May 01, 2011

All-white Avengers isn't "contrived"?

Race + Comics:  When is Diversity ‘Contrived’?

By Arturo R. GarcíaMarvel Comics has spared no effort over the past few years to redefine its Avengers franchise as a cornerstone: even before Marvel Films launched the series of movies–Iron Man in 2008, and this year’s Captain America and Thor releases–to culminate in the team getting its own movie, the company has made sure the Avengers were at the center of its centerpiece stories like Civil War, Secret Invasion, Siege, and this year, Fear Itself.

“They’re the varsity. They’re the A-list,” Senior Vice-President of Publishing Tom Breevort told Comic Book Resources in an interview. “They’re the Man. They’re not about being super heroes because of demographics or ethnicity. They stand for something specific and occupy a certain role. If you don’t have some degree of that, then it doesn’t feel like Avengers.”

Unfortunately, an ensuing discussion of the criteria needed for a story to bear the Avengers brand went to some depressingly familiar territory.

Part of the interview covered failed pitches for Avengers stories. Brevoort explained that he had rejected ideas for a “1950’s Avengers” or a “Cosmic Avengers.” Another idea he shot down in two separate pitches was, he said, essentially “Black Avengers.”
García lists almost a dozen heroes who could make up a Black Avengers. He reports an interesting Twitter exchange on the subject:@TomBrevoort If an all-black Avengers team is contrived, why isn't an all-white Avengers team contrived?

@SonofBaldwin Because 99% of all super heroes are white. It's the law of averages.

@SonofBaldwin It's the product of 70 years of publishing, much of which was done in less enlightened times.
Brevoort's first claim is obviously false. A significant subset of today's Marvel superheroes are minorities.

As for his second claim, Marvel has the ability to change its product, as García notes. By forming an all-black Avengers, for instance. Or by creating minority superheroes until Marvel's comics accurately reflect the US population (now 36% nonwhite).

García isn't buying Brevoort's excuses either:Once again, when it comes to diversity, it appears the “contrivances” appear when they’re most convenient for the comics industry, as it does for so many others: there’s not enough qualified candidates; the market won’t support it; that’s not our job.The same applies to an all-Native team. Marvel could easily come up with a team of a dozen Native heroes. Do it as a mini-series or a one-shot to test the market. No one thought Dances with Wolves, Twilight, or Avatar would be successful until they proved they were. If you care about maximizing your profits, why not sell comics for Indians and other minorities too?

Even sticking with Brevoort's unnecessary criterion of people with an Avengers background, Marvel could put together a decent Native and- Latino-themed team. Starting with:

Red Wolf
Living Lightning

Add American Eagle, Black Crow, and a couple others and you've got yourself an Indigenous Avengers.

Instead we get another volume of the all-white Avengers. Alas.

For more on Indians' role in comics, see Review of Dark Horse's TUROK, Native Women = Whores in SCALPED, and Hidalgo in FIRST WAVE #4.

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