Dwayne McDuffie died two years ago. (If you don’t know who this man is, look him up.) He changed the face of comics by adding much needed diversity into a field that was homogeneous. Historically, superhero comics have been written to appease white male fantasies. Ironically, many of the early creators were first or second generation Americans, mostly poor Jews who were unable to find work in other fields due to discrimination. As a result of the intense anti-Semitism and racism, they were forced to change their names and create characters that fit the extreme white standards of masculinity. Those characters from the 1940s and 1960s, predominantly white, hetero-sexual males, are still seen as most marketable today.
McDuffie knew this and created a minority-based segment of DC called Milestone. This company featured a more realistic comic universe with characters similar to the populations that represent the demographics of America. Milestone Universe featured many minorities that were under-represented, including Blacks, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, and females. I could tell you more about McDuffie, like how awesome the TV show Static Shock was, but I won’t so that you can do your research and find out how much he did for diversity in the comic industry.
We still have a long way to go. For so long it has been a strong belief that comics starring Black can’t sell. Then, why did Blade do so well in the theater? And Django? Why are action movies with Black leads so successful? (Side note: Most white people won’t go near Black dramas, yet action movies with black folk they dig?) Heck, why did Static Shock do so well on TV but his comic was recently cancelled? This disregard for black characters has been an excuse for comic stores and companies to put no effort into promoting these books (except when they tried to tokenize Miles Morales). They are re-enforcing the myth that black characters aren’t profitable, because obviously, sales will be low when marketing effort is nonexistent.
I admit that there have been a lot of crappy comics related to black characters. In fact, I think companies sometimes hijack black and minority characters by putting them in horrible stories to prove that they’re failures. One horrific example was when they took Black Panther, the most badass character in comics, a man who runs the coolest, strongest country in the world, and had him move to Hell’s Kitchen, go on a break with his wife Storm, become the Man Without Fear, and run a freaking diner, A DINER!!! But there is a lot of great stuff too, from Miles Morales as Spider-man, to Bendis’ work on Luke Cage, to Reggie Hudlin’s run on Black Panther, to the instant classic, Truth: Red, White & Black, in which we learn that the first Captain America was a Black man forced to endure super-soldier testing similar to the Tuskegee Experiments (look up this comic too.)
When I read that the Ultimate Line was rumored to be cancelled, I almost freaked. (Luckily, this rumor was false.) The truth is, I have read almost every issue of Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man and believe it is one of the best titles out now. Miles Morales’ Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man is not only one of the best comics starring a Black or Latino character, but it’s one of the best comics period! I can go on and on about the family dynamics, the real-life drama the characters face, how deep it is and how connected the characters are, but the problem is that I have bought none of them. I get the issues from my library or read them in Barnes and Noble.
So why am I complaining? I would be devastated if his series got cancelled. I need to change my buying habits, not be swept into big events and mainstream, but support the series I truly believe in. I need to change the big two with my buck, baby! Why are we not buying these books? The colors and demographics of geekdom is changing. We have more fanboys and fangirls from all different diverse backgrounds. Comics will change as these fans become the creators. As America’s demographics change, comics will be forced to follow suit. Just don’t let Miles Morales and Batwing and the other great characters of today die today! Don’t let positive images of female characters die today! I need my monthly fix of Miles. I am adding his title to my pull stack right now.