How DC Comics Has Failed to Support Black Voices

Dc comics has failed to support black voices and people of color consistently over the past 3 years. Classic black characters are pushed to the side and new black characters are ignored after their mini-series is over. On top of that, DC has been too hesitant to focus on characters of color because they are convinced fans don’t want diversity. There is a systemic problem with the editorial staff at DC that leads me to have little faith in their ability to produce any real change.

Remember when Cyborg became a founding member of the Justice League? Following the first arc of Justice League (2011) fans thought DC was ready to diversify and really celebrate their black characters. A black character founded the justice league and despite some fan backlash, Cyborgs inclusion made big headlines. But what happened since then with Cyborg? Cyborg’s impact in Justice League waned over time, Cyborgs solo series have consistently been critically panned, and the Justice League movie severely mishandled Cyborgs storyline. By all accounts, Cyborg is just a token black character. He is a character who gets included for the appearance of diversity. Originally, this wasn’t the case, with Cyborg’s story having deeper meaning. However lately in the comics, Cyborg’s only significant change is him becoming a super powerful police officer and oppressor of the lost sector with no free will under the reign of darkseid. While Justice League Odyssey has been a strong comic for a Jessica Cruz, DC’s highest profile black character has been repeatedly ignored.

On screen, DC has been very supportive of African Americans. Black lightning fully embraces the struggles and triumph of black communities and deals with the topic of police brutality in disheartening and terrifying ways. Black Lightning is the Black Panther of TV. A critically acclaimed show that embraces the struggles and hardships consistent with the black lives matter movement. Doom Patrol handles Cyborg wonderfully, telling a nuanced tale of Cyborg’s story as he figures out who he is and comes to terms with his father. The arrow verse created new characters like Diggle and included black heroes and characters like Wild dog, Mr. Terrific, Martian Manhunter, Iris, Luke fox, and more. While some of these characters aren’t traditionally black, these race-bender characters have still tackled and shown of issues of white privilege, and even simple things like letting Iris wear her natural hair style. The TV shows have done an excellent job handling people of color, but the comics are still sorely lacking.

Not one character I’ve mentioned in this article has a solo title. Cyborg only has presence in a Justice League story where the name of the title can boost sales. Black lighting leads a team in a comic, but Batman is the first word in the title. In all of DC Comics line-up only one superhero solo comic focuses on a black character: Far Sector which is currently may be cancelled as it hasn’t been resolicited (I’m pretty sure).

DC has also struggled to support and keep building up new black characters. Naomi: Season 2 only exists because Bendis claims it will happen someday. Naomi only exists in a team comic. Simon Baz who’s whole backstory deals with religious persecution and being accused and punished because of the color of his skin, and yet Simon Baz doesn’t even have a comic anymore. Static shock hasn’t been in a comic since early New 52. Duke Thomas has barely existed and never had a significant story. Batman and the Signal which was supposed to explain Duke’s powers was a bad comic that has never been referenced again. Given this, does anyone have any faith that Far Sector will be continued?

Meanwhile at Marvel, minority characters make up about ⅓ of all solo titles. Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Sword Master, Black Panther, Aero, etc. While most of these stories haven’t sold well, Marvel continues to support them. Sword Master sells less than 4000 issues and yet, Marvel continues to support it and solicit it. (Since Covid-19 occurred, Marvel hasn’t resolicited it.) Black characters also feature heavily in the team titles, but unlike DC, black characters have significant support in solo-titles.

So DC has a serious problem that it needs to fix. They need to support black characters more, but it’s clear that DC doesn’t have faith that black comics can sell well as evidenced by the high numbers of cancellations, yet there is hope that DC comics will support more characters of color. DC’s 5G movement which was supposed to be happening in November, was supposed to pass on the mantle of iconic heroes in newer voices, many of them were people of color. Bruce Wayne was supposed to be replaced by Luke Fox and James Tynion IV was supposed to be replaced by critically acclaimed writer John Ridley IV (12 years a slave). Hal Jordan was supposed to be replaced by the main character of Far Sector. 5G was supposed to be Marvel’s equivalent of All-new All-different which saw Marvel having iconic characters passing on the mantle to non-white male characters. Unfortunately, All-New All-Different was replaced because of massive fan backlash. Similarly, 5G has received massive fan backlash before its even officially started or happened. In fact, it’s possible that it has completely been canceled as Bleeding Cool has said it has been put on hold. It’s quite likely that fan backlash made DC hesitant and worried about 5g, and that Covid-19 gave DC an excuse to change their plans. I worry that DC comics will use this as an opportunity to reduce the plans of 5g and likely reduce their support of minorities.

