On Business: Post-Convergence Diversity

By | Monday, February 09, 2015 Leave a Comment
We Are Robin cover by Rob Haynes and Khary Randolph
Cyborg by Ivan Reis
There were several interesting news items coming from Marvel and DC last week. DC first surprised folks with their line-up of new comics that will be coming out in the wake of the Convergence storyline. Then Marvel announced an all-female Avengers team book on The View. And finally, Sana Amanat was named Marvel's new "Director of Content & Character Development." It seemed like something of a game of one-upmanship with regards to diversity and inclusiveness, although one could easily argue there's still a long way to go.

But one thing I did note that seemed to fly under the radar in terms of the focus of these announcements. While it's exciting to see Cyborg finally get his own ongoing title, there are actually a suprising number of women and minorities working on these new books. Just doing a quick scan through, I'm seeing Corin Howell, Annie Wu, Ming Doyle, David L. Walker, Sonny Liew, Jesus Saiz, Amanda Conner, Barnaby Bagenda, Paulo Siqueira, Javier Hernandez, Bernard Chang, Gustavo Duarte, Stephane Roux, Alisa Kwitney, Emanuela Lupacchino, and Khary Randolph. With some of the folks working on multiple books, that's at least 75% of these new books being produced in part by people who aren't white men.

And, though not as pervasive, there are a number of books here that spotlight women and people of color as well: Black Canary, Cyborg, Harley Quinn/Power Girl, and Starfire certainly. We Are Robin also appears to highlight people of color, judging by the promo art.

So did DC finally listen to creators and fans that have been clamoring for diversity in comics? Well, I wasn't in the room when these titles were chosen or when creators were called, but my guess is that the decision was more of a cynical and an indirect result of that clamoring. By that, I mean that DC isn't responding directly to articles at The Beat or anywhere like that, but they're trying to replicate the sales success of Ms. Marvel. Nearly a year on, it's still selling in the 30,000 range, which isn't perhaps phenomenal in and of itself but given that it's a brand-new character, that is really outstanding. I suspect that DC is hoping they can replicate some of that success, if not more, because they're largely utitlizing existing characters with already-established fan bases.

Of course, a lot of Ms. Marvel's success can be attributed specifically to G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Sana Amanat. Whether or not any of the creators working on these books can mimic that success remains to be seen, though, many of them do have very solid credentials already. Which does bode well, at least initially, for these new books' sales.

I heard more than a couple people note last month, when Milestone announced its return to comic publishing, that it should be seen as a chance to get Black voices heard. The guys in the corner offices making the big decisions in publishing don't really care all that much about what a relative handful of vocal fans say they want; they only care about what the bottom line looks like. And what gets produced is what improves that bottom line. DC is doing the same thing here. They're looking at Marvel's sales and trying to replicate that. I can't speak to whether or not any of these books will be any good, or whether they'll strike an appropriate tone for women or minorities, but it seems to me an incredibly positive step, despite coming from a place of cynicism. If these books are indeed good, tell DC that by buying them, and encouraging your friends to do the same. The reason why Batman is still around after three-quarters of a century, and has a whole family of books dedicated to him, is because he sells. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to say that about Cyborg in another fifty years.
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