We’ve interviewed and spoke with multiple creators for Nothing But Comics in the two years of the sites existence. With comic publishers, the companies themselves generally require a PR person to oversee any interview that speaks about the work the creators are are doing on one of their books. It’s usually pretty easy; in my experience conducting or editing them, I’ve only had one objection from a company to an answer, that being Marvel to the quote “Society is still deeply racist” and therein lies a microcosm of every problem Marvel has had with cultural diversity for the last month. It wasn’t like Ike Perlmutter came down from his executive chair twisting his mustache or that Axel Alonso blocked it or even that there was any kind of protocol in dealing with that type of answer. A random PR guy at Marvel saw it and made a judgement call that he thought it was too strong a statement. To be fair, I’m sure you can rationalize his side on some level and from his perspective (white dude with a corporate job at a major publisher) I can see how that would make sense for him on multiple levels. Also to be even more fair, this edit predated Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in Staten Island, Black Lives Matter and the continuing issues we’ve seen with the disenfranchisement of African Americans at the hands of the United States government. But that’s never not bothered me, in spite of all that Marvel has done to promote diversity. While objectively, you could look at the changes they were making to their characters and books being published and see a direct change, it always felt lacking. Partially because most of the work was still being done by white comics bro’s and partially because of what I mentioned above. I suppose that I should feel vindicated now that for all Marvel’s big talk on diversity, they’ve fallen behind the times drastically in actually diversifying the talent working on said books while showing a huge lack of cultural understanding on the part of their editorial leadership. But really I just feel sad; sad that the publisher I grew up on and the people behind the scenes that have been responsible for so much art that’s helped shape me are just like that PR guy; comfortably privileged, clueless about others that are right in front of them and barely making an effort to understand anything out of their small bubble. In short, their just like everybody else.
As Axel Alonso has continued to make a fool of himself in his efforts to bend over backwards in defending criticism towards Marvel’s issues with cultural diversity, more & more, the man who helped bring about Morrison’s Doom Patrol & Animal Man, Preacher, 100 Bullets, Hellblazer, Unknown Soldier, Punisher Max & many more ground breaking series isn’t as progressive as we all thought he was. With the bombastically oblivious defense of Marvel’s hip hop covers, the Hercule’s is straight proclamation compounded by the retweet from some gamer gate fucboi & the general lack of interest in expanding the line of diverse characters to any of the many capable and talented diverse creators has put a blemish on what felt like some real progress for the company over the last few years. Progress like the way they introduced a new black & hispanic Spiderman, a young Muslim girl for her own solo series, gender swapping Thor or making Captain America an African American. Those were all great changes on a cosmetic level but that’s only cosmetic. Without any real effort to diversify the talent creating these comics, it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the real world for how progressive your fictional universe is. And based on all the evidence we have for us right now, Marvel is clearly not making that effort to correct that.After announcing upwards of fifty or more new titles starting in the fall of this year, Marvel actually has less people of color, LGBT or female creators working on their announced new titles for the future then they have for the last two years and even then, the publisher wasn’t and currently isn’t really that diverse, even if that’s far more diverse then the creative talent they’ve already announced.
None of this makes Marvel all that unique in terms of comics, entertainment or corporate America in general. Within it’s own industry Marvel is hardly an anomaly in that respect. For DC Comics, it took the complete failure of the New 52 for the company to start making an effort to bring diverse voices to their series, BOOM! talks about “pushing comics forward” but is 90% white dudes & for all the praise that Image rightfully gets, they’ve shown recently that they still have a long way to go. The problem with Marvel and it’s competitors is deeper then just the surface level and it’s the same problem that literally plague’s the entire world, that being “Society is still deeply racist”
Let’s unpack what that means and doesn’t mean for a brief moment. It doesn’t mean that you the reader are racist, or that Axel Alonso is racist, or Marvel’s PR department or anybody that works for the company at large or BOOM! or Image or corporate America in and of itself is racist. It doesn’t mean that society, as a whole is made up of racist people. It’s that the society we have is intrinsically set up to perpetuate racism by no individual fault of one person , but instead, by the collective indifference, ignorance and apathy of it’s majority.
Right or wrong and no matter the inherently flawed logic behind some of it, people identify as groups under race, nationalities, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. As people identifying under said groups, the majority group in any community of different groups will wield the most power and the reality is that said groups tend to use that power to the benefit of their own group which by contrast, is at the expense of other groups with less power. This is and has been the story of humanity for much of it’s existence. But that doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean it has to be that way. But while that doesn’t mean you or I or some random PR guy at Marvel or Axel Alonso, is “racist” in the strictest definition of the word, it does mean that we all have to look outside ourselves and understand how we benefit from that inherent racism of a society that was built to benefit the majority and make an effort to change that. Marvel’s problem with diversity isn’t particularly special or unique and ultimately, that’s the problem.