I’ve made confessions about wanting to see people care about characters and not just read comics for politics. Here’s an example of what I mean.
Say Storm gets a title. A bunch of people immediately run in screaming YAAAS QUEEN SLAAAY and commenting how anyone who doesn’t buy the title is racist because black female lead and any title with a black female lead must be supported automatically. Title doesn’t explore her character, has crappy art full of tangents and bad anatomy and talking heads with nonsense facial expressions, horrible indistinct dialogue, no good fights or villains, main conflict just amounts screaming about oppression and racism.
Storm is a legitimately interesting character. I want to see stories that look at what life was like for her being ostracized and poor and “too American” growing up in Africa, pursued because people want to exploit her for her powers, then at some point having a shift where she is revered as a goddess for them instead and how that shapes her every day onward. I want to see a woman who is the sum of her past, not a generic mentor and not a narrative or political tool, but someone who has experienced a lot and who is constantly learning, growing and experiencing things that challenge who she becomes. I loved the Storm run by Eric Jerome Dickey, who is a black New York Times bestselling author and enormously talented. I want more stories of that caliber, and I’d like for fellow fans to see and love Ororo for who she is, not just WHAT she is. And I want to see her face off with antagonists who aren’t evil caricatures, but who have enough truth to them and complexity that they make Ororo think about what she believes in and why, that they test her resolve and can act as personal foils as well as physical threats. I don’t want them to be exclusively men or women, mutants or non-mutants. I want her to be faced with a huge and engaging world that offers no easy answers. I want her intelligence, compassion, and justice explored in ways that are different from the intelligence, compassion, and justice of Black Panther, or of Captain America, or of Jean Gray, or of Charles Xavier.
I don’t want diverse characters settling for scraps. Fans deserve better, the characters deserve better, and there is a history of getting better too. When companies (run by mainly white guys by the way) think they can get away with delivering half-assed performances because the activists will eat it up and attack anyone who points out the performance is half-assed, going along with it lets them off the hook for giving their diverse characters LESS than they gave their majority characters in the past. It’s discrimination, the same way it’s discrimination to assume a gifted writer like Christopher Priest can only write black characters instead of being a talented writer who can write any character (including but not exclusive to black ones). A good writer can write anyone, it’s a skill that not everyone has.
And this isn’t just a race issue, it applies to women, to LGBT characters and creators, to all religions and philosophies. Every single demographic is capable of producing incredible work and has in the past, every single demographic has or can have a really interesting and worthwhile character. But that is not automatic or a guarantee.
Empowerment is not easy. Empowerment takes work and talent, critical thinking and standards. Being a victim is not empowerment and is much easier, because it involves other people (often straight white men) giving you things just for being. You don’t have real control as a victim and just have to settle for whatever charity you receive, including shit-quality scraps of stories. If you choose to empower yourself and your demographic, you are beholden to no one and get as good as you give.
This is not a call to not support diverse characters. This is a call to actually look at them, look at publication history, and raise awareness of the best work. Promote it, spend money on it, create fanart and fanfic of it, talk about it online, wave it in the faces of companies. They’re paying attention, right now in particular. When you reward the minimum effort, that’s what they think they can do. If you point out that they half-assed it and show examples of where it was up to standards, companies are forced to acknowledge quality differences instead of assuming no one wants diversity. Low quality work doesn’t sell regardless of demographic, high quality work sells if people know it exists. Marvel in particular has a history of not advertising their best diverse stories, including award winners like say Haden Blackman’s Elektra.
You don’t have to virtue signal, you can truly love something diverse down to its bones and have plenty more to talk about beyond the diversity. Why miss that opportunity?