August 21, 2013

Why don't minority comics sell?

I gather Alan Donald surveyed comic-book professionals to answer the title question. Below are two of the best answers.

Why Don't "Black Books" Sell?

By Alan DonaldCraig Lemon: "Why aren't there more black-superhero books? Because they don't sell. Why don't they sell? The same reason that female-led superhero books don't sell very well. Because the primary audience for superhero is white males. And the main way you can get female-led superhero books to sell is to plaster them with cheesecake art-step forward Greg Horn and Michael Turner. I also believe that most white males are closet racists-even if just subconsciously...oh, you could argue that someone reading a superhero book puts themselves in the place of the hero, and white males cannot identify with black heroes for some reason...I would venture that that reason is racism. Why are there few Arabic superheroes in US comics? Why are there few Hispanic blah blah blah? The answer is the same.

Why are there no black superheroes fronting big-name books? Because all the iconic heroes in existence today (with the exception of Wolverine) were created between the 1930s and the 1960s, when black characters were taboo, or poor caricatures at best (see the early stories of The Spirit to see how even Will Eisner didn't escape this attitude). There have been pitifully few successful superheroes created in the last twenty years, black OR white. So new books with predominantly black casts don't sell...but neither do new books with predominantly white's not just The Crew that was cancelled recently, but The Eternal too.

Why are there no successful black characters in "mainstream" (i.e. Marvel & DC comics)? But there are. Look at 100 Bullets. Look at Gotham Central. Minority groups represented in quality comics, bought by a vast range of purchasers. And why do these work-because of the Star Trek factor...they feature an "ensemble," a large group of characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

You could say why are there no major supporting black characters in Spider-Man? But I think you'd find that beyond the original set of characters created in the 60s, there have been no NEW supporting characters of any colour for a consistently long period of time. It's the same with Superman, with Batman, with whoever...superheroes created in 1960s and earlier had no black characters due to the situation that existed at that time (which is where the racism angle comes back in) and these superheroes haven't changed in the intervening time-the supporting casts have remained the same throughout the decades.”
And:Alonzo Washington: “Why aren't there more mainstream titles that feature minority characters in prominent roles? The answer is quite obvious.

RACISM!!!!!!!!! Although, the attitudes are complicated to explain. Most White people are uncomfortable with people of color gaining power. That's why affirmative action & immigration are always controversial topics in America. Therefore, the concept of a super hero of color is an uneasy thought to most White Americans. Moreover, the image of a super hero is one of perfection & morality. For years the mainstream media has always force fed the American public with the most negative & immoral images of Black people (murderers, gang bangers, thugs, pimps, video tramps, whores, rapists, gangsta rappers, criminals, etc.). Therefore, the concept of a Black super hero is almost a joke in the minds of most White people. That's why a number of Hollywood films are made with a Black super hero as a comedy release (Under Cover Brother, Meteor Man, Pootie Tang & Blank Man). I have turned down a number of Hollywood producers who want to make a MOVIE WITH MY BLACK SUPER HEROES AS A COMEDY. Moreover, most of the creators in the comic book industry (not all) are White nerds. What do they know about Black people or any other people of color? These guys are creating a fictional world where they are all powerful and quite frankly they don't want Black people in it or anybody who is not White. Have you ever wondered why the two most popular super hero icons (Superman & Spider-Man) are former nerds in their secret identities. Most of the time when a Black character (The Falcon, Storm, Green Lantern, Agent J, Captain Marvel, Cyborg, Pete on Smallville, etc.) emerges in the world of mainstream comic books he or she are simply a watered down side kick or a modern day slave to the White characters in the comic book. The Black characters have no agenda of their own. Storm in the X-MEN movies might as well had been a maid with the few lines she received. The Black characters that stand on their own are normally super stereotypes like Power Man (Cage) the ex-con or the monster heroes like Blade & Spawn. Most White comic book creators & collectors like monsters more than people of color. Comic Books are filled with monsters and barely people of color. The comic book community is basically White. I attended Comic-Con this year with my wife & six small children. Everywhere I went security hounded us like we were not supposed to be there and our passes were clearly displayed upon us. They acted like I could put the Comic-Con in my pocket. I think it is the same scenario exists for Black super heroes & super heroes of color in mainstream comic book titles. Many White creators don't feel like they are supposed to be there.

Why don't Black Comic Books sell? Most White people don't want a Black savior. Super Heroes are saviors. Unlike African Americans & other people of color who accept White super heroes as their own. Most White people think a BLACK SUPER HERO IS ONLY FOR BLACK PEOPLE AND THAT IS RACIST. I remember I was doing a presentation at the public library and a White kid asked me if my Black character (Omega Man) was for people like me (Black). I answered his question with a question. I said "is Super Man & Bat Man only for people like you"?
Comment:  These points also apply to comics about Native and other minorities, of course.

For more on the subject, see Racism in the Comics Business and Okay to Stereotype in Noir Comics?

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