For those of you who don't know, New York Comic Con (or NYCC) happened this past weekend. NYCC is one of the major conventions where movie studios, comic book publishers, and numerous cosplayers all collide for one amazing weekend of nerdy dopeness. Like its West coast sister in San Diego, NYCC is where you go for announcements from all of the big players in the comic book industry. 

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                                                                                    Photo: NYCC

Thursday was the kick-off of the Con, but before that many distributors hold special events for retailers and comic shop owners to give them a sneak peek of what is to come. During the Diamond Retailer's breakfast, there was an adjunct panel held with Tom Brevoort, Nick Lowe (Marvel Editor), Christina Hanigan, Charles Soule, and a few others like David Gabriel (VP of Sales) were present for questions from the retailers and luckily Bleeding Cool was there to capture it all. 

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From the initial talks, everything seemed to be going normally. Marvel announced a few new titles, they answered questions on comic structure and numbering. All standard business when it comes to these things.  But as Donald Glover once said, "And that's when… The world went crazy." Suddenly, retailers started arguing about the "female versions" of popular current characters. Two older retailers got up and started sharing how diversity in comics doesn't sell using the words "black", "homo", and "freaking females" loosely and frequently during the discussion. Nick Lowe tried his best to keep things calm and the panel was ended shortly after that. But this brings up a major issue that we all in the Blerd community have known for quite some time. Black and POC comics don't sell because retailers don't want to buy them. It is an issue that we have to address head-on because we are always fighting and scraping for basic recognition and representation in an industry where we make up the dominant dollar as a collective. POC and black readers are a major force within comics and women, in general, buy more comics than men on an average nowadays. We want to read stories that relate to us and see ourselves within them as well, why is that a difficult concept to understand? 

The interesting thing that I find here is the argument "Diversity doesn't sell comics" when the people they are telling this to built their entire comic book empire on diversity. From The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, the original Guardians of The Galaxy, Daredevil and so many other classic titles. Marvel has always pushed the envelope when it comes to storytelling of diverse and complex characters. But because most of the faces were white or orange or sometimes green and blue, they never saw it that way. I've been applauding the Marvel staff for sticking with the revamp of classic characters that we grew up with. The All-New Mighty Thor and Captain America Sam Wilson are two comics that have been on my pull list since they started. The new dynamic landscape of Marvel proves that we can progress these stories and worlds forward into brand new territories not normally explored. 

Alex Ross Marvel GENERATIONS teaser                                                                                     Photo: Marvel

This brings up a question for many people now that an incident like this has come to light, what really kills black or POC comic books? Are they really not selling or are the retailers not even adding it to the shelves for us to pick up in the first place? Let's use Storm as an example, clearly one of the most recognizable and influential characters in Marvel comics in its entirety. She has broken barriers for not only women, but black women for decades now. But, why did it take until 2014 for her to finally get a solo series? Also, why was that series only eleven issues long? The lack of sales is what is claimed to halt the series and even though she is alive and active on the X-Men team and books, there was still a lot to explore in the world of our favorite weather goddess.

Or, we can look at Black Panther and The Crew. That series was not 2 issues in before we got the word they were canceling it. It was luckily able to get four more issues and Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey were able to attempt and wrap up the story. But this happens way too often. Many people always scream at us to make our own characters and we do, but they do not put us on the shelves. Or if a major company updates a character by passing the mantle to a woman or person of color there is still an issue. What do we have left really? There is no place where white male comic readers accept our characters. I have been reading comics as long and maybe longer than the fanboys and "try-hards" that scream diversity is killing comics. I love the characters as much as they do, but I'm tired of seeing the same ten white guys save the world all the time. The new look of heroes and the modernization of the industry as a whole is desperately needed. Comics are not a boys club, we need to stop thinking that only one demographic is the driving force of this multi-million dollar industry. 

I feel there is a major need for more black, POC, and women retailers now than ever. It is hard to walk into a comic shop and feel like you don't belong. Those days should definitely be behind us. Keeping current readers and drawing new eyes is what we all should be focused on. We hear every day" Comics are dying", "Nobody is buying comic books anymore", and there some truth to that. Comic sales are on a decline but they always have been. Right now is the prime chance with the popularity of comic book characters at an all-time high. We need to move those eyes from the silver screen and the television back to the page. With new readers coming in, they will want to have something different to keep their interest and they want to see themselves in the books they pay $3.99 a pop for. Having a person who understands what you want to read and not just going by a pull list is valuable to your experience. Seeing a face behind the counter that looks like yours or at least can make you feel comfortable about asking for your books is also needed along with the diversity on the pages we read. 

I can go on about this for hours, but I won't. What was said and how those retailers acted in that panel was disgusting, but it is nothing we as Blerds already did not know. It's just finally coming from behind the curtain. What is scarier, is the fact that there were retailers of color in the room and they still felt super comfortable to throw these opinions out in front of everyone. They don't see a problem with it, and my guess is that for a black or any retailer of color witnessing the discussion, they felt outnumbered and isolated from people they thought were their peers or equals. The reporter of Bleeding Cool was totally shocked about how this all played out and a lot of people share his concern and shock, but I'm not one of them. There is always some work to be done in our community and at least admitting there is a problem needs to be the first step to fixing it.