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Wednesday, September 09, 2009 

American comics are institutionally racist?

Here's a challenging subject the site of IO9 brought up a short time ago. They're asking if comics are institutionally racist. Tom Brevoort wrote an answer to a fan question about comics with non-white male leads not selling well that:
I don't know that it's any one thing, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that it's all part of the same phenomenon that makes it more difficult to sell series with female leads, or African-American leads, or leads of any other particular cultural bent. Because we're an American company whose primary distribution is centered around America, the great majority of our existing audience seems to be white American males. So while within that demographic you'll find people who are interested in a wide assortment of characters of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds, whenever your leads are white American males, you've got a better chance of reaching more people overall.
I can't claim to be an expert here, but I'd wager a guess that the reasons why they don't sell well are either because they're not written well, certainly not today, and definitely because they weren't marketed and promoted well. And if they're being marketed just according to the protagonist's race instead of story quality (as in the case of DC's recent Firestorm, Atom and Blue Beetle), that's another strike against.

But this article also ignores some much deeper matters, such as Marvel's publishing a race-baiting miniseries in 2003 called The Truth: Red, White and Black, which featured stereotypical artwork alongside a Chomskyite-level story. If memory serves, Brevoort may have supported that miniseries too. In that case, who is he to address this issue when his own company did something utterly tasteless, and even today hasn't disavowed it from canon?

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