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"The Argument for Diversity in Comics", 12th Feb 2018, 9:48 PM #1
nibattack

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So every few years or months this site tends to talk about whether or not having POC, LGBT+ people, disabled people, minorities in GENERAL have a place in comics. Should they be characters? Should we read or listen to media exclusively because it has these characters in it or should we put those people in our comics? Are they important? A lot of times I feel like these threads derail and this one might as well because a lot of people here on this site do have exclusively white, straight, abled media and feel defensive when words like "racism" and "homophobia" get thrown around. I don't think you're evil or like horrible for doing this but I recently came across a quote or saying or post on social media that summed things up in a way that I think is really enlightening and interesting.

"Representation matters" and "fiction doesn't affect reality" are mutually exclusive (meaning they ideologically clash you can think one but not the other because they counter one another). If representation in fiction is important than fiction is affecting reality.

Or in other words. If fiction affects reality (which it does) then representation is important. I know fiction affects reality because like the movie JAWS almost drove sharks to extinction and the first black person to fly in space (Mae Jemison) said that when she saw the character Lieutenant Uhura it inspired her and reaffirmed that she could do whatever she wanted to regardless of skin color. After all what is the point of creating comics if you don't want it to touch people? Even if it's personal or just for fun. Why post it? Don't we all secretly or not so secretly want reader interaction and to grow our audience? Doesn't the idea of inspiring someone mean anything to you?

I don't say this to vilify people who don't have minorities in their comic but rather as food for thought and discussion that when you don't have representation in your comics regardless of intention you are saying something about yourself, the world you have created, and what you find important. Black people usually make comics with other black people. Gay people usually write stories with gay people. We do this so we can see ourselves in comics in the art forms we desperately wish we were always shown in. If you are not even considering this then you are considering that aspect unimportant. And that says something.

I don't speak for every minority but I think this is something to think about. Historically the media we hold onto the most socially spoken and yes diverse. Superman himself is an illegal alien, Jewish, and was created by the children of Jewish immigrants at the start of WWII where nazism was on the rise as a DIRECT action against nazis. Superman was American as they come and yes he fought nazis and was a religious minority. I just think if you are going to make media to say something it should challenge you as much as it challenges others.

Thoughts?

(Disclaimer: I am saying media in GENERAL affects reality not ALL (this is why when GTA games come out theres not a big spike in crime) and I'm not saying pretty much ALL of anything. Not ALL fiction affects reality. Not ALL historically held onto comics are progressive. This is a common misconception when people bring up these topics so I want to point that out now)
12th Feb 2018, 10:32 PM #2
HeSerpenty

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Well.. I think it's important to think about what a story is about. What genre is it? Is a character's sexuality a part of the story? Is the color of their skin significant to the story?

If it isn't...then why draw attention to it?

Like me for example.... I have a TON of characters and none of their sexuality have been talked about in the comic cuz that has nothing the heck to do with the story. I'm not writing a romance or a slice of life or anything so.....why would I make any character make a point of saying "I like other boys" Or vise versa? It wouldn't fit. It'd be weird, awkward writing. I'm not saying any of my characters AREN'T gay and I'm not saying any of them ARE.

Comicfury hosts a lot of long-form story comics in the fantasy genre. In those kinda comics the rules are just different. You have to also take into account the setting in which the comics are taking place. Is it a made up place and made up species? There wouldn't realistically be a lot of diversity if the comic takes place in remote village in the mountains in a country based on Europe or something. Oor maybe in that world there is only ONE race.

Nooow if someone is writing a fiction that's set in Los Angeles, California and they have NOTHING but all white, straight characters I would strooongly suggest that person does some research on Los Angeles XD. Or if someone has a comic based in Middle East or Africa and have an all white cast while at the same time calling them 'middle eastern' or 'african'..... That's just straight up ignorant. Any time you do any comic based on a real world setting you better do some research.

Haha I hope any of that made sense XD. Normally I don't feel like I have a place commenting on topics like this.

