yes, it's a problem. No, it's not. Wait... maybe...

Yep. That's my answer.


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MasonEasley
post May 12 2011, 09:02 AM
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QUOTE (ChadStrohl @ May 12 2011, 10:21 AM) *
So while I celebrate the need for culture, I don't know if I buy into diversity (as defined by what I think it means today). That sounds terrible I know, but I'll try to explain. I adore culture and knowledge. I accept and make every effort to undrerstand the values of others and how they see the world around them. I do not, however, have to think like other cultures or adapt them to my way of thinking. That is what cultural diversity means to me. Culture and acceptance is a two way street and its a constant idealogical tug of war between acceptance and segregation, because we all struggle with both in nearly every aspect of our lives - that's how clubs and cliques and all that form. Because we celebrate our diversity by finding others who are not diverse. Strange yes, but real.

So, I don't think comics have been "whitewashed". I think they're just as white as they've ever been, because that's the shift to the norm as it stands with the audience in general. The change here must be two sided - and very chicken or egg. There must be creators that can show diversity and an audience that can or will accept it. I think this is a very doable thing as long as it's done with characterization and not plot. When a character acts, the audience is merely watching and learning. When a character is forcing a point, the audience will react much in the same way a teenager reacts to a scolding parent.... shut down.


Well, I disagree that they're as white as they've ever been. Again, there was lots of racial and cultural diversity in the X-books during the 90s, and a lot of that diversity got stripped away during the previous decade. One interesting thing you said was that the biggest audience for comics is suburban white kids. Interestingly, that's also the biggest audience for rap music, so "browning up" the teams wouldn't turn off the core audience of comics. In fact, it might actually cause the opposite reaction.

In any case, the late, great Dwayne McDuffie said it best;

"Comics themselves arenít essential. That said, itís important for fiction to reflect the world we all live in. And while all of us are comfortable identifying with characters of other races, itís equally important that people to see heroic images of themselves in comics and other media. It creates a powerful sense of validation."


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Greg G.
post May 12 2011, 09:25 AM
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It's funny looking at that X-Men cover, because to a non-comic reader most everybody on that cover looks Caucasian. Forge doesn't look Native American, Jubilee doesn't look Asian, and Psylocke - you could maybe argue she sort of looks Asian, but at first glace still looks white.

QUOTE (ChadStrohl @ May 12 2011, 10:21 AM) *
Honestly, I never gave much consideration that the X-Men (then) had so much cultural diversity. I just loved the characters. I never saw it as an issue of color or culture, though maybe that was just my naive youth shining through.


This, and I wouldn't say it's the naivete of youth. Racial diversity is something young people generally don't consider because you're still a clean slate and judging people based on who they are, not what they are.

As a child I always gravitated toward monster characters. Maybe it was because I got picked on and my identity / self esteem identified more with a Ghost Rider or Swamp Thing than a Superman or Batman. That's still there in me, and when I analyze it I find interesting contrasts between my self esteem and general sense of self worth.

One question I posed on another message board a few years back, because inevitably minority characters written / created by non-minorities come off as disingenuous or cliched stereotypes - should minority creators create characters that reflect their culture?

When was the last time you saw Jim Lee draw a Korean hero? How is it David Mack draws more sexy Asian ladies than Frank Cho? Why is the bulk of Fred Perry's Gold Digger cast Caucasian (not that it detracts from a book you should be reading, because it's super fun)?

Please don't take any of that as condemnation of these artists; but to me and my friends one of the biggest issues about minority characters in American comics is the lack of a character speaking a truth. It's why Milestone comics worked so well IMO.

Unfortunately, if I'm recalling correctly, it was also part of the reason Dwayne McDuffie was criticized for his JLA run ("He's adding too many minority characters") - despite the fact McDuffie has told some of the best Justice League stories of our time via JLA/JLU TV series. Everything I've read has been fun and Ed Benes. . . have you seen the amount of fine female posteriors he put to page? wink.gif

When Bishop first came out he was an awesome character, now he's just another bald angry black character.

The other part of coming up with a racially diverse comic is coming up with one like Milestone that's accessible to a broad audience, not just the 13% of America that is African American. Just by the numbers alone you're going to face an uphill battle.

So I'd like to turn the question around and ask - shouldn't minority creators being using their talent as the platform for delivering us cool minority characters, and not just another Asian that's good at martial arts that a white person may come up with?

