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Diversity in your Webcomic Cast...
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katastrophe



Joined: 19 Aug 2008
Posts: 288

PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Er, well... *looks at her cast page* yeah. I didn't really think about it, per se, but I ended up with a very VERY mixed cast, in which there's only a few characters that can be definitively classed as white. The majority are mixed-race looking sorts. Er, and about half the whites are white because I got bored of everyone's hair being black. That's bad, isn't it? Smile

Economically it's mixed bag too -- I have everything from a kid who they literally fished out of the dumpster, to street gangsters (quite a few of those actually), to military officers, to upper-class lawyers. That *was* on purpose. I get very, very bored of science fiction settings where "progress" means "everyone is subsumed into the suburban college-educated middle class!" Aside from the boredom factor, I don't find it very realistic. They've just stuck the poor janitor out of sight in a closet someplace.

Culturally -- well, it's all set in one city, but there's still some decent variations. Between upper class and lower class is the main one ("Uptown" and "Lowtown") -- complete with an actual language difference, with the upper class speaking purely English and the lower being bilingual. There's also differences between the locals and the Imperial government, and my aforementioned green people have their own culture.

Character-wise I think I've ended up with a fair amount of diversity also. I don't base characters off myself or my friends -- for some reason this has always squicked me in my own writing. I'm not saying things don't sneak in, but it's not conscious. This one's probably the hardest for me to judge myself, though.

As you can probably tell, I think this is an awesome topic. The webcomic world really truly needs to think about diversity more... not for reasons of political correctness, which is a pretty iffy concept in art frankly, so much as because it's a diverse *world*. I often hear people say they won't put certain types of characters in because they're afraid of making a statement. Well, not putting a diversity of characters in is *also* a statement. It says, "there is no room in my art for people not like me." Morally speaking, this is at best unkind. Artistically speaking, you're doing your talent a disservice by not stretching your storytelling wings a bit and imagining people outside your limited circle. And practically speaking, the narrower the vein you write in, the more likely you are to hit a dead end where you can't think of any new jokes, new situations, new problems.

I'd say "that's my two cents," but I think this is a three-dollar post at least. Curse you, brevity! I will master you someday! *shakes fist*
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perk_daddy



Joined: 14 Jul 2006
Posts: 174

PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I may have a somewhat "forced" diversity in mine, but that was more a choice for artistic variety than any sort of politically correct tokenism. Out of my five main characters, one (Carmen) is hispanic, and another (Sam) is black and also handicapped (I even had him make a joke about his being "two minorities in one").

I actually plan on mixing it up even more in the future. There'll be a kid with an oriental mother and hispanic father, that sort of thing. It may seem weird, but to me, the greater the mix, the more American it is. We're all mutts and proud of it!
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Traitorfish
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Joined: 09 Oct 2005
Posts: 1942
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fesworks wrote:
jbrown wrote:
As a black American artist (record scratching sound effect, everyone becomes dead silent) I find that drawing from my own culture is difficult because, frankly, I have none.


That's bullshit. EVERYONE has a culture.

Culture generally refers to patterns of human activity and the symbolic structures that give such activities significance and importance.

It may not belong with your personal ancestry, but your culture is what is formed around you as you grow. It does not need to be big and extravagant.

