… I’m pretty familiar with marketing being done without impacting a brand. And that’s why the idea that DC [...] “risks” alienating boys by [...] marketing to women flies in the face of brands that were more testorone filled than DC Comics will ever be; more focused on “entertainment for boys.” The NFL and NASCAR [are] doing pretty damn good expanding their marketing and not alienating their core audiences [or] diluting their brand.
Sue’s quote is especially interesting as she’s one of the “superhero suffragettes” that MacDonald mentioned in her article. It’s also cool that she and MacDonald — while fundamentally disagreeing about the prospects for change — obviously respect each other and are presenting their arguments accordingly.
Sue goes on to show how things have changed at DC in particular, citing the publisher’s large number of female-led series, female-friendly programming on DC Nation, the success of the Smallville digital comic (based on a show with a large female audience), and a recent quote by Ann Nocenti in which the new Catwoman writer says, ““I think they reached out to me partly for that reason … as an effort to bring female perspective into comics.”
Well, all conspiracy theories, corporate DNA and the WB’s own woman problems aside, the simple fact is that on a meta level, DC Entertainment produces entertainment for boys. That’s its place within Warners, its demographic slot and I’m sure at some point Diane Nelson has overtly been tasked with keeping the boy audience engaged for films starring Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern.
We may think this kind of pigeonholing is stupid, but in a world run by branding, the message matters. By addressing female readers (and also younger readers), DC risks alienating its core audience of teenaged boys and men 25-35.
Heidi MacDonald hits the nail on the head: Publishers are in the business to make money, not make the world a better place, and of course they are going to cater to their core demographic. This is just one of a number of solid points that Heidi makes in this essay, which links to the other women-in-comics articles that have appeared in the past two weeks, ties them together, and frankly, makes a lot more sense than the two news pieces that were linked. It’s well worth reading the whole thing, including (especially!) the excerpt from former Drawn and Quarterly staffer Jessica Campbell’s essay on why the whole question of “female artists” is bogus at its core. And there’s a great discussion in the comments section as well (I thought Jesse Post made a particularly good point), so keep on scrollin’!
In a wide-ranging interview with Comic Book Resources, Grant Morrison revealed he will finish his tenure on Action Comics with January’s Issue 16, followed later next year by his departure from Batman Incorporated with Issue 12.
“The idea was always that I’d keep doing it as long as it gave me a lot of pleasure and allowed me to express myself ,” the writer said, expressing a desire to move beyond superhero stories. “And it still does, but I can see the end coming closer. I’m coming to the end of long runs and stories I’ve had planned in my notebooks for years and the stuff I’m developing now is quite different. The Action Comics run concludes with issue #16, Batman Incorporated wraps up my take with issue #12, and after that I don’t have any plans for monthly superhero books for a while. Multiversity is eight issues, and I’m 30-odd pages into a Wonder Woman project but those are finite stories.”
Multiversity is the long-promised miniseries — it originally was set for release in 2010 — that spans seven different Earths, featuring characters from the DC Comics catalog as diverse as Shazam, the Charlton heroes, a pulp Justice Society and Captain Carrot. And the Wonder Woman project is his frequently discussed take on the heroine that seeks to reintroduce the “weird, libidinous kind of element” prevalent in the early stories by her creator William Moulton Marston.
Since the publication of his superhero novel Prepare to Die, Paul Tobin’s been answering a lot of questions about whether he’s leaving comics. The short answer is “no,” but he goes into some detail in a comic strip he made. It’s cool not only because Tobin drew it himself, but because of the insight it gives to the difficulty of writing compelling superhero comics.
I was going to file this under “Wish This Was Real,” but it probably needs a “Wish This Was Complete” first. Matt Cowan does great, minimalist posters and other art, and he’s turned those talents toward the beginning of a superhero alphabet with clever designs and charming “rhymes.”
The scare quotes are because the alphabet isn’t finished, so none of the phrases that accompany each letter actually matches up with a phrase from an adjacent letter. Geek Art has helpfully collected all the pages (“so far,” I say, optimistically) and — as Cowan’s done some letters multiple times — it suggests this is more of an experiment than something he plans to complete. It’s so delightful, though, that I hope he reconsiders that.
