It’s been an incredible few years for Boom and Image. Titles like Lumberjanes, Sex Criminals, Teen Dog, Wicked + Divine, Bee and Puppycat, Saga, the Boom Box 2014 Mix Tape, Zero… I think you get the point. Many of the best monthly titles are being produced by these two companies, and I would argue that some of those titles are responsible for an increase in comics readers who aren’t straight white dudes, which has led to a call for greater diversity in comics – diversity of creators and of characters.
Comics has been a white boys’ playground for so long, but things look to be changing, albeit slowly. Marvel and DC titles are getting better about featuring leads beyond white boys in capes and tights, and while it’s taking a bit more time for diversity to hit on the other side of the page, dismantling decades of power held by a bunch of entrenched white dudes who prefer the good old days isn’t easy. Oni has opened up their submission process and will hopefully have an increased diversity of titles and creators as a result. Boom has launched their “Push Comics Forward” campaign trying to bring more diversity to the medium.
Image… well, Image has diversity problems that come from the publisher returning to their roots as a place for Marvel and DC creators to cash in on original comics; as such, Image gets stuck with all of Marvel and DC’s diversity baggage. The white boys are popular from successes at the Big Two, the white boys will sell books based on their name alone, and the white boys get published by Image. But even then, books like Island are looking to circumvent that Marvel/DC to Image ladder, and the optimist in me wants to believe in the idealized Image Comics, where anyone can make it big, more than the reality.
But if we want lasting change, publishers need to take a stand on what content they will and won’t publish.
Image needs to stop talking about how they are excited about the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and repping a rainbow profile picture on Twitter and Facebook while publishing transphobic comics.
Boom needs to think twice about publishing a comic like Strange Fruit written by a couple of white dudes while claiming to “push comics forward” on the diversity front.
I can understand why Boom Founder and CEO Ross Richie may not have linked J.A. Micheline’s evisceration of Waid and Jones’ comic, but I also can’t help but sigh when I see Richie’s Twitter account linking to high praise of the issue while waving that PUSH COMICS FOWARD banner across the top and remaining oblivious to the hypocrisy.
You don’t have to dig too deep to find disappointments at comics publishers, but few of them are waving rainbow flags and preaching equality like Boom and Image while simultaneously publishing offensive comics by some old white dudes (who are then regularly defended by more old white dudes). Sincerity is one of the most valuable currencies in the modern era, and publishers like Boom and Image could use to bank some of it.
UPDATE FROM SDCC:
Boom continues to push comics forward as Mark Waid claims that social media has given a voice to folks who aren’t pasty white guys:
— LibrariNerd (@LibrariNerd) July 11, 2015
Yet seems eager to join Boom in ignoring or disregarding those voices when they are critical of something like Strange Fruit.