O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
This week, Ross Richie of BOOM! Studios wrote an editorial, and Matt Gagnon gave a thoughtful interview, on the topic of diversity in comics, and they followed it up with a Twitter hashtag, #comicsforward. It certainly got people talking, although perhaps not always in the way Gagnon and Richie intended.
The first thing that happened was exactly what they had in mind, which was a bunch of folks jumping onto Twitter to celebrate their favorite comics and creators or just applaud the idea. It’s definitely worth checking that hashtag to see some great recommendations.
Eleven-year-old Rowan has the same complaint that a lot of fans do — that there simply aren’t enough comics, movies and toys featuring female superheroes. So she wrote a letter to DC Comics, saying, “Please do something about this. Girls read comics too and they care.”
Today, DC answered.
The letter, posted Wednesday this week on the blog of family friend David M. Perry, garnered a lot of attention on Twitter. “I love superheroes and have been reading comics and watching superhero cartoons and movies since I was very young,” Rowan writes. “I’m a girl, and I’m upset because there aren’t very many girl superheroes or movies and comics from DC.”
The goes on to point out the disparity between the number of toys based on male heroes and those based on female heroes, not to mention the lack of a Wonder Woman television series. “Marvel Comics made a movie about a talking tree and raccoon awesome,” she notes, “but you haven’t made a movie with Wonder Woman.”
“People clamor for Black Panther or Luke Cage, and the incredible response when the Static show was announced — that wasn’t just black fans going ‘yay, about time.’ That was fans going, ‘yay, about time.’ Everyone knows diversity is good. We want black superheroes, we want female superheroes, we want Latino superheroes. That makes things better. And they don’t have to be sidekicks or buddies, they can be rock stars themselves.”
— Reginald Hudlin, in an interview with Comic Book Resources, discussing the Static Shock live-action digital series, and the desire for diversity in superhero-comics adaptations
Passings | Brian Jacoby, owner of the Tallahassee, Florida, comic shop Secret Headquarters and a well-known presence on Twitter and comics discussion boards, died suddenly on Thanksgiving. The news was first released in a tweet from the store. His memorial service will be held Tuesday. [ICv2]
Editorial cartoons | Bob Staake’s New Yorker cover showing a broken Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a commentary on the events in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, received a lot of attention just before Thanksgiving — and even more when it got around that syndicated cartoonist R.J. Matson had drawn a similar cartoon in August. Matson brushes that aside, however, pointing out that editorial cartoonists often come up with similar visuals: “Finding a good joke is like solving a puzzle and very often there is one very best solution to the puzzle. Any cartoonist worth his salt would kick himself or herself for not finding that solution.” And when five cartoonists do it on the same day, he said, “we call it a Yahtzee.” [The Washington Post]
Creators | In a new profile of Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 addresses the death threats made against him by ISIS and the fatwa issued against the animated adaptation in Saudi Arabia, and reveals he recently met with Kuwaiti police “to answer the charges of being a heretic.” Mutawa also blames pressure from “a handful of conservative bloggers” in the United States for The Hub not following through with plans to air the animated series. He said that after President Obama praised his work in 2010, attacks on him escalated in the United States, where he was painted as a jihadist “intent on radicalizing young kids to make them suicide bombers. And here [in the Gulf] I became an apostate Zionist. My mother told me growing up, be careful who your friends are because you end up inheriting their enemies. And that’s what happened: I don’t know President Obama. I’m very honored he called me out. But the hate became magnified after that.” [Al-Monitor]
“I dislike the phrase ‘strong female character.’ Perhaps it began as a way to applaud the few realistic and complex female characters among the flat ones that merely play a role (mother, love interest, damsel in distress) in a hero’s story. But we never hear ‘strong male character’ because that idea is default. Almost as if the idea that a female character could be strong is so unusual, so unexpected, that it’s noteworthy. It’s also become a way to justify that lack of female characters in stories. ‘Yeah, there’s only one female character in this show/comic/book, but she’s STRONG!’ Variety, diversity, complexity are more important than ‘strength,’ whatever that word means.”
— Shannon Hale, co-creator of the graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and author of the novel Dangerous and the children’s book Princess in Black, in an interview before her appearance at Salt Lake Comic Con. Growing up, Hale was a fan of the Wonder Woman television series, but she never read comics because, she says, “I thought they weren’t for girls and simply didn’t have access to them.”
“Sure, there are people who look like Captain America who read comics, but there are very few people in the world who look like Captain America. I go to conventions, and you meet hundreds of people over the course of the day, and no two of them look alike. You see women and people of color who love comics, and there’s nothing representing them in a way that isn’t sexualized or something.
