THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — Little did I know of course, while growing up, that the comic books I read off the shelves of supermarkets were cleansed in order to mold young minds into believing the world was clearly divided into two easily identified groups — good vs evil, us vs them — this difference was made clear as back and white. There were no shades of grey, never mind different colors of the rainbow. We were being programmed to be good little Republicans.
But there was also confusion — underground comics existed — far more cooler and fun to read — yet they were taboo and hard to come by. Tired of squeaky clean Archies, my interest in comics simply faded away (until Bloom County, but that’s another story).
The culprit behind this? The Comics Code Authority — an entity somewhat similar to Hollywood’s Production Code which censored films until the ’60s. If one defies the CCA, one would lose major advertising revenue — hence if one was a mainstream comic book publisher, for example, DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, et al., defying the CCA would have hurt the pocketbook, badly. This explains why the cooler stuff was found underground — these publishers made a choice not to be censored.
Over time though, the CCA backed off, and in 1989 in particular, they allowed LGBT comic characters. Since then wholesale changes in the comic world has overrun the CCA’s ability to regulate the industry and one by one mainstream publishers dropped out of the CCA. The CCA now, for all practical purposes, no longer exists.
Ironically, it is one of the last publishers to drop out of the CCA — DC Comics — that is introducing the first openly transgender character in a mainstream comic — Alysia Yeoh, Batgirl’s roommate.
Batgirl writer Gail Simone talks about diversity in Wired magazine:
“. . . Look, we have a problem most media don’t have, which is that almost all the tentpoles we build our industry upon were created over a half century ago… at a time where the characters were almost without exception white, cis-gendered, straight, on and on. It’s fine — it’s great that people love those characters. But if we only build around them, then we look like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show for all eternity.”
Also from Wired:
“. . . [Simone] thinks most superhero comics readers don’t have a problem with increased diversity, but rather with stories that promote sermonizing over storytelling. Alysia will be “a character, not a public service announcement … being trans is just part of her story. If someone loved her before, and doesn’t love her after, well — that’s a shame, but we can’t let that kind of thinking keep comics in the 1950s forever.”
Batgirl issue #19 is out now.
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