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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 

The Daily Beast thinks diversity is more important than talented writing

The Daily Beast's written a biased, ambiguous article comparing Marvel and DC diversity tactics, clearly favoring them and lamenting that DC supposedly hasn't tried:
Despite what the knuckle-draggers in comment sections would have you think, America is beginning to care about diversity in comic books. Look at the media explosion which erupted this week when Marvel Comics announced that both Captain America and Thor would undergo some radical changes as part of their new Avengers NOW! series. Sam Wilson, an African-American hero also known as Falcon, will be taking up Captain America’s mantle after the Captain loses his super-soldier abilities. And when Thor Odinson is deemed unworthy, his hammer (and the Thor title, it seems) will pass on to an unnamed woman.
The clown who wrote this sure doesn't look at sales figures, which prove America's main concern isn't diversity.
The Internet erupted into a chorus of fanboy kvetching in the wake of this news, with some fans up in arms over “political correctness gone mad.” Others applauded Marvel for providing some much-needed variety to their stable of white, male heroes. As superhero juggernauts DC and Marvel enter the 21st century, the debate over diversity in comic books is picking up steam. A black Captain America and woman Thor are just a few of Marvel’s many triumphs in what’s been a banner year.
How can a year in which Tony Stark's being turned into a monster count as banner? The writer of this article is not interested in talented scripting, editing, continuity and coherency so much as she is in politically correct advocacy. And for someone lauding the replacement of Thor with a woman, curious she's not interested in getting Mary Jane Watson restored to the glory she once had as Peter Parker's wife.
So why is DC lagging behind?

It’s not as if DC isn’t trying. They’ve vocally espoused a commitment to diversity, and made headlines in 2006 when they announced that their new Batwoman, Kate Kane, was an out lesbian. However, in recent years they’ve come under fire for racial and gender homogeneity both on their creative teams and within their comic books. The missteps range from white-washing characters of color during Black History Month to refusing to allow Batwoman to marry her fiancée. This last decision resulted in the resignation of Batwoman editorial team J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, one of the most critically-acclaimed partnerships in DC’s history, and seemed to cancel out any remaining goodwill the company had earned.
I'll have to agree, that IS peculiar they'd change the racial backgrounds of characters who were created with black ancestry or mixed background, like Connor Hawke and Onyx, while the white protagonists like Wildcat/Ted Grant (and Wally West, as recently seen in the Flash) are those getting their backgrounds drastically changed. But that just proves that, if they go by the perception nobody cares about the white third-tiers, then obviously, they're counting on the chance nobody cares about the black and Latino characters either. Proving minority heroes/co-stars were never safe from their nasty ideas any more than white ones were. We've learned an important lesson there.

As for nixing a story where the new Batwoman would have a lesbian marriage, while I don't approve of homosexuality, I do admit it's strange they didn't want to go ahead with something they still favor regardless, since, on the surface, they could get away with it just as easily as Marvel did with their Northstar marriage by ways of an "ignorance is strength" tactic, and they've lost the family audiences long ago. Likewise, they could seemingly get away with banning heterosexual marriages too while gay marriages remain acceptable to their modern mindsets. Perhaps the simple answer is they're deliberately hoping to run their book business into the ground, close it down and just concentrate on the movies they may not know how to craft either. Something Marvel is bound to do too.
Meanwhile, Marvel is setting the gold standard. A year before DC dropped the ball on the Batwoman wedding, Marvel’s Northstar married his boyfriend in Astonishing X-Men #51, complete with a splash cover featuring the two men embracing. Titles like Ms. Marvel, which features a Muslim teen girl hero, are critical darlings and best-sellers. Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso has confirmed the company’s commitment to expanding its fanbase, saying, “While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie. If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.” And instead of choosing to drop the Thor bombshell at the upcoming San Diego Comic Con, Marvel revealed the change on The View. When you think of a stereotypical comic fan, Whoopi Goldberg probably isn’t who you had in mind.
And when they do bring up titles starring women, again, it's those where they blow everything over ideology. I wonder why the writer's not disappointed they shoved Carol Danvers out of a great codename and exploited it for the sake of normalizing a religion no sane woman can relate to?

