Diversity issues and Black writers at Marvel and DC

staticRecently, there’s been much discussion online about the diversity problems facing the “mainstream” (read: DC and Marvel) comic industry. Particularly for African-Americans, the odds of working for DC or Marvel at all are apparently nearly nil. Out of their 70+-year-long histories, Marvel and DC have hired only about two dozen writers for an ongoing series (“ongoing” defined as two or more issues), per this Google Docs spreadsheet.

Among reasons for a lack of diversity at the “Big Two” I’ve seen cited: the limited-circle nature of the superhero comics industry (“hiring who you know” and all that); the same historical racism issues present in other American entertainment industries (movies, television, etc.); the general head-in-the-sand nature of Marvel and DC that’s led to their other problems (lack of diversity of genres/product, pricing, availability, etc.); and so forth.

I’d also add to the above problems with attracting any fresh, original talent (of any race, gender, etc.) in general: why should a writer contribute one’s best ideas for Marvel/DC (and see Marvel/DC own them lock, stock, and barrel) when they can publish them themselves at Image, etc.? Given the success of independent comics like  “The Walking Dead,” as well as various successful webcomics, etc., I can see why even the Wall Street Journal (the nation’s top business newspaper) has pointed this out.  (So did The Comics Beat, in case there’s any future issues re: the Journal link.) It also doesn’t help when DC itself is driving off some of their veteran talent recently (the high turnover rate on the Superman books, etc.).

Overall, if one’s not married to superheroes (which “mainstream” usually gets cited as being), there’s plenty of other comic companies (and independent comics/webcomics) for minority cartoonists to write/draw for. There’s also the fact that with the changing demographics of the United States (i.e. more ethnic minorities, openly LGBT folk, etc.), it’ll be quite foolish for any business, especially in the entertainment industry, to ignore said issues in the long run. This just makes Marvel and DC’s lack of truly fixing their broken business model even more problematic for them in the future.

Others online have written in recent weeks/months about Marvel and DC’s diversity issues:

  • An article by Hannibal Tabu about Marvel/DC not hiring Black writers.
  • Joseph Hughes‘ article on Comics Alliance about Marvel/DC diversity.
  • The Comics Beat also has an article.
  • An article from last fall by Comics Alliance, which mentions Kevin Keller’s success as a positive aspect of diversity driving sales.

 

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