“Now, you can’t make these decisions [to be more inclusive] consciously, because then you’re just writing in reaction to things, and that doesn’t work out, dramatically. But subconsciously, if you look at the world around you and see your readers, you go, I wanna write something that I know is true. So you start writing women better and you write people outside of your experience better, because you look at pages of other people’s comics and you don’t recognize it as the world around you.”
“The message that we send when we don’t represent the broader culture in our stories is that ‘You are other.’ … As a community, as an organism, it is a thing that makes us ill. It is actually bad for us.”
– Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of Captain Marvel and Pretty Deadly, speaking about the need to diversity the kinds of characters that appear in comics, at the “Broadening Comics Readership” panel at Emerald City Comicon
CBC News has debuted new details about the young Cree superheroine to be introduced next month in DC Comics’ Justice League United #0, by Jeff Lemire and Mike McKone.
Code-named Equinox, Miiyahbin is a 16-year-old from Moose Factory, Ontario, whose power comes from the Earth and changes with the seasons. As revealed in October, the character is inspired in part by Shannen Koostachin, a teenage activist who lobbied the federal government for a new school in Attawapiskat First Nation, on the James Bay Coast. Koostachin died in a car accident in 2010 at the age of 15.
“Creating a teenage female superhero was interesting to me because, generally, most superheroes are white males,” Lemire told CBC News. “We need diversity and we need different personalities. You need very distinct voices for personalities on the team or else you just start writing the same character in a different costume.”
To conduct research for Equinox, the Toronto-based creator of the Essex County trilogy traveled north to Moosonee and Moose Factory on James Bay, where he received feedback from local residents.
Legal | Hirofumi Watanabe admitted Thursday in Tokyo District Court to sending hundreds of threatening letters to bookstores, convenience stores and convention centers associated with Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s manga Kuroko’s Basketball. The motive, the 35-year-old man said, was jealousy of Fujimaki’s success; Watanabe reasoned that, “If I somehow managed to harass and depress him, I could drag him into my suicide journey.” Watanabe added that he had been abused by his parents and bullied as a child, and had “homosexual tendencies.” He attempted suicide before he sent the threat letters and would do so again after he was freed, he told the court: “That way, society can rest assured that I won’t do anything stupid again.” [Anime News Network]
Legal | Attorney Marc H. Greenberg revisits the lawsuit brought by musicians Johnny and Edgar Winter against DC Comics over a 1995 storyline in Jonah Hex that portrayed two evil brothers, Johnny and Edgar Autumn. [Print]
Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).
However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]
“I think a big reason our industry is experiencing so much growth right now is because we’re finally doing the kind of comics that resonate with a diverse readership. It’s kind of like what happened a decade or so back when comics first started gaining acceptance in bookstores and getting written up in the mainstream press, really, because it’s a slow process and there’s no one way to reach everyone. I mean, for a very long time, comic books and superheroes were practically synonymous, and it took a lot of unique work by a lot of different men and women to finally open things up to the point where someone other than the standard comics reader see the full potential of our medium. If you do different things, you attract different readers. It’s that simple.”
– Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson, addressing the importance of a diverse readership in an interview with Comic Book Resources
“In the past, comics companies have tended to suggest diversity should ‘happen naturally,’ as if when you leave a comic book open overnight gay men might grow in the pages like mustard and cress, so it’s great that Marvel are now championing it, doing it deliberately. Because that’s the only way it can be done. Jeanine’s [Schaefer, his editor on Wolverine] a force for change. And there are a number of prominent female editors now who are altering the face of pro comics culture pretty swiftly.
Online comics fandom, meanwhile, if you judge solely by the comics message boards, remains conservative and behind the times. The action is to be found on Tumblr, where the Carol Corps lives.”
— writer Paul Cornell, who adheres to a strict “panel parity” rule at conventions (he won’t appear on all-male panels), talking to the New Statesman about embracing political issues in mainstream comic books
(Carol Corps ID card from PsychoAndy)
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.
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.
NPR television critic Linda Holmes has spent the past couple of weeks tweeting from the Television Critics Association press tour, which ended with a panel on the PBS documentary Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle. Debuting Oct. 8, the three-part miniseries was directed by Michael Kantor, who was on the panel with comic book writers Todd McFarlane, Len Wein and Gerry Conway.
Holmes noted that the panelists asked about the lack of diversity in superhero comics, but unfortunately, the response to that question wasn’t very satisfying. She paraphrases four reasons cited by the panel: