Welcome to NYCC 2014: Marvel 75: World Outside Your Window - Diversity In Marvel Comics!
Ann Nocenti opened the panel explaining that she was an editor on the X-Men a long time ago, saying that "In those days, we had Storm, and that was it." She explained that she created Typhoid Mary to challenge the perception of women in Marvel comics.
The baton then passed to Don McGregor, who talked about his time working on Black Panther, saying that writing an all black cast was controversial at the time. "People kept asking, where are the white people? So I had the Panther fight the Ku Klux Klan."
Next up came Sana Amanat, discussing the creation of Ms. Marvel, explaining that, even a few years ago, she would never have guessed that there would be a major Mulsim-American character headlining her own title.
Kurt Busiek then explained that, when he first started writing at Marvel, "I wrote Power Man and Iron Fist, and that was our diversity." He joked about a series of stories where everyone in Washington DC were turned into serpents, then werewolves, saying, "I joked that there must have been a formula that turned everyone into white people." He also said, "My operating rule for many years when creating characters was, 'Does this have to be a white guy?'"
Marie Jevins then took the microphone, discussing her days working on Marvel's international titles like Akira. She explained that, in those days, the representation of minorities wasn't great, and part of the reason is that the colors available lead to embarrassing depictions.
Kelly Sue DeConnick introduced herself, saying she was bringing diversity to Marvel by creating "Blonde, blue-eyed, powerful women," obviously speaking partially tongue in cheek.
Kieron Gillen then introduced himself, talking about his work on Young Avengers. "He's here representing British people," joked DeConnick.
Moderator Daniel Ketchum asked how important it was to the creators to create and write diverse characters. Nocenti responded that it happened naturally, because creators want to write about people with whom they identify. Nocenti also explained that diversity isn't just about race. She implored McGregor to "say something smarter."
"Thanks a lot Ann. I'm not known for that," he quipped. He explained that in the '70's, writers were only given characters they resembled, with the perception being that women could only right women, and so on. McGregor also explained his efforts to subtly write homosexual relationships among his characters, saying that editorial was wary of the relationships. McGregor confessed that he had received letters from readers whose perceptions had changed because of his writing.
Busiek continued McGregor's line of logic, saying "In the '70's, they said you couldn't do that. In the '80's, they said it wouldn't sell. If you make a comic without a white guy in the lead, it won't sell. Well, what about those titles with white characters that get cancelled? Does that mean you can't make any more comics about white guys? No!"
"They still make Aquaman comics!" joked DeConnick.
"What Don did in the '70's was pushing comics forward," said Busiek. McGregor responded, "I was just trying to tell a story. I didn't think about it like a statement."
Jevin implored readers to consider that there are many more women and people of color in editorial staff than in creative, saying that "In the '80's, the Marvel bullpen was as representative as the crowd on the subway."
The panelists then discussed longtime editor and colorist Marie Severin, with McGregor confessing that she used to paint hair on his chest as a lark.
Amanat discussed her connection to Marvel comics, saying that she connected first with the X-Men as a metaphor for diversity, and for feeling disconnected from society. "People of all races, genders, and orientations can connect with our comics."