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Is Diversity Destroying Comic Books?

The Idea of diversity destroying comic books makes about as much sense as saying a bottle of water would be enough to destroy the vast expanse of the ocean. Diversity on comic book superheroes has existed well into the 70's, and really saw an uptick n the 90's. That being said, I won't deny that some aspects of it are really becoming a problem now. It isn't so much the diversity itself, so much as the execution being about as effective as a Jahova's Witness knocking on every door in the neighborhood. People are calling Marvel Now's approach to diversity a form of tokenism, but I happen to think it has more to do with bad writing than anything else. Most of the bad writing is due --in no small part-- to Marvel's writers and their terrible habit of promoting political messages that don't really mesh well with the story. When Marvels second Civil War events was going on, political commentary would pop into the narrative and slap me upside the head like Barry Bons with a baseball bat.

People have been saying that they saw columnists at websites that cover comic books insisting that anyone who didn't like Marvel's direction only disliked it because we're all racist. I read a lot of articles online, and personally, I have never seen this happen. I have seen a lot of people claiming that comic book readers tend to fear change, and all that bullshit. 

Comicstorian --a YouTuber-- made an excellent response to this amazingly stupid accusation. If you think about it, Marvel went out of their way to kill or replace all the heroes that these bland, heavily sanitized characters were replacing. People talk about character development being a big issue with these new propaganda puppets like Jane Foster and RiRi Williams, because comic book readers don't read comic books for superpowers at all, rather for story and characters. We care about the people we're reading about, and not so much some stranger that popped up out of nowhere. Had these characters been introduced in their own books with their own superhero persona, I'm pretty sure no one would have had a problem with it.

Of course, most people agreed with Comicstorian on this issue, but I would take it a step further and side with Rob from ComicsExplained, when he called these accusations "ridiculous" and "Tremendously irresponsible." The way I see it, there are very real instances of racism out there in the real world. For some idiot columnists to be casually throwing that accusation around diminishes The impact of a real world problem, and if they keep this shit up, people are going to stop taking racism seriously altogether.

For me, The moment someone starts up a topic with "people who disagree with me are racist," I immediately tune out and ignore everything else they have to say. This isn't just me being an asshole, but a consequence of being a grown up. If you're talking to me --an able-bodied working class adult-- and the whole time we have a conversation, you are performing mental gymnastics in a futile attempt to detect coarse traces of racism in everything I say, then you don't deserve to talk to me. The way I see it, if you have to shoehorn racism into everything, you are not enough of an adult to carry a conversation with a grown-up, and you need to go fuck yourself.

I don't want to come off as a complete asshole, but the politically divisive nature of the media and the way it handles this issue is a red herring. Racism and Sexism and needs to be thrown out of this discussion, before people can have a dialogue about what's really going on here, because all this hyperbole and labels do is derail the conversation. The truth is, I really like Marvel comics. Marvel comics like the X-men, Thor and Spiderman are among some of my fondest memories growing up. My favorite part of the comics was how they always tried to shake up the status quo. The characters lives felt like they were always changing. That being said, I feel like no amount of race-bating and social justice propaganda is going to change the fact that Marvel is really doing something wrong here.

A word about RiRi Williams...

The Riri Williams as Iron man situation was a good example of a character who fell victim to one of the worst introductions to a character that has ever existed. I have to admit, as the series progresses, I'm starting to not dislike the concept it as much as I did in issue #1. The first issue of Invincible Iron Man was like driving by a car accident on a Los Angeles highway in rush-hour traffic. It was clumsily written, had bad artwork with dull, ugly tones, and to top it all off, came almost immediately after Stark was left in a catatonic state, meaning he was (For all intents and purposes) dead. Just before, in Stark's own comics, we learned that not only is he adopted, but he actually meets his real biological mother, in a plot line that goes absolutely fucking nowhere, since he was replaced with RiRi williams almost immediately after the revelation.

