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Why Don't "Black Books" Sell?

By Alan Donald


“Why aren't there more mainstream titles that feature minority characters in prominent roles, and why don't "black books" sell??”

Bill Rosemann: "A tough but necessary question. Is it because most comic book writers are white males, often 'write what they know', and so they choose to make their protagonists white males like themselves? Is it because the characters that are popular today and star in the most books (i.e. the superheroes that have been around since the 50s and 60s) just happen to be great characters, no matter what the skin color is beneath their masks? Obviously, companies would love to publish series with minority main protagonists (i.e. DC's Steel and Milestone line, Marvel's Black Panther and The Crew), but time and again, readership hasn't been enough to keep them going. Basically, I don't have an easy answer...but if readers want to try a book with a black protagonist--that also generates plenty of great reviews--then I humbly suggest they give Negation a try! No matter what his race happens to be, Obregon Kaine is just a cool character, and ultimately that's what people want to read about."


Alan Grant: “Most comic heroes are minority characters. Batman is in a minority of guys whose parents were murdered before their eyes. Superman is in a minority of babies saved from exploding planets. Lobo is in a minority of maniacs who destroyed their own world. Judge Dredd is in a minority of people dedicated to justice.

I've no idea why "black books" don't sell. I've heard uncorroborated reports that DC's "black" line of the 90s folded as much because of editorial profligacy as disappointing sales. I'm pretty sure "black books" sell okay in Africa (Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons began their careers working on Power Man for--I think--a Nigerian publisher).”


Terry Moore: “I can't answer that question, but I've also noticed most comic shops are owned by white people and comic book conventions attendees are predominantly white. There's a nice ethnic mix sure, but everywhere I go it's mostly white. I don't know about you, but when I'm in a room full of white people now it gives me the creeps... makes me feel like I'm at a Klan meeting or something. It's just wrong, y'know? It's not reality. So why doesn't Strangers In Paradise have more African-Americans in the cast? Because most of the book is a satirical attack on conservative America from within the ranks. I think the barbs sting more if they come from within the ranks and not across race lines.”


Professor William H. Foster III, Comic Book Historian: “’Why aren't there more mainstream titles that feature minority characters in prominent roles, and why don't "black books" sell?’

Actually these are two different questions so let me try to answer them one at a time, and as succinctly as possible.

The first questions asks why aren't there more... And as a comic book historian who specializes in the image of African American in comics, my next question is "More than what?"

What would be the magical number of people of color appearing in mainstream books to be properly "visible" or "enough"? I suppose it depends on your point of view. For comic book readers who have always seen some characters of colors in their reading, and for comic fans from the Silver and Bronze ages of comics, the answers are going to be totally different.

I have a very long view, and look at how much things have changed since the beginning of comics to the present day. With that view, the number of characters of color in comics is very large, very diverse and still increasing.

The problem sometimes appears to be what kind of characters have been presented in the past. If people of a particular race or ethnicity are all represented as one-dimensional stereotypes, that's a real problem. If all women are represented as brainless, helpless victims, all white men as kind-hearted and benevolent heroes and all black people as jive talking evil minded criminals, those are problems.

But in the various worlds created by comic creators where there are is a wide diversity of characters representing both positive and negative points of view, the numbers become less important. If there is only one black character in a comic book and he is a cowardly clown, I am quite naturally upset by that representation. But in a world where there are any number of characters presenting points of view pro and con, good and bad, intelligent and stupid, I don't have a problem.

And let's get real for a minute. Comic books aren't immune to the taint of institutional racism or prejudice any more than any other segment of American society. We want everyone to feel that we are treating everyone the same, when we know that we don't treat everyone the same. It is the cache 22 of racial politics. And yes, there are people who still think if we don't talk about the racial divide in this country, it will go away. Guess again.

There are people who look on any effort to expand the scope of the diversity of comic book characters as communist inspired, and those who feel that more can always be done to change things up a bit. Such is life -- get used to it.

And to answer the second question, actually black books do sell. I just received a message from a long-time African American comic book creator who sells almost exclusively at Black Cultural Fairs and he says he pushed an incredible number of units this past summer. And I have yet to appear at a venue where I am speaking about the history of Blacks in comic books without having a number of people stop me and ask where they can find the titles I spotlighted. My problem has been I can't always readily tell them where to look. Even I have to look very hard to find titles.

Back in the 1990s when Milestone and DC Comics teamed up to produce racially diverse titles, I was told by some of my friends who own comic shops that they weren't sure how to market the titles. So they do sell, it's just that, well, there are some problems to work out.

As I stated earlier, I am very optimistic about the variety of characters of color in today's mainstream comic books.”


Lee Dawson: “I think it's just a question of who's making the comics for who. Most comics creators are young (or not as young as they used to be!) white males. Most comics readers are young white males. I think if there were a more diverse creator base creating comics reflecting their unique experiences and perspectives then the audience might also reflect that diversity as well.”


Brandon Thomas: “Because people are afraid.

The problem begins with the nonsensical classification that is the “black book”, presumably meant to signify a title in which either “black things” are more likely to occur, or one that chronicles the exploits of a number of black characters. Following this train of logic, Superman, Batman, and the Avengers should be appropriately branded as “white books”, but between you and I…that doesn’t make any sense does it??

Instead, the label only creates a heightened sense of awareness that creates books that often play at the most obvious of stereotypes in the hopes of addressing a need for authenticity that is not only completely irreverent, but clearly unattainable, as it doesn’t exist. Either that or the books’ defining characteristic is that it’s filled with minorities, which can also serve as a statistical kiss of death, regardless of inherent quality. Pardon my usage of the terminology, but often too much time is spent being “black”, and not enough time being “books”. Instead of publishing accessible material driven by minority characters, we get tired approximations of things that companies think “black” readers would respond to. So white readers are completely alienated, and what little black or non-white readership exists, groans collectively because someone is under the impression that by slapping a bubble vest, gold teeth, and Timbs on it, it automatically becomes “black”.