And while there are more women reading comics today, how many are reading the Big Two's superhero output? Without market research, Alonso can't claim they're getting more female audience, and he shouldn't act as though they're not worried about good writing, or don't care about the Spider-marriage.
Comic books are a fundamentally stagnant medium. Any slightly unconventional decision—from casting Heath Ledger as the Joker to putting pants on Wonder Woman—is met with a level of feverish debate normally reserved for schisms within the Catholic Church. When Avengers NOW! launched, the Internet predictably collapsed into a flurry of venomous pearl-clutching. Some wondered if a female Thor now meant that “feminists” would try to also rewrite Jesus as female. The equivalence between comic books and Scripture is telling of how seriously canon is taken by these fans. To violate the status quo is akin to sacrilege.
I wonder why this writer has no complaints about Rick Remender killing off Scarlet Witch and Rogue in Uncanny Avengers? Despite what she says, I'm not so sure canon is respected by the remaining "fans", if they keep on buying books that disrespect the heroes' grip on morale and show them acting out of character. In any event, what's wrong with upholding canon? There's Iron Man fans who'll object to turning him into a villain as Marvel's setting out to do right now, and they'd be right to balk, so what's the Daily Beast writer trying to prove anyway? She doesn't get that superhero comics today are an artistically stagnant medium, because all the staffers care about are either tedious changes to costume designs, or forcing character traits upon established casts that don't make sense and are truly reprehensible.
The irony is that a format characterized by the boundless scope of imagination is ultimately extremely conservative when it comes to risks with character or story. Major developments like deaths or marriages are almost always undone, via fantastic contrivances ranging from deals with the devil to time travel. Characters are de-powered, murdered, raped, aged up and down, and yo-yoed between universes with an alarming lack of fanfare. It’s the same problem suffered by long-running soap operas, where catastrophes are regularly smoothed over or forgotten in order to keep the premise going. At least on soap operas, actors leave over contract disputes or pass away. In comics, the stories can go on indefinitely. As such, the limitless nature of comic book fantasy is used, by and large, to keep limits in place.
Say what? When wasn't Identity Crisis published with tremendous fanfare by some of the most awful people to dominate the medium now? Speaking of which, how come she doesn't comment on said miniseries despite the headline of her article, and why is she wasting so many kilobytes talking about diversity instead of taking DC and Marvel to task over some of the worst stories they've published over the past decade that did a huge disfavor for women?
Both companies understand this—and handle it differently. DC Comics uses a slavish adherence to the status quo to prevent anything socially progressive from taking place on its pages. Co-Publisher Dan DiDio insisted the Batwoman wedding controversy wasn’t homophobic. The wedding was barred because DC heroes couldn’t have “happy personal lives.” Apparently, audiences will believe a man can fly. They just won’t (or can't) believe two women can be happily married! Policies like DiDio’s are not only detrimental to character and narrative development—they also make the company seem backwards and out of touch.
Gee, how come she didn't say so back in 2004 when Identity Crisis debuted? Besides, despite rejecting a lesbian marriage, signs point to their otherwise condoning both gay and lesbian marriages alike, via their leftist standings. DC's also the same company now approving a gay retcon to Alan Scott, even as they deny it's a retcon.

The part about slavishness is pretty laughable since it misses another picture: they're not very slavish about some of the better ideas from past continuity, nor about the best characterizations that worked for their casts. And if they're already approving homosexuality on their pages in a positive light, then it can hardly be argued they're not "progressive".
When DC restored Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl’s) ability to walk in 2011, many fans were devastated. Barbara’s post-paralysis identity as Oracle was an accepted and beloved aspect of the DC canon and iconic in the disabled community. DC, however, decided that having the “classic” Batgirl was more important to the brand’s success, with DiDio saying, “We didn’t want to turn our back on the diversity issue, but she’ll always be the most recognizable [Batgirl.]” He also argued that the same New 52 event which restored Barbara’s mobility acted as a “reset button” for the whole DC Universe. But characters introduced after Barbara’s paralysis, such as Harley Quinn, continue to headline best-selling titles. What DC views as being recognizable and comfortable to fans (and consequently profitable) seems to trump any lip service they pay to what DiDio calls “the diversity issue.”
Being handicapped is different from homosexuality, and I'm skeptical even that Daily Beast writer considers it diverse in the same way she thinks homosexuality is. But what DiDio's quoted telling easily translates as "the most commercially marketable Batgirl", indicating Barbara's walking was restored for fully commercial reasons, much like Barry Allen's resurrection, even though they don't seem intent on making movies centered around Batgirl anytime soon.