Even Grant Morrisson fell back on awful stereotypes in his Final Crisis: Submit one shot. An arguably great writer falling back on the tired angry black man character archetype.

While one could argue there's a degree of truth to the stereotype; part of the purpose stories of icons and heroes is to raise the bar for folks to strive toward. So if you stay mired in the angry black man stereotype, you're not really showing young black readers another way.

If you don't believe a fictional character can be a role model then, look at the story of the guy who changed his legal name to Optimus Prime:

QUOTE
Prime opted to change his name on his 30th birthday in honor of the Transformer, who had filled the void left by his father's untimely death early in his childhood. Prime says that the real Optimus had become very much of an idealized replacement father and the values he stands for have made him the person that he is today - the cartoon character even was Prime's impetus for choosing to serve his country!


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Guest_cougar18_*
post May 12 2011, 09:27 AM
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QUOTE (ChadStrohl @ May 12 2011, 06:21 AM) *
This is a tough one to examine. There's so many layers here that it's hard to really get a grasp of the why's and why not's.

Claremont nailed it with his X-Men team back in the day, but he did it well. Nothing should be shoehorned in without some kind of point of reference or it does come off as some kind of placating move that seems more a gimmick than anything.

Honestly, I never gave much consideration that the X-Men (then) had so much cultural diversity. I just loved the characters. I never saw it as an issue of color or culture, though maybe that was just my naive youth shining through.

The second thing has to be the audience and the business side. If my memory serves correct, I read that the initial comics audience was made up primarily of suburban white kids and they were made by (predominantly) Jewish creators. That serves to explain why nearly every comic character reflected the same. It's kind of like asking why they're isn't any more cultural diversity in rap videos. It's all about the perception of the audience and what that culture appears to be. I never got into much of the burgeoning rap scene in the late 80's and early 90's because it wasn't speaking to me. But that's overgeneralizing I know, since the music industry is made up of many genres, wheras comics is not. I use it only as an example. I'm certain there has to be many unique forms of cultural traditions where diversity isn't questioned.

So while I celebrate the need for culture, I don't know if I buy into diversity (as defined by what I think it means today). That sounds terrible I know, but I'll try to explain. I adore culture and knowledge. I accept and make every effort to undrerstand the values of others and how they see the world around them. I do not, however, have to think like other cultures or adapt them to my way of thinking. That is what cultural diversity means to me. Culture and acceptance is a two way street and its a constant idealogical tug of war between acceptance and segregation, because we all struggle with both in nearly every aspect of our lives - that's how clubs and cliques and all that form. Because we celebrate our diversity by finding others who are not diverse. Strange yes, but real.

So, I don't think comics have been "whitewashed". I think they're just as white as they've ever been, because that's the shift to the norm as it stands with the audience in general. The change here must be two sided - and very chicken or egg. There must be creators that can show diversity and an audience that can or will accept it. I think this is a very doable thing as long as it's done with characterization and not plot. When a character acts, the audience is merely watching and learning. When a character is forcing a point, the audience will react much in the same way a teenager reacts to a scolding parent.... shut down.

So the challenge here is to creators to "speak the truth" and let the audience hear that truth. I don't want to cast labels on anything here, but I'll refer to The Samaritan (spotlight on Vic). When I read that I could tell it was very steeped in a culture that was not mine, but that did nothing to sway me for or against the story. It wasn't shoved down my throat nor was I asked to hold it on any higher or lower level than my own existence. It simply was. I was seeing something different and learning something in the process. And while the main character is not the same color as me, I could identify with his values, which is more important than skin color any day.

I'm not even really sure I've said anything important here, and I doubt I've answered the question, so I'll try the short answer...

Yes, it's a problem. No, it's not. Wait... maybe...

Yep. That's my answer.