Things remain this way, because there are not enough creators working in comics with a personal and emotional investment in correcting it. It’s no one’s fault in particular, and reversing the tide isn’t enormously difficult, because someday (hopefully sooner rather than later), a writer will sit down. After he/she sits down, they’ll begin creating this fully realized environment populated with characters of layered personalities and emotions, the kind of fictional 3-D world that a great majority of readers will find at least something relatable…

…and then they’ll turn everyone black.

Stereotypes will be assaulted, expectations will mean nothing, and finally, FINALLY, there will be no such thing as “black books”, just books with black and minority characters, that aren’t defined by their ethnicity, or playing into a routine meant to establish a “realness” that ensures they’re speaking to no one. The industry just needs someone to care enough to make it happen. Do you??”


Fredrik Strömberg: “As I have stated several times in my book "Black Images in the Comics", I think that sadly, most Black characters in mainstream comics are created, and treated, as representatives of all Black people. This symbolic nature, of course, makes them rather limited as characters. Also, considering that this question really is about matters in the USA (even if this is not stated), it seems to me as a European that the fact that your comics are sold in speciality shops, and thereby only reaches the fans and not the general audience, is another important factor. The comic fans in the USA seems to be mostly white boys, a fact that works as a catch-22 to make sure that other groups like for instance female readers and creators for the most part are locked out of the action.”


Craig Lemon: "Why aren't there more black-superhero books? Because they don't sell. Why don't they sell? The same reason that female-led superhero books don't sell very well. Because the primary audience for superhero is white males. And the main way you can get female-led superhero books to sell is to plaster them with cheesecake art - step forward Greg Horn and Michael Turner. I also believe that most white males are closet racists - even if just subconsciously...oh, you could argue that someone reading a superhero book puts themselves in the place of the hero, and white males cannot identify with black heroes for some reason...I would venture that that reason is racism. Why are there few arabic superheroes in US comics? Why are there few hispanic blah blah blah? The answer is the same.

Why are there no black superheroes fronting big-name books? Because all the iconic heroes in existence today (with the exception of Wolverine) were created between the 1930s and the 1960s, when black characters were taboo, or poor caricatures at best (see the early stories of The Spirit to see how even Will Eisner didn't escape this attitude). There have been pitifully few successful superheroes created in the last twenty years, black OR white. So new books with predominantly black casts don't sell...but neither do new books with predominantly white casts...it's not just The Crew that was cancelled recently, but The Eternal too.

Why are there no successful black characters in "mainstream" (i.e. Marvel & DC comics)? But there are. Look at 100 Bullets. Look at Gotham Central. Minority groups represented in quality comics, bought by a vast range of purchasers. And why do these work - because of the Star Trek factor...they feature an "ensemble", a large group of characters from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

You could say why are there no major supporting black characters in Spider-Man? But I think you'd find that beyond the original set of characters created in the 60s, there have been no NEW supporting characters of any colour for a consistently long period of time. It's the same with Superman, with Batman, with whoever...superheroes created in 1960s and earlier had no black characters due to the situation that existed at that time (which is where the racism angle comes back in) and these superheroes haven't changed in the intervening time - the supporting casts have remained the same throughout the decades.”


Kyle J. Baker: “Why aren't there more mainstream titles that feature minority characters in prominent roles, and why don't "black books" sell??”

Doesn't the second question answer the first one?”


Alonzo Washington: “Why aren't there more mainstream titles that feature minority characters in prominent roles? The answer is quite obvious.

RACISM!!!!!!!!! Although, the attitudes are complicated to explain. Most White people are uncomfortable with people of color gaining power. That's why affirmative action & immigration are always controversial topics in America. Therefore, the concept of a super hero of color is an uneasy thought to most White Americans. Moreover, the image of a super hero is one of perfection & morality. For years the mainstream media has always force fed the American public with the most negative & immoral images of Black people (murderers, gang bangers, thugs, pimps, video tramps, whores, rapists, gangsta rappers, criminals, etc.). Therefore, the concept of a Black super hero is almost a joke in the minds of most White people. That's why a number of Hollywood films are made with a Black super hero as a comedy release (Under Cover Brother, Meteor Man, Pootie Tang & Blank Man). I have turned down a number of Hollywood producers who want to make a MOVIE WITH MY BLACK SUPER HEROES AS A COMEDY. Moreover, most of the creators in the comic book industry (not all) are White nerds. What do they know about Black people or any other people of color? These guys are creating a fictional world where they are all powerful and quite frankly they don't want Black people in it or anybody who is not White. Have you ever wondered why the two most popular super hero icons (Superman & Spider-Man) are former nerds in their secret identities. Most of the time when a Black character (The Falcon, Storm, Green Lantern, Agent J, Captain Marvel, Cyborg, Pete on Smallsville, etc.) emerges in the world of mainstream comic books he or she are simply a watered down side kick or a modern day slave to the White characters in the comic book. The Black characters have no agenda of their own. Storm in the X-MEN movies might as well had been a maid with the few lines she received. The Black characters that stand on their own are normally super stereotypes like Power Man (Cage) the ex-con or the monster heroes like Blade & Spawn. Most White comic book creators & collectors like monsters more than people of color. Comic Books are filled with monsters and barely people of color. The comic book community is basically White. I attended Comic-Con this year with my wife & six small children. Everywhere I went security hounded us like we were not supposed to be there and our passes were clearly displayed upon us. They acted like I could put the Comic-Con in my pocket. I think it is the same scenario exists for Black super heroes & super heroes of color in mainstream comic book titles. Many White creators don't feel like they are supposed to be there.

