Black and bled.

The “Blood on the Tracks: Where Are the New Black Comics Writers?” thread at Bleeding Cool, uniquely disturbing and depressing, hits all of the major beats: allusions to black inferiority as the reason for the absence of black writers (“I’d rather have quality writers,” “Perhaps there weren’t any black writers good enough”); demands for one to prove the comics industry has been impacted by institutionalized racism (“Name me one instance where a black writer has been blackballed,” “Numbers don’t mean anything,” “That’s anecdotal”); off-topic demands for African Americans to explain elements of American culture the poster finds distasteful (“Why do you call yourself African Americans? You’re the descendants of slaves!” “Why aren’t you fighting the lack of white people in rap music? Isn’t that racism?”); the admonishment of black writers for not continuing to try to find work at companies where they’ve historically had a radically limited presence; the declaration that there are no black writers available; and finally, claims that black people simply aren’t interested in the storytelling medium that is sequential art.

The mainstream comics community (consumers, creators, editors, and management) does not wish to see its status quo change—and I no longer see a reason to incite ire by forcing my way into a community to question why it will not. It is exhausting and pointless for me to do so. Nor do I see any reason for talented writers who share my race to wait by doors that will not open when there are crowdfunding sites and smaller independent companies available that are amenable to them. A black writer no longer has to leave the comics industry to find work. A consumer can develop her own discussion group upon finding herself unwelcome in the mainstream comics community—or she can join one of the existing comics communities not only hospitable to women, but dominated by them. Kickstarter has provided the opportunity for talented black women to share their stories and Twitter and Tumblr allow us all the opportunity to talk about it.

The mainstream comics community has not changed for black writers. But there are welcoming communities that have flourished around it—communities with editors that invite black writers to pitch, with sales representatives that promote the work of all their creators equally, and with enthusiastic fans who wish to hear stories from a wide variety of cultural viewpoints. (Hi! I am one of those fans!) To dismiss these arenas—arenas where talented black writers are sought after, appreciated, and are currently working—due to the lack of a recognizable logo is madness.

I do not wish to silence anyone fighting for major comic companies to consider black writers for employment. But I believe it is vital for black writers to know that there places outside the mainstream where they are wanted and would not be alone.


Quick edits.

Gail Simone asked a fabulous question on Twitter. My thoughts?

I think an editor has a greater responsibility than just making sure the “trains run on time.” An editor must make sure the work is correct grammatically and visually. But, as importantly, an editor must make sure the story makes sense. And not just that the single issue makes sense, but that it fits the ongoing continuity. And if you are working at Marvel or DC, there is the added responsibility of protecting the brand and your Rolodex—a narrow tightrope to walk. You are an ambassador to three worlds—the creator’s, the salesman’s, and the consumer’s—and must satisfy the needs of all. As an aside, just as Jeff Parker stated that a good writer must stop being a “fan,” it is necessary for the editor to stop being one as well. You cannot be personally invested as a fan would be. You must be able to pull back and view the material objectively. No identification. To be able to pull back is key in order to identify flaws in the tapestry and suggest revisions. To pull back allows for more creative freedom, free rein to try new things. Fewer instances of “Batman wouldn’t do that.”

In comics, an editor assumes multiple roles—talent scout, copy editor, salesman, researcher, critic, and creative consultant. If you’ve been lucky enough to discover a good one? Hold on tight.