Back in January, Bleeding Cool ran a Swipe File on the then-novel Marvel Hip Hop variant covers based on the Run The Jewels cover art. And how some other artists, such as Kenny Keil and Julian Lytle had created very similar pieces using Marvel imagery. Well, now Keil and Lytle's work seems to have inspired even more, as Marvel commission a whole host of Hip-Hop parody covers, still choosing not to use Keil and Lytle. But there is new criticism. When senior Marvel exec Tom Brevoort was asked,
Can you explain why Marvel thinks that doing hip hop variants is a good idea, when absolutely no announced writers or artists on the new Marvel titles, as of now, are black? Wouldn't correcting the latter be a much better idea than the former?
What does one have to do with the other, really?
Tom Brevoort then reblogged an intelligent, smart and incentive explanation as to exactly why, and then clarified his original response, to the following question,
How do you not see the connection between appropriating iconic Black American imagery the lack of Black American representation on Marvel's creative teams?
Okay, fair cop, I spoke quickly and curtly and may have given the wrong impression. So I apologize for that. I think that anybody who's been reading this page for the past month or so should have a pretty good idea of where I stand on the issue of representation in our comics—and that goes for creators as well as characters. We can always do better, and we continue to work on it. There are still plenty more titles to be announced as part of the All-New, All-Different Marvel, and as they continue to roll out, I believe that you'll see the evidence of our commitment to creator representation among the creative teams as well as our characters. My point, such as it was, is that this isn't an either-or situation. Doing the Hip-Hop covers (many of which were illustrated by creators of color) has no direct bearing on the state of African-American representation among our creative teams. What it does do, hopefully, is to showcase an appreciation for this respected artform, and by extension create an environment that's maybe a little bit more welcoming to prospective creators.
As a non-black person of color (a term I dislike but use for convenience), I have to say: Rap is NOT just a black art form. It was created by black Americans, like the superhero genre was created by white American Jews, but they've been adapted and improved upon by countless other people from all races and cultures. No race can claim ownership of an art form: Once you put it out there, it belongs to the world. Chinese rap from Hong Kong is no less genuine than Afro-American rap from Detroit.
There's some truth in what you say. On the other hand, i think Hip-Hop is still predominantly considered a Black art form, even if there are other practitioners of it, so the point isn't really off-base.
Speaking of culture, remember that Marvel Comics is the same publisher that has damn near 50 new comic book series on the way and not ONE BLACK WRITER on the current roster. They have Black characters and Black team books, but no Black writers. Again, they love the culture and push diversity strictly on the page and next to never behind the scenes.
So the shark-biting that is currently being done here is not surprising. I guess Marvel Comics is doing these Hip-Hop variant covers to back up all that street cred they've been building for years while hiring a multitude of Black writers, artists and people of color… <side-eye> <sarcasm>
And yes, I do sincerely understand that Hip-Hop is mainstream now. But the comic book business on the regular loves Black culture but rarely involves Black people and people of color in it. They just bite the creative works of the cultures and sell it to white audiences.This is much deeper than just remixing a comic book cover.
When you look at the first wave of Marvel hip-hop joints, outside of the A$AP cover, from an art direction stance, nothing else really makes sense. If anything, most of those covers that Marvel is putting out mocks hip-hop in some cases rather than embracing it. And that's no offense to the artists that created their covers. If an editor told you to do it, I get it. If that's what you felt, cool.But they don't reach a true potential.
And then to top it off, there are 50 covers and only three Black artists have been allowed to play in Marvel's sandbox for this project (Sanford Greene, Khary Randolph, and Brian Stelfreze).
THREE.Respect to the few Black artists that are working at Marvel right now. We see you. I know there's not many (because there's not), but we love y'all.
After October passes, these Marvel hip-hop variant covers will disappear and it'll be on to the next thing for them. After they're done with those 50 covers, Mr. Alonso will just look at the culture, wave & say "Bye, Phylicia" then move on to the next thing without a care.But I won't forget this.
And neither should you.
But will the fans care? I don't know. For most, as long as they get their stuff it doesn't matter to them.
Equality and true diversity in comics doesn't matter to them as long as they get their stuff.
So don't ask me about the next Marvel movie, comic, cartoon, synergy-filled whatever because I don't ride with Marvel when they shark-bite my friends.
*Side note #2: Since the release of my post, plus the tumblr posts of David Brothers, artist Kenny Keil and many other media side regarding Marvels 1-way relationship w/our culture, Marvel Comics EIC is saying that the cover artist list of 50 Hip-Hop variant covers is not complete and on his twitter feed displayed a Keron Grant Wolverine cover based off of DMX's "Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood" followed with "12 down, 40+ to go in coming weeks."
Still doesn't make up for the next to non-existent hiring of Black writers, artists, editors and other positions at Marvel Comics over the years.
This ain't progress.
Shawn also addressed a number of tweets back to Axel Alonso.
So that's four…