Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
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)
Retailing | Hastings Entertainment, which operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more, has announced a $21.4 million agreement to merge with two companies owned by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association; Weinshanker already holds 12 percent of Hastings’ outstanding shares.
“NECA is a significant supplier of movie, book and video game merchandise and collectibles to the Hastings superstores, and we’ve had a close and growing business relationship with Mr. Weinshanker over the last decade,” John H. Marmaduke, Hastings’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Mr. Weinshanker, through his affiliation with the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali, and his company’s management of Graceland, is one of the leading drivers of the lifestyle industry, and we believe Hastings’ business will continue to benefit from our relationship with him and NECA.” Marmaduke will retire with a $1.5 million cash payout once the merger is approved. The announcement was followed by press releases from two New York City law firms that say they’re investigating the plan on behalf of Hastings shareholders. [press release]
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]
Graphic novels | Marvel and DC Comics may dominate the direct market but the bookstore channel is another story: As ICv2 points out, neither publisher landed a title on Nielsen BookScan’s list of the 20 top-selling graphic novels in February. Instead, here’s what it looked like: six volumes of The Walking Dead, six volumes of Attack on Titan, two volumes of Saga, and single volumes of some well-established titles Locke & Key, Bleach, Naruto, Adventure Time and Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the adaptation of the novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. That makes Image Comics the winner of the month, followed by Kodansha Comics, and the list is heavy on books with tween and teen appeal. [ICv2]
“There’s always room for more; there’s always room for further diversity. Whether it’s more Latino characters, or more Black characters, or more LGBT characters — you pretty much can pick any group of people, and as long as you’re not talking about middle-aged white men like myself, they’re probably underrepresented in the world of superhero comics. It’s tough from a sales perspective, because all of the characters that are still the bedrock, firmament characters tend to be guys that were created in the 1960s if not earlier, at a time when comic books were predominantly, if not exclusively, white. While it’s nice that we’ve made some steps — we have more female-led books than ever before — that doesn’t mean we should stop coming up with them. Just because we have a few books that have Hispanic characters, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look for more opportunities to do more there. The same thing is true with every demographic that you can speak to. No matter where you happen to sit within the cultural zeitgeist, it’s never mission accomplished. It’s always, ‘What’s next?’ There’s always going to be somebody who is underrepresented, or that you could represent more truthfully or more affectingly.”
– Tom Brevoort, Marvel’s senior vice president of publishing, discussing the titles introduced as part of the “All-New Marvel NOW!” initiative