May 4th, 2016
I don’t get to the comic shop as often now as I used to.
I still tell myself that I love comics, and superheroes, and I do, deeply.
I just… don’t get to the comic shop as often now as I used to.
Of course, my local comic shop is a wonderful one. The staff are friendly, there are often events there for little kids. You often see a lot of young girls there.
Not like the other comic shop, the one round the corner from it.
I used to go into that shop, before I met my wife. But once we got together, I’d occasionally ask her to go into town and pick up my comics for me, and she was scared of that one. The way the people in it looked at her. I didn’t want to give custom to a place that made my then-girlfriend now-wife that uncomfortable.
But, you know, there was a shop round the corner that I could go to instead. I could buy my comics from there, and get the story about Dr Light raping Sue Dibny that was coming out at the time without worrying about a sexist atmosphere.
(I dropped that particular comic, after that issue)
I wrote about that decision a couple of years later. Anonymous men told me that women should just suck it up if they felt uncomfortable.
Others just called me a liar. No woman has ever been made uncomfortable at a comic shop.
Of course, dismissal of interiority and subjectivity often goes hand in hand with shoring up the patriarchy. I do wonder if it’s a coincidence that around the same time DC Entertainment, A Warner Communications Industry started to be run by a boorish, bro-ish man who thinks nothing of standing on a convention platform screaming a woman down when she asks why he doesn’t employ more women, they stopped using thought bubbles.
I miss thought bubbles. They were one of the few tools that only comics have.
But even though the staff at the shop I do go to are friendly, and the atmosphere’s great, I don’t go to the comic shop as often as I used to.
Recently a comic came out that I’d been looking forward to for a while. It’s a comic written by Grant Morrison, my favourite writer working in superhero comics today. Wonder Woman: Earth One. It looked fantastic, and a lot of people were enthusiastically sharing panels from it on Tumblr in the day or two after it came out.
It looked, in fact, like the kind of thing I’d like to point my wife, and several other of my women friends, to — people who don’t often buy comics… for some reason… but who are open to the medium. It revamped Etta Candy as an openly queer, kinky, fat woman for example — I know some people for whom the character would tick all their representational buttons and who would love the comic, at least from the samples I saw.
I haven’t bought the comic yet.
I did wonder, though, at the fact that a comic explicitly about feminism was written and drawn entirely by men.
Not that men can’t be feminists, of course. As Maid of Nails put it at Thought Bubble last year “the reason you Mindless Ones are OK is because you’re white men, but you know that white men are the problem.” (Or “the worst”, I don’t remember precisely. Either way.)
But still. A feminist comic written and drawn entirely by men.
And edited by Eddie Berganza. He even gets a little cameo in the comic. You can see him in the picture at the top, in the right-hand side.
That’s Eddie Berganza who, it has been very widely reported in the couple of weeks since the comic came out, has a record of serial sexual harassment going back years, to the extent that the only way to keep him employed is to forbid him from working with women. Which possibly explains the lack of them in this feminist comic he edited.
So I haven’t got round to buying it yet. I don’t get to the comic shop as much as I used to.
(In an unrelated tangent, Monkees fandom is currently tearing itself apart. Three years ago it used to be dominated by women. Now it’s dominated by men, mostly being arseholes. The Monkees have critical respect now, you see, so they’re not for women any more.)
Since the public revelations about Berganza, he’s hired Frank Cho to be the cover artist on Wonder Woman. That’s Frank Cho who famously drew pictures of Wonder Woman… presenting… herself.
Laura Sneddon has complained about this and been called a prude.
That’s the same Laura Sneddon who spent most of Monday night livetweeting her reactions to Sexbox on TV. A prude because she doesn’t like sleazy, exploitative, shit.
The trouble with social revenge warriors is that they can’t comprehend of women who both criticise sexism and enjoy erotic art. You don’t like Cho’s outrage covers? Oh you must hate cheesecake or female sexuality!! You must hate Milo Manara!!! Errr no. Erotic art is not in itself sexist. Erotic art of women by men is not in itself sexist. Making money and fame from women’s hurt? Sexist… How funny that young girls expected to read comics for them & not be subjected to sexism and seeing their hero shot in the head. Hilarious. How funny that now they’re not sure about Wonder Women – oldest of all female superheroes here today – because she rewards hypocrisy. But it’s just variant covers, and not even cheesecake so don’t dare raise complaints. That’s expecting logic and the dreaded social justice. Instead take your new label – a prude who hates female sexuality and empowerment – and leave comics to the men children.
Am I signal-boosting women’s voices here, or just recycling other people’s social media content for cheap outrage a la Buzzfeed? Is there even a difference?
We’re white men, but we know white men are the worst.
And just saying that isn’t enough. I think of Berganza and his feminist comic. You can know all the words, but still be complicit.
Am I complicit? Are we?
The Monkees fandom didn’t fill up with men til after I joined, you know. I *think* that’s coincidence, but how can I know?
But then, knowing the words is still *something*, isn’t it?
It’s better than the people on the Reddit Gamergate forums [correction -- Gamergaters on 4Chan, like there's a fucking difference which forum the hate group are using] who are calling for Rich Johnston’s death as an “SJW scumbag” for asking Frank Cho a bunch of softball questions about “the controversy”. Just raising the matter, even in what read as a very sympathetic piece towards Cho, was enough to get them angry and want him dead.
Cho calls himself a free-speech crusader in the interview. He says that people who don’t like his work are witchhunting. He talks about “the hateful political views of Mary Sue and Comics Alliance”
Comics Alliance employ a columnist who has admitted harassing a woman until she had a mental health crisis.
I don’t think that’s what Cho is talking about though.
I don’t go to the comic shop as often as I used to.
And I think about Vox Day, who has once again gamed the Hugos, this time filling it with a bunch of libel about “SJWs”, Gamergate apologia, and attacks on specific women writers.
And I think about the comics creator who messaged me in private last year about harassment from another creator, a Gamergate supporter.
And I think about the fact that Vox Day has got, onto the Hugo Awards ballot, a comic creator who recently drew a picture of Ms Marvel, a 16-year-old character in the comics, naked from the waist down, exposing her labia. That artist’s main comic is called Gamergate Life.
And I think about Phil Sandifer pointing out that this is wrong, and several people not seeing why he had a problem with it. And about Vox Day accusing *Sandifer* of paedophilia in response.
I think about how there are meant to be good things in the world. Things that should be unalloyed pleasures, signs of all that is good and right and *just* in the world, like Superman or Wonder Woman comics and other stories about kind, decent people doing good things in a magical world full of wonder, or simple songs about fun in the summer.
And I think about Monkees fandom, and Beach Boys fandom, and Doctor Who fandom, and science fiction fandom, all overwhelmed by the sludge of toxic masculinity overwhelming everything good, so you can’t read a Superman or Wonder Woman comic without a sexual harasser having been part of its creation, and you can’t have a conversation about science fiction books without actual Nazis making it all about them.
And I think about Trump, and about Boris Johnson.
And I think about making it about them, and about the fact that this blog post has dealt almost entirely with the thoughts, opinions, and actions of white men.
And I think about how I know white men are the worst.
And I think of that Mitchell & Webb sketch — “are we the baddies?”
And I think about how I don’t go to the comic shop as much any more…