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?
Everybody is acting like this race-bending phenomenon is new when they’ve been doing this since, at least, 1989 (Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent anyone?).
Despite current attitudes, we are all down with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. We were introduced to that eventual reality thanks to Bryan Hitch drawing the Ultimates. Actually, Nick Fury was established as being Black in Ultimate X-Men. In fact, the cinematic Marvel U is based more so on the original Ultimate Universe than good ‘ol 616.
Honestly, if at the end of Iron Man, if anyone, Black or white, other than SLJ was wearing that eye patch, the entirety of fandom would have been pissed because the “reality” of Nick Fury being Black was established in the comics so much so that Marvel had to incorporate elements of the Ultimate Universe into the 616 universe.
Yet no one, I mean, no one cared that Kerry Washington played Alicia Masters…
Why? Because Alicia Masters is one of the last characters that you worry about in FF canon (really… how many people have clamored for an Alicia Masters solo book?)…
But Jessica Alba as Sue Storm? Don’t tell me y’all weren’t fronting on that decision…
It’s an interesting contradiction. I had called shenanigans when Jessica Alba was cast as Sue Storm yet was down with Michael Clarke Duncan was cast as the Kingpin (maybe, in my opinion, the only bright spot in the otherwise abysmal Daredevil movie). Both were examples of “Colorblind casting” rather than “Race-swapping.” One worked, the other didn’t.
Another great example of “Colorblind casting” is Sin City. Say what you will about “Uncle Frank,” but Robert Rodriguez is the man. This is the cat that makes sure that, at the extreme least, one Hispanic or Latino actor is in a lead role. Gail and Nancy Callahan were not Latino in the books, but did that matter with the casting of Rosario Dawson and the aforementioned Jessica Alba in those respective roles?
Now, let’s look at this in the reverse, specifically, the casting of Liam Nesson as Ra’s Al-Ghul and Marion Cotillard as Talia Al-Ghul in the Nolan Dark Knight universe.
We understand Talia Al-Ghul and Ra’s Al-Ghul to be Middle Eastern solely on their last names. Was it ever established really where Ra’s came from? In fact, one story depicted that Talia’s mother was a Chinese hippie in the 60s (Birth of the Demon… Look it up, that story does exist).
Now, on the Nerds of Color blog, they made mention of how they felt that Ra’s Al Ghul was more of a title than an actual person (which made sense as they were trying to avoid the more fantastic elements of the character i.e. the Lazarus Pit). That made sense to me when seeing Ken Watanabe playing Al Ghul in the beginning of the film when he was really the Sensei of the League of Assassins.
So, with that line of thinking in the Nolan Batman universe, if the title was passed from Watanabe’s Al Ghul to Nesson’s Ducard, the casting of Cotillard makes more sense. And, in the Fanboy of Color universe, if the outrage of Nesson ultimately being cast as Al Ghul had been present at the time, the displeasure of Cotillard’s casting as Talia would make more sense as well.
In addition, Marion Cotillard had a “look” that could work for a vaguely Middle Eastern character. If Talia were a blonde or a redhead, then a situation would have been created in where one would have heard outrage from fanboys.
In other words, we don’t know. Hell, most people call Kim Kardashian a white girl with a big ass when she is, in fact, an Armenian girl…
With a big ass.
Look, did any of us call shenanigans when Liam Nesson’s Ducard was actually Ra’s Al-Ghul? No, no we did not. And honestly, none of us cared when Cotillard was revealed to be Talia, either.
Why? It’s because every time a POC is portrayed as someone in a position of power, especially one that had been traditionally “reserved” for a white man (let’s be 100% here), it’s one more instance of reality that skin color, or gender, or sexual orientation does not automatically put you in the power position…
And, a number of white fanboys don’t like that…
Now, we have switching race for the sake of switching race as some half-hearted attempt at “diversity” when, in reality, they are just tryin’ to get as many dollars as possible with the least amount of effort. From Michael B. Jordan’s casting as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four reboot to making Wally West bi-racial in the New52 Flash comic, we are being insulted, and assaulted, left and right.
Truth be told, the “Corporate Two’s” Fans of Color don’t want Superman in Blackface.
