The progressive march of pop culture

Hollywood, aka Tinsel Town, is home to the entertainment industry of the United States. Viewed as the land of the rich and famous, Hollywood has long been the destination for many people seeking to make a name for themselves, whether on the small-screen, the big-screen, or in the music industry. Unfortunately, with so many people looking for fame and fortune, Hollywood is a difficult industry to break into, let alone succeed in. Some groups of people have an advantage in the industry, due to a bias in their favor. This bias-which favors white, heterosexual, cisgender men-has resulted in a Hollywood that is not reflective of our culture at large. Because of this bias, members of marginalized communities-LGBT people, women, and People of Color-have greater difficulty making it in the entertainment industry. Whether in front of the cameras or behind them, on the big screens or the small ones, these groups have long been plagued by unequal treatment in Hollywood. The second annual Hollywood Diversity Report (available for download here) examined more than 1,000 broadcast, cable, and digital tv programs from the 2012-2013 season and its results were not encouraging.
Continue reading “The progressive march of pop culture”

The progressive march of pop culture
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Marvel’s all-new Giant-Man is another win for diversity

I began reading comic books around the age of 7 or 8, and began to seriously collect them when I was old enough to get a job. Some of the earliest comics I had were Marvel’s Avengers. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was (and still is) the tagline. Captain America, Thor, Wasp, Hercules, Sub-Mariner, She-Hulk, Black Knight-they were awesome. But there was someone else I really liked reading about. Someone who I appreciated for different reasons-Monica Rambeau-Captain Marvel at the time. She was special to me because she was unique among the Avengers: she was black. Like me.

The second hero to bear the name Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau debuted in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.

Continue reading “Marvel’s all-new Giant-Man is another win for diversity”

Marvel’s all-new Giant-Man is another win for diversity

Marvel's all-new Giant-Man is another win for diversity

I began reading comic books around the age of 7 or 8, and began to seriously collect them when I was old enough to get a job. Some of the earliest comics I had were Marvel’s Avengers. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes was (and still is) the tagline. Captain America, Thor, Wasp, Hercules, Sub-Mariner, She-Hulk, Black Knight-they were awesome. But there was someone else I really liked reading about. Someone who I appreciated for different reasons-Monica Rambeau-Captain Marvel at the time. She was special to me because she was unique among the Avengers: she was black. Like me.

The second hero to bear the name Captain Marvel, Monica Rambeau debuted in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.

Continue reading “Marvel's all-new Giant-Man is another win for diversity”

Marvel's all-new Giant-Man is another win for diversity

They want our money!

Last week, evangelical pastor Franklin Graham (son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham), took to Facebook to express his outrage over a Wells Fargo commercial. The president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was incensed that Wells Fargo ran an ad featuring a lesbian couple learning sign language so they could adopt a deaf child. Here is the commercial that caused Graham to shit a brick:

Continue reading “They want our money!”

They want our money!

This is the most diverse team of Avengers ever

As Marvel Comics inches towards the huge, multiverse shattering Secret Wars event, they’ve released many details about the project (which will be written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Esad Ribic). We know that the Marvel Multiverse will be reduced to one planet-Battleworld.  This patchwork world will be composed of various alternate realities that have existed throughout the history of Marvel Comics. We know that 33 Marvel titles will be cancelled by the time Secret Wars begins. These titles will be replaced by a host of new Secret Wars related books, with each title falling into one of three broad categories (or brandings)- Battleworld (books featuring this brand will explore the political structure of the planet), Last Days (this brand consists of those books that deal with Earth’s heroes facing the impending destruction of their world in the days before the Secret Wars begin), and Warzones (these books will focus on specific Battleworld realms and will lay the building blocks for the Marvel Universe that will emerge post-Secret Wars).  Of course there are many more mysteries to be revealed, including just what the heck the Marvel Universe will look like after Secret Wars is over. Fans are accustomed to reading these big events and having to wait until the close of the story to find out post-event details. As if to whet readers’ thirst to know more about the Marvel Universe after Secret Wars. the publisher has revealed the lineup for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the wake of this crossover:

Ms. Marvel, Nova, Ultimate Spider-Man Miles Morales, Vision, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America are the members of the post-Secret Wars Avengers.

