So, while I’ve been busy this past weekend, almost wishing that I were at San Diego Comic-Con to be amongst the hordes of my fellow lovers of the medium, I happened upon this post written by Khalil Kakarot Asadullah in the Facebook group Comic Nerds of Color. He had written, basically, a “Dear John” letter to the “Corporate Two,” in general, and DC in particular. Here is that letter now in all of its heartfelt glory:
Dear Dan DiDio,
The big two, Marvel and DC Comics have for years been a cornerstone of great ideas and stories that I have loved since my childhood. Some of my favorite characters have been DC Comics characters, Nightwing and the Flash (Wally West). I personally was a little disappointed in the New 52 and the reboot of characters and altering their history. The New 52 was convoluted and seems haphazard with no true direction. In establishing the New 52 continuity, there was no continuity at all. Some stories were not even on the same time frame as some stories were five to seven years in the past while others were present, and the stories that were supposed to be in the past frequently referenced events that were supposed to have happened in the present.
Very confusing indeed.
This, however is not the main issue I have been having…
I applaud any true attempt at bringing diversity to comic books. The fact that Asian, Black, Hispanic and LBGT characters are under represented in comic books is a travesty in my eyes. Comics should represent the ultra diverse world that we live in, and it is about time that both Marvel and DC set the standard with this new path. There is however a way that this path should be done. Ultimately, I think it first starts with having a workplace where this diversity is celebrated. More capable female, Black, Asian and Hispanic writers and artists would be a big step in defining characters with authentic backgrounds and personalities because they have been written by people who reflect that diversity.
Currently, you have a reboot in progress for the character Wally West. This new reboot has changed Wally from a white character to a black character. I personally have a reservation with “race bending” characters, it shows a lack of originality. It doesn’t show true diversity because all you are doing is giving a character another complexion. But this is not the factor that has me to the point of not giving DC Comics another penny of my money. In four or five issues now, this new Wally West, this new black Wally West, has been in handcuffs in two of these issues. He has been arrested TWICE!
For real Dan? TWICE?
It just seems to me that all you are currently doing is reinforcing a trope about young black men- that we are criminals. I have never been arrested. My brother has never been arrested. My cousins have never been arrested. My male friends who are black have never been arrested. But this is however a statistic that is forced in the minds of young black men. It is seen in televisions shows like The Wire. It is in the news repeatedly. Now, it is in comic books.
As an educated black man who is also a high school English teacher, my job is to not only educate these young men so that they are more prepared for college and beyond, but it is also to be an example of what these young men are fighting against– stereotypes. I often use comic books and graphic novels in the classroom to change up the pace and to give my students more reference material. Through characters like Batman and the Hulk I have been able to introduce students to characters like Sherlock Holmes and books like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But why on Earth would I introduce a juvenile delinquent to my students? Why would I allow a trope like what your company has created into my classroom?
I am truly disappointed in what DC Comics has done. The feign attempt at diversity is nothing more than stereotypical propaganda that consciously reinforces a racial and social paradigm that is undeserved. Maybe DC Comics (and Marvel for that matter) should study the work of Christopher Priest on The Black Panther. Use his writing as a lesson plan of how to avoid tropes and create stories about a character with dignity, honor and an unwavering moral code that not only young black men can be proud to read about, but also all races can see the goodness that dwells in the hearts of people of color.
To sum it up, DC Comics has failed. DC Comics has failed to create stories about characters with integrity and characters that do not negatively reflect any particular race, gender or sexual orientation. DC will make their money, and some people will still purchase this “Shazbot,” but it won’t be me. Make mine Indie Comics because I see nothing MARVELous about Marvel or DC.
Well, DC and Marvel, that’s one source of revenue gone. And trust… he’s not the only one that’s fed up. This is what happens when you short-shrift a sizeable portion of your “1000 True Fans.”
So, what are you going to do about it?