They want Icon.
They don’t want a bi-racial Wally West.
They want Static.
In other words, they want the characters of color that do exist and run rampant in the “Corporate Two” to be treated with the respect that they deserve.
Instead, the “Corporate Two,” DC in particular, have gone fetishistic in the comics and the films. It has gone from “Colorblind casting” to “Race swapping.” In other words, fools are lazy. Sure, there’s been a modicum of laziness in the past, but fools are straight-up sloth-like these days.
Laziness breeds apathy, apathy breeds racism.
That’s the real problem.
“If this book doesn’t sell, then DC and Marvel won’t put out any more books with colored people in it… Gotta keep the plantation going!”
“Wow… A banana? Really? They went deep into the racism crates…”
“They just told you how they felt about the book and the people who will buy it.”
This… is some bullshit.
This comes from a company that hasn’t hired and African American writer since 2009. This comes from a company that is promoting a book whose cast is composed of people of color and women, yet the creative team does not show that same level of diversity.
Fine, it’s a prank. However, does knowing that it’s a prank negate the truth about the Corporate Two’s hiring policies and treatment of characters of color?
The fact that this exists is unacceptable. The fact that, despite this image existing, fools will still fight to support this book is unacceptable.
This is what tokenism in comics looks like, ladies and gentlemen…
Our beef is not that people buy DC and Marvel. It’s that y’all keep complaining about DC and Marvel not acting right by you while completely passing by those books that you’re truly looking for in the independent sphere. It’s the comic book equivalent of being a battered spouse and sticking with the partner that beats you.
For example, why not hire artists of color to do a variant. What about Olivier Copiel, Sanford Greene, Afua Richardson, Brian Stelfreeze, Jason Pearson or so many other talented brothers and sisters doing the artwork?
What we are saying is that we, as consumers, should and do demand more from the Corporate Two. What we are saying is that, as creators, we have taken our frustration and creative viable alternatives to the level of disrespect that the Corporate Two has shown us.
BTW, none of us who speak to these frustrations have ever denigrated the people that we want to buy our books. That’s just stupid. However, when we do bring up the alternative, those who find out about us have this reflexive negativity about not being up on what we do, which manifests as excuses as to why they won’t support the work. It is their insecurity which sparks these confrontations.
Here’s the thing: OUR COMMENTS AIN’T ABOUT YOU. We just happen to see the marketing behind the Corporate Two’s efforts and we ain’t drinking the Kool-Aid… We prefer mixing flavors than just sticking with grape or red…
THAT’S where we’re coming from. If you’re satisfied with what you buy, buy it. If you’re waiting for DC and Marvel to truly give you what you want as a fan, don’t hold your breath. Ultimately, it’s your decision.
The Blaxis exists to expose people to the diversity of people of culture, ethnicity, gender and orientation in the comic book industry, the characters and the people behind the scenes who create this work. It is composed of fans and professionals in this game. Now, the pros in this business started off as fans. In fact, the reason why we are in this game is because we are fans of the medium.
Now, as fans of not just DC and Marvel, but of COMICS, we expose ourselves to books outside of the Corporate Two, specifically because of the fact that the Corporate Two do not respect us as consumers. We have had the same frustrations you have about representation of ourselves in comics. However, instead of bitching about it and accepting our fate, we did something about it and created our own properties.
Not only did we do it for ourselves, but we did it for an audience demanding change. Yet, when we present this change to the demanding audience, that audience turns its nose at us and still laments that the Corporate Two hasn’t served their needs….
How would you feel in that position?
Look, at the end of the day, do you. Buy your books. Enjoy your life. As a producer of books, my goal is to market to anyone who would buy my product regardless of culture, ethnicity or gender. If you are not one of those who would take a look at mine, or any other product not of the Corporate Two, then so be it. There’s a whole world to expose this work to and, I am confident, will buy and appreciate the work that I, and so many of us in The Blaxis, create… Ubuntu!
What’s happening, fam!
