Friday, July 18, 2014

Comics and BIG Changes

Your New Captain America Is Sam WilsonWith many of the recent newsworthy developments in comics the last few days, I thought it might be apropos to post some thoughts on these kinds of events, such as the Death of Archie, Falcon Becoming Captain America, and the new Female Thor. They come after the debut of the new Ms. Marvel and a good while after Miles Morales.

First, all the outrage spewed at these changes before the actual books are even printed is a sad testimony to fandom. The blatant racism and misogyny are downright shameful and a blight on the industry, so, please engage the brains, disengage the hate.

Now, let's dig into the why.
Are these 'stunts' to increase sales? Well, I wouldn't call them stunts, but of course they are sales strategies at a certain level. These publishers are in the business to make money. They have expenses to cover in creating these books so everything they do will always at least be looked at through a lens of sales numbers. They are far better ones, in my opinion, than lenticular, 3-D, scratch-n-sniff covers that worked sometime back.

Are they more than mere PR / Sales strategies? Yes. Its been clear on a lot of fronts that many of these moves have been pushed for by creators involved, and they also clearly represent a growing awareness in comics that we as an industry are 'growing up'. Its become clear both as a profession and comics as a creative medium, that we need to become more diverse, more inclusive, and more representational. I think the creative community is responding to that and doing it how we know best: by telling stories. So in that case, its wonderful to see and we should support it.

Doesn't that make them rather agenda driven? Maybe, maybe not, who knows the various reasons behind each, but, in general, part of the wonder of fiction is how it holds up a mirror to help us better see ourselves, and to inspire and challenge us to be and do better. So, in that case, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Archie is shot down, protecting a gay man, powerful stuff that solidly hits the issues of gun violence, gay-hatred and the ongoing 'shootings' crisis escalating in our country. These are things we hear the moral outrages on and yet when they simmer, the special interests groups, lobbyists, and naysayers ensure its business as usual. There is a reason all those folks blasted this story publicly, because stories teach, stories challenge, stories can lead to change.

It's the same with introducing these new characters showing more diversity. The racists, homophobes, and sexists have come out in force, because it scares them by showing how civilized culture continues to leave them in their outdated vendettas.

Well then, why not create new characters to show this new awareness? Well, that's happening too, and has been for some time. Characters who were originally part of some under-represented groups and were more unfortunate stereotypes in the past have been moving past that superficiality into more modern and developed people. New characters have also debuted.

But a very important point here is by taking these iconic characters and bringing change, even if temporary, is that they make headlines. Its intentional that the links above AREN'T to the publishers, but major news outlets covering those events.

Again, yes sales. But, I'd like to think a good part of this strategy is also a group of intelligent folks saying, "you know, let's not just sell a gobstock of books, let's send a message." These characters make news, make debate, make opportunities to bring out the ignorant, so the rest of us can see it for its ugliness and maybe just be a little more disenchanted with allowing ignorance and make changes ourselves.

So, I embrace this wholeheartedly, I will avidly support those titles and changes. I will promote them anyway I can to the best of my ability. I am also thankful to all the haters who will help ensure others will do the same.

Why? Because these kinds of changes are important to me for the message they send, and if sales are strong, which they will be, it will lead to more, and that is a good thing.