"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
“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:
Conventions | The Orange County Register previews WonderCon, which returns this weekend to Anaheim, California, and selects some of the highlights from the programming schedule, including panels dedicated to “Batman: The Zero Year,” The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. [Orange County Register]
Conventions | The Detroit News runs down the upcoming slate of Michigan conventions dedicated to comics, anime, fantasy/sci-fi, horror and collectibles, ranging from Shuto Con to Kids Read Comics! to Detroit FanFare. [The Detroit News]
Comics | The Wall Street Journal takes a look at comics as investments. Interestingly, while the rare, old issues bring in the big money, some more recent comics, like the first issue of Saga, have appreciated quite a bit. There’s also an accompanying video. [The Wall Street Journal]
Retailing | ComicsPRO, the comics retailers’ association, held its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta, where the group bestowed its Industry Appreciation Award on Cindy Fournier, vice president of operations for Diamond Comic Distributors. Thomas Gaul, of Corner Store Comics and Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, California, also was elected as president of the board of directors. [ComicsPRO]
With Black History Month here, a piece by Joseph Hughes on the `lack of black writers at Marvel and DC Comics has received justifiable attention. It’s an issue that deserves as serious a consideration as the recent arguments for female creators, and it’s something that can really be applied to every minority. Diversity strengthens comics: It brings new voices, new ideas, new perspectives. And seeing that ethnic and cultural diversity reflected within the fictional universes of superhero comics can be life-changing.
I grew up white in Whitesville, an insular community in a small northeastern Massachusetts town. I didn’t know a single non-white person until I went to a new school in fourth grade — and then I knew one non-white person. I still remember the bullying he received; I’d never seen it in real life. My first day there, during gym class, I thought they must be kidding but they weren’t. I don’t remember any teachers ever standing up against it. Sure, they would chastise the general rowdiness but not the racially-specific name calling he got. And when the poor kid would finally lash out, flailing within a sea of ugliness, he would be swiftly escorted out of the classroom. Class would resume without him, pretending his outburst wasn’t the most emotionally honest reaction one could have in that kind of environment. He was written up, sent home, I’m not sure. I was the shy new kid, I had no idea how to respond to it. By junior high, he had vanished. For about the first decade and a half of my life, that was my real-world experience with “diversity.”
Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]
Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]
“I don’t think Marvel or DC are racist, systemically, nor do I think that anyone there is, either. I am friends with lots of people at both companies and to a person, they’re terrific. Ultimately, people will hire the people that they know and in order to get to know them, you need access to them. I got my access through my day job as a magazine editor in Manhattan. Plus, I’m a dazzling urbanite. But if you’re a black kid living in Detroit or Tampa or Oakland, how do you get that access? How do you know which convention is the best for meeting editors? How do you know which bar to go to?
More importantly, if you’re that black kid (or Hispanic kid or woman of any color) why do you even want to make comics? The end product of decades of stories not told for a diverse audience is this: if the stories are not for you, you won’t read them; and if you don’t read them, why would you want to make them?”
– Marc Bernardin, who has written such comics as Static Shock,
The Authority and Wolverine, reflecting on the current discussion about the lack of black writers at Marvel and DC
The rapid rise of social media has been both a blessing and a curse to the frequently complicated creator/fan relationship. Whereas a decade ago a reader might’ve followed a writer or artist’s occasional posts on Livejournal, or on rare occasion even received a response to a message-board comment, now there’s direct interaction on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Formspring. While those exchanges frequently go well, with an artist responding thoughtfully to a sincere and polite question, we’ve all seen our share of venomous tweets from readers and embarrassing Facebook meltdowns from creators.
When the subject turns to sensitive territory, like gender or ethnic representation in mainstream superhero comics, the chances of a social-media misfire increase dramatically. That’s why I was so pleased to read this recent exchange on the blog of Matt Fraction, writer of Marvel’s FF, Fantastic Four and Hawkeye. Asked (politely) why, when presented the opportunity to diversify the cast of FF, he opted for Miss Thing to be white — “Do you think FF would work with an African-American Miss Thing and why aren’t you writing that book?” — Fraction responded with a refreshing mix of humor, honesty and chagrin, and without the tetchiness you might expect from such a scenario.
Bad practices in the past decades have paved over diversity we once took for granted. Instead of considering the comics industry this closed loop that can never change, how about we find those shoots trying to break through concrete and clear their path?
– Jeff Parker, on the importance of continuing to introduce comics starring diverse superheroes.
Almost as soon as the announcement was made that Marvel’s Hulk comic was becoming Red She Hulk, writer Jeff Parker started hearing that they were wasting their time on a comic with a female lead. He wrote a lengthy blog post explaining the new direction of the series and why it’s cool, but also talking about why it’s vital that creators and publishers keep pushing diversity. No one comic is going to make everyone stand up and say, “OH! A female-led superhero comic can be successful!” But the more comics that do that, the better the chances are that some of them are going to be great.
It reminds me of the article that David Brothers posted on Tuesday about guilt as a marketing tool. Publishers and creators can’t expect people to buy comics just because they’re diverse. This should be its own quote of the day:
“One ‘defense’ for not making the effort to be inclusive is, ‘Aw, but man, I don’t want to have to think about this stuff, I just want to read/write stories.’ And, y’know what? We’re sympathetic to that. Thinking about it can be really taxing, confusing, and depressing. Imagine if you had to think about that stuff all the time. Perhaps due to being not white? Or not male? Or not straight?”
– Brian Clevinger, explaining why Atomic Robo is specifically designed to be as inclusive as possible, while still telling awesome stories
Sunday was a great day. It started off awesomely with a marriage proposal. A young man named Matthew had hired my friend Grant to draw a picture of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for his girlfriend, Lisa, a Buffy fan. When they picked up the commission, Lisa read the word balloons, “Hi, Lisa. Matthew tells me he loves you very much and he has a very important question to ask…”
DC Comics’ Aquaman #7 marked the New 52 debut of archenemy Black Manta and the introduction of “the Others,” a super-powered team from the king of Atlantis’ past whose ranks included Kahina the Seer, a native of Tehran gifted with prophetic powers. Unfortunately for Kahina, however, her first appearance was also (presumably) her last, as she’s hunted down and killed by the helmeted villain in the issue’s opening sequence.
It’s a turn of events that didn’t sit well with comics writer, and fan, Dara Naraghi (Witch & Wizard: Battle for Shadowland, Ghostbusters: Tainted Love), who’s posted an open letter to Aquaman writer Geoff Johns, reworked from a similar one he sent to Editor Pat McCallum, detailing his “extreme disappointment” as an Iranian-American reader in seeing an Iranian character killed off only eight pages after her introduction.
The diversity of the new DC Universe has been the subject of a lot of conversations since the New 52 was first announced. DC made diversity a component of its marketing for the new series, and whenever the question comes up, it’s something the company claims to realize is important. Take for instance Dan DiDio’s interview with The Washington Post, where DC’s co-publisher said, “One of the things we looked at was that we wanted the DC Universe to be reflective of our reading audience, and by doing so it was important for us to look at characters like Batwing. We wanted to have a strong black character.” Or his and Jim Lee’s “We Hear You” post, where they wrote, “We’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know … that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously.”
That post is important because it’s a reminder that this is something they’re still struggling with. While DC certainly has had issues around diversity and sensitivity in the past, I’m willing to take at face value their claims that they’re working to correct it. Lee and DiDio wrote, “We’re committed to telling diverse stories with a diverse point of view. We want these adventures to resonate in the real world, reflecting the experiences of our diverse readership. Can we improve on that? We always can — and aim to.” Continue Reading »