#1 Posted by V_Scarlotte_Rose (6731 posts) - - Show Bio

Hi Everyone.

I'm not sure if the thread title is quite right, so I'll explain.

We are told that the majority of comic book readers are white and male, and that non-male and non-white characters will often fail to sell as well. A reason for this that I hear sometimes is that the characters aren't relatable to the majority, and that people prefer to read characters that are similar to themselves.

What I was wondering was, does anyone out there prefer to read about characters who aren't like yourself? I've never seen anyone say that they do, so I'd be interested to know if it ever happens. And if you do, are there particular reasons why?


#2 Posted by The_Lunact_And_Manic (3296 posts) - - Show Bio

I do...

#3 Edited by Wolfrazer (11114 posts) - - Show Bio

What is relatable anyway in comics?

#4 Posted by V_Scarlotte_Rose (6731 posts) - - Show Bio

What is relatable anyway in comics?

Not a lot it seems, but it's a word that comes up quite often.

I imagine comics would be pretty boring if they were truly relatable.

#5 Posted by RustyRoy (15114 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm not a billionaire orphan yet Batman is my most favorite character, I'm neither a magician nor a woman but I love Zatanna. I don't think we can relate to comic book characters alteast not with the most popular ones, maybe we like them because we think their life is interesting. Like who doesn't love a spy with charming personality working in a secret service, a billionaire who spends his nights fighting crime.

#6 Posted by End_Boss (749 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think someone has to look like you, or even act like you, to be relatable.

I also think that if something is less relatable to you, then it is not your preferred choice by definition. It's one of those tricky terms that means one and many things. Is someone relatable to me because his skin is the same color as mine? Because he had the same number of brothers and sisters? Because they like the same bands I do? The answer is yes and no on all accounts. Yes, all of those things can be contributing factors, but none of them are the deciding one.

#7 Posted by Betatesthighlander1 (7728 posts) - - Show Bio

I like characters like Galactus, Lord chaos, Master Order, The Celestials; pretty much anyone who is elevated far above human status interests me.

ideas like wars in heaven or conflicts between immeasurable cosmic powers interest me

people like that are way less relatable than people of a different race or gender

#8 Posted by AweSam (7525 posts) - - Show Bio

What is relatable anyway in comics?

Well, I'm a billionaire/genius who came from a doomed planet and got struck by lightning while flying my invisible jet which I created with my ring that was given to me by a wizard who turned out to be my father who was murdered just before my planet was destroyed by a supernova which gave me the power to transform into a rock golem whenever I get angry. Unfortunately I pissed off my wizard dad, so he took my ring from me because I'm not worthy, so I lost all my powers and all evidence that any of this is true.

I can relate to Jimmy Olsen, a bit.

#10 Edited by Catsnlynne (1188 posts) - - Show Bio

I like characters that are male and I'm female, so yes I like characters that are not like me.

#11 Posted by jloneblackheart (6531 posts) - - Show Bio

I think at some level, any character is relateable in some way.

#12 Posted by Lieutenant_Awkward (125 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm not practically a god but I love Superman.

#13 Edited by akbogert (3319 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm not sure that the notion that characters must be white and male to sell really holds up when compared to the seemingly-ubiquitous notion that "sex sells." I could respond to your specific question by saying almost all of the characters I really like are female, but if you were to discount from them the ones who are also "attractive," you might not have much of a list.

Now as to personality and background, I frankly can't think of any characters to whom I do relate. In fact I think a character who was actually like me would pretty much suck and annoy pretty much everyone he talked to.

I think the issue of relatability is more to do with their humanity. Do the characters talk and behave like an actual person might? Someone who is just 100% good or evil is very difficult to write well or enjoyably because 1. you always know how they'll respond to a situation and 2. they seem more like a plot device than a full-fledged character. So relatable may be someone in whom you see aspects you'd like to emulate, or maybe even aspects you'd like to avoid but know you have the potential for if you allow it to take hold. And in that way, I think race and gender are irrelevant.