When I first learned of this lineup, I thought it was interesting. But the really awesome thing about this lineup completely went over my head. Andrew Wheeler of Comics Alliance explains what makes this team noteworthy:

Most surprisingly, the roster includes only one white male member. And even that’s not confirmed. We don’t actually know who is in the Iron Man armor, but Tony Stark is always a safe bet. The rest of the team is made up of one white woman (Thor), two African-American men (Captain America and Spider-Man), one Pakistani-American woman (Ms Marvel), one Hispanic American man (Nova), and an android (Vision).

That is THE most diverse roster of Avengers in history! Man, Marvel is really embracing diversity. It’s almost as if they’re realized that there is money to be made by catering to comics readers other than cisgender, heterosexual, white men (and for all the whiners out there, don’t worry, Marvel isn’t going to stop creating books that cater to your demographic, they’re just trying to stop showing as much bias in your favor-you aren’t the center of the world). Alongside Secret Wars #0, the all-new, all-different Avengers (by the creative team of Mark Waid and Mahmud Asrar) will debut as part of Marvel’s offerings for Free Comic Book Day (May 2).  I. Can’t. Wait!

This is the most diverse team of Avengers ever

No whitewashing here

I recently wrote a post exploring the history of whitewashing and racebending in Hollywood. In that piece, I concluded by saying:

These racist practices (and more) have existed in Hollywood for far too long. They reinforce a cultural narrative that white lives are the ones the most important. This white bias has long been criticized, but critics are powerless to end the racist practices in the entertainment industry. They cannot prevent the continued use of yellowface, nor can they step in and ensure that roles intended for a Person of Color are played by one. Only the people in control of decisions in Hollywood can do that. The question is, when will these powerful people begin acting responsibly?

In a bit of good news, it looks like someone with the power to act responsibly has chosen to do so. Superherohype has reported that Lana Condor has been cast in the role of Jubilation Lee (aka Jubilee) in the next installment of Fox’s X-Men franchise:

X-Men: Apocalypse director Bryan Singer took to Instagram today to announce another new addition to the film’s cast in the form of newcomer Lana Condor, who will take on the role of Jubilation Lee, AKA Jubilee.

Created by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri, the character first appeared in “Uncanny X-Men” #244 and for a time was the youngest member of the core team. The character’s mutation allowed her to create and control energy plasmoids akin to fireworks. She previously appeared in the original three “X-Men” films where she was played by Katrina Florence (X-Men) and by Kea Wong (X2 & X-Men: The Last Stand).

Here is an image of Jubilee:

This is Lana Condor:

They’ve cast an actress of Asian descent to play a character of Asian descent. Good move Hollywood. Now don’t get me wrong-I’m not breaking out the champagne. I know that Hollywood still has a long way to go before it accurately mirrors USAmerican society, but steps like this are essential in getting us to that point.

No whitewashing here

The source of most of the world’s craziness

I’ve been a bartender for 16 years. In that time I have overheard many a conversation between guests. These discussions can be placed in two broad categories. The first category consists of relatively mundane subjects, such as the weather, favorite football teams, the latest movies or music…stuff like that. Run-of-the-mill discussions like that pretty much go through one ear and out the other.

The second category consists of those conversations that tend to stick with me. As an advocate for social justice, these are the chats that cause my ears to perk up. These are the conversations that I try to pay attention to (as much as I can while working). During the 2008 USAmerican Presidential election season I listened as people droned on and on about how they disliked then-Senator Obama, or how they really liked Sarah Palin (I was working at a restaurant patronized by a lot of conservatives). During the trial of George Zimmerman, I listened as people tried to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin. Then there was the time a male patron made victim blaming and Rape Culture enabling comments while discussing serial rapist Bill Cosby with two female guests.

Can you guess which category the following comment would fall in:

“Muslims are the source of most of the craziness in the world.”

