Earlier tonight I responded to the announced creative team for Marvel’s All-New, All-Different Avengers book with the following tweet:
The three white dude creators announced for the young + diverse All New All Different Avengers have an average age of 51
— Chris Eckert (@kennybloggins) June 25, 2015
Was this snarky? Probably. Was it justifiable? Yes and no. To clarify, here are three things that are frustrating about the all-too-neccesary efforts Marvel and DC (and really, all of American media) are making to produce entertainments that depict something other than white dudes.
1) Especially in comics, the widening of the demographic of fictional two-dimensional characters is a lot more widespread than the widening of the demographic who create and depict those characters. Not only are three veteran white dudes working on the diverse team of All-New, All-Different Avengers, but the creative teams for their solo books (with the exception of Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man artist Sarah Pichelli, and whatever issues of Nova were drawn by Paco Medina) have been very white and very male. This is particularly troubling in comics because even when white dudes dominate the upper creative echelons of Hollywood or other entertainment silos (which is bad) at least a bunch of ladies and people of color get work portraying ladies and people of color in their products (this is relatively good). Ever since Amos and Andy went off the air and they stopped making dudes play ladies in Shakespeare, comics are one of the only media that is able to tout their diversity without actually employing anyone but the same old white dudes.
2) This is a systemic flaw, not a personal one for creators. Waid (and Kubert and Ross and Bendis and Aaron and Remender and etc. etc. etc.) are all white dudes of a certain age. They can not change their whiteness or their maleness or their date of birth. None of these facts should disqualify them from getting jobs in comics, and when they get jobs in comics it definitely doesn’t mean they should just avoid writing anything but white dudes of a certain age because they shouldn’t even try to write women or teenagers or people of color. It’s easy to look at the overall demographics of a company’s creative roster and roll your eyes, but that’s not the fault of the individual creators. They’re just trying to do their jobs.
3) BUT ALSO!!! While it’s great that there are more chances for people who aren’t straight white dudes to write superhero comics, it’s frustrating to see those creators get slotted into the position of “we’d better find a [black/gay/female/Muslim] creator to work on our [black/gay/female/Muslim] character!” Growing up I got to read Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson on Daredevil and Steel despite being neither of them being male, black, or blind; Dwayne McDuffie was great on Damage Control as well as Icon, and the entire Milestone line was basically Everyone Writing and Drawing Everyone. Lately it seems that the hiring process seems to be a much more 1:1 “creator/character” demographic match, except for all of the times it just defaults to a white guy. How it is that after well over a thousand issues of Amazing/Spectacular/Web of/Ultimate/Superior Spider-Man comics, there have been a total of six issues written by a person of color and twelve issues split between three women in three decades? Batman has literally never had an issue written by a woman in nearly 800 issues, but Catwoman has had half a dozen rotate through in less than a quarter as many issues. This isn’t the fault of anyone saying “yes” to a lucrative job offer they’re probably excited to work on, but cumulatively it is dispiriting.
So yeah, I was snarking on the Marvel’s latest round of “diversity diversity diversity diversity” press releases promoting books created almost exclusively by white guys. I’m not apologizing for that. But I do feel like a jerk for making it sound like I disapproved of the three white dudes personally. I have and hope to continue to enjoy comics from all three of them, maybe even All-New, All-Different Avengers. Also in case you are reading this, Mark Waid, I am worried I was rude to you at a comic book convention in Kansas City in 1998 or so. I probably said something dismissive of Kingdom Come but then you talked about Omega the Unknown for like ten minutes and you completely won me over. I also give you permission to correct any and all grammar mistakes in this post.