Let's not forget that, but for an error on Michael Golden's part, Rogue would have been black. Original brief was "create a character who resembles Grace Jones (with a description of her style, but not that she was black)" but Golden, who wasn't following pop culture or whose hip and who isn't (more concerned with telling the story, and gathering reference. Gotta pay the bills) did not know who GJ was at the time. So he drew Rogue as a white woman. I guess they liked the look of her from Golden's designs, because they did not request a change. Possibly why Storm underwent a style change and started to look a little like Grace Jones (Mohawk and clothing, for example).
But that is what is so sad, Claremont and co were on the pulse of change, and diversity. Yes, one can say that race does not matter in relating to hero. I mean, I enjoy Spider-man as much as I did Static. I can relate to Hardware just as much as Iron Man. Yet both are racially different. One of the many, many reasons I liked JMS Supreme, was because he had a roster of characters who were total opposites of each other, and then stuck them in a team. We had two black characters with diametrically opposed origins, who had completely different views on society. One could very well have put Malcolm X to shame, while the other did not see colour at all. And it made sense to have different races in a team, and it still makes sense.
Yes, the individual hero can come in all shapes and sizes and race, but what about the teams? Look at any sports team, they will see a diverse range of races and religions. Yet look at the Avengers pic posted by Mason, and compare it to the X-men image from about 20 years ago.
Avengers is all white people. Yet the X-men is multi cultural, and that's before one leaves Earth.

It seems strange that a team with such a huge roster as Avengers, would be so one race.
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MasonEasley
post May 12 2011, 10:08 AM
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QUOTE (Greg G. @ May 12 2011, 11:25 AM) *
It's funny looking at that X-Men cover, because to a non-comic reader most everybody on that cover looks Caucasian. Forge doesn't look Native American, Jubilee doesn't look Asian, and Psylocke - you could maybe argue she sort of looks Asian, but at first glace still looks white.


Wasn't Jubilee half Asian?

Anyway, Storm was still the leader of the team at the time, and having a black woman leading a mainstream comic team was a pretty powerful cultural statement. And no one had a problem with it. X-Men was arguably the top selling comic in the world at that time.

I think diversity was a personal thing for Claremont, because when he came back to start X-Treme X-Men, he took nearly all of the minority characters with him to start his new book. He didn't only create racial minority characters, but cultural minority characters as well, like Gambit, Rogue, Cannonball, etc. He even took great pains to put their unique dialects into the book. I remember reading through X-Men and trying to decipher what the hell Gambit was saying with his thick Cajun accent. It simply added so much depth to the character, and a richness to the team. X-Men and other comic superhero groups simply don't have that anymore. Everyone looks alike, talks alike, etc. Its simply very boring.

I definitely agree that the last thing that should be done is to shoehorn minority characters into comics just for the hell of it. However, it can be done correctly, and done very well.

Your example with Bishop's character is spot-on, and a prime example of a problem with modern comics. I'm pretty sure they killed the character off to boot. What a waste.

This post has been edited by MasonEasley: May 12 2011, 10:10 AM


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Greg G.
post May 12 2011, 11:08 AM
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QUOTE (cougar18 @ May 12 2011, 11:27 AM) *
Let's not forget that, but for an error on Michael Golden's part, Rogue would have been black. Original brief was "create a character who resembles Grace Jones (with a description of her style, but not that she was black)" but Golden, who wasn't following pop culture or whose hip and who isn't (more concerned with telling the story, and gathering reference. Gotta pay the bills) did not know who GJ was at the time. So he drew Rogue as a white woman. I guess they liked the look of her from Golden's designs, because they did not request a change. Possibly why Storm underwent a style change and started to look a little like Grace Jones (Mohawk and clothing, for example).

It seems strange that a team with such a huge roster as Avengers, would be so one race.


Wow, I never heard that Rogue origin story. Cool stuff, and yes I can see the 80's Grace Jones in Morlock Ororo.

To be fair to Avengers, Luke Cage was a pretty prominent cast member for a number of years; and doesn't Marvel have at least three Avengers books going on right now? Sorry I don't follow the series.

QUOTE (MasonEasley @ May 12 2011, 12:08 PM) *
Wasn't Jubilee half Asian?

Anyway, Storm was still the leader of the team at the time, and having a black woman leading a mainstream comic team was a pretty powerful cultural statement. And no one had a problem with it. X-Men was arguably the top selling comic in the world at that time.


I'm not sure about Jubilee. She was always an annoying Dazzler knock off dressed like Robin IMO.

Sorry I'm going to harp on the cover you posted, but to the casual passerby you wouldn't even see Storm on the cover unless you folded out the cover. Plus with everybody dressed the same, you might guess the leader of the group is the guy with the fancy helmet. Not the woman who doesn't appear on the cover when it sits on the stand.