Why don't Black Comic Books sell? Most White people don't want a Black savior. Super Heroes are saviors. Unlike African Americans & other people of color who accept White super heroes as their own. Most White people think a BLACK SUPER HERO IS ONLY FOR BLACK PEOPLE AND THAT IS RACIST. I remember I was doing a presentation at the public library and a White kid asked me if my Black character (Omega Man) was for people like me (Black). I answered his question with a question. I said "is Super Man & Bat Man only for people like you"?

Black titles don't do well in comic book shops. However, I have made a great living selling Black independent comic book titles for eleven years. Most of my customers are Black or White people who want to see another image of super heroes. Another reason Black mainstream titles don't sell is because most of the characters are crappie. White creators always seem to limit their Black super hero creations. Even the cool Black heroes (Blade & Black Panther) struggle to appeal to White readers. Racism is hard to overcome for most White comic book fans. Spawn is more a monster than Black. Moreover, his mask & burned flesh helps White readers forget about his race. I challenge all who read this article to read a real Black super hero comic book. Check out Omega7 Comics. Don't let race pick your super heroes.”

Alan Donald: “I’ve spent two weeks thinking about this answer and still I’ve gotten nowhere. I’ve seen the Panellists answers coming in and I agree with most of them. Racism is a big factor and so is simple economics. What is being done to address these problems would be an interesting question. There must be many black comicbook fans out there who are being fed an incredibly homogenous image of large US cities. I’m not calling for Superman to ‘go black’, a good character is a good character irrespective of colour. The backdrops in the comicbook universes need to reflect the real world more. Writers need to request a realistic mix of people in the books and artists need to use their initiative if no race is given for a new character in a book. On the other side of the coin everyone should give new characters a chance and judge them based on the quality of the tale rather than the colour of the protagonists skin.

We’ve got a few coloured heroes now. We’re starting to see a wider mix of background characters (take Batman for example, there are several African-American cops (including the Commissioner), there’s Rennie Montoya and…um…wait, couple more, Batgirl is of an unknown Asian origin and Dick Grayson is Romany) but Milestone has gone and Steel was cancelled a while back.

What of the creators? It’s a vicious circle. I hardly ever see any non-white faces at my local comicbook shop but then again I hardly ever see any non-white faces in this part of the country, it’s a pretty sad state of affairs. I do see more and more people from various ‘ethnic minorities’ at the Bristol comicbook Festival and I have seen several black artists having their portfolios very seriously pored over by DC and Marvel so perhaps thing might change soon.

This question has made me examine several things in my life. I hadn’t considered just how white comicbooks are. I didn’t have a clue which creators were black, white or whatever. Not being racist is not enough. Complacency is a terrible sin. The current situation in the comicbook industry is wrong and definitely racist. We should think about this, we should examine it and we should act. It doesn’t stop there, the industry is homophobic, very sexist and it is generally prejudicial. Think about it. Act.”

Summary: This is a very difficult one to summarise. Racism and economics seem to be the most basic factors when one boils it all down. One thing is clear and that is that the current situation is intolerable.




This Week’s Panel: Bill Rosemann (Publicist, CrossGen), Alan Grant (Judge Anderson, Batman), Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise), Professor William H. Foster III (William H. Foster III has been a writer since the age of eight and published since age twelve. Poet, essayist, playwright and editorialist, he has written ten books and seven plays. He is presently an Associate Professor of English and Communication at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Connecticut. Professor Foster has a BA from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, and a Masters degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. A long time comic book collector and researcher, Professor Foster has been an expert commentator for both CNN News and National Public Radio. He was a consultant on the history of Blacks in both comic strips and comic books for the Words and Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art in Northampton, MA. His exhibit on the “Changing Image of Blacks in Comics” has been displayed at a variety of venues across the country, including Temple University’s Paley Library, The 1998 Comic-Con International/Comic Arts Conference, and the 2000 Festival of Arts and Ideas. He also has presented his research at the 2001 bi-annual conference of The International Association for Media and History in Leipzig, Germany and most recently at the 2002 Conference on Analyzing Series & Serial Narrative at John Moores University in Liverpool, England), Lee Dawson (Publicist, Dark Horse), Brandon Thomas (comic book writer and SBC Columnist), Fredrik Strömberg (Editor Bild & Bubbla Scandinavia's largest, and the worlds second oldest magazine about comics and author of Black Images in Comics), Craig Lemon (Boss type person here at SBC, 1 step from the top), Kyle J. Baker (top comicbook creator) and Alonzo Washington (Founder Omega7 comics and toys).



Next Week’s Question: “ Why don’t chicks dig comics? Why aren’t there more women working in the comicbook industry?”

Big Shout: The Panel need your questions so email them into me at: aland@silverbulletcomicbooks.com. And check me out in All the Rage come Sunday…yep they’ve talking me into going back for one last week.

Previous Questions: Check out the message board where I’ve put up a list of every question the Panel has faced so far (neatly linked to the column it appeared in) to inspire you and let you know what to avoid.

SBC reserves the right to edit questions for reasons of consistency and inclusivity.



Changing Image of African Americans in Comics;

List of Speaking Engagements

CNN National News, expert commentary (New York, NY) ‘94

Wesleyan University Reunion Weekend (Middletown, CT,) 6/96

Keynote Speaker, Community College Humanities Association
Regional Conference (Philadelphia, PA) ‘96

Panelist, Forum on Diversity in Comics, Naugatuck Valley Community College
(Waterbury, CT) ‘96

New Haven Free Public Library (New Haven, CT), 2/97

Big Apple Comic Convention (New York, NY), 6/97

Connecticut Historical Society (Hartford, CT), 10/97

Paley Library (Philadelphia, PA), 2/98

Featured Commentary, National Public Radio ‘98

Panel Organizer, The Graphic Novel; A 20th Anniversary Conference
University of Massachusetts (Amherst, MA) ‘98

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Headquarters, (Washington, D.C.) 2/99

