The Lack of Diversity in Comics and Who Gets It Right?

I grew up reading comics littered with straight, white characters—predominantly male heroes. The biggest diversity I can remember was seeing Storm and Bishop in X-men comics. The lack of diversity in literature definitely hasn’t helped the world’s struggle for equality. People need to see and read about the lives of all people and cultures and not succumb to one majority. I think by now many of us have learned that fear is created by what we do not understand, and how do we understand the marginalized groups if no one will give them a voice?

In fact, I personally struggled with this as a young adult because I lived in southern state crammed with religion and homophobia—a typical haven for “White America.” So I fought myself for years before I accepted my sexuality. The 90s weren’t nearly as diverse as 2016, and yet we still have so far left to go on the road to equality. So reading books and comics with those straight, white, male protagonists didn’t help my struggle because there was so much hate towards the LGBTQIA community and our voices weren’t recognized.

Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first show I saw properly recognize LGBTQ characters, but we were still nowhere to be found in any literature I was reading.

So as I discovered Brian K. Vaughan’s comics as an adult, I was quite pleased to find much more authentic diversity. He wrote strong female characters, provided racial diversity, and gave me the LGBTQ characters no one else seemed to be writing. Hell, BKV was writing sundry characters before everyone else realized it was the right thing to do.

My heart melted when I discovered Karolina Dean’s sexuality in Runaways and followed her journeys through romance. She was the character I needed in comics when I was younger. She’s the character many LGBTQ readers needed. The entire Runaways series offered a diverse team with characters such as Alex Wilder as an African-American, Nico Minoru who is a Japanese-American, and Xavin who served as a gender fluid shapeshifter.

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Marvel comic series created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona.

Just like Runaways, Y: The Last Man stands as one of my all-time favorite comic series. The series might revolve around Yorick Brown, who is dubbed the “Last Man on Earth,” but my favorite characters were Agent 355, who was an African-American badass and Dr. Allison Mann, who was of Chinese-Japanese decent and also an awesome LGBTQ character. Honestly, Y: The Last Man had several same sex relationships, and I felt the entire series authentically depicted the craziness and diversity of society thrown into chaos when almost the entire male population dies off.

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Vertigo Comics series created by Brian K Vaughan & Pia Guerra. Cover by J.G. Jones.

 

Combine diversity with BKV’s witty dialogue—best compared to Joss Whedon’s writing style—and it’s easy to see why two of my all-time favorite comic book series are Brian K. Vaughan creations. BVK has earned several awards for his creations, including Saga and Ex Machina.

I look forward to reading the next BKV creation because I believe he will continue to create the authentic and diverse worlds more in tune with reality than many other stories offer. We must further diversify our stories if we wish to do break down the barriers which still prevent equality.

Five Books I’d Love to See Adapted for Television

I’m sure many people who follow me on Twitter or heard one of my podcast appearances for Nerds Against the World know I rant and rave about how much I love Brian K. Vaughan comics and Urban Fantasy books.

Here are my top five suggestions for series that would make great adaptations for TV.

BOOK cover Y The Last man

Y: The Last Man is a dystopian sci-fi adventure created by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The sudden death of almost all male mammals spins the world into chaos. The protagonist, Yorrick Brown, finds himself as the lone male human survivor along with his male Capuchin monkey, Ampersand.

It’s apparent throughout the series that BKV put so much thought into what life would be like if we suddenly lost the entire male population. Important jobs fields dominated by male employees suddenly come to a screeching halt, and every woman is coping in her own way. Yorrick doesn’t give you the male stereotype who would be happy to repopulate with any eager women he meets, but instead wants nothing more than to travel across the world to find his girlfriend, Beth.

At once time this was set to be a movie, which became stuck in development hell somewhere. The rights to the story have reverted back to Vaughan, and it’s unlikely if we’ll ever see any adaptations of this amazing story. However, I feel this would be better suited as an ongoing series. There’s way too many story-lines and unique characters that intertwine with Yorrick’s journey and those would most likely get snubbed out with a film adaptation.

