Black Editorial Staff Speak Out About DC Comics, Across Two Decades
Right now, the three most senior people at DC Comics are people of colour, President Pamela Lifford, Publisher and CCO Jim Lee and General Manager Daniel Cherry III. DC Comics is about to publish John Ridley's The Other DC Universe, a more diverse line of superhero titles for January and February called Future State, and spent much of the recent DC Fandome talking about the increasing diverse credentials of DC Comics, with special emphasis on the upcoming YA original graphic novels, and bringing back the black-focused diverse superhero line, Milestone. Jim Lee even turned super-DC fan Venus Williams into a brand new DC comic book character.
But some people feel things are lacking – and have been for some time. Twenty years ago, I interviewed then-DC Editor Joe Illidge as he departed DC Comics. I couldn't help recall aspects of that interview reading Travis Clark's interview with former editors Harvey Richards and Lateef Ade "LA" Williams, who tell Business Insider that they never achieved their full potential at DC Comics because of their race. Williams left in 2000 as well as Illidge, after six years without a promotion. Harvey Richards was an assistant editor at DC Comics for twelve years and was an associate editor for a further ten years until December 2019. He spent longer than anyone else in the publisher's history in editorial, 22 years, without getting promoted to editor. At the time Richards was fired, he was the only black editorial staffer.
Richards told Business Insider "You need [Black] editors to help nurture talent to foster diverse characters,". He also cites former President and Publisher Paul Levitz as stating he had "grammar problems," and when Levitz told him "some people think you deserve this" when Richards won an award. He also states that he was only even promoted to associate editor after Levitz was replaced by Diane Nelson as President.
Williams shared examples of what he saw as "assistant editors of color set up to fail" by being placed by editor Mike Carlin on low selling books, but when his own series, Impulse took off, only to be criticised for wasting good artists. When the Wonder Woman editor was fired, he states that he was passed their books by Carlin, but was not promoted to editor. And after filing a racial-discrimination complaint with human resources against Carlin, he was told by Levitz that he would never be promoted at DC Comics while Levitz was Publisher, and would remain at assistant editor – ostensibly related to an unauthorised appearance of a politician in Impulse.
As for Richards being fired last year, he tells Business Insider that he was put on probation "poor time management skills and an inability to meet deadlines" though Richards say he was clearly being overworked. He returned to work after Thanksgiving to be fired with six-month severance and told he "no longer fit company standards."
Business Insider cites Levitz as saying "I'm not going to comment on decades-old incidents. I'm proud of the increasing diversity at DC in my time as an executive there, and while we didn't achieve an ideal balance, I think much changed for the better." Mike Carlin, still working at DC twenty years later, did not respond to Business Insider or to Bleeding Cool.
The full article can be read on Business Insider. This is the final week that many DC Comics staffers will be at the publisher, their notice runs out at the end of the week. It is possible that a number of others may be minded to talk about their former employer, depending on how seriously they take their NDA-related payoffs. We may have to wait a year, as with Harvey Richards, until they can go on the record though…