Tagged: J.A. Micheline

Mindy Newell: Politically Incorrect

Strange FruitSaturday, I met a very nice young man named Moses in my local comic books shop. We got into a conversation about *duh!* comics and he was very frank in stating that he was not buying many DC comics because – and I’m paraphrasing here, since I didn’t happen to have a tape recorder on me – everybody in the office is white so it’s impossible for them to understand the black experience. I told him that I didn’t agree with any part of that, but that is Moses’ perception, and perception is everything. Isn’t it?

Yesterday, I read Marc Alan Fishman’s latest column here at ComicMix, Affirmatively Actionable Comic Equality, in which he referenced J.A. Micheline’s August 4th piece over at Comics Alliance titled Why I’m Boycotting Marvel Comics, which I linked to and read. In her own words:

Marvel, you and I are taking a break. It’s not me; it’s you – and you made the decision really easy. In the past two to three weeks, I have watched you disrespect and disregard marginalized voices and I’ve had enough.”

Then I Googled “diversity of comics creators” and found an article by Laura Hudson published over at Wired on July 25th of this year: “It’s Time To Get Real About Racial Diversity In Comics.” She writes:

July in particular has been an interesting month to ponder that question, thanks to a series of recent events that offered a prismatic lens on the complex friction between race and representation in the field. Not only did the Marvel variants spark discussion, but this month, DC Comics announced that Milestone Media – an imprint created by black creators and focusing on black superheroes – would be returning to the larger DC Comics fold, along with most of the black artists and writers who had created it. Meanwhile, Boom! Studios released Strange Fruit, a comic made by a white creative team that dealt with racism in the American South, prompting discussions about when works by white creators are erasing the voices of the people they’re writing about.”

Jon Stewart asked us to do something on his last show: “If you smell something, say something.”

Okay, Jon, I will.

It’s about fucking time that people stopped creating these stupid fucking artificial lines.

To be brutally forthright – and quite politically incorrect – I don’t give a damn what color, what religion, what ethnicity, what nationality, or what sex a creator is.

The only thing I care about when I’m reading a story, the only reason I’m reading it, the only reason I continue to read it, be it comics or prose, is that I’m enjoying it, that I’m sucked in, that I can’t put the goddamn thing down, whether that means reading it at work while on a break, or at home while eating dinner, or reading it on the toilet wherever that toilet may be.

So Strange Fruit, a series about racism in the South, was written and drawn by Mark Waid and J.G. Jones, two white guys. So what? I think they should be applauded for writing about it. I think the premise, about a super-powered alien who looks like a black man in 1927 Mississippi, is great, and I’m putting it on my list to buy. And by the way, Quantum Leap did an episode in the very first season in which Sam jumped into the body of an elderly black man in the pre-Civil Rights South (“The Color of Truth”). Nobody objected that it was produced by a white man and starred two more white men.  

And if a story about racism was so important to you, African-American creators, why didn’t you go out and create it?

Oh, wait. You did.

Maya Angelou. James Baldwin. Octavia Butler. Amiri Baraka. Toni Morrison. Ralph Ellison. Zora Neale Hurston. Lorraine Hansbury. Langston Hughes. Richard Wright. Alice Walker. Alan Paton.

Oh, you mean comics?

Christopher Priest. Michael Davis. Damion Knight. Matt Baker. Reginald Hudlin. Darryl Banks. Denys Cowan. ChrisCross. Kyle Baker. Jamal Igle, Malcom Jones III, Mark (M.D.) Bright. Billy Graham. Keith Pollard. Brian Stelfreeze. Ron Wilson. Larry Stroman.

Dwayne McDuffie.

Okay, what’s wrong with this list?

No women.

But they do exist.

Charlie “Spike” Trotman. Carol Burrell. Barbara Brandon-Croft. Afua (Lakota Sioux) Richardson. Alitha Martinez. Cheryl Lynn Eaton.

Yes, I admit, these women were a little harder to find. And that’s bullshit, too.

Still, obviously, I managed.

You could, too, if you wanted to.

I could write a whole column about that. But then I might be accused of being a white Jewish woman who has no business writing about the black woman comics creator, because, you know, that’s not politically correct.

