Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Street Angel and Afrodisiac creator Jim Rugg was participating in one of those 10-question interviews when the website asked one he found problematic:
F, Marry, or Kill. They used to play this game a lot on Howard Stern, so since I have no original ideas we’re going to play The Comics Tavern version. You must assign one of those actions to the 3 choices given, and I would like to hear your reasons.
Baroness (GI Joe…)
Rugg’s answer was polite but firm:
I’m going to refrain from answering this question. Sexism, gender inequality, sexual harassment, and misogyny are major problems in the comics industry and I don’t want to contribute to it. I’m sure you don’t mean any harm with this question, but I don’t want to alienate anyone when it comes to comics.
How about – draw, read, ignore? I would read Tank Girl, draw Baroness, and ignore Kitty Pryde. When I started reading comics, I LOVED X-Men, but it was after Kitty Pryde had left the team. She might have been on Excalibur then. I’m not sure. But I never really connected with her character.
Conventions | Lance Fensterman, ReedPOP’s global senior vice president, talks about his company’s strategy of focusing on a few big shows, rather than a lot of smaller ones, and gives the numbers for last month’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo: Attendance was about 62,900, up 18 percent from last year, and the show floor grew by 15,000 square feet. Attendees are mostly in the 18-to-35 age group, and the majority are male, although the proportion of women at C2E2 has increased by 6 percent since 2011. Male or female, many of the folks on the floor seem to be “casual consumers” rather than “hardcore fans”: About 50 percent of attendees at New York Comic Con were there for the first time. “Depending on which exhibiting company you’re talking to, they either love it or they’re not sure what to do with it,” Fensterman said. “You’re delivering new readers and new potential consumers. We think it’s cool that you’re getting that fresh perspective, not quite so jaded (been there, done that).” [ICv2]
Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]
Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]
Most businesses caught up in a social-media firestorm over a product might’ve issued an apology or hunkered down and quietly waited for the controversy to pass, but not Tankhead Custom Tees.
The Murrieta, California-based company was thrust into the spotlight this week after a photo taken at WonderCon Anaheim of one of its T-shirt designs — “I Like Fangirls How I Like My Coffee […] I Hate Coffee” — was posted on Twitter, drawing intense criticism from fans and creators alike. Allison Baker, MonkeyBrain Comics co-founder and a CBR columnist, pointed to the image as an example of “what chauvinism looks like,” while writer Greg Rucka unleashed his fury on both the person selling the shirt and those who support its sentiment: “What in the name of everlovingfuck is the matter with you?”
In a Facebook post responding to “some bad word on our fan girl shirt,” Tankhead insists “a certain few bloggers” who have accused the company of sexism “completely ignored our other variant shirt on display or didn’t even bother to ask our take on it.” The statement is accompanied by a photo of a similar T-shirt that replaces “Fangirls” with “Fanboys.”
“What in the name of everlovingfuck is the matter with you? Are you simply stupid? Are you just ignorant? Are you broken? Newsflash: you are owed NOTHING. Not a thing. Not a goddamn thing. This fandom, that fandom, guess what? It doesn’t belong to you.
You don’t own it. You partake in it. It’s called community.
You want something to be your thing, make a club, build a tree-fort, and do us a favor. Don’t come down.”