It's getting into minutia and nitpicking. A cover illustration is supposed to be captivating, and at least it used to, and tell a bit of a story / hint at the contents of the comic.

I'm hard pressed to think of a cover from that era that says to me "lead by a black woman". Which circles back to that old saying about judging a book by it's cover. It's tough to visually advertise how diverse / wonderful your comic is with a cover in most cases.

All this talk about Storm has me thinking on how annoying it was for me when Marvel paired her off with Black Panther. For two decades when I was reading X comics she had a long standing relationship with a Native American, ignoring any of the flings she may have had with Logan or others; and all those years later Marvel does what? Pairs her off with Black Panther seemingly out of the blue.

I wasn't reading the comics, but it sat wrong with me. Maybe if I was reading the comics it would be a different story, but I admit to no longer really caring about any of these characters. I'll follow creators and enjoy what they do, but when they're off the character I'm done with it.

Though even that's tough to do. I love Humberto Ramos, but I find Dan Slott's Spiderman and modern Spiderman in general tough to stomach.


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doombug
post May 12 2011, 01:35 PM
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So you ignored New Avengers completely than? Or Alpha Flight? Or Avengers Academy? Or Thunderbolts?

There are plenty of teams with many racially and cultural diverse team members on them right now.


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ChadStrohl
post May 12 2011, 03:04 PM
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QUOTE (MasonEasley @ May 12 2011, 11:02 AM) *
Well, I disagree that they're as white as they've ever been. Again, there was lots of racial and cultural diversity in the X-books during the 90s, and a lot of that diversity got stripped away during the previous decade. One interesting thing you said was that the biggest audience for comics is suburban white kids. Interestingly, that's also the biggest audience for rap music, so "browning up" the teams wouldn't turn off the core audience of comics. In fact, it might actually cause the opposite reaction.

In any case, the late, great Dwayne McDuffie said it best;

"Comics themselves arenít essential. That said, itís important for fiction to reflect the world we all live in. And while all of us are comfortable identifying with characters of other races, itís equally important that people to see heroic images of themselves in comics and other media. It creates a powerful sense of validation."


Good point and even better quote. smile.gif


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Guest_cougar18_*
post May 12 2011, 04:10 PM
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QUOTE (Greg G. @ May 12 2011, 10:08 AM) *
Wow, I never heard that Rogue origin story. Cool stuff, and yes I can see the 80's Grace Jones in Morlock Ororo.

To be fair to Avengers, Luke Cage was a pretty prominent cast member for a number of years; and doesn't Marvel have at least three Avengers books going on right now? Sorry I don't follow the series.



I'm not sure about Jubilee. She was always an annoying Dazzler knock off dressed like Robin IMO.

Sorry I'm going to harp on the cover you posted, but to the casual passerby you wouldn't even see Storm on the cover unless you folded out the cover. Plus with everybody dressed the same, you might guess the leader of the group is the guy with the fancy helmet. Not the woman who doesn't appear on the cover when it sits on the stand.

It's getting into minutia and nitpicking. A cover illustration is supposed to be captivating, and at least it used to, and tell a bit of a story / hint at the contents of the comic.

I'm hard pressed to think of a cover from that era that says to me "lead by a black woman". Which circles back to that old saying about judging a book by it's cover. It's tough to visually advertise how diverse / wonderful your comic is with a cover in most cases.

All this talk about Storm has me thinking on how annoying it was for me when Marvel paired her off with Black Panther. For two decades when I was reading X comics she had a long standing relationship with a Native American, ignoring any of the flings she may have had with Logan or others; and all those years later Marvel does what? Pairs her off with Black Panther seemingly out of the blue.

I wasn't reading the comics, but it sat wrong with me. Maybe if I was reading the comics it would be a different story, but I admit to no longer really caring about any of these characters. I'll follow creators and enjoy what they do, but when they're off the character I'm done with it.

Though even that's tough to do. I love Humberto Ramos, but I find Dan Slott's Spiderman and modern Spiderman in general tough to stomach.


The Golden Rogue story is taken from his book, Excess: The Art of Michael Golden. Lots of information in it, including how he had a bad motorcycle accident,and believes he saw God. Cool book. And yes, Jubilee is either half or fully Asian.

