DC Doesn’t Stand for Diversity Comics

Been a while since I’ve blogged.  Been busy, but I figured I’d drop by and  share some thoughts.

So recently Ian Sattler of DC Comics, when confronted with the possibility of racial insentitivity, was quoted as saying something along the lines of: “Well, I just don’t get it because it’s not our intention.”  He also added that DC Comics have a very diverse cast of characters, including green, blue, and orange characters.

Okay, the “blue, green, and orange” response completely misses the point.  You can’t fake diversity by using fake ethnicities.  Heck, I love robots and aliens and monsters, but even I don’t buy that argument.  I’d be perfectly happy if the Justice League was filled with monsterish characters, but it wouldn’t solve the problem we’re talking about.  But I think the alien diversity argument is a red herring, a distraction from the real point.

Whether or not DC Comics intends to be insensitive or is irrelevent to whether or not they are being insensitivy.  Intent just isn’t important.

If I shoot a gun outside of my window in a random direction, and it accidently hits someone, I’m still guilty of being careless.  If it kills someone, I’m still guilty of a crime.  It might not be as bad as cold-blooded murder, but it’s still my fault.  I’m still responsible.  If that bullet flies through the air, hits a speeding car’s tire, causes that car to fly off the street into a tanker truck, and the resulting explosion causes mayhem, I am the cause of that mayhem.  When the police come to my door and place me under arrest, I can’t throw up my hands and say, “Well, I didn’t mean to do it.”  That’s just not going to cut it.

Granted, this is not the same thing as reckless endangerment of lives.  Nor is it as utterly ridiculous as the pointless, purely hypothetical discharge of a gun for no apparent reason.  But it still stands to reason that intent, while important, is not the be all and end all of these situations.

I fully believe that BP Oil didn’t intend to unleash a corrupting black sludge into the Gulf of Mexico.  I can’t imagine that they sat around like a shadowy group of Captain Planet villains and laughed maniacally while plotting to despoil our precious waters, source of all life.  Even if they were largely indifferent to the ecological effects, they clearly wanted that oil because it’s a valuable commodity.  It does them absolutely no good in the gulf.  In fact, it costs them money.

No, they didn’t want the accident to happen (hence the term “accident”), but it did.  And they’re responsible for it.  They can say, “Well, we didn’t mean for it to happen”, but meaning is irrelevant.  That’s what the senator from Texas (sorry about that, non-Texans) missed.  He sees BP as a victim, a hapless bumbler who is as clueless and annoyed by this occurance as the rest of us.  And they are.  Except that the rest of us didn’t do it.  BP did.  And whether or not BP intended to do it, they have to be responsible for the mess.  Your mess.  Your responsibility.

Going back to DC Comics (and comics in general), we fans continually hear how we are wrong for saying that the writers and editors don’t seem to care what we have to say.  Every time anyone brings up the specter of racism or sexism in comics, it suddenly turns into a debate as to whether or not the creators themselves are racist or sexist.  Suddenly, it’s personal.  Suddenly, instead of talking about the content of the comics (which is what this is about) we’re talking about people.  And suddenly everyone is defensive.

Nobody likes being called racist.  Even when they are racist.

Yet I firmly believe that this is not an issue of racism, but of intent (or lack thereof).  Intent is particularly relevent to being an artist because there’s the art you intend and there’s the interpretation of the audience.  These can be two different things.  And while it’s not the artist’s job to always play it safe, it’s also a mistake as an artist to dismiss the audience just because you don’t agree with them, just because their interpretation is not what you intended.

The obvious example for myself is how I don’t consider myself a comic fantasy writer and how pretty much everyone else in the universe does.  My intent, believe it or not, is not to write funny stories.  It’s to write cool stories with robots, gods, and giant eyeball monsters.  It’s to try and do something a little bit different, and while I use humor, humor is rarely my goal.  But my goal is irrelevant.  If people like my books because they’re funny, then I accept this.  I am a funny writer.  Everybody says so.  Well, not everybody, but most of my fans.

