"Justice League": Exploring How Superman Returns (Again)
Comic Books, Film
Cosplay | Visiting New York Comic Con, Andrea Romano takes a look at the world of cosplay, the issue of sexual harassment — one person notes it’s certainly not exclusive to cosplay, observing, “There’s harassment when a woman is just wearing a crop top on the street” — and efforts being made to stop it. Convention organizers placed their new anti-harassment policy front and center this year, and it seems to have helped: There were just eight reported incidents of sexual harassment during the four-day event. [Mashable]
Conventions | Fensterman talks at greater length about NYCC’s anti-harassment measures in this article, which contrasts the comics scene with what’s going on in the gaming world. [Time]
Crime | Two people were arrested Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after police say they tried to sell $9,000 worth of stolen comic books to a local retailer. Marcelo Hernandez, 24, and Stacie Niavez, 23, allegedly walked into Astro Zombies with three boxes of comics that matched the description and certification numbers of those stolen from a vehicle about two weeks earlier. The owner pretended to be getting price estimates but instead called police, who arrested Hernandez and Niavez outside the shop. Both were charged with receiving and transferring stolen property and conspiracy; Niavez was also charged with drug possession. [Albuquerque Journal]
Passings | Jon Kennedy, the former editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Business, died Friday at age 96. He started work as an editorial cartoonist for the Democrat (now the Democrat-Gazette) in 1941, and served in the Army from 1943 to 1946, during which time he also drew cartoons and training materials. He went back to the Democrat and worked there until his retirement in 1988, then came out of retirement to draw cartoons for Arkansas Business from 1992 to 2005. He published one book, Look Back and Laugh, and was a member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists; he was also named Arkansas Journalist of the Year in 1988. [Arkansas Business]
Two licensed T-shirts featuring DC Comics’ Trinity have sparked accusations of sexism among online fans.
The first shirt, as reported at DC Women Kicking Ass and spotted by CBR contributor Tamara Brooks this past weekend at Long Beach Comic Con, depicts Superman and Wonder Woman in a passionate embrace with the caption, “Score! Superman Does It Again!” As takedowns of that shirt began to circulate on social media, another one, bearing the phrase “I’m Training to Be Batman’s Wife,” was brought into the discussion.
Both shirts present undeniably sexist messages: The former positions the most prominent female superhero as a prize to be won, stripping away the character’s 75 years of nuance and feminist themes. The latter would be perfectly acceptable if it had only stopped before that final word; the assumption that the goal of any woman’s training would be to become someone’s wife is antiquated at best.
“What we are learning is that the traditional idea of done-in-one stories not selling in comics just doesn’t apply to the new audience buying the books, and believe me, most of that new audience are female. I think the problem right now is we have some people running the companies that just aren’t going out and trying new comics or interacting with the next wave of readers and keep pushing things the traditional way they did years ago. The retailers themselves are seeing this happening daily now and I feel it’s the reason Image Comics will continue to grow and eventually outsell the big two, unless they start thinking outside the box and just make superheroes a PART of their publishing plan and not the entire thing and start looking at the different ways a superhero type of book can be done. Harley is one example, Hawkeye is another. The traditional graphics people associate comics with have been changing for years now and the market is embracing different looks and styles that are outside the house style and its pretty cool to see.”
Publishing | Admitting that “I don’t think men are as sexualized as women” in Marvel comics, Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso says the publisher is moving toward including more types of female characters: “We believe there’s an audience of women out there who are hungry for this and we want to make sure they get it. This is affirmative action. This is capitalism.” Later he states, “I challenge you to find in Ms. Marvel anything that resembles the Playboy model standard. But I don’t want to be Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes. We’re creating stories. I don’t want to say there’s no room for stuff that’s not just fun. Then you’re censoring yourself. I want to make sure I have books like Ms. Marvel and Black Widow that I’m proud about and could give to my daughter. But at the same time I don’t want to be the PC police and say you can’t be naughty; you can’t be fun.” [The Telegraph]
“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.”
