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Space for Multiple Continuities
The biggest mistake any publisher can make right now is to mandate a single, overarching canon for individual characters à la Denny O'Neil and his Bat-Bible. There's more than enough room for multiple versions of the same character in a single publishing line-up, and it bolsters and strengthens characters if they're not chained to unpopular creative runs. Take, for example, Wonder Woman's recent history: after Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's run (which, while not without its flaws, sold well and was a commercial and critical success), Meredith and David Finch inherited the title. The run wasn't exactly well-received—Diana felt wildly out of character and the art veered to hyper-sexual extremes. The real problem was that, for a while, the Finchs' version of Diana was the only one available—she had no other starring roles. Towards the end of that disastrous run, Wonder Woman also appeared in DC Comics Bombshells, The Legend of Wonder Woman and Sensation Comics, and no two Dianas were precisely the same, though there were core personality traits and stylistic choices that clearly linked them all. And that's where the strength of having multiple continuities can really help a publisher out: if the Finchs' Diana isn't for you, maybe Bombshells' Wonder Woman might be, and DC gets money and maintains a fandom.
Multiple continuities also allow for more experimentation and more interesting takes on familiar characters and tropes. This doesn't mean that publishers should constantly be rebooting their line-ups or rebuilding everything from the ground up. DC's Rebirth efforts and the Young Animal imprint are the perfect demonstration of how to allow fresh stories and long-term canon to coexist comfortably. Valiant is doing the same with the Stalinverse event, creating something entirely new built on an old foundation, without wiping out the history in place. Limiting crossovers, focusing on contained stories and giving creative teams agency allows for innovation that both attracts new readers and keeps old ones coming back—and it makes for better stories. Caitlin Rosberg
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Stop Pigeonholing "Diverse" Creators
Former Paste contributor (and current creator badass) Tini Howard spoke about this at length last year, but comics has a pigeonholing problem. For all of the strides that major publishers have made in finding new creators who reflect characters outside of the straight white male comic norm—from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Roxane Gay, Sina Grace to Gene Luen Yang—these creators rarely end up taking the reigns of characters who don't match their "diversity." And as a gay man, I understand the push/pull pressure of feeling a responsibility to represent your lived experience and the experiences of others like you who aren't regularly reflected in mainstream fiction—it can't be assumed that creators are striving for gigs and getting turned away by publishers. But when straight white male writers are given five or six writing slots per month, the disparity becomes apparent—and when "diverse" books struggle to find steady readership in a challenging market (often with little publisher support), "diverse" creators often find their work opportunities drying up, too.
The notable exceptions to this trend have proven to be some of the most interesting titles on stands. Becky Cloonan has channeled all of her heavy-metal sensibilities into a blistering Punisher run, Gene Luen Yang offered one of the few compelling takes on the often-unlikable New 52 Superman and Marjorie Liu nailed what Star Wars fans want from a Han Solo solo title. So when will we see a woman writing Spider-Man, a gay man scripting Tony Stark or a person of color steering a main Batman title? If publishers want to actively reduce accusations of "pandering" and the amount of irrational hatred directed at creators who aren't straight white men, an excellent step would be to give more opportunities for these writers to play with the "big toys." No one is suggesting an outright ban on straight white men writing characters of color or female heroes, but it'd be helpful if the opportunities ran in both directions. Steve Foxe
Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire