Breaking The Mirror, by Mike Gold
One of the more disgusting experiences I suffered through in my professional life was the reaction of one DC Comics executive – no longer with the company; not for quite a while – to the new El Diablo series back in 1989. His response was “not a lot of those people buy our comics.”
Without this executive’s support, the series didn’t have a chance. It lumbered on through 16 issues despite good work from a respected team. A lot of people didn’t know the title existed. Your reaction might very well have been “El Diablo?? Oh, yeah, I think I remember that…” Sigh. When I hired a black man as a full editor at DC, a first for the company, a couple of my fellow editorial staffers made their displeasure quite well known to me, and to my boss.
This is no criticism of DC: they had a large staff even at that time and these clown were hardly the only bigots in the building. That’s America, and these people (as opposed to those people) sometimes get their way. Sometimes we watch them on CNN; sometimes we elect them to office.
Comic book universes have been slow to reflect the spectrum of humanity: too many white men running around with other white men for way too long. Yep, that’s been changing somewhat more slowly than in other sectors of our popular culture, but I’ll bet we’ve still got another black superhero coming out named “Black” something. At least Marvel is unlikely to create another black sidekick named Bucky.
We might break down some of these limitations (damn, I’m being polite) if we started hiring more folks who don’t look like members of the traditional American ruling class. I’m not a believer in the concept that only black writers can write black characters or only women writers can write women characters – that’s complete nonsense – but having greater diversity in the pool would help a whole lot.
This is why I’d like to congratulate my friends at Archie Comics for bringing writers Jesús Gil Holguín and Misako Takashima onto their staff. Mr. Holguín is Mexican and has written, edited and translated comics in Mexico, including the Archie line and has long been active in fan circles. Japanese-born Ms. Takashima has been an art teacher and performer whose artwork has been published in The Onion, among other outlets.
Both writers have introduced characters that reflect their own origins: Toño Diaz and his parents have moved from Mexico to Riverdale; they own a party planning business. Kumi and Ami Tamura will be the next new kids on the Riverdale block – they’ll be arriving shortly after the Diaz family debuts in Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals #123 this July.
We think of Archie as staid and maybe a bit creaky. Well, maybe they’re a bit staid but the gatekeepers are certainly not creaky. They’re smart.
As for Jesús and Misako; welcome to our wackiness. Enjoy.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.