Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Racism and Comic Book Readers

Are comic book readers generally racist? Is that why books starring diverse characters "sell less" (citation needed)?

This article at Bleeding Cool begs the question. Mark Waid is quoted by CBR at Baltimore Comic Con on the failure of the Boom! comic High Rollers:

"The concept was an urban take on organized crime. To Waid’s shock and awe, an astonishing amount of retailers claimed they had no audience due to the color of the characters."

Bleeding Cool then interviews a number of comic book retailers, who just about unanimously claim that their customers are not racist.

So which is it?

My own two cents: At DC I was told several times that comics starring African-Americans (or simply Africans, or Asians, or women, etc.) do not sell, that the majority of the comic-buying audience do not want to read them. One such proclamation happened in relation to the book Batman: Orpheus Rising, and one to the series Bad Girls. Oh, this was said about the entire Milestone line too. (This was DC Comics 7+ years ago, keep in mind; I'm sure a lot has changed since then.)

The flip-side of that is the success of a comic like Chew and a comic book related movie like Blade.

Is this "common wisdom" regarding the commercial viability of diverse characters a self-fulfilling prophecy? Are such comics at a disadvantage from the start by certain publishers who consciously or unconsciously buy into that "common wisdom" and don't want to allocate enough dollars to market/promote them?

Or is Mark Waid simply pointing out a problem that comic book retailers would never admit to the media on-the-record? ("Why yes Rich, most of my customers are indeed racists").

This is an open question to you all -- what do you think?

Postscript: There is also a separate but related side-issue regarding select extremely xenophobic/racist/sexist/homophobic comic book fans who freak out at things like James Rhodes being Iron Man and the Luke Cage/Jessica Jones thing. Those types of cranks really do exist, and also apparently like to write very crazy letters.

Related posts:
"Cartoonists Of Color Protest Newspapers"
"Vixen/JLA: The "Halle Berry Defense""
"Can Gina Torres Be Wonder Woman?"