why diversity matters.
it's way too hard to find diverse comic books, graphic novels + animation
Although diversity is an extremely prevalent topic, comic books, graphic novels and animation need to step up their game. Most mainstream titles focus on legacy characters (like Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc.), and not on characters who are a race/ethnicity other than White, gender other than male and sexual orientation other than straight. Don’t get me wrong: I like mainstream storylines, too, but these projects don’t represent the millions of fans who come from all sorts of backgrounds and are extremely diverse.
There are many reasons why the comic book industry is slow to catch up. One is that diverse writers aren’t being hired as often. Joseph Phillip Illidge, the senior editor at Lion Forge Comics, noted that “[The] American comic book industry has marginalized and excluded the voices of writers of color.” Another is that diverse characters aren’t given the same consistent publishing support as mainstream ones. “There was a black Captain America for a little while, but he eventually relinquished his star-spangled shield. There’s an Afro-Latino Spider-Man, but he’s regularly upstaged by the still-around white one. And their adventures are almost always written by white men, as they still form an overwhelming majority of the comics industry’s key employees,” says Abraham Riesman of Vulture.
Animation has steadily been getting better in including diverse characters in their stories throughout the years. But behind the scenes, there hasn’t been a lot of progress. According to Sim DHUGGA of Avaaz Media, as of 2018, only 7% of people working on animated TV shows are women of color. And by the same year, only 17% of animated shows were created by women. Tracy Brown from the Los Angeles Times points out that while “Animated shows such as Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Craig of the Creek, Steven Universe and Avatar: The Last Airbender are among those that have been praised for the diversity of their characters...none of these shows was created by people of color.”
How is inklusion making a difference?
Increasing awareness about why diversity in entertainment is important.
Exposure to diverse characters teaches that there isn’t a set model of who the “ideal person” is. In Psychology Today, Dr. Segal says, “diversity can free us from the pressure to conform to a one-size-fits-all way of life.” Children, especially, need to see diversity in books. Children define themselves by the entertainment they consume, and stereotypes are often present. Tufts University authors agree that “there’s a relationship between low self-esteem and negative media portrayals of racial groups...”
Increasing awareness of why diverse projects are hard to find.
Comic books, graphic novels and animation have a diverse fan base and creating a world to match this community is a necessary project. Let's take women as an example. By 1994, women were 47% of the 24mil self-identified comic fan population. But as recently as 2019, 75+% of AwesomeCon panelists were men. In 2019, NPR pointed out that “there's still a long way to go before women achieve equal representation. According to Women in Animation, 60 percent of all animation and art-school students are women, yet only 20 percent of creative jobs in the industry — producers, directors, writers, animators, and art and design jobs — are currently held by women.” Knowing how great it feels to see myself in the entertainment I choose makes me want to work hard to ensure everyone feels represented. These stories are often about understanding differences, protecting each other and doing the right thing. Shouldn’t producers and publlishers live this way in real life?
Increasing awareness of diversity in existing comics and animation.
Robin, Batman’s sidekick, has been two women. Spider-Man has been a woman, a pig and many more types of people (and not people :). The Guardian author Sam Thielman adds, “These are the least weird permutations the characters go through: Thor was a frog briefly.” In short: Diversity in comics and animation is happening all around us. Through the inklusion platform, I'm helping to make it even easier to find it!
How can you make a difference?
Small steps add up!
Buy a diverse title from your local bookseller.
Choose a diverse animation for your next movie night.