A White World: Diversity In Comics

A White World: Diversity In Comics

When I started to think of the next article to write I kept coming back to the same topic in mind, diversity. While I’m a huge comic book geek, I always wondered why growing up I rarely saw anyone of color or different gender as lead characters. Hit me at a young age, it’s just not the real world we live in. I don’t walk out of my house and just see white people, so strange when most books are white centric books.

In recent years characters like the “new” Captain America (a black man in Sam Wilson who, in fairness, was already introduced as the Falcon), a female Thor, (Jane Foster) X-23 (Wolverine’s female clone daughter), Miles Morales as a half black/half Hispanic Spider-Man, to go along with mainstays in Black Panther, (black man) Captain Marvel, (Female) and Jubilee ( Chinese American). While recently it’s been better lets look at all the years previous where its always been the same.

The X-Men are probably the biggest example of this. They are hated, feared and despised by all of humanity for no other reason than they are mutants. Intended or not, it’s a book about racism, bigotry and prejudice. There’s the leader of the X-men Charles Xavier and Magneto, leader of mutants, both on opposites sides of a debate over whether they should try to integrate with humans or not. Xavier feels like can live peacefully while Magneto disagrees vehemently.

For as big as a topic this is it’s funny how the X-Men have very little diversity in their ranks. Other than Jubilee, who might be the worst character in the history of comic books, Jean Grey, Psylocke, and Rogue not a lot to write about. When you’re playing out Civil Rights struggles with an all white cast it’s rather embarrassing. A huge point of the X-Men is the acceptance of minorities but you have none in your ranks. How could this possibly go on? I won’t even get started on the lack of diverse writers in Marvel or DC.

The Mutant word is a slur beyond reclamation. Havok, a famous X-Man, once gave a speech in which he tells the assembled that he doesn’t want to be labeled a mutant. (for those wondering Uncanny Avengers #5) He wants to be seen as a person. This reminds me of the movement away from terms “negro” and “colored” to “African-Americans”. It’s about rejecting labels put on people. The best part about this is when asked what he wants to be called he responds, “How ‘bout Alex?” He doesn’t want words to describe his minority identity. It’s a message of assimilation.

Diversity has always been a problem in comics. In the early days minorities were nowhere to be found and women were usually relegated to romantic figures. Recently in the Sony email hacks it was revealed that the studio made a licensing agreement that Spider-Man would always be played by a white male on screen. So why the resistance to having a Hispanic/Black/Asian Spider Man? Samuel L. Jackson nailed the Nick Fury character* who is a white man in the comic books. Why can’t a minority play a lead role on screen or in comics and have the same level of impact on the role?

[* = Editor note: And SLJ has done such a remarkable job in bringing Nick Fury Jr. to life that the African-American version has now been adopted into the Marvel Ultimate universe]

While doing research about comic book writers in the industry I found that women take up 5.6%, 6.8% are Asian, 11.5% Hispanic and sadly only 1.5% Black. I don’t feel a minority should be just given roles for the sake, but you mean to tell me that there isn’t more talent out there than those awful numbers suggest?? Maybe being in an interracial marriage and seeing my kids everyday brings out these ideas in me. Things need to change though.

Historically diversity in comics hasn’t been a big seller for DC or Marvel, so maybe that’s a reason they rarely wrote characters until the last few years. If the majority of your readers are young white males then they might not like seeing something that they may not be able to relate to. Big difference now is it’s 2016 and look how mainstream comics are now. Comic book movies are the only guarantee in Hollywood right now, go figure that one out.

With the move towards diversity in comics lately there has been a nice trend. While many may hate seeing the characters they grew up with changing I welcome it. Now if they could do something about the pricing….