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The Internet hand-wringing was set to overdrive when it was announced writer Gail Simone had been summarily dismissed from Batgirl. By email, no less. Virtually every comics news site and blog chimed in, usually followed by a flurry of reader comments. However, freelance creators are let go from comics all of the time. Sure there’s usually disappointment, and it’s never good when someone loses her job. But what made this the event of the week?
There’s a history to this that adds an extra layer of emotion.
Simone is a well-liked creator with a spirited fan base, and she has described Batgirl as a dream job for her. This is the character that hooked her into comics. This is the character she’s always wanted to write. Her dream came true, and now it’s being taken away. So any human being with at least an average level of empathy is going to feel like this is an unfortunate turn of events for her. This was also largely unexpected, as the series was performing well; Batgirl #14 was No. 17 on Diamond Comic Distributors’ November sales chart with an estimated 77,468 copies, although previous issues sold in the 40,ooo to 50,000 range. That’s where some shock and indignation comes in. It seems like an unfair decision (although it is of course fully within DC Comics’ rights to hire and fire whoever it wants).
Faced with growing criticism, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has apologized for insulting comments he made about women, gays and lesbians in a nearly two-year-old blog post, characterizing his remarks as “poorly worded and offensive to many.”
The statement, released last night by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and re-posted on Gunn’s Facebook page, followed outreach from the organization, condemnation by the Human Rights Campaign — “James Gunn’s blog post is offensive not just to LGBT people and women but rather to anyone with even the slightest sense of decency” — and online outrage, all stemming from a deleted February 2011 post on the filmmaker’s website.
Newly unearthed via Google Cache, the results of a “Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With” poll include commentary in which Gunn refers to Gambit as “this Cajun fruit,” calls teenage mother Stephanie Brown “easy,” admits wanting “to anally do” Kitty Pryde, and suggests Tony Stark could “turn” the lesbian Batwoman.
Even as the casting search gears up for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a push has begun online to convince the studio to fire director James Gunn over objections to a nearly two-year-old blog post that many view as misogynistic and homophobic. (Note: This post contains graphic language.)
The Feb. 17, 2011 post containing the results of a “Superheroes You Most Want to Have Sex With” poll, complete with Gunn’s commentary, was deleted at some point from the filmmaker’s website but the cached version resurfaced earlier this week on Tumblr before receiving further exposure Wednesday on The Mary Sue. Why Gunn’s post was only recently unearthed is a bit of a mystery (he was confirmed to direct Guardians of the Galaxy more than two months ago).
Gunn’s superhero sex poll includes male and female characters — 50 in all — ranging from Wonder Woman and Superman to Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel. While The Mary Sue notes “there’s nothing wrong about running a poll for the most sex-able superhero on your site,” the complaints arise over some of the filmmaker’s accompanying commentary.
Comics | The editor-in-chief of the Boston Phoenix denies accusations that the alternative weekly canceled Karl Stevens‘ satirical comic Failure because advertiser Anheuser-Busch was offended by last week’s strip, which referred to Bud Light as “diluted horse piss.” Stevens, whose comic has appeared on ThePhoenix.com since 2009, claims he was told by the art director that Failure was being canceled specifically because of the Bud Light jab. “Apparently I offended Bud Light, and cannot be trusted,” Steven told Publishers Weekly. However, Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli called the accusation “categorically false,” insisting Failure was canceled because it no longer fit The Phoenix, which has changed from a weekly newspaper to a weekly magazine. “It is categorically false that Karl’s strip was discontinued due to any outside objections. As the Phoenix’s editor in chief, it was my sole decision to discontinue Failure,” Carioli told The Boston Globe. “There were no sponsor objections — zero — to this strip or any other that I’m aware of.” [Publishers Weekly, The Boston Globe]
Comics | After all of these years, the evangelical comics of 88-year-old cartoonist and publisher Jack Chick still stir controversy. The latest is in Buffalo, New York, where a mother is upset that a local church left on her doorstep a Chick tract that was read by her 7-year-old daughter. “It seems like a Lifetime movie or something that was put into a kid’s comic book and expose my 7-year-old to this horrible of an idea of a family life,” Brandi Gillette says. Titled “Happy Hour,” the 2002 comic depicts an alcoholic, abusive father whose wife dies following a beating (while he’s bellied up to the bar). When his two children start to go hungry because he’s spending the family’s money on alcohol, the girl smashes his liquor bottles and, after threatening to cut him with the jagged glass, convinces him to go to church, where he devotes his life to Christ. Chick Publications, which publishes the tract, says “Happy Hour” is intended for adults, not children. [WIVB]
Created by student D.C. Parsons, the comic (above) depicts a father explaining to his young son, “If you ever tell me you’re gay … I will shoot you with my shotgun, roll you up in a carpet and throw you off a bridge.” The boy replies, “Well, I guess that’s what you call a ‘Fruit Roll Up,’” and the two share a hearty laugh.
