The comics industry underwent a change in the past few years, adding more diverse characters. However, while there is plenty of positive press for this change in diversity — like any major change — there has been some backlash. A recent event at Seattle’s Magic Mirror Comics has brought this comic book debate more into the forefront.

So what happened, and what can we learn from it?

Sizing Up

Generally, the argument over diversity in comics falls under two camps. The ‘pro’ side sees the introduction of diversity as expanding comics. People that never recognized their own race or culture in comics are now able to see them. In turn, more people will get into comics, and the industry will be better morally and (hopefully) financially.

The ‘con’ side sees the movement very differently. They see the diversity as something forced onto the industry to placate ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (SJW’s). In their minds, those pushing for diversity are not ‘real’ comics fans. They are people who cry out for diversity in a medium they don’t actually read.

Why Are Disabled Heroes Important?

This is a very complicated issue to examine. I find especially hard myself as a white male (which appears to be the main group behind the ‘con’ argument). That said, I want to be clear that I am for diversity in comics, and I understand that such books may not have the same appeal for me they do for other people.

However, I am very concerned with what people pushing for diversity do to make their argument. There are consequences to all actions, and his even shows how important it is for ‘pro’ fans to be mindful of their actions.

Magic Mirror Comics

Magic Mirror Comics
Magic Mirror Comics Inc.

The incident in question occurred two months ago when Youtuber TheRealComicBookGamer posted a video. Gamer claimed to have been banned from his local comic book shop after coming in to pick up his monthly books. He believes he was banned for requesting JAWBREAKERS: LOST SOULS (more on this book later). Gamer recorded the incident but did not show it.

Despite Gamer (admirably) not mentioning the name of the shop, Gamer’s recorded video appeared online eventually. This cemented Magic Mirror as the location.

The incident was discussed and commented on by many YouTubers (including TheQuartering, which is how I learned of it). Since the incident, their Yelp score stands at 2 1/2 stars and has many negative reviews. The Quartering criticized the owners for refusing customers while operating in an high-rent area of Seattle.

Reports range from the owners borrowing money and starting a GoFundMe just to stay in business, to closing shop in the middle of the day and celebrating a one year anniversary with a ‘whole store 50% off’ sale.

My Thoughts

While I can’t confirm all of these reports, I do feel the incident is a bad stance for the owners to take. The belief of the ‘con’ side is that ‘pro’s, for all their talk of diversity, can’t handle anyone who disagrees with them. ‘Pro’s need to exist in their own world. They act close-minded to different ideas.

Tim Talks Fashion: Marvel Alternate Costumes

It’s obvious hypocrisy to promote diversity and think this way, but this incident reinforces that stereotype. Personally, I feel it paints ‘pro’s as short-sighted, with a ‘win the battle, lose the war’ mentality. Perhaps most importantly, it reinforces the belief that ‘diversity doesn’t sell’ by painting ‘pros’ as poor business people controlled by their emotions and unable to make a profit.

Diversity, Comics, & Comicsgate

I’ve criticized Magic Mirror, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of the other side either. A major proponent of the ‘con’ side is Diversity and Comics (and yes, it’s a confusing name) a YouTube Channel run by Richard C. Meyer. Meyer (and others) use the channel to largely (and offensively) mock diverse comics.

He is also a part of a larger movement called Comicsgate. The movement began during the infamous ‘Marvel Milkshake’ photo when editor Heather Antos posted a picture of herself and other female staffers enjoying milkshakes on Twitter. This photo set off a wave of complaints. The women were called ‘fake geek girls’ and ‘stereotypical SJWs’ online.

The movement also gained strength when retailers at a Marvel hosted breakfast in New York complained the more diverse comics were harder to sell. Since then, Meyers and others have used the channel and movement to push their agenda (Meyers has even been called ‘the center of alt-right comics hate speech‘) and encouraged followers to boycott certain creators (in fairness, they did warn followers not to troll these creators, just not buy their work). The movement was recently mentioned on mainstream TV through comedian/host Jim Jefferies (who largely mocked Meyers).

Jawbreakers

As all this occurred, an indie comic called JAWBREAKERS was gaining steam. The book raised $250,000 on Indiegogo. It focuses on a group of former military men, who hunt monsters in Africa. However, the book lost it’s publishing deal in May. Why did this happen?

Meyer wrote the comic himself, along with artist Jon Malin (who compared leftists to Hitler) Ethan Van Scriver (who made several trollish comments in the past) and Brett Smith (who tried to publish a book about alt right icons). With such a controversial team at the helm, it’s not shocking publishers would want to cut ties. In fairness, what I’ve seen of the book includes it telling an apolitical story, without any of the ‘ideas’ of its creators. However, it does function as a throwback to 90s era comics, especially in it’s spine-bending and sexual portrayal of female characters.

Magic Mirror Comics
JAWWBREAKERS: LOST SOULS BY MEYER, VAN SCRIER, SMITH, AND MALIN

If I were a comic retailer, I’d probably have second thoughts about this book too. Even if the story is apolitical, there’s a powder keg of a creative team attached. The art is questionable, and on a personal note, I find this kind of 90s style laughable. So no, I wouldn’t carry it in my store. That doesn’t mean I would ban people from asking for it though.

What To Do

Ultimately, I do feel Magic Mirror Comics had every right not to sell JAWBREAKERS. Business owners choose what they sell, and customers have a multitude of ways to find what they want now. However, Magic Mirror Comics needed to take note of similar events in modern times. The most recent event is the Red Hen restaurant refusing to serve Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which resulted in both hateful tweets, and supporters.

However, an earlier (and more similar) one is ‘Cakegate’ where an Oregon baker refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The case eventually got to the Oregon Court of Appeals, where the state sided with the couple. The bakery has since closed. It’s not a big stretch to see Magic Mirror Comics as a politically-reversed ‘cakegate’ (a business refusing service based on personal belief).

Is CLOAK AND DAGGER Switching Stories for Better Adaptations?

Given how that ended, Magic Mirror Comics should have tried to implement other options to make their point. The simplest one would have simply been to tell the customer, ‘we don’t carry that book.’ They would be within their rights as business owners, and could still sell the customer the rest of his order. There are also creative solutions. The owners could have sold the book, saved the profits, and donated them to a cause they believed and Meyers would hate. It would be circumventing Meyers without threatening their business.

Either of those would have been a more thought out approach and worked more in their favor. To compare, the owner of the Red Hen consulted with her staff and got their consensus before politely asking Huckabee-Sanders to leave. The ‘Cakegate’ bakery was a flat ‘no’. Which is still in business?

Moving Forward

We all have the right to stand up for our beliefs. However, how we choose to do that matters. Rash actions damage a cause, as well as personal business. Trying to win a battle while losing the war is dangerous, short-sighted, and harms the cause and the people personally.

So for everyone that wants to have diversity in their comics, think about how your actions look before you do them. The only thing worse than losing is giving the other side ammunition at the same time.

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