>I later found out that Marvel and, to a lesser extent, DC moved into a trend where they were no longer hiring writers—they were casting writers. They’re listening to chatter on Twitter insisting that only a black lesbian writer could write a black lesbian character, and that’s nonsense. A writer writes. Tom Clancy, rest his soul, could write anything. A writer writes. All of the sudden I was no longer qualified to write anybody that didn’t look like me, and I resented that. I was really polite about it and told DC thank you for calling, blah, blah, blah.
>You have to become master of your particular universe. I wrote a novel called 1999. It’s my Astro City, a self-contained superhero universe. The main character is this police officer who’s Irish. I knew nothing about Irish people, so I spent time doing research. I wrote a novel about a black female New York City arson investigator. I know nothing about being a firefighter. I know nothing about their apparatus or tactics, but you research, you get on the phone, you track people down, and you talk to actual firefighters. You find out about all this. Once you master this universe, then you sit down and start writing about it. I think I wrote a convincing Irishmen, a convincing black woman, a convincing firefighter. I know the lingo and the equipment, and my writing has authority because of it.
>Don’t tell me I can’t write a Chinese lesbian superhero. That’s bullshit. I can write anything. The problem is the two major companies don’t have anybody of color in upper management with the exception of Jim Lee. There are certainly no African Americans in upper management. Anytime I’m writing anything about race now, I get all of these notes back where they’re wringing their hands and not sure about anything. They’re terrified of the Twitter-verse, but half of those people aren’t even reading your comics either. They’re reading it online or heard it somewhere or pirated it, but they’re not buying your comics. They’re getting on Twitter and you’re terrified of them and guiding your publishing program based on it. Just do good stories, well-told, and you’ll see the return on it.
>The top end of it is that the industry is still too small. It’s still controlled by a handful of people, and if you piss one of them off, then you’re unemployed. That’s got to stop. There’s only a handful of people whose personal sensibilities determine which books get greenlit. They need to be willing to greenlight books they don’t even like. I don’t understand half of what Garth Ennis writes, but Garth has an enormous gift and huge audience.
>Jim Shooter taught me a lot. One of the things he taught me was at a Christmas party. He was handing out gifts, and I said to him, “That was a really nice gift you gave to this person we both know can’t stand you.” Jim told me it’s not important that the guy likes me, it’s important that we keep him working here. It’s not about me. It’s about doing what’s right for the company and building this company. We have to get back to doing what’s right for the companies.
>I don’t know the answer to that. I think the company that figures it out wins. The company that figures out how to break the chokehold or the bottleneck of distribution wins. I’ve encouraged Milestone to start drop shipping a bunch of their issues to beauty salons and barber shops around the country. It’s a distribution network that’s not part of traditional publishing, but distributes to places where people of color congregate and return every week. The complication is if we drop ship those comics, those comics need a rapid return. There needs to be an 800 number or QR code to help them purchase these comics immediately. They are not going to hunt down a comic shop that may be over the dale or down an alley. Until the industry becomes willing to change, both on the top and the bottom, every year we’re going to be trying to sell the same product to the same people when a larger audience is clearly there. Why can’t we go get them? We gotta fix it.