It seems like every day I read something, somewhere, about the lack of diversity in comics (not to mention various other pop culture mediums). Sometimes these pieces focus on gender, other times on people of color, and sometimes both. At the recent Image Expo, sixteen comic creators took the stage, with only two being women, and none being of color, and in the aftermath we are once again having this conversation. (Read about it here on Bleeding Cool.) To be absolutely clear, this lack of representation in the creative forces that produce comics is problematic. There needs to be greater diversity on many levels when it comes to comics, both on the creative side, and within the stories that are being produced. But that is only one problem, and not the problem I want to address.
By way of introduction, I am a person of color, and I also happen to be a comic book writer. Last year, I co-wrote the mini-series Number 13 with Robert Love (also a person of color), which was released by Dark Horse Comics. Right now, I’m writing The Army of Dr. Moreau, a digital series that is being published by Monkeybrain Comics. Now, I know that I’m not exactly household name when it comes to comics (or the world of Young Adult fiction, where I also practice my craft), but I am a professional comic creator, and I’m in the trenches. I’m doing what I can, the best I can, along with creators like Robert Love, Jimmie Robinson, Rob Guillroy, Sanford Greene, Brandon Easton, Keith Knight, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Jamal Igle, Ken Lashley, Jiba Molei Anderson, and Spike Trotman, all of whom are amongst those that are holding it down, while seldom being mentioned when everyone is complaining how little diversity there is comics. And then there’s the long list of people I haven’t even mentioned (my apologies to all of you).
The fact of the matter is that there is a diversity problem in the American comic industry. There are not enough women, LGBTQ, or people of color working at the Big Two (Marvel and DC), and there are very few working for other publishers as well. But there are people working. And to be honest, it gets disheartening to hear people complain about there not being enough creators of color at a company like Image, while at the same time ignoring Jimmie Robinson’s work. It is disheartening to hear people complain that there are not enough books out there with characters of color, when the book I did with Robert Love for Dark Horse (a major publisher), has sales figures that left both Robert and myself ready to quit comics altogether. That’s not to say we didn’t get any love for Number 13, because we did. But our sales were so low that as a creative team we will probably never get to do another book for Dark Horse.
I’m sorry to say this, but if you are upset about a lack of diversity in comics, and you are not supporting the creators that are out there—through both purchases and spreading the word—then you are, in your own way, part of the problem. The fact of the matter is that many of creators that stand a chance of bringing diversity to comics are already making comics. Many are doing it independently, some are at companies like Image or Monkeybrain or Dark Horse. But if fans and readers don’t show support to indie creators that are doing it themselves, those same creators don’t stand much of a chance of getting to move up to producing for a company like Image or Dark Horse. And if the creators working at Dark Horse and Image aren’t moving the sort of units that make Marvel and DC take notice, then they’ll never be invited to play in those sandboxes. That’s just how the industry works.
To recap, there is a very serious problem with a lack of diversity in the comic industry. There. I said it. But there is also a very serious problem with the lack of support for those of us who are already in the industry. There. I said that too. To those of you that really want to see something change in the comic industry—who want to see greater representation both on the creative side and the content side—it’s time to show more support for the people who are actually making it happen.