Just remember comicfury is really small in comparison to most other hosts and has a broad 'creator' audience instead of 'reader' audience. I've noticed that creators tend to really enjoy story-comics that inspire them, whereas 'readers' tend to prefer slice-of-life type comics they can relate personally to ^_^.
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12th Feb 2018, 11:08 PM #3
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12th Feb 2018, 11:20 PM #4
nibattack

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HeSerpenty:Well.. I think it's important to think about what a story is about. What genre is it? Is a character's sexuality a part of the story? Is the color of their skin significant to the story?

If it isn't...then why draw attention to it?



I would say that its important because of heteronormativity. (the assumption that if not said otherwise a person is straight) If you don't specify your character's sexuality I'm sure most people will view them as straight. And if they don't (and you see this in predominately bigger fandoms) they will get crap for it. (EX: "Why did you draw this character as gay there is no /evidence/ for that (even if there is no evidence that they are straight either. It is the assumption that they are from the lack of characteristics showing otherwise.)) Also this kinda assumes that gay people can only talk about being gay if they talk about romantic or sexual topics which isnt true! I have lots of gay friends and am gay myself and regardless of my relationship status there are lots of jokes I make about being gay that out me that aren't awkward! Like when I see a rainbow or an object with a rainbow I joke about how that object and I are the same. or like sometimes when i say "straight to it" I will joke and backtrack and be like "sorry sorry i meant GAY to it" Just silly funny stuff like that! I'm not saying you have to but I do think there is value in saying what it is and there are ways to do it outside of romance

HeSerpenty: Comicfury hosts a lot of long-form story comics in the fantasy genre. In those kinda comics the rules are just different. You have to also take into account the setting in which the comics are taking place.


I would heavily disagree with this and I would ask /why/ the rules are different. Lots of LGBT+ people (esp on twitter) have been fighting for diversity in comics for a long time! A lot of people use the excuse of historical accuracy for example and it just feels weird like how we are able to suspend disbelief when it comes to dragons but not when it comes to transgender or gay or people of color in our fantasy settings!

I'm glad you commented! You have as much of a say and an opinion as anyone else and I was looking for discussion. I don't think I'm always right or anything I just want to expand my own views as you did yours you know!
12th Feb 2018, 11:41 PM #5
HeSerpenty

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I am glad that we can have a discussion about this! I just wanna let you know that even if I disagree with any points you make it doesn't mean I don't like ya or anything! If I say anything out of line or you want to continue this discussion privately feel free to PM me <3

But

nibattack:I would say that its important because of heteronormativity. (the assumption that if not said otherwise a person is straight) If you don't specify your character's sexuality I'm sure most people will view them as straight. And if they don't (and you see this in predominately bigger fandoms) they will get crap for it.


I'm afraid I just have to disagree. I've heard lots of discussion about this away from public forums and to be honest a lot of people who could identify with the LGBT community get just as annoyed with overstating a characters sexuality as they do with lack of diversity. Because then those characters are treated differently than 'normal' characters which then of course implies that they AREN'T normal. Lolol does that make sense?

It shouldn't matter what people are going to assume about anyone's characters. Look at "The Road to El Dorado" (if you haven't seen that movie you should it's AWEsome <3). Lol but the two main characters are SUPER close friends. Both characters in the movie have expressed interest in women whether with a flirty glance or a relationship yet I've read blogs where dreamworks was praised for having the "first openly gay couple as main characters in an animated movie" XDD
The movie never called them gay, they never said they were gay.... but people assumed cuz of their close bromance that they were even tho they both showed interest in women :P

I dooon't think the creators of that movie care about all the gay Miguel/Tulio fan art X"D.

If people get upset over a characters sexuality well... I'd take it as a compliment really haha. It means you care enough about that character to care about their sexuality. But I kinda would like for them to be judged by who they are as people rather than who they prefer to be with in a relationship.

Merged Doublepost:

Oh and just a little friendly side note...
This site isn't as bad as people think. I can link you to several comics just on my sub list that have what you're looking for

If interested in some links, PM me!
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13th Feb 2018, 2:48 AM #6
GMan003
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So I'm going to bring up a perspective that doesn't seem to be often brought up in discussions of diversity:

I am a straight white male, pretty much the closest to an exact non-minority (I am technically a persecuted religious minority but I don't count it as such).