BOOK cover Runaways

Runaways comic book series is another fantastic Brian K. Vaughan comic book creation. BKV and Adrian Alphona deliver a fantastic tale of teenagers who find out their parents are members of an evil crime organization known as “The Pride”. The Pride consists of mob bosses, time travelers, wizards, mad scientists, aliens and telepathic mutants.  Some of the kids use the weapons or gadgets created by their parents and others inherit their own super abilities which are used to try and stop their evil parents.

The kids come together like a dysfunctional family much like you would see in a Joss Whedon show. In fact, Whedon wrote for the series after BKV departed from the second volume. The teenage team even has some pretty memorable moments with other members of the Marvel universe, including Wolverine. This would add to the many great Marvel television shows currently in production and offer life as a superhero from a teenage perspective.

BOOK cover Hollows

The Hollows/Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison would also make a good urban fantasy world for a television series.  Harrison’s alternate Chicago setting offers an interesting aspect of how the supernatural world gets outed to the humans and the history of a genetically altered tomato that wipes out a huge chunk of the human population. It’s quite funny to see humans so afraid to eat ketchup.

The series follows bounty hunter witch, Rachel Morgan, who has the unfortunate luck of finding trouble around every corner. Her roommates and bounty hunter/detective team include the odd pairing with a pixie and living vampire. Fans of Being Human might like this as a show because it’s another interesting pairing of supernatural roommates trying to make their job and living situation work, all while Rachel Morgan becomes the target of many supernatural communities.

BOOK cover Janet Evanovich

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich could still be considered for a television show. The first book, One for the Money, was adapted into a completely underwhelming movie. This is one of the funniest series I’ve ever read, and the show has so much charm and wit that managed to be drained from the film version. The Mortal Instruments series would’ve made this list even after the poor movie, but now the television show reboot is in the works. Why not give the same treatment to the Plum series?

Stephanie Plum is a fun and quirky bounty hunter who finds herself in the most ridiculous situations while trying to capture fugitives. Stephanie surrounds herself with a wild cast of characters including her partner, Lula, who is a former hooker turned wanna-be bounty hunter. Sandra Bullock has long been a fan favorite for the role of Stephanie, so can someone call Bullock and convince her to do television? Please?

BOOK cover Anita Blake

The Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton is a gritty urban fantasy series which seems best suited as a Netflix original or HBO type show due to the amount of violence and sex. Anita Blake boasts many talents including necromancy, professional vampire executioner and acts as a supernatural consultant for the police in St Louis, Missouri. Supernatural creatures and elements coexist with humans in Anita Blake’s world, and she develops strong relationships with many different factions. The books usually follow Anita as she uncovers mysteries in the supernatural community while getting tangled up in politics and complex relationships with vampires and shifters.

What adaptations would you like to see on television? I’ll cover my top five books that should be movies in next week’s post.

Sacrifice Novel Kickstarter Project

Today, I am officially announcing my Sacrifice novel Kickstarter campaign that will launch in September. Originally, I was going to use one of my comic book projects to attempt my first Kickstarter but decided against it.

Why did I choose Sacrifice instead?

I felt that this story embraces diversity of both race and sexual orientation.

I knew my first novel, The Alliance: Bloodlines, lacked diversity in a major way. At the time of writing Bloodlines, I was too scared to attempt such diversity even though I wanted too. There were characters that I originally intended to be gay, but changed it to make their sexual orientation much less obvious.

Why?

At the time I hadn’t read many books that had gay characters and was hesitant to take the risk myself.

Looking back on it now makes me feel silly for not going with my original plan, but even then all of my main characters were still white.

Why?

Almost every book that I read growing up featured a white male protagonist. The reason that I added a female protagonist was through the influences of the awesome power of Joss Whedon. After watching Buffy as a teen, I knew that I wanted to write powerful and inspiring female characters, but I wanted my heroine to be gay and not just surrounded by white supporting characters.

Sacrifice was a story that worked its way into my head a few years ago, and I let it sit and simmer for several months before taking action. I took notes and created in depth characters while I built the outline that would be the foundation for this novel. I knew that this was the time to take the risk and write the story I’ve been dying to tell.

