Diversity in Comics

Let no voice be silenced.

When it comes to creative fiction, I do not believe in any form of censorship.

Anyone active on social media lately sees a comic industry truly suffering and divided. Have people who live in other mediums, people with agendas of social engineering, hijacked the medium, or are we experiencing the growing pains of a maturing society and new creative renaissance? Niether… both…

Hell if I know… I’m just a writer.

But there’s something in the argument I see frequently on social media I personally find very disturbing. People on both sides of the divide throwing authors under the bus, not for what they’ve written, but merely for who they are.

I’m a story guy.

That’s what I know, what I teach. And the truth is…

Like Justice, Story is blind.

Story is indifferent when it comes to its author.

You see, genuine story is the exploration of truth through change. And the reality is, a story is either true or untrue whether in mass or at the individual level.

There’s no simple way around it. Genuine story is about the human condition. A complex, dynamic system… But in all the years I’ve been around, everyone I’ve ever met, have all been human. We’re all dealing with the same fundamental issues. (All good writers know, the deeper you dig, the more universal the appeal.)

After all, we are all unique expressions of the same source material.

And none of us own this, human condition. We each have a voice to express life as we live, feel, hear and see it. And when the expression comes in creative fiction, the story doesn’t care who we are.

There is no criteria of race, gender, age, political view, sexual orientation (or a myriad of other traits) that when once met, equates to a genuine story.

The story creates it’s own life. It’s own universe. And it either rings true… or it doesn’t.

Believing that a certain type of person is the only one able to deliver a genuine story, is like saying;

  • Only teachers can write good fiction about teachers…
  • Or only cops can write good detective novels…
  • Or only serial killers can write good slasher movies…

It’s nonsense.

Genuine story doesn’t come from an author’s driver’s license or voter registration card.

The truth is in the story itself…

 

For a little social experiment, I went onto social media and publicly requested submissions of exactly one comic book panel. For a more coherent comparison, I offered four different genre writing prompts–a benchmark of direction–Horror (the most popular), Sci-fi, Fantasy and Comedy.

I gave complete creative control, left the format completely open and did not edit the entries in any fashion.

Below I present the results of this request.

The submissions came in from:
men, women, Nigerian/Dominican/Irish, Latina, Caucasian, Hispanic/Latino, straight, homosexual, bisexual, nonbinary, Christian, Wiccan, Liberal/Left, Politically Centered, Left Leaning, Political Agnostic, Discodianist/Taoist, Libertarian, Agnostic, Republican, Democrat.

Can you tell which entries reflect the authors of these traits?

Or can you only glimpse the truth of the story these panels present, and effectiveness of the writer?

 

Submission #1:

Page 1 – 1 panel

Panel 1

Full page – A moody piece with deep shadows and a single source of light coming from the a huge full moon peeking over the mountains. Skeletal trees devoid of leaves border a long rough trail which leads up to a decrepit manor house perched on the top of a steep hill. In the manor house we can see a single window is light and the figure of a curvaceous woman is silhouetted in the window looking down. The woman is holding papers in one hand and a candle in the other.

In the foreground is a lake with a small moss covered dock. Leaving from the dock is a boat. A huge man in patched overalls with a cap pulled down over his eyes is pushing the boat away from the dock using a long pole. In the man’s coveralls we should be able to see a bundle of papers, and the words on the paper ‘LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT’. Hanging out of the boat is a body wrapped in plastic.

  1. NAR: You’d think the amount ah time I’ve spent in the joint
  2. NAR: I would ah twigged to it sooner.
  3. NAR: Curvy blond. Husband helping a guy down on his luck.
  4. NAR: Months of being played and it came to this.
  5. NAR: I guess I figured it out about the same time he did…
  6. Man: Nah…
  7. Man: I figured it out sooner.