This isn’t okay. Dc Comics needs to do more to focus on Black Characters, but it’s not just black characters. DC Comics have been abysmal at supporting LGBTQ characters and other ethnicities. On this website, every discussion on diversity and inclusivity has led to mass chaos. There is a problem in the comics community and with DC comics that can’t be ignored any longer. If DC wants to support the Black Lives Matter Movement, then they need to diversify their comics, staff, and give minorities within their staff more of a voice. DC Universe needs to make more effort to highlight black minority voices and this is hard. It’s not an easy thing to fix. If it was easy, the problem would be fixed. DC needs to give us minority-led comics and be willing to take financial losses in order to let a new fan base build. This is not an easy thing to fix. Please share your thoughts below.

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This is definitely an area the DC has failed. More than giving Black characters voices, they have failed to support Black creators; writers, artists, and editors.

I love DC products and have thrown my support behind all of their character decisions revolving around diversity. But if your idea of being diverse is giving Brian Micheal Bendis a platform to create Naomi, then you seriously have a problem.

I know Warner Bros publicly made a push for diversity a while back and you can see that on the film and tv side of DC Entertainment. But the world of comic books continues to lag behind.

Not going to lie, this is one factor that causes me embarrassment as a DC fan. While the other big publisher hasn’t been perfect when it comes to this topic, they have at least tried harder to bring in more Black voices and creators.

With every reboot, rebirth, refocus, I hope that DC brings in more diverse voices but they always seem to show a little glimmer and then fades it out.

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When I was a kid I almost thought you couldn’t be black and be in comics. Almost. No kidding! The only characters I can think of that were ever prevalent thirty years ago are Black Lightning, Cyborg, John Stewart, and (later) Steel.

If you read that list of names…
What’s changed? :pensive:

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There’s plenty of black characters, what are you talking about? Lol

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I failed to mention Amanda Waller, Vixen, and Bumblebee. They’re around more now, but weren’t then. I suppose that’s a win? :roll_eyes:

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Just because the characters are there doesn’t mean that’s a good enough approach. They need to be consistently highlighted and developed in meaningful ways, and @Nathan.Payson has made some excellent points about how that’s very much not been the case in recent years

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You are absolutely right. I was debating whether to right about the lack of black writers but I didn’t know enough to confidently write an opinion about it. So I wanted to emphasize something I knew alot about.

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It’s not that there aren’t black characters, it’s that the black characters are barely included in the stories. I love bumblebee, but I couldn’t name the last comic bumblebee was apart of. DC doesn’t prioritize Bumblebee and his inclusion.

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A very well put together statement my friend. I agree that DC needs more diversity, give Black Lighting some love, even though I’m not a big fan of Cyborg on the JL, he should still have purpose and contribute to the team like in Doom Patrol, Batwoman should have gotten married, and Duke should be explored a bit more in Batman. I want to see them be given a good story and not something that is pandering towards readers and causes distain for the series. If you create a good story and make the character compelling, then you wouldn’t have the books cancelled all the time.

I think DC doesn’t represent well because they do not get good writers on there series, they need to get a good writer who has a good idea and let them explore the character. Someone who does not pander all the time and cause backlash. Look a Ms. Marvel, They address her being Muslim, but it’s not pandering and is worked into the story in a natural way. She is instead humanized and relatable to the point of being a real person who tackles real life issues in a very real way. If DC goes the route of Ms. Marvel, then I can see them doing a much better job at representing. Maybe there will even be a resurgence in a character like Black Lighting or Cyborg with a good story that is well recieved.

