I think it goes without saying that overall, the last few years have been pretty good for Marvel Comics; readers have gotten new twists on existing characters, a number of memorable new faces and titles have emerged, and the back and forth between creators and fans has never been more lively and dynamic. And that’s including far more than just the Spider-Family of titles.
On a wider scale, we’ve seen much of the same thing, from Sam Wilson taking on the Captain America mantle and Jane Foster becoming the new Thor, to new characters like Kamala Khan and Lunella Lafayette anchoring memorable and fun titles of their own. There’s no question that comics now are more diverse than they’ve ever been, when even five years ago you would have had to do some searching to find a title headed by a woman, or a person of color. I also don’t think it’s mere coincidence that the onset of greater diversity seems to be taking off in comics. I believe this diversity, in both these creations and the creators of these properties, is helping drive the overall rise in quality of the comics we read, and I believe readers and fans should continue to embrace it, as we still have a ways to go in this area.
Being the overzealous Spider-fan that I am, it’s easy for me to love the stories and titles I read month after month while still seeing areas where things could improve. If we take a look at the Spider-Family of titles over at Marvel, it’s not difficult to determine that, at least in some ways, there are still some instances where a little extra diversity might prove helpful to its overall direction.
The most obvious one (to me, at least) is the lack of any women writers for any of the Spider-titles. That’s worth discussion when you consider that Marvel currently has three ongoing Spider-Women titles that are anchored by their own female leads. It is my opinion that, at some point in the relatively near future, Marvel should put a woman writer in charge of either Silk, Spider-Gwen, or Spider-Woman.
There are two reasons for this, the first being the issue of authenticity. Simply put, a woman writer will more likely be able to bring a more genuine voice to these characters, and give them a perspective that resonates well with readers. Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers, for example, are going to have more experiences in common with G. Willow Wilson and Kelly Sue DeConnick than Cindy Moon and Jessica Drew will have with Robbie Thompson and Dennis Hopeless, simply because they are written and portrayed in the same way that the world perceives, treats, and reacts to the first group of writers–as women. I think the truth of those experiences has helped account for the success of those two titles with those two writers, even though Hopeless and Thompson are fine writers currently doing a good job with their respective titles.
Second, there is the simple issue of representation. In the last few years, we have gotten better about comic book characters being more diverse, and to a lesser extent, creator diversity, but we still have a ways to go. Men — especially white men — are still occupying the lion’s share of writing, editing, artistic and other creative positions, at Marvel as well as other comic book companies. Women want to read comics, and women also want to create comics, but the industry as a whole has been slow to adapt to this, even when it has proven successful.
To those who might think I’m being unnecessarily politically correct, I’ll bring things a little closer to this space. Using Spider-Man and the comics under his more than 50-year publishing umbrella as an example, I would pose a question: how many women have served as a consistent writer or artist on any of these titles in this time? To my best recollection, the only person who springs to mind is the amazing Sara Pichelli on Ultimate Comics Spider-Man and Miles Morales’s Spider-Man title. I’d be happy to hear any others I’ve missed.
Now for a follow-up question: how many men have written or done artwork for significant stretches on a Spider-title? I’ll bet the number you come up with is way larger than the number of women.
That’s my point. We’ve had a plethora of Spider-titles over the last half-century. We’ve got three Spider-titles right now that feature great female characters. I think adding a dynamic woman writer to the ranks of this family would only benefit the Spider-Family in the long run. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be for Silk, Spider-Gwen, or Spider-Woman — I just happen to think those are the ideal entry points — but I think a woman’s perspective and experience would give the Spider-Family more balance, as well as get more female readers interested in them.
I’d like to head off some criticisms by addressing a few of the things I’m NOT saying to readers of this piece:
- Men shouldn’t write women characters (and vice versa, ad infinitum). Absolutely not true. While writing what you know, from your own experiences, is good advice for solid writing, it’s not meant to be restrictive. If that were the case, there would be no Spider-Man, as I’m sure Stan Lee has never personally had the experience of creating his own web shooters, sticking to walls unassisted, or bench pressing a bus, except maybe in a LEGO game. I am saying that with the increased number of women characters in the Spider-Verse, we should be seeing more women in the creative roles as well.
- We shouldn’t have “diversity for the sake of diversity.” This phrase offends me, because like “One More Day,” it shouldn’t exist. It’s a socially constructed excuse for people with too much privilege to give themselves the label of ‘victim’ when they don’t deserve it. My personal issues with this phrase aside, I would argue that better, more diverse representation leads to a better product. At the end of the day, that’s what Marvel will want: a superior product (in this case, comic book) that will sell well and resonate well with readers.
- The current writers of Silk, Spider-Gwen, and Spider-Woman are terrible and need to go. Again, absolutely not true. Dennis Hopeless has nailed the characterizations in Spider-Woman, and I think it’s criminal that title isn’t doing better than it currently is. Jason Latour is doing a fine job with Spider-Gwen, and Robbie Thompson has handled Silk ably. I do not believe any of them is substandard in any way as a comic book writer. I’m saying that when these creative teams change, as they eventually will, that it would be a good idea for Marvel to consider putting a woman at the helm of one of these titles.
Overall, I’m very happy with the changes that have come to the Spider-titles in the last few years (with some reservations, of course). I think the addition of a Spider-Man who’s a person of color, a rock-and-rollin’ girl from another reality, and a woman of Asian descent have helped the overall viability of the Spider-Family books. I’m also very confident in the future for these titles, and believe that if Marvel would take a chance on putting a woman writer in charge of one of the Spider-Women titles, it would improve an already stable section of the Spider-Family.
I’ll continue to Make Mine Marvel, regardless of whether they actually do this. But personally, I think it’s only a matter of time before we finally see a woman creator actually writing one of these titles, or another one that comes along. And I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only one who rejoices when it happens by a longshot.