I could say a lot about Black History Month. There was a time when it was necessary. It’s still necessary, in some cases. And that’s a sad thing to say. And, yes, I say that as a black man.
There aren’t a lot of black people in comics. We create a lot of culture here in America, but we don’t have a lot of say, despite having a black President for the past eight years. Change takes time.
Yes, we’ve had two people of color as the editor-in-chief position at Marvel. However, both Joe Quesada and Axel Alonso are Hispanic. It’s great to see them in positions of power, but it is a very different thing if there were a black person in that position.
Would it change the quality of the stories? I don’t think so. Remember, at the Big Two, everyone there is a custodian of the characters and universes. Joe, bless him, has a vision, and that vision steered Marvel out of bankruptcy and back into profitability and nearly unprecedented popularity. Axel is continuing in that vision. This is part of the reason why Marvel has stayed on top of the sales charts year after year. Some other companies may have strong months, but generally, it’s Marvel at the top of the heap.
However, the black creator is rarely heard from at these two companies. The black creator is barely heard from in comics in general. And we lost one of our brightest lights and outspoken creators in Dwayne McDuffie. (Yes, his name will always be brought up during this time of year, and for just this reason. Might as well get used to it. He was that good, and he’s missed that much.)
Black characters, though, are making inroads that never would have happened 10 years ago. Luke Cage is a force to be reckoned with in comics, outside of his pairing with Iron Fist. Biggest change of all—we have a black Captain America in Sam Wilson, formerly the Falcon. (Forget the fact they’ve turned him into a bad guy in Captain America and the Mighty Avengers. He’s still headlining, with an iconic mantle.)
Why is there a dearth of black creators and black characters?
Racism. Conscious or unconscious, racism is the answer. Terrible thing to say, I know, but the truth is sometimes a terrible thing. And its even more exacerbated in comics.
I saw somewhere (trying to find the link) that the new writer of Cyborg is black. It shocked me not because Cyborg’s writer is black, but because someone felt the need to highlight the fact that it’s a black writer on a black character. It wasn’t a good kind of shock, either. I’m glad it’s happening, but it also seems to be a token.
I do miss the days of Milestone. It was basically a black comic book company, that told superhero stories from a much different perspective. It was a couple of decades before its time. I’d love to see those creators come back and do those titles. Or at least oversee a new crop of hand-picked creators to take over the titles. I think seeing Hardware back on the shelves would be a great thing.
There are also the Glyph Awards. This is an award to recognize comics made by, for, or about people of color. It may be a small award and relatively young, only being 10 years old, but we have to get recognized where we can.
I’m not going to do a rundown of black creators or black characters. I’m going to leave it to other sites to do that. I will, however, say that Black History Month is still a necessary evil in some cases, and that we need more black creators in comics.