Yeah. That sentence came out of the mouth of a guest (we’ll call him Greg) sitting at my bar last week. Greg was chatting with a woman he was having drinks with. Is there a context in which that statement wouldn’t be bigoted? Yeah, I can think of a few. He could have been mocking someone. He could have been repeating something he heard from someone else. He could have been discussing how he used to feel about Muslims. I don’t think any of those explanations apply in this case, but that’s just a gut feeling I have. A gut feeling influenced by the fact that there is a lot of anti-Muslim animus in USAmerica.

While I could be wrong, I think Greg was speaking from a place of profound ignorance, and his comment is the perfect example of why diversity is important. While I don’t know his background, I suspect he hasn’t regularly interacted with Muslims over the course of his life. I have to wonder if he would have benefited, at some point in the past, from knowing and interacting with people he knew were Muslims. If he dated a Muslim, went to school with Muslims, worked at a job where he regularly interacted with Muslims, had Muslims as friends, or played sports with Muslims…would he still have made that statement? Perhaps. After all, people with homophobic or racist beliefs often interact with gay people or Latinos. Men and women interact all the time and simply being exposed to women hasn’t prevented some men from becoming MRAs or MGTOWs. On the other hand, prior exposure to Muslims might have shown him that they are people, just like him. People with hopes and desires, worries and fears. People who want to raise their children to become productive members of society. People who go to the movies, watch reality tv, go bowling, or shoot pool. He might have learned that statements like “Muslims are the source of most of the craziness in the world” are not only wrong, but hurtful. Such exposure might have taught him that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful…that extremist Islamic groups like ISIS are not representative of Muslims worldwide.

I think regular, ongoing interaction with people who differ from you, whether it’s people of a different sexual orientation, those with a different gender identity, or those with a different religious background helps break down stereotypes. Such interaction can help show people that despite the [often superficial] differences between us, we humans share a lot in common. Interacting with people of diverse backgrounds can teach us to be more tolerant and accepting of others, their lives, and their experiences.

Shattering stereotypes. Finding common ground. Building bridges based on our shared experiences. Those goals lay at the heart of “Meet a Muslim Family“, a two-week campaign in Canada:

The Choudhry family has an unconventional strategy for fighting Muslim youth radicalization — inviting strangers into their Woodbridge home.

On Sunday, the family invited 14 non-Muslim Canadians to join them for a casual late lunch. The gathering was part of a two-week campaign called “Meet a Muslim Family,” in which Muslim families throughout Canada invited community members into their home for the purpose of uniting Canadian families and dispelling misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.

“There’s one way to learn about Muslims — which is turn on CNN, and you’ll see people on fire and buildings blowing up and bombs being dropped — or, you can actually see real Muslims in your neighbourhood who have been living here for decades,” said Safwan Choudhry, one of the campaign’s organizers.

Choudhry, 26, and two friends came up with the campaign after witnessing a spate of negative attention on, or negative treatment of, Muslims in the media. He pointed to a Quebec judge’s recent refusal to hear a woman’s case because she was wearing a hijab and to terror charges laid against Canadians with alleged ties to ISIS.

“I think any non-Muslim Canadian, hearing all this chatter, surely has to be concerned, if not worried, that like, ‘What is going on?’” he said.

Choudhry said he hopes the initiative draws attention to similarities between non-Muslims and Muslims — he mentioned his family’s interest in skiing and snowboarding and love for Tim Hortons coffee.

Skiing?

Snowboarding?

WTF? It’s like the Choudhry family is just like other families all across the globe. Imagine that. I think Greg could benefit from meeting a Muslim family.

The source of most of the world’s craziness

The source of most of the world's craziness

I’ve been a bartender for 16 years. In that time I have overheard many a conversation between guests. These discussions can be placed in two broad categories. The first category consists of relatively mundane subjects, such as the weather, favorite football teams, the latest movies or music…stuff like that. Run-of-the-mill discussions like that pretty much go through one ear and out the other.