But if any of these women would like to have a dialogue with me on these pages, you’re very welcome to get in touch with me. In fact, I’ll ask Editor Mike to be our liaison (mike@comicmix.com).

See, I think making it in a profession that is your passion takes talent, sweat, blood, tears, aggravation, patience, aggressiveness, stick-to-it-iveness, and luck.

A whole lot of luck.

The truth is that luck is the goddamnest wild card.

And that’s a truth that is politically incorrect to say out loud.


Marc Alan Fishman: Affirmatively Actionable Comic Equality


A few friends of mine on Facebook posted an absolutely fabulous op-ed by J.A. Micheline, calling out Marvel – and declaring a personal boycott – for some recent decisions passed. It seems Blade has been handed off to a pair of white creators, Hercules is now straight as an arrow, and I assume Spider-Gwen will be replaced by a straight white male version of the character with thigh pouches or something. Upon initial reading of her thoughts, my inner-chauvinist began to itch. A deep breath, a reread, and a few bites of dinner later? I’m fully on board with her fervor.

Now, let me be clear. I myself have boycotted mainstream comics for the better part of eighteen months. I haven’t felt fiction-deprived yet. I’ve enjoyed output from Marvel and DC: Ant-Man, Avengers 2, The Flash, and Teen Titans Go have sated me just fine, sans ink and paper. My boycott though, came not because of any particular editorial mandate or creative team injunction. It came because of the continual commitment to useless event-driven editorial calendars and the retconning of great stories in lieu of quick #1 issue cash-grabs.

Thus far, I’m two for two with DC’s re-Final-Crisising-convergence, and the All-New-All-Different-All-Shuffled-Marvel’s recent releases proving me righter than right. Am I missing some great issues? Likely. But on the whole, mainstream comic collecting requires a financial commitment a father of one-plus-one-coming needn’t part with.

Reading these current malfeasances via Micheline’s article didn’t hit me as being all that surprising. If anything, they were just continual symptoms of a much larger disease. That disease is greed. Axel and company are victims of a system that presently panders to the almighty profit – what little can be made in the floppies. Changing creative teams, changing sexual orientation, changing changes that were changed for the sake of change? All done in hopes of spiking sales just a wee-bit more. But her anger is not unfounded. She’s picking away at scars that scab over yearly. As an industry why does it always feel like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back?

Blade loses its black creators. Johnny Storm is portrayed by a black actor in the upcoming flop Fantastic 4. Hercules is declared straight, and I’m sure someone in DC has recently come out of the closet. But I digress. The point that Micheline is really after is rooted in the “old boy” classicism and predictably shallow attitudes they assume when fans take umbrage over these decisions. Axel and DiDio largely act as if we’re living in the enlightened age where talent is colorless, genderless, and sexually blind. But the truth is our world isn’t there yet. And to act in that manner otherwise comes across only as being out-of-touch. Akin, say, to jamming one’s fingers in their ears and yelling loudly over the sound of people asking for a little equality.

J.A. Micheline asks for no fewer than three new gay characters in comics, as well as three new black creators to be placed on ongoing titles. She’s following Dwayne McDuffie’s “Rule of Three” – adding three members of a marginalized group into any fold will cause the perfect amount of civil unrest. It’s hard to argue with her logic. When you break the status quo, you’re going to hurt some feelings. But frankly, feelings are there to be hurt, and then repaired with time and acceptance. Make more gay characters. Hire black creators, Asian creators, Muslim creators, and everybody else. Fans who may balk at the notion… happily hand them free copies of Youngblood.

Our industry – that of the talented outcasts now coming into our own – is better than others. I say this because so much good has been made under the comics umbrella. So many emotions given clarity. So many characters shown in multiple dimensions. So many myths made modern. We are a medium that should be built on inclusion and acceptance.

What are our heroes and villains, but the id of our very outer-ness made real? Symbols of hope, of joy, of angst, of loss, and everything in between. Surely that begs for those who push the pencils of the ledgers some modicum of social justice… to balance the scales of creation to prove to the other mediums of artistry that we are the torchbearers!

Consider J.A. Micheline’s boycott as I have: not the frustrated battle cry lambasting Marvel for a lack of diversity… but as a sigil for the future of comics at large. Be blacker. Be gayer. Be prouder, Marvel.