As soon as the above triumphal tableau from Image Expo was posted, just after Princess Leia presented Scott Snyder with his medal, I knew Twitter would blow up over the mostly white, mostly XY make-up of this tableau. I can’t embed those tweets but I think if you follow twitter you have a pretty good idea what was said–and what needed to be said.
Image has come a long way from being a really almost totally boy’s club at the start to a more diverse publisher. I think Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue and Emma Rios is a big step forward for that, but it would be a shame to forget Colleen Doran’s really long relationship with Image with A Distant Soil, books by Emi Lennox and Natalie Nourigat and a few others. It isn’t a HUGE female line-up but it exists.
On the multi-cultural side, I have to say, I’m sorry Jimmie Robinson isn’t more often included among the core Image creators. Not just because he adds diversity but because, you know, the guy has a 20 year long career as a creator and he’s insanely talented. Bomb Queen wasn’t for everyone, but Five Weapons kinda is. He’s a keeper, and he’s the sort of mid-career creator who deserves to have some attention thrown his way.
Dan Wickline captured a good conversation by Chew’s Rob Guillory which I’ll paraphrase: when Guillory (who is African-American) goes to schools with AfAm kids they are surprised to see him. They didn’t know that people of color were welcome in comics because they didn’t have any role models.
This is all especially depressing to me as a New Yorker, because, as I’ve mentioned many times before, when you go to any comics convention here, it’s OBVIOUS that this is a VERY diverse audience for comics, black brown yellow and white. I’ve brought up the Wu Tang Clan/Marvel Comics relationship of the 90s many times, but it shouldn’t be forgotten.
Andrew Wheeler had a great piece at Comics Alliance about specific goals for greater diversity on the page and behind it and wrote:
It takes a pro-active effort to convince people from marginalized groups that they’re welcome in any industry where their presence isn’t well established. That’s hard to understand if you’re part of the majority and are used to seeing people like you in the business. People in the majority tend to assume that any effort to extend an invitation to minorities – any action that affirms their welcome – is unfair. In fact it’s a fair and equitable corrective to decades of institutional affirmation towards the majority.
Image Comics is still coming from a very “mainstream” comics angle, and the comics that tend to land there in recent years are still mostly genre based in a way that spins out of the earliest “independent” comics publishers. It’s a very successful program and I wouldn’t expect them to turn into Koyama Press tomorrow. I know we’d all like things to be fixed overnight, but it’s going to take a lot longer. The creators spotlighted at yesterday’s Image Expo are the elite of the business—Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, Bill Willingham—and it’s going to take other voices a while to overcome the continuous, institutional marginalization they’ve been subjected to to get to that level.
So praise the good—it’s cool to see an unknown like Leila Del Duca taking part in the announcements and one look at her work shows she’s earned her spot there—but don’t forget how far we have to go.
Everyone needs to try harder. This isn’t about quotas or tokens. It’s about making an industry where new and unique talents can have the same chance to become the next Snyder or Morrison or Willingham. Comics are still a place where everyone can pursue their dreams. Let’s not judge those dreams before they even get started.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.