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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A Silly Remark: What About Ethnic and Minority Diversity In My Books, Then?

I was told that, perhaps, "if" I integrated into the UK comic scene I might get more sales. Sorry, what "UK comics scene"??? There are little Small Press cliques that have really nothing to do with comics per se and, in point of fact, most of those involved have never read a comic book in their lives (so they claim).

I get on with my own work. I do not need two-faced back stabbers, silly little bully boys or their hangers on.

No comics scene.

"How about appealing to a wider readership and include more ethnic characters?"

Yes, I did respond "f**k off".  You see, that person, with those words, revealed that he had never ever read or seen a Black Tower Comic or graphic novel.

Back in the 1980s I was trying to convince UK publishers that they needed to reflect the (I hate this phrase) "ethnic diversity" of the UK.  British comic strips were still 99% "white" characters with a few token "ethnics" thrown in.  I just realised that I am going to have to check my Zenith collection because I cannot think of a single non-"white" character in it.  That can't be right.  Probably my memory.

The problem was that D.C. Thomson and IPC/Fleetway/Egmont had huge back catalogues of characters it could use and some could fill in that gap to reflect the current UK population with its diversities. But they were all stuck in a rut.  On two occasions I was told that "black kids don't read comics" back in the 1970s I used comics to teach Asian (Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) kids English and I also knew "black" kids who read comics.  I had met and talked to these people at the UK Comic Art Conventions and elsewhere.  But, no, these 2-3 hours lunch-breakers knew better.

Even at the beginning of the Black Tower small press years (1982 and 1983 writing/drawing and publications in 1984) there were "ethnic" characters.  There were a couple gay characters but people reading never knew because the characters were not introduced as "gay super hero" or "...a lesbian" they were in the stories as normal people which is what gay people are. If anyone had read Black Tower Adventure they would know of the Third Level Sorcerers Kotar and Sabuta. I find it difficult to list names but this would be one of the biggest posts ever on any blog. Freelancer in Black Tower Presents (1984) featuring a gay couple -Liz and Jen who then had their story told in Liz & Jen

Liz & Jen re-published in 2011

Take Return Of The Gods: Twilight Of The Super Heroes; action takes place around the world and features not just British characters but ones from China, Singapore and Hong Kong, Russia, India, Europe, Australia, South America and on and on.  With the current unfinished The Green Skies there are more as characters only referred to or shown in the background before are shown in more detail. When I draw I have no script. I do not do thumbnails of panels. I draw straight from mind to paper with no idea (seriously) what my mind has in store from one panel or page to the next.  I have never had to think "Hmm. Maybe I ought to put a black person into this mix?" It just does not happen.

Krakos -Sands Of Terror!

Remember that the 1940s Swann comics character (appearing in Black Tower books since the 1980s), Krakos The Egyptian is...Egyptian! We live in a multi-cultural (see, I do not mind that term!) world/society and though it would be easy to just write and draw American super heroes that would not be very satisfying.  Why shouldn't Russia, the Ukraine, China, India or any other country have costumed or masked crime-fighters?

I have written about British super heroes as well as German ones so I'll not cover that here -who said "Thank god for that!"??

Here's an oddity, though.  Quite a few people were surprised when I mentioned Bristol super heroes. There are Bristolian super heroes??  The stalwart of Black Tower Comics has always been the Bristol born and bred Avenger.  Created in the late 1960s, the Avenger has featured in his own strips as well as teaming up with Jon Future -and being part of big events in the BTCU.  There are others.  Like Stan Lee has said and written: you base your characters where you know about. So, Bristol was the focal point. Again, locations and landmarks in and around Bristol have been shown in the comics over the years.

So, you mix in that cultural diversity with British mythology and legends and you have the right set up.

Chung Ling Soo Man Of Mystery

The thing is, you cannot make people buy.  The books are there. The stories and characters are there. The prices were trimmed down as low as I could get them from 2010-2016 and there were several special offers over that period. No one purchased a copy of a book.  Let's not go into that because I have already covered the matter.

People want to be insulted by the current DC and Marvel output then let be. Apart from the anthology (Black Tower Adventures) all stories are self contained and you do not have to buy cross-overs. There isn't going to be a reboot. Characters who sadly die stay dead.

It comes down to finding decent, intelligent readers who want good fun stories and who will make me rich.

The Return Of The Gods:Twilight of the Super Heroes

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