A more obvious example though is found in the pages of Gil’s All Fright Diner.  I call it The No Fat Chicks mistake.  When we first meet Duke and Earl, our heroes, Duke is described as wearing a T-shirt with this written on it.  My intent on that choice was to just show that Duke had a cheap, commonly available T-shirt to fit his cheap jeans and on the go lifestyle.  It wasn’t meant as a statement on fat chicks and / or their availability.

Doesn’t matter.  I have taken quite a bit of heat, here and there, for that shirt, and I can’t blame overweight and heavy people, especially women, for being upset by it.  We are rarely presented with non-beautiful people, especially women, in fiction that aren’t the target of often mean-spirited humor.  And, yes, later we meet Loretta who is fat and who gets made fun of for it, but not any more than Earl gets made fun of for being bald and scrawny or Chad gets made a caricature of the horny, one-dimensional teen boy.  Loretta is a good character, a heroic character.  She has a lot of great things about her, but yes, she’s fat, and yes, I make jokes about it.  Those jokes I will take the heat for because I knew, even as I wrote them, that some people wouldn’t like them.

But the T-shirt . . . that was an accident.  It puts certain people in a bad mood, alienates a certain group of readers, and considering it’s not in there to be controversial or polarizing, it’s a mistake.  My intent was irrelevant.  All that matters are the results.

So, for the record, I apologize for the T-shirt to all those who were offended by it.  I’ll say the T-shirt was wrong.  I’ll take my lumps.  End of story.

There.  See, DC?  That’s not so hard, is it?  Just admit that you’ve made a mistake, many of them, and maybe we can see some progress.  Maybe instead of shrugging and saying, “Whoops. Didn’t mean to” it’s time to take some responsibility.

The question isn’t whether or not you meant to offend anyone.  The question is…what do you have to gain if you did?  I can argue, for example, that the fat jokes at Loretta’s expense fit with the narrative style of Gil’s.  I could argue that, bottom line, she’s a rare example of an overweight woman in fiction who isn’t obsessed with food, who isn’t conventionally attractive, but who can still hold her own against zombies and ghouls.  I can make a pretty good excuse for why I like Loretta and why I wouldn’t change that aspect of the book.

But I can’t think of a damn reason why I wouldn’t change that T-shirt if I could.  Even if I don’t find it offensive.  Even if I didn’t think it would be.  Because I have nothing to gain, as an artist, by leaving it in there.  It adds nothing to the story and only annoys some people.  If it was gone or changed, nobody would miss it.  And that ‘s a good thing.  Because I want to sell books.  That’s right.  I want to sell books and that means doing my best not to alienate people, especially by accident.

But in the world of comics, there seems to be a surprisingly firm stand against listening to fans who complain about the treatment and portrayal of female and minority characters.  Part of it stems from “Well, I’m not racist so nothing I could’ve created could’ve been racist”, which is a mistake.  Part of it stems from an old school dismissal of any part of the audience that isn’t white and male (or, more honestly, the caricature of what a white male reader wants), which is where the creators tend to aim their stories.  And part of it is just old-fashioned pig-headed stubbornness, a refusal to just admit when you’re wrong, even by accident.

First of all, you can be racist by accident.  It happens all the time.  To assume that you can’t be is absolutely ridiculous.  Superman isn’t intended to be racist, and he isn’t.  But he’s a strong white male, surrounded by an equally white supporting cast.  He’s not racist, but he isn’t exactly a model of diversity either.  Batman is white as is every one of his rogue’s gallery.  Well, Poison Ivy is green and Joker is chalk white, but both are caucasians underneath it all.  I’m not so sure about Killer Croc, but I’m willing to bet he isn’t ethnic in the slightest when you get down to it.   The one girl Robin was greenlit just to have her die a horrible death.  Sure, they retconned it, but it doesn’t change the fact that, up until that point, the only female members of the Batman family were Barbara Gordon (shot, paralyzed) and Stephanie Brown (tortured to death).  And while it’s true that Batman characters can have a hard time of it, it’s hard to not see a problem.

