Business Insider published an interview (see also archive link if it’s behind a paywall) they’d run with at least two Black men who’d worked at DC Comics years before, who allege racial discrimination at the publisher in the 90s, and until as recently as a few years ago:
Harvey Richards and Lateef Ade “L.A.” Williams have a lot in common. They both grew up reading comics with aspirations to work in the industry one day. They both ultimately nabbed roles on the editorial staff of DC Comics in the 1990s.
And they are both Black men who say they never achieved their full potential at DC Comics because of their race.
There are differences in their stories — notably, the time periods. Williams exited his role as an assistant editor in 2000 after six years without a promotion, while Richards spent 22 years at the comics giant with just one promotion before he was fired in December 2019.
But the similarities that cut across those two decades are striking and speak to how little has changed for Black editorial staffers at DC Comics and in the comics industry at large.
Richards was the only Black staffer in the main DC editorial department at the time of his exit in 2019, which included about 15 people, he said. He added that DC had since hired a Black assistant editor. DC declined to comment on personnel matters.
Maybe there was racism ruining everything at DC in past decades. But the following suggests there’s identity politics driving these allegations, not an altruistic call for justice:
DC, which is home to Batman, Superman, and other iconic characters, is much larger than its comics editorial department, with around 200 employees on the publishing side. But the small team of editors shape the comics and characters that inspire lucrative movies, video games, TV shows, and merchandise.
“You need [Black] editors to help nurture talent to foster diverse characters,” Richards said.
Oh for heaven’s sake! If there’s any valid accusation to make here, they’ve effectively dampened it with identity politics, perpetuating a flawed notion you need editors based entirely upon their racial background in order to build up what they describe as “diverse”, despite the otherwise limited, superficial productions turned out over the past decade that only amount to identities, and no entertainment value. And then they wonder why the publishers not only can’t afford to continue keeping specific titles in publication, but also can’t afford to continue employment of the staffers in question? I’m sorry, but this just isn’t the way to go about arguing. It continues:
Besides being the only Black editorial staffer at the time of his exit, Richards felt stymied in his own career, he said. In his 22 years at the company, he was only promoted once. He began as an assistant editor and 12 years later, in 2009, he was promoted to associate editor.
L.A. Williams can relate.
“My personality and work style is different than Harvey’s, who is different from every other name I could rattle off,” Williams said. “But no matter how different our work styles or personalities are, the reality is that every one of our stories ended up the same. When it keeps happening year after year, person after person, you have to ask yourself what all of these people have in common.”
A Latinx former assistant editor, who exited in 1999 after five years without a promotion, shared similar concerns with Business Insider about a lack of a career path forward at DC and a sense that her work was undervalued.
The stories of these three former DC editors are also similar to that of Charles Beacham, a former Marvel editor who spoke with Business Insider in July. Beacham was one of two Black editorial staffers Marvel had employed in the last five years and quit in 2017 because he felt his voice wasn’t heard.
Were they hoping to be promoted to EIC and CEO? It’s not everyday you can expect a miracle leading to a big role like that, so what were they expecting? I suppose being an assistant editor isn’t such a great rank, but if associate is, why complain?
For Richards, there were many instances during his time at DC when he felt he was treated unfairly. He recalled specific instances with Paul Levitz, the DC publisher at the time, like when Levitz told Richards he had “grammar problems,” and when Levitz told him “some people think you deserve this” when Richards won an award. Richards was never promoted while Levitz was publisher and president.
Williams also described a confrontation with Levitz, in which Levitz told Williams that he would never be promoted as long as he was publisher.
Since Levitz is cited as an issue here, this reminds me of a most troubling matter I’d learned of recent, that Levitz supports Planned Parenthood, whose founder, Margaret Sanger, was notoriously racist, and once told her staff in secrecy that one of the PP organization’s goals was to destroy the Black population. Musician Kanye West, running in this year’s US election as a third-party candidate, has spoken out against abortions, and brought up the subject of PP’s racist origins to boot, not to mention liberals espousing racism. Based on Levitz’s choice of movements to support, you could understandably wonder if he’s sadly got lenient views on racism, which’ll force the audience to take his past writings from the 70s and 80s with a grain of salt.