The second category consists of those conversations that tend to stick with me. As an advocate for social justice, these are the chats that cause my ears to perk up. These are the conversations that I try to pay attention to (as much as I can while working). During the 2008 USAmerican Presidential election season I listened as people droned on and on about how they disliked then-Senator Obama, or how they really liked Sarah Palin (I was working at a restaurant patronized by a lot of conservatives). During the trial of George Zimmerman, I listened as people tried to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin. Then there was the time a male patron made victim blaming and Rape Culture enabling comments while discussing serial rapist Bill Cosby with two female guests.

Can you guess which category the following comment would fall in:

“Muslims are the source of most of the craziness in the world.”

Yeah. That sentence came out of the mouth of a guest (we’ll call him Greg) sitting at my bar last week. Greg was chatting with a woman he was having drinks with. Is there a context in which that statement wouldn’t be bigoted? Yeah, I can think of a few. He could have been mocking someone. He could have been repeating something he heard from someone else. He could have been discussing how he used to feel about Muslims. I don’t think any of those explanations apply in this case, but that’s just a gut feeling I have. A gut feeling influenced by the fact that there is a lot of anti-Muslim animus in USAmerica.

While I could be wrong, I think Greg was speaking from a place of profound ignorance, and his comment is the perfect example of why diversity is important. While I don’t know his background, I suspect he hasn’t regularly interacted with Muslims over the course of his life. I have to wonder if he would have benefited, at some point in the past, from knowing and interacting with people he knew were Muslims. If he dated a Muslim, went to school with Muslims, worked at a job where he regularly interacted with Muslims, had Muslims as friends, or played sports with Muslims…would he still have made that statement? Perhaps. After all, people with homophobic or racist beliefs often interact with gay people or Latinos. Men and women interact all the time and simply being exposed to women hasn’t prevented some men from becoming MRAs or MGTOWs. On the other hand, prior exposure to Muslims might have shown him that they are people, just like him. People with hopes and desires, worries and fears. People who want to raise their children to become productive members of society. People who go to the movies, watch reality tv, go bowling, or shoot pool. He might have learned that statements like “Muslims are the source of most of the craziness in the world” are not only wrong, but hurtful. Such exposure might have taught him that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful…that extremist Islamic groups like ISIS are not representative of Muslims worldwide.

I think regular, ongoing interaction with people who differ from you, whether it’s people of a different sexual orientation, those with a different gender identity, or those with a different religious background helps break down stereotypes. Such interaction can help show people that despite the [often superficial] differences between us, we humans share a lot in common. Interacting with people of diverse backgrounds can teach us to be more tolerant and accepting of others, their lives, and their experiences.

Shattering stereotypes. Finding common ground. Building bridges based on our shared experiences. Those goals lay at the heart of “Meet a Muslim Family“, a two-week campaign in Canada:

The Choudhry family has an unconventional strategy for fighting Muslim youth radicalization — inviting strangers into their Woodbridge home.

On Sunday, the family invited 14 non-Muslim Canadians to join them for a casual late lunch. The gathering was part of a two-week campaign called “Meet a Muslim Family,” in which Muslim families throughout Canada invited community members into their home for the purpose of uniting Canadian families and dispelling misconceptions about Muslims and Islam.

“There’s one way to learn about Muslims — which is turn on CNN, and you’ll see people on fire and buildings blowing up and bombs being dropped — or, you can actually see real Muslims in your neighbourhood who have been living here for decades,” said Safwan Choudhry, one of the campaign’s organizers.

Choudhry, 26, and two friends came up with the campaign after witnessing a spate of negative attention on, or negative treatment of, Muslims in the media. He pointed to a Quebec judge’s recent refusal to hear a woman’s case because she was wearing a hijab and to terror charges laid against Canadians with alleged ties to ISIS.

“I think any non-Muslim Canadian, hearing all this chatter, surely has to be concerned, if not worried, that like, ‘What is going on?’” he said.

Choudhry said he hopes the initiative draws attention to similarities between non-Muslims and Muslims — he mentioned his family’s interest in skiing and snowboarding and love for Tim Hortons coffee.