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If you’re gonna make a claim like this, you gotta back that stuff up and not put words in their mouths. The reasoning you gave to support this claim is speculative at best.

Meanwhile at Marvel, minority characters make up about ⅓ of all solo titles. Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel, Sword Master, Black Panther, Aero, etc. While most of these stories haven’t sold well, Marvel continues to support them.

Marvel tends to over saturate the market and has a ridiculous amount of titles. That’s part of the reason why I think those books are still around. Not to mention, Black Panther by Coates and Ms. Marvel by Willson were critically acclaimed when they came out. They have shown the ability to cancel titles like America when they sell poorly and are bad. And she ticked off a crap load of categories for them in terms of diversity.

I’m pretty sure Cyborg’s solo was critically panned on top of being low selling. Same goes with whatever the hell those guys are trying to do with Signal, if anything.

What I don’t understand is you saying this

By all accounts, Cyborg is just a token black character

but then supporting the following

. DC’s 5G movement which was supposed to be happening in November, was supposed to pass on the mantle of iconic heroes in newer voices, many of them were people of color. Bruce Wayne was supposed to be replaced by Luke Fox

Wouldn’t Fox be a token version of Batman?

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Could not agree more. This isn’t just a problem with DC. Even Marvel, which has gone to far greater lengths to support diversity both in characters and creative voices, is still a landscape dominated by white creators and characters. The only four current black creators that I can think of at DC are Jamal Campbell, Denys Cowan, Bryan Edward Hill, and NK Jemisin, and she’s only working on a miniseries, as far as I know. Point being, comics in general need to step up their game.

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I absolutely agree. I love DC, and they do try to highlight important issues when it comes to war, authoritarianism, xenophobia, sexism etc. But it seems like they don’t put a lot of effort into their non-white characters. When it comes to quality writing for characters of color, it is few and far between. They seem to assume they won’t sell well. And maybe they’re right. But maybe they don’t sell well because the reader automatically assumes they aren’t the highest quality, and usually for good reason.
I’m not sure what the correct answer is, but despite how DC tries to see the world as a better place, they have a lot of work to do still.

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  1. Rebirth featured multiple solo titles with minority leads at the beginning. 1) Cyborg which was critically panned and commercially failed. This led to a cancellation at #18 I think. Blue Beetle was critically panned and commercial failed and was cancelled. Green Lanterns was a well loved title, didn’t sell great. Cancelled at #50 after 4 attempts to relaunch it with new creators. New Super-man was one of my favorite series, but didn’t sell well and got cancelled after an attempted relaunch as the Justice League of China. Batwoman was cancelled after 18 issues because it was a critical success and yet commercially failed. I could go on about other titles and other stories that tried and failed to support black characters and other minorities but was cancelled because of commercial failures. Following Dark Nights Metal, DC did a quiet reboot that I call Rebirt phase 2. Phase 2 notably was absent of minority led solo titles with the exception of the failed new age of heroes. Dc tried to create a ton of new minority characters and the initiative failed for a variety of reasons. DC seems hesitant to include minority characters outside of team books as evidenced by the lack of minority solo titles. While I’m not certain that it is about them thinking fans don’t want black comics, there is a lot of people in comics who complain about diversity. A great example is the comicsgate movement and the vocal backlash against all-new all-different. Your citing of America Chavez’s cancellation occurred here. However, Marvel changed their tone with Marvel Fresh Start and up until Covid has really treated minority-focused titles that sell poorly as great material for Movies and TV. Another example includes DC Universe forum threads where some people have commented they don’t want diversity in there comics. The issue of frustration got so bad that DC Universe shut down discussion on those threads.

  2. On Cyborg as a token black character, I wanted to clarify. He never used to be a token black character. In The New Teen Titans, Cyborg’s story directly mirrored and drew parallels to the black community. Cyborg had to learn to be okay with the hate he got over how he looked and accept his “skin” and celebrate it. While it’s not novel storytelling, he was embraced for his story and beloved as a black character. In 2011, Dc took bold risks setting the character up to be a big deal and then failed to write a good story about a cosmic cyborg. In fact, DC lost sight of what made Cyborg special and the only thing that made cyborg special was that he has a mother box and that he is black. He stopped mattering for anything else. Thus he’s a token black character.