Yet, what if Richards is just vindictive because he believes POC are incapable of mistakes, and thinks they can’t be constructively criticized under any circumstances? Is there something else we’re not being told? I don’t think it’s impossible Levitz could’ve wronged him, given there were terrible mistakes made in storytelling when he was still with them, especially when Dan DiDio, who isn’t mentioned here, was around. But when Richards uses the modern PC approach, that makes it difficult to fully accept his allegations and wonder if he’s being an opportunist.
Since Richards’ departure, DC has taken some steps to promote diversity and inclusion.
Two women — Marie Javins and Michele Wells — were named interim editors-in-chief after recent layoffs. DC recently hired former Activision Blizzard exec Daniel Cherry, who is Black, as its new senior vice president and general manager, overseeing marketing, sales, and more for the company.
Unfortunately, it’s all superficial, politicized diversity and inclusion, and a big problem with Cherry, as mentioned before, is that he’s not somebody experienced in the business of comicdom. In fact, after reading that new EIC Marie Javins once worked as an editor on the Islamic propaganda vehicle The 99 from Kuwaiti-based Teshkeel, I think that’s why we shouldn’t be surprised if she’s equally bad news, based on her own apparent politics. The article repeats a previous talking point:
…for Richards and Williams, it’s essential to have Black voices on the editorial front to help inspire change and champion a diverse set of voices and characters.
But is that in a political way? It’s vital to have anybody in editorial based on talent and creative input, not ideology. However, it does tell something eyebrow raising about Williams’ experiences:
Williams, 51, recalled an instance in 2000 when some assistant editors were given a monthly comic to edit on their own by then-executive-editor Mike Carlin, who is now a DC Entertainment creative director. Williams said the assistant editors of color were set up to fail and given comics that were doomed from the start.
But Williams turned his assigned book, “Impulse,” starring a Flash sidekick that had been hurting in sales, into a success.
Carlin wasn’t happy. Williams said Carlin cursed him out for getting veteran comics creator Walt Simonson to draw two issues of the comic, and “wasting his time on Impulse when he should be drawing other characters like Superman.” […]
That sense of not being valued even when he succeeded was a hallmark of Williams’ time at DC, he said.
After a white associate editor was fired, Carlin offered Williams to take over that editor’s books, which included one of DC’s best-selling comics at the time, “Wonder Woman.”
Williams remembered vividly what Carlin told him: “I’ve had my doubts about you, but you’ve delivered. Everything is always on time, it sells, and critics like it.”
“I thanked him for my promotion,” Williams said. “And he interrupted me and said it didn’t come with a promotion. I feel so stupid now, but at the time I was so confused and asked why it wouldn’t come with a promotion.”
More than two decades later, Williams said the answer was obvious to him.
If this is correct, and Carlin slapped him in the face, I fully agree it was reprehensible conduct. Something some might want to ponder is the high probability that many of the senior executives who behaved so abhorrently over the years were leftists, and it wouldn’t shock me if those who screwed Williams over for better positions were among those who later threw Chuck Dixon under the bus, as DiDio did in the mid-2000s.
If Williams was trying to sell a book based on entertainment value, he should be given credit for that. This is exactly why the approach the Big Two have long taken – producing ongoing series with no commitments, resulting in monetary losses – is laughable and makes you wonder why the people minding the store are working there at all. There is, however, some eyebrow raising history here of what Williams was doing with Impulse:
After a confrontation over Williams using the likeness of the Alabama governor in an issue of “Impulse,” Williams said Levitz told him: “As long as I am publisher of DC Comics, you will never be promoted. You’re welcome to stay here in the role of assistant editor for as long as you like.”
What was wrong with putting in a politician with a resemblance to a governor of Alabama at the time? This doesn’t put in much context either. I checked some history, and there’s at least 2 past governors of the state, Fob James, a Republican, and Don Siegelman, a Democrat, who were around at the time this presumably took place. I have no idea what Levitz or anybody else thought of either of them, or whether Williams and the assigned writer portrayed them positively or negatively, but for the most part, the complaints by Levitz were surely petty, and I’m not sorry he’s gone from the company since. I’m guessing, however, that Impulse was deliberately thrown under the bus at the time, all to make way for Geoff Johns’ overbaked nostalgia trips where he turned Bart Allen into another Kid Flash.