Comic Con International/ Sixth Annual Comic Arts Conference (San Diego, CA) 8/99

Education in the Humanities Conference (Jacksonville, FL) ‘99

Panelist, Regional Conference, National Association of Black Journalists
(Hartford, CT) ‘99

Bookfest ’99, Celebration of Children’s Literature (Springfield, MA) ‘99

5Con Science Fiction Conference, Smith College (Northampton, MA) 4/00

Manson Youthful Offender Facility, (Cheshire, CT) 6/00

Popular Culture Association, National Conference (New Orleans, LA) 4/00

Moderator, Diversity in Comics panel, NVCC, (Waterbury, CT) 11/9/00
Popular Culture Conference, National Conference (Philadelphia, PA) 4/01

International Association for Media and History Conference (Leipzig, Germany)
7/01

Writers’ Conference, Naugatuck Valley Community College, Panelist (Waterbury, CT) 11/01

Smithtown Arts Council (St. James, NY) 2/02

Leap Program “Guest of Honor” Fundraiser Event (Hamden, CT) 2/02

New Haven Free Public Library (New Haven, CT) 2/02

Norman Rockwell Museum (Sturbridge, MA) 3/02

Branford High School – Diversity Week (Branford, CT) 4/02

1st Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention – Panelist (Philadelphia, PA) 5/02

Indigo Café & Books - Blacks in Comics event – Panelist (Brooklyn, NY) 6/02

John Moore University – Key Note Speaker, (Liverpool. England) 11/02

Blacks in Comics presentation, The Huntington House Museum (Windsor, CT) 2/03

2nd Annual East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention – Panelist (Philadelphia, PA) 5/03

Comic Arts Conference, International Comic Con – Panelist (San Diego, CA) 7/03

Changing Image of Black in Comics
1890s – 1990s

List of Exhibit Appearances


Belden Public Library (Cromwell, CT) 1992

Russell Library (Middletown, CT) 1993, 1994,
1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000

Words and Pictures Museum
Of Sequential Art (Northampton, MA) 1994

Black Age of Comics Convention (Chicago, IL) 1995

Association of Humanist
Sociology National Conference (Columbus, Ohio) 1995

Quinnipiac College (Hamden, CT) 1996

Naugatuck Valley Community
Technical College (Waterbury, CT) 1994, 1995, 1996, 2002

Wesleyan University
Alumni Reunion Weekend (Middletown, CT) 1996

New Haven Free Public
Library (New Haven, CT) 1997

Big Apple Comic Convention (New York, NY) 1997

Connecticut Historical Society (Hartford, CT) 1997

Paley Library
Temple University (Philadelphia, PA) 1998

Comic Con International/
Sixth Annual Comic Arts
Conference (San Diego, CA) 1998

4th Annual International
Comics & Animation Festival (Bethesda, MD) 1998

Central Intelligence Agency HQ (Washington, D.C.) 1999

The Stetson Library (New Haven, CT) 1999

Sankofa Cultural Arts Festival (New Haven, CT) 2000

Fund Raiser for African American
Arts Museum (New Haven, CT) 2000

Southern CT State University (New Haven, CT) 2001

New Haven Free Public Library (New Haven, CT) 2002

Wizard Con Philly (Philadelphia, PA) 2002

2nd Annual East Coast Black Age (Philadelphia, PA) 2003
of Comics Convention
Add a Comment:
 
:icondablackx:
DaBlackX Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014
Ignorant white people who reflexively conflate pretty much everything that's non-white (or in this case black) focused as a having "poor designs", "sub-par artwork", "terrible concepts", and having "a connection to Afrika". While giving a pass for the white comics that literally do all of the above, and while they embrace any and all different settings....so long as it's from a white POV. It's like they can't think outside the box.
Reply
:iconxbmagex:
XbmageX Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
 poor designs, sub-par artwork, terrible concepts....connection to afrika which alienates readers, just one big ball of crap.
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:iconkazuac:
KazuAC Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2012   Traditional Artist
I believe one reason why black comics don't sell because it's a preconceive thought for some non-black people that anything made by blacks are for blacks, in other words, that blacks keep to themselves.
And the subjects that're usually explored are often stuff about what the white man did and blah blah blah. Or a black man/woman's anger. Who wants to read that?
Reply
:iconwakaflockaflame1:
wakaflockaflame1 Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
You prove good points
Reply
:iconjantineartisan:
JantineArtisan Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
That was REALLY interesting. I'm joing this group.....if you'll have me :)
Reply
:iconartistbaker2011:
ARTISTBAKER2011 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2012
HI ALL, WOW!!1 I just found out about this group today! I am so ready to participate and learn from you all! I am in Orlando, FL, and Have been drawing my own comics for years! I think I have finally found a great group to be a part of!!!
Reply
:iconnihongoboy:
nihongoboy Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very interesting. However, I think some of the problems also stem from people being called 'black'. Whites are called white, but only as a description. However, black people are called 'black' as group name, which is connected to the way the look. Then the term African American again puts colored people in a different category. If I go to Japan, even know I am colored, I can become Japanese. At least as japanese as any other foreigner. Japanese comics are called manga, not japanese comics. Yes they are made by Japanese, but there nationality is not apart of the title. Some it is just a product for everyone.

Along as we are label differently, we are going to be made to feel different. It makes the white people feel different towards us. Many whites might avoid black anything if it is tied to controversy of any kind. It is the same reason many people do not talk about politics or sexual preference in the open. They do not want to fight or be mark as anything. This idea apply to being sexist as well. So men do not say anything when it comes to women, because we do not want to be marked as a sexist.

