On -isms: View from the Inside

By | Thursday, November 13, 2014 Leave a Comment
Here's the conundrum for me: as I've mentioned many times before, I am a white, cisgendered, heterosexual male. Which means that I'm going to bring that background to any/every -isms issue that comes up. I certainly try to understand and appreciate where others are coming from, but it will always be an ongoing education for me. But since my white, cisgendered, heterosexual male perspective does enjoy some privledge on the soap box, I try to at least use this forum to highlight issues other people encounter.

So I read this recent interview with Afua Richardson, artist behind the impressive Genius from Top Cow. (I reviewed it over at FreakSugar.) It's a pretty good interview, getting into a lot more depth than most creator interviews I see online. But here's some of it that really stood out for me...
There seems to have been a really big demand for different kinds of stories, different cultures being represented beyond stereotypical portrayals. I'll just say it plainly—it's not white people misrepresenting black people or whatever. There has just been a very general approach to culture in a lot of comics, maybe because people weren't doing their homework.

Even among black creators, I notice they'll tend to make a lot of stories about the 'hood and Egypt and hip-hop and slavery. There's more to black people than that. We don't see any Southeast Asians of color. I don't think it's necessarily anyone's fault that these characters don't exist, beyond the misconception that a story with a female or person of color only appeals to that particular demographic. Now that that change is happening, I hope people go out and support it, because this is what they asked for!
Richardson says a lot there, and I think it's worth stopping a moment to unpack it.

First, she says she's seeing a demand for more than what we've seen in the past. More women, more people of color... but beyond that, more than just tokenism. She's talking about seeing a greater variety of characters with substance behind them. She doesn't name names, but I think it's fair to say she's referencing things like the new Batgirl, and Ms. Marvel, and Lumberjanes, and Rat Queens, and... It's not just that we're seeing more books starring women and minorities, but they're books of quality. They're stories that reflect a wider variety of people with different backgrounds, and they're told in a thoughtful, respectful manner. That's what she sees people asking for.

But the second part of her statement, which is equally important, is that readers go out and buy these books to support them. It's all well and good to say Kat Leyh's Bird Witch is a good book, but it doesn't tell her publishers that you want to see more of that unless you buy it. No matter how much a publisher might like a creator or their work, if that work doesn't sell, the publisher has ever incentive to stop publishing things like that.

So me sitting here talking about Richardson only helps up to a point. What needs to happen is that you're inspired enough to go pick up her work; that's how the publishers know to keep doing that type of thing. And if enough people do that, they'll be enticed to try to replicate those same types of stories with other creators as well. So we get not only Richardson and Leyh, but another dozen creators that are just as talented and telling equally engaging stories with viewpoints other than your own.

And that's not just me saying that. That's what Richardson, working on the inside as it were, is saying as well.
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