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To the best of my knowledge, neither DC nor Marvel has actual black people in executive positions. They’re just out there kind of guessing, focus-grouping, asking people, ‘What do you think of this…?’ ‘Will Black fans like that?’
The difference between that and, say, a shop like Milestone, is Milestone will not have the speed bump of being either racially over-sensitive or culturally distant from the pulse of the exploding urban minority market.
A Milestone editor will know who Sean Combs is and what his latest nickname is (I think he’s just plain Diddy at this writing); will know is the fashion trends, the cultural trends. There’ll be less guessing. Not because the Milestone editor is black (he may not be), but because this is what that shop does; this is the market that shop operates in.
If the major publishers were serious about the multi-billion dollar Latino and African American markets, they’d hire some actual Black people or, at least, come to terms with the nuances of creating product that will have actual credibility with the market they intend to penetrate.
So far as I can see, these are things they simply will not do, nor will they outsource it to a shop that actually does. Instead, these folks – good people, not demonizing anybody – sit around a table and guess. It’s an incredibly dysfunctional and counterintuitive approach to publishing.
Film critics loathe Tyler Perry. But Tyler Perry films have no empty seats in the theatre. He understands not only his genre but his market, and the return on his films is higher than even some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters.
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I’d be intrigued to develop the Falcon or Black Panther or Jack Kirby’s Black Racer or whomever out of a shop that better understood the genre and the market. None of which makes either Marvel or DC bad places to work. I’m just saying, among the many reasons Black characters don’t sell as well as white characters is a fundamentally misaligned approach to both the genre and the market.
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