On -isms: Clamoring for More

By | Thursday, February 25, 2016 Leave a Comment
As we're winding down the final days of Black History Month, we're not so coincidentally winding down the last days of Kwanza Osajyefo and team's Kickstarter for Black. You've probably heard of it before now -- heck, I've mentioned it on this blog myself! -- and you've probably heard that they sailed past their original goal weeks ago. They shot past multiple stretch goals as well.

On one level, that shouldn't come as a surprise. The story concept (what if only Black people had super-powers) is brilliant, and there's some A-level talent with Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph and Sarah Litt working on it. Of course a project like that would do well! Of course!

But then again, it still is kind of surprising. We are talking about a blatantly socially charged concept here, which comes on the heels of several years of high-profile racial discrimination cases. (I feel compelled to point out, though, that these types of cases and/or their frequency are not at all new! But the combination of video-capable cell phones and social media have been able to shine a spotlight on these issues in a way that mainstream media has spent most of its existence ignoring.) And these election primaries have brought out some vitriol that I expect many (white) people haven't seen or heard in decades; as if it's okay to be a racist asshole because we have a Black president and we're "post-racial" now, I guess?

Seriously, I expect a lot of it does have to do with Barack Obama being elected. Prior to that, anyone who harbored those racist sentiments could simply avoid dealing with Black people. They lived in their quaint neighborhoods and didn't have to venture out beyond their comfort zone by, you know, even seeing a person of color. Or, if they did, it was on a news report about someone committing a crime. But now, with Obama in the White House, they see someone they actively don't like in charge of their country and who knows what kind of weird, Black ideas he might implement!?! Then, coupled with the heightened awareness of systemic racial injustices occurring roughly at the same time, it might look like their comfort zone no longer exists. That this Black man got elected and now he's somehow pushing this Black agenda and trying to punish police officers for just doing what they've always done! They're scared because they're having to confront broad social issues that they've conveniently been able to ignore their entire lives. Social issues that contradict the jingoist propaganda we've been fed since birth.

So in light of that, Black's success is kind of surprising.

Now it could be that they were able to hit and surpass their goal thanks to a few backers who ponied up a crudload of cash. Any project can succeed if there's that one rich guy who likes the idea and donates a small fortune to the project, right? But take a look at the numbers more carefully and you'll see that, as of this writing, 85% of their backers pledged less $25 or less, for a total of fully half of the money the project's raised. Given how much better that is than what the Pareto Principle would suggest points to the notion that a lot of readers are really eager for this type of thing.

Think of this, too. The somewhat-greater-than-2000 people who are essentially buying the book via Kickstarter? That would rank it in the Top 25 for book sales through Diamond in most months. And those Kickstarter backers are people supporting the book sight-unseen! These people want this book enough that they don't even need to browse through the final version in order to make up their minds. And there's no advanced version either; like how many TPBs are just collections of stories that already saw print in pamphlet form. No one's saying, "Hey, I read this when it was serialized six months ago -- it's really good."

There's an audience for this. Despite the hate speech you might hear from some presidential candidates, despite the almost-daily news reports of police killing an unarmed person of color, despite the legal fights people are putting up to continue to use their racist imagery... There are more people who want Black than most other comic trades. Black's "pre-sales" are almost on par with the top three Star Wars graphic novels that came out in December. Or the latest volume of Attack on Titan.

Why more publishers aren't seeing the significance of this and acting on it, however, I don't know.
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