It is 2017 and there is no excuse for any comics company to not be hiring Black women for any comic.
Mainstream comics companies have a terrible track record when it comes to hiring Black women and other marginalized comic creators. Both Marvel and DC Comics recently announced comics for Storm and Black Lightning, but the only creators involved are Black men. When it comes to who should work on Black characters, comics companies need to hire more Black women.
Warmup ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/Rzn4Xep9rC
— Jen Bartel (@heyjenbartel) October 10, 2017
Up until now, Black women writers such as Roxanne Gay, Yona Harvey, and Nnedi Okorafor have worked on mainstream comics. Their prominent backgrounds as award-winning literary writers are similar to the writing backgrounds of Black Panther writers Ta-Nehisi Coates and Reginald Hudlin. While these Black male and female writers are talented, Marvel’s decision to hire distinguished writers in the arts belies an unfair standard.
In an interview for i09, iconic comic book writer Christopher Priest explained that the comic book industry has been polarizing for decades. According to him, comic book companies have white guys choosing people like them to work on comics so they could keep getting the same successful results. As a result, we mainly have the same old white guys popping up on newer titles and expect marginalized creators to have the same accolades they do.
Of course, many Black comic creators do not have the same resources and opportunities as a white male. In fact, some of the most talented Black people working in comics are independent and self-published. Many have created webcomics that are available to read for free, using crowdfunding sites like Patreon to support their work. Crowdfunding is also used by small presses that publish Black comic creators, such as Peep Game Comix and Forward Comix.
As a result of the synergy between Black comic creators, Black pop culture media, and Black comic creators, victories have been won. Nilah Magruder, a Black female comics writer and artist, won the Dwayne McDuffie comics award for her webcomic M.F.K. She also became the first Black woman to write for Marvel by writing A Year of Marvels: September Infinite Comic.
Marvel choosing to announce a bestselling literary author as their first Black female writer and not an award-winning self-published comics creator speaks volumes. It shows that they care more about those who fit their image as a big-time comic publisher than bringing in new talent. However, this doesn’t mean that other comic companies can’t do better.
In order to provide more opportunities for Black comics creators, established and lesser known creators must have the same chances regardless of their comics experience. A comics publisher that has been putting this into practice is Lion Forge comics. Through the creation of the Catalyst Prime universe, the company has managed to involve Black comic creators with various levels of experience.
Established earlier this year, the Catalyst Prime universe is a superhero universe featuring inclusive characters and creators. One comic, Superb, features a Black girl teaming up with a boy with Down’s Syndrome. Created in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society, the comic features a team of Black creators that include writers David F. Walker and Sheena Howard and illustrators Ray-Anthony Height and Le Beau L. Underwood.
In addition to balancing out who gets to work on comics, there must also be an intersectional approach in terms of who works on certain Black characters. Jazmine Joyner’s recent review of Marvel’s Venomverse: War Stories shows that the comic could have benefited from a Black disabled female writer or editor. To avoid unintentionally hurting readers, we must remember that one Black comic creator cannot represent every Black comic reader.
If you where to look, there are plenty of Black women available for ongoing comics. There is Regine Sawyer, who owns her own comics publication Lockett Down Publications and writes comics. Tee Franklin, a Black disabled queer comics writer, created and wrote the crowd-funded comic Bingo Love!, which will be published by Image Comics. Not to mention the website Cartoonists of Color, which is literally an entire database of people of color in comics.
It is 2017 and there is no excuse for any comics company to not be hiring Black women for any comic. A self-published Black female comics creator deserves the same opportunities as a bestselling Black female literary author. Black characters may be fictional, but having Black women behind them can make them seem real.