Every so often we get a good comics scandal involving a creator and random fan bickering across the internet. Seemingly within days it, has sent ripples across the comics world. Jack Creator and Ralph the Fan are having a war and sides are drawn.
No, it does not matter if you have all the facts or are even related to the scenario, you can take a side and take part in the rift. All of this leading to a growing divide in the comics community. In case you think this hyperbole then search for reviews of the new DC 52 books. You can even look on this very website for opposing viewpoints on the quality of the books. Everyone is joining in.
I have been no stranger to ripping into the DC New 52. While good old friendly nudging is great, it is when these attacks start to take a more personal quality that grows the distance between us all. But, far be it from me to moralize, after all my moral compass is but a faulty magnet and a pin sticking on top – that is to say not the greatest.
But, it does demand asking: Are we destroying the medium we loved so much? Should we all have a more conciliatory attitude towards what are seen as failures?
From what little of comics scholarship lives out in the internet, it can be seen that DC, cumulatively, failed in it’s experiment. But, what did our pointing out its failure do? Has DC since hired more female creators / editors? No. Has the Justice League become a book that isn’t just a perishable product? No.
So where is this going? Is there a possibility we are all simply bickering back and forth, with the rare exceptions of a Colin Smith, Julian Darius, or David Balan who dig into what the implications are in comics today?
But what does this unpacking of implications do? One thing it does is bring up a certain level of awareness. While everyone knew about Red Hood and the Outlaws, it was a select few like the above or Laura Hudson who were ready to parse out exactly what was happening here. But was this all somehow like crashing a small, harmless party?
After all, it has been touted that women are growing in comic readership and convention attendance, but this number of female readers is still relatively small compared to male readers and convention goers. So, if I may play Devil’s advocate for a moment: what is the harm? This means that a large sum of the paying audience is male.
If this group of males votes for more boobs and explosions, then by God that is what they are going to get. Also, once again, we have to ask, if they are paying for it, shouldn’t they get it in this consumer-driven society we live in?
If true, it would seem that we are all simply crashing an apparently harmless party. Look at those heroes! They don’t want to harm you, they just want to do cool, mindless stuff like fight villains and pose. After all, why should we care about the minority consumers? The party line seems to be: if it ain’t broke, don’t mention it or fix it. While DC and Marvel are more than happy to take money from either gender of consumer, they appear less tied into the trend that women readers are on the rise. So, if they are willing to take money from female readers, should they not be ready to listen to their voice after all?
Much of the industry’s actions would say that we do not. But this could be because we isolate ourselves as a community. While comics fans are a close, warm bunch, we can be angry misanthropes as well, as can any group. But perhaps owing to most of the comics reading population being labeled nerds and geeks, led to a self-perpetuating shame, one that most of us never grow out of.
The stigma of shame that this thing we love, no, cherish, the comic book is an artifact of high nerdom. Like the Pope’s hat, it is something that announces our rank amongst the other geeks.
This led most of us to being more than a little socially awkward. It would seem that from these awkward beginnings grew an isolated understanding of the world, one that seems to manifest itself online more than anywhere else. Why should we cater to the rest of the world when they didn’t cater to us? The same jocks who used to beat kids up for reading comics are now at San Diego trying to broker deals with hot writers for movies.
Could it be that Catwoman was really a giant scarecrow to ward off the seeming unbelievers at the throne of comic books? Starfire was not really a treatise on women’s sexuality, but rather a way to ward off those whoare not true and pure to comic books? Of course this sounds silly in light of how well-documented it is that DC’s new 52 was a stratagem to garner new readers and not just keep the old converts.
But then again, that would mean that our understanding of female readership is myopic at best and hopeless at worst. Surely, no one would undertake such a mythic task as to expand new readership (especially the female readers) by creating a salacious cast of characters and stories driven mainly by the male libido. Then again, perhaps it was an ingenious move to help “save” comic books from being incorporated like punk rock.
At the bottom of it all, the intentions seem to matter very little if new readers are being driven away. This means we are isolating ourselves, but at what cost? But then again, perhaps we are simply play stalwarts to an older simpler time when jocks and women did not read comics. Perhaps it is our turn to open up to change and see what happens.
And in case you think homogenizing comics is a good thing, remember that eugenics and other evolutionary ideas of homogeneous breeding almost always end in defects. There is a reason for this: inbreeding leads to defects because there is no diversity. If we never open up the borders of the medium, surely the quality will spoil and creativity will be a faint light behind us.