Digital Femme

Commentary on geek culture, race, and gender by Cheryl Lynn Eaton

Last hired, first fired.

January 12th, 2012

Today I learned of the cancellations of Mr. Terrific, Static Shock, and Black Panther: The Most Dangerous Man Alive (late to the party, I know), and the departures of Marc Bernardin and Eric Wallace from DC’s staff of writers. I jokingly referred to it as “Official Black People Pink Slip Day” in comics along with providing a couple of mildly snarky comments about the timing of the news.

“We wanted to make sure we got rid of all the black writers and solo titles before February. That would have been sooooooo awkward.”

I’m not as angry as I would have been in the past because we’ve been around this block before. But I am disappointed. I’m disappointed that DC didn’t take the careful time and planning needed to create a successful launch of these books and characters from jump. I’m disappointed that Green Arrow is rewarded with Ann Nocenti after performing poorly and Mr. Terrific gets a pink slip instead of Priest. It shows a lack of faith and a lack of concern. And the constant fumbling of what should be clear and easy decisions regarding launches, sales, and marketing is just frustrating.

“And the fact that DC has cancelled Static Shock and will push a Ravagers book instead of Gen 13 is just such a boneheaded move. Static and Blue Beetle should have never started out in solo titles. They should have been part of a group book from jump to build a base. And that base should have been Gen 13, which still has name recognition a decade later. To be fair, I would have cancelled all of those books but Mr. Terrific and Men of War or Blackhawks. The two I kept would be retooled. The four books I would have added to the DC lineup would have been Gen 13, Huntress (w/Cass as the Nu52 Huntress), Lobo…and Wildcats. I don’t give a damn. I love Wildcats and I’m armchair editor here, damn it.”

Brandon Graham and I went on to develop the best Gen 13 series you’ll never get to read on Twitter this morning. Brandon and Adam Warren switch off writing duties, Emma Rios draws it, and I edit. It’s amazing and it will never exist. Sorry about that, folks. And I’ve changed my mind about the Huntress book now that I’ve realized that The Ray isn’t an ongoing…and clearly should be. Plus, the Huntress is in my imaginary Gen 13 book, which—again—is amazing.

But I’m being silly. And I shouldn’t—not completely. Because in regards to black writers receiving paid work in comics, the industry is actually regressing. A degradation is occurring as opposed to simple stagnation. And this concerns me far more than the loss of solo titles featuring black characters, especially when those characters will receive major panel time in popular team books. (If Black Panther doesn’t take a leading role in an Avengers title, I will be extremely surprised.)

If not for the wonder of self-publishing, we’d be looking at the slow silencing of the voice of an entire group. I believe we are currently down to one black writer receiving paid work in the industry, though I would be positively ecstatic to be proven wrong. Please drop me an email, if so. If not? Tread carefully, Mr. Hinds. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. With the loss of McDuffie, I cannot think of one black person in a position of power in this industry. Yes, we all have power over our own creations, but that is not akin to the type of power held by those who can launch successful lines and create multiple jobs, or who can influence large numbers within multiple industries. Do comic companies even realize how many talented black men and women are slipping through their fingers? How many are simply drifting to advertising, television, music, etc.? Do they even care? Eh, not likely.

Given the option of self-publishing, I wouldn’t care either, but many black creators simply do not have the funds to take that route (nor the option to become Kickstarter successes in an industry filled with fans that can be…difficult in regards to certain projects).

There is no way one can point to low sales as the reason for the lack of diversity in regards to black writers. An Avengers title written by Priest would sell. Detective Comics is being written by a Latino guy right now! You know how well that book is selling? Insanely well. And Batgirl certainly hasn’t suffered from Gail Simone’s estrogen levels. That book is snagging accolades left and right. So why the dearth of black writers? What’s the problem? Seriously, why is this still a problem? And why is the problem getting worse?

Digital Femme

Commentary on geek culture, race, and gender by Cheryl Lynn Eaton