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One Year Later, and the Future of Marvel and DC’s Superhero Comics

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One Year Later, and the Future of Marvel and DC’s Superhero Comics

This is the beginning of the second year of this column.

Many advancements have been made in the comic book industry in the last year, for the cause of diversity. So many that it would fill a handful of columns to list and comment on each one sufficiently.

I want to talk about the future, and to give the gift of prediction for the better times ahead, the better actions ahead from Marvel and DC Comics.

But first, in the spirit of gifts, of generosity, I’d like to tell you about a woman, a bright light taken from the world too soon, a fearless writer who was full of hope.

Hiring Black female writers.

Both DC Comics and Marvel have started to tackle the hiring of Black men as writers (like they used to in the past), with more to come.

Since progress cannot be a stagnant thing, and the promise of diversity from both companies must be consistent and evolving to be legitimate, you can expect to see Black female writers from both Marvel and DC Comics.

It is possible that, at present, none of these future hires are in their line of sight, in their collective vat of knowledge.

Since the only way to cross divides is to build bridges, I am going to introduce some Black female writers to both publishers right now.

The Interracial Writing Duo

Black Writers Assigned to Write White Characters

It wasn’t long ago that Reginald Hudlin, producer, director, and executive for film and television, wrote the monthly adventures of Spider-Man.

It’s time to bring that back, and do it more.

There is no doubt that talented, responsible White writers can do amazing stories with characters of color. Greg Rucka’s work on Latina police detective Renee Montoya from the Batman mythos is a fine example. Don McGregor’s work on Marvel’s Black Panther character speaks to this point, as well.

With that, and the absence of reverse discrimination, this is the perfect opportunity to open the doors to Black writers and give them access to the DC and Marvel library of characters.

Just as Warren Ellis gets to take B-level characters like Moon Knight, and unearth the vast possibilities, the same is possible with Black writers and characters full of potential to rise to the top of fan visibility and healthy sales.

I’ll leave matching up writers with characters to the DC Comics and Marvel editors.

There are certainly a number of you who read the above and wonder if I’m either crazy or being a smart ass, and neither could be further from the truth.

I believe that the top comic book publishers are going to do all of the above within the next five years.

I believe this because if the progress stops, then the cause for real diversity will be revealed as counterfeit. Fake. A gimmick. Pacification for the masses.

That is most certainly not the case.

I have either met, or have known for years, various people of influence at the two major comic book publishers. I believe their hearts are in the right place. They want to change the direction of this industry, this business.

With the marketability of diversity peaking, and their publicly-stated commitment to grow the writing pools of their companies, those men and women will provide creative atmospheres of inclusion for writers of various ethnic and gender groups.

To all of you, the readers of this column new and old, I’m thankful for your support, and want to say something sincere, something real.

The various metrics imply that more of you care when I get vicious, when I go after the publishers with an apparent goal to eviscerate, to render their claims for growth meaningless with concrete or circumstantial evidence.

When I am merciless.

The thing is, the best possible future for comic books must include Marvel and DC Comics.

Those companies must be at the top of their game, to serve this industry in the best way possible, to gain and maintain higher readership, to maintain the financial means to go far and wide and acquire talent to produce comic books.

I do not see myself as a gun, pointed at the faces of either company.

I see myself as a scalpel, along with the various other writers and columnists in this business.

We have to excise the cancers and the excuses from this body.

Once we can do that, with your help, the remaining portion will be healthy and vibrant. Within that body, true legitimate growth can occur.

The best ideas will blossom, and the best comic books will be produced.

My gift to Marvel Comics and DC Comics is that I believe in them so much, that I will not back away from frank and respectful examination of their worlds and companies.

I believe in them so much, that I know they will push themselves on a regular basis to do better, to get better.

To render all of the arguments against them meaningless.

After all, our real friends do not tell us what we want to hear.

They tell us what we need to hear.

Thanks again to everyone who supported this column in Year One.

Let’s get down to business with the next one.


Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World’s forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, Purdue University, on the panel “Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books” and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City.

Joseph is the Head Writer for Verge Entertainment, a production company co-founded with Shawn Martinbrough, artist for the graphic novel series “Thief of Thieves” by “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman and video game developer Milo Stone. Verge has developed an extensive library of intellectual properties for live-action and animated television and film, video games, graphic novels and web-based entertainment.

His graphic novel project, “The Ren,” about the romance between a young musician from the South and a Harlem-born dancer in 1925, set against the backdrop of a crime war, will be published by First Second Books, a division of Macmillan.

Joseph’s newest comic book project is the upcoming Scout Comics miniseries “Solarman,” a revamp of a teenage superhero originally written by Stan Lee.

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