Williams thought the timing of the dispute — shortly after he had filed a racial-discrimination complaint with human resources against Carlin — was suspect. He quit shortly after.
“I naively thought that as long as I do good work, the comics sell, and the critics like them, I’m going to do well,” he said. “As a Black man in America, I knew I wouldn’t be able to make as many mistakes as others. But I thought the solution was, work harder and do better.”
Their experiences highlight why editors of color are so important, Richards said. They can help “realize a creator’s vision” and promote more diversity in comics. He lamented that he never got that opportunity. And Black editors in senior positions could provide a source of support for ones in assistant or associate roles, he said.
This is ridiculous to think that being a POC doesn’t mean mistakes can’t be made, whether few or many. I’m capable of making mistakes, so why does he think he couldn’t? Besides, it’s possible for people of different racial/ethnical background in senior roles not to provide backing for those in lower positions, if they decide they carry viewpoints they don’t agree with. Where he’s right is that working harder and polishing your skills is a good way to realize talent. But do I get the feeling he doesn’t think so today?
He hopes the recent shakeup at DC affords marginalized groups more opportunities and he sees more women in comics than ever before. Jessica Chen, who is Asian American, was promoted from associate editor to editor last year, for example. But Richards also noted there is still a lack of Black women in the industry.
There are some Black women in the medium, if you know where to look, and I once spoke of one who lives in Alabama. I think Lion’s Forge publishing is also run by Black publishers. But if some white women don’t find the medium appealing because it doesn’t pay a big salary, then you can’t expect Black women to think much differently. What I do know is that the past conduct of leftists in entertainment clearly led to much of the current problem with whining about the need for contributors only based on racial background, not on talent. If they’d been more responsible years before, chances are we could’ve avoided much of the harm caused now.
Since the article to the Marvel-based allegations is now behind a paywall, here’s an archive link, since I may as well take a moment to address this topic too, as there’s some pretty weird going-ons to ponder in this item as well:
Miles Morales was the character who pulled Charles Beacham into the world of comics.
Beacham was studying journalism at Brigham Young University, in Utah, when he walked into a comics shop in 2011 and picked up a copy of Morales’ first appearance. Beacham, who is Black, said he was amazed to see Morales — a teenage Spider-Man who has a Black father and Puerto Rican mother — in its pages.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to be the red Power Ranger, and the other kids would say I had to be the black Ranger,” Beacham said. “The same thing happened with Spider-Man. They’d say, ‘You can’t be Spider-Man because Peter Parker’s not a Black dude.’ Seeing Miles Morales made me wish I had that as a kid.”
Morales propelled Beacham into comics and into Marvel itself, where he worked as an assistant editor.
First, I’m sure there’s kids out there who follow a ridiculous notion you can’t play in party costumes of a particular character just because he/she is white, but that the guy would only care about comics because they introduced a character who’s of the same race/ethnicity as he is only a decade ago is just plain ludicrous, and suggests he only got into the whole gig for political reasons, not because he cared about Stan Lee’s original creations. What kind of motivation is that?
“I didn’t have job prospects when I moved to New York in 2013, but the goal was to work for Marvel because of Miles Morales,” Beacham said. When he landed a job at the company the next year, he loved it.
But Beacham, now 31, was living in New York City with a child on a $38,000 salary. He said that after three years as an assistant editor, from 2014 to 2017, without a promotion, he was ready to leave. It wasn’t about the money as much as the lack of a path forward.
“I thought I’d be at Marvel forever,” he said. “If they had promoted me I’d probably still be there and surviving on ramen.”
Beacham is one of two Black editorial staffers to have worked at Marvel in the past five years, the company confirmed. The second Black staffer, also an assistant editor, left this year after five years without a promotion or raise, a person familiar with the matter said. The editorial team of about 18 people now has two people of color.