The media I consume is friggen dominated by people that look like me. And to be perfectly honest, it gets kind of boring after a while. Doing something different - having a gay or female or hispanic character - is giving me something I haven't seen a million times before. You won't get me reading just because of it (nor will you lose me just for having a SWM lead), but you'll get a better shot at my attention.

I am a particular fan of science fiction and fantasy - because when I'm reading fiction, I'm craving novelty. I want something different and exciting. Even if all you're doing is changing the skin and hair colors around, that still isn't all that common. If you're making up a world from scratch, why would you decide to go with what we see in modern America or Europe? I could just look out my window if I wanted to see that.

When drafting my own stories, I've been making deliberate efforts to mix things up. None of my stories are about race or gender, since I don't have much to say on the subject - but that doesn't mean I can't focus on characters of other races or genders. I made the protagonist for the story I'm currently working on female just because I haven't seen this sort of story done with a female lead, and if it doesn't matter to the plot (it doesn't), why not go with the less common option?

----

I am aware that diversity has a stronger meaning to people on the other side of the coin. My cup flipping runneth over with heroes who look like me, while others are starving for lack of representation. I'm not trying to make it sound like diversity only matters in a trivial, superficial way. It matters that way to me - I recognize that it's a lot more meaningful to the people being under-represented when they finally get to see a hero that looks like them, and I am not trying to trivialize that. But, ironically, the discussion of the value of diversity seems to ignore the benefits of diversity to the majority group.
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13th Feb 2018, 3:58 AM #7
Travis

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this seems like a straw-man argument. Comic Fury is not only supportive of sexual and ethnic minorities, I'd say it's down right protective. Sure you get some heated conversations once in a blue moon, but it's the internet. That's going to happen. Furthermore, out of all the mediums of fiction in the world, I'd say webcomics might be the most diversified there is. Honestly.

Now the argument of diversity in mainstream comics is going strong and the big companies are stumbling through a politically Correct Minefield in addressing the problem(and I feel they DO recognize it as a problem). I don't envy a company that is looking at the dollars and cents of running a Business with existing and extremely lucrative IP's that are predominantly Straight White Men, but I see them trying to change.
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13th Feb 2018, 4:36 AM #8
Fluffythespider
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I think nowadays people are more aware about diversity, so it's a bit harder to be forgiving of something with an all straight/white/male cast than something made 50 years ago. Sometimes people lean on the majority as the default and all other minorities as a deviation because that's the way it's mostly been until very recently. At the same time, people shouldn't feel pressured or forced into adding diversity for its own sake, because that can feel just as superfical as pretending diversity doesn't exist.

Like if the writer has to say a character is gay outside of the story, but there's hardly any evidence in the actual work, it kinda feels like an afterthought rather than meaningful representation.

Also, a lot of the people here are just doing webcomics as a hobby, and maybe have never thought about the vast implications of how diverse their cast may or may not be. While it's good to keep in mind, it's not really the most important thing to many people, and at the end of the day, that's okay. It's their comic, they only need to make themselves happy.
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13th Feb 2018, 5:10 AM #9
Kelsey -Nutty- P.

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(cw: I use the word "queer" in this reply, as I'm reclaiming it as an overarching word for my own gender identity)

This is a very good thread. I haven't much to add that hasn't been said already, but I am HERE for representation. My relationship with the whole debate is complex, because while I'm white, I'm also very queer.

I think representation is important not just for the reader, but for the creator as well. The more we learn about those around us, the better we all understand each other.

(EDIT: I removed a chunk of this post. I was trying to relate the topic to my work, but in retrospect it appeared to be shameless advertising, I apologize!)
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13th Feb 2018, 6:55 AM #10
Mr. Awesome

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Here's my stance:
If you have a diverse cast for the sake of having a diverse cast, it's very easy to end up not actually focusing on the story you want to tell, unless that story has something to do with the diversity of your cast.

There's also an issue with the diversifying of already established characters, especially ones that have been around for decades. No one likes that, and in the long run it doesn't exactly attract a net gain of new readers on a consistent basis.

