CONGRATULATIONS TO THE COMICS INDUSTRY!
by Dave Elliott
Yes, folks, congratulations are in order. For years the comics industry has fought the never ending battle to prove to an uncaring world that comics weren’t just for kids. Thankfully there are now very few one–note heroes left, most of them now being heavily conflicted ‘Anti–Heroes’ who tread the morally gray area between vigilante and schizophrenic murderer. Even Superman, that one time bastion of Truth, Justice and the American Way is happily snapping people’s necks.
BUT AS ONE BATTLE ENDS A NEW ENEMY GATHERS ITS ARMY AT THE GATES
Now that Superhero comics can be safely read in public by adults and kept well away from those meddling kids, another demographic jockeys for a place at the table. Not only does this group want to read and enjoy comics in peace; not only does this group want representation at the editorial and creative level — but they also want representation in the actual content of these comics! How dare they?! Who are these upstarts?!
Women have long been struggling to find genuine representation themselves on any level of the comics industry, e.g., business affairs, editorial control, content creation and as lead characters in the comics themselves. With a few rare exceptions, females have always been relegated to lower level positions within the comics industry.
BUT CHANGES ARE AFOOT
The male dominated domain of the comics business has finally begun to buckle from an ever more relentless assault of female talent and undismissable female readership sales stats. It’s crazy I know, but someone, somewhere, has actually begun paying attention to the fact that women are buying a ton of comics and they’re not just buying the gender–specific books by the growing number of talented female creators. Women have always had a formidable demographic in comics for as long as I can remember — there are just even more now with incredible skills popping up weekly!
Surely this change can’t have just happened because the comics companies suddenly realized it might be a good idea to try to expand their market beyond the demographic makeup of their insular editorial teams. I’m going to take a stab at postulating why this has actually come about.
It was August, 2009, when Marvel announced they were being acquired by Disney. Most Americans could only talk about the $4 Billion price tag and argued whether Disney paid too much or too little for the company, but Disney’s Chief Executive Robert Iger knew what to do to maximize Marvel profits — and that was to reverse Marvel’s 40–year practice of servicing mainly their niche fanboy audience and, instead, create product for everyone, Disney–style.
THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF THE EVOLUTION TO COME WILL BE CREATING NEW CHARACTERS
DC Comics is still publishing a core line of characters created in the 1930’s and 40’s. Marvel’s core character creation came about under Jack Kirby’s and Steve Ditko’s helm during the 1960’s. Once the pair left, the most notable creations have been Wolverine, Punisher and Deadpool, with Howard the Duck and Rocket Raccoon trying hard to be noticed. DC Comics only fresh blood was an oh–too–brief visit by Jack Kirby in the early 70’s and the influence Bruce Timm and Paul Dini’s Batman Animated show had on the Batman books, especially with the creation of Harley Quinn, Joker’s partner in crime and one–sided love interest. Between the two major companies they have copyrighted and trademarked every word in the English Dictionary in the hope they can find a character to go with it (probably by appending ‘Man’ or ‘She’ before or after it).
Marvel is currently having some solid sales success with Ms. Marvel (a Muslim superhero), Captain Marvel, Black Widow, a female Thor, a female Hulk, several female Spider–Men, mutants, Inhumans, even Princess Leia and a soon to be released all female Avengers title, A–Force. Could this be Disney trying to finally reach out to that bigger market? Could they have their eyes on the Mass Market that avidly consumes their movies but has shown little interest in their comics?
I hope the answer is yes to all and that we start to see new characters carrying new titles by new creators, supported by the entire fan community. Because you know what will happen if Marvel does this successfully, don’t you? DC Comics will copy them. And who knows? If our female majority finally gets more female characters in their own books, we might just get more minorities represented with their own books, too. A new day may be dawning for comic book equality in America and beyond.
- Do you mind when companies change the gender or ethnicity of a character or would you prefer new characters?
- Would you welcome a regular fresh change to these comics characters or would you like everything to stay as it is?
- DC once published a line of books called Milestone Comics aimed at a primarily African American audience. Do you think women and African Americans need their own publishing lines or should we really see a fully integrated and equally represented world in all of these comics?
- Depending on you liking the creative team, would you be open to a comic book about a transgendered superhero?
- If you could ask one question or make one request of Marvel or DC Comics, what would it be? (Remember, they ARE reading your answers)
Posted with permission by Dave Elliott