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Pull list for April 29 2015 (Also, thoughts on diversity in comics)

April 27, 2015

I’m off Wednesday, so reviews will go up.

I’ll go to the store for: Bitch Planet #4, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro; My Little Pony Fiendship Is Magic #5, by Katie Cook and Andy Price; Ultron Forever #2, by Al Ewing and Alan Davis; Silk #3, by Robbie Thompson and Stacey Lee; Silver Surfer #14, by Dan Slott and Mike Allred; X-Men #26, by G. Willow Wilson and Roland Boschi.

I’ll also review: Spider-Man #6, by Elliott Kalan and Marco Failla; Wolverines #16, by Ray Fawkes and Ario Anindito.

So that’s 6 comics I’m picking up, and 5 reviews. So a bit of a heavier week for my wallet, not so much for reviews.

I’m most excited for Bitch Planet! Woot! That series has gotten off to an awesome start, and I’m excited to see it develop. And also X-Men. Wilson’s done a solid job with the arc so far. I’m looking forward to see how it concludes. Of course, there’s also Silver Surfer – Slott and Allred have been killing it, and this issue promises to be totally messed-up. And I’m also excited for Silk. I’m surprised, actually, at how much I dislike waiting for this comic each month. A lot of that’s on the art, of course. Stacey Lee is amazing. But just in general, the book has actually made me interested in the character, and I want to see how her story develops.

I talked a bit on Wednesday about Teen Iceman being revealed as gay, in ANXM #40. I had some more thoughts about it that I wanted to talk about. These thoughts are largely about diversity in superhero comics as a whole. A lot of people complain when existing characters are “changed” to reflect more diversity. The argument they always use is that Marvel should instead create new diverse characters, and use existing ones. Here’s the problem with that argument: Marvel already does that, and no one reads it. Avengers Academy created six new characters, most of them diverse. And the book had low sales for almost its entire run, and there are very, very few people calling on Marvel to use those characters again. So they do create new characters. And they also use existing ones – Mighty Avengers is a minority majority book, using a bunch of existing characters (many of them B-listers with fairly vocal fanbases), and its sales have been low since it launched. So they do use existing characters.

And no one gives a shit. Because, at the end of the day, Mighty Avengers isn’t The Avengers. Luke Cage isn’t Captain America. Monica Rambeau isn’t Thor. The characters people care about are the ones created in the ’60s, and some from the ’70s. They care about the characters created when straight white males were the only ones allowed to matter. Because those are the only characters people care about, they’re still the only ones allowed to matter. Writers want to write the characters they loved when they were younger.

Some people make the argument that Marvel needs to keep pushing specific minority characters. Setting aside the fact that that’s also something they’ve done (Luke Cage was the heart of Bendis’ New Avengers for its entire extended run, and is one of the main characters in Ewing’s Mighty Avengers), the problem is that most of those people will also argue that writers should be allowed to use who they want. And I actually agree with letting writers use the characters they want – I don’t like the idea of writers being told by editorial, “Hey, we’re trying to make this character more popular, so you have to use her as much as possible.” (Of course, this is different from editorial telling a writer, “Hey, this is what’s happened to this character over in this book, so that needs to be reflected in your book.” That’s continuity. And most writers are totally OK with that.) I love Karma, so much, but I don’t want Yost being told he has to use her in Amazing X-Men, whether he wants to or not.

So writers should be allowed to write the characters they want to use. Here’s where that makes pushing characters more difficult: While it’s true that every character is someone’s favourite, very few characters are everyone’s favourite. Plenty of people love Karma, but a lot of people don’t really have much of an opinion on her. But Beast? Everyone has an opinion about Beast. Everyone has a Spider-Man story they want to write; basically no one has a Prowler story. So even if a writer gets to write their Prowler story, that’s basically going to be the end of it – the next guy’s almost certainly not going to care enough to follow up on it.

So that’s why making changes to the major characters is fair game, as far as I’m concerned. The fact is, we are always going to have more straight white male A-listers to read about. Always always always. Women, people of colour and LGBT people? Not so much. Their options are so much more limited. (And when people say that stuff doesn’t matter: Bullshit. Absolute, 100% bullshit. Representation matters. I’m a straight white male, and I still get excited at seeing librarian characters, simply because it makes me feel like I’m represented.) So Iceman becoming gay? That means there’s an LGBT character who will see consistent use. This isn’t going to result in fewer writers with Iceman stories to tell. It’ll mean some writers have different Iceman stories than they otherwise would have told, but they’ll still have stories. It may even mean more writers have Iceman stories they want to tell. Even if we don’t get many stories about Iceman exploring his sexuality, it’s still a gay character getting to have stories on a consistent basis, something that’s not true of any other LGBT character in Marvel’s entire catalogue, aside from Mystique, and she’s not exactly the most positive example of LGBT representation out there.

