I attended my first New York Comic Con this weekend and it was a tremendously edifying experience. I met some great people including Karen Green, the comics librarian from Columbia who writes Comic Adventures in Academia.
But the best part of the weekend were the panels. Two stood out to me, the panel on Black Panther and the panel on the lack Asian-American representation in comics media. I’ll have more on the Asian-American panel later, but I want to focus on the Black Panther panel.
Reginald Hudlin, John Romita Jr., and Axel Alonzo were on the Black Panther panel, which was designed to promote the relaunch of the monthly comic series as well as the forthcoming Black Panther animated series on BET. During the course of their presentation, Hudlin and Alonzo dished about producing a ‘Black’ comic for Marvel.
The panel took questions from the audience, and I was lucky enough to ask the final question of the session. And since you read me here you know what it was: why Marvel and DC do such a poor job of developing Black voices (really any voices of color). I pointed out that Reggie Hudlin is a successful film director and screenwriter, that Eric Jerome Dickey, who wrote the Storm miniseries, is a successful novelist, that G. Willow Wilson who is currently writing the Vixen miniseries is also a successful novelist. Where, I wondered, were the Black storytellers ‘native’ to the media.
To his immense credit, Hudlin gave a great answer. He noted that, until quite recently, the comic industry had been a closed world. He reiterated that Marvel has been very supportive of his Black Panther series, which I’m sure is the case. Still, his answer illuminated something I’ve always suspected.
The comic industry, despite fits and starts, continues to view itself as a closed world. It functions sort of like the film industry before Spike Lee broke through and started throwing brickbats. What is amazing is that it continues to do this even as American culture has become more inclusive and diverse, and even as comic culture has become a pillar of mainstream pop culture.
The comic industry continues to lag behind despite the progress that people of color have made in other industries and in the nation as a whole. And I don’t think casting Will Smith as Captain America or inviting in a film director who has made hundreds of millions of dollars to write your signature Black character is the best way to address this lack