Yeah, the Storm and Black Panther relationship. It was not entirely new, like some would think. I mean, I remember it being mentioned in an X-men comic a good few years ago, and I believe Chris Priest utilised it also when he was writing BP. But Storm had a few relationships, like the one you mentioned, and apparently the movie to have them marry was a Reggie Hudlin/ Eric Dickey idea. The most irritating thing about it is that it has become far more problematic than the MJ/ Peter Parker marriage ever was(and it is only a problem when written by a bad writer ie Howard MAckie, Joe Quesada) and no sooner did they marry but Black Panther had to go away, the writers had to split them up for story's sake.

The more irritating thing about it was they gave writing duties to two guys who think because they are black, they are the only ones able to write black characters. Yet they fail because they don't research the characters or the background, just decide to write it like they want to write it.

Thank you Joe Quesada, you complete idiot.

This post has been edited by cougar18: May 12 2011, 04:12 PM
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MasonEasley
post May 12 2011, 04:24 PM
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QUOTE (doombug @ May 12 2011, 03:35 PM) *
So you ignored New Avengers completely than? Or Alpha Flight? Or Avengers Academy? Or Thunderbolts?


Yes, I ignored the B and C teams. There's no reason why there shouldn't be more diversity on the A teams.


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MasonEasley
post May 12 2011, 04:38 PM
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QUOTE (Greg G. @ May 12 2011, 01:08 PM) *
To be fair to Avengers, Luke Cage was a pretty prominent cast member for a number of years; and doesn't Marvel have at least three Avengers books going on right now? Sorry I don't follow the series.


To be fair, there should be more than just Luke Cage in the Avengers.

QUOTE
Sorry I'm going to harp on the cover you posted, but to the casual passerby you wouldn't even see Storm on the cover unless you folded out the cover. Plus with everybody dressed the same, you might guess the leader of the group is the guy with the fancy helmet. Not the woman who doesn't appear on the cover when it sits on the stand.


Fair enough, but if you read that book, you'd realize pretty quickly who leads the team. Like within the first couple of pages quickly. It was never really a question, despite what was on the cover.


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Greg G.
post May 12 2011, 08:45 PM
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QUOTE (MasonEasley @ May 12 2011, 06:38 PM) *
To be fair, there should be more than just Luke Cage in the Avengers.


Sorry, that's me deferring a proper defense to someone who reads Avengers. THere could be more minorities in there; but I don't read the book so I can't say.

Only avengers book I've read is Cho's brief run on Mighty.


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tbrotomo
post May 13 2011, 11:25 AM
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It's important for writers and artists to tell the stories they want to tell with the characters that poke into their heads. It's not important what race or creed a character is, just that it works with the story.

Of course, with the Big 2, wrtiers/artists don't even get to tell what they want to tell. They get to tell FEAR ITSELF or FLASHPOINT x-over! That's the real problem.


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LurkD
post May 13 2011, 06:39 PM
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The diversity in the X-Men goes all the way back to the introduction of the New X-Men in 1975. Sunfire is Japanese, Storm is a black woman from Africa(needs to be said), and while many of the rest are white, they are from diverse backgrounds; Germany, Russia, Ireland, Canada, etc.. While these were initially token characters, they quickly demonstrated their unique diversity and broad range of appeal. For the most part, the intent was to make the X-Men diverse to demonstrate that mutation crossed all boundaries, race, creed, etc.. Soon, relatively speaking, the diversity of the X-Men and their universe increased severalfold; the New Mutants included a black from Brazil, a Scottish girl, an Amerind girl, a Vietnamese girl, and a southern boy from Kentucky. Less than a year into the series we got a new character of a (Nova) Roman national. Diversity was shown to be more about culture than skin color. And that it's more important to think of it that way.

Apropos Rogue being meant to be black; I've never heard that story either, but I am very familiar with the fact that Dazzler was supposed to be black, and very much in the Grace Jones mold, and Jim Shooter wouldn't let Claremont and Byrne do her that way. Shooter insisted that she be white. If you don't believe me, reread Uncanny X-Men 130, the issue that introduces her, and read her dialog. John Byrne has been saying for about 30 years now that he had begun drawing her as a Grace Jones-style black woman, Claremont had already scripted her that way, and most of the issue had been lettered before it was sent back to Byrne to redraw Dazzler as not only white, but with the long hair. That's why her dialog 'sounds' so odd.
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wwi3313
post May 15 2011, 10:29 AM
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As a black creator, there is an undercurrent of expectation that we're going to INFUSE the industry with black characters, specifically from within our own culture. Last year, I was brought to task by a black woman who stated that she would never let her children read comics BECAUSE there were no good, black role-models for them to relate to. And honestly, I had to stifle a laugh -- that level of relatable acceptability is extremely SUPERFICIAL and should be avoided at all costs, ESPECIALLY by minority creators.