The worst part of her story isn't even RiRi herself; it's the fact that her inception derailed a plot line of a story readers actually gave a shit about, to introduce a character that was given literally no build up. Yet, there were dumb liberal douchebags in media that would have you believe that there is nothing resembling nuance to the negative reception. In their mind, the only people who could dislike invincible Ironman #1 are all grand wizards of the KKK. Never mind the virtually non existent story structure, forget the bad writing and dialogue, or that Riri had very little or no character, had not established any real backstory, and readers had no reason whatsoever to get invested in the character.

How not to screw up a character introduction...

Up to this point, we have gotten to know the characters who took up the mantle of any Avenger. Even X-23 had several years of backstory before taking up the mantle of Wolverine. The fact that we are first introduced to the character, who takes up the Ironman mantle practically overnight is bound to piss people off, and for good reason: We don't know this person. We didn't spend time with this character (RiRi) to the extent that we spent with, say, Ms. Marvel. We have no bond or emotional connection to this complete stranger. This is obviously the most plausible and probable explanation for why she wasn't well received by long time fans of comic books, but there is always some moron out there trying to turn this into a political issue.

YouTubers I don't agree with...

For example, I just watched a video by a YouTuber ComicsIsland, where he described what HE felt was wrong with the diversity issue in comic books.

...Doing this, research has shown that they survive this, by, for every older reader they've lost, they've attracted two new ones. That's not necessarily a bad thing ever. There was always gonna be some people who weren't willing to accept anything other than a pure white Marvel. I say good riddance to them.

I'm sorry... I like ComicsIsland and everything, but I'm gonna have to call bullshit on that statement. Fuck that.

Yeah, sure... It's easy to speculate that a toothless redneck in some Klan robes took a break from lynching some colored people in the woods of Alabama to sit and read a Captain America paperback, but this is the same kind of nebulous -deliberately vague- generalizations that are tailor-made to lump in every person who stopped reading Marvel comics into one big strawman fallacy. It isn't a slippery slope from "Racists don't want to read black woman" to "Readers stopped reading Marvel Comics because they must be racist, and don't want to read black woman." Readers of comics shouldn't let garbage statements like that slide --ever-- because its a straw-man fallacy at best, and a bigoted insult to readers at worst.

What's really destroying comic books...

I want to expand upon something Comicstorian brought up in his video. Diversity is bad when it's all about the politics, in my opinion. People don't read comic books for propaganda, like Angela: queen of hel; we read comics for the characters. We follow a character's life in these books, and most of us have been reading long enough to feel like we know these people. How would you feel if your best friend disappeared overnight, only to be replaced by a stranger you've never met trying to take their place? If you ask where your friend went, would it be fair for someone to label you a racist because you miss the person who is now gone? Hell no!

That's what's really destroying comic books here: It isn't diversity, it isn't women, and it damn sure isn't people with different skin tones. Diversity doesn't kill this industry; politics kills this industry. Politics divides people. Inclusion in comic books is supposed to be all about making people feel welcome; like they belong in a community, but politics is all about tearing people apart, and trying to make the other party feel inferior. Politics is all about segregation -- about finding a way to reduce the opposing side to the strawmmen we are expected to create for them. It's about finding some excuse to segregate people based on stupid bullshit. Racism and Sexism are the hatchlings born over the nest that we know as politics. If you want more diverse characters, like LGBT and minorities, then you do it without the political baggage, because people are more than just a vote, or a political statement. People are individuals. People are different. People are --in my opinion-- better than this shit.

Characters of "diversity" that suck...

I never liked Wiccan of the Young Avengers, because he has always been written like a character that only ever existed to fill a diversity quota, and subsequently, his only defining character trait is the fact that he is Gay. Same thing with Wiccan's boyfriend Hulkling. It doesn't strike me as particularly realistic for a real person to talk about nothing but how much of a homosexual they are. I've never spoken to a real gay person who has ever done that in real life, like they only exist to remind an invisible audience of comic book readers that they are in love with the same sex. 

Northstar is a Canadian superhero that pretty much no one cares about at all, so you'd be forgiven for not even realizing that the flying Super Canuck was gay. Being gay is just about the only thing this empty, soulless character has going for him. He doesn't have anything even remotely close to a personality. I used to read his crossovers with wolverine, thinking this guy was secretly an android or something, like a life model decoy modeled after no one in particular.

