The Color Game
In another installment of this week’s “what the hell, comics” articles, Justin wonders: It’s always gotta be the right person for the job. Haven’t we moved past that now?
Earlier this year, Marvel announced their plans to merge their 616 universe with the Ultimate Universe via their currently running Secret Wars comic. In broad terms, it’d be combining the old world with the good stuff from the Ultimate Universe like Miles Morales and… actually, I’m fairly certain that’s it. The resulting universe and the comics Marvel will be rebranded as “All-New, All-Different Marvel,” and in October, there will be 60 new comics to go along with the change.
What had everyone talking wasn’t the lineup of characters and books so much as who was writing them, which is to say that there is a lot of white people writing and drawing the comics of All-New, All-Different Marvel. Ironically. As far as the characters themselves are concerned, the women/people of color to get solo books of their own are Scarlet Witch, Miles Morales (his comic is now just called “Spider-Man”), Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Blade (his daughter, Fallon Grey, is taking the mantle), Nova, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Thor, and Angela. That’s good! But the thing is, most of those comics I just mentioned are written and/or drawn by white dudes. Naturally, when called out on social media or in interviews, Marvel representatives or a random fan will argue that they “picked the best person for the job.”
If there’s one thing more annoying than the “we have to let it happen organically” excuse when it comes to representation beyond straight, white people in fiction (which I’ve already covered here), it’s “we found the best person for the job” excuse when the development team is called out for being made up of straight, white dudes. It’s this weird meta-level of cultural appropriation where the implication is basically that people of color or women don’t understand the struggles they themselves go through. Or, to put in a funnier way, it’s basically this:
The thing about the “best person for the job” excuse is that it shares the same problem as “we need to make it organic” in that it’s a bit of a self defeating prophecy. Okay sure, a lot of these writers and artists are really good; the teams for “Uncanny Inhumans,” “Doctor Strange,” “Spider-Man,” and “Ultimates” are writers and artists whose stuff I really like and I trust they’ll do good work. But some of these characters absolutely need to be worked on by someone who’s got a good handle on what their lives would be like in the real world. This is why people love G. Willow Wilson on Ms. Marvel, because she knows what it’s like to be Muslim and isn’t just reading the Cliffsnotes. No offense to Tim Seely and Logan Faerber, but I’m pretty sure neither of them know what it’s like to be a 16-year-old black girl in 2015. Even if the story never has any real commentary on a teenage WOC swinging around a sword and slicing monsters’ heads off beyond “hey, isn’t this really fucking awesome, look at how awesome Blade’s daughter is,” Fallon deserves to be written by a black woman who could explore this popular black girl being given superhuman abilities. Or at the very least, they’d write a scene where she beats down someone who fetishizes black girls, which would also be well appreciated.
This would probably be slightly less of an issue if it weren’t for Marvel’s already poor standing in representation with regards to their films. Keep in mind that this is coming only some weeks after Tom Holland was announced as the new Spider-Man, a film people are still sour on for having yet another white protagonist and shuffling the “Captain Marvel” and “Black Panther” films to 2018 and 2019. Had that film featured Miles Morales in the title role instead of Peter (and frankly there’s no reason for it not to at this point), people would’ve had no problem with T’Challa and Carol getting pushed back. Hell, they probably would’ve been excited for it. As it stands that (plus what some consider to be a case of ignorant irony in having a month of hip-hop themed variant covers while having few black people working on said comics) does not have people being particularly kind towards the House of Ideas right now.
This is going to come as a bit of a shock to anyone with no basic common sense, but white people need to learn to stay in their lane and let marginalized voices talk about their experiences. Not to say that they can’t, but after the immense clusterfuck that was “Strange Fruit,” just maybe let the people who’ve actually been through (or at least can be in the right mind of) those experiences write or draw those experiences. I really like Brian Michael Bendis’ work and understand that he should get first dibs since he created the character, but maybe it’s time to let someone black or Latino write Miles Morales? In the wake of events like Ferguson and Charleston, don’t people who’ve been through racial injustice deserve to let their frustrations out through characters like them? Would it be a bit tasteless or over the top if the diverse kids of DC’s “We Are Robin” comic beat down a bunch of racists and set fire to the Confederate Flag? Well yeah, but I don’t see how that’d be any difference from that awesome church brawl in Kingsman from earlier this year.
Representation is important and something that comics still need to work on. I like the diverse characters both publishers have; Duke Thomas, Inferno, Robbie Reyes, Miles, and Kamala are some of my favorite new characters of the past few years. Their stories are wanted and deserve to be told. But we have to get over this mentality that the only people who can tell their stories are the people who’ve never had stories like theirs to tell.
It’s time for these heroes to get in a new lane.
(All New, All Different Marvel property of Marvel)