On -isms: This Ain't New, Kids

By | Thursday, August 06, 2015 Leave a Comment
So maybe you've been paying a modicum of attention to the comics news outlets lately, and seen a variety of complaints arise when a creator misses the mark on some representation issue. I've talked about the mis-fires in Strange Fruit and Justice League 3001, and that "Women in Comics" panel which didn't actually have any women participating, and a variety of other issues. You've probably seen it come up on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. And you might be thinking to yourself, "Where the hell did all of this come from all of a sudden?"

The thing is, though, it's not new and it's not all of a sudden.

The Gaylactic Network
You ever hear of the Gaylactic Network? They're a science fiction fan group with chapters from San Diego to Washington, DC. And, as you might well guess from the name, the group is about supporting LGBT creators and fans. (I know there should be a Q and/or I in that acronym, but strictly speaking, all of the Gaylatic Network materials I can find only cite LGBT, so I'm only citing who they themselves claim to represent. In any event...) There are local meetings to support things at a community level, and they host Gaylaxicon at a national level and hold the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, "given annually for outstanding LGBT content in sci-fi, fantasy and horror genre publications." Even if you haven't heard of any of this before, you're not especially surprised, right? I mean, it's 2015 and the Supreme Court has ruled gay marriage is the law of the land, so you'd expect a group like this exists.

They were founded in 1987. (Wikipedia incorrectly cites 1986.) 1987. That's nearly 30 years ago. Over a quarter of a century. And that's just the oldest formal fan group I happen to know off the top of my head, without having done much research. I don't doubt there were earlier ones.

Turtel Onli has been a central figure for trying to coalesce the Black comics community in the Chicago area. He started writing/drawing his NOG comics back in 1979. In 1993, he pulled together the Black Age of Comics convention in Chicago, and it's been hosted in other years everywhere from Los Angeles to Detroit. 1993, you'll recall, was also the year that Milestone Comics started. That's over 20 years ago.

What you're seeing now isn't new and it's not sudden. These discussions have been going on for decades. The difference now is that social media has reached a saturation point where you (the middle-aged cishetero white guy) are seeing the conversations that are scrolling through your one minority friend's feed. Your neat and tidy social circles haven't exactly collapsed, but the borders between them have substantially blurred.

This isn't a new conversation. You're just now becoming aware of it.
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