Do you know what, DC?  I agree with you.  Fans can be hypersensitive sometimes.  And there’s no doubt that they were hypersensitive about Barbara and Stephanie.  Can you really be surprised by that?  There just aren’t enough female and minority characters around that fans can relate to.  So when you dispose of one of them to further the story of yet another white male hero, you have to expect some backlash.  When the day comes that there are enough female and minority characters populating your universe in noteworthy and important roles, maybe fans won’t be quite so upset to see them mistreated.  Or maybe not.

Fans can be pretty demanding.  That’s just part of the biz.  If it’s okay for the white guys to whine about there being too many minorities and women on the Justice League, then it should be okay for the women / minorities to complain when you maim one of their favorites.  The door should really swing both ways.

As for the white males you continually aim for, I have bad news for you.  You’ve got to get over that.  Increasingly, we live in a more diverse and open culture.  If you want to get anywhere, you have to aim your net a little wider than you used to.  Just as Rush Limbaugh is wrong to suggest that Republicans ignore Hispanics (because it makes perfect sense to ignore a group of growing population and influence), you have to realize that if comics are continue to be a viable storytelling medium, they have to reach out to people they ignored.

I know, I know.  Girls don’t buy superhero comics.  Except they do.  Maybe not as many as the guys, but they do.  And if you want to keep producing successful superhero comics, you have to get more of them.  Just as Lois Lane started out as an intrepid, but mostly clueless, reporter obsessed with marrying Superman but became something else as time went on, so too you have to get with the times.  Things change.  You either change with them, or get left behind.

And don’t start saying, “We do offer female-friendly superhero comics” as if you go out of your way to do so.  Most of these female friendly titles are just dull.  Just as many female friendly video games are like games with all the fun stuff taken out of them.  Women can like shooting zombies in video games and they can like reading about superheroines kicking ass.  I’ll say that Gotham City Sirens is a fairly solid comic about female characters beating up bad guys and having adventures.  You do a better job than Marvel at least, DC, so I’ll give you that.  Still, you could do better.

Let’s just get down to it, comic book creators (in general).  You’re wrong.  You’re wrong when you tell fans to get over it.  You’re wrong when you say you aren’t guilty of making mistakes.  And you’re most especially wrong when you dismiss the tide of concern from people who really, really want to like your stories if you’d just give them a chance.  Denying them that chance isn’t fair to them.  More importantly, it doesn’t get you anywhere.  It doesn’t help you sell comics.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

PS: To all the white males out there, I want to apologize for lumping you into a category that can come across as insulting.  I don’t believe that most white men are sexist or racist, and I don’t believe that the pandering done by comic book companies is even necessary.  So when I use the term white male, I’m really referring to a stereotype that is ultimately as outdated and ridiculous as any other.  And for that, I apologize.

PPS: Please, DC Comics, please, please, give Blue Beetle a new ongoing series.  I’ll take back everything I said in this blog post and even post about how awesome you are and how everyone is wrong about you (including me) if you do this.  Or, if you aren’t going to do that, can you at least promise me you won’t kill BB just for dramatic shock value?  Really.  If I saw a drawing of Superman cradling the dead body of Jaime Reyes, I think I would go to a cave, abandon hope, and wait to die.

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24 Comments

  1. nathn
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Awesome article!

  2. Posted June 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    There is only one real kind of Racism, treating someone who is different than you either positively or negatively in a manner that differentiates from your treatment of people similar to you.

    Everything else is a matter of being comfortable, as an infant a baby can differentiate between the faces of animals, quite quickly that gets specialized to humans, then it’ll begin to specialize to persons of your own race, and in later age it’ll be delegated largely to only your gender. You will find yourself occasionally mistaking two people for one another that don’t even necessarily look similar because of your brain doing this.

    Trying to force a person to be completely comfortable with relating to other races is impossible unless you merely suggest they related to everyone as if there is no race to speak of. You will never eliminate this brain function, it is an evolutionary imperitive that will likely be around till everyone is basically the same race.

    We can cheat though. You could suggest to writers that they write a character, draw up designs for an androgynous costume and powers, then after they have all the actual important stuff that SHOULD matter done then they can roll two die to decide the race and gender. Sure these things don’t matter in the slightest, but they are the only things most people feel matter in diversity. Epic speeches about the content of character being the most important thing can suck it, because if your characters are all the same color they are all the same exact character.