Skiing?

Snowboarding?

WTF? It’s like the Choudhry family is just like other families all across the globe. Imagine that. I think Greg could benefit from meeting a Muslim family.

The source of most of the world's craziness

Pushing forward

According to Merriam-Webster, diversity is defined as “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc”. A diverse workforce, for instance, is one in which you find people of varied backgrounds and with varied physical qualities. For many, diversity is thought of in terms of race or sexual orientation, but it goes far beyond that. According to Loden and Rosener, there are two main dimensions to diversity. Within the primary dimension are unchangeable characteristics, such as race, age, ethnicity, physical qualities, sexual orientation, and gender (the last one is changeable however–gender is not an innate quality of an individual, it is a social construct; despite the fact that one can change their gender, that is no basis for the discrimination or oppression of trans people and if you think it is, you are a shithead). The secondary dimension consists of those qualities that are not inherent. These more malleable characteristics include parental status, religious beliefs, income, education, and military experience (via Arizona.edu; source: Loden, M, & Rosener, J. (1991). Workforce America!: Managing Employee Diversity as a Vital Resource. Homewood , IL: Business One Irwin.)

That’s what diversity is, but why is it important? Why should it matter that queer people desire better representation in comic books? Why does it matter that this years Academy Award nominees were a sea of white faces? Why are people so happy that the next Ghostbusters movie will feature an all-female cast?

Other people matter. That’s why.

For too long the message from society has been that the only stories that matter, the only experiences that matter, are those of male, European-American, cisgender, heterosexuals (MEACHs). That is not true. It has never been true (though many people think it is). Recognizing that all humans have dignity and that we all matter means that our stories matter. Our histories matter. Our experiences matter. Maybe they don’t matter to MEACHs (though certainly there are many in that group who value the lives, stories, and experiences of others), but the world doesn’t consist of, nor does it revolve around that group. Unfortunately, for too long in USAmerica, almost everything has catered to the desires and wishes of MEACHs.  The overwhelming majority of movies produced by Hollywood have reinforced the idea that the only people who matter are MEACHs. Our politicians have been and largely continue to be predominately MEACHs. For a long time in this country our workforce was dominated by MEACHs. The protections of the government were extended only to MEACHs for much of our history. In effect, the message sent by U.S. society is that unless you were a cisgender, heterosexual, white male, you did not matter.

Thankfully, that is changing.

Hollywood for instance, is beginning to see that there is market for and money to be made in movies featuring women.

THR reported Aug. 2 that Sony wants to launch a female-led reboot of Ghostbusters from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. Two days later, the studio said it is targeting 2017 for a woman superhero film set in the Spider-Man universe. Marvel Studios, whose Guardians of the Galaxy lured a 44 percent-female audience on opening weekend (the biggest share of any Marvel film) is said to be close to greenlighting a Black Widow pic forScarlett Johansson. And The Expendables producer Avi Lernersaid Aug. 4 he wants to shoot a female spinoff Expendabelles in 2015 (Sylvester Stallone says he wants Sigourney Weaver to star).

Even as U.S. box office is down about 18 percent this summer, women and girls are driving some of the biggest success stories, including Maleficent ($727.5 million globally), The Fault in Our Stars ($263 million worldwide) and Lucy(a $43.9 million U.S. opening). They follow female-fronted smashes The Hunger Games and Frozen. “It used to be people would look at the success of individual titles and look at them as being the exception to the rule,” says Columbia president of production Hannah Minghella. “But I don’t think we can think that way anymore.”

Of course there is resistance to Hollywood’s diversity initiatives. The Manosphere (helpful glossary here) is filled with whiny, entitled douchenozzles.  These people (largely MEACHs) weren’t happy to hear about an all-female Ghostbusters movie.  While some tried to mask their sexism behind complaints like “Hollywood is ruining our childhood” and “what about nostalgia” and “women aren’t funny, how can they be Ghostbusters”, it’s plain to my eye, that they are really whining because they aren’t the only ones being catered to any longer.

