Sequential Underground #24 – Doing Diversity

Sequential Underground

The podcast by indie comics creators for indie comics creators diversifies!

First up, a few announcements — Nick and the AudioShocker will be in the Podcast Arena at NYCC 2011! Dan’s gonna be there too, using his glorious Comic Book Pitt press pass to get the latest scoops from the con floor!!!

BUT WAIT! There’s more! This Friday, Sept 9th, will be the first monthly B-Movie Craft Night at Assemble in Pittsburgh. It’s the brainchild of Shawn and Nina Barbuto. Also, shoutout to the upcoming PodCamp Pittsburgh event.

TODAY’S TOPIC: Representing different kinds of characters in your comics. Our discussion is inspired by Pierce Johnson, who asked us to tackle this topic.

It’s an in depth discussion about displaying diversity on the page without resorting to stereotypes or character cliches. We discuss character development, dialogue, depiction, features, coloring, and taking inspiration from real life.

NEXT: Our friend Wayne Wise joins us to discuss his new novels and his body of comics work!

12 Responses to “Sequential Underground #24 – Doing Diversity”

  1. 1 Lady Nation CNE

    Yall r the best! Owww Nik Furious

  2. 2 shawn atkins

    its actually the 9th of friday is bmovie night

  3. 3 Dan

    Good conversation. And I believe that was probably our longest SU episode, clocking in at over 48 minutes.

  4. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    The Illiterate Badger webcomics

  5. 4 ross

    great episode!

    Shawn, i think in the beginning you’re on kinda rocky ground, referring to non-white folks as “ethnic,” and having characters talk “normal,” that kind of approach reinforces whiteness (or American-ness if you’re dealing with folks from other countries) as the default/neutral state while everybody else is othered, you know? that said, i get what you’re saying and i agree. :)

    i’m jealous of your ability to work with such a big range of skintones for your characters, Nick. it never works in my comics since they’re black & white, but also because it’s tougher with printed comics because the tones are never quite the same as they are before print. i have greytone swatches for each character so the tones are always the same, like one character is always this percentage grey, etc., but when printed there are always variations so my carefully selected and consistent tones never stay the same because of inconsistencies with the offset printing process. :(

    black & white also puts a damper on skin variations among white or light-skinned characters, there’s the white of the paper which is usually what i use (which can be a problematic thing in itself) because, at least in my style, when i greytone a character’s skin they “read” as brown, or there are some darker-skinned characters that i won’t greytone but then people usually read them as white. which would be fine but the differences between characters is an important thing in my comics, so it’s a tough obstacle sometimes and it doesn’t always come through in how the character is portrayed, which might be my own failing, or how other characters react to them even though i try to take that into account when writing. my style kind of straddles an awkward place between cartoony and realistic and i still haven’t really figured it out, it can be hard to wrangle.

    i’ve struggled over the years with character design too, i try to really differentiate my characters from each other but here and there i’ve run into some problematic designs while figuring shit out with my style or pushing the limit on how the characters look. sometimes drawing weight diversity is tough, too, when you’re working in an illustrative style, it’s easy to fall into body templates or something that you keep using.

    what about other types of diversity, you guys?!?! sexual, gender, body, weight, mental, etc….???

  6. 5 nick marino

    @Lady Nation CNE: THX!!!!!! YOU DA WOMAN!!!

    @Shawn: Changed it.

    @Dan: You’re right.

    @Ross: RGB is the shit!!! It’s a lot of fun to play with.

    I know what you mean with graytones — in general, the variations suck. I admire the fact that you dove face first into Wet Moon, with so many different types of characters, even though graytones are so difficult to manipulate with nuance.