Last month, Tim Marchman let loose with a scathing article in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the superhero-comics industry that was the talk of the internet for a couple of days and kicked up a few Twitterstorms, most notably with writer J. Michael Straczynski. But then people pretty much moved on.
The thing is, Marchman was supposed to be writing a review of Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner’s book Leaping Tall Buildings, a collection of interviews with, and photographs of, famous comics creators. You can get a taste of their work on their Graphic NYC blog, and as one who has been following them for a while, I can tell you, it’s awesome.
Although Marchman’s article appeared in the Bookshelf section of the Journal, he mentioned the book only in passing — and while his comments were positive, he billed Irving as the editor, not the writer, and skipped Kushner altogether. Now Kushner has posted a response to the piece, titled Who Reviews the Reviewer? at the Trip City site. Actually, Kushner says straight out that he isn’t reviewing the reviewer, but he does have some things to say about the article:
“The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.)”
– Tim Marchman, in a broadside to the superhero-comics industry that began as a nominal review for The Wall Street Journal of Leaping Tall Buildings. Straczynski wasn’t the only comics creator targeted, however: Marchman also took aim at Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrison and Dan DiDio, characterizing them as “the men most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes.”
“Your behavior was dickish. I became a better writer after He-Man. You will always be a dick.”
– J. Michael Straczynski, issuing his “final word” in the ensuing Twitter exchange with Marchman that began with JMS confronting the reviewer on “a cheap shot.” “You had to go back to 1984 to insult me? Really?” Straczynski wrote. “And ['One More Day'] was Marvel’s decision not my call.”
“There was no master plan behind it all; we certainly had that character storyline in motion months ago before President Obama had come out with his statement, and the timing of the Marvel thing was coincidental because it was at Kapow that someone asked the question. You can’t necessarily manufacture that kind of attention in the mainstream press. Sometimes these things take on a life of their own, and this was a story that was literally picked up and went on its own. But that said, the point it raises is really good, it’s an interesting discussion. Dan’s answer came out of someone asking, ‘In the New 52, you’ve had a chance to change heroes ages and their origins and their race — why didn’t you change any sexual orientation?’ Basically Dan decided, you know what, maybe this was an opportunity to do some of that. The storyline comes out of that rethinking of what our standard policy was before.”
“This past year, 2011, I was asked this question a lot, and here we are into the first quarter of 2012, and it’s happening again (or still, if you rather). Most frequently, it comes up in regard to my work in the comics industry. Last year was not banner for the ladies, and this one isn’t off to a strong start, either, in fact. Wasn’t good for women within the industry itself, nor within the pages of the stories being told. Those who’ve had the unmitigated temerity to actually comment upon this state of affairs publicly have ended up paying a surprisingly heavy price. The gender of the speaker has been largely irrelevant, though to be sure, it’s the women who’ve stepped up have taken the harder hits. But all who’ve pointed out the absence of women both on the page and behind it have been ridiculed, insulted, and, absurdly enough, even threatened with violence. Conversely, those attempting to defend their mistreatment of women within the industry have revealed a staggering lack of understanding, empathy, and self-awareness, while seeming to rejoice in an arrogance that is near heart-stopping in its naked sexism and condescension.
To say there are those who don’t get it is an understatement; it would be like describing the Japanese tsunami as ‘minor flooding.’”
– Greg Rucka, in an essay addressing the frequently asked question,
“How Do You Write Such Strong Female Characters?”
Although readers will have to wait until sometime in June — perhaps not coincidentally, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month — to learn which established DC Comics character will be reintroduced as gay, we already know at least two details: It’s a major character (better luck next time, Doll Man), and it’s a guy.
“One of the major iconic DC characters will reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June,” Courtney Simmons, DC Entertainment’s senior vice president of publicity, confirmed to ABC News following the weekend revelation by Co-Publisher Dan DiDio that the formerly heterosexual figure will become “one of our most prominent gay characters.”
With those 18 words, Simmons drastically narrows the list of candidates, eliminating such popular guesses as Vibe (he’s neither a major character nor an iconic one) and Hawkgirl (she’s a … she). However, Simmons’ quote also raises the question of just what DC considers “major” and “iconic.”