On the other hands, I wonder what would happen if a colored person decided to make a comic with a white character as the main protagonist. I am guessing, if the comic is good, people will by it. I have read many comics from Marvel and DC without a thought to who wrote or drew it. If they were great I read the next one and maybe check who created it. In the end of the day, yes people are races. And sadly a lot of those people will died that way.
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:iconkazuac:
KazuAC Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2012   Traditional Artist
Japanese comics are Japanese comics. Don't get caught up in the Western idealistic terminologies. If for the readers' sake, then the word manga is okay. But not for the creators'. You don't want to limit yourself. That's why American mangas are getting the respect they want.
And to add, Japanese call our comics the same word they call their comics. Check Felipe Smith on that.
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:iconnihongoboy:
nihongoboy Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Really. So they call American comics manga? I have never ask anyone. I lived in Japan for 3 years. Make sense if they do.
Reply
:iconkazuac:
KazuAC Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2012   Traditional Artist
That's why American manga artist are not getting the respect they want (had to correct myself).
Japanese is an adjective referring to culture. It doesn't have to be nationality.
Reply
:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
When it comes to my cast, I really don't care. I draw them how I envision them so with me, you get a LOT of people from a LOT of different places. Nonetheless, it still worries me that just because some of my leads are black that there is now a red-flag on them, just because some assholes think that their skin color will dampen their selling points.

As for the black experience, I keep it open. The thing is, even as black people its stupid to say we all share the same experience and even worse to say unless you live one way, you are not black enough. I really like range when it comes to how my characters got to whatever point we meet them and with my black characters, in all of the series I am working on, it all varies. Even in the projects that take place in real-world URF, I don't lump my black characters into a single mindset because to do so would just be playing on the same, TIRED thought that all of our experiences are the same as in we all live the same tired and miserable way. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

Urgh, reading these blogs reminds me I have to work on my shit more. :P
Reply
:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011
"Not black enough..." Can't tell how often I've heard that one, lol! I've always wonder wtf does that even mean anyways. Seriously it's like we're ALL supposed into thugged out hip-hop, church, & basket ball. NONE of my characters will EVER be that.We all have various experiences. I have my own series in mind using a character I created for 'Clare and Co.' from a few years back. It's more or less in the the vein of 'Project A-ko'. A supergirl of sorts, with more focus on the romance. Personally I can't wait to get to it. :nod:
Reply
:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
Its just something that irks me as a person who is trying to create characters as well as enjoy characters as well. One of the things that always bothers me is when people try to disect black characters and gauge them on their blackness. I've seen it both from the black view point and the white view point and at times, they're both stupid since they're both grounded in stereotypes. I've been working and talking with people about Gijinka's (humanizations) of certain characters and it bothers me to no end when someone comments that certain characters can't be black because their first impressions of their behavior isn't convincing enough ie, they don't act like your typical black person you see on a shitty TV show. :|

I think it was already said by a lot of people in this thread but one of the things that keeps so-called black comics in a rut is that they TRY to be black, as in they try to appease a group by trying to convincing them that their characters are black because they apparently go through something that apparently every black person goes through, but in the end its still a crook of shit and just dives back into the ugly pool of stereotypes. I'm not saying that we can't have comics that do dive deeper into a lot of dramatic stories but when everyone EXPECTS ALL black comics to be that way, or that all black characters be broken, hard, or whatever people see us as, that's when things get annoying.

Frankly, I know there will always be people who will make the 'They aren't black enouhg!' argument but I can live through that if we will be able to get more stories out that are actually well written, entertaining and doesn't have to fall back on tropes. With a good collection of stories and comics like that, I can just laugh at the people who are complaining. Fuck, I'm just looking for more diversity in general ANYWHERE. For all the complaints and mentions I hear about things moving forward, I yet to see any real evidence of it. Things are still very unbalanced when it comes to black characters getting good showcases and people are still unwilling to actually see it. The only good thing to know is that maybe some changes will be made by newcomers who want to topple this thought and actually produce something fresh and enjoyable for everyone.
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:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2011
Me personally, like I said before...I have plans on that subject. I wanna be part of that change. I don't expect popularity, but I will expect, "Your characters...they're not REALLY black." I can only say it's too bad a person can't get beyond the racist/stereotyped bullsh!t, they've been programmed to believe.

It's awesome to hear another artist's take on this dilemma though. I'm glad I saw this.
Reply
:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
To be honest, I expect that as well considering everything that has been said. Even with this, its frustrating but I think that will be overshadowed knowing that you're actually doing something to go against the stereotype which is more helpful than standing around and judging characters on how black they are.
Reply
:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2011
I can't write stereotyped character. Because I really don't know of any. We're all human with the same wants, needs, and desires. Maybe the way talk about or our perceptions vary, but in the end it's all pretty much the same. I mean in a way I think I can see why someone may think that a particular kind of behaviour isn't 'black enough', but at the same time, I wish they could see beyond it. It's like saying Tyler Perry movies are true account of the post modern 'black' society. Really? I can't tell you how many brothers I've seen on skateboards, listen to non-thugged out hip-hop, and alternative music. Or being avid anime and manga fans. But you'll probably NEVER see them in a black movie or novel.
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:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
I think someone said it best when they said the best person doesn't create for a certain sect but for HUMANS, meaning they aren't limited to writing a person based on their gender,race, orientation, and ect. Its just sad that people think that if a character looks or acts a certain way it means they will either be unpopular or unless they abide to the stereotypes presented to them, no one will get them or whatever. I still think one of the biggest issues that we're still closeting ourselves and create entertainment based on status quo which leads for very little room for variety. We seem to only cater towards a crowd that DOESN'T want to see variety and instead of just going on and letting them enjoy the already massive amount of spoils they have, we have to water down our own ideas just to make them acceptable to a market that is so close-minded anyway and that's NOT fair. Its not fair for the creator and its not fair for the people who actually sit and wait for something different to come, only to be shown the same shit.

Gah, we really need some more variety in our entertainment and I can only HOPE that it gets better along the way....I HOPE. :|
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:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
"Back in the 1990s when Milestone and DC Comics teamed up to produce racially diverse titles, I was told by some of my friends who own comic shops that they weren't sure how to market the titles. So they do sell, it's just that, well, there are some problems to work out."

