Ethnic characters in comics

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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby Hornmeister » August 28th, 2017, 4:41 am

I think you're kind of missing the point. She's not meaning to self-deprecate herself here, but voicing concern about her cultural frame of reference, which is always a benefitial thing to do if you want to improve your work.
Being complacent with the audience you can keep without approaching the concerns of outsiders is not a mark of personal integrity, but of stagnation.
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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby darkenergy » August 28th, 2017, 10:19 am

Firstly, look around. You might have more exposure to other cultures than you realize. Don't let yourself sink into this "I'm white and privileged so I see nothing else" mindset - although yes, you've got limitations, like most other people.

Secondly, remember that it's about diversity of thought, too. As someone who is a minority, it absolutely frustrates me when someone gets slapped with a "brown" (that's not a culture!) look and name and nothing else. All of us struggle with representing other views - I'm not familiar with people who are socioeconomically and institutionally disadvantaged, myself. (I'm a well off suburbanite who happens to not be white.)

It's cool that you're thinking about this. As others have said, read into the history. Watch TV featuring diverse characters front and center, even. If you get stuff wrong, be open to feedback and change. It's a learning process.
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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby AlasanderCroll » August 28th, 2017, 4:56 pm

By all means, do, but write them accurately. If it is drama, don't try to distill them down to a sympathetic stereotype. Instead, find a number of commonalities that are generally true of the specific demographic and incorporate one or two of them into the essence of the character. Racism affecting body image, racial profiling, economic status, etc. The rest of their character doesn't need to be directed associated. Those things are not the defining features of their character.

Or make it not matter if it is an egilitarian fantasy/sci-fi setting or comedy strip. Do not make minorities the butt of jokes involving their race. If you do make a joke about racism, make sure it is at the expense of the oppresser and not the oppressed/
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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby tentacletomato » September 14th, 2017, 4:35 pm

You can't make everyone happy. The best thing to do to avoid being offensive (because you don't want to be, not bc you'll get called out. Whatever you do is for you) is research. Research culture, common diets, human geography etc. However, the most important thing is to treat each character as a human, with complex emotions. That way, you don't need to focus on "is this ethnic character ethnic enough? Are they too ethnic??" Focus less on them being an embodiment of their culture, and on more of being a character. Focus on your characters, and less on being diverse to be diverse. Then, writing becomes much easier, and you'll be much happier.
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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby MK_Wizard » September 25th, 2017, 6:12 pm

I faced a similar challenge because one of my major characters is half black and half white which is relevant in how her life would be because the setting is (alternate universe) Victorian age. The best thing you can do is research, make them a character first and for most not a token character, and don't make everything about their ethnicity.

If you did research and gave your character justice, then you do not have to feel bad about anything. If someone does get displeased, just explain yourself diplomatically :) People do misunderstand.
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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby bobadventures » May 27th, 2019, 5:08 pm

A concern I've had over the years is figuring out how to *visually* portray ethnicity in a toon-style comic. As Scott McCloud observed in his seminal Understanding Comics, a viewer seeing a nondescript stick figure will tend to assume it is the same ethnicity as him/herself (or perhaps that it is a member of the ethnic majority of the society the viewer lives in). The same goes for toons.

Japanese cartoon fans are always surprised when Westerners say that anime characters "look white," because of course, they *don't.* No real ethnicity actually looks like a standard big-eyes-small-mouth anime character, any more than any real ethnicity looks like Jon Arbuckle or Elmer Fudd or Homer Simpson. Anime characters usually aren't drawn realistically enough to look recognizably Japanese, so a white viewer will look at one and say, "He looks white!" (Well, there is the hair color thing, but a lot of anime characters have green and blue hair, too.)

Anyway, I confess I have always been a little leery of introducing more diverse characters into my comic because I would have to find a way to make them look properly "cartoony" like the rest of my cast, and yet also recognizably non-white, and that's a delicate thing, lest one be accused of racial caricature. If my comic were in color, I'd have half the problem solved of course, but it isn't. (When I introduced a quartet of Japanese ninjas, I was able to sidestep the issue by simply drawing them in anime style, which certainly makes them distinct from the rest of the cast. In retrospect, I kind of regret that when I had earlier introduced some French characters, I didn't think to draw them in a more French cartooning style (like Asterix the Gaul or the human characters from The Smurfs.)

Anyway, I've been making more of an effort to diversify lately, and what I'm finding is that I tend to start out drawing the ethnic characters a bit more realistically than the others, but as I get more comfortable drawing each of them, I feel I can simplify their designs down to a more toony level because I'm not caricaturing their racial characteristics, I'm caricaturing *them* as individuals. I'm still trying to get better at it, though. Right now I'm doing a scene set in the nation of Mali in west Africa, and I'm pretty happy with one new character's design, but the old man he's talking to is still giving me a little trouble (I'm not satisfied with how I've drawn his beard, of all things). I'm confident I'll get the hang of them both before the scene is done, though.
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Re: Ethnic characters in comics

Postby Socratatus » August 12th, 2019, 9:28 am

xX-DragonFairy-Xx wrote:I dunno where to post this, but I figured here is just as good a place as any.

So I've been trying to write for some characters that are of various ethnic and religious groups, but I've been a little bit anxious about writing them at all due to my being a white, privileged middle class girl. I just don't feel qualified, I suppose.

I've been seeing other webcomics and comics getting a lot of criticism for having characters that people say represent a racist stereotype, and before I had read those comments I hadn't considered them a stereotype. Which kind of worries me, especially if I'm considering writing characters outside my own ethnic and religious group.

So, I guess my question is, how far does a character have to go to be considered representing a racist or stereotypical view? I don't really know how to go about asking this, but I thought I'd put it out there.


I`m new here. But I want to say this is silly nonsense. You`re letting yourself be controlled by idiotic poltical correctness.

I am black (sigh, I hate having to say this I shouldn`t need to), and I draw black, white, asian, Indian people all the time in my work. Sometimes I depict them right, sometimes wrong. I just do the best I can with the research means I have as long as it don`t take too long. I also depict them concerning the time periods too.

I make no apology for it. I had a white friend come up to me and apologise for being white. I was shocked and told him he had NOTHING to apologise for. ALL peoples of ALL races have at some time or another done something bad. No race is better than any other. I told him about the history of other races and what they did. I`m glad to say he felt a lot better after that.

I am shocked how deeply white people (and especially men) have been guilted by certain parties that want to have power and control over them. Cos that`s what it is... bad people guilting you so they can rule over you.

Go as far as you damn want- It`s your story. I might read it, I might not- I won`t stop you from you freedom as an artist. Don`t be controlled by people who do NOT have your best interests at heart, it will only kill your freedom to do Art and tell stories.

Basically, just do the best you can, no one`s perfect and I certainly won`t hold it against you if you depict a black man `wrong`.
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