I have followed this Megyn Kelly story for the last few days and it made me consider the ongoing debate about comic books and representation in a social and racial sense.
Essentially Kelly was caught out there being sort of world weary at the thought that someone could take her proven historical icons like Jesus Christ and Santa Claus...and make them either Black or Penguins.
I completely get this. I'd really rather my little black cousins and nephews believe that a magical white fat dude, flew through the air with his team of magic reindeer and fit his fat ass down a chimney (or through a window) and left all those swank toys under that tree for every kid in the world (Even the one's who don't have a concept of Christmas), because that's what is supposed to happen on Christmas when you're a kid.
I do not want those kids to think the white dude was inappropriate because you're a little black kid..so...here's a fucking Penguin.
I'm not going to address her thinking on the definition of "historical" either but lets face it, there's no way that "historically" we as a people can look back on moments like these and say to ourselves, "I realize you want racial and social representation and we want to give that to you so have a Penguin."
We'll have Santa Claus, please. Santa, like Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, the Flash & Captain America is fictional and as such, should be depicted serving the same purpose for EVERYONE. He's different than Superman and Batman because those are ongoing stories being told by actual people. Santa doesn't have to do but one damn job a year and it doesn't actually deviate. I'm not about to tell my kids that White Santa won't be coming anymore but this Penguin can somehow now drive a flying sleigh when I've been telling you all this time that Penguins have to swim because they can't fly...yeah and I know they don't have thumbs.
Stop messing with Christmas, people.
In comics though there really is NO reason why there really still is a representation issue at all.
I ran through my shop and did a less that scientific audit of what's going on in Marvel and DC Comics. I didn't use indie comics for this because indie tends ao also mean "Creator Owned" and an individual creator can do whatever he/she wants.
So I have approx 88 titles on my shelves that are regular ongoing monthly comics and those are the ones I used for this audit. If there was a limited series for a mainstream character I skipped it. For example I have Daredevil included but not Daredevil: Endless Nights, which is only meant to run 8 issues.
I did this based on percentage of the US population according to the US Census Bureau http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html and a few other sources.
Alright if comics were going to represent society then of my 88 mainstream titles, 13% should feature African American characters, 1% should feature Native American characters, 5% should feature Asian American characters and 17% should feature Hispanic/Latino American characters. There should also be 44 comics all about the ladies.
In addition to this 4% of these comics should feature characters from the LGBTQ community but I'm doubling that to 8% because of the sheer number of people who don't self report as LGBTQ (but it's comics so why shouldn't they).
Here's what I found in my 88 comics:
19 comics feature ladies regardless of ethnicity
11 comics feature African American characters
2 comics feature Native American characters
3 comics feature Asian American characters
5 comics feature Hispanic/Latino American characters
6 comics feature LGBTQ characters
The way I see it, while the number for African American is basically with the national census number and everyone else is "close", there's STILL a perception that we're way off in the mainstream. If that perception exists then it can be changed by increasing visibility, and value of the characters concerned.
I have some idea of how to do that too but I think that's another post. In closing, I'm proud of how far my industry has come but I can see where there's more work to do. I'm a bit concerned that Marvel and DC Comics don't think there's more work to do though.