#14 Posted by Crom-Cruach (8935 posts) - - Show Bio

@v_scarlotte_rose: My favorite characters are not like me at all. Simply put, one of the reasons I love comics is the escapism. I do like realistic characters too. But the fact that a character is crazy awesome, capable of the things I could never do or would not even want to do. That he lives and experiences world completely removed from my own is a big draw.

#15 Edited by sandiego008 (3406 posts) - - Show Bio

@v_scarlotte_rose: I think this is to the point that the majority of the main characters were written in an age where all characters were white and due to association and being grandfathered in we all grew up knowing batman, superman, spiderman, hulk, etc.

It isn't like racism was long ago ... it was going strong in early 1990's and is still going on. Hard to build a solid ethnic character when all you know is white characters. A few have made the jump ... but I don't know how well people associate with them as they are being loyal to the characters they grew up w/ and love.

I honestly liked/loved reading about spiderman when he was juggling school, mary jane, spiderman, making webbing etc. When he got in a fight and didnt have funds or time to make webbing and had to deal with x in a different way due to no webbing thats what I enjoy. I have none of those problems but that is just good writing

In the end it isn't association with the character, it's that writers are failing to attract us.

Black Panther and spawn are the 2 black superstars i can think of off top of head. Night thrasher should've been one IMO.

#16 Posted by Betatesthighlander1 (7728 posts) - - Show Bio
@awesam said:
@wolfrazer said:

What is relatable anyway in comics?

Well, I'm a billionaire/genius who came from a doomed planet and got struck by lightning while flying my invisible jet which I created with my ring that was given to me by a wizard who turned out to be my father who was murdered just before my planet was destroyed by a supernova which gave me the power to transform into a rock golem whenever I get angry. Unfortunately I pissed off my wizard dad, so he took my ring from me because I'm not worthy, so I lost all my powers and all evidence that any of this is true.

I can relate to Jimmy Olsen, a bit.

that's pretty dang funny

#17 Edited by roboadmiral (577 posts) - - Show Bio

I think this comes from a misunderstanding of the word "relatable." It doesn't require the character to be just like you. A lot of factors play into it but it boils down to: can you empathize with this character? If so, congrats, you have located a relatable character.

#18 Edited by Veshark (9425 posts) - - Show Bio

To me, race doesn't necessitate me finding a character relatable. I find Captain America more relatable than Shang-Chi, for instance, despite my Asian ethnicity.

Overall, my love for certain characters is generally not measured by how much I can relate to them. To use Cap as an example, I find him relatable in the sense that his moral compass and his struggle for justice is something I can understand. He's a fictional role model of sorts. But it doesn't mean I'm a Super-Soldier fighting against Nazis with red skulls. And there are plenty of other elements to the character that make me like him save for that - his loyal personality, his kickass costume, his many battles et cetera.

#19 Posted by SC (16147 posts) - - Show Bio

Some great comments already in thread, especially deconstructing the concept and word of relatable. See I can't really say which I prefer between the two options, as I can't actually think of any character I don't or can't relate to in a small way and I usually find relatable characters in those because of subjective reasons that tend to be non physical set traits such as gender or skin color or powers. In fact I think its a problem if the reason why people relate to a character are because of those factors, although psychologically there are many reasons why humans traditionally empathized with each other for such superficial reasons.

Usually characters have the potential for both, Batman suffered loss and hardship and as a result isolated himself from the rest of society whilst putting up a facade in Bruce Wayne his public persona. Many people in real life suffer from loss and hardship and isolate themselves and take a more analytical and skeptical view of reality whilst putting on a different persona for friends and family, in this way Batman is relatable, especially traditionally for teenagers and young adults. All that thinking, self reflection, brooding. Though as many often point out in critiquing Batman as a relatable character he is super rich, super handsome, like best fighter ever, super detective, ultra intelligent, and well you can't have a few million of those types of people running around in real life.

