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If you don’t pay attention to online discussions of diversity in media, well then: Good for you. You’re getting outraged less often. Your blood pressure is lower. You’re not involved in endless debates about if Rey is more a Mary Sue than Luke was a Gary Stu. You may even be blessedly unaware of what “Mary Sue” even means.
The only downside is, this comic strip might not make sense to you.
But, briefly: In the last several years, online groups of (mostly) male, (mostly) white fans in various parts of nerd culture – gamergate, sad/rabid puppies, comicsgate, and possibly some others – have been really really angry at the increase in female and non-white characters in nerd media.
And they always say the same thing. “I have nothing against Black/gay/female/trans/etc characters! I just want them to be in the story for a reason, instead of having diversity shoved down my throat!”
And then, if it’s a fantasy genre like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones (please don’t spoil me!), comes the inevitable claim that it’s unrealistic to have non-white characters in a European based fantasy culture, that it’s unrealistic to have female characters who can stand up to men in combat, that it’s unrealistic to have openly queer characters, etc etc etc..
Sometimes it’s not as unrealistic as they think. But also: Why should we care? If we can enjoy fantasy worlds with spells and dragons and flying heroes and all sorts of unrealistic creatures, then why can’t we also have diverse characters, if that’s what the author wants?
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This one took weirdly long to write and draw. I mean, partly it was because the first time I penciled it, I then lost the entire file to a computer glitch. (And yes, I do backups in the cloud while I work to prevent this from happening. But this time the backup didn’t work.)
But, when I started on it again, I found it took me a long time to draw anything. Eventually, I decided it needed some rewriting, and I think that helped. (Very often, when I’m having trouble drawing a comic, it’s because some subconscious part of my mind is unhappy with the script).
My big storytelling concern, drawing this, was the gargoyle. I needed to have it be just a setting element, and not a character, for the first three panels; but still noticed enough so that when the gargoyle moves in panel 4, readers will be going “oh the gargoyle is a living creature!” rather than “where did that thing come from all of a sudden?”
It’s largely because of the need for the gargoyle to be a consistent and recognizable element that all four panels are shown from the same angle. But having all four panels at the same angle made it feel very “Doonesbury” to me as I was drawing it. (The gag is fairly Doonesbury-esque too).
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows the same corner of a rooftop in some “high fantasy” sort of setting. The rooftop is rough-hewn but fancy, with three small gargoyles, like snakes with animal heads, and one larger gargoyle, which looks somewhat dragon-ish.
There are two people on the rooftop: A human male, who is white. He wears no shirt and a red cloak. Next to him is an elf woman, who has facial tattoos, large pointy ears, wide eyes, and is wearing a flowing purple gown.
The human is looking down at something that’s visible from the roof, stroking his chin thoughtfully, with a serious expression. The elf is positioned as if she was just looking in the same direction, but then looked out the corner of her eyes at him instead. She’s raised one hand in a “just a second” gesture.
HUMAN: If we break into Lord Vezox’s warbase at nightfall-
ELF: Just a moment. What’s the story purpose of your being a white male?
The human and elf have turned so they’re directly facing each other. The human is a bit surprised looking; the elf looks a bit angry and is “talking with her hands.”
HUMAN: Er… What?
ELF: If there’s no reason your character needs to be a white male, then you’re just a token!
The human is looking annoyed, crossing his arms. The elf is angrily yelling, holding up a hand in a “stop that” gesture.
HUMAN: But what about white male representation? What about-
ELF: Don’t bring in that SJW garbage! It’s just not realistic to have a white man in this setting!
The large gargoyle has turned its head to speak to the human. The human is surprised looking. The Elf looks pleased.
GARGOYLE: And if we aren’t strictly realistic, fans won’t accept the story!