Diversity is not a bad thing, but there never seems to be a middle ground. It either isn't focused on at all(AKA normalization), or focused on so much it detracts from the story and off-puts readers.
13th Feb 2018, 10:21 AM #11
Darksh1ne

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What I hate about the diversity in media is the forced nature of it, as in most cases it ruins the story and pacing. If you want to create a diverse cast, make sure that people in it make sense and are much more than just representatives of certain group. Don't make a gay/trans character just so they would never shut up about their orientation while the story of the comic is focused on things unrelated to sex or relations at all. If you want to have one, give them an original, interesting personality first and make sure they play an important role in the story second. The orientation or the thing between their legs should be the least focused thing... unless the story has scenes and themes that focus on that, then it's fine of course.

Don't put disabled or obese people in superhero suits, unless these characters are supposed to be a parody. No one will ever take them serious otherwise.

Don't put a black person into a nazi uniform (Like they did with Finn in the new Star wars films... it kinda undermined the entire statement of "The first order symbolizes white supremacy" that the creators made, since here comes an obvious question "How did he get into the first order in the first place then?".)


Another important aspect of this forced diversity is the ideological push. All people are different with different views on the world and society. When you create a story which forces certain ideology in a way that it is presented as absolute truth and good, and anyone who opposes it is a <insert any SJW favorite term> - it alienates the portion of the public who do not agree with this type of ideology. If this is what you want - fine, go ahead, but don't be surprised if some people would criticize you for these choices.
But if you want to appeal to a wider audience, you can simply work with themes which are close to all people, themes of human nature itself.

We can come back to Star wars again to see how it works. Why Star wars fans love the old films and why they hate the new ones? Old ones were about human relations, about good and evil, about struggle to save those who seem to be lost in darkness.
The new ones are about "Oh look, we got a full women cast and all men are idiots!", "Oh look, white supremacy!", "Oh look, capitalism is baaaaad!" (Coming strong from a Disney corporation)
The new films are all about pushing ideologies, not about interesting story and character development. That's the difference.

P.S. When you create a candy, don't focus on the wrapping. Focus on the taste.
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13th Feb 2018, 10:33 AM #12
JammyTheBirb
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Diversity is important to me, and it was a wonderful thing to read or watch stuff about people like me after finding nothing throughout my childhood. But I have to say it annoys me greatly when a work places too much emphasis or importance on a characters gender or sexuality. And I speak as a gay man (i can only speak from this perspective!) who is sick of the angst and tortured souled-ness and rejection that's present in close to 99% of mainstream stuff with LGBT+ characters. Yes, we need stories about the struggles and that's important, but there's more to us than that, and I'd just like to see some stories where being queer is just something characters are, and its not a big deal. (I don't mean that it couldn't be part of the story, but not most of the story, every time.) That's why this place is pretty great to me, there are a lot of really great comics. I understand it can be hard to find the balance between something being not explicitly canon and annoyingly in your face, but stuff like that is out there and it can be done.

To respond to one point in the OP, personally, I've never really meant or wanted to inspire anyone. If I can, I want to help people feel normal and boring in a way they don't even notice XD That's what I always wanted to feel growing up. I feel like if we try and include diversity but don't always make who a character is the focus of the story or that character's storyline, it'll help normalise it. Just some thoughts I've been having as of late, and I may have gone a bit off topic but, whoops!

But TL;DR, diversity is good.
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13th Feb 2018, 11:35 AM #13
Calisa
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I think this is a very interesting topic. It reminds me of thoughts I had about Kubo and the Two Strings. I really enjoyed that movie a lot, but as someone who has consumed a ton of Japanese media, speaks Japanese passably well and lived in Japan briefly, I could tell without looking that the Kubo writers were not Japanese. It was just a whole bunch of little tells that added up to an adorable and moving children’s fantasy story with a Japanese veneer. Sure enough, when I checked, they’re Caucasian guys. They chose not to put out yet another all-white characters movie, and I think it’s great that people want to do that. Just sometimes the result is closer to Americanized Asian food than authentic Japanese cuisine. And don’t get me wrong, there is delicious Americanized Asian food. And there are Caucasian people who can and do make amazing and indistinguishable Japanese food. I just also wonder if people feeling pressured to make non-white stories is leading to these second hand interpretations of other cultures which aren’t necessarily bad but also don’t replace a reader/viewer’s experience of stories told from the heart by people who actually grew up in the culture (or queer experience) being represented. That doesn’t mean White Americans shouldn’t strive to include characters from other cultures in their works. It’s easier to research for individual characters than an entire culture. All of that said though I don’t think we should be twisting arms to force people to reach diversity quotas. Encourage, sure, but shame no. There’s nothing wrong with a straight white guy writing about a straight white guy if that’s the story he is passionate about (rather than because of some “that’s the only hero who sells big in the US” bullshit.)
13th Feb 2018, 11:39 AM #14
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Darksh1ne: "Oh look, we got a full women cast and all men are idiots!", "Oh look, white supremacy!", "Oh look, capitalism is baaaaad!".