The strip drew immediate condemnation both on campus and off, with a petition on Change.org demanding the firing of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, cartoonist and copy editor attracting more than 4,600 signatures.
A youth library in Stockholm pulled Tintin comics from its shelves on the grounds that the racial caricatures of Africans and Arabs are not suitable for children before quickly backpedaling after the removal triggered a media firestorm in Sweden.
“I wanted to highlight an opinion piece about issues of discrimination, but realize now that it’s wrong to ban books,” explained Behrang Miri, the Kulturhuset library’s youth director.
Although the articles don’t specify which Tintin books were pulled, it’s safe to say the primary culprit was Tintin in the Congo, published in 1930, in which the Belgian creator Herge depicted Africans in crudely stereotyped ways. The book has come under heavy criticism in the United States and in Europe, and several attempts have been made, some successful, to remove it from libraries and bookstores (in February, a Belgian court rejected a five-year-old bid to ban the book).
So it’s something of a surprise to learn that Tintin is actually quite popular in the Congo, with locally made statues of the characters and mockups of the covers selling briskly to European tourists. While the director of the national museum objects to the proliferation of Tintinabilia, preferring to focus on the rich native heritage of the country, artisan Auguy Kakese, who makes and sells Tintin figures for a living is more sanguine:
Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]
Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]
Even as anti-American protests spread to 20 countries in North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, details about “Innocence of Muslims” and what role the controversial video may have played in sparking the violence have been difficult to come by. In the hours after the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the consulate in Benghazi, Libya (in which the ambassador and three other Americans were killed), no one seemed to know who the pseudonymous producer of the anti-Muslim video was, or where he was from.
Soon, however, several actors involved in the film began to step forward to say they were duped by the producer, who cast them for a project called Desert Warriors that did not contain a Prophet Muhammad character, but rather a man named George; it was also dubbed with new dialogue. Among the cast members is Anna Gurji, an actress who wrote to Neil Gaiman — they had met during a read-through of Blood Kiss, in which he has a small role — saying, “I feel shattered.”
Comics | Auction prices for comics and original comics art have soared over the past few years, ever since a copy of Action Comics #1 broke the $1-million mark in 2010. Barry Sandoval of Heritage Auctions (admittedly, not a disinterested party) and Michael Zapcic of the comics shop Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash discuss why that happened—and why prices are likely to stay high. [Underwire]
Creators | Brian Michael Bendis looks back on his eight-year run on Marvel’s Avengers franchise. [Marvel.com]
A Connecticut school district will more closely scrutinize summer reading lists following a mother’s complaint about the profanity and sexual references in Matthew Loux‘s 2006 graphic novel SideScrollers.
Published by Oni Press, the book centers on three video game-playing friends slackers who suddenly become motivated when one of their secret crushes announces she’s going to a rock concert with a bullying jock. The well-reviewed comic was named one of the Young Adult Library Association’s 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, which is probably how it ended up on the reading list.
But no more. According to WFSB TV, the Enfield Board of Education has removed SideScrollers and will take reading-list selections out of the hands of individual schools. Now a board committee will choose the books for district.
