The Black Whip, Diaperman

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is this:

“How come there are no girls in your comics?”

I need to explain, because this is important— and I never have time to really get into it when a reader stops by my table at a convention and asks this question.

The very shortest answer is: “There are girls in my comics.  They just haven’t shown up yet.”

Now I need to explain that.

The reality is that I’m an average (ish) white dude and so all my experience and observations begin there.  They don’t end there, they just begin there. So when I begin noodling a story in my head, yes, it does tend to start with Average White Dude personalities.

But then I start really thinking about story.  About worlds.  About situations and all the people around them until everything starts to gel, starts to feel real.  And from that process comes diversity, because that’s what the real world is: diverse.  Mulitcultural, multi-generational, multiple peoples and experiences.

And for me, the cardinal sin- the worst mistake- would be to write something, or someone, I can’t be genuine about.  So when I plan a story, my first thought is not “how can I make this diverse?”  My first thought is “what is this story about?” and once I’ve got that, the diversity flows naturally.

My half-Norse God, half-Canadian superhero Thunder, for example, is the story of a young man who has come back home to a world he no longer knows, trying to discover himself and trying to fit in.  The first person he makes friends with is another dude.  The first two people he has conflict with are also dudes.

This, to me, is organic; it is more likely that this hero will have conflict with men, and is more likely to befriend a man, first.  Because that’s been my experience on how dudes operate.

Freedom Jackson, Thunder

However, we are up to issue 5 now, and we’ve seen two, maybe three days of the hero’s life— and we’re ready to expand our scope and see more of his environment and the people in it.  Now, we will begin to see (minor spoiler!) that there are women in this dude’s life, in his circle, and we are going to explore that.  But I had to get there naturally, it had to feel real, not “shoehorned” in.

Of course there are women in his world, in his circle, in his universe.  But they are not tokens.  They are not eye candy.  They are people.  They have their own stories, their own agency, their own being completely separate from, independent of, the hero.

I am a firm believer in, and yearn to one day pass, the Bechdel Test in my stories.  But I have to get there naturally, in a genuine way; I won’t write something just to tick a box or fill a quota— I want to write a good story that includes the realest people I can imagine.

Likewise, my comic Spectrum begins with Average White Dude— who is gay.  This means his world is already a bit more open to diversity simply due to the character’s desire to discover more about himself and the world around him.  The girls in this comic (minor spoiler, again) will show up much sooner because in this case the main character is already associated with female friends and is through his own efforts and external circumstances being exposed to more than our aforementioned junior thunder god.

Also, Spectrum has a broader scope in terms of race and culture in its characters— not because I felt like “I should” or “I had to” but rather because it just made sense.  It fit.  It worked.  And you’d better believe I will try my best to make sure those characters are as authentic, as genuine as I can possibly make them, because they are not “tokens of inclusivity” — they are real people.

So if you’re one of the people wondering when the girls are going to show up, rest assured that they’re coming.  They’re already there, actually, you just haven’t met them— but I’m very eager to introduce you.

And if you’re one of the people who ask “How come there are no girls?” when what you really mean is “How come there are no boobs on your book covers?” Then you’re part of the problem, and you suck.