I, personally, sure as hell don't identify with many "white" cultures. You can't even generally say "American Culture" because it doesn;t make any sense unless you refer to the technically dominating behaviors of "most" Americans. American Culture is filled with thousands of sub-cultures.
Well, that's the tricky thing about the concept of "culture", isn't it? An individual carries a unique collection of memes, viewed and prioritised in different ways, and it is through the commonality of these memes, as well as an individuals attitudes towards them, that we are able to assert broad "cultures" and "subcultures". Obviously, Perk, as a sentient being, must have a "personal culture", but perhaps he finds it difficult to self-identify as belonging to a larger culture, at least nothing below a very broad label such as "American", which, as you said, is fairly useless.
I think [Edit:J Brown]'s problem is, perhaps, derived from the fact that he identifies as an individual before identifying as part of a groups, to which I must say, why on earth would you consider that a problem? Perhaps it's just me, but the only too identities I feel necessary are that I am human and that I am me, in the sense that I possess both overriding commonalities with all of mankind, and perhaps all living things, and that I am also distinct from all other beings. Anything in between the two is just that, an intermediate level that sits between these identities and allows the latter to connect more effectively to the latter. Getting too caught up in these intermediates tends to twist them until, in fact, they, perversely, become the priority disrupt the connection between these two "base identities", and begin to destroy them both.
Still, in saying that, I suppose the lack of cultural or subcultural identities, or, at least, the culture baggage and shared interests associated with them, could make it difficult to get to know people. The people I get on best with generally have a similar interest in "nerd stuff" or in alternative rock/metal subcultures, because they tend to provide certain shared interests and, perhaps, a certain vague fraternity, a sort of "us geeks got to stick together" sort of thing. I mean, if I'm honest, my girlfriend and I started going out more or less because we were the two most "alternative" people on our University course (although, as it turns out, we make a perfectly happy couple anyway). After all, if I insist on defining cultures as an "intermediate level" between an individual and the rest of the human race, they're likely useful for that very reason.

Possibly getting a little philosophical there (well, almost certainly), but I suppose that I felt it was worth saying...
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Harrington AW



Joined: 26 Oct 2008
Posts: 897

PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

plughead wrote:
Sorry to misinterpret your intent, Fes.

*commits suicide*


Aw, rats! And you were so close to having 250 posts!

I tend to think that it's best to keep your characters true to your original ideas for them, regardless of race. That said, the more I've learned about foreign lands and cultures (I like reading about world history) the more "diverse" my inspiration for creating characters is.

If you want your casts to be more diverse, learn more about other cultures and it will come more naturally. It doesn't have to be just reading history books, or stuff like that. I've learned a lot from things like Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling), Japanese horror, British tv, Italian and German mystery movies, heck, just watching the Amazing Race can show you a lot.

Hmm, I seem to have fallen off the brevity wagon as well....

-S
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Traitorfish
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Joined: 09 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fesworks wrote:
Perk?

You mean jbrown?

That'd be the one, yes. Y'see, I have a very, very small brain, and so trying to both remember someone's name and formulate even the clumsiest of posts leads to complete cranial meltdown. I've only just now mopped up all the pinkish goo of the keyboard.

jbrown wrote:
Because it's pretty lonely always feeling like the odd man out! I have my small group of friends but I don't connect with the average white man or black man which are the two dominant demographics in America. There's always this struggle to fit in while still maintaining a sense of self identity but we humans are social creatures and in the long run being wanted usually beats out "knowing thyself."

Well, like I said, somewhere in amongst all my pseudo-philosophical bullshitting, being able to identify with a shared culture is a useful basis for social interaction. I guess the point that I was trying to make is that it's important not to get hung up on... Culture is important, but people begin to put culture ahead of what I somewhat arbitrarily labeled "base identities", which leads to a lot of conflict. Perhaps not even vaguely relevent to your situation, but I'm still not entirely sure what the point of that last post was.

Besides, I think labeling "white man" and "black man" as "dominant demographics" is awfully simplistic. America is an awfully diverse place, and I think that regional location effects culture at least as deeply as ethnic or racial identity. A white New Yorker may well feel that he has far more in common with a black New Yorker than with a white guy from Kansas.
Which, I suppose, brings up another point- shared culture or identity can be found in a myriad of places, so you don't have to look for it in the obvious, media-sanctioned identities. It can be derived from ethnicity or "race", the latter being a strange social fiction which I think is long overdue for abandonment, but also from religion, location or other interests. I mean, I'd assume that you're presence here indicates some identification with comic or webcomic fandom?
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"euro trash"? What's that even supposed to mean?
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dpat57
Ich bin ein webcomicker


Joined: 11 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OneThousandWords wrote:
I did a cartoon featuring Barack Obama.
...
becuase the picture contains monkeys it's a reference to racial stereotypes

That's pretty much how I'd interpret the pairing... it's certainly a candidate for the "Unfortunate Head-slapping Coincidence of the Year" award.