    Anywho that will solve the problem. This way you don’t force a bunch of white writers who really only know about themselves to try and relate (and fail as they often have), you don’t force the non-white writers and artists that do exist to work overtime just to compensate for the racial divid, and everyone gets to feel like they are represented.

    Otherwise we just find ourselves badgering on about something that is in no way related to the BP oil Spill or shooting out a window. Dealing with extremely dangerous materials and trying to cover a bunch of melanin contents (and hormone differences) in fiction are entirely different. One is just an obnoxious problem and the other is a real world problem that could hurt animals and people for hundreds of times the length of your or my life.

  3. Spooky
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Excellent, excellent article about unintentional racism. Clear and non-accusatory, just the sort of tone people are willing to and ought to listen to.

    And hopefully if that Blue Beetle show gets off the ground new comics are nigh for Jaime. Personally, I also hope and pray for the safety of Renee Montoya.

  4. Posted June 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    A few things to support the point of lacking diversity in DC comics:

    I have an art print of Justice League Unlimited characters right next to me that I just bought at Supercon. The characters on it that are absolutely from Earth are Plastic Man, Dr. Fate (well, the guy who’s wearing the helmet), Captain Marvel, Black Canary, Green Arrow, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Zatanna, The Atom, Batman and the Flash. Alien characters include Superman, Hawkgirl, Jade and Martian Manhunter. Red Tornado is also in it, but he’s a robot. There’s one character I can’t identify. He’s wearing a face mask, but his blonde hair (and the way it’s styled) makes him seem to be caucasin.

    In this print, if the character is human then it’s caucasin. Even a few of the non-human characters are caucasin. I’m not blaming the artist of this particular print for that. It just shows the minimal ethnic diversity in DC’s roster. Out of all the characters in that list that are caucasin, the only one I see that HAD to be white since its inception is Wonder Woman. She’s an Amazon which is an ancient Greek/Roman concept. I’m not saying there aren’t any non-caucasin Amazons, but the amount of caucasin Amazons definitely far outweighs the nons so the probability that the only one that leaves Themiscyra is going to be white… But even that has it’s possibility of being another ethnicity. The rest of the characters could have still been the characters they are (or something better) had they been another ethnicity.

    There are definitely non-causasin characters, both big and small: Firestorm, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Vixen, Black Lightning, Huntress (Helena Bertinelli). I actually struggled to come up with just those few.

    If you look at this list of Justice League characters on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Justice_League_members) and you’re familiar with the characters, you can see the lack of diversity.

    However, I don’t blame the writers or the artists for it. As an artist of any kind, there’s a rule of thumb that you should base your creations on what you know. I do a lot of writing and, for writers, it’s most commonly stated as, “Write what you know”. I believe that’s what DC’s artists are doing. The writers are writing what they know. The pencilers, inkers and other visual artists are drawing what they know. When a white guy from San Diego tries to write a story about a black guy from Harlem, they are often met with extreme resistance from that demographic. It’s usually because the writer doesn’t portray the character accurately… Because he doesn’t know what he’s writing about. The same can go for a white guy drawing a black guy. They can easily fall into a stereotypical look for a very generic looking black guy. That’s all they know.

    The same goes for having a black guy draw or write a white guy. Or a man write or draw a woman. Or a woman writing or drawing a man. If you want a certain type of character then get someone who knows something about that type of person to write or draw that character.

    It’s not a 100% sound way of doing things, but no way will be 100%. There’s at least a better chance of getting the character right and getting the necessary diversity when it’s done that way.

    I blame DC for not getting a greater diversity in the hiring of their writers and artists and/or being more accepting of characters of non-caucasin ethnicities when the character concept is proposed. If they are going to get a writer or artist of one gender or ethnicity to write or draw a character of another gender or ethnicity then the writer or artist needs to do their research and DC needs to give the writer extra time to do that research when the project starts. The research is to get the writer or artist well passed the stereotypes.

    This is an area where I praise Marvel. They’ve not only gone into gender and ethnic diversity, but also diversity in sexual orientation. They’re at least trying, even if they don’t pull it off that well.

