“Why I Love” Diversity And Representation

I didn’t plan on writing this piece for a while, but I think some good vibes are in order in the comic book community. Aren’t they always? Well, honestly, nothing pressing comes to mind when I think about negativity and outrage in comics recently. Diversity and representation though, that’s a topic that people are always talking about. Why though? The answer is simple. The internet. The internet has connected us all in a way we couldn’t predict when the first computers came out. People, minorities specifically, have always talked about diversity and representation but their voices were able to be silenced through the mainstream media. Some make the claim that they are still being silenced but I think that’s ludicrous. Newspapers and television stations have always been controlled by people who had no interest in making diversity a priority. Today though, we’re the media. Social media specifically, dictates what people talk about and what they care about. There are cons to this recent evolution in media, but I think one of the greatest things about it is we, as a people, can never be silenced. And now, more people than ever have joined the fight for diversity and representation in all forms of media. If you can’t tell, this piece is about why I love diversity and representation. The first reason is quite clear. I love it because it has brought people together from all walks of life. I’m a black, straight male. When I was growing up, just seeing a black, straight male in a show or film was good enough for me in terms of representation. Now, with the power of social media, I’ve been able to open myself to all forms of representation. Whether it’s a Muslim, a gay man, or a female, never has my enthusiasm been so high for minorities who don’t look like me or have the same lifestyle. I know that some people don’t share this enthusiasm. There’s a certain type of exclusion that happens between minority groups. Blacks only support blacks, gays only support gays, so on and so forth. Some like to act as if this problem halts all progress we’ve made. It doesn’t, not in the slightest. It’s a problem that we as minorities need to get over soon, but the number of minorities that have banded together in this fight has grown astronomically because of social media, and I love that.

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Accomplished director James Cameron, was recently quoted as saying that Wonder Woman was a “step backwards.” You can interpret that however you want to, but myself and others think the comment was idiotic. The next reason I love diversity and representation is a basic one, but the most important. Kids. James Cameron’s comments were ignorant, and they screamed of a man who doesn’t understand representation, but claims they do. I saw multiple people respond to his words with pictures of little girls dressing up as Wonder Woman. White girls, black girls, cancer patients, girls with down syndrome, you name it, they all wanted to be Wonder Woman this summer. Should it have happened sooner? You’d be a fool to say no, but seeing so many little girls inspired by someone who looks like them is heartwarming. Diversity and representation gives children and teens something to aspire to be. It started for me when I used to watch the Justice League cartoon with my father. I credit my father with getting me into superheroes. He used to record all the animated shows on VHS when I was growing up. Then, on Saturdays, we’d watch endless episodes of Spider-Man, Batman, and X-Men. When Justice League came out, I found myself loving John Stewart, the Green Lantern. And as a kid, I didn’t know much or really care about the character at the time. The main reason I liked him is because he looked like me. Well he looked and sounded like my father. As I grew up, John Stewart did become my overall favorite Green Lantern, but as a kid, you don’t care about all the extra stuff. I don’t mind maintaining that type of mentality until I’m 90 years old. I think adults forget that comics and superheroes are made for children. Adults get so into debating and arguing false scenarios and it leads them down a path of nonsense. I love the feeling of joy superheroes give me. I also love seeing minority children aspire to be amazing characters in comics. And there’s still so many characters to explore. So many minority characters who haven’t gotten a chance to impact their certain demographic. There aren’t any gay superheroes, male or female on screen right now. The closest thing we have is Trini from this year’s Power Rangers. Imagine in the future, the amazing impact heroes such as Midnighter and Apollo could have. They aren’t the stereotype that is associated with gay male characters. Both are complex characters with complex emotions, and they just happen to like men. I pray that we see the two share a kiss on screen one day so that all gay boys in the world will feel empowered by watching this powerhouse couple. Another hero who isn’t defined by her sexuality I can’t wait to see on the screen one day is America Chavez. She’s a beautiful, sassy, tough superhero who is a powerhouse in Marvel right now. You wouldn’t blink twice if they made her heterosexual, but she isn’t. But, as with Midnighter and Apollo, she’s a complex character who has more pressing worries than her sexuality. Seeing minority characters embrace their culture or heritage while saving the world is a powerful, powerful thing. And I only want to see more of it in the future.

