Intermission (personal commentary)Posted: 07/22/2013
Today, I saw the kickstarter for Comics Undressed, a documentary about the gender and racial discrimination in comics. If you think it’s a worthy endeavor, totally contribute to the cause because they deserve to have this documentary made. But while I agree completely with their notion that comics are dominated by mainly white men, I believe they’re missing a vital perspective of their argument. Full disclosure: I am a white man. As they state on their website:
Comics, heralded as a white heterosexual masculine medium, has in fact a diverse range of contributors, many of whom are women, non-white, and/or do not conform to the binary constructs of sexual or gender identity. However, such voices often go unrecognized or are demeaned in mainstream media. Moreover, the lack of equal economic opportunities for a wide range of creators stifles the output of our culturally diverse society, which in turn is reflected in negative or absent portrayals of women, queers, and people of color in the content of the medium itself.
Like I said, I’m not arguing about the people creating the comics themselves, but I do have a point to make about the lack of non-white, female, or gay characters populating comics today. And it comes down to the notion that as creative, artistic, and passionate comics are, they are (and always will be) first and foremost a business. Look, here’s the most recent Justice League lineup from the New 52:
Yes, one woman and one African-American. Zero gay men or women. But you realize why, right? All those white male straight superheroes have been around for 60 to 70 years. We grew up immersed in Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman. And unfortunately, those are also the characters that sell the best. We can protest all we want, but comics are essentially adolescent in nature, and the audience of comics will almost always be made up of mostly teenage boys. They love Superman. They love Batman. And they love skimpy outfits.
We shouldn’t be focusing on a “comics hate women, minorities, and homosexuals” because victimizing won’t accomplish our goal. Instead, we need to focus our energy entirely on how to get teenage boys to buy comics starring women, minorities, and homosexuals.
It’s insane to think Marvel and DC are misogynistic, racist, homophobic companies. You don’t really believe that, do you? But I do know that as much as they want diversity to spread to their artistic medium, they want to make money more. Business first and foremost. If they believe a Superman movie will make more money than a Wonder Woman movie, well, you know what they’ll choose. It’s not about diversity or agenda, it’s about profit. We can’t hate them because of how capitalism operates.
I completely and totally support what the Comics Undressed documentary wishes to show the world, but the problem solves itself in one simple step: readers buy more comics starring women, minorities, and homosexuals and more comics starring women, minorities, and homosexuals will be available. The problem has never been the industry. It’s always been the audience. If that’s the main argument of Comics Undressed and not the victimization angle, then I take back what I say.
Thank you for indulging me. Tomorrow we’ll cover another white man, and I apologize in advance.