    • Charmscale
      Posted June 23, 2010 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      The bit about women not being able to write men isn’t really true. Plenty of female writers write realistic male characters. It’s guys who tend to have trouble crossing the gender gap.

      • A. Lee Martinez
        Posted June 23, 2010 at 7:01 am | Permalink

        I actually disagree that men have trouble writing women characters. It’s a common complaint, but really, people have trouble writing good characters, regardless of sex, ethnicity, and background.

        I think it has more to do with the fact that male characters are generally allowed to have more diversity of character than female ones. It’s not much different than elves or orcs or dwarves, all of whom usually start out with defined, inflexible characteristics. Humans can be many things with many goals and drives and methods. Dwarves are always greedy. Elves are always magic. Orcs are always bloodthirsty. And women are always expected to be feminine. And usually not normal femininity but a slighty exaggerated version. Kind of like how a dwarf has to be exaggerated in his greed and grumpiness.

        Yep. I just said that our culture treats women like one-dimensional fantasy characters. And it’s largely true. Why do superheroines wear revealing outfits? Well, it’s not just for the sex appeal. It’s because for a woman, boobs are the equivalent of a dwarf’s thick beard, an ass shot is the same as an elf’s pointed ears. These qualities are defining. These are what make the character unique. Although really, this only works well if there are no other dwarves, elves, or chicks hanging around (which is often the case).

        The other example is Star Trek, where humans are allowed to be diverse, but all Vulcans are logical, all Klingons are violent, etc., etc. And you’ll notice that the federation is mostly human with an alien thrown in here and there. It’s not just because Star Trek is written by humans either. It’s because you really don’t need 2 logical guys on the ship, getting in each other’s way, keeping them from standing out. So why have 2 Vulcans? And if Worf is supposed to be your resident badass, having another Klingon only confuses things. And so it is that female and minorities tend to embody some singular nature first with further characteristics tacked on as needed, thus competing with each other for space in the story.

        And I still don’t buy that women or minorities are better at defeating this tendency. I’ve seen plenty continue the trend. We just tend to be more forgiving with women and minorities. That’s why I don’t think diversity in hiring will necessarilly be the cure all so many people want to believe it will. It certainly can’t hurt to have more minorities and women creators behind the scenes, but until we address that we live in a culture where only white males characters are genuinely allowed to be fully developed characters while others are just default settings with a few quirks, we’ll just be treading water.

        Spider-Man, Superman, and Batman are all white males. None of them are particularly defined by this. And each is a fully developed protagonist with thier own backstory, personality, and methodology. It’s not that male writers have an easier time relating to characters like this. It’s that these characters have been given permission to be more than an ethnicity or XY chromoson pair.

        Until we stop treating minorities / female characters like elves and dwarves, we’ll always butt up against this problem.

        Also, I’d really like it if we stopped doing it with elves and dwarves too. But I’m too tired to possibly discuss fantasy racism (which is actually more relevant than I think any of us realizes) at this point.

        • Benjamin Haskell
          Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          That is a very apt and eloquent way of putting the issue. it is suprisingly uplifting to see someone who is able to see things in relation to other, completely “different” things. I’m glad there are writers out there who both care about complex and relevant issues, and are able to understand not only what and why they are, but why they matter.

  5. Rippley
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Hold on a second Savior-Faire, Underdog is here!

  6. Posted June 22, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    Every time DC has a “diverse” character, it usually ends up being little more than a stunt, and whenever they get tired of that character, that person is instantly marked for death or for something horrible to happen to him/her. Take a look at, oh, anyone who’s ever been friends with/involved with Kyle Rayner.

    And yes, girls don’t buy comics. Me, and my female friends who buy comics are sick of hearing this. Mostly, we’re not the TYPE of girls comic companies wished bought their comics. They want the girls who enjoy yogurt commercials, talk about shoes with their girlfriends constantly and enjoy Sex in the City. Basically, places like the comic companies and the SyFy Channel are constantly courting the women wouldn’t give them the time of day in high school while ignoring all of us nerdy girls next door who DO buy their products and DO dig Batman. And we dig Batman because he’s awesome, and he’s the perfect storm of training, planning and prep time. Not because we think he’s hot or something.