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Midnighter and Apollo

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America Chavez

So, I laid out the first two reasons I love diversity and representation. The next is related to the first mainly, but stands out because it relates directly to comics themselves. I’ve read just about every superhero story that’s been written. Let me rephrase that, I’ve read every type of superhero story ever written. Diversity and representation offers a different perspective that we simply can’t get with white writers, editors, and creators. Now, let me interject here by saying I am not a believer of completely doing away with white creators. Diversity is extremely important in comics, but I see some people who only care about making everything black, or making everything gay. That’s not right to me. This next reason I love diversity is simply the diversity of thought. The all-black way of thinking to me leads us down a dangerous path. It comes from a good place, but I feel that we as minorities need to make sure we are focused on improving the quality of comics and not just improving the sheer quantity of diverse characters. That can lead us down the path of diversity and representation becoming nothing but a gimmick. Some argue we’re there but I don’t think so at all. If current diversity was a gimmick, Luke Cage would be saying words like “jive turkey” every five seconds, and combing his hair with a pick in the shape of a woman’s butt. There’s a fine line between wanting authentic diversity and excluding anybody who isn’t a minority. That being said, the comic industry and media industry is still too white. Too often we see writers, artists, directors, and actors of color not get the opportunities that their white colleagues do. Yes, things are better and I think the big companies are taking notice but at the end of the day, they will resort to their old ways if we let them. The biggest example of this is Batman in DC Comics. I LOVE Batman. He was one of my first superheroes and from his world, comes my favorite DC hero, Nightwing. I’d be lying though if I said I wasn’t tired of him and events revolving around him in comics. Scott Snyder is a famed comic book writer and his Batman series is one of my favorite series of all time. Yes, of all time. Snyder has gotten the green light from DC recently to do an event that’s being called “Metal.” Two prelude issues came out and so has the first issue. DC is taking the event serious. Full blown promotion, with special items, nice covers, the works. Where DC could improve their overall business model is by giving that same energy to a lesser known character. I’m not even talking about a minority character (although that would be nice too) I’m just talking about any character that isn’t known to the world. But no, DC trusts in Batman’s name and character to sell comics. You can’t get too mad at them because at the end of the day, it is a business, but in the long run, I see them getting left behind by Marvel and other companies such as Lion Forge and Valiant that are giving unique perspectives from ALL of their characters, not just the ones who they know will make money. Diversity isn’t a complex thing. If a company as big as DC Comics, Warner Brothers, Universal, Fox, or whoever pushes any character with the same energy of Snyder’s Metal and they’ll probably succeed. The longer they refuse to accept the world in which we live, the more people will create their own comics and media platforms. Like I said, this reason is linked to the first. With social media and this new era of creators, all it takes is the right amount of buzz to become the next DC or Marvel. It’ll take some time and business savvy, yes, these companies have been around forever. But, change is coming and by excluding diverse creators, they continue to fall behind. This forces them to utilize their minority characters to their fullest potential. DC doesn’t seem to get that clue yet, but Marvel is doing it in the films, television, and comics. The last reason I love diversity and representation is the moment when a company starts to listen to fans and produce quality, diverse work. It leads to the other reasons I love about diversity and representation. You get more people talking about your product, kids want dress as that hero, and diverse creators want to work with you because you’re showing them you care about diverse thought. It all works together. Marvel is lightyears ahead of DC right now in that category, and while they have a long way to go, you’d sound moronic to say they aren’t at least trying.