“Our childhoods”. Really? As if your childhood is magically going to be retconned and your memories will be wiped. Your childhood still remains the same. The movie you watched as a kid hasn’t changed. Your memories haven’t changed. Nor will they. So stop your whining you spoiled, petulant brats. The world does not revolve around you.

Diversity in Hollywood can be seen in the upcoming Aquaman movie, featuring Jason Momoa in the title role. In the comic books, Aquaman has always been a MEACH (just like the target audience), but Momoa is Hawaiian (Kanaka Maoli to be exact).  When the Aquaman movie hits in 2018, children and adults of Hawaiian background will get to see themselves represented on the big screen, something that is, to say the least, quite rare. Not only that, but they’ll get to see themselves represented in a heroic manner.  This-diversity-is a good great thing and Momoa is excited, not just for himself, but his kids:

“It’s awesome as an actor to know what your future is going to be because I have children and I’ve busted my ass to put food on the table,” he says. “It’s awesome knowing that I’m going to be in Justice League because my son is the biggest Batman fan and my daughter loves Wonder Woman. It’ll be cool for them to see me in something because they’re not going to be watching Game of Thrones or Red Roadanytime soon, but now they can see Daddy kicking ass in IMAX.”

Momoa joins fellow ass-kickers The Rock and Vin Diesel as a new breed of ethnically ambiguous action hero. As a Hawaiian, it wasn’t easy for Momoa to break into Hollywood.

“I’ve had to bust ass to be in this industry. A lot of things are very black and white,” he says. “Aquamanis especially cool because being a Kanaka Maoli—being Hawaiian—our Gods are Kanaloa and Maui, and the Earth is 71 percent water, so I get to represent that. And I’m someone who gets to represent all the islanders, not some blond-haired superhero. It’s cool that there’s a brown-skinned superhero.”

Yes, it is cool. In large part because it will show that heroes can come in all races and ethnicities, not just European-Americans. This is only one step, however.  Other important steps: Cyborg, starring Ray Fisher, due in 2020 and Black Panther, featuring Chadwick Boseman, in 2017.  Four examples do not, of course, magically make Hollywood more diverse.  Beyond superheroes and beyond increasing the on-screen presence of People of Color, women, and other minority groups, Hollywood needs more Black, Asian, Latino, and female directors, screenwriters, producers and more. Then there are the supremely underrepresented groups in Hollywood, like trans people, people with mental or physical disabilities,  More. More. More. Don’t stop until Hollywood accurately reflects USAmerica, rather than just MEACHs.

The comic book industry is another area in the United States that needs to diversify. Traditionally the domain of MEACHs, mainstream USAmerican comics have diversified somewhat over the last 15 years. There are an increasing number of women creating comics. There are an increasing number of female-led comic books (for instance, Marvel currently produces Thor, Angel: Asgard’s Assassin, Storm, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, Spider-Gwen, Silk, and an all-female team of X-Men; She-Hulk and Elektra were cancelled recently).  Despite this, things in the land of USAmerican comics are far from perfect, and one young girl recently decided to express her dissatisfaction with DC Comics:

The letter reads:

Dear DC comics,
My name is Rowan and I am 11 years old. I love superheroes and have been reading comics and watching superhero cartoons and movies since I was very young. I’m a girl, and I’m upset because there aren’t very many girl superheroes or movies and comics from DC.
For my birthday, I got some of your Justice League Chibis™. I noticed in the little pamphlet that there are only 2 girl Chibis, and 10 boys. Also, the background for the girl figures was all pink and purple.
I remember watching Justice League cartoons when I was really young with my dad. There are Superman and Batman movies, but not a Wonder Woman one. You have a Flash TV show, but not a Wonder Woman one. Marvel Comics made a movie about a talking tree and raccoon awesome, but you haven’t made a movie with Wonder Woman.
I would really like a Hawkgirl or Catwoman or the girls of the Young Justice TV show action figures please. I love your comics, but I would love them a whole lot more, if there were more girls.
I asked a lot of the people I know whether they watched movies or read books or comics where girls were the main characters, they all said yes.
Please do something about this. Girls read comics too and they care.
Sincerely, Rowan.

