Finding Racial Diversity In Comics

COMICEARLIER THIS MONTH, Marvel Comics announced a series of variant covers that put a superhero twist on the art of iconic rap albums like De La Soul?s 3 Feet High and Rising, Dr. Dre?s The Chronic, and 50 Cent?s Get Rich or Die Tryin?. On its face, this was another love letter in the long relationship between hip-hop and comics; from Jean Grae to Ghostface Killah (who also goes by Tony Stark), rappers have taken on superhero identities, and Last Emperor?s 1997 song ?Secret Wars, Pt. 1? details a battle royale between Marvel heroes and rappers. However, it touched off a controversy about how whether it?s been more of a one-sided love affair?and whether mainstream comics has done enough to bring minority creators themselves into the fold.

Like virtually every other form of entertainment, the world of comic books has been increasingly grappling with issues of diversity especially over the last several years as social media and internet platforms have amplified the voices of minority creators and critics. And in many ways, there?s been a sea change. ?Diversity of every sort?racial diversity, gender diversity, acknowledging minority sexualities?is experiencing an explosion of recognition and representation in comics,? says C. Spike Trotman, creator of the long-running webcomic Templar, Arizona.

But as the faces on the pages popular comic books have steadily grown more diverse, the hiring practices of publishers haven?t necessarily kept pace. While there are certainly more minority creators earning bylines than there were a decade ago, the editors and creators of mainstream comics remain overwhelmingly Caucasian?a demographic imbalance that has sparked increasingly loud discussions about what diversity really means and where it matters.

July in particular has been an interesting month to ponder that question, thanks to thanks to a series of recent events that offered a prismatic lens on the complex friction between race and representation in the field. Not only did the Marvel variants spark discussion, but this month, DC Comics announced that Milestone Media?an imprint created by black creators and focusing on black superheroes?would be returning to the larger DC Comics fold, along with most of the black artists and writers who had created it. Meanwhile, Boom! Studios released Strange Fruit, a comic made by a white creative team that dealt with racism in the American South, prompting discussions about when works by white creators are erasing the voices of the people they?re writing about.

The confluence of events has prompted strong critical responses and important discussions about the discrepancies between diversity on and off comic book page. While numerous black artists were hired to contribute art for hip-hop variant covers (among them Sanford Greene, Khary Randolph, and Damion Scott), some critics and fans noted a uncomfortable discrepancy between the initiative and the publisher?s broader demographics: While the covers seemed to be celebrating?and profiting from?an art form created largely by black Americans, there?s a significant lack of black creators working on its ongoing comic book titles.

Read more at?WIRED