One of my biggest problems with Milestone was them getting their 16 year old heroine pregnant. Seriously, did the writers have to go that way?


Brandon Thomas: "Pardon my usage of the terminology, but often too much time is spent being “black”, and not enough time being “books”. Instead of publishing accessible material driven by minority characters, we get tired approximations of things that companies think “black” readers would respond to. So white readers are completely alienated, and what little black or non-white readership exists, groans collectively because someone is under the impression that by slapping a bubble vest, gold teeth, and Timbs on it, it automatically becomes “black”."

Lol! So f*cking true! Can we have a book, that just happens to have people other than non-minorities, and not have come off as "This is what the black experience is!", only with (under powered) superpowers?

Alonzo Washington's comment is also spot on. Although after reading his take on it, it makes me appreciate Hancock even more. He was probably the most 'human' super-powered superhero I've seen in question.

Summary: This is a very difficult one to summarize. Racism and economics seem to be the most basic factors when one boils it all down. One thing is clear and that is that the current situation is intolerable.

Yup it is, so now the question, what do we do about that?
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:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
For you, I would dearly suggest reading Shadoweyes from Scott Campbell. It has a black female super hero who doesn't fall under the notion of 'this is what the black experience is'

Plus....she turns into an alien. The fact that she turned into a bad-ass alien is what sold me on it.
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:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011
Just started reading it.I'm liking it so far. Thanks for the hook up.
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:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
Just started reading this. Ye gods this is lengthy, but well worth the read already...more of my cents when I'm done. :nod:
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:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
2 cents, that is, lol!
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:iconnigzblackman:
Nigzblackman Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011  Professional General Artist
makes a lot of sense actually, I have never thought of alot of these points

I hope i can change things myself
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:iconmaktown:
maktown Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2011
Instead of looking at things in terms of "black people succeeding", you should look at things in terms of "succeeding". It's a form of self segregation when you separate yourself from the rest of the comic producing world simply because you're "black".

In terms of "why" comics focusing on black superheroes or comics by black authors aren't "supported", look at things from a cultural and population perspective. People enjoy reading comics where they can identify with the character. Black people only make up about 10% of the U.S. population. Therefore, you're talking about a book/character who is only relative to 10% of the country. Sadly, black people (in their own communities) don't encourage reading, collecting art, or even exploring outside of their own culture. Black people are "crabs in a bucket" and there is a culture war going on right now in the black community regarding this very thing.

On the flip side I will say that you are generally incorrect regarding Black comics. What about Spawn, who is a black character created by a white artist/writer? What about Firestorm, who was a white dual personality and then was transferred into a black guy. What about Blade, 3 movies which were all bad ass? What about Storm, one of the most popular female characters in X-Men? What about Bishop? The list goes on and on
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:iconitimchris:
ItimChris Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think you slightly misunderstood the topic at hand. A few exception here and there is worth celebrating but it's not proof that the topic these people (of diverse backgrounds and who worked in the industry we're just speculating about) is referring too is wrong.

This group or topic isn't about "black people succeeding" as much as it us talking about our issues and showcasing our talents in the hopes of seeing more of us in the field and in the media. It's the complete opposite of the crab in the pot mentality your referring too (how did that come up? Why so defensive?).

Fact of the matter, every race has their productive half and the more embarrassing living stereotypes that wished would disappear or did the term White trash make itself up. Anyway most of us really hope to be successful in the mainstream and not just the "Black community" but we just don't feel like we have to make our characters white to do so and if that is self-segregation then maybe it has to be that way.

That being said race shouldn't be a factor in what the American general population can identify too with us being the "Melting Pot" and all or is that only true when minorities are looking through the eyes of whites?

Just my food for thought
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:icondablackx:
DaBlackX Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2011
That whole "people can only relate to characters like them" because of race (as he heavily implied) is the most retarded attempt at "keeping the racial status quo" in effect that I've ever heard. By his "logic", there isn't a huge and growing white following when it comes to Japanese Anime and Culture, because white people can't and didn't learn about Japanese culture. Oh wait...

He needs to try again, and this time without projecting his own (obvious negative) feelings towards more blacks in comics in the form of a shaming accusation.

"Personality Projection": It always stands out, no matter how hard someone tries to mask it.
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:iconjantineartisan:
JantineArtisan Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
To be fair, most Manga & Anime characters look white. I have never seen a Japanese person with large green/blue eyes.
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:icondablackx:
DaBlackX Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
Irrelevant, because it's still Japanese culture that they're learning about.
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:iconjantineartisan:
JantineArtisan Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
So if Nigerians made movies staring white people speaking in a Nigerian dialect, they wouldn't be white anymore???? It is relevant, because the characters LOOK like the people taking an interest.
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:icondablackx:
DaBlackX Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2012
That's a completely different extreme, because the two don't have similar skin tones that could be viewed as "a lucky coincidence". You're also assuming that the Japanese are intentionally basing their characters on white people, despite the fact that those character designs have been like that since the 70's. Decades before anime was even noticed by white Americans. Even longer when you look at the decade that it actually caught steam here. In terms of hair color, the colors are almost always associated with a characters personality type. I would love to see some proof though, from a number of Japanese people, stating that they are deliberately modeling their characters after whites. Because the only ones I see making that assumption ARE white people and Westerners in general.
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:iconjantineartisan:
JantineArtisan Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2012
You say that as if a Japanese person has never seen a white person before 1970. I didn't just say hair colour, but eyes aswell. No Japanese person has coloured eyes. Think about it. Most anime character have the opposite to what Japanese people have. Large eyes. Bright blue/green eyes. Look at DBZ. Goku looks 'Japanese', but when evolved becomes Ayran.

Salior Moon Shes blonde, Naurato, he's blonde. Even the ones that are not popular in the West have European characteristics.

