« Home | Some fashion revolution this must be » | Is Lee really guilty, or is this news all part of ... » | Which way for GI Joe now? » | Marvel's still pushing their social agenda into fi... » | Japan's parliament plans a bill for manga/anime pr... » | Marvel editor Alanna Smith shoves "racism" into th... » | Van Sciver's argument with SJWs would be more conv... » | The politics of Bill Mantlo » | An Atlantic writer complains about a dark side to ... » | The drawbacks of Jim Zub » 

Friday, January 12, 2018 

Thank goodness someone's creating their own new casts and universes, though politics are still involved

NY's Vulture wrote about smaller companies conceiving their own lines of superheroes with casts of "diverse" backgrounds. Though a clickbait article it may be laced with the usual propaganda, at least here, we have a case of independents ideally taking the route of developing their own new characters of different racial backgrounds in their own creations, rather than forcing alterations upon already established characters. At the start, we're told:
In awkward stutter step, corporate comics have attempted to get woke in recent years. The Big Two publishers, Disney-owned Marvel and Time Warner–owned DC, have made changes that put a few nonwhite and female characters into the spotlight: a woman assumed the mantle of Thor, Iron Man was replaced by an African-American girl, and a Pakistani-American girl became Ms. Marvel, among other switch-ups. There have been a handful of high-profile hires of women and people of color into creative positions, including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Rainbow Rowell, and others.

In an entertainment landscape where inclusivity is increasingly de rigueur, such moves make sense, but they often ring a little hollow. There was a black Captain America for a little while, but he eventually relinquished his star-spangled shield. There’s an Afro-Latino Spider-Man, but he’s regularly upstaged by the still-around white one. And their adventures are almost always written by white men, as they still form an overwhelming majority of the comics industry’s key employees.
Umm, I thought Marvel already took care of that, albeit in a ghetto-mentality sense: they assigned a black writer to write Black Panther, an Islamist to write Muslim Ms. Marvel, and even a gay writer to work on Iceman-turned-gay. Not that the writers they did hire are any more talented than their white counterparts, one more reason why they haven't been selling as well as Vulture wants everyone to think. At least they admit their desperate attempts to be "relevant" are clumsy as can be, mainly because of the very rushed way they did it, in very quick succession, one after the other. Let's not forget DC was guilty of this too about a decade before Marvel, when, after mistreating a number of their own superheroes in Identity Crisis, they introduced a black Firestorm, Latino Blue Beetle, Asian Atom and even a female Manhunter in their pages. Oh yes, and there's even the lesbian Batwoman, as if their universe truly needed more than just Batgirl. The irony is that they all but got rid of the Asian Batgirl, Cassandra Cain, whose introduction by contrast was far more plausible and respectable, because the prior Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was still around, and they also wronged Spoiler/Stephanie Brown and Linda Park, wife of former Kid Flash Wally West. Which must be saying something about what they really think of minorities, or at least women of color.

And it didn't stop there. For at least a few years already, Wally West's not only been reverted back to a teenager, he's had his own racial background changed for the sake of it. So on the one hand, you have a case where a plausibly introduced Asian woman was kicked to the curb, and another where suddenly, a contrived change of skin color is applied to a veteran protagonist, along with erasing his past history. If you think there's a potential form of discrimination there, you could be right.
In light of all that, David Steward II and Carl Reed aren’t impressed with the mainstream’s slow crawl into the 21st century. Both African-American men, they’re co-founders of Lion Forge Comics, an upstart publisher that recently launched its own superhero universe starring and created almost entirely by people who aren’t white males. Sitting in a pan-Latin steakhouse in Hell’s Kitchen, they calmly express their disdain for the big boys on the block.

“When they do diversity, it’s all almost …” Steward says, trailing off.

“Reactionary,” Reed finishes from across the table.