There is a point where Marvel's politics have bled over into their character development. Diversity is important and all, but I feel like Marvel is crossing that line between equitable opportunity for inclusion, and just shallow tokenism. This isn't real diversity to me; this is just a very inorganic brainstorming session by a committee, looking to cash in on the Tumblr audience of potential readers; people who are more inclined to read articles from Polygon and Destructoid, for no other reason than because these liberal arts and Social Studies majors are the demographic that actually has the patience to sit down and read something. In an attempt to win their trust, Marvel Editorial decided to try and appeal to everything from their cringeworthy hairstyles to their weird Communist politics, and if Marvel's sliding sales figures are any indication, it backfired like a tennis match with a live hand grenade. Marvel's sales are sliding so much, that Marvel revealed that it's poised to abandon the politics all together.

There is a reason for this: Nobody wants politics in their comic books. Nobody expects politics in their comic books. Comic book readers are trying to escape the divisive bullshit in our reality, not celebrate it in the escapist fantasy of Superhero fiction. It doesn't matter what side of the political spectrum you're on; why the shit would anyone want to read this crap?!

Diverse original characters that Marvel is ignoring...

My favorite recent marvel event was Secret wars. Not so much Secret wars itself, but the lead-up to it, where the Illuminati are struggling against the universe itself to prevent earth 616 from crashing into parallel versions of earth, effectively destroying the space time continuum. What I liked about it was that for the first time in a very long time, the main focus of a Marvel even wasn't about heroes fighting each-other, or about political garbage that comic book readers don't give a shit about. This comic book transcended domestic disputes, and tackled something bigger than Earth itself. But you want to know what I didn't like about it? The fact that Blue Marvel wasn't in it.

Blue Marvel is a physics professor, Electrical Engineer, and holds a PhD from Cornell University. He got his powers from an accident in a antimatter containment field, giving him strength on par with the Sentry and Thor, can fly at light speed, and is more than 80 years old. Now, If I were, say, in need of assistance from a brilliant scientific mind on how to move a god damn fucking planet out of the way, chances are, I would go straight to the guy who can launch Antimatter protons from his fucking body at high speed, to see how one could recreate the experiment in order to change the trajectory of a fucking planet. Just a thought, Marvel... Just a thought.

Of course, that's not what happened though. The one hero that the Illuminati should have brought into this scenario, wasn't; dooming the planet to a war with the Ultimate universe, and had it not been for the supervillain Doom recreating the universe in his own image, the entire multiverse wouldn't even exist.

Art by: Jung Geun-Yoon
Blue Marvel is on the Ultimates team, working as a strike force for Shield, lead by that egocentric jackass Captain Marvel. Blue Marvel is sidelined once again, and this has become a recurring trend with Marvel over the years: These only way a black protagonist can seem to lead a team in the Marvel universe is if he --or she-- commandeers the identity of a white superhero. This takes into account the obvious exception of Storm, since Storm is an original character, but she only leads one of at least 3 X-Men team spinoffs.

Think about it... When's the last time you read a Blade #1? Cage? Doctor VooDoo? Bishop? Hell, It's not just disappointing to me; it's condescending to black, female and minority superheros.  It's sending the wrong message to suggest that readers aren't interested in new characters of color. This idea that Marvel has to sneak one in through the disguise of a traditionally white protagonist is actually kinda racist, if you think about it. It shows how little the Marvel editorial staff seems to think of comic book fans, but also, how little they seem to think of black heroes in their own books. Seriously, Twitter and Reddit are beaming with a hunger for a new, diverse, but --most importantly-- original character, and Marvel has been going out of their way to ignore the "original" part like it's carrying the Ebola virus!

Message to Marvel Writers...

I want to leave this long rant on this note:  Make your new characters as diverse as you want, in as much frequency as you like, but remember this: Being Queer is not character development, being a woman is not storytelling, and being Black or Asian is not a personality trait. Unless you're writing porn, the color of someone's skin, or the variety of sexual tastes should always be secondary to who a character is as a person. Write your characters like they are people, not like they are a campaign billboard, and --maybe-- long time readers will actually take them seriously.
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  1. You hit the nail on the head. Thanks for saying this.

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