    UGH. Do not get me started about the way the comic/scifi/geek industry treat the women they DO have, in the pursuit of the women they DONT have, or how they treat minorities and other groups like novelty items that’ll go out of fashion at the end of the season.

  7. coren
    Posted June 22, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    A couple points

    You neglect to mention Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) who was definitely around by the time Stephanie became Robin (as Stephanie strongly featured in her book) and I seem to recall that Cass was one of the things that sparked this. Of course, she got brainwashed and turned into an evil assassin/leader of assassins. So there’s that.

    The other – despite her being in a wheelchair, Oracle has become one of the strongest characters in the DCU in many ways – she’s heavily relied on as an information broker, she’s a proven team leader (though not field commander), and her fighting skills are still impressive. She’s one of the few examples of a strong disabled character, nevermind gender.

    Of course, she had to get shot (and maybe raped) in a Batman (not Batgirl) story for that to happen, so there’s that.

    Oh and Adam, if you want to post the print or link to it I could probably identify the mystery blonde guy.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 23, 2010 at 1:03 am | Permalink

      Good points. Here’s my reply:

      Yes, Barbara Gordon became Oracle, but this was after the fact. Nobody who authorized the paralysis of Barbara Gordon intended to salvage her as a character by making her one of the most prominent female characters in the DCU. While it’s great that she became Oracle, thus taking a brutal injustice and turning it into something interesting, it isn’t exactly a get out of jail free card since at the time, it was merely another female character (a well established one at that) being sacrificed to a villain’s street cred.

      Cassandra Cain is a rather interesting problem. On one hand, she was a prominent character. Though I’ll admit I never cared for the character because I just didn’t care for her series, which I tried to like but found too dark and unsatisfying. On the other hand, she was groomed to be a fairly important character, but was eventually discarded. Not, I believe, because of any innate sexism, but because it’s hard for most new characters to get a foothold in the DCU. And since most established characters are white and male, that leads to unintended results.

      Currently, Batwoman is a promising female hero, but for how long is anyone’s guess. It’s not as if I expect her to die violently (although I wouldn’t rule it out) but I can’t really be surprised if her planned ongoing is canceled and she returns to obscurity (like Cassandra Cain).

  8. Rippley
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Distant Cousins
    Dumb/Dead Characters
    Drama Cartoons
    Dog Crap
    Dancing Canadians
    Dangerous Cult
    Dietary Cleansing
    Dear Creatures

  9. Posted June 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Maybe we don’t need to change the way existing writers/illustrators operate, maybe we just need more voices.

    I know there’s a lot a talented folks out there who write/create beyond the sphere of white male existence. They are there, we just don’t see/hear/honor them, for whatever reason.

    The more voices, the better. Now, if you’ll excuse me, the voices in my head are telling me to start the laundry…

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted June 24, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      I definitely agree more diversity in voices couldn’t hurt. It might not help as much as most people want to believe, but it certainly could increase the choices for the audience.

  10. lars frykholm
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I love all your books They are dependable independable
    By the way have you heard the swedish band Martinez
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkEVoNX94KI

  11. Zovesta
    Posted July 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    And here I thought the TV was just to show that he was a jerk. XD

    I dunno. Most of my characters are ugly, the rarity is the beauty. There is only one beautiful, truly good person, and she comes from a race that eats basically everything. And she isn’t even that pretty by their standards. The other is a goddess who can change her form at will, and as she’s sort of weak, tries to win over her worshippers with beauty.

    Everyone else is average or ugly. In fact, in one story, my parents asked if the “ugly is good and beauty is bad” moral was intentional… I had to try and fix it, then.

    I wonder why there aren’t more ugly or overweight characters in stories. =/

    I like your blog, though. And the example with the gun is hilarious, for some reason.

