Representation of Race: The Reader or Industry?

Throughout the discussions we have had in class and are continuing to have, representation has always held a place in the talks. Whether that is representation of women, sex, images, text, main tropes, we still have the word tossed around the class room. For my blog post this week I want to continue this discussion from the classroom and blog conversations in respects to the lack of representation of race. Not only is there a lack of race in many graphic novels, there is also a lack of diversity in the comic industry at large. The first reason I found this topic interesting to talk about more was when I was doing my disassembly project. I also came across a web article titled “The Lack of Diversity in Comics: What’re You Doing About It”  that was written by David F. Walker and posted on The Nerds Of Color that explores the lack of representation of race in comics and the comic industry.

While I was looking for a comic for my disassembly assignment on Comic Books Plus, I realized there are so few, if any at all, comic/images of characters of race. Especially looking under categories of “romance”, “horror”, and “fantasy” there are no comics of people of color at all. These are just a few examples:

BestRomance        AllRomances       AllForLove

 

Looking at these comics and seeing the lack of diversity, made me come across the blog article by Walker. His article described the diversity problem in the American comic industry:

“To be absolutely clear, this lack of representation in the creative forces that produce comics is problematic. There needs to be greater diversity on many levels when it comes to comics, both on the creative side, and within the stories that are being produced. But that is only one problem, and not the problem I want to address” (Walker).

This led me to the ultimate question at hand: Why do we allow the lack of race in comics? If we say we do not allow it then why is race not represented throughout comics and graphic novels. To me, this instills the idea that the comic book industry is in fact exclusive of not only gender, but race.

Walker does in fact attack this problem but the extension of his thoughts go further. He does claim that the lack of diversity does become a problem but, as he claims, it is not the main problem. The main problem is that there is diversity of artists and graphic novelist and they are producing works with diversity, but if viewers are not supporting those creators then that is the problem.

“I’m sorry to say this, but if you are upset about a lack of diversity in comics, and you are not supporting the creators that are out there — through both purchases and spreading the word — then you are, in your own way, part of the problem” (Walker).

I think Walker does make an excellent point, in that, it is the readers responsibility to promote diversity if they complain that there is none within the industry. I feel readers, including myself, are quick to jump to conclusions that there aren’t any comics that deal with the issues of race or promote diversity. They are out there. But in saying this I do somewhat disagree with Walker. Yes it is our(the reader’s) responsibility to promote diversity if we want it, but we need to be able to get a hold of it. A good example of this:

In my African American Literature class we have talked about how hard it is to find the books on our syllabus in a regular book store. When you go into the African American section you don’t see authors like Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, or Gwendoline Brooks; you see Martin Luther King. Same thing can apply to a Comic section. You see DC or Marvel comics. I have never seen a comic with someone of color on the front page. The industry makes available what they think the readers want and what is popular among  them.

The whole point of my example is to show that it is difficult to find comics/books with diversity in them. We, as readers, can promote diversity as much as we want, but it does depend greatly on the industries availability of them. To say there is not diversity does not simply mean that we are not supporting the people of color creating these pieces of diversity. I contend that it means the industry needs to start recognizing that people do want diversity and an accurate representation of race.

I highlighted Walkers article because he has made a point that we can extend to our conversation. Should we be blaming ourselves for not supporting the people of color producing such works of diversity? Or does this say something lager; the industry needs to adapt to an accurate representation of race and make these works more available? I do not have an exact answer, but I do know that if the industry does not start making diversity a priority then it will remain, to me, exclusive of race. This exclusion of race will only allow for a society to do the same.

 

Walker. David F. “The Lack of Diversity in Comics:What’re you Doing About It?” Nerds of Color. January 201, 2014. Web.