Likewise Superman has these godlike powers, but he also tries to do what he considers the right thing a lot, which can be a tricky balance when friends and family depend on you, and he willingly burdens himself with the problems of others but also tries his best to exercise caution because he never wants to actually be a bully or immoral... plus well there is this pretty reporter he likes and he kind wants to know if they like him for being him... and he has all these other relationships and and well there is plenty for a person to relate to there even though if one can't meditate in the sun.

A character like Doomsday is maybe a bit harder to relate to, except a lot of people also experience feelings and thoughts of just wanting to shut off and act through will to overcome obstacles. In this sense Doomsday is more of a wish fulfillment character, this unstoppable engine of destruction that ca never be truly stopped, a force of nature and many have such power fantasies of being unstoppable and invulnerable and never dying, but then its worth mentioning that Doomsday was basically envisioned to be a foil for Superman and not really a character hence not really a relatable character, but even with that intent its human nature to be able to project on a character and that very act of projection allows a character to be made relatable basically no matter the character. A fine line can exist between projection and identification of traits that one can relate to as well. Ororo Munroe is an American black female mutant with supposedly the perfect mix of various ethnic features heh heh - she manipulates various weather aspects, I identify her as an empathic, stubborn, person who isn't afraid to break traditions, i can relate to her, especially when written by Chris Claremont. Unless Superman is being written by Grant Morrison I find him harder to relate to naturally usually. Then I mention those writers alongside the characters because the traits one can identify within them can be hard to pin down and remain consistent. Not only that often the characters are held to be purposefully ambiguous because you can cast a wider net when you allow readers to project into the character.

#20 Posted by FadeToBlackBolt (23390 posts) - - Show Bio

You'll notice that most "relatable" characters are either a**holes who never suffer (Iron Man, Wolverine), zeniths of human goodness (Peter Parker, Dick Grayson) or some being of incomprehensible power with a single exaggerated human trait (Hulk, Johns' Hal Jordan)

Any character is relatable, just depends how the reader sees themselves.

#21 Edited by Immortal777 (9602 posts) - - Show Bio

Someone should be able to relate to every fictional character in some way.

#22 Posted by BlueLantern1995 (3237 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm racially blind and judge by character. Unfortunately a lot of comicbook companies make their minority characters just so out they have some so that means they usually suck(Black Panther and 1 or 2 others are awesome though). Everyone should be able relate to anyone no matter there skin color as long as they have some details that make them realistic and human.

#23 Edited by Kittie_ (7 posts) - - Show Bio


#24 Posted by Fuchsia_Nightingale (10191 posts) - - Show Bio

Yes, skin color, gender yadda yadda more or less has no bearing on me reading it.
Now for other things people mention when you bring up notion of relatable, like relationship turmoil, it's fine, unless it gets to be too much, Ross and Rachel level of back and forth, gosh kill me now. I rather read people who are better then me when it comes to problems, maybe so I can learn, rather read captain optimism, then champion moody, when it comes to reading about a character say losing a job. Maybe we need more go getters, maybe then whining won't be the social norm :P

#25 Posted by BumpyBoo (12902 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think gender has very much to do with being relatable and neither does race. Girls in comics are usually the characters I relate to the least, either because they are totally alien to me, or because I feel they are aimed squarely at me and do not particularly enjoy being pandered to.

I am a white woman, but can I relate to Spawn? Of course. The feelings he experiences are universal - loss, frustration, betrayal, that feeling of having everything he most desires just beyond his grasp. It is much like listening to a song you like. You listen, and you relate, and you feel it describes your own life. But the person who wrote it may be going through something entirely different. The circumstances vary, but the resultant emotions are similar. I don't have to be able to swing from a web to worry about not being there for the people I love. I don't have to be massive and green to know how it feels to be afraid of losing emotional control.

Someone should be able to relate to every fictional character in some way.

This sums it up nicely for me :)