Now, lets talk about writing “race” for comics. As the comic book audience becomes more diverse, we see a greater call for a similair diversity in our comic books. It used to be that you could get away with just showing a black man on the street. But as with previous columns, I want to help you find way to tap that growing audience.
1.Names:First and formost, you want to make sure your ethnic superhero has a name that let’s people know he or she means business right off the bat. Try and make sure their name includes their ethnicities. In some cases, this is real easy. For an African American hero just put “Black” at the front of their name. Black Thunder, Black Lightning, Black Goliath. For Native Americans, it’s still pretty easy, but trickier. Use names that sound tribal. Apache Chief, Comanche, Broadbow. Or you can draw from religious and nature themes. Examples of this are American Eagle, Moonstalker, Puma and Tall Tree. Asian superheroes are extremely simple. Pretty much any word from any nation perceived as Asian will do. Examples are Bushido, Tsunami, Katana and Karma. You can also use referenses to sun (Sunfire) and warrior terms (Silver Samurai).
Please note, most Green Lanterns are not actually green. Otherwise this holds pretty true.
2. Death: Always make sure, if you are going to kill a character (whether writing a major crossover or a special dramatic issue), it should be a minority character. This should show your empathy with the historical struggles of minorities. For example, say you are writing a massive crossover that pits hero against hero (total hypothetical here)…and say you want to re-introduce a a caracter in a new and exciting way. Why, a shocking death would do that. But who to choose? Now, obviously, you don’t want to kill off a long standing character, and you want to avoid killing a popular b-lister who may get their own series. Choose a minority. Always bet on black I say!
3. Stereo-uh-Observe People!:Stick to what people know. I mean, who has heard of an Asian guy who is bad at math, science or electronics? And then there is the sexy, but dangerous Asian woman! This is a winner for audiences. And we all know, every asian man and woman knows some form of martial arts, right? Don’t confound your audience with false attempts at diversity like a black Republican. Keep it real! Thugs! Bling Bling! Angry Activists!
Remember, you will get bonus points for such authentic portrayals.
4.Educate!: Use ham fisted dialog about race that oversimplifies things, so your audience doesn’t miss your point. Remember, subtly is for real books. If a comic book reader could grasp a subtle reference to racism, they wouldn’t need all those pictures, right? Your hero should pontificate often about their struggles as a minority as much as possible, often shaming their white counterparts. Make their heroics all about helping their own race. This will show how you understand the struggles of the common minority. Sure, they can help in galaxy spanning crossovers, but your minority audience will not appreciate if their favorite minority hero is front in center in saving the universe. Leave that to the white superheroes who apparently do not care enough about the non-white citizens of their earth enough to be helping them on the ground, instead going off to fight Superboy Prime or Thanos.
5. Economize!: Sure, you could have a woman, a character of non-white descent and a gay character. Or you could combine them into one powerhouse minority hero…triple threat!!! Another trick is to have your character’s ethnic background be ambiguous. Is he or she black? Latino? Asian? Middle Eastern? Who knows…you can keep your audience guessing for months!
6. Undead!: You can also go the route of the undead. You can get away with having your character be pale and undisctinctive, deformed or simply horribly scarred. Let everyone know what race they once were, and you don’t ever have to be bogged down by racial politics! What do the dead care about racism or bigotry???
And there you are, a primer on writing comics that feature a minority. This kind of diversity will get you talked about in the blog-o-sphere and have you adored by many.