Steward nods and adds, “It’s almost kind of an advertising gimmick of sorts. They take Thor and make female Thor, but female Thor is going to go away, you know? If you’re really going to invest in that at that level, then it needs to be a new character with its own origin that you’re going to push and pull and really get behind.”
Speaking of which, isn't it interesting how all the buzz over the oh-so important change of Jane Foster into a female Thor has since collapsed, and the SJW press doesn't care anymore? Marvel's been advertising that Jane's going to die of cancer, and aside from how pathetic and disrespectful they're already being to a famous creation, they're even capping it all off by making a workable character into a sacrifice. Granted, if they do intend to put an end to Jane Foster, it sounds on the surface like they'll have her die of natural causes, an idea sorely lacking in many superhero tales today. But don't be shocked if they botch even that much, and they've already proven their capability.

As for "slow crawl", well here's a serviceable explanation why: they spend so much time making minority group members into superheroes instead of supporting cast members and building them up, it's no wonder their efforts are so contrived, and doomed to failure. If only costumed protagonists matter so much, then they haven't etched out an organic setting at all. Back in the Golden Age, not all leads in an adventure comic wore costumes, and even in the Silver Age, we had Adam Strange and Nick Fury, who were anything but superheroes. Today, mainstream has fallen victim to so much insularity, costumed heroes are practically all they stand for.

Anyway, I'll certainly give the developers credit for conceiving their very own universe of heroes with different racial backgrounds other than white, which is a far better idea than changing established characters' own backgrounds. However, I'm annoyed at the leftism turning up in the site's following paragraph:
In other words, being progressive is arguably Lion Forge’s biggest selling point. They’re not alone. The company is part of a new vanguard of small comics publishers who are attempting to grab eyeballs and dollars by embracing progressive politics both behind and inside the pages of their products. There have historically been other indie publishers who have brought people other than white men to the fore, but never before have this many companies made it a part of their bedrock mission. It’s a bold and largely unprecedented experiment for a notoriously innovation-averse industry — and it’s an uphill climb.
"Progressive"? Since when hasn't that happened? The mistake made in the past was acting like the Big Two MUST add minorities to their pages in almost every way, and it got them nowhere, because skin color and sexual orientation mattered so much more to the emphasis, and less attention was given to storytelling merit even now. That's why they failed. "Progressive" is practically the reason why the Big Two's obsession was bound for disaster. As for adversity to innovation, you don't know the half of it: if they won't concentrate on story first, and consider introducing co-stars of different race can be more effective than making them superheroes proper, than obviously, they're as negative to innovation as is possible to be.
“The big challenge is just, how do you get the book in front of the right people? How does a book find its audience?” says Maytal Gilboa, founder of Emet Comics. The company, founded in 2015, has put out an array of comics that place women and girls in the spotlight, and it’s struggled to gain a foothold. Emet has drawn critical acclaim for works like Jean Barker and Joey Granger’s Zana, which depicts two girls’ adventures in an alternate universe where South African apartheid never ended; and Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish’s The Wendy Project, in which a girl confronts trauma by engaging with the Peter Pan mythos. But for the first two years of Emet’s existence, Gilboa wasn’t able to convince the industry’s near-monopolistic distributor to comics shops, Diamond, to carry her titles. It wasn’t a matter of bigotry, just lack of confidence on Diamond’s part that a tiny company like Emet could move enough product.