And say, how odd the writer suggests she's bothered Harley Quinn has a solo book, because I thought she wanted diversity, even for potential crooks!
Marvel, on the other hand, seems more than willing to challenge readers. The visual impact of replacing blond, blue-eyed Steve Rogers with the African-American Sam Wilson is enormous, both in what it says about who can represent America in 2014 and in what it says about Marvel’s willingness to push their audience’s expectations. Marvel trusts their audience to support a Captain America who is not immediately “recognizable.”
No, they trust the diehard collectors to support the series, no matter who the star is. If they really wanted to challenge readers, they'd focus more on entertaining, coherent writing, not visually-based marketing, and they'd move DC/Marvel's state back to what it was like circa 2000 or earlier, eschewing many of the bad storylines. But then, she goes on to say:
And the same pressures of the status quo which seem to dictate every one of DC’s moves are absolutely present for Marvel—as others have pointed out, it’s improbable that Sam Wilson will remain Captain America for long or that male Thor will remain unworthy of the hammer. If Captain America can come back from the dead, then his current convalescence is only a temporary derailment.
Well doesn't that prove these are only publicity stunts, throwing ideas at the wall to see if they'll stick, despite the pretentious scriptwriting guaranteeing short-term sales only? In that case, what's the point of lauding Marvel if their stunts are otherwise brief?
It’s also highly likely that Marvel will capitalize on next summer's release of Avengers: Age of Ultron by featuring the most iconic (i.e. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth) representations of those characters in the comics. As with DC, the universe’s status quo will ultimately reassert itself once again as overwhelmingly white, male, and hetero-normative. Where DC and Marvel differ is that while DC uses this as an excuse to erase anything challenging or progressive, Marvel sees it as an opportunity to challenge their audience’s view of who a hero can be. The titles are reduced to their purest elements. After all, being Captain America isn’t about being a white man. It’s about being a patriot dedicated to American ideals of justice and freedom. Sam Wilson fits that bill, so he gets to wear the star-spangled suit. In a medium where the only roles afforded to women or people of color are often specifically linked to their race or gender (Black Panther, Wonder Woman), this is huge. For once, the boundless nature of comic story-telling is actually being used to cross boundaries.
Oh, I don't agree at all that minority members in comicdom have roles linked with their status, and I don't think it was the case with Luke Cage and Black Canary, but those kind of heroes and heroines mean nothing to an incoherent reporter like the one who wrote this article. As mentioned before, Sam Wilson's taking Steve Rodgers' famous role might've been a big deal once, but not with Joe Quesada behind the scenes it's not.

The part about who a hero can be is annoying, because what if she's hinting she sees nothing wrong with making heroes out of hardcore marxists, or turning real heroes like Tony Stark into villains? And DC's never wiped anything "challenging" or "progressive". They even introduced a gay teenager in their recent Teen Titans renditions called Bunker, apparently their idea of what a religious person should be like.
Despite this, Marvel’s efforts might not feel like enough. Why not launch titles starring independent black or female characters instead of having them temporarily adopt another’s mantle? But the sad reality is that the comics industry is too insular to foster any kind of radical change. It still remains incredibly difficult for new comics and heroes to get a stronghold in the marketplace. Most new titles are cancelled within a matter of months. Especially as comic prices rise, readers seem to be sticking with the titles they know and love. Consequently, Marvel is working within the system (and to be fair, it’s a system which they helped create) to introduce a wider variety of heroes to the consumers buying familiar titles like Thor.
Well at least this is making sense. But the reason the titles she wonders about don't get launched (and if they do, are cancelled soon after) is because they're almost always being launched as ongoings, not as miniseries. That's why Birds of Prey originally succeeded before it got destroyed post-2004, because Chuck Dixon first wrote a couple of miniseries/specials, determining the potential for success based on how receptive audience was of one-shots. Unfortunately, in the current environment, not many miniseries starring 2nd and 3rd tiers are launched anymore, if at all, as the publishers no longer have a clue how to set up a successful path for minor players.
It’s a Trojan horse strategy, sneaking in African-American or female heroes one book at a time, for a few months. It’s also a low-stakes method of taking risks, particularly when one considers the scope of Marvel’s cinematic universe. Marvel superhero films have dominated the box office for the last few years, and a Black Widow movie would provide exposure to a much wider audience than the blinkered world of comic book readers. Yet all but two of their upcoming 11 films will feature white, male leads. Of the two major characters of color, Zoe Saldana’s skin will be digitally rendered green for Guardians of the Galaxy. The Fantastic Four reboot’s casting of Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm (a canonically white character) sparked a massive outbreak of racist fanboy aneurysms. The response to Jordan’s casting in particular highlights how Marvel’s diversity initiatives, for all their good, are still calculated marketing moves.
If would-be fans did react racistly, that's bad. Besides, as I've said before, when it comes to the movies, these changes in race aren't always a bad thing; it's only when these changes are forced back into the comics at all costs that it's appalling. As discovered during the release of the Dark Knight Rises, there was a shocking case of pseudo-fans who nastily attacked several critics just for being negative. But what if she's distorting information, and it turns out there are some fans whose criticism was rational, along the lines of finding it absurd that racial backgrounds have become more an emphasis than talented screenwriting? Must that be discounted? Of course not.
Comic books are a low-cost venture. It’s much easier and cheaper for the company to take some chances without a billion-dollar budget at stake. And the sobering fact remains that a black Captain America is still considered to be such a risk in 2014 that it could only be executed in this low-impact format. The superhero medium is so staid that temporary exposure to a black lead is considered groundbreaking. Marvel is taking a gamble on the strength of their brand.
Oh this is ridiculous, and ignores the publicity stunt mentality prevailing at Marvel/DC. Is she implying the public wouldn't buy superheroes with different racial backgrounds? Honestly, that's ludicrous but maybe not unexpected from a leftist. I think that, if the Big Two wanted, they'd replace Steve Rogers in the movies too. The query then is whether they'd have good screenwriting to accompany the move.
While DC wants to protect recognizable characters by keeping them in NRFB condition, Marvel is willing to chance that a tentpole property like Thor will retain his iconic status, even if a woman wields the hammer for a while. They believe that fans are not going to stop buying Captain America comic books because Sam Wilson is behind the shield. Readers are smarter than that, and Marvel knows it.

