Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Equality: Right, Left, and Ramblings

Over the past year, a lot has been said over Marvel turning original X-Man Bobby Drake (aka Iceman) gay and that seems to be brought forth yet again with Iceman getting his first ongoing series with it's writer saying that his sexuality will be a focus in the title. Now, I'm not writing this to try and argue the good/bad of making him gay (though if you want my opinion, I don't care that they made him gay but I do feel it was a poorly written transition). I'm here to state my opinion on equality in comics and how we all need to calm our shit down.
First and foremost, take a look at most (if not all) of the big names we all know: Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Thor, Flash. The big Leaguers and Avengers alike are white and mostly male. When these long-standing names were created, the world was different. I'd like to think that at this point, we can all recognize and acknowledge that. As the years went by, society, and by proxy readership, changed. Our world was no longer the same. Hell, we're far different from the 90s already so it's safe to say the 60s and beyond are times long removed. Through the decades, the characters expanded and are still trying to expand to this day. But can you guess which characters are still the top dogs? Prominently white, straight males. The top selling characters are the same through all these decades.
Now, THAT in itself I don't see as a(the?) problem. What I can tell you from almost a decade of running a comic shop and what I would guess publishers would tell you if they could be blunt without pissing sales off is that it is hard to get anything new to really take traction. Ridiculously hard. The reason characters like Batman and Spider-Man have so damn many off-shoot books is because those names sell and sadly, sales are what businesses are about. Try and think of the last time a new character took you. It's likely either connected to larger mythos (like Atrocitus and the Lanterns) or the 90s Image books. Yet how many of you really follow or even care about Spawn any more? Could you tell me the last time you read Witchblade? 20 years later and they're already all but forgotten.
Which is why, hate it though you may, it's these bigger, already established characters that get changed. Female Robin? All those Batman readers will notice. Mexican Blue Beetle? What Justice League fan doesn't know who Blue Beetle is? Bobby Drake is gay? Yes because it fits into what the writers see as an open history and a chance to make that ever-changing readership feel more at home. No matter their reasoning (or justifying), it's altering something big that will get it noticed.
Miles Morales is one of the best examples I can speak of. When Marvel killed Ultimate Peter Parker, they were hammered with backlash because they dared to change a beloved white character simply so they could have a "token ethnic" character. Except if you actually read any of the story, it was pretty damn good. Miles is the perfect example of how a hero transcends the character. Miles has become what I see as the perfect embodiment of what Spider-Man is and stands for. Maybe Marvel was pushing for ethnicity. Maybe it was just to boost publicity and sales. Maybe it was a great story that deserved to be told.
Iceman is gay. How you deal with that reaction is entirely up to you. Nobody can force you to like it and nobody should knock you down if you do. However, if Bobby Drake happens to be your all-time favorite character and this change fills you with hate and fear and a desire to never look at him again, I would suggest looking inward for larger problems. That kind of reaction is not healthy and says a whole lot more about you than it does any publisher or any character.
The real question we should ourselves in situations like these, for me, is a fairly easy one:
'Do I like the character or do I like their appearance?"
If written properly and with care, only one of those things should change.

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