Christie Bosco told the board on Tuesday that she was “floored” after she read the graphic novel recommended to her freshman son. “I was absolutely amazed that anybody would recommend this and put a school’s seal of approval on it. Parents are busy and they expect that if it’s a book that a school system endorses, it’s going to be appropriate for their children. And that’s where Enfield failed.”
The board clearly agreed, with one member telling Bosco, “This kind of reading material doesn’t belong in the schools.”
“I think that the book is a bit vulgar,” Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann offered. “The topics they tried to cover were covered well, but perhaps there would be other texts that could cover them in a better way.”
Declaring Marvel has “crossed the line,” a Florida fundamentalist group has launched an email campaign in an effort to convince the publisher, parent company Disney and retailers to pull from distribution Astonishing X-Men #51, the June issue that depicts the much-publicized wedding of Northstar and Kyle Jinadu.
Asserting that the comic “asks kids to fantasize about having their own same-sex nuptials,” the Florida Family Association laments on its website “that the comic strip actually has a blank wedding that children can use to make their own same-sex wedding. Talk about propaganda.” That’s a reference to the Phil Noto variant cover (above), which depicts wedding photos of 10 heterosexual superhero couples, as well as Northstar and Kyle.
In a call to “take action,” the organization encourages supporters to send a form email to Marvel, Disney and retailers stating that it is “shameful that two companies like Marvel and Disney would deliberately create a superhero homosexual wedding for our children to embrace and mimic. These companies should show more respect to the overwhelming majority of families who do not want their children targeted with immoral social propaganda through comics.”
Comics | The Greenville County (South Carolina) Library has removed two copies of Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Neonomicon from its shelves after a mother filed an official challenge to the collection’s sexual content. Carrie Gaske said that although her 14-year-old daughter found the horror book in the adult section, she thought “it looked like a children’s comic,” and would be fine for her to check out. Daughter Jennifer soon discovered Neonomicon wasn’t the “murder mystery comic book” her mother believed it to be. “It was good at first,” she said. “Then it got nasty.” How “nasty”? “The more into I got the more shocked I was, I really had no idea this type of material was allowed at a public library,” Carrie Gaske said. “I feel that has the same content of Hustler or Playboy or things like that. Maybe even worse.”
The library allows children age 13 and older to check out books from the adult section with their parents’ permission. The library system’s two copies of Neonomicon have been removed from circulation while a committee reviews the content. [WSPA.com]
Following the temporary retreat from Facebook by the anti-gay One Million Moms, a pro-gay group has sprung up on the social-media site hoping to capitalize on its absence.
Called, yes, One Million Moms, the group describes itself as “One Million Moms and friends of moms who support LGBT rights. Let’s put a positive spin to the group name One Million Moms by supporting equal rights to people of all orientations, creeds, genders and colors.” To further tweak the other One Million Moms, the new Facebook page flies the banner of the Human Rights Campaign and uses an image from the current JC Penney Father’s Day ad that has so enraged the other organization.
The new OMM explains that, “Using a ‘Risk’ metric, any time a territory like this is contested, it weakens the prior occupier’s footing and destabilizes their hold on that particular region of Cyberspace. Fundamentalist mothers looking for the original page will be confused, join the wrong thing, or not join at all; it muddies the message and strengthens the position of the new occupiers. This new page might not garner all that many followers initially, but its presence WILL deny the previous owners their beachhead and create a blockade to one of their most persuasive channels.”
In another setback to One Million Moms, the conservative Christian campaign has retreated from Facebook after a post about DC Comics’ reintroduction of Green Lantern Alan Scott as gay was inundated by comments largely supportive of the publisher’s decision.
The New Civil Rights Movement reports that moments after issuing a “warning” Friday about DC’s official announcement (see below), the page’s administrator began deleting positive comments before apparently giving up and removing the post entirely. Shortly afterward, the One Million Moms page disappeared from Facebook, certainly the initiative’s most valuable social media platform. The abrupt exodus was followed by a tweet announcing, unconvincingly, to Facebook users that, “OMM will be offline most of next week for Vacation Bible School!”