Of course a Japanese person isn't going to think that. That would be like Beyonce admitting to dying her hair blonde to look European.....but thats what it is.

The topic above mentions that in the 1930's/1960's characters were drawn to look white, because the writers, artist and readers were white.

Why does Manga/Anime look white instead of Japanese? They see that as a better 'look' to there own.

I think the problem is you're confusing style with culture. The way the characters a drawn are Japanese (Japanese style of drawing). However, the FEATURES of the characters are European.
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(1 Reply)
:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
I barely have any white characters in my stories.I rarely draw white people unless I'm doing comic book or manga fan art. And if I do have white characters they are usually the minority surrounded by other ethnic groups.

My 2 cents

* I agree that Milestone books had some ugly art. Even though the artist on Static did get better very fast. It was the storytelling that sold me. Static addressed issues realisticly and didn't sugar coat taboo subjects like teen pregnancy,drugs,racism,ect. And the dialogue was pretty darn accurate.

* I grew up in the hood.Even though many black geeks like myself tend to frown upon ghetto ignorance,I also accept that was the reality I lived in. So if a story is set in the 'hood" and done well I'll support it.

* We can't put all the blame on the negative Hip-Hop culture.Even though it became the new hustle when hood rats got tired of getting arrested for peddling dope.

* The people that introduced me to comic books were black. I only had one white friend who shared my passion for them back in high school.

*I stuck with X-men even to this day. Its probably the most ethnic diverse book on the rack.
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:iconitimchris:
ItimChris Featured By Owner May 1, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The X-Men was Stan Lee answer to racism Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Movement.

"Professor X has come to be compared to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and Magneto to the more militant Malcolm X. The X-Men’s purpose is sometimes referred to as achieving "Xavier’s dream," perhaps a reference to King’s historic "I Have a Dream" speech. Magneto, in the first film, quotes Malcolm X with the line "By any means necessary." X-Men comic books have often portrayed mutants as victims of mob violence, evoking images of the lynching of African Americans in the age before the American civil rights movement. Sentinels and anti-mutant hate groups such as Friends of Humanity, Humanity's Last Stand, the Church of Humanity and Stryker's Purifiers are thought to often represent oppressive forces like the KKK giving a form to denial of civil rights and amendments. In the 1980s, the comic featured a plot involving the fictional island nation of Genosha, where mutants were segregated and enslaved by an apartheid state. This is widely interpreted as having been a reference to the situation in South Africa at the time."

That's why too this day the X-Men are the most ethnic diverse comic on the rack. It's the world's greatest analogue for the minority experience, even gay people can relate to it heavily.

I agree with what you said about the hood and accepting the reality of it while aiming to be anything but apart of it. It's part of my push to dorm. It feels like the hood wants my soul as cliche as it sound
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:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner May 1, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
Yeah Stan Lee had a great premise behind the X-men.It wasn't until Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum introduced.The New ethnically diverse members like Storm,Sunfire, Wolverine,Nightcrawler, and warpath is when the comic book series really became popular.
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:iconguillmon9005:
guillmon9005 Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
and THIS is why ALL the characters in MY manga are ethnic people and the main characters are ALL Ethnic! :)
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:iconfitzroyg:
FitzRoyG Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I AGREE. But it was some white boys back in 5th grade who got me into comics. Nobody in my neighborhood read comic books. I didn't read any black books then ( & this was when Milestone started getting big) because they didn't. Besides Spawn (who is now white), all my favorite heroes have been white men. Even now my favorite is Robert Kirkman's Brit ( old white govt agent marrying his stripper employee..pure gold). I was telling these guys at the comic shop dat the new Black Panther series ( which is him subbing for Daredevil) wouldn't do too well cuz its not really his series & the artist wasn't big enough ( as far as celeb). Even if the artist or writer is white, get me the best comic team to work a black book & I think it'll work. Marvel had J. Scott Campbell doing black panther covers instead of the art inside the book. The problem also is there are no black super heroes dat appeals to black kids. I didn't start reading comics with black people in it until I was grown & discovered them on my own. Hip hop could be the blame too, because it sometimes embraces negative stereotypes too much. Everybody wanna be rappers & stop drawing, or doing visual art period. I've seen good artists who said they seen no future in comics but wanna be the next Lil Wayne for some reason. Entertainment & sports seams like the east way out for us & we forget dat we have other talents to contribute to our society. Also every black Hero doesn't have to be from the HOOD. This is something that EVERYBODY (black or white) should realize.
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:iconcoreytaylor-art:
coreytaylor-art Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm wayy late to this thread, but I totally agree with your statements. I have tried to support black comics in the past, but the writing and art have been sub par in everything that I have seen. I was  not thrilled by milestone. I found the ethnic tone of their stories boring and the art did not help. I have read comics for the past 40 years and I'm still praying for a black super hero who has adventures like superman and the avengers. Why does every black suer hero havr to be from the hood and angry about something???
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:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
I'm in the same pool as you;

My white friends got me into manga but I will admit that I got into American comics on my own. Nonetheless, outside of mentions of DBZ, I was the only black GIRL in my middle and highschool days who was spending time and money to collect series of what I liked but even then, I was disheartened to see such a lack of color in most of what I read. The biggest breaker for me was when I discovered Fred Perry and Gold Digger and for me, this was a first; a black man who had his own series that I enjoyed (I hadn't heard of Static Shock yet) as well as an art style that I enjoyed. If it were not for Fred Perry, I don't think I would have explored that much further into American comics and learned about artist and writers of color.

One artist I should bring up is Scott Campbel (Not J, regular Scott) who is white and does comics with a lot of black female protagonist who don't look like conventional comic book women. I know that his work for Wet Moon and Shadoweyes is popular but its not spoken as much as a lot of the bigger outlets out there. I was talking to a retailer when I was trying to find his book and they were shocked when I mentioned the guy because they had never heard of him.
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:iconfitzroyg:
FitzRoyG Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Shadoweyes is done by Ross Campbell. Yes he is underrated.
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:iconinkbottleinc:
InkBottleInc Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Hobbyist Filmographer
ROSS!