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Noble from Lion Forge Comics
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Livewire from Valiant Comics

Marvel comics is trying in all areas. Let’s look at their comics, where this truly matters the most. Marvel has taken great steps toward diversity by showcasing a myriad of heroes who aren’t the main Avengers. Sam Wilson, famously known as Falcon, has been THE Captain America for some years now. Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, Amadeus Cho, and Sam Alexander headline a powerhouse lineup of teen heroes that will be the face of Marvel ten or twenty years in the future. A black teen from Chicago and a black Inhuman girl with a dinosaur just happen to be two of the smartest individuals in the Marvel Universe. Oh, and that black teen from Chicago? She was handpicked by Tony Stark himself to become the next Iron Man. I could talk about all the steps they’ve taken in the comics for days. The X-Men have returned to their glory, the Ultimates was one of the best comics they’ve done in years, and female heroes such as Jessica Jones and Carol Danvers are superstars in Marvel. The next level to look at would be television. I’m not a huge Agents of SHIELD fan but I notice the great strides they’ve made in diversity. Agent Carter was a solid show as well, but the biggest strides in diversity and representation are with the Netflix Universe. As I said, diversity of thought is highly important. The four Netflix shows give us different perspectives from completely different people, but each is treated with respect. Jessica Jones might be one of the best television shows of all time in my opinion. Not many shows can blend a superhero plot with a conversation about rape culture in such a subtle, but not so subtle way. They even managed to make a decent show out of Luke Cage. He’s become one of the most respected men in the Marvel Universe, and that’s because the creators respect him. They’ve given him chances that other creators might not. You could easily relegate him to the strongman role, no one would complain or notice. But, it’s moves like that, that get casual fans excited and get creators excited and eager to learn about a character’s past.

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The Avengers. The team is different now, but Marvel is still dedicated to this wave of new heroes in comics.
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Luke Cage once lead the Avengers. This lead to a boost in popularity which lead to him getting his own show last year.
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The Ultimates. The best team in Marvel.

Now, let’s look at the big leagues. The movies. People love to get on their soap box when talking about diversity in the MCU. The fact is, that there isn’t much. I, personally have never cared about that though. The MCU, while it is an unstoppable force now, is still only 9 years old. The DCEU is only 4 years old. Marvel and DC Comics are over 50 years old. The MCU started their universe in a very traditional way. It was the classic Avengers minus Ant-Man and Wasp, and it was classic stories. They built up the core Avengers before branching out, and now, the sky’s the limit. I’ve never expected to see an America Chavez dimensional star or a Sam Alexander Easter egg in Guardians of the Galaxy. And I didn’t expect the first appearance of Spider-Man in the MCU to be Miles Morales. Fans need to calm their expectations of diversity and representation in the films because the MCU has always had a plan. Their newer heroes are a part of that plan, but to throw them in right this second, when they are still growing in the comics, would be silly and could ruin a character forever. The first step in that new direction comes in February 2018. The King of Wakanda makes his solo debut. That thing I said about a company respecting a character? Yeah, we’re going to witness the full effect of that ideology. Black Panther is a new hero to most, but he’s been around for comic fans since the 60’s. Marvel could honestly do whatever they want with him for his upcoming film. Their respect for the character though seems as if it’s going to show through in the film. Marvel has gotten one of the best up and coming directors in Ryan Coogler to direct the film. His specialty seems to be personal, heartfelt stories. I can’t explain how excited I would be if that was the route they went with T’Challa. The cast in this film is legendary. Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Michael B. Jordan, the list goes on and on. The teaser trailer for the film debuted during the NBA finals this summer. I’m sure most of you have seen the trailer by now, but I’ll link it at the end of this paragraph because it never gets old. It was one of the best teasers I’ve ever seen. Everything about that trailer indicates this movie is going to be special. Marvel is putting all of their effort into building the magical society of Wakanda. Wakanda is the most advanced city in the Marvel Universe, with technology that would make Tony Stark and Reed Richards jealous. Pile that on top of the fact that it’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the Marvel Universe, and you have a movie. I love this aspect of diversity because when it happens on all three levels, comics, television, and movies, it only helps the business of superheroes grow.

