Representation is a major topic of conversation within the comic book community right now. This is a topic that I think and talk about a lot, I think that real representation is invaluable and something we should all be pushing for in the media we consume.
Unfortunately not everyone agrees. There are all sorts of arguments being thrown around and phrases such as “forced representation” are tweeted so much I’m worried I’ll start seeing them when I close my eyes. But there is one particular rebuttal that really boils my tea…ahem…”race/gender/sexuality shouldn’t matter when you hire someone, you should choose the best person for the job!”
I understand that this statement might not seem all that terrible. In fact, in a perfect world I would agree 100% but we’re talking about the comics world right now and it is by no means perfect. Don’t get me wrong I love comics and the comics community more than just about anything, which is exactly why I’ll always call it on its shit. So here goes:
The majority of mainstream published comics creators are straight white cis men, that’s a fact. There’s a whole conversation to be had about this fact but right now there is only one point I want to make. Ready?
If you say that the “best” writer or artist should be hired and in turn that this is why the majority of creators are straight white cis dudes then you are making one hell of a statement. You are saying: the best writers/artists are straight white cis dudes. You’re completely dismissing and insulting all of the incredible comic creators who don’t fall into that category as well as being incredibly ignorant of the importance these factors have in people’s lives.
Look at Ms. Marvel, one of the most successful and popular titles out there. Do you think it’s a coincidence that people are responding so positively to a character written by someone who understands the experience of that character? I couldn’t write Ms Marvel no matter how hard I tried. I would try my very best, I would do my research and talk to people in the know but let’s be honest – I grew up as a white girl in Ireland. I have no idea what it’s like to be Kamala Khan and that’s what’s so wonderful about reading Ms Marvel for me. I get to see a completely different experience and learn about a culture I know next to nothing about. At the same time, people who have had similar experiences get to see themselves in Kamala, it’s a win win situation. G. Willow Wilson understands Kamala and you can feel that, it’s part of why it’s such a special book.
This isn’t to say that people can’t or shouldn’t write characters with different experiences, of course they can. But they need to understand that experience at least a little and how can they do that if there isn’t any real representation of that experience? If comics were already full of a wide variety of perspectives then we could all learn more and understand more and the knowledge would be coming from a true and authentic place. But they aren’t, too much of the diversity in comics is diluted by a lack of authenticity and it’s hurting the community.
We need more diverse creators and in turn more diverse characters. This can only enrich the world of comics and the lives of the people who love them.
Please let me know which comic book creators or characters do you look up to and your opinions on the need for diversity in comics. I’d love to hear what you think!
If you have any suggestions for a topic I could cover during BEDA please let know, you can get me here or on twitter or instagram!