The key to convincing them, in Gilboa’s mind, was building a grassroots fan base online and at conventions by wearing her politics on her sleeve. “Our mission statement is very clear: We are a place that is 100 percent focused on empowering female creators, in expressing a female point of view on the world,” says Gilboa. “I think that’s why we’ve been able to build a company relatively quickly, and be relatively successful: because of how clear our brand and our messaging is.” Last year, Diamond finally took the plunge and started distributing her.
I think the key to success is how well written the stories are, not skin color, gender and sexual orientation alone, that's for sure. Another is publishing the stories in paperback format, and not wasting time on pamphlets at all costs. What if speculators buy them just because they hope they'll be worth gobs of money someday? If I were a comics creator and found out my products were only being bought in hopes of becoming mighty rich on a "collector's item" someday, I'd be furious. To be a comics writer, I'd want my stories bought to be read, not encased in a plastic box casing hard to open and put on display in a gallery. That's supposed to be for paintings and pictures, not books of any sort. However, the next writer they cite appears to have taken what I think is a better route, although simultaneously misses a few things:
Not everyone takes Gilboa’s route of trying to break in with Diamond. C. Spike Trotman is one of the biggest success stories in the progressive small publisher movement, and when the distributor comes up, she doesn’t mince words. “Diamond can suck my taint,” she says in a dulcet lilt. The company she founded and runs, Iron Circus Comics, largely eschews the comics-shop market, preferring to focus on libraries, bookstores, and online sales. That’s unsurprising, given that Trotman has always held a special disdain for the gatekeepers of the mainstream comics world. She’s loved comics since she first discovered the funny pages in her youth, but growing up as an African-American girl, she didn’t see herself represented in the strips she perused. After getting a degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago at the turn of the millennium, Trotman pondered comics as a career. She quickly realized that there was virtually no one who looked like her in positions of leadership.
I'd argue one reason for that is because, even as the Big Two claim to be "inclusive" they've not only kept blacks, Asians and Latinos with better creative ideas out of prominent positions, they've also turned the companies into cliques more insular than ever before, where writers are chosen entirely on their political positions, and how willing they are to go along with company wide crossovers that take away even that much creative freedom. I have no doubt there's minority group members who'd love to write Spider-Man with Mary Jane Watson's marriage intact, and who'll never get the chance so long as Quesada has any say in the matter. Even DC's had problems with the crossovers and political overtones.

And the lady entirely misses that the Big Two have had black protagonists like Misty Knight, Vixen, Bumblebee and even Monica Rambeau, who originally succeeded Mar-Vell of the Kree with the Capt. Marvel naming after the alien hero died of cancer in Jim Starlin's 1982 graphic novel, one of the more respectable stories you could find. I'll give her credit for taking a better route than merely the pamphlet market, but it's just so ridiculous how she acts oblivious to how there have been black heroines in past history. I assume her disdain for the gatekeepers (meaning, the veterans?) kept her from doing serious research?

And since "progressive" came up, they also cite a company that unfortunately lost its mind in those kind of politics:
Once Osajyefo and his collaborators — Tim Smith III, Khary Randolph, and Jamal Igle — had the cash, they decided to publish with another company that has made its bones by being progressive, albeit in a way that’s much more brash than Iron Circus or Emet: Black Mask Studios. Founded in 2012 by Brett Gurewitz, Steve Niles, and Matt Pizzolo, the firm has always aimed to afflict the comfortable. The company’s prologue was the publication of a Kickstarted anthology of comics about Occupy Wall Street, the proceeds of which went to buying necessities for the protesters in Zuccotti Park. The trio were able to raise the money, but Pizzolo says they couldn’t find a publisher willing to put out something so intense.

“They were nervous about doing anything political,” he says. In their discussions about what to do, the topic of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s late-’80s anarchist masterpiece V for Vendetta came up. “What Niles said at the time, his observation from the reaction that we were getting, was that if V for Vendetta were created today, there would be no publisher for it” because it would be seen as too ideologically radical. There was a time when the Big Two took bigger risks, Pizzolo says, but now that their comics and the characters in them are lucrative cross-platform corporate products, Pizzolo thinks the powers that be are afraid to take the risk of offending.
And why shouldn't they be? Much of the public, both right and left, have already found out and are getting very tired of being belittled by socialists running a bad movement that thankfully collapsed several years ago, and was never a positive example either. More to the point, it's not proving lucrative, and even SJWs aren't buying them. I'm guessing when they speak of the Big Two, they're alluding to just several years ago when their own pandering to ultra-leftists first began seriously, with Civil War just one example. By now, such social justice monstrosities have taken over their line of books entirely, to the point where they've become unreadable, and sales began sinking belatedly. It's about time it happened, as the Big Two have done enough over the past decade or so to ask for declining receipts. The news about Black Mask gets more ludicrous:
He and his collaborators decided to self-publish and start bringing others along for the ride. “There’s something missing to support those types of works,” says Pizzolo, “and we might as well build the infrastructure in a sustainable way, to support other creators who might not have been able to find a home for something that is a little bit more politically radical, a little bit more subversive, or even just an authentic message that has a political component to it in some way.”