    I think you raise a really good point about character design and features. In particular, extreme features. I mean, ya know, some people have really big noses or tiny eyes or puffy lips or chubby cheeks and what have you. And I think that those sorts of features should be celebrated on characters, not sidelined or turned into laughing points. But the problem is that our commercial culture works really REALLY hard to hide prominent face and body features unless it’s trying to make a joke out of them. So then when we do see larger features depicted in comics and movies, they stick out like a sore thumb because the system has tried so hard for so long to only give prominent features to characters that represent the “others” or the villains, and not to protagonists. Adrien Brody, for example. If I met him in person, I wouldn’t even remember him. But he stands out from all other actors because his mix of features is so unusual for films, and it’s almost a fucking Hollywood miracle that he isn’t constantly typecast in antagonist roles.

    I totally agree that all those other aspects of diversity need to be discussed. But it’s such a huge topic and I could go on forever about it, so I wanted to stick somewhat close to Pierce’s specific question and riff on that.

  7. 6 Paul

    Excellent episode, guys. I loved this discussion.

  8. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Nik Furious instrumental music

  9. 7 nick marino

    Thx Paul!!!

  10. 8 Mindy Indy

    Sketching from real life has definitely helped me in this area. Back in the day, my favorite manga (and a big influence on my humor) was Ranma 1/2, but I read some article that said something like “but all their faces look the same!” And not in the way that “all anime looks the same” because it doesn’t look that way to fans like me, but I looked at Ranma 1/2 again and it’s true that there is little variation in character’s facial features – it’s mostly in the hair and clothes.

    Ever since then I tried hard to NOT make my characters all look the same, and it’s fun to draw different noses, mouths, eyes, hair, body shapes, etc. I like to include all kinds of diverse characters and I’ll draw them with certain features but in particular different face shapes, and not even use color, as lots of them are printed black & white.

    Here may be another point of discussion: is it considered weird today if someone has a large cast of characters and does NOT include diversity? One of the weekly strips I do for a non-profit is about a disease that only affects people from a certain background (of Eastern European Jewish descent). I did talk with them about including more people other than white (this strip is in color), and I do make an effort to put different skin tones on characters that are not the main characters (like friends, doctors, etc).

    There is lots to talk about on this topic and I’d love to hear more discussion about it! Maybe do a follow up episode :)

  11. 9 nick marino

    @Mindy: I haven’t read Ranma 1/2 but now I want to just to see everyone with the same face!!!

    I think saying all anime characters or manga characters look alike is just foolish. That phrase just lets me know that person has barely watched any anime or read any manga, and isn’t interested in finding new things to enjoy. They’ve just got a chip on their shoulder!

    Your situation with the comic strip for a disease that affects a specific genetic background… that’s really interesting! I don’t know that it’s weird, per se, because I see a lot of entertainment that isn’t diverse. However, in your case, there’s a very specific theme going on and that makes things a bit different than an all-white cast in a Hollywood movie.

    My only thought is: what if someone with this disease hooks up with a person of a different heritage and has children? I mean, conceivably those children would be at risk for the condition, right?

  12. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Nik Furious instrumental music

  13. 10 Mindy Indy

    Yes I agree that people who say that about anime just aren’t interested in it enough to care.

    Glad you think it’s interesting! You can see all the strips I’ve done so far here:

    I think the disease only happens when 2 people that are “carriers” of a certain gene have kids. I don’t think that people from other backgrounds carry that gene. That’s why it’s so rare.

  14. 11 nick marino

    THOSE COMICS ARE AWESOME!!! I’ve never created comic strips with a central theme like that before and I imagine that it’s pretty tricky to find ways to make the subject heartwarming, humorous, and down to earth. But you do it so consistently! I’m really impressed :D

  15. 12 Mindy Indy

    Thanks, Nick, glad you like them! I can’t take all the credit though – almost all of the strips are written by the Foundation. However it’s a basic script of a few sentences, and I do all the composition and drawing, etc. Although sometimes when they run out of ideas they ask me :) More to come, as it’s ongoing! They post the new comics each Friday on facebook and it’s great to see how people react to them:

  16. AudioShocker Shoutouts!

    Free eBooks by Nick Marino

  1. 1 The Comics Podcast Network » Sequential Underground #24
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