This letter expresses the feelings of many comic book fans.  A DC Comics rep responded on Twitter:

Despite the advances made in the comic book industry (which, btw, is more than just Marvel and DC; I focus on them because they are the Big 2 publishers and put out the vast majority of comic books on the racks), there is still a long way to go and the bigwigs at Marvel and DC are not the only ones who realize this.  BOOM! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie says he wants to help push comics forward:

It’s Keith Giffen’s fault. I keep telling people that he talked me into it in a dive bar on L.A.’s west side. But the truth is that I started this company out of the spare bedroom in my apartment because I couldn’t believe the guy that created Rocket Raccoon thought I could do it. Maybe we could bring something to comics that hadn’t been there before?

I’ve loved comics since 1976. I never thought I’d publish them. Sure, I’d worked with giants of the field, including Barry Windsor-Smith, Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, Walter Simonson, and others too numerous to mention, when I was a young marketing turk at Malibu Comics 20 years ago. But me, publish comic books? You’re crazy.

So it’s 10 years later now. Comics publishers don’t often make it that far, do they? We should do a victory lap right now.

But who wants to look backward when there’s so much more cool stuff around the bend?

Let’s talk about the future.

Have you ever had a friend that shared a lot of your interests, but they didn’t read comics? You gave them Watchmen, you gave them Y: The Last Man, you gave them X-Men. But nothing stuck. They liked the idea of comics, but there wasn’t a comic book that felt like it was made for them…

Let’s go make that comic book for them. Together. As fans, as creators, as retailers, as the press, as publishers. All of us. Let’s talk about how we can allPush #ComicsForward. Because comic books should be for everyone.

We know where we’ve been—our favorite eras, our favorite characters, our favorite runs. We already know all of that. I’ve got a garage full of Silver, Bronze, Copper, and Modern Age comics and I love them.

But the medium of comics has never been more on the forefront of driving pop culture and as fans of this art form, we have a rare opportunity to take that interest to the next level and embrace an entire generation of potential fans who don’t read comics right now.

We can make a new Golden Age.

At BOOM!, we’ve carefully selected new projects in 2015 that we believe will help Push #ComicsForward. These projects will take on risky subject matter, introduce new characters from diverse backgrounds, and debut a swath of new creative voices to the industry.

Just in the first few months of 2015, we’ve launched a gaming-inspired humor comic in Munchkin, two projects that tackle the complex climate in the Middle East with Burning Fields and The Realist, five series with unique female leads (Curb Stomp, HaloGen, Cluster, Help Us! Great Warrior, and Giant Days), a period crime project (Hit: 1957), and an original graphic novel about the cutest crabs to ever start a revolution (The March of the Crabs). And we’ve only just begun. But this movement isn’t just about BOOM!, it’s about all of us. We’ll be devoting a ton of our time and energy in 2015 to work with the press, conventions, and social media channels to keep the conversation going.

If you know me, you know I’m the “Challenge Accepted!” guy. If there’s a problem that hasn’t been solved or a project that seems insurmountable, I’m the first one to jump in. This is a big challenge, but I want you to join me in taking it on.

No one thought comics targeted at All Ages was viable until KaBOOM!. Now it’s the norm. No one thought an all-female cast of characters with an all-female creative team had a shot in the Direct Market—until Lumberjanes. And who would have guessed that an oversized limited series like Memetic, starring a hearing-impaired, gay college student and a blind, African-American general about a meme-induced apocalypse, would garner rave reviews? We did.

If you believe comics are great just the way they are, this isn’t for you. If you think superheroes are the only kinds of stories worth telling in comics, this isn’t for you. But if you want to see everyone reading comics—your aunt, your co-workers, your niece, your boyfriend, that kid down the street—let’s Push #ComicsForward in 2015.

Together.