Comics | Almost half the attendees at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego were women, writes Yael Kohen in an article about the growing importance of women to the comics industry. He cites statistics showing that young women are the fastest-growing segment of the comics audience, talks to Image Comics President Eric Stephenson and a woman who works in a comic shop, and mentions the enduring popularity of manga and Marvel’s recent introduction of more interesting female characters. With all that material to work with, it’s too bad he started with a lead right out of the 1950s, something about a fashion show at Comic-Con, as if that’s what all those women were there for. [BloombergBusinessweek]
Creators | Writer Jen Van Meter discusses her newest project, Valiant’s first female-led series, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage. [Hero Complex]
Business | Marvel parent company Disney has reportedly laid off as many as 17 of the 60 full-time employees at DisneyToon Studio, the Glendale, California-based division that produces animated direct-to-video sequels and prequels, such as The Lion King 1 1/2 and Mulan II, the Disney Fairies releases and the occasional feature film, most recently Planes: Fire & Rescue. While Disney has been cutting positions throughout the company for the past few years — dating back to 2011 with the elimination of 200 jobs in its interactive division and about a dozen at Marvel — Variety chalks up these layoffs to the declining home-video market. [Variety, Deadline]
Passings | Dan Lynch, former editorial cartoonist for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, died Sunday at age 67. Lynch also worked for the Kansas City Times, and his cartoons were syndicated nationally and appeared in Time and Newsweek. However, his career was cut short by a debilitating stroke in 2001. “Dan had (what I thought was) a fabulous drawing style,” said Julie Inskeep, publisher and president of The Journal Gazette. “And, in the 20-plus years he worked at the JG, he provided a vast array of cartoon topics – always welcome, though not always in agreement with our editorial board. But he got people to think and react in his special and powerful way.” [Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]
Conventions | Clem Bastow notes a disconnect at Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne, Australia, where women were a slight majority in the audience but were severely underrepresented as guests; DC artist Nicola Scott was the only woman in the comics contingent. Organizer Rand Ratinac said it was purely a matter of availability: “We offered for literally dozens if not hundreds of different guests, we always do, because you’re dealing with people whose schedules they sometimes can’t lock in until a month before the event. This time, of the people that we wanted, there were just a lot of guys that were available. Next year, it could be a whole bunch of girls; it all just depends who can come.” But Scott points out that there are simply fewer women in superhero comics than in the other sectors of the industry and superhero creators are what brings the audience in the door. [The Guardian]
On the opening night of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, organizer Christopher Butcher articulated a simple and very important vision for the event:
I looked at the people we were already approaching for 2014 last year, and we had an incredibly strong lineup already of people who wanted to participate who were women who were working in the industry with a history or who were fresh faces doing exciting, wonderful material, and we decided that was going to be an unspoken theme, we were going to really try to spotlight, highlight, the work of women in the industry … This isn’t a one-year thing for us. This isn’t just a theme this year, we aren’t going to be going back to anything, I think we have done a good job of showing the diverse faces of the comics industry but we can always be better… I want us to continue to be as inclusive as possible and to include all different kinds of work. I want comics to be the theme of TCAF and that means including everyone who makes comics, and particularly people who are doing a good job.
Then Butcher did something truly amazing: He introduced a panel of three women that was not titled “Women in Comics.” At TCAF, women were simply treated as equals and judged on their merits. And trust me, I walked the halls at the Toronto Reference Library and came back with two bags of comics and graphic novels, so I know: There were no charity cases at TCAF. Every exhibitor, male and female, was top-notch. This is a show that a huge number of people want to be a part of, so organizers can pick and choose. What they did this year was simply choose more women, which makes sense in a field where women have been well represented for many years. (There were plenty of men as well, they just weren’t in the majority as they are at every other show.)
Although North America comic conventions are typically thought of as male-dominated events, that doesn’t appear to have been the case with this year’s Emerald City Comicon.
According to a survey of attendees, 52 percent identified as female, compared to 46 percent as male; 2 percent of respondents “referred to themselves in non-binary terms,” including agender, genderfluid, genderqueer and “a nebulous glow cloud.”
Of course the survey isn’t completely accurate, because not everyone filled one out, and of those who did, probably not everyone did so honestly (I’m willing to wager the person doesn’t really gender-identify as “Cthulhu”). However, as The Mary Sue notes, “at the very least, you cannot say that women were rare or a minority in the community.”
While many fans may be looking forward this weekend to Free Comic Book Day or The Amazing Spider-Man 2, some of those with more scholarly leanings may be busy getting ready for the Buffy to Batgirl conference being held Friday and Saturday at Rutgers University-Camden.
Organized by reference librarians Julie Still and Zara Wilkinson of the Paul Robeson Library, Buffy to Batgirl: Women and Gender in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Comics is an academic conference focusing on female representation across those genres (and mediums). I imagine a few eyes glazed over with the term “academic conference,” but the panels and papers sound fascinating.
“If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will be cruel to you. They’ll seem to single your art out more loudly and consistently than any equivalently accomplished male counterpart’s for pillorying. They’ll call your lines ugly, and in the comments section they will call you ugly. Or, they’ll be too kind to you. It won’t matter how unattractive you may think you are, they’ll speak to you too long at conventions, they’ll stare and say you’re even prettier than your art, and that will be worse, because if you can be the target of such bombastic, lecherous praise, then maybe your art is actually just as bad as you’ve been made to feel.
If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will support you. They’ll support you unfailingly, they’ll class you as a ‘woman creator’ and they’ll ask you to provide sound bites that speak for all women, though of course that’s impossible. They’ll put you on a ‘Women in Comics’ panel at every show, and often that will be the only panel you’re ever on. They’ll buy your work because you’re a woman, just because you’re a woman.”
— artist Ming Doyle, whose work includes Mara, Adventures of Superman and Young Avengers, responding to concerns from an aspiring creator “that women only get jobs from editors because they’re attractive or cute.” While Doyle encourages her to “be fearless” and notes that “editors care more about your quality of work, your timeliness and your professionalism, than any selfie,” she acknowledges that women inevitably face judgments based on their gender and on their looks.
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)