Yours truly, Jiba Molei Anderson, is going to be at C2E2 April 26 – 28! I’ll be stationed at the IADT Booth # 701 Friday, April 26 from 2pm 4pm, Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28 from 1pm – 3pm. Come on by to hang out, say hey and learn more about the upcoming Outworld: Return of the Master Teachers and the NEW Horsemen series coming later in 2013!
I’ll have sketchcards of characters from the DC and Marvel universes for $25.00 a card. These ain’t printed. These are the original cards that I’ve illustrated. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!
I’ll also be selling 11″ X 17″ FULL-COLOR Horsemen, Outworld and JBD prints for only $15.00! And, that’s not all… Buy one of these prints and get the PDF of the print’s first issue ABSOLUTELY FREE!
While we’re kicking it, also pick up the Avengers Assemble print series I’ve created just for this occasion featuring some of the iconic and historic heroes of color from Marvel Comics for only! Each print is only $10.00 with all 7 prints in the series for only $50.00!
BTW guys, there’s only 48 hours left to donate to the Outworld campaign on Indiegogo. Pledge before the due date and, if you’re going to C2E2, I’ll have a signed poster ready for you to pick up… No waiting!
Have a great week, fam, and I hope to see some of you this weekend… It’s gonna be an awesome con!
The following is a response to a post about the lack of “minority” characters from DC and Marvel Comics. This will be the only time you’ll hear me respond to this, as I am tired of the question. No disrespect to the one that posed the question, I’m just tired of wasting any more time on the question…
Yes, DC and Marvel have both been around since nearly this medium’s inception. Yes, their stable of properties have got decades of traction in the marketplace, and yes, the marketplace see only one color: GREEN, which is their primary concern…
The people who make the money are extremely short-sighted, and a part of that short-sightedness is in the idea of what is “marketable.”
Peep game, do you want to know which property, translated into film, brought Marvel out of the doledrums of bankruptcy thereby putting them on the path to be attractive for their eventual acquistion by Disney? Not, Spider-Man, not The X-Men, but Blade. The financial success of Blade in 1997 made it possible for those other movies to happen.
Who is the most recognizable Green Lantern for a whole new generation? John Stewart. Yet, they used Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern for the film and it was not a success in part because of a younger generation not knowing or caring about Hal… And that’s just not Black folks, either.
Yes, Green Lantern was a horrible film, for many reasons, and it would have done poorly whether or not Ryan Reynolds was Hal or Common was John Stewart. However, most kids today, who don’t read comics, the only Green Lantern they know is African American.
Blade was a great film all-around… Which illustrates the fact that the argument of African American superheroes not doing well financially is false. In fact, other examples of the initial vampire craze is further proof that cultural diversity adds to the value of entertainment (i.e. Rodriguez’s From Dusk ‘Til Dawn Latin-tinged appropriation of the vampire myth to Joss Whedon’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer’s introduction of such characters as Gunn, Principal Wood, the First Slayer, etc.).
Characters of color from the Big Two have done better in other media rather than in comics because the audience for film, television and video games is bigger and more diverse than the suburban White male demographic that the Big Two consider their core audience. In short, they are marketing to their own tribe… A “passive” bigotry, if you will, using “marketing” to justify their limited world-view. To wait for that kind of narrow-minded thinking to seriously consider female voices, GBLT readers or fans of color, is a useless exercise. Instead of waiting for “Massa” to come around, we marginalized consumer base need to be made aware of, and support, the more than viable alternatives that address our needs. When that happens, when you start taking dollars out of the Big Two’s coffers that way, that’s when they’ll stand up and pay attention.
Don’t depend on the Big Two for some kind of cultural lip-service. All of your dollars don’t have to go to DC and Marvel. That’s like eating McDonalds or Burger King every day. If you want sushi, they are not the place to get it. Instead, seek out material that is going to speak to you. If that gets you off the reservation, so be it. There’s a whole world out there to explore. Who knows? You might find what you’re looking for.
What examples to support that argument? Love and Rockets. Brotherman. T.R.I.B.E. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Nexus. Hellboy. Grendel. Men In Black. The Walking Dead. Image Comics. Milestone Media.
To have a really satisfying and unique meal, you have to go to an Italian, Latin, Asian, African or Indian restaurant…
…That’s the experience only an Indie Comic can provide.