I can see that I am going to have to make the comics.
And you see, I don’t want to make the comics. Making the comics is hard work. I don’t want to have to struggle with chasing down artists who have disappeared into the ether. I don’t want to have to wander through message board after message board begging someone to work with me. I don’t want to deal with hours of research and proofreading. I don’t want to go back to eating ramen noodles, putting quarters in jars, and not having enough money to eat at Chez Applebees.
But the comics need to be made. Why? Because black and Latino girls are reading—a lot. They’re piling onto trains and buses with colorful little paperbacks tucked into their pockets. And these colorful little paperbacks are full of garbage—pandering, materialistic, gangster bullshit. They contain tall tales where women are lucky to find a man who isn’t too abusive and treats her akin to a high-priced call girl; stories where girls don’t save the day by fighting the bad guys, they survive another day by fucking them.
Does anyone care that these girls are reading garbage? Does anyone care that these girls are spending their lunch money on victim-instruction manuals? Of course not. No one is concerned about what is read by Keisha or Jazmine when everyone is focused on fighting over which company will provide the most entertainment geared exclusively to Jane and Sue. What will they buy? Supergirl? Spiderman Loves Mary Jane? Runaways? The Plain Janes? Or perhaps one of the hundreds of manga volumes I must climb over to get anything done?
It’s not that those books aren’t lovely. I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of them. But those creative teams slaving away at their desks and those marketing teams taking meetings in their glass towers have a certain vision of the girl who is going to save the day and of the girl who is going to buy the book about the girl saving the day. Neither one of those girls is going to be wearing Apple Bottoms jeans, Reebok sneakers, and nameplate earrings. And they damn sure aren’t going to have names like Jazmine and Keisha. Because no one gives a damn about Jazmine and Keisha.
But me. And approximately five other people. And only four of them are creating comics. And only one of them is currently creating comics that Jazmine and Keisha can pick up and see characters they inspire (and can be inspired by). Make that two. Because now I see that I have to make the comics, comics where Jazmine and Keisha are more than just the perpetual support team for some other ingenue or superhero with less melanin or a Y-chromosome.
You see, I was doing the next best thing—complaining. And I thought that my complaints would inspire someone else to make the comics. Because there are a ton of people out there with infinitely more talent and monetary resources than I possess, people who already have an established reputation and a publishing house that adores them. I don’t. However, they don’t care. I do. And they are clueless about how to reach these girls. I’m not.