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CONCLUSION

I say it a lot, but it’s true, you either have to get with this new era of heroes, or get left behind. People don’t want the same Batman and Superman stories. They don’t want to see their favorite X-Men white washed when thousands of capable actors of color exist. There isn’t much compromise on this issue the way I see it. People who whine and complain about this recent push in diversity in representation in all forms of media claim that the quality of the product dips for the sake of political correctness. To me, that’s an attempt to hide their true feelings of racism and bigotry. If a minority thinks this, that’s their right, I just think they have blinders on when it comes to these issues. The comics I named earlier that are included in Marvel’s recent diversity push do not suffer from quality. There’s this amazing phenomena in our world where people criticize without actually reading. Crazy, right? I know this article is meant to bring nothing but positive vibes, but I’d feel bad if I didn’t directly address the bigots who are holding the comic industry from moving forward. We are going nowhere and we want new stories. My four reasons for loving diversity are all similar. One can cause another and so on. This world is changing. They say it’s the one constant in our lives. You may not like it, but the universe doesn’t seem to care what we like. Your next best option is to educate yourself on different cultures you think you understand but truly don’t. Start speaking to educated people within these cultures. This divide will continue to exist between us as long as the racists and bigots refuse to accept diversity and representation. As minorities, we’re forced to know about every aspect of white culture from a very young age. I don’t see superheroes as that overall, but they were created during a time that minorities didn’t have many rights. So, you can see my frustration when fans claim all they want is the original Justice League or Hal Jordan Green Lantern. And see, this gets complicated. It’s fine to like the heroes you grew up with. Completely fine. But to utter the words political correctness or poor quality when it comes to diversity and representation is asinine. You can adore and love the old heroes, while embracing the new. Too many people in our country and society act as if everything must have a side. Preference is fine, but constantly talking down about a company or hero because of diversity exposes your inner thoughts on race and culture overall. It’s a callback to the days where it was illegal for black people to vote. If you don’t see how the two intersect, then I guess that’s you’re reading the wrong article. Continue to surround yourself with nothing but hate and bigotry. Continue to judge the entire comic book industry by listening to your favorite YouTuber who thinks Wakanda is racist. And continue to burn copies of Marvel comics and claim they are catering to the SJW crowd. I love stories. I love comics. And I love diversity and representation and will never stop talking about their importance for as long as I’m alive.

 

Did you enjoy this article? What are your thoughts on diversity? Please let me know your thoughts. Remember to follow me @peacelovecomics on Twitter for updates on future articles. Until next time!

7 thoughts on ““Why I Love” Diversity And Representation

  1. I love your writing. I really do. Your passion, vision, and articulation are beautiful and turned to this issue they make a thoughtful and energizing argument. I whole-heartedly agree with all of this and it did my heart good to read it. Well said!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s my pleasure. And thank you for always putting out content that rings with both genuine excitement for the genre and important social justice messages too! Some blogs can feel formulaic at times but your written voice and your essays always feel so authentic.

        I absolutely loved your point above about how comics should be seen primarily as being stories for children. Too often grumpy (and/or close-minded) adults can’t see the value these characters have for the kids they are supposed to be speaking to. I fell in love with Spider-Man in 1986 and it’s a love that’s been with me my entire life. All kids should have a chance to find a hero who resonates like that!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really loved this article – thanks for writing and sharing. One additinal point is that in relation to Batman, the post-Rebirth Detective Comics has a great team ethos and it strikes me that as a book it has achieved diversity almost by accident in character mix. It has Batman obviously but working with him are a team that includes two persons of colour (Batwing and Duke), a lesbian character who is Batman’s equal in charge (Batwoman), and two other females (Spoiler and Orphan) accompanying Batman and Red Robin and Clayface. It has been a book of varying quality including some very good issues but I thought I’d highlight re DC. Also I was going to send this excellent article to Michael Miller of the mycomicrelief site but see he has beaten me to it! Thanks again, wonderful article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! And yes the Detective Comics currently do have a solid lineup of diverse characters. DC is still on the doghouse with me for changing Batwing. The original was David Zavimbe, I actually wrote a piece on him too in February I think. And I’m going to review Duke’s upcoming solo. I hope that it’s good and that fans support it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I liked that Batman International title circa New 52. I’m looking forward to The Signal too! Finally see Duke Thomas coming into his own!

        Liked by 1 person

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