Luke Fox took a different route. He started out as a new character designed to diversify the line, but the comic never found a way to get a strong audience leading to its cancellation. At the time, I would consider Luke Fox a token black character. 5G would change that though for 2 reasons. 1) Luke Fox being Batman forces a black character to be a central character to the entire Dc line rather than a self contained book that occasionally ties in. 2) the writer rumored to be writing Luke Fox’s story is an Oscar-award winning writer of a movie that deals with intense and brutal racism similarly to how Ta-Nehisi Coates took over Black Panther. Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the definite case for why black reparations matter as a famous essayist. Similarly, John Ridley IV would have taken Luke’s story and make it connect to African American issues. That’s the opposite of a token black character. He would be plot significant, have story included that deals with the color of his skin meaningfully.

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If we go by the Wikipedia description of tokenism

Tokenism is the practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or sexual equality within a workforce.[1][2][3] The effort of including a token employee to a workforce is usually intended to create the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity (racial, religious, sexual, etc.) in order to deflect accusations of discrimination.[4]

Point 1 you raise about Fox screams tokenism from DC to me if that was their purpose. They’d be just forcing a character of color in the mix just because. I’m already not the biggest fan of having (insert ethnicity) versions of characters to begin with. I’m Asian but don’t necessarily need or want an Asian Batman. I’d be fine with new characters.

Point 2 about Fox’s writer Ridley IV would have been interesting if that was the direction they were going with the stories. At the same time, I’d say a character whose stories are always about their “otherness” is pretty wack. Characters like Renee Montoya and Batwoman are examples I feel are great since their homosexuality isn’t harped on constantly or what defines them.

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I find it odd there has been no mention of Mr Terrific in all of this.

Anything, with any gender, race, ethnicity, orientation that gets past 12 issues and isn’t profitable deserves to be cancelled. If you can’t find an audience in a year, you aren’t likely to find one.

It may sound harsh or crass, but DC makes comics but they also need to make a profit. Sitting in unprofitable books, is just bad for business and DC Comics is a business, first and foremost.

Hispanics and Latinos make up a larger percentage of the US population than Blacks. Where are all the Hispanic and Latino characters??? Talk about ignoring a racial/ethnic group. If anything DC needs to put more effort in that demographic in terms of characters.

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Ah, I missed when Lemire was writing The Terrifics. I fell off that series hard. When Bizarro came in, I sort of checked out.

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I forget that the Terrifics exist, because I never liked the opening arc, so I didn’t keep reading. I should read that again. Also, you are right Hispanic characters need more focus, but the larger point is that non-white characters need more inclusion.

Also DC should be willing to take creative losses. Marvel’s all-new all-different era seemed like a financial failure at the time, but now the MCU’s increasing diversity and future storytelling is based on that era of comics.

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I think Marvel having Disney’s enormous backing allows them to flop more than DC in terms of their comics. That damn mouse…lol

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Does Batman have to be Bruce Banner forever? Allowing your most popular character to pass the mantle to a black character is certainly more than just a symbolic effort. Now you could ask, why does it have to be Luke Fox? The only clear reason for that choice is because he is black, which is a fair criticism. However, I’d like to think DC is setting up Luke’s new position right now. Pennyworth RIP established that the Batman family is really worried about Bruce’s mental health. If Joker War is intended to be the final Batman story, as Tynion has stated, then maybe Bruce dies. Since Lucius Fox is serving as the new Pennyworth, maybe he asks his son to take over while the bar family figures things out. Also on the otherness stuff, no superhero story should be just about being gay or being about being black, but that doesn’t mean issues around race shouldn’t be included. Black Panther (2018) isn’t about racial issues, but you can apply a post colonial lens.

I just dislike the Luke Fox is a token argument because DC could be making a huge effort to make Luke Fox matter, and we haven’t read the stories yet, Although it’s likely this is either no longer the plan or it has been modified substantially.

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Dc has the immense backing of Time Warner, so DC can afford to lose money on some stories too.

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