Dude. That's kind of silly. They just included more varied people because the old star wars movies had one girl (who was usually a badass, admittedly except for THAT ONE TIME) And one black guy...who ended up being a traitor.

So if amything the old ones were the ones where the ones with problematic racial messages and gender messages. I.e, if you're going to be important and not just a plot device then you pretty much have to be white.

I proffer the mix even if the film came out trash anyway.
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13th Feb 2018, 12:00 PM #15
Magpie

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While reading this thread I came to think of manga. Of course this does not apply to all manga, but if you read a fair share of manga you will eventually come across a comic that is extremely ethnocentric, and has a complete lack of so called "diversity" in it. There are mangas where the plot takes place in japan at very specific locations, every single character is japanese, every character seems to have their own nerd-like knowledge of japanese traditions and history, and follow japanese customs strictly.

As a european reading a manga like this, am I reading a very diverse comic since my race and culture is not dominating ( in this case not represented at all), or am I reading the least diverse comic possible since only one race and culture is represented?
13th Feb 2018, 12:15 PM #16
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I see diversity (and everything else, tbh) through the eyes of the plot, the narrative itself. What matters to me is the story's structure. I'm looking for interesting and three-dimensional characters, not empty caricatures.

Admittedly, once you see things that way, everything becomes something you feel indifferent about as long as it doesn't come to the expense of the narration. Anything can be considered good or neutral by default if it doesn't derail the story. I'm a middle ground person. Failing to acknowledge diversity when it should logically be there (like having only white characters in a story set in Africa, as HeSerpenty said; who could be this ignorant??) is bad, and so is shoehorning it everywhere for the sake of "representation" which leads to tokenism.

But it seems the average reader doesn't think like that. It's like being obsessed with eye color. The human race should be past that by now. It's who you are inside that matters, not the color of your skin, or scales, or fur. With all the fantastic universes out there, you'd think diversity should now be about non-human characters, and that all the different kinds of humans wouldn't really matter in a world with aliens, robots and fantasy races, but no. Let's check again in a few centuries to see if we evolved past that.

TL;DR: Diversity is alright, just treat it like everything else: don't force it, don't fail to acknowledge it when it should make sense, and try to stay focused on the story and characters themselves.
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13th Feb 2018, 12:25 PM #17
Darksh1ne

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The Letter M:Dude. That's kind of silly. They just included more varied people because the old star wars movies had one girl (who was usually a badass, admittedly except for THAT ONE TIME) And one black guy...who ended up being a traitor.

So if amything the old ones were the ones where the ones with problematic racial messages and gender messages. I.e, if you're going to be important and not just a plot device then you pretty much have to be white.

I proffer the mix even if the film came out trash anyway.


And that's where you're absolutely wrong, my friend. The good thing about the old films is that you could change Luke into literally any other gender, race or even alien and the story would not change much (Except for Vader would have to be the same race/to be an alien). Everything else was not important, because race of the characters did not matter.
As for a girl in the cast - well, that's because the cast itself was not large. It's just in past actors were chosen for their talent, not for diversity tokens. And that's why old films are an immortal classic, and the new ones will be forgotten as dated and bad.
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13th Feb 2018, 12:30 PM #18
tim-in-a-box

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people should to whatever the hell they want to with their comics
you should put in a character because you want to put in a character, no matter who they are and not just for the sake ~diversity~
I don't know if I should somehow care about this either like
I just happen to be a guy who just happens to be married to anther guy, so now what, I should care if people in the comics I read
are gay?
I don't know, I never really bother to care that stuff should represent me personally O_O
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13th Feb 2018, 1:13 PM #19
MK_Wizard