It seems odd to demand that the X-men (specifically), carry more minority characters when the key aspect of the series is that "ALL" of the main characters ARE a minority. Does the double-dipping of black, Asian, etc. characters really give more credence to that idea? Not really, no. Its why, even without the racial alignment, the ideologies of Prof X and Magneto have been compared to those of MLK and Malcolm X for DECADES! The concepts are there, but they are going to be masked, not because of a societal conspiracy or anything, but because we're still using the same characters from 50 years ago, when such diversity was generally UNacceptable.

The Avengers have had a few minority characters, but honestly, there have been even fewer who've resonated with the mainstream readership to warrant a significant place on the team (or in solo titles). Part of that does have to with stereotyped dialogue and mannerisms, or using the term 'black' in their name for only OBVIOUS reasons (Black Panther gets a pass because that's an ACTUAL creature...but c'mon, BLACK Goliath and BLACK Lightning?!), but the truth is, you can't come up with a really cool minority character, by trying to make one -- it has to be someone who resonates and just so happens to not be white.

In reference to The Samaritan (Thanks Chad!), the decision to make Smith black had nothing to do with me, but EVERYTHING to do with what he was doing in the story. Communities, particular poor ones, tend to be made of up of similar people -- Smith needed to match his surroundings and since a vast part of who he was dealing with were going to be minorities, I thought it would be a little disengenuine to make Smith white. A major theme of the series is displayed on the cover of the first issue, with the sign that reads: "Will Save the World for You." Smith has to be a part of their world for this to be true and as a society, we wouldn't presume that a man of Smith's stature and abilities would be helping people the way he does if he were white -- he'd don a costume of primary colors and make an open display about his presence in the world, right? Because make no mistake, Smith IS Superman, but the difference isn't black or white, Smith is a much more humanized version of Superman, acting on his actual feelings and not a societally-sanctioned moral code.

I don't think black characters need to be created for black readers to resonate with, and the only way to affective communicate a minority character's accessibility is to have them regularly intermingle with characters of other backgrounds!



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MasonEasley
post May 15 2011, 11:28 AM
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To be fair, when I say minority characters, I'm not just talking about black people. In the case of the X-Men, it seems bizarre that in a world that mirrors our own, there aren't more Chinese and Indian mutants, since those population groups are the largest in our world, and would more than likely be the largest in the MU was well. Yet there are no Indian or Chinese mutants in the group.

Again, its part of the reason you see the sales of these books declining. In a more diverse world, entertainment devices that don't better reflect the world that people live in lack believability and resonance.

Vic, your example with the black mom is kind of disappointing. Instead of trying not to laugh at her, you should have pointed out some comics that do provide positive black characters.


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wwi3313
post May 15 2011, 04:47 PM
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QUOTE (MasonEasley @ May 15 2011, 01:28 PM) *
To be fair, when I say minority characters, I'm not just talking about black people. In the case of the X-Men, it seems bizarre that in a world that mirrors our own, there aren't more Chinese and Indian mutants, since those population groups are the largest in our world, and would more than likely be the largest in the MU was well. Yet there are no Indian or Chinese mutants in the group.

Again, its part of the reason you see the sales of these books declining. In a more diverse world, entertainment devices that don't better reflect the world that people live in lack believability and resonance.

Vic, your example with the black mom is kind of disappointing. Instead of trying not to laugh at her, you should have pointed out some comics that do provide positive black characters.



Oh I totally did! I referenced the "Talented Tenth," a prominent concept promoted by W.E.B. DuBois' similarity to our great motto: "With Great Power...", I referenced the X-men and how it taught me how to still aim for prominence in a world that both hated and feared me, and how Batman taught me to overcome loss with dedication and hard work. I absolutely schooled her in that -- and got a $20 tip outta her for it!

As a reflection of world events, I would spark the range of diversity of mutations, not specifically on the basis of population numbers, but environmental stimuli (toxic exposure, psychological/physical trauma, etc)...definitely grounds to have a more diverse group. I think the best representation of that idea in X-men was during Morrison's New X-men run and what he did with the X-Corps.