Submission #2:

Panel 1

Scene is centred on a table in a booth in a bar. The only light is from a hanging lamp with a dental metal shade. The light reveals the dingy, stained surface of the table in harsh detail. There are three people at the table. They are barely visible at the edge of the cone of light thrown by the lamp. The human character on the left is leaning slightly into the light. He looks tough, angry, and exhausted. He’s sneering and pointing at the two Trogs sitting on the right across the table from him. The Trogs are leaning back and out of the light. In the shadow their faces appear distorted and monstrous.

There is a metal box on the table in front of the two Trogs. It’s bloodstained and dirty. One of the Trogs is resting a scarred and diseased-looking hand on the top of the box.

TROG 1           <No deal>

HUMAN          Yeah. Well, how bout I just shoot you both and take it?

TROG 2           <Then you will die.>

TROG 1           < Just like your partner.>

HUMAN          …

HUMAN          My partner?


Submission #3:

Panel 1:

Ext. Lakeside- Twilight.

A landscape of the rowboat on the lake with a reflection of the full moon shining in the water.

Man: What in the….?

The bloody body is barely seen in the panel as it is an overview type of establishing shot.


Submission #4:

Panel 1
Wide shot. In the background, to the left, we have a victorian style old mansion. In the middle ground a lake, and the caretaker, a middle age man with a resciding hairline, coming from the left to the right in a rowboat, with what clearly is a corpse wrapped in plastic right behind him, one of his hands in his chest, the paddle it was holding floating away in the surface of the lake, the other hand holding the other paddle. His eyes are wide and his face is shocked. In the foreground, we have a few branches of willow trees.


Submission #5:

SOPHIE DELACROIX is a brisk African-American in her 40s, and the mansion is also home to her early teens son ALEX. The austere feel of the family chapel – wooden beams, stark pews, large portraits of pale gaunt ancestors with red hair – contrasts with the rich colours worn by mother and son. Sophie and Alex are poor but take pride in their appearance. Their outfits would be unremarkable in any city but are shocking to the ladies and gentlemen in picture frames around them. Sophie dusts the keys of a pump organ. Alex listens to music on earphones, arms outstretched.
CAPTION Six generations of Cadwalladers have prayed here. The air is thick with their troubled fervor.

Submission #6:

This panel can work as either a splash page or a 1⁄3 – 1⁄2 size of a page whichever is most comfortable. It’s daytime but cloudy outside the ​castle balcony​, the weather is akin to that of Skyfall, Scotland. The priest is at the center of the panel, ​the bride and groom to be​ are on the left and right side of the panel respectively as both armies (gold and silver intermingled) are in the background showing the magnitude of both kingdoms justifying the unconventional yet important nature of the wedding. The priest hunched over clinching his hand in pain as there’s a flaming silver tipped arrow through it. The wedding bands are fumbling in the air,​ the bride to be looks shocked with her hands out trying to catch the rings while while ​the groom to be​ looks straight at the reader utterly pissed ready to draw his sword. Both their eyes are glowing copper. At the bottom of the panel there’s an ​out of frame​ dual speech bubble from the real couple that says.

BOTH: STOP RIGHT THERE DEMONS!!


Submission #7:

INT. Galactic Center Bar level – 11:50 The bar is packed with various species and machines all drinking together. A group of purple soldier argue with a group of brown Aliens wearing pirated gear. Johnny sits at a booth across from two pale faced Trog. One is missing an eye and the other had facial scars and piercing everywhere. Johnny scratched his head and took a long drag of his cigarette. Both Trogs stare Johnny down.

Johnny Narration: My blaster hand always gets twitchy in these sort of situations.

In a raspy growl, the first Trog says.

Trog 1: I heard you went to a lot of trouble to get this product.

Johnny: Hey! As long as I got it, that should be the only thing that matters right?

Johnny chuckles a bit. Johnny noticed that one of their hands sits motionless under the table. He takes a deep breath, and sigh.

Johnny: Listen guys, you seem like nice…alien lifeforms? But is this really necessary? I’m just here for the crystal, that’s all. Trog two snorts

Trog 2: Crystal of this amount is really hard to come by.