With very few exceptions all my characters are Caucasian 'cause it's just a potential minefield otherwise.
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munkymu
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Iron Spike wrote:
One of the funnest things ever about a comic cast that includes non-white main characters is the various comments the author receives about the depiction of anyone who's not a white male, or a white female that serves as an accessory to a white male lead.

Really.

It totally rules.


I especially liked that one thread where a few people were denouncing the portrayal of Scipio as obviously a "white person's idea of what black people are like." It was a real WTF moment.
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rcmonroe



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Iron Spike wrote:
One of the funnest things ever about a comic cast that includes non-white main characters is the various comments the author receives about the depiction of anyone who's not a white male, or a white female that serves as an accessory to a white male lead.

Really.

It totally rules.


Some people are insensitive; some people overly-sensitive. If you have a diverse cast, youíre gonna hear from people who think youíre doing it wrong. Like anything else people comment on, you gotta decide for yourself whether itís worth worrying about.

One person who reviewed my comic thought my character Jamesí urban-speak failed to ring true; other than that nobodyís ever mentioned anything regarding my portrayal of various ethnicities/genders/orientations. And since that reviewer was Casual Notice, it was easy enough to disregard it.

(Just kidding, CN. Kinda. No, I am. Pretty much. No, really.)
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Senshuu



Joined: 03 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Because of the nature of how the main characters are brought together, the cast of Lovefeast are from all different backgrounds and places around the world. The only problem is that, personally, I don't have any experience with anyone who isn't American, so as of yet I can't bring any special major cultural influences into their personalities without a ton of research. e_e;; (The focus characters are mostly from cultures I know the most about.) Luckily, because of the story, they all share at least one big thing in common, something universal. Still... I'm gonna need to make a lot of multicultural friends, lol.

It's a big cast. Even the less important characters are notable. I'm still ironing out things about their backgrounds. I wanted to have a diverse cast because it would deliberately save me from falling into same-face syndrome and give me some practice on drawing different kinds of faces and ages. Very Happy

As for Millennium, well, they're all in fantasy-land, so their "human" could be something completely different from ours... (but it's not lol). Humans in the land where the story takes place don't vary much, but then there's more dominant animal races. The two MAIN-main characters are pure-blooded humans, but the others are humans mixed with animals or completely anthropomorphic mixbreeds.
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Lavenderbard
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ttallan wrote:
(On the other hand, that same 12-yr-old brain caused me to end up with a female-dominated cast, which turned out to be not a bad thing.)


Well, *I* would like to see more guys, personally.
Not because there's anything wrong with your cast...

... I just... er... *like* guys. Smile


My personal creed is that racial diversity is an aspect of setting, rather than a moral obligation.

Black Flag is set on a space pirate ship that recruits new members from the ships they prey on... dozens of worlds, hundreds of countries: I've got every natural skin/hair color under the sun on that ship, plus a number of very unnatural hair colors, and an albino. The colors don't matter: they're all members of the brotherhood now (and besides, when everyone is a minority, nobody is). But the colors have to be there because that's what the setting calls for.

Scent of Spring, on the other hand, is set in a pre-industrialized agricultural society. Everyone is very clearly from the same genetic stock. If someone who was another color showed up, it *would* matter.

(This happens in my EFP Talking With Winds. The heroine is a different color/genotype/culture from the hero. It's minor issue, because they're kind of busy saving the world, but it's an issue.)
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swankivy



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PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've got five storylines, and three of them involve non-human characters as main characters, so I guess that doesn't really count, but the storylines that deal exclusively with humans are racially diverse and actually that's kinda touched on as a specific theme where appropriate.

