Comic Con, Webcomics, and Drawing Diversity

Oh man, oh man… it’s been a while since I wrote about comics! I swear it wasn’t intentional to be gone from Medium this long, but life happens, apparently.

First off! I am going to have a table at Mighty Con Madison in March! It’s super exciting! My name is on a list and everything! Also tabling at Mighty Con will be my friend Eric, whose work you can find here, and who is also a pretty cool person.

There will be a lot of Pin Porter: Girl Detective stuff for sale and for looking at at my table, and the writer/co-creator, Ethan, will be there, too! So if you’re planning on going, make sure you stop by and see us!

Speaking of Pin Porter…

After finishing the first story arc, Pin and the King, Ethan and I decided to have a little interlude before we start the next big arc. The interlude is about halfway done at the time of writing this, and focuses on Spenser, the fancy talking pigeon who is one of Pin’s most loyal informants. We also introduced a new character (known, for now, only as “The Queen”) who will be showing up more later on.

Last summer I was reading a lot about diversity, especially when it came to representation in the media. It made me realize that with a couple exceptions (all minor characters with only a few lines), all of the characters in Pin were white (Pin’s own ethnicity could be up for debate — and I prefer to keep it that way, rather than define it, at least for now). This really, really bothered me. How could I write angry rants on the internet about the lack of diversity when my own webcomic was almost completely white? 
I wanted to create a strong black female character. I wanted her to overlook the tropes black women usually are pigeonholed into in stories. I wanted her to be magnificent and powerful, like the amazing black ladies in my life are.

My opportunity came in the form of creating the character of The Queen. She is the Pineburg world version of Titania, beautiful and strong, but also willful, short-tempered, and unpredictable — like all faeries. When I was teaching myself to draw people, I used a lot of books that were kind of dated — published in the 1950’s and 60’s — because that’s what I could find at the local used bookstores. So they were pretty whitewashed. Designing and drawing The Queen has been a delight because I get to learn how to cartoon a non-white person, and how to make her obviously not-white (even without the reader knowing what her skin color is, as in the black-and-white concept sketch at the top of this article), without it looking too much like a caricature of a black woman. I hope that I did her justice.

I love drawing supernatural creatures because it means I can base them off of anything. So much fantasy is whitewashed — even the elves and dwarves are usually based off of white people(seriously, did you see a single black elf in any of the Lord of the Rings movies? If so, I’d like to know because I sure didn’t notice any) — and that seems so very wrong to me. If we have a diversity of creatures in fantasy, they shouldn’t all be based off of white characteristics. That suspends my disbelief just a little too much.

I worry sometimes about misrepresenting black characters in my work. I am as white as mayonnaise on wonder bread, and I worry I will get things wrong. That isn’t going to stop me from trying to be more inclusive in my future work, and I hope to always have people there along the way to correct and critique me so I get things right.
If you are born into privilege, it’s your job as a decent human being to advocate however you can for diversity, even if the best way you have of doing it is in a webcomic.

Thanks for reading guys! Would love to hear some of y’all’s opinions on this topic.

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