Robot 6

Gerry Conway on sexism in corporate superhero comics

Cosplayer Linda Le enjoying her version of one of Conway's characters. Photo by Anna Fischer.

Cosplayer Linda Le enjoying her version of one of Gerry Conway’s characters. Photo by Anna Fischer.

My point was that the ‘mainstream’ isn’t the whole picture. Frankly, to my mind, ‘mainstream’ comics are actually the least interesting and creative comics published today.

Gerry Conway, clarifying and adding context to comments he made at the Television Critics Association panel on PBS’ documentary, Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle.

It’s always good to hear both sides of the story. Conway took to Twitter this morning to clarify his thoughts from the panel he was on with Superheroes‘ director Michael Kantor and fellow comics makers Todd McFarlane and Len Wein. It was during that panel that Think Progress’ Alyssa Rosenberg asked about sexism in superhero comics and got some disappointing answers.

“I won’t defend any stupid or insensitive remarks I made yesterday,” Conway wrote, “but I’d like to put them in context. The question we were responding to came near the end of the panel and didn’t really fit the subjects we’d been discussing. So in responding to it, speaking only for myself, I was groping to put in the context of what we were talking about – comics as myth. That’s where the clumsy female knight allusion came from. And it was dumb. I felt bad about it at once because the question deserved better.

“Yes, women and minorities and LGBT folk are horribly underrepresented among the creators of mainstream comics. This is not good. But I argue that they aren’t underrepresented among comic creators in general. My point was that the ‘mainstream’ isn’t the whole picture. Frankly, to my mind, ‘mainstream’ comics are actually the least interesting and creative comics published today. I didn’t feel it was my place to say that because the show we were promoting wasn’t about the creativity of current comics.

“The PBS Superheroes documentary is about a specific genre of comics, speaking to a specific audience, and in my case, in a specific time. The questioner who raised the issue of sexism and non-inclusion wanted to talk about something else, certainly worthy, but not our topic. My proper response should have been, ‘Good point. Next?’”

It’s an interesting disconnect. Rosenberg and NPR critic Linda Holmes had been questioning panelists about sexism in the television industry for much of the press tour. It’s an important issue and extends way beyond just comics. As Holmes wrote on the Monkeysee blog, “[T]elevision is much as it’s always been, continuing to churn out 22-minute sitcoms and 43-minute dramas for broadcast television, made largely by teams of white guys in button-downs and greenlit by white executives in suits, mostly about white guys.” It makes sense that Rosenberg – a comics fan – would also take the opportunity to continue asking these kinds of questions at a panel on superheroes.

That the questions took Conway (and perhaps the other panelists) by surprise is fair. What’s interesting though is that Conway not only doesn’t defend his response, but he doesn’t defend the corporate superhero industry either. I want to be really careful about putting words in his mouth, but if I’m reading Rosenberg’s account correctly, Conway is the one who admitted that yes, corporate superhero comics aren’t getting out in front of the culture very well. And he would perhaps agree that it isn’t an ambitious position. What didn’t come across until Conway started tweeting was that he’s also not really okay with that state of affairs.

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Comments

23 Comments

I can’t disagree that a question not germaine to anything discussed before it and quite off topic would get short shrift at the end of a panel discussion. Ambushing might get an interesting sound byte and a post on CBR putting down a former comics professional but what else did i t accomplish?

I agree with Steve.

Alyssa Rosenberg question was inappropriate to the promotional purpose of the panel and amount to nothing more than an attempt to get a salacious comment or an out of context statement to be exploited for the purpose of increasing blog-hits through controversy. Which she succeeded in doing in spades!

The panelists were taken off guard and since there was no Bob Wayne or other PR/Sales exec to assist them, they floundered for a bit but that didn’t stop sites that exist primarily complain & exploit those who subscribe to the “everyone’s a victim” type of thinking a la “DC Women” from jumping all the bandwagon like starving racoons behind a restaurant trash bin.

Anyone who knows Gerry is a great guy & a comics legend. Kudos to Robot 6 for letting him be heard.

It doesn’t matter is superhero comics are ‘uncreative’ or not. Lack of representation is still an issue that plagues comics from the Big 2 and more.

Gerry Conway should certainly know as well as anyone about the lack of interesting comics in the mainstream. He helped make the industry what it is today.

oh stuff it, gene

mainstream comics, like movies, televison and books, has 10% great stuff, 60% average stuff, and 30% boring dreck

every few months the same crap is shoveled into the Internet Furnace

It’s business. If comic creators don’t view more female/LGBT books as being lucrative then they won’t do it. I am sure there is research that tells us that 90 percent of readers are male…don’t hate the player, hate the game.

