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The Nominees for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics Are Almost All White

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Comics’ problems with diversity are well-established at this point, but this one feels particularly egregious. The nominating committee for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics – named after the black writer, editor and publisher who created Static Shock – has chosen to nominate works written and drawn almost entirely by white creatives.

To be clear, this award is distinct from the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, which is given out at Long Beach Comic Expo and celebrates “commitment to diversity both on the page and behind the scenes.” The Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids’ Comics, on the other hand, is given out as part of the Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival and recognizes excellent work in comics for young readers. The 2017 nominees (all published in 2016) are as follows:

  • Bad Machinery Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor, by John Allison
  • Blip! by Barnaby Richards
  • The Cloud, by K.I. Zachopoulos and Vincenzo Bolzano
  • The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, by Drew Weing
  • Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier
  • Goldie Vance, by Hope Larson, Brittney Williams, and Sarah Stern
  • Hilda and the Stone Forest, by Luke Pearson
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF, by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclair, and Natacha Bustos
  • Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline, by Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, and Natasha Allegri
  • Princess Princess Ever After, by Katie O’Neill.

Though a number of these comics feature POC protagonists, the vast majority of the creative teams are white. Natasha Allegri, Natacha Bustos, and Brittney Williams are all creators of color, so it’s not an entirely white slate, and there are a good number of queer creators nominated, but it’s still pretty unacceptable.

In the spirit of fairness, blame doesn’t lie solely with the team behind this award. The comics industry as a whole certainly creates a pipeline problem. It’s difficult for POC writers, artists and colorists to even get their work published at most of the comics publishing houses, and that therefore makes it more difficult for these awards committees to find work to recognize.

However, the solutions available to the awards committee are pretty obvious and not at all onerous. They just need to actively seek out work by POC creators. Even if you can’t find the work at Scholastic or Marvel, self-publishing and Kickstarter are a massive, massive part of the comics industry. Creatives of color are kicking ass in comics every day, at both big publishers and on their own, so get out there and find the work.

I also feel that the obligation to do this work is even more pressing for this particular committee, given the award’s name. Dwayne McDuffie cared a lot about representation; he founded Milestone Media, created diverse superheroes, expanded the scope of the Justice League while writing for the Justice League Unlimited animated series, and even lampooned the comics industry’s racism. Don’t name something for a black creator who worked against racism in comics and animation, and then use his award to replicate that racism.

Writer and critic J.A. Micheline (whose work you can support here) sent the committee a letter, which she then shared on Twitter, and she sums it up better than I ever could. I encourage you to read the full letter.

As always – do better, comics.

(Via CBR, Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival, and J.A. Micheline; image via Shutterstock)

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