Former Black Comics Editors Allege Years of Racial Discrimination at DC Comics

Former African-American DC Comics editors, Harvey Richards and Lateef Ade “L.A.” Williams, shared their separate struggles to succeed in their career paths due to their race. Although both men were able to land editorial staff jobs with DC Comics, neither felt that they were ever able to maximize their capacities in the time they spent working for the longstanding comic book company.

What We Know:

  • Williams cut ties with the company in 2000 after six years of work and no advances or promotion. Similar to Williams, Richards was also hired in the 1990s yet, stayed with the company for 22 years only receiving one promotion the entire time he was there. Richards was the only Black editor at the time of his termination.
  • Richards began working as an assistant editor. After four years he was offered the opportunity to prove himself by working on the Superman comics with hopes of being promoted to associate editor. Before he could do so, Richards was asked to complete what he described as an “unusual” task to write about how he would personally strengthen the Superman books. When he finished the assignment, he was told by the then executive vice president and DC publisher, Paul Levitz, that he had issues with his grammar. Despite his hard work and good reviews, Richard was not promoted until 12 years after his initial hire when a new president, Diane Nelson, replaced Levitz.
  • Almost two decades prior, L.A. Williams experienced a comparable altercation with Levitz who expressed to him that as long as he was publisher, Williams would never receive a promotion and he was welcome to stay there as an assistant editor for as long as he liked.
  • Williams believed that people of color on the editorial staff were often purposely set up for failure. In an interview with Business Insider, he recalled a time in 2000 when assistant editors were provided with monthly comics to edit on their own, but according to him the comics he would be assigned were ill-fated from the get go.
  • When a book he was assigned actually became a hit, the executive director at the time, Mike Carlin, was not pleased. Rather than getting any praise for the success of the sales, he was condemned for wasting the time of comic veteran, Walt Simonson, who drew two issues of the comic when Carlin claims he could have been working on “characters like Superman instead”.
  • DC Comics emerged in 1939 and by 1971 the first African American superhero, John Stewart, appeared. Yet, it was not until 1990 when DC Comics hired their first Black editor and writer, Christopher Priest, a mere few years prior to Richards and Williams. Black superheroes were not being represented by Black writers or editors for years, and even when it finally happened the representation was still lacking heavily.

In order to appropriately promote diversity and advocate for the success of editorial staffers of color it is important they are given legitimate opportunities to succeed.