Is Diversity Killing Comics?

Does inclusion equal exclusion?

Pay enough attention to the comic book forums and you will notice one excuse for poor sales cropping up again and again…diversity. Unbelievable as it may sound, people are actually convinced that this is the leading cause of people turning their backs on the industry. Could there be any truth to these claims?

Well, it might not be quite as imbecilic as you may initially think, though it would be wrong to say diversity in and of itself is the issue. The real problem is how Marvel, and it is mostly Marvel, have chosen to implement the changes in their universe.

The smart route would have been to create all new heroes and villains to fight alongside and against the current crop of characters. This would have felt more natural and would have handed Marvel a host of new IP’s to utilise as they wish. These characters would have had their own handcrafted personalities that reflected real world people from the communities that they are supposed to be representing. This would most likely have had the effect of attracting new readers from various groups whilst also retaining old ones who just want their treasured heroes.

The method that has been implemented instead of the suggested one is to just take a handful of existing characters and change them into new people to fill a quota and that is what has people riled up. So many fans of all ages just want to be able to sit down and flick through the latest Thor or Iron Man adventure and see the character as he appears on the big screen. To these people it undoubtedly will feel as though they are having an agenda shoved down their throat without regard for what they want, and that is bound to feel unfair.

You may just say boo-hoo to those individuals and celebrate that diversity is being pushed so hard by the largest comics company on the planet but think for a second. If this push is turning people against the communities being portrayed then it is actually doing more harm than good to the groups it is supposed to be championing. These people could well have been allies had the topic been dealt with in a less heavy-handed manner, though that may just be wishful thinking.

On the flip side, it is fantastic that a spotlight is being put on the fact that people from these communities are just like everyone else. They’re not some stranger outside, they’re your friends, neighbours, and colleagues. The fact that so many different types of people weren’t being represented in such a popular medium was at best peculiar and at worst downright bigoted. Representation has long been a struggle for oppressed groups and to have such recognisable characters furthering their cause is no doubt a boon to them if for no other reason than it is bringing some mainstream attention.

To answer the question posed in the title of this article, no diversity is not killing comics but the execution of this initiative may well be. Just a quick look at sales figures will show that all the sales are down, not just those having to do with the comics that have had changes made for the sake of inclusion. Perhaps the real problem is that all of these books can so easily be accessed online be it legally or illegally, sales will naturally take a dive when there is such an easy and, most importantly, free alternative. To blame diversity is egregious and lazy, though there can be no doubt that changes need to be made with the approach to it.   

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