That mentality has been part of their DNA ever since. Black Mask’s books’ premises speak for themselves: Kim & Kim follows a pair of intergalactic queer bounty hunters, Calexit depicts a California that has seceded from the union following the election of Donald Trump, The Dregs is about gentrifiers who murder homeless people, and so on. BLACK is six issues in and launching a spinoff called BLACK [AF]: America’s Sweetheart at the end of the month, and Osajyefo believes a key reason the series became one of Black Mask’s biggest sellers is how openly progressive it is. One can see that particularly in the form of artist Randolph’s covers, which depict jarring scenes like superpowered energy coming from the arms of a lynched black man or a hoodie-wearing black teenager escaping racists on a Donkey Kong–esque journey to defeat Trump. “People aren’t gonna be able to walk past this and not at least pick it up,” he says.
Man, if that isn't politically motivated, I don't know what is. If that's all they can think of, I don't see how they expect to sell through the roof. Besides, what sane person wants a neighborhood to be a slum with badly kept buildings?

I think forming one's own publishing outfit is a great idea, and a few of the sources cited certainly sound like they've got the right idea how to entertain. But the above example is hardly the most appealing, and coming at a time when many Americans feel alienated by the showbiz industry, I think it's very ill-timed, and at least two commentors made a point why:
If I hear any film/comic/TV show use the "diversity" to promote itself, its a hard pass. Diversity is a very negative connotation now. But these people dont get it. If people wanted these trash titles they;d be selling. Hopefully Marvel learnt a lesson.
Alas, don't bet on it so easily. Unless Mary Jane Watson's restored as Peter Parker's wife, the chances are slim. Another said:
If they are doing this to score Social Justice Virtue Points, then this is just another example of patronizing tokenism. If they want to do this, then it should make sense to the story being told. The market will decide how well they have done at that.
Exactly. Their best choice would be to concentrate on entertainment, not partisan politics. Is that so hard to do?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kudos on taking notice of Spike Trotman; she is one of the best of the new creators around, doing books that are way superior to anything put out by the mass media publishers. Although it is strange to see a guy telling a black American woman what characters she should identify with... Especially when those characters are so marginal.

Kathy Kane was Batwoman well before there even was a Batgirl; the first Batgirl was her niece. Ted Kord was neither the first nor the longest serving Blue Beetle; Al Pratt, not Ray Palmer, was the first Atom; and there have been so many Manhunters I have lost count. No reason why all of them have to be white adult males of indeterminate ethnicity and religion.

Post a Comment

About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
My profile



  • avigreen2002@yahoo.com
  • Fansites I Created

  • Hawkfan
  • The Greatest Thing on Earth!
  • The Outer Observatory
  • Earth's Mightiest Heroines
  • The Co-Stars Primer
  • Realtime Website Traffic

    Comic book websites (open menu)

    Comic book weblogs (open menu)

    Writers and Artists (open menu)

    Video commentators (open menu)

    Miscellanous links (open menu)

  • W3 Counter stats
  • Bio Link page
  • blog directory Bloggeries Blog Directory View My Stats Blog Directory & Search engine eXTReMe Tracker Locations of visitors to this page  
    Flag Counter

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

    make money online blogger templates

Older Posts Newer Posts

The Four Color Media Monitor is powered by Blogspot and Gecko & Fly.
No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.
Join the Google Adsense program and learn how to make money online.