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So You Want To Change Comics
Comics is an ever-changing medium, and graphic art has been on the forefront of political and social movements since its inception. From political cartoons and Cap punching Nazis to social commentary and sex, comics cover a wide variety of social and political issues. It is a subversive medium that has always managed to attract change makers and creators who want to push the envelope of art and literature.
In the last few years, the internet has grown and brought the comics community together in new ways. Comic creators are some of the most accessible artists, as cons and letters pages have always been more personal that a museum or an art show. The comics community is close-knit and intertwined— creators, retailers, fans, publishers, everyone is a moving cog in a developing industry. As this community grows, and maintains a personal aspect that is only easier to achieve with the addition of Twitter @’s and Facebook Likes, new challenges and facets of this industry arise constantly.
Recently, many of these challenges revolve around specific incidents involving certain creators or publishers. When Manara drew a back-breaking Spider-Woman, or when Nick Spencer and Marvel made Captain America an Agent of Hydra, when Image put a Pride variant cover on a Transphobic book, when creators were called out for sexual harassment, the comics community had more of a platform to react and interact with these issues than ever before. Some cry censorship, some call for industry standards. There are a thousand sides to the same coin, and everyone can get their opinion in on some platform.
Whatever side you may be on, and whatever issue you may be plagued with, it’s time to learn what you can do. So, you want to change comics. You want to play a part in this fluctuating, growing industry. You want to be an active fan. You want to boycott a comic or creator. You want to take your money and support away form the problem. You are on the right track to make a stand for your views— but you still love comics. Here are some things to consider.
Vote with Your Dollar, And Your Voice
Vote with your dollar. This is the most important lesson in navigating the Free Market. Money speaks, and its usually the loudest voice. Word of mouth, personal protest, written articles— everything makes a difference, but when it comes to publishers and high-up industry change, numbers are the best indication of worth and success. If there is a book, an artist, or a publisher you do not support, your dollar is your strongest vote toward change. Don’t buy the book. Don’t support that creator. Don’t go to that store. Don’t give them your money. Don’t cast your vote for their success.
Most importantly, though, don’t forget that positive votes are just as loud, and just as important. If you are passionate about diversity, seek out books and creators that share your values. Cast your vote for queer books, for people of color, for feminist themes, for female leads, for progressive creators— cast your vote for change. That can mean taking your dollars away form books you do not support, but it is just as impactful to give those dollars to books you do support. These books pushing the industry forward need your votes and your support to thrive. Show the industry what you value, and it will add up and create change.
An integral facet of this process that is often ignored is being vocal about your choices. We have all heard, many times and from many sources, lists of reasons why comics are failing. If you do not step out and say “I am boycotting this publisher, and not buying these books because of this specific reason”, you are contributing to a confusing array of data that allows these scapegoat explanations to flourish. Without personal testimony, all publishers have is data— and that data could show that women don’t buy comics, or that comics with queer leads don’t sell, because they don’t understand the specific reasons customers are not interested in these titles. If you would love a book with a queer lead, but are not purchasing a specific book because that queer lead was mistreated and badly represented, make that known so your intentions can be part of the solution.
Support What You Believe In
Now, the next step in the process. Remember how I mentioned that positive votes are important? When you take your money and support away from comics, there are still people in this industry relying on those dollars to survive. That’s not just for creators and publishers, it’s for your local comic shop most of all. Retailers in the comic world are in a unique, and often very uncomfortable, position. We love comics, we love this industry, and that’s why we keep shops open. Brick and mortar shops have always been the groundwork of the comics industry, and they need your support in order of that to remain true.
When you boycott a book for personal reasons and principles, we support you. A lot of the time, we agree with you. Each shop and individual employee is a cog in this industry, and we are close to the medium. However, no matter our personal opinions, we still have to sell comics. Sometimes, that means storing books we disagree with fundamentally because people still want to buy them. We need to sell Marvel, DC, Image, and a bit of everything else just to keep our doors open and serve our communities.
This is where your positive vote comes in. Consider balancing your decisions when you choose not to give money to a certain entity. If you do not want to purchase Image books, consider putting those dollars to ward a small-press title you support. If Marvel isn’t in the running for your money after certain events, consider supporting heroes from Lion Forge or Valiant instead. There are people, creators, retailers, publishers, and fans who value the same principles as you. Your vote counts in every capacity, and comic shops and creators struggling to be heard and make a difference in the industry benefit from every dollar you vote with.
That said, put your money and your Faith into what you believe in. If that’s not comics anymore, it’s understandable. But if you take time to consider the highs and possibilities this industry embodies, and you love your local shop, or have a passion for indie creators and diversity in comics, vote for that. Vote for a better future in comics, full of title that put the medium forward instead of pulling back and punching down.
To find a comic shop near you, visit www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook.
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