  12. Chet
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Is it okay to have minority villains? How about female minority villains? I was in was a college writing class, and wrote a mystery story. In the story, I used a true life experience to explain why the main character did not like guns. Basically, in college, I lived in a part of town that wasn’t great. Next door was a half-way house for recovering drug addicts. I’ll leave it at there was an incident involving myself and a neighbor. I’m white, he was black. In the course of the story, I fictionalized the real-life encounter to fit the story. In the story, I described the neighbor. In the course of the description I mentioned his skin color. This was not the only minority character in the story. There is a black police officer (based on a real police officer) and one of the main characters, a good guy, is hispanic. There are only about eight characters in the whole story. In the end, the killer is revealed to be a neighbor who is white. Everybody liked the story just fine. I got one negative comment and it was on race. The person was angry the neighbor in the fictionalized account was black. They didn’t like that, and wanted to know why I had to have a black character do that? They asked if black people didn’t get enough “bad press already?” So I ask you: in today’s hyper-sensitive world, with race such a divisive topic and being called racist a common epithet, can you have a minority villain?

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted November 8, 2010 at 2:48 am | Permalink

      A great question.

      I think a lot of it depends on context. Some sensitivity seems to stem from a legitimate place as some villains are 2-dimensional stereotypes and deserve derision. But more diversity in bad guys could only be a positive thing in my opinion, despite the risks that come with it. But, yes, it’s risky, all right.

      If your villain is well-drawn though I’d like to believe it isn’t a problem. But maybe I’m just being naive.

      • Chet again
        Posted November 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. I’ve been reading you since Gil’s. I heard you interviewed on the SF Signal podcast, and enjoyed it. I had to laugh, because you very much reminded me of several people I know. Are there any other interviews out there? I always enjoy hearing authors I’m familiar with talk about themselves and their writing.

        Thanks!

  13. Chet again
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    By the way, in Pontiac Michigan, not far from Detroit, an 8 year old boy named Nathaniel Abrahams (not sure on the spelling) stuck a rifle out his bed room window and pulled the trigger. He killed a guy. He was convicted of murder (don’t remember what degree) and went to juvie, then jail, and was later set free when an adult. It was a big story, a national story.
    So. Don’t stick guns out windows and pull the trigger. It is, indeed, murder.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted November 8, 2010 at 2:43 am | Permalink

      This is indeed good information, although hopefully it’s common knowledge.

      • Chet again
        Posted November 10, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Sadly, it’s not.

  14. Annie Watkins
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Just want to say first off that I’m a big fan of yours. The first book I read was Monster and i loved it so much that I immediately checked out everything in my local library with your name on it. I have yet to find Too Many Curses but I will keep looking.
    DC does seems to cater to a certain percentage of their audience. Female characters while evolving into physically stonger characters are still drawn in tight overly sexual outfit (but the blame can be placed on the fact that so many of them still use spandex-like material for their costumes) that can make it hard for them to be taken seriously. At least for me anyway. And it’s not just the lack of racial diversity that’s a noticeable prolem in DC but a lack of religious diversity. A large chunk of the prominent characters are usually Christians with the exception of Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl and I assume Hawkman. I think the only Jewish character that I’ve come across was Atom Smasher. Of course religion doesn’t really come up much. There was the emotional conflict that the devout Catholic Blue Devil felt upon gaining his hell-based powers but still would it kill them to acknowledge the many different religions on THIS planet?

    Also, Killer Croc’s real name is Waylon Jones and I think he’s been identified as being black.

  15. Posted September 3, 2012 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    Hello friends, fastidious piece of writing and good urging commented at this place,
    I am truly enjoying by these.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive | on June 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    [...] now. – Apparently, the Universe is just as excited about the latest series of Doctor Who as I am. – Writer A. Lee Martinez takes on DC’s lack of genuine diversity in their comics. Thoughtful, honest, and a solid critique. Recommended reading. – An interesting article about [...]

  2. By Christian A. Young's Dimlight Archive | on June 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    [...] Writer A. Lee Martinez takes on DC’s lack of genuine diversity in their comics. Thoughtful, honest, and a solid critique. Recommended reading. [...]

  3. By Bleeding Awful « Ars Marginal on September 19, 2010 at 4:33 am

    [...] A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D, Exhibit E, Exhibit F, Exhibit G, Exhibit H, Exhibit I, Exhibit J, Exhibit K….at this rate [...]

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