ROSS RICHIE

Founder & CEO

BOOM! Studios

This is the type of thing I want to see more of, and not just from the comic book industry. Not just from Hollywood. I want to see greater diversity everywhere. Not just for me, as a gay, black male. I want to see women represented better in society. I want to see Asian-Americans granted more prominence. I want to see the lives of Latinos treated as if they have value. As if they matter. I want to see trans people recognized as human beings with rights, and I damn sure want to see greater representation of them. Everywhere. Because they matter. That’s the lesson to be learned. Everyone matters. Not just male, European-American, cisgender, heterosexuals.

Pushing forward

Shattering unconscious biases

More than once in my life I’ve had someone remark “I didn’t know you were gay” or “There’s nothing gay about you. I’d have never guessed.” Statements of that nature reflect the biases about gay people held by that individual. There is no visual characteristic defining all gay people. We’re not a monolithic entity all acting the same. We are human beings with a diverse background and beliefs who express their sexuality in a variety of ways (with some choosing not to express their sexuality). Being surprised that I’m gay or saying there’s nothing gay about me is saying “Your expression of sexuality does not comport with how I think gay people act” (it’s also treating heterosexuality as the default). It’s that thinking right there that needs to be challenged. Gay people don’t “act” in any specific way that would allow someone to recognize their sexuality (just to be clear, I’m talking about engaging in everyday activities like going to the gym, the grocery store, or interacting with employees on the job. I’m not talking about holding hands with a significant other, kissing them, or otherwise acting in a way that signals one’s sexuality).

I’ve also had some personal experience with implicit racial biases. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told “You’re so well-spoken” or “You are eloquent”. Rarely have I heard those words directed at others, so what made me so special? For years, that question lingered at the back of my mind. Then I learned that many people hold unconscious beliefs about black people, and one of those beliefs is that African-Americans don’t speak correctly. While I’m not entirely sure what speaking correctly means, I know it involves enunciating words and speaking clearly (to be honest, I suspect it’s a criticism of black people for not speaking like white people). Here’s the thing though:  all black people don’t speak the same.  Shocker, I know.

It’s implicit biases like those above that need to be shattered so that people can come to view TBGL people, women, and People of Color as people, rather than a collection of stereotypes. In a recent post, I wrote about the importance of diversity initiatives in combating racial stereotypes. One of the suggestions I had was for Hollywood to cast more PoC in non-stereotypical leading or supporting roles. Whether a live-action movie or television show or an animated series, presenting People of Color in a positive role can help shatter unconscious racial stereotypes. What type of positive role?

How about a wealthy globe-trotting black woman who becomes a superhero after acquiring a mystical amulet that allows her to channel the abilities of any animal on the planet?

It looks like DC’s team of TV heroes is growing by one more: Vixen. According to KSiteTV CW a Vixen animated series which will debut this fall on its digital-only channel was announced by the CW at the Television Critics Association event Sunday. The project is being headed up by Arrow‘s Marc Guggenheim, and will reportedly be tied into the DC television continuity shared by Arrow and The Flash.

Originally created back in 1978 by Gerry Conway and Bob Oksner, Vixen is primarily known as a team member of books like Justice League and Suicide Squad. In current comics continuity, she has been a member of both Justice League International and the main Justice League team. She’s made several appearances in various DC animated shows, from Justice League Unlimited to Batman: The Brave and the Bold and even a cameo in Teen Titans Go!.

Guggenheim explained to CBR that the series is initially planned for six episodes, and will be set in Detroit as a homage to the Justice League in the 1980s. The writer/producer said Vixen will be an origin story with heavy magical elements, in constrast to Arrow being crime-based and The Flash being science-based. Arrow writers Brian Ford Sullivan and Keto Shimizu will be joining Guggenheim on Vixen, but said the voice-casting of the title character hasn’t been finalized. Guggenheim did say that The Flash‘s Grant Gustin and Arrow‘s Stephen Amell would voice their own characters in the animated series.

While I envisioned more roles for People of Color on the big or small screen rather than digital (I worry that a digital-only series won’t reach many viewers, but I really don’t have anything to base this feeling on), this is still a step in the right direction.

Shattering unconscious biases