This is not an issue of equity, it is about the dollar. You want change? Load up female readers on female books: captain marvel, wonder woman, supergirl…

Conway’s apology here is a good one, but I can’t fault anyone who’s still mad at him. Personally, the proper response should have been “We should have done better”

His new comments seem pretty reasonable. I haven’t been interviewed a whole lot but it can be difficult to respond to questions that one has not prepared an answer for on the spot.

I think that it’s cool that he says in his follow-up that he was just wrong and doesn’t attempt to defend that particular point of view.

That said, I really do hope that the comics community in general can take to the larger points and keep hammering discussion about women & sexism, diversity (people of color, LGBT, women) and diversity of creators as well. It’s an important discussion and it is an awkward, uncomfortable discussion. But it’s a discussion that we need to continue having.

If the takeaway from this is seriously that Rosenberg ambushed the panel with a “gotcha” question, then I’m once again questioning my decision to try to break into this industry.

That’s the takeaway by a few eager posters. It’s par for the course that certain fanboy types will toe the line of their favored corporation, whether it be Marvel shafting the Kirby estate or Apple driving Chinese wage-slaves off the roof.

Rosenberg asked a question that Conway found reasonable.

People who interpret that in the same way that Sarah Palin chose to interpret Couric’s newspaper question look every bit as stupid as she did.

” I am sure there is research that tells us that 90 percent of readers are male…”

Gee, I wonder why.

This topic again? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

@Joe If I read your response correctly it boils down to this:

Female journalist asks comic creators comic questions at comics panel which comic panelists give dumb answers to because they didn’t have anyone to tell them they are dumb answers but that’s not their fault it’s the bad lady journalist for actually writing about the dumb answer. And then when other people react to the dumb answers it’s not because they are dumb answers but because other people are just looking to write about dumb answers.

Is that it, kinda?

Oh wait sorry didn’t add in the “Can’t be a dumb answer because provider of dumb answer is a “great guy” and therefor that excuses everything.

It’s nice that Gerry clarified what he was trying to say but he still said what he said.

Regardless of how on or off topic the question was for the panel, it addresses a major, pressing issue in the industry, and not one that should require the intervention of a “PR/Sales exec.” The idea that this topic is one the speakers need to be protected from is incredibly depressing.

I’ll just remember CBR’s attitude toward a woman doing her job as a journalist the next time it tries to sell us on how much it loves Lois Lane.

lol.

yeah. no.

it was a straightforward question that they all answered straightforwardly and, we must presume, truthfully. What “context” was needed? Zero. The answers came from gut responses and were, thus, not canned or preplanned. Not the questioner’s fault that the truth was told.

It’s not like anyone is surprised that these attitudes are rampant backstage at the Big Two. I mean, duh.

No takebacks after you tell the truth. Sorry.

Sue, my view is that Conway knows he said some dumb shit and apologized for it. Like I said above, I don’t blame anyone for being mad at him at all, but at least he has awareness, unlike the human pile of garbage known as Mark Millar.

Wether or not it was on topic (it was)….it opened up a dialogue for everyone to discuss this issue. And got people talking…questioning… That’s a victory.

And for people who defended those answers, good riddance. You can keep that bullshit for yourselves.

@aboynamedart: Where the hell does THAT come from? Where in my post do I criticize Alyssa Rosenberg AT ALL?

Trey,
There’s nothing morally wrong with a person being a creative journeyman and producing work that sells to an audience that wants it.

I have a problem with said journeyman turning around and sneering at the “mainstream” that he helped create.

I read the Rosenberg report today and the whole thing seems like a tempest in a teapot.

I also disagree with whatever person in the report acted as if the whole matter of male sexualization in comics reduces down to a basic equation: “men entitled, women oppressed.” It’s just not that simple.

I’d also add, with regards to all the vitriol that got tossed at Conway with regards to calling Hicks a “girl”, this guy is a senior citizen. If Hicks Grandpa called her a girl, I highly doubt she would tell him how disrespectful he’s being to her gender and how he’s marginalizing her. Lighten up, Francis.

Sue

“Is that it, kinda?”

Actually, you forgot the part where, in spite of those rare instances, sales of comics targeted to women and minorities basically prove out what the panel was saying. You also forgot how you ignore that inconvenient truth on a daily basis on your own blog, instead focusing on the facts as they look to you after being sent through your tumblr ragey rage meat grinder. But yeah, that’s it…kinda.

@Joe – That’s a remarkable handwave there for Gerry. I’m sure he’s THRILLED you’ve decided that he’s a senior citizen (he’s 60) and that Hicks should appreciate his remarks because, um, grandpa?

The rest of your comment is just as remarkable in its inability to address the issue at hand and then goes into a rant about me. Sorry you don’t like what I write. But I’ve got lots of folks who do, so I don’t care. Yeah that’s it, kinda.

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