— writer Greg Rucka, addressing the anti-“fangirls” T-shirt specifically, and the territorial, anti-woman elements of comics fandom generally, in a blog post that should be read in its entirety
(Photo taken by Landry Walker at WonderCon Anaheim)
Creators | Frannie Jackson talks with a handful of prominent creator couples — Mike Allred and Laura Allred, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin — about sexism within the comics industry. “I’m occasionally invited to participate in panel discussions about ‘women in comics,’” Coover says. “I’m usually emotionally torn by those invitations, because, yeah, I want women in comics to thrive and be seen as thriving, but I’d much rather be part of a discussion about ‘awesome creators in comics’ that’s stacked with awesome women and men.” [Paste]
Retailing | Andrew Wyrich visits several comics shops in the North Jersey area and finds they rely on a friendly atmosphere and incentive programs to keep customers coming back. “People who buy comics tend to have a $40 weekly budget,” said Len Katz, co-owner of The Joker’s Child in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “We hear of people who love comics, but eventually just hit a wall with expenses. The key for us is to get customers coming back. The reality is we are not a necessary item; we aren’t milk, bread or cheese.” [The Record]
Auctions | Comics industry legend Maggie Thompson plans to put up for auction 524 comics from her personal collection. Thompson, who with her late husband Don was a longtime editor of the Comics Buyer’s Guide, estimates that she has 10,000 comics, all stored in a special vault-like addition to her home, which she built using the money from a previous sale, of Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-Man) and the first 100 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. Bidding on the first batch of comics, which includes The Avengers #1, Journey into Mystery #83 (first appearance of Thor), The Incredible Hulk #1, and original cover art from Conan #4, begins today. [The Associated Press]
Comics | ICv2 releases the results of its White Paper (previously reported at Comic Book Resources), which tracks comics and graphic novel sales in all channels. Briefly, the report shows that sales of comics and graphic novels are up, manga is up dramatically, and digital comics sales continue to increase — although growth is slowing a bit, which is to be expected as the base increases. [ICv2]
Last month on our sister blog Comics Should Be Good, columnist Kelly Thompson wrote a piece titled “6 Sublime Superheroine Redesigns” that profiled several recent costume makeovers she thought effective and true to the characters. In the post and the ensuing comments, talk abounded about the subject of superheroines often being saddled with revealing costumes that lean more toward fan service than suitable crime-fighting gear. Some posters argued there’s a current trend toward female characters having less-revealing costumes than in the past — Psylocke’s recent wardrobe redesign by Kris Anka was cited as an example — and that it’s an overreaction by publishers and designers that panders to feminists.
Anka took umbrage with some of the comments, and it opened the floor to an interesting debate about the look of superheroes. On the surface it questions the near-universal portrayal of female superheroes in more sexualized garb, but also attempts to draw a line between drawing a superhero as sexy without necessarily being sexist.
… I think mistaking someone’s identity usually involves surprise on the part of at least one of the parties. To the second, I’d like to put forward the perhaps radical idea that an uncharted South Pacific island full of women AWOL from WW2 is actually unusual. We’ve seen Robo immediately doubt unusual things when he first encounters them for six volumes. His reaction here is no different, and it’s not out of proportion to other unusual events he’s come across.
– Brian Clevinger, responding to accusations that Atomic Robo may be sexist in “The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific.”
I’ve read the issue and didn’t think Robo’s reaction to the all-female team of air pirates was unreasonable, but I’m hardly unbiased being a) a man and just privileged enough to not always notice that kind of thing, and b) enough a Robo fan to give him (and his creators) the benefit of the doubt. It’s worth pointing out though that Clevinger’s already gone on record as saying that he goes out of the way to make Atomic Robo as inclusive as possible, so maybe a little doubt-benefiting is in order?
If you’ve read the issue, what do you think?
“You would think at some point that people who write about entertainment would clue into the fact that girls do, in fact, enjoy genres that they seem to think are boys-only. I mean, we fangirls rant about this shit all the time. Could someone pick up a clue? Here, I’ll put it in big letters so anyone still holding onto that dumbass, outdated, sexist notion will understand it better: WOMEN LIKE ALL KINDS OF THINGS. There’s not a contract that we sign at birth stating that we can only like stuff with glitter and princesses and romance. Guess what? We DO like stuff with glitter and princesses and romance, and we also like stuff with badass superheroes, aliens, and ass-kicking. So stop writing about genre films as if women haven’t the faintest clue that superheroes exist, and they need a cutesy little nudge in the right direction so they can please their boyfriends.”
– TDF Pamela, responding to Moviefone’s cringe-inducing “Girl’s Guide to The Avengers: What You Need to Know If You Know Nothing,” which advises “dutiful girlfriend[s]” on what to say (“Joss Whedon is the man”), and not say (“Do you think Scarlett Johansson is pretty?”), while attending the Marvel blockbuster with their boyfriends
Following in the grand tradition established by Hostess Fruit Pies, the men’s cologne Axe is pushing its product with a comic. Like Twinkie the Kid, the women in the comic are personified versions of the product — in this case, “experimental fragrances,” that cause all kinds of trouble when they are both let loose at the same time. Because OMG, two women always means trouble! Or maybe a good catfight!
Someone at Axe Headquarters must have been reading about this “social media” thing in The New York Times, because that’s going to be a part of the comic, too — fans will be allowed to
make essentially meaningless choices shape the action via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. I suppose it’s pointless to complain about sexism in a comic created by the people who make Axe cologne, but the video is a textbook case: All the women are super-sexy, with body parts sticking out all over, while the guys all look like ordinary schlubs. Maybe I’ll go on Facebook and suggest they add in some beefcake.