After all, they made a similar gamble before. In 2011, they replaced Spider-Man’s Peter Parker with the half-black, half-Latino Miles Morales. Miles remains one of Marvel’s most popular characters, but only in the alternate Ultimate universe. In the central Marvel continuity, Peter Parker is still swinging and still white, after apparently bouncing back from his latest brush with death. Status quo, after all, remains king.
How convenient of them to leave out all the distortions to past continuity that make her line about status quos a joke. And how can Miles be one of the most popular characters if the Ultimate line's not selling through the roof?

The line about DC's wish to "protect" recognizable characters is also laughable, because even Superman hasn't been immune to the worst writing of the century, like the time when Straczynski did his Grounded story. And if certain characters allegedly aren't recognizable, isn't that the fault of publishers with no idea how to market and promote? Regardless, it's still no defense for taking steps that do more harm than good even to minor characters.

As for Captain America, of course readers aren't going to stop because Sam Wilson takes over the role. Rather, it's because of Remender's insults to Steve's background that they could or will, and if those horrific retcons are what Marvel thinks is great writing, then clearly, it's long past time to quit modern Marvel products and stick with the old.

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Yeesh. To me, I don't care what the characters look like provided the story is good. Storytelling is far more important than diversity. I'm color-blind, and I see people as people. I don't care what the characters look like as long as they're written well. When they start pushing diversity for diversity's sake, like Marvel is doing, that's where they go wrong.

And I love how the Daily Beast writer referred to those who criticized the casting of Johnny Storm as "racist." To these clowns, anything can be "racist," no matter how innocuous.

Suppose Marvel announced plans to replace Luke Cage with a white Power Man. Or if DC replaced Victor Stone with a white Cyborg. (Or if they replaced John Henry Irons or Jefferson Pierce with a white character.) Or, for that matter, if Marvel killed off Sam Wilson and made Steve Rogers or Bucky Barnes the new Falcon. Would fans who objected to the changes be racist?

Or, what if Diana Prince were suddenly deemed "unworthy," stripped of her powers, and replaced by Steve Trevor as Wonder Man? Would fans who disliked it be dismissed as "knuckle draggers"?

And "racist" is now just shorthand for "anyone who disagrees with me about anything."

The Daily Beast, like a lot of media outlets, is fawning over Marvel's championing "diversity," when in fact the character changes are nothing more than a publicity stunt. It is no different from DC's "Death of Superman" stunt in the early 1990's. Or a season-ending cliffhanger on a TV soap opera.

And, of course, like Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man's body, it will be undone in time for the next movie.

thank you for sharing this with me, I really like this article very interesting

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