I love the man so much but when I see his name and Scott's together, I put them together. Fuck.

And yeah, his work is horribly underrated, at least when it comes to actually finding his books in physical stores vs other books. All the books that I own from him I had to order from other suppliers because the employees at the stores had never heard of him....despite the fact carrying tones of Oni Press books. Even Shadoweyes wasn't spoken of until I mentioned it and they still didn't stock it. Wow, that sucks. :P
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:iconfitzroyg:
FitzRoyG Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Amazon has become my friend:happycry: when looking for hard to find comics. He gotta lot of stuff on there.
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:iconitimchris:
ItimChris Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Everything you say is beyond real and I like that your putting it out there. Your not wrong at all in my honoring of the late Dwayne McDuffie I've reread the entire up to date Static appearances. His complete run while under Milestone as well as his convergence to the D.C Universe. I hate to say most if in all the best art was by D.C white artist. I'm not racist so I say hey talent is talent but I felt kinda let down that Milestone really didn't hold a candle to the D.C artist rooster but then again the issue doesn't prove white artist are better but that D.C was a way more seasoned company with a bigger more veteran team. Milestone was great but it's focus on all new fresh black artist, cost em in quality. The Cover art they would get people with experience to wow you but then you get inside and its like the reading the original spiderman (which to modern eyes isn't to sensational).
The stories appeal to me, I think it was true to my experiences as a African-American in a way few white made black characters could but I also found it to be extremely formulated. It copy to much for other more popular comics and just gave it blackface. At a certain point even the comic realize it and made a plot around it involving Superman Superboy and Steel (thank god not the movie persona) meeting their Milestone counterparts. The enemy who is a guy thats fed up with how much Milestone and D.C is alike decide he should destroy one (he has reality crushing powers pretty kick-ass actually) but the point Milestone folded into the mold as oppose to breaking it like all great comics do.

Man, it's not the Hip Hop to blame. Hip Hop in its pure form is a beautiful art. It was the commercialization of thug culture as a marketing platform that lead to the dumbing down of urban youth culture. That idea that it's cool to be ignorant, which is a cancer that all ethnic groups have within their population is the real problem. Static's milestone comic did a good job at displaying that within their stories but also failed at the last thing you said. Static definitely did live in a HOOD surrounded by a even worst Hood next to a island that "so bad cops don't go there no more" which in a weird way did relate to my actual upbringing but there was few characters white or black in the Milestone Universe that didn't live in the Hood even the super rich people live just outside of it at some point your like "Come on!"
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:iconfitzroyg:
FitzRoyG Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Should've said RAP instead of hip hop. But also Hip Hop isn't pure anymore. U have get on sum CSI $#!% to find it
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:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
I completely agree with most if not all that was spoken in this article.Most of the answers were brutally honest and straight to the point. Its an issue you can't really sugar coat.

As much as we bag on white creators on this issue I have to give props to Marvel comics for never giving up on their characters of color. Granted the marriage of Storm and Black Panther was barely a blip on the comic book industries and even the media's radar.Marvel treated it as a grand event in the Marvel universe. Luke Cage is well written character even with his stereotypical roots. The guy is just an idealist as Capt America.
As far as Spawn is concerned the series and character's creator Todd McFarlane lost my respect on his decision to not make and I quote" Spawn a "black" movie" Yes Todd McFarlane aka Mr Image comic founder-former most popular spider-man artist of all time-I bought now worthless home run baseballs said this in a magazine during the production of the live action Spawn movie. He was asked why certain characters (Terry and spawns killer Chapel)were changed. And that was his answer. But as far as Chapel was concerned Todd had a falling out with his former best friend Rob Liefeld. Chapel is Liefeld's character from the series Youngblood. Not only did Todd erase Rob out his life but his character Chapel from Spawn's origin.
Terry Fitzgerald was Spawns best buddy and end up marrying Spawn's widow Wanda. In the comic book Terry and Chapel are black.
Granted it was ballsy for Todd to make a comic whose prominent cast was mostly black and make it sale millions of copies. It was also ballsy that the black main characters he named them after his real life best friend,wife, and daughter.
Basically Todd is well known for being a shrewd business minded prick.So it shouldn't of came to my surprise he would say something stupid to appease white comic fans.Heaven forbid that white Spawn fans would be offended by black actors portraying black comic book characters.:Note the sarcasm::
Sorry for the wordy comment but I had to add my 2 cents.

Speaking of which anyone remember the other black character in the Image Universe? Shadow hawk by Jim Valentino was that character. One of the more popular early Image books had a very controversial ending. Comic books fans were shocked when he took off his mask and realize this ultra cool but extemely violent hero was black. Come to think of it Image comics had quite a few major black characters.
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:iconitimchris:
ItimChris Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I like this because it really didn't sugar coat the answers but its just a much a problem that there are soo few black writers out there so hopefully we can foster a spirit of "I'll show you" in this group and produce a lot of cool stuff.
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:iconkenichi2point0:
Kenichi2point0 Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
Well, I'm not good with writing long stories. But I have linked up, and become fast friends with a novelist of Spanish origin. I'm hoping to get her help on working on a 'slice of life' romance short graphic novel. I've worked with other writers before, so working from a script has never been much of a problem for me at all. so if anyone has an idea for something like 10 pages long, I'm more than happy to read a script, do some character designs and see what happens from there.
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:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2011  Professional Traditional Artist
There are a lot of creators out their that are not getting the breaks they need to get their foot through the door. There are quite a few black artists working in the biz but not enough diversity comic books themselves. But then again black people only make up 15 to 17 % of the population in this country. Only thing is that we made a place for ourselves in this country as far as the influence of our culture,status,and way of life.
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