Another thing which is never brought up or mentioned, but it’s very intriguing, forever going back to the old days of The New Yorker and through now, as far as women and men cartoonists are concerned, there is no problem. None of this bullshit that’s been plaguing almost every other endeavor or business, this war of the sexes. Not a trace of it in cartooning. It just isn’t there. It may be because we all have a sense of humor. I don’t know what it is, but it’s very interesting and it’s nice.
— Legendary cartoonist Gahan Wilson of Playboy, National Lampoon and The New Yorker fame, explaining to CBR’s Alex Dueben that things apparently aren’t as contentious over issues of sex and gender in Francoise Mouly’s shop as they are in other parts of the industry. (Cf. recent New Yorker roster addition Kate Beaton’s ongoing victory lap …)
I really, really enjoy Grant Morrison interviews, even if they tend to arrive in bunches, with one entertaining Q&A sometimes indistinguishable from the next. He’s immensely quotable, peppering his comments with humor, observations of the holy-cow-I’ve-never-thought-of-it-that-way variety and occasionally surprising honesty.
This new interview with Rolling Stone is little different, with the writer discussing Supergods, the Action Comics relaunch, Alan Moore, Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis, and his strained relationship with former protege Mark Millar. While it may feel like we’ve read some of Morrison’s remarks before, others feel fresh, and even a bit brutal. Some highlights:
On his chances of encountering Millar in Glasgow: “There’s a very good chance of running into him, and I hope I’m going 100 miles an hour when it happens.”
On Meltzer’s divisive Identity Crisis: “He’s a nice guy. I have a lot of interesting conversations with him so I tried to focus on what I thought was good about it and there was actually quite a lot when I read it again. The first time I read it I was kind of outraged. I thought this was just … why? What the fuck is this, really? It wasn’t even normal. It was outrageous. It was preposterous because of the Elongated Man with his arms wrapped several times around the corpse of his wife. I thought something is broken. Something has gone so wrong in this image. […] It’s hard for me to believe that a shy bespectacled college graduate like Brad Meltzer who’s a novelist and a father is a really setting out to be weirdly misogynistic. But unfortunately when you’re looking at this beloved character who’s obviously been ass-raped on the Justice League satellite, even saying it kind of takes you to that dot dot dot where you don’t know what else to say.”
On sexism in DC Comics: “There’s been lots of things, the sexism in DC because it’s mostly men who work in these places. Nobody should be trying to say we’re taking up a specifically anti-woman stance. I think it would be ignorance or stupidity or some God knows what. I was reading some Alan Moore Marvelman for some reason today. I found one in the back there and I couldn’t believe. I pick it up and there are fucking two rapes in it and I suddenly think how many times has somebody been raped in an Alan Moore story? And I couldn’t find a single one where someone wasn’t raped except for Tom Strong, which I believe was a pastiche. We know Alan Moore isn’t a misogynist but fuck, he’s obsessed with rape. I managed to do thirty years in comics without any rape!”
Last week Kate Beaton asked that male comics readers carefully consider their choice of words when complimenting female comics creators, so as to keep a bright dividing line between their work on the one hand and their gender and appearance on the other. The resulting discussion — or maybe the better word is backlash — made me fear for the future of the species.
Apparently I’m not alone in that. Cartoonist Gabby Schulz (aka Ken Dahl) crafted a masterfully mordant satire of the discussion, and countless others like it. Click here to read the whole thing. Then click back here to tell us why it’s ALL WRONG, god help us.
“dear internet, you are well meaning, but I’d like to make a point. when you tell a female creator you like her work so much you want to marry her and have her babies, you’re not doing anyone any favors. first of all, as cute as it sounds in your head, it’s a shitty, disrespectful ‘compliment.’ No one makes comics looking for sexual attention. secondly, by doing so you invite others to critique that person’s works based on their looks, which is uncomfortable, sexist and unfair.”
–Hark, a Vagrant! cartoonist Kate Beaton, on the obliviously sexist compliments with which women creators are bombarded every day. (And yes, she knows these people don’t literally want to marry her and have her babies.)
A useful rule of thumb when discussing the work of a woman artist, positively or negatively, is to ask yourself if what you’re about to say would apply to identical work that just so happened to have been created by a man. If the answer is “no,” then you’re not talking about the work at all.
I was bummed to see that Beaton got a lot of pushback on this topic, too. Even putting issues of sexism aside, refraining from doing something that makes someone else uncomfortable, when there’s no possible way that refraining from it negatively affects you — that’s just simple common decency.