When you think of a comic book fan, do you picture someone... male? Middle-aged? White? The stereotype of the geeky comic book guy is still pervasive across popular culture (see: Comic Book Guy in "The Simpsons," Kevin Smith's TV show "Comic Book Men"), but it couldn't be further from the truth. The comic book community is actually incredible diverse; but that diversity is often overlooked not only by the world outside comic fans, but by the community itself.
Enter We Are Comics, a blog that's encouraging comic fans of all walks of life to tell their personal stories under the empowering banner "I Am Comics." The site, which only launched two weeks ago, aims to recognize and celebrate the many diverse fans of comics as well as "promote the visibility of marginalized members of our population; and to stand in solidarity against harassment and abuse."
Unfortunately, that harassment and abuse is all too familiar for many fans. We Are Comics founder Rachel Edidin explained to Buzzfeed, "The illusion that comics are only or overwhelmingly straight white dudes between 18 and 49 doesn't just push everyone else to the margins -- it encourages that core target audience to see us as something other, as outsiders and interlopers, when we in fact make up a huge part of the comics community and always have."
That narrow-minded attitude has created a often threatening environment for women people of color and those in the LGBTQ community. African American women like Jay Justice and Chaka Cumberbatch have both been ridiculed for cosplaying traditionally white or Asian characters, and a critique of a "Teen Titans" cover earned journalist Janelle Asselin multiple death and rape threats, apparently simply because she is a woman.
Even industry professionals are not immune. Much-loved Internet comic artist Noelle Stevenson says she constantly deals with sexism and misogyny, even having her own knowledge of and interest in comics questioned -- and she is a professional webcomic creator.
These tales and dozens more come to life on We Are Comics, where people share their stories and photos to create an uplifting collage of the fandom today. The faces span a wide range of ages, genders, races and sexual orientations, far beyond the typical demographics comic book companies supposedly market to. The result? A site that not only highlights diversity but unites people with a pure love for comics.
Fans have flocked to We Are Comics, as have industry professionals including Sara Ryan, Al Ewing, Guin Thompson, Brandon Seifert, Matthew Sturges, Eva Hpokins, Amy Mebberson and Steve Lieber. Seifert didn't shy away from offering a pointed critique of his own industry:
"It infuriates me to see a tiny minority in the fan group acting as though comics are for them, and them only. I'm someone who makes comics. I'm not making them for anyone in specific. I'm making them for EVERYONE."
As more comic creators and fans share their own stories, hopefully everyone else in the comic world will feel the same. Check out more uplifting odes to the art form on We Are Comic's Tumblr.
"It was my mother — Mexican born and raised, just like me — who introduced me to the X-Men, letting me buy those books while she was looking for works by Anne McCaffrey or other sci-fi writers. So the idea of this fandom being for white guys, or that it could preclude me from pursuing other goals in my life, has simply never rung true." -- Arturo Garcia
"I believe that comics are an extremely effective form of media, perhaps even more so now than ever before. I love that there has been an immense push for diversity in content, particularly since the fan base has always been diverse." -- Morgana
"Those fantastic characters in their bright outfits were my moral compass. They taught me to rise above. To never give in to hate. And, that no matter how bad it gets, good will indeed prevail in time. Comics are indeed for everyone. Like this awesome young lady next to me." -- Aaron
"There is nothing to be gained, and everything to be lost, from making the world of comics unsafe or alienating or exclusionary to anyone, or from permitting it to retain the residual stink of the closed-off clubhouse. Comics are a palace in which anyone can live; the more people add rooms to it, the more beautiful it becomes." -- Douglas Wolk