On Saturday, New York Comic-Con presented The New Comics Creator: How Diversity Is Leading to More Opportunities for All, a panel that explored how the comic industry is expanding and offering more opportunities for diverse creators, readers, and more. Moderated by Comics Experience’s founder Andy Schmidt, panelists included Bon Alimango, Jamal Igle, Melissa Capriglione, and Soo Lee.
The discussion focused on how the face of comics is changing. No longer is the white, Judeo-Christian man in charge of what is being printed and sold to readers. Schmidt pointed out that while there are many gatekeepers who are working from a negative place in their exclusivity, there are some who are simply working from an “implicit bias,” meaning they are making comics for their own group without necessarily being racist, misogynist, homophobic, or transphobic. The problem is how limiting this becomes for both creativity and readership.
There has definitely been a shift lately, and as Igle pointed out, digital comics and platforms like Comixology give more diverse creators a chance to do their own thing “and prove they can run with the big boys.” The position of the gatekeeper becomes null and void when there are ways to produce content online and crowdfund. You sidestep the obstacles.
Capriglione added that with more accessibility to things like free comics on places like Webtoons, both the audience and creators save money. This also allows more voices to be included, especially when social and economic barriers prevent accessing and producing content.
Igle made another point. When you have more options for getting your content visible, your career is longer. Creator-owned books that are brought to completion give you more than just a creative license. You can build your audience and keep making new things without the pressures and limitations of the bigger publishing houses. And in places like Marvel and DC, you are only adding to their brand. Schmidt drew from his own experience at Marvel: You are “playing in the sandbox” and leaving it for someone else. “Don’t break the toys” for the next people.
The new trend of Substack also came up, which allows creators to publish through a newsletter-type process. There is no restriction on scheduling, content, marketing, and more. Once again, the position of the gatekeeper is eliminated and the audience gets what they want from the creators that produce the content they seek.
In the end, diversity leads to a more viable medium. There are more fans, more options, and more availability for people of all ages, backgrounds, perspectives, and more. As Lee pointed out, “There’s only money to be made if you open it up,” which stabilizes the industry as a whole.
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