Everyone deserves some sort of representation. Superhero comics have kind of a shit history when it comes to that sort of thing. There are a lot of groups that still don’t get any representation – for example, there’s a somewhat disturbing lack of autistic characters. There are no dyslexic characters, as far as I can recall. Black men are deeply underrepresented among the X-Men. Asian men are underrepresented everywhere. Transgender people only have two Marvel characters representing them, only one of them currently appearing anywhere. That’s one of the important things to remember about diversity: It’s a campaign that will never end, because there will always be groups that are underrepresented.

The one group that is not underrepresented is straight white males. So, as a straight white male, I just want to say this to all others of my kind: Stop whining about characters being “taken” from you. Stop. Just stop. You don’t like that Iceman is now gay? Straight people still have virtually every other character appearing anywhere right now. There are exactly 7 LGBT characters appearing in ongoing titles: Pod, in Avengers; Mystique and Daken, in Wolverines; Sera, in Angela; Loki, in Loki; Northstar, in Amazing X-Men; and now, Bobby, in All-New X-Men. That’s it. That is the full extent of Marvel’s present LGBT representation. It’s not like Secret Wars is showing any signs of widespread LGBT representation, either, and you can bet your ass the situation isn’t going to be much improved after it’s over. So why do you have to be so damned petty as to begrudge one single, solitary character?

And hey, if you really think Marvel should be creating new characters and using existing ones, then why not put your money where your mouth is? You want Marvel using existing black characters rather than doing Captain Falcon? Then pick up Mighty Avengers. Pick up Deathlok. If you oppose Lady Thor, then pick up Captain Marvel. Write Marvel and tell them which characters you want to see used more. Get a campaign going to get a lot of people showing support for a character, and when that character appears in a book, do everything in your power to make that book a success.

Not that that’ll happen. Because the people bitching about this shit don’t actually give a damn about diversity. They just want to keep reading about the same characters they’ve always read about. They would never actually buy a Falcon series, they’re just angry that they can’t read yet another story about Steve Rogers punching Nazis. That’s what it comes down to. “I got mine, screw everyone else.” Of course, there’s also the whine-asses who don’t even read comics in the first place. Those people can kindly fuck right off. If you don’t read comics, then this shit is just none of your business. You don’t get to bitch about Captain Falcon when you don’t read Captain America anyway. It doesn’t have even the slightest effect on you, so shut the hell up.

Anyway! I finished Ratscalibur. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

It’s an advance readers copy, so it’s possible there may be some minor changes between this and the final version. This was definitely a cute book. It does a good job getting into a rat’s state of mind. The characters are well-developed, with distinct and strong personalities. The humour is done well, and there’s plenty of tension, as well. The most interesting thing, I think, is how the writing doesn’t really shy away from a certain level of gruesomeness in some of its descriptions. Lieb gets that kids are messed up, and he delights in writing descriptions that they’ll find delightfully gross.

Definitely a good book.

Next up is Things Grak Hates.

My work schedule for the week: 7-11 pm tomorrow, 10:30-2:30 Friday, 7:30-11:30 Saturday, 10:30-4 Sunday, 7-11 Monday, 10-6:30 next Tuesday. And off next Wednesday. My next pull list will be Tuesday, and I’ll have posts, most likely, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday. That’s my hope, anyway. So I’ll be finishing up 1985 this week, and starting 1985!

So that’s it for this week.

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9 Comments
  1. worldbreaker permalink

    While I’m all for pushing minority characters saying you don’t want minorities forced upon writers yet saying you don’t mind known characters being changed just for the sake of it is pretty hypocritical.

    I say it doesn’t hurt pushing unknown characters, like what DC has been doing with Cyborg or what Marvel has been doing with Falcon. Hell Ms.Marvel is one of Marvel’s best properties and its a NEW character they’re pushing. Miles is also a NEW character and he has been one of the best Spider-Man replacements Marvel has.

    Also the whole don’t give a crap about creating new minority characters or pushing established characters is pretty much telling the audience to not give a crap about minority characters or push diversity in general. Lets take the cop out route and change an established white character for the lulz since we lack the creativity to make an established or new minority/LGBT character intriguing to the audience.

    • I don’t think anyone believes writers should be forced to write characters they don’t want to write. That’s not a great way of going about things. But I don’t see how it’s hypocritical of me to be fine with existing characters being changed. Sure, that may end up affecting other writers, but that’s part of the shared universe, and generally, a writer still won’t really be forced to do much with a specific character if they don’t want to. If Hickman had no interest in using Falcon in his Avengers run, he was under no obligation to give Captain Falcon much to do after Remender made the change.

      Of course I’m fine with pushing existing characters. My point is that it doesn’t actually work, from a sales standpoint. A Falcon ongoing would bomb. All-New Captain America has decent numbers.

      Ms. Marvel’s a fluke, and Miles Morales is because Ultimate Spider-Man always did well, and Miles was just a continuation of that story.

      I’d love it if the audience gave more of a crap about new and existing characters. And hey, I try. I talked up how great All-New Ghost Rider was. I talked up how great Mighty Avengers was. I’ve expressed my love for so many lesser-known characters. I’ve called for a Generation X reunion, and promised to write my first fan-letter if Marvel puts out another Cloak and Dagger series with art by Emma Rios. I routinely declare Karma to be one of my favourite characters.

