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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Diversity in Comic Books Falsely Accused

Nickie Phillips

In an interview with ICv2, Marvel VP David Gabriel commented on the recent decline of comic book sales in a vast misrepresentation:

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity…They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”

However, for those immersed in comic book culture it comes as little surprise that diversity would be wrongly blamed. [1]

Fan favorite, Ms. Marvel

Fan favorite, Ms. Marvel

In our book Comic Book Crime: Truth, Justice, and the American Way, we opined about the possibilities of increased diversity in comic books published post 9/11. Our cautious optimism was rooted in our immersion in fan culture and the demands for more inclusive character representations. We were particularly interested in how more diverse characterizations among heroes and villains resonate in our imaginings of crime and justice.

In fact, over the past several years, comic books have seen the introduction of a plethora titles featuring characters: the (female) Thor, Ms. Marvel, Riri Williams, Miles Morales, and Miss America Chavez, among others. There has also been a resurgence of interest in longstanding characters such as Black Panther, Sam Wilson, Luke Cage, Storm, and Amanda Waller. However, we also documented how the inclusion of diverse characters is often met with much resistance by readers. In Beyond Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in Popular Media, Nickie Phillips discusses how this resistance is rooted in responses to feminist interventions within the industry and can, at times, be contentious.

G. Willow Wilson, writer of the acclaimed Ms. Marvel series explained why blaming diversity is problematic. She wrote,

“Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is > the world.> ”

We agree.

1: Go here, here, and here for alternative explanations for the sales decline.

-- Nickie Phillips and Staci Strobl