“I want to be back there all the time,” Beacham said. “But when it comes down to it, my voice and what I brought to the table wasn’t valued equally.”
To be sure, this isn’t new. The NY Times spoke a decade ago about how their staff was mostly male and rather old, and yes, mainly white. And it all suggests the social justice/diversity pandering we see going on now is just a joke, produced mainly by white staffers who aren’t interested in promoting Black contributors to prominent roles in editorial, just looking for a chance to virtue-signal to a pretentious press that’ll promote their books for all it’s worth without an emphasis on merit.
“Who works on these stories can help broaden them,” said Regine Sawyer, the founder of Women in Comics Collective International, which helps to spotlight the comics work of marginalized people.
That was clear from 2011 to 2017, when Marvel ushered in a new era for its comic books under then editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, who is Mexican American.
New and diverse characters like Morales took center stage instead of Marvel’s decades-old classic characters, who were primarily white. These characters inspired new fans like Beacham, and continue to inspire new fans as they make their way to other media.
But by 2017, Marvel’s comic sales had fallen. Marvel’s president of sales, David Gabriel, publicly blamed it on diversity. Alonso exited the company and was replaced by a white man in the role of top editor. Marvel reversed course.
Now, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed, Marvel is promising to once again introduce more diversity to its ranks and its stories.
Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter sent a letter to employees on June 18 saying the company would “support more Black voices.”
I’d like to think Perlmutter is suddenly doing a favor for Marvel, but in the end, based on his past failures, I doubt it, because it sounds more like this alleged conservative is virtue-signaling to the BLM propagandists. Is Perlmutter, the same one who stood idly by while Marvel was turned to ruins, hinting he condones BLM propaganda, and ignorant of all the arsons they and Antifa were responsible for these past few months, most recently victimizing Philadelphia and a Vietnamese Protestant church? Why do I get the strange feeling he’s phonier than we think? Because the voices they’re likely to support are of leftists supporting BLM, not rightists like Kimberly Klacik, whose daughter has a Wonder Woman party costume. Something that likely doesn’t impress these leftist ideologues.
All that aside, Insider largely ignores that the reason sales plummeted on the social justice geared creations was because they lacked entertainment value, being produced far more for propaganda paths than actual pastime enjoyment. And if the following is any indication:
In addition to Beacham, Business Insider spoke with two former Marvel editors and a current editor. Aside from Beacham, the Marvel insiders spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their stance at the company or job prospects. They said they weren’t confident in Marvel’s latest initiative.
“The guy who made a commitment to diversity and wanted to try new things was fired,” a former Marvel staffer said, referring to Alonso.
The commitment he made was only to identity politics, not entertainment merit. Lest we forget, Alonso, as a leading editor for Spider-Man before that, was as responsible as Joe Quesada for getting rid of Mary Jane Watson and the Spider-marriage. And where did all that lead to for a decade after? Dismal results, yet they remained adamant in their decision to alienate Spider-fans, and you can be sure that includes Black fans too. Whatever “new” stuff Alonso wanted to try, it didn’t include appealing to audience outside the medium who might want be looking for a great female lead to be built up into a Lois Lane status.
Alonso led Marvel through a bold era during his time as editor-in-chief starting in 2011, helping to establish a diverse slate of characters.
Jane Foster was the new Thor. Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, a Black character, replaced Steve Rogers as Captain America. Riri Williams, a Black girl, was introduced as an Iron Man-like character named Ironheart. Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American Muslim teenager, was the new Ms. Marvel.
It wasn’t a new phenomenon in comic books. Characters are regularly passing on their mantles, at least for a while. Dick Grayson, the first Robin, was DC’s Batman for a time in the early 2010s, for instance. Sam Wilson wasn’t the first person to take over as Captain America. This era at Marvel Comics, however, was notable for how it emphasized diversity.
But by 2017 — Alonso’s final year as editor-in-chief — the company’s sales had plummeted.
