As a black person who’s like science fiction, comics and other geeky things, it’s sometimes easy to sound like a broken record: “Why don’t any of these characaters look like me?” “Why is the black person the sidekick?” “Why is the black woman here to be sassy comic relief?” And the biggest, most over-asked question of them all: “When is [insert other mainstream nerdy interest group here aka Marvel, DC, Hollywood, etc.] going to start taking us seriously?” Well, for me, 2015 was the year of taking us seriously. And 2016 will be the same.
Last year was the year I discovered all kinds of independent artists and authors doing great work. Instead of using the Midwest BSFA Twitter account to only complain about what mainstream something or other wasn’t giving us (I say “only” because I did complain…some…well, a lot), I went down the rabbit hole of indie works — anthologies and comics and illustrations and more, and I chose to no longer be a “liketivist.”
I bought issue no. 1 of Niobe: She Is Life, written by the amazing actress/activist/teenaged soothsayer Amandla Sternberg and illustrated by the equally amazing artist Ashley A. Woods, and I’ve already pre-ordered issue no. 2. I bought Concrete Park. I supported Milton Davis’s campaign to animate his sword-and-soul novel, Changa’s Safari. I supported Sebastian A. Jones’ campaign to turn his comic The Untamed into a hardcover graphic novel. I supported The SEA is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Asia. I supported Bill Campbell and Nisi Shawl’s Stories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany. I bought Jiba Anderson’s 4 Pages | 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape. These are the ones I can remember off of the top of my head. I’m sure I missed some…it was a long year. And I dropped *a lot* of money.
I don’t mention money to make it sound like I’m ballin’ out of control (because trust me, I’m not), but to put to bed this idea that black creators, women creators and other creators of color are just out here creating for the hell of it — they want to see people enjoy their work but they also want to get paid. I made 2015 my year of putting my money where my mouth is and supporting the products I wanted to see in living color. We all have to do this. The next time you’re about to complain about Marvel or DC effin’ up some female character or character of color, ask yourself, “which under-recognized indie comic/author/filmmaker/etc. have I supported lately?” When you’re bemoaning the fact that Hasbro didn’t make yet another female movie character’s action figure available for public consumption, make sure you’ve already pre-ordered the next issue of Bitch Planet.
I hope this doesn’t come off as too preachy. That’s not what I’m trying to do at all. (I recently read a piece about a TV show with a diverse cast that apparently no one is watching and the author was a little tut-tut-ish about it and it was a turn off.) I just want you to join me on this journey of financially supporting the things we love and need and want in our lives. They’re out there. Do you know how/where to find them? And are you supporting them?
Happy New Year!