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There Is So Much More... PRODIGAL



There is little point complaining about the hard work of academia. The truth is most people have a harder time at their jobs.  Teaching and researching does not scream "high stress" for most people. Indeed, this fact explains some of the marginalization associated with modern academia. A liberal art education, which presume a well rounded education intended to make you aware of wide range of subjects, doesn't have the vocational credibility associated with science, technology, engineering, and math oriented studies.  The trick for those us in the far less sexy humanities and social science fields is to show our worth.  No easy task when our subjects can run the gambit from Classics to comics books.  The trick, in my mind, is to be inclusive in your work. Show people why you think about your subject and why it matters.  The "So What?" question that distinguishes a flight of fancy from a cogent cultural analysis  is often missed in debate about the value of education.  

What does any of this have to do with Prodigal?  The answer is quite simple. I use comic books as a means to explore the history of the United States. A medium closely associated with twentieth century comics, especially superhero comics, are a consistently updated cultural artifact with layered meaning associate the object themselves and industry that has evolved around them. Diversity rest as central point of analysis (and complaint) about comics in the United States.  The low number of female characters and the placement and position of the female character in print raise questions of gender equality.  The concerns for gender diversity surpasses question of racial equality. In some ways this make sense, there are more women than men in the population.  Of equal concern is the lack of Black and Hispanic participation. Twenty years ago Milestone Media demonstrate that minority creators could produce comics that were as good as any available from a major or independent publisher. 

Today, the spirit associated with Milestone continues to exist, but the chances for that spirit to find expression seems to be harder and harder to see.   Listen to a recent podcast from the Black Tribbles with writer Brandon Easton highlighted this point. Easton is an award winning writer in comics, animation, and television. He is also an out spoken critics of the failure of the comic industry around issues of diversity.  I respect Easton's work and as a working professional I think his insight reflect a realism that is useful on question of diversity. While he is quick to point to the failure of Marvel or DC Comics on question of diversity, he is equally hard on consumers that fail to backup their comments on message board with new behavior.  The question he asks, "Are you supporting minority creators?" is a good one.  The reality is that most consumer do not seek out products by minority producers.  I think there are complex reason for this failure.  A small population within a niche publication field, the chances for success are limited. For those creators that can produce a new comics they need people to know, an increasingly difficult proposition.  This is why working at Marvel or DC matters to so much, the established market leaders have established followings and structural advantages in distribution and advertising that cannot be ignored.  

Still, minority creators continue to strive to bring their vision to the marketplace.  Lion Forge Comic has made news in recently months with a string of license properties and original content available through digital platforms. The same is true for Mark Waid's Thrillbent project. The difference between the two is so far Waid's Thrillbent project are free!  Which brings me to Prodigal. A great read by Geoffrey Thorne and Todd Harris, it just wrapped up on Thrillbent.  If you are looking for minority creators to support, this is worthy project. I suspect (I hope) the story will be published.  You can treat yourself and read the whole story online now.  There is so much more out there to be seen. Much of it is created by talented minorities with rich diversity of vision that they want to share.  For someone who studies comics, these trends highlight the complexity of race and power in the modern U.S. experience.  For decades concerns about inclusion has been fixated on creating opportunities for minority groups to join the mainstream power structure. Yet, in the new digital age, it can be argued more opportunities exist than every before for minorities to penetrate industries where they previous has little or no representation.   This means minority creators and companies can use digital channels to reach an audience. The problem is that despite the saying, "If you build it, they will come" the reality of garnering notice for minority creators is no easy matter. 

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