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I have to admit that this is a topic that has been on my mind a lot, but the thing is I want it to make sense for the setting and for it to not feel forced. Diversity should look and feel natural if that is what you are going for. Though in my case, I have to take into account of what society was like back in the day because the setting takes place in Victorian England. I do intend to make diversity a point there too, but I want to keep it natural and for it to make sense not put it there just because it's there. My next comic which will be in modern day times will have more diversity.
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13th Feb 2018, 2:30 PM #20
TheHiddenElephant

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Gonna toss a few cents into the ring here. I'm taking a Politics of Sex class, and Diversity is a huge part of it.

Literally, Diversity is EVERYTHING. Or rather, difference is. Humans generate their self-image based on what they are and are not similar to. If you go back to the bad old days of Colonization, you'd encounter rampant racism against folks of darker skin with the justification that they were more primitive, less moral, not quite human, etc. It's entirely possible that the reason why humans are such jerks to each other is because they're defining other people as worse than they are to feel better about themselves.

Now, we've entered into an age where just about everything known to Humankind is defined, from microbes to black holes. Of course, we've categorized people like sorting a deck of cards, and that's created something; a handle with which to grab on to.

Let's take Homosexuality for instance, because it's one of the biggest topics of the day. It was coined less than 200 years ago by a psychologist, and you can tell where that was going. With a term applied, it became easy to spin it into something bad. Same thing about all the negative terms that's ever been applied to African-Descended People, or Asians, or Middle Easterners. Remember, before Native Americans met Colombous, they weren't Native Americans, they were People.

Authors who want to be progressive or liberal, like a good hunk of us, are staring down a Hegemony that's a new thing, but it's still ingrained incredibly deeply, and we're all in the thick of it. It'll be with us forever, in all likelihood.

But Diversity and Representation (of which they go hand-in-hand) have some important things to consider about them. Firstly, making the Representation Good. Not falling into stereotypes and villainy, you know. Secondly, and this is the Most Important: It Should Not Erase The History. History is the Memory of Humankind. It's what's stopping us from doing terrible things, or at least, it should. History is largely failing us, because no-one remembers anything or flat-out denies it happens.

That's kind of where we step in. History's full of terrible acts, a casual glance through history won't tell you why or may even give you the wrong image, and it's liable to being left behind. So, what do we, as authors, have to do? Make People Care. That's what Diversity In Comics is about. Writing has ALWAYS been about sharing experiences that couldn't be shared otherwise, and Diversity is making people aware that other people exist, and that they aren't a savage monster or a twisted deviant. It doesn't matter if you're giving people a dream of a better tomorrow, or warning them, or showing history, or making up a new world that has its own people in it! Make People Care About Other People.

Now, I'm speaking this as Commander Wonder-bread. I am white. I am so white I could substitute for printer paper. I'm also male, have been male, will be male. I don't feel particularly female, as nebulous as gender can get. I'm also straight. Can't seem to avoid it. And guess what? Also American, coming from a Protestant Background, AND the Middle Class! I am Mr. Generic.

I am also deeply invested in Diversity. This comes from a writing club I was part of a few years back headed up by a nice chap named Kamil Brynoe, who introduced us to what he called the 'Blackdell Test'. Based off of the popular Beckdell Test, this test tests for minority representation in a form of media. It goes something like this; 1) Are there two or more characters of one or more minorities of some kind in the setting for the form of media? 2) Do two or more of these characters interact at all? And finally, 3) Do They NOT FIGHT?

Just goes to show how endlessly you can question stuff. But that did make me realize something: I could only name 2 webcomics that I read that have non-white human leads. That's grown to 3 webcomics now, but I've doubled the amount of Webcomics I read. This is a bit of a problem, to say the least, and I chalk it up to a) writing what we know, and b) unconsciously normalizing stuff, like accidentally reinforcing the White Straight Male dominated world.

Finally, thank you for your time. I may not have added much, and I sure as hell have written a hell of a lot, but I just feel the need to talk about this.
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