Trog 1: How about you just hand over the case and we’ll be on our way?

Trog 2: We won’t ask again. Johnny hears two distinct clicks come from under the table. He scratches his head and sighs again.


Submission #8:

From a screen, a chair with a life-like armrest and what appears to be a large taxidermy red fox looking at a monitor full of the assassins doing a number of actions. Three assassins are held in a standoff with their guns pointed at each other. “Click!” Says one of the assassins. One person is tying one of the gunpoint assassin’s shoelaces together. Another assassin is getting drunk off a cocktail of the infected punch and vodka. “Tastes like heaven!” One of the party goers is trying to flirt with another. “You know, I’m glad that I don’t remember you. It lets me get to know you all over again.” A couple assassins are messing with a display car. A scrambled disembodied voice from the monitor room says: “This is going to be fun.”


Submission #9:

Panel 1

Several assassins are crowded in a room pointed weapons at each other. The room is very spacey with a mini water fountain on the table in the background where the punch bowl resides. A bartender should be pouring punch into someone’s cup. There is 3 assassins who are having a stare down in a small area of the room. A woman should be shower a tech to a guy from afar. James a muscular built African American man with dreads stands in front of 2 other men with weapons drawn. Tim an average built Caucasian man and Zhun a thin built with short cut hair. Tim should look agitated while he is talking to the guys. Zhun is holding on to his phone in his hand. James with a nonchalant expression looking around the area with his hand on his gun.

James: I’m not sure why I’m here but I got something to do tomorrow. Like I know I’m supposed to be looking for someone.

Tim: Look guys relax okay. We don’t want to be so dramatic. Let’s think about this.

Zhun: Dramatic! Dude my band is running late I’m supposed to hit the stage in 5 minutes.

James: Band. I don’t think anyone expected a freaking show bud.


Submission #10:

Panel 1

The princess stands facing the prince (and camera behind him). Those immediately around the bride and groom explode with happy enthusiasm. Everyone seems overjoyed but the princess. Her face looks somewhat solemn, while peering off to the side out of the corners of her eyes.

PRINCESS: (THOUGHT) It’s for the people, Leia. A queen must make sacrifices…

PRINCESS: (THOUGHT) And there are perks to being Queen. My ladies-in-waiting will never be far… My love, Ariana will never be far.


Where you see race, gender, sexual orientation, and other specific human traits in the writing, does that alone tell you who wrote the piece?

Does knowing who wrote the piece somehow make the work valid or invalid–Is it valid if the person reflects the subject they’re writing about? Instantly invalid if it makes no such reflection?

I was born and raised in NYC. Does that mean any story I write about NYC is genuine and worth of praise? Or does the story itself prove its own validity?

Interestingly, I deliberately left the nature of the characters in the writing prompts I presented, generic… I made no inference of gender, race, or other human characteristics. I left that up to the writers, and amazingly people took different approaches. Most presenting characters that did not reflect their own personal physical, mental and spiritual characteristics.

Writers creating a fictional world apart from their own personal selves… Putting forth a story that either stands or falls on its own legs.

For those of you wanting to twist my arm for an opinion…

The way I see it, at the end of the day, we are bigger than the labels the internet uses to define us. We need to be bigger than these labels. To focus on the story. To celebrate our differences and different experiences. To let each covet the truths they hold dear and respect them for it.  If we don’t… and perhaps do it faster than we might think… The robots are gonna have a much easier time taking over.

Of course there are political and socioeconomical sides to the current division in comics–we don’t exist in a vacuum. There are other facets to the conversation besides content and nature of the story alone, but that’s a whole other article…

One that should probably be written by people smarter than me… I’m just the story guy.

Special thanks to Dorphise Jean, Adrian Reynolds, Carols Reyes, Scott Davis, Michael “Max Ham” Gatti, JD King, Patricia Loupee, Andrew Lucas, Jake Palermo, and anonymous.


About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.

 

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