Again, because all these initiatives lacked entertainment merit, and the company went miles out of its way to irritate fans deliberately, even going so far as to allow staff contributors to act rude to them online. If writers and artists won’t act respectably towards audience, can they be surprised if in the end, they won’t want to read their stuff? Some “bold” era alright. They did mention David Gabriel admitted nobody cared about their [leftist] idea of diversity, but then they mention again:
Seven months later, in November 2017, Marvel’s Alonso stepped down from his role and was replaced by C.B. Cebulski, a white man.
“The comics that [Alonso] made me think I could work in comics,” Beacham said. “But when a Latinx guy is scapegoated for diversity and replaced by a white dude, and the sentiment was that Marvel was ‘getting away from its roots,’ what does that mean?”
Oh, good grief. This doesn’t inspire confidence Mr. Beacham’s complaints stem from altruistic positions either. Mainly because Cebulski’s proven just as pretentious as Alonso did, and maybe more. Interestingly enough, Insider noted:
But in the months between that retailer summit and Alonso’s exit, Marvel introduced an initiative for editorial staff that had been discussed internally for some time: Phase out the familiar superhero codenames for some newer, diverse characters and give them their own, two former assistant editors including Beacham said.
Marvel confirmed to Business Insider that it had previously considered stripping Morales of his Spider-Man title and giving him a new name, but has no plans to do so right now. Marvel added that it discusses status quo changes for all of its top characters.
Well that’s interesting, something I don’t think I’d read before. Maybe if they’d given Miles a new codename, it would’ve helped, and provided some distinction from Peter Parker, and Miles could still have been a big leading star, if they did intend to promote him as a character. But:
Beacham said he was glad that Morales continued to be a Spider-Man.
“It would have made him less important,” Beacham said of Morales’ losing the Spider-Man title. “He becomes Spider-Man with an asterisk. It takes away the power for kids who relate to this character.”
For heaven’s sake, giving Miles a different codename wouldn’t make it impossible to relate. I get the feeling Mr. Beacham’s not very impressed with past history, and doesn’t care how low overall comic sales are now, to the point where you can’t expect many to read these products, if at all.
Now, Marvel’s comic-book slate is once again largely focused on classic characters, though characters like Morales and Khan remain. And there are some comics starring diverse characters from creators of color, like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Black Panther.” But their stories are in the hands of an editorial department run by an establishment of white male leadership.
Yes, one comprised almost entirely of leftists, did they think of that? One of the reasons why Coates was hired, despite his ruthless leftism.
Women faced an uphill battle at Marvel as well, the Marvel editors said. A female former assistant editor told Business Insider that she was never promoted or given a raise from her $30,000 salary in her three years at the company. She said she got promoted within a year at her new company, a different comics publisher.
Could it be they’re alluding to Heather Antos? I have no idea, but it would certainly confirm something – even people with such far-left politics can still have a problem with salaries too low.
The Marvel insiders said a notable exception was Sana Amanat, who is Pakistani American and a former editor. She is now Marvel’s head of content and character development, a leadership role outside the editorial department.
Yes, because she was instrumental in producing the kind of propaganda Kamala Khan represents. That does seem to have something to do with her role in upper management. Interestingly, towards the end, it says in regards to ostensible resurgences in interest for certain books:
An example of the start of this resurgence was the first issue of Marvel’s “Amazing Spider-Man” relaunch — starring the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker — which ranked fifth in 2018 out of all comics, according to data from Comichron. In contrast, when Marvel launched a series called “Miles Morales Spider-Man” in that year, the debut issue didn’t crack the top 200 best-selling comics.
“People of a certain age have a connection with Peter Parker, not Miles Morales,” a former Marvel staffer said. “Years from now, that may be different.” […]
Beacham said: “Marvel needs to figure out the next stage of its core demographic because it could change rapidly.”
Not with the terrible writing and art they’re current notorious for. One of the reasons for the resurgence of interest in Spidey was because Mary Jane Watson was finally brought back after over a decade of being kicked to the curb. And you can be sure that there’s many Spider-fans out there, no matter their racial/ethnical/political background who are fans of MJ too by extension. But with the way Marvel’s going now, lacking in long-range merit, you can’t be surprised if even MJ’s return won’t be enough to carry their sales for long.