My main character in this storyline is a Chinese-American woman who is in a relationship with a white man. The story starts when she finds out she's going to be having his baby (and they're not married). This causes some issues with her parents, because they see the baby's father as "not understanding their culture." (The main character's parents are actually originally from China, while she and her sister were born in New York, and speak both languages.)

The parents seem a lot more upset by the idea that their daughter might want to marry this man now that they're starting a family together than the idea that this baby is going to be born at all. They seem to think she still has the possibility of finding a nice Chinese man to settle down with.

And then of course the baby is born and we have a mixed-race character. She favors her white father in color scheme (which is a bit strange) but looks more like her mother if you look at the shapes of her face and eyes. Occasionally people who see the baby ask the mother if she's the baby's "real mother" or "so is her dad white?" It annoys her.

The issues of race in this comic are not smushed in the reader's face constantly, because really what it's about is these parents trying to raise their child who turns out to be very, very unique, but that "diversity" theme does sneak in there sometimes.

(With regards to minor characters and characters in other storylines, I do tend to feature people of non-white races about as often as you'd expect, like that the mother in my comic has a black best friend, and I have featured Hispanic people and people who are obviously non-white but it's not readily obvious "what" they are and no one cares. I myself am a white, blue-eyed American blonde.)

Is that along the lines of what the OP was talking about?
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katastrophe



Joined: 19 Aug 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2009 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking over this thread, I'm really struck by how many people are struggling to balance inclusiveness and tokenism (racially speaking -- we haven't really discussed any type of diversity beyond the racial). On the one hand that's a GOOD thing, because at least it shows a level of awareness. On the other hand.... mrr... without pointing fingers or anything... it's the twenty-first century, and this is (unless I miss my guess) a largely liberal, educated, probably urban crowd.

So.... why the struggle?

I grew up in a town that has only recently dropped below 90% white: very small, very rural, very Southern, very poor (the change in racial makeup was due to Hispanics coming up the mountain for work after the tobacco farms started to die....) There was one black kid in my elementary school. I can tell you where and when I saw my first Asian. Yeah, pretty darn primitive.

I was always jealous of people who lived in the cities, as a writer, because they had such amazing exposure. They saw people of different races and cultures and backgrounds every day. I assumed they didn't -- as I did -- have to tutor themselves at seeing colors in their minds' eye. They didn't have to train themselves until not all characters showed up blonde. They had a wealth of experience to draw on that I simply hadn't had access to until I was a grownup.

So... did we ALL grow up in horribly backwards small towns, or am I missing something here? I know a couple of people have already posted about their backgrounds and said something similar, but the majority haven't. If you grew up in a city, if you had exposure a variety of people and cultures and races from a relatively early age, then for goodness's sake, why aren't you using that?

So I suppose I want to take this in a slightly different direction and ask, rather than "what kind" or "whether" -- if you don't have a cast that's diverse in one direction or another, why not?

(ETA: People who have already said "because I'm writing a fantasy/historical world where X race is dominant" exempt from the question. You already have a good answer. Very Happy I'm primarily asking those with a modern or futuristic setting.)
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, seriously, blood type is a few steps past the line called "too far". I don't even know my own blood type, or that of any family members. I've never had a blood test; I never bothered to find out from those of my family who have. Who cares anyway?

Maybe I should give blood (and thus discover my blood type), but needles frighten me. Oh well.
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oppernaR
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

anezka wrote:
Yeah, seriously, blood type is a few steps past the line called "too far". I don't even know my own blood type, or that of any family members. I've never had a blood test; I never bothered to find out from those of my family who have. Who cares anyway?

Maybe I should give blood (and thus discover my blood type), but needles frighten me. Oh well.


Just wait till you're stuck on an island and you or somebody else needs a blood transfusion! ¨_¨
I'm O negative, the universal donor type, but I have low blood pressure already so stay away from my bloods!

Back on topic, I always made everything up as I went along. Never needed any info whatsoever on anybody. But I see the point for a story driven comic with plots and whatnot..
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