By Battlepig 61 Comments
In San Diego, a girl dressed as Batgirl stole the show with the question “Where are all the female creators?” She asked that question at literally every panel that DC held and became a kind of hero of the oppressed minority of female comic book writers and thus – for some completely bizarre reason – of the comic book readers themselves as well.
Marvel has announced that their new Ultimate Spider-Man is called Miles Morales and is no longer white. Shock and awe ensued and the subject of Miles Morales is currently the topic here at ComicVine. Is him being black a good idea? Will his blackness somehow suddenly cause the character of Spider-Man to speak in ebonics? Comic book fans are debating all these very important questions, because… well, because – I suppose – they feel that they have to.
Meanwhile, I answer to both Batgirl’s question and Spider-Man’s newfound tan with the following statement: Who gives a damn?
Diversity does not matter. It never has and it never will. I imagine it is about now that people will claim that I’m either racist or some sort of bigoted moron who likes NASCAR and drinks Bud Lite. But my point has absolutely nothing to do with race.
You see, I read comics because I enjoy the stories told therein. I read them because I want to see Spider-Man punch the Green Goblin while desperately trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy in his life. I read the Birds of Prey because I’m interested in them fighting crime and how they work together as a team and how Misfit grows as a character (not that she’s doing much of that lately, but it was pretty cool). Whether the characters were female or black or black and female, that was the least of my concerns. In fact, I don’t even particularly care about the race of a character. And neither should you. And neither should the creators. Why? Because it really doesn’t matter. Not one bit.
Look at it this way: All of us, we have at least one friend who is not of your own ethnicity. You might have to think about that one for a bit since I hope I’m not the only one who’s managed to have a Tamil friend and not notice her dark skin until she pointed it out to me when I offered her sunscreen – because if I am, then I have really embarrassed myself. Point is, apart from me hopefully not embarrassing myself, that her skintone did not matter. She could have been green for all I cared and I probably still wouldn’t have noticed. Because the thing I do notice and the things I think of first are – for example – her smile, her sense of humour and the fact that she’s a lot of fun to hang out with and do stuff. I remember the one time she hugged a complete stranger because that poor girl was crying because as it turned out, her boyfriend cheated on her, I remember the day where she got really annoyed and grumpy because she didn’t get to eat breakfast and she’s of the sort that gets cranky when she is hungry. I remember the day where she crashed at my place and brought one of these table-oven things on it so we could make pizza-thingies on it. These are the things I remember, these are the things that make her her. Basically: I remember my history with her.
Just as with my Tamil friend, Spidey’s skin colour doesn’t matter, just as the gender of the writer doesn’t matter as long as the story told – the character’s history – is interesting, engaging and ultimately sympathetic, as that’s what gets us to buy the book month after month. The second you make race or gender a deciding factor in a character’s traits, you end up with someone like Poochie from the Simpsons. Or, to use a more recent example, Victor Hernan Alvarez aka. Power Man. I am betting you that the character will be forgotten in three years’ time.
Basically, our user @MydLyfeCrysis put it best in the comment section of the article that revealed Miles to be black:
Diversity for the sake of diversity is a failure on all accounts. It's insulting. I still hold out hope it's a good book, and it's interesting to see what they do with a new Spider-man. But I cannot shake the awful taste in my mouth the awful "D" word brings to my mouth. It's the bane of great stories to begin with diversity and work your way out. Diversity should be a byproduct of a great story, not the genesis.
Another reason why you and DC and Marvel and the rest of them shouldn’t care about diversity in the who-writes-what debate is the following: In comic books, it’s ultimately all about the story told. It’s about heroes or villains overcoming some sort of obstacle in their lives and doing stuff. That stuff can be very interesting. Or very boring. Would you have enjoyed All-Star Superman more if it was written by Grace Morrison? Would you enjoy The Walking Dead more if it was written by Roberta Kirkman? Does Robert Kirkman not write a fantastic female character? Or you could turn it around: Was Felicia D. Henderson’s run on Teen Titans any less abysmal because she uses the girl’s room? Was Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman any less of a failure because Gail is a she herself?
Sure, there’s any number of reasons why a book is either successful or fails. But in the end, it’s all down to the story. You tell a brilliant story, you get readers. You screw that up – regardless of whether you are a man or a woman – nobody will read your idiotic attempts at telling us a story about “new hot and sensational characters” like The Wyld or Victor Hernan Alvarez.
Writing as a concept, seen as the act of bringing ones thoughts to paper, has the advantage that it’s not something that is defined by the person committing the act. Writing is probably the most unbiased form of expression because all we have are twenty-six letters and ten numbers. With these, we can express ourselves. And every writer, regardless of race, age, creed or gender, has the same tools at his disposals. Nobody criticizes Stephenie Meyer because she’s a woman. Nobody loves J. D. Salinger because he’s a man. Both Salinger and Meyer are defined by their writing, their style, their stories and their treatment of the trade. Also, both didn’t get famous because of their gender. The same can be said for every black, Hispanic or Asian writer.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: Publishers should not hire male or female writers or artists because they feel like they must hire a woman or a man or a giraffe to write their comics. Because again, as MydLyfeCrysis explained, it will fail.
So there we are, my advice to writers, artists, publishers and fans: Stop forcing diversity for the sake of diversity. Care about the stories that are told. Because those end up mattering, not the authors.