Conventions | Thousands of fans were locked out of the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo after the local fire marshal declared that the building had reached capacity. The big draw was not actually comics but a reunion of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. [Calgary Herald]
Awards | The Thrill Electric, an online comic created by Leah Moore and John Reppion, Emma Vieceli, Windflower Studio and LittleLoud for the U.K.’s Channel 4, has been nominated for best website in the 2012 Broadcast Digital Awards. [Broadcast]
Creators | Jay Faerber talks about his early ambitions, his current comic Near Death, and what is so special about being published by Image: “The thing about Image is you have absolute creative freedom. Once Near Death was approved, I just wrote it. There were no notes from Eric or anyone else at Image telling me what they think I should do, which is awesome. But it can also be a burden, because if a book sucks, I can’t say, ‘Well, if I had been able to do it my way…’ – because I did do it my way. So working at Image has made me become my own editor. The buck stops here, you know?” [Broken Frontier]
I understand the importance of complaining about things that need changing — it’s the stick that gets the donkey pulling the cart in the right direction. I don’t think it’s completely effective on its own, though. In the conversation about women in superhero comics, the carrot is under-utilized, so I appreciate a blog like This Is What Women in Superhero Comics Should Be (aka This!) that points out specific examples of women used well in superhero comics. The cart needs to get moving, but it also needs a direction, and This! offers one.
The blog’s only three days old and has already captured more than 30 great moments for women, from Wonder Woman and Catwoman to Jessica Jones and Jennie Sparks. It’s pretty DC-heavy so far, but it’s taking submissions for moments from all superhero publishers.
“One of the rants I always go on is about the bizarre separation between a lot of the people creating comics and a lot of the people reading comics. A big thing in graffiti is taking comic book characters and doing murals of them. I’d be in New York and see this Incredible Hulk mural or Spawn mural, but then I’d look at Spawn or Incredible Hulk comics and they don’t even take the time to draw graffiti in the backgrounds correctly. It’s kind of like that with women. There are female artists and female readers who are really excited about comics, but comics’ portrayals of women are like their portrayals of graffiti. Like they’re not even looking at them.”
– King City creator Brandon Graham, discussing, among other things, the depiction of women in mainstream superhero comics
The problem with superheroes is it’s not a personal taste so much as it just requires so much insider knowledge to read these things. They don’t stand on their own. There have been about three superhero comics, maybe two, in the past five years that stand on their own. That you can just read and not have to know what happened in issue #56 and ever since. It’s a real problem, I think, and it’s a problem for the industry. How do you get into this stuff if you’re not into it already?
— Jessica Abel, cartoonist and co-editor of the Best American Comics annual anthology series, explains why so few superhero comics have made it into their best-of collections in an interview with CBR’s Alex Dueben. (Though this isn’t through lack of trying — DC previously turned down their request to use Paul Pope’s Batman Year 100.) Her husband, fellow cartoonist, and co-editor Matt Madden agrees:
Supergods, his new prose book on the subject of superheroes, isn’t the least bit confusing. It is, however, slightly confused.
While the book eventually earns its self-help book-sounding subtitle of “What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human” in its closing chapters, that subtitle is a poor distillation of the actual contents of the book, which are a bit scattershot.
Supergods is partially a history of American superhero comics (and their British reflections). It’s partially a biography of Grant Morrison and his career in the comics industry, which naturally overlaps with the first concern at a certain point. And it’s partially a cultural history of the concept of the superhero in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the Promethean subject of what superheroes can teach humanity shining through here and there.
Morrison is an excellent writer, in prose as well as in comics-scripting it turns out, and the pages of the book are fiercely passionate, vibrating with authority and conviction on their subject, and thoroughly encrusted with often lyrical sentences and clever, even brilliant turns of phrase.
Despite these considerable virtues, the wandering mission makes it a frustrating read, as does the fact that Morrison’s many tics come to the fore almost immediately, and can make for a rather uncomfortable read (perhaps especially for those of us who have heard versions of many of these stories before, and from different perspectives).