      I’d love it if more people cared about more minority characters. But they don’t. Most people care only about the “classic” characters – the ones created in the ’60s and ’70s, when straight white males made up an overwhelming majority of the characters.

      It’s easy to say, “Marvel should just make new or existing characters more interesting to the audience.” But how? If it was that easy, this isn’t a discussion people would be having, because Marvel already would’ve done it. But for every Ms. Marvel, there’s a few dozen Finesses – cool, compelling characters who vanish into limbo as soon as their creator stops writing them.

      So if making Iceman gay means there’s a prominent LGBT character appearing on a more-or-less permanent basis? Then I’m fine with it.

    • Mike permalink

      How is that hypocritical? He’s saying writers shouldn’t be forced to write about characters they don’t want to. Writers should be allowed to tell the story they want to. And sometimes that involves changing existing characters. If another writer doesn’t like it, then that’s just one problem that comes with writing in a shared universe, but the main argument is that they shouldn’t be forced to write a character they don’t want to write about in the first place, not whether they approve of another writers creative changes, a writer should have the freedom to do that.

      • worldbreaker permalink

        You talk about how writers shouldn’t be forced to write about a minority character. So by that logic the same should apply to changing a white character to a minority character just for the lulz instead of because there could be a good story out of it. And the disregarding of the popularity behind Miles and Kamala doesn’t change the fact that both of them have proven that you can push new minority characters if a writer and a company cares enough to push them. Which they have and the results shows that.

        Changing a character’s race or sexual orientation just for the hell of it doesn’t help the situation. It just worsens the situation cause already you have fans turning on it and calling it a cheap sales gimmick. If one really wants change then howabout you convince Marvel and others to buy comics that feature minority characters? If more people buy comics that features new characters like Kamala then that actually showcase that fans care about diversity and opens the possibility of more minority characters like Ms.Marvel to appear

      • I still have absolutely no damn clue what you’re talking about. I really don’t.

        These writers changed the characters because they had a story to tell. They thought they would be interesting stories, worth telling, and they’ve chosen to tell the stories, and editorial has chosen to allow them to tell the stories. So how is that in any way similar, at all, to writers being forced to use certain characters? If Marvel went to Jason Aaron and said, “Hey, you need to make Thor a woman,” that would be problematic, because they would be making him tell a story he didn’t want to tell. But that’s not the case here. Aaron wants to tell this story, so he’s telling it. I genuinely have no idea how you’re conflating “writers shouldn’t be forced to use characters” with “characters shouldn’t have their race, gender or orientation changed.” They are two completely separate things.

        Miles Morales has been successful because people followed it over from when it was about a white guy as Spider-Man. Miles Morales is the exact thing people say is bad! It’s an existing character being replaced by a minority character. Hell, even Ms. Marvel is actually a legacy character, and in Kamala’s case, the legacy is actually an intrinsic part of her character. She’s a Carol fangirl, and took the Ms. Marvel name specifically to honour her. But still, for every minority character that succeeds, there’s a hundred that are thrown into limbo as soon as their original writer stops using them. Or they’re killed off, or they undergo character assassination that no one bothers following up on.

        And I do push for minority characters. I also push for minority creators. I spent plenty of time talking about how great All-New Ghost Rider was – no one bought the book. I talked a lot about how amazing the Gillen/McKelvie Young Avengers was – no one bought the book. I’ve talked about how great Mighty Avengers is – no one buys the book. That book is proof, really, that no one gives a shit about minority characters – Luke Cage and Monica Rambeau are both classic characters with strong fanbases, and the book still has absolute shit sales.

  2. I love this post you made. Thank you for it.

    I think we’re operating on the same wavelength. If you click my name (I think that’s how this works), it should take you to a blog post I just finished entitled “‘Damn Feminists Are Ruining Everything’: How to Express Your Dislike of the Current Thor Series Without Being A Dick.”

    It took about three weeks to write. I meant to have it done the day issue #7 came out, but you can see how that worked out.

    Anyway, you have a great blog. Keep it.up.

  3. LOVE this post. Literally everything that needs to be said on this subject has been said. It’s nice to see a straight white male understand the importance of representation. This was a good direction to take with Bobby’s character and will surely inspire many. Visibility and representation really matters and it’s sad so many don’t get that or think that creating new characters will fix this problem.

  4. worldbreaker permalink

    What I mean is how about something truly new and thought out instead of childish thrashing with the same action as so many this past decade? The same “change”, a race flip.

    People assume the whole character bending is this new and revolutionary thing but in actuality it is not. Its been done and as of late there has been no big change. Other than people screaming for change. That kind of passion is good and we both want minorities and LGBT people to be pushed but to me I say the best method in doing so is to keep buying books featuring Ms.Marvel and convince others that hey a book starring a minority isn’t bad.

    Give me a character that is new and not white. A character that is not a cipher for another. Something original and not repeated boring formula.

    • Ms. Marvel is a legacy character too rather than a wholly original idea. At least as far as the title of her book goes.

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