Why?

I finally realized that if all writers simply write or modify their stories to fit the “norm” then nothing would ever change, and ten years from now a new generation would still be reading tons of books that mostly featured a white cast of straight characters when that doesn’t reflect real life. Writers of today have the power to break the vicious cycle and set new standards for the future generations. So I have chosen to write a story that’s true to my real life diversity, but of course with added supernatural elements and meta-humans!

So what is Sacrifice all about?

Sacrifice contains the romance of a lesbian couple, but that factor doesn’t define the story. This is an action packed thriller involving meta-humans and supernatural characters —some of which just happen to be gay.

The story showcases a diverse cast of meta-humans that have dedicated their lives to protecting the human race from dangerous supernatural forces. The overall theme questions how far one person would go to protect their loved ones. The protagonist, Katherine Reese, relinquishes her freedom to the meta-human military in order to keep her family safe, but she finds an even greater sacrifice is required—possibly even her life.

Rogue werewolf attacks and dastardly mages have everyone on edge when the meta-human military sends their top team to investigate.

Katherine Reese leads the powerfully stacked alpha team on a search for answers that reveals a larger threat. Supernatural leaders have set a plan in motion that could destroy the balance between the human and supernatural world.

More information will be revealed over the next few days. Stay tuned and you can stay updated by subscribing to my blog or via Facebook updates.

Why I Write: The Tale of a Young Geek’s Inspiration

My mother was the one who always encouraged me to read a lot as a kid, but there were select books and shows that fueled my desire to tell stories. I’ve always been a daydreamer. My mind creates stories whether I like it or not, and there were several influences from my childhood.

As a kid I enjoyed comic books filled with heroics, but I also loved horror, sci-fi and fantasy. The books that most influenced me were R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and pretty much anything written by Stephen King. I have an entire bookshelf filled with King’s books, and people always ask what my favorite King novel is. As much as I love his popular classics, my favorite would have to be the Dark Tower series as a whole.

I loved dark twisted stories that would make your heart pound with every page turn, but television also greatly inspired my creativity.

There was a show on Nickelodeon when I was young called Are You Afraid of the Dark where a group of kids would sneak out and tell spooky campfire stories. I was always fascinated by the idea of telling haunting tales by a campfire, but sadly this is still something that I’ve never done.

I can’t remember how old I was when I saw the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie on TV, but I thought it was the coolest idea I’d ever seen. The movie was not nearly the same caliber as the TV show that later followed, so why was the movie so important to me? Almost every book I read had a male protagonist, and if my memory serves me correct, this was a point where I said, “Wow this girl is a hero!” I don’t think I even stopped to question why all my books had male protagonist. I’d seen some females in comics, but this was different somehow. It was empowering to see Buffy kick ass as she went from cheerleader to vampire slayer.  I later rejoiced when the TV series was announced for the WB, and I have faithfully followed Joss Whedon ever since.

I read every book I could get my hands on and always daydreamed about my own stories. I tried to write a few novels in high school, but never stuck with the writing. What inspired me to try again? That would be Joss Whedon. My love of Buffy and all things Whedon inspired me to try again, and I finished the draft of The Alliance: Bloodlines.

I’ve since lost my love of horror, and i’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s because everything seems less scary now? Or the new generation of horror movies seem stale? My current inspiration comes from writers/creators: Whedon, Felicia Day, Brian K Vaughan, and Jane Espenson. When Joss Whedon first announced that he would be writing The Astonishing X-men, I decided that I would also try my hand at writing comics. I adapted Bloodlines into a limited series comic book which I pitched to publishers. I didn’t give up even when that project failed, but instead I kept practicing and have worked on scripts for several other projects.

So I guess if I could say anything to potential writers or even current authors, I would say take risks, be bold, write lovable characters, create breath taking worlds and send positive messages through stories.

The stories we write now could hugely impact the next generation of writers.

Honorable mentions from my childhood must include: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, TMNT, Alice in Wonderland, Superman movies and Batman movies, X-men comics, and more.