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Dianthrax
post May 16 2011, 05:00 AM
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Do any of you remember at one point in the 90s when Pizza Hut had this X-Men combo deal thing where you bought a personal pizza and could get the animated X-Men on a VHS tape? They had a set of 2 (I still have mine biggrin.gif ) and each had 2 X-Men episodes. They also had a little intro thingy by Stan Lee answering a question, like why they were given the name "X-Men" or discussing aspects of the comics. One thing he discussed was the diversity of the team- all races, both sexes, all religions. all ages, all working together because they had a common goal...

This was in the 90s, and I know the forum started out discussing current race issues in comics but when the X-Men came up over that picture I felt like I had to say my piece: I have a soft-spot for The X-Men because they are the reason I started reading comics.

Diversity isn't just about race- there are a lot of things that go into having a diverse team the represents a slice of society. For example, when discussion Storm it was pointed out that it makes a difference that she's black from Africa (though only her mother was Kenyan; her father was American and she was actually born in Harlem in NYC and then brought to Cairo.) And there were mutants from all over with all kinds of backgrounds and family lives: Storm's parent's died in a plane attack/crash leaving her an orphan at 6. Jubilee is Chinese- American & had a comfy life in Beverly Hills up until her parents were killed, Angel, Banshee, the 2nd Thunderbird (who is Indian btw) and Psylocke were all born into families with money, while Colossus lived/worked on a communist farming collective and had a little sister, and then Nightcrawler was raised in a Circus by his father's lover after his mother tried to kill him. The first Thunderbird lived on an Apache reservation until he was drafted, Cyclops parents put him and his brother in the only parachute of their crashing plane & died, and Shadowcat's family met Xavier & let her go.

There's also a wide variety of religions: Shadowcat & Magneto are Jewish & her grandfather and Magneto himself lived through the Concentration Camps. Nightcrawler was a devout Catholic, the 2nd Thunderbird was Hindu, and there was a Muslim character later too. The members all join the X-Men at various ages and levels of maturity. Plus they're all under the tutelage of a guy who's bald and handicapped! X-Men also had some of the first openly gay characters too. Northstar from Alpha Flight was supposedly gay since his creation in what? 79? But he came out officially in 1992- right in the middle of the HIV/AIDS panic too. Then Richter and Shatterstar have a full-on kiss (I think it might have been Marvel's first, or the first in mainstream comics or something. Not sure tho)

And it didn't even get discussed as a separate point but since it makes a difference to me and made a big difference to me as a kid when it came to what comics I chose to read:

The X-Men had women! Awesome looking, ass-kicking, take-charge, take-on-the-men-and-win, women! With awesome hair and cool costumes; many of which comprised of pants! And there were also girls!! Young women, not quite adults but still part of the stories and still kicking ass. THAT is what I wanted to see at age 10; something I could relate to! God X-Men were so awesome! Good times... laugh.gif
The I go away to college for a bit, next thing I know all the cool characters are dead!!! Wtf?!
So NOT awesome mad.gif

Also I just want to say that the drawings of women in comic books that I saw from age 10 onward did not "damage my self image" or give me "false expectations" of what I should look like when I got older or any of that bullshit people are always blaming them for.

Yes, even at age 10 I realized that giant boobs with 5ft long legs and a wasp's waist on a 6ft tall frame is not a realistic female body. It's very visually appealing, though. You know what else isn't realistic? A 6ft6 tall guy with a 12-pack, 20in biceps, and a waist that's about 1/3 the width of his chest/shoulders. Where's the complaints that comics ruined young boys self-images by giving them too high of standards for all wanting Cyclops or Bishop's body?? Blowing shit up with blasts from your eyes isn't all that realistic either, which makes sense because all of it is FANTASY and I knew that!

Unlike fashion magazines that use lighting and computers to make "real" people look even smaller or bigger or more perfect, which I did NOT know about at age 10, and then present the whole thing as though it's fact and 100% based in the real world with real women. Those magazines damaged my self-esteem & made me miserable after reading them. Comic books made me feel stronger and proud to be a woman and MORE sure of myself, not less.

So all the hairy-legged uber-feminists who complain about how chicks are portrayed in comics can go suck it!!

(Which if they did, would probably be their first time wink.gif
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