Monday, May 14, 2007

EDILW gets existential over the concept of entitlement among superhero fans/comics bloggers

Not quite as outrageous as Package-gate nor as linked-to as Johannagate comes Comiquette-gate, the latest disturbance in the blogosphere.

Eisner-nominated Comics Journal curmudgeon, superhero-bashing blogger and all-around EDILW favorite Dirk Deppey weighed in with today’s Journalista entry, in one of the occasional thought-provoking essays couched in his linkage.

In addition to repeating a point Kevin Church hit on a few months regarding energy spent getting Batman to put a Robin IV or Spoiler case in the Batcave, Deppey says this:

“So why the big freakout over a harmless statuette? I’d say it had to do with the earlier point raised: the fangirl’s inflated sense of entitlement, and the unwillingness of the rest of the world to feed it. It’s no different than the complaints that fanboys lodge over the perceived injustices of the funnybook world, of course, though they usually don’t waste time trying to wrap their enormous self-involvement in pseudo-ethical trappings…

“Women don’t buy superhero comics in sufficient numbers to make DC Comics pay attention to their demands. Like Marvel, they have an audience that buys their wares: adult male fanboys. Lacking financial motivation, there’s no reason to pay heed to Project Girl Wonder’s demand for fan fiction written to their specifications.”

Which got me thinking. Not necessarily about the fact that those who find the Mary Jane “comiquette” offensive are getting upset over nothing (It’s certainly not hard to see how it could irritate some; I don’t find it morally repellant personally, but at the same time I’d be mortified to have it on my mantle). But rather that last phrase above, which I’ve emboldened: “Fan fiction written to their specifications.”

It got me thinking because I wonder how much of the stuff I expend so much energy on here could be dismissed by saying that what I really want is just fan fiction written to my own personal specifications?

And then there’s Deppey’s solution—“they’re going to have to make the fucking comics first.”

Now that makes sense. If what female super-comics fans want is to see female superheroes and supporting characters treated with an equal amount of respect to male superheroes and supporting characters, then, yeah, they may have to make those comics themselves.

If what they want is Batman to erect a Stephanie Brown shrine or Power Girl to get a new costume, well, they’re not going to be able affect those particular changes…not without getting jobs working as writers, artists and editors for DC comics, and thus gaining access to the DCU (The first step of which is probably also to make their own fucking comics, too).

Anyway, after reading Deppey’s piece earlier in the day, I spent some time this afternoon wondering if EDILW is nothing but a waste of energy, spent on a misguided quest for fan fiction written to my specifications, wherein Cassandra Cain isn’t made a villain for no reason and Martian Manhunter gets to kick a little ass once in a while.

Shouldn’t I spend more time inking Caleb's Incomplete Self-Published Comicbook #1? Does online kvetching about the way the DC and Marvel universes are run really ever accomplish anything?

And then I saw this announcement on

According to the brief story, DC has announced a new miniseries in the Tales of the Unexpected/Mystery in Space featuring Animal Man, Adam Strange and Starfire, which will be entitled Countdown to Adventure (Yeah, that’s a stupid title), to be written by Adam Beechen.

The spin of the announcement/story goes like this: “Beechen’s move to the new miniseries does come with a cost – he had to give up Teen Titans, where he was recently named as the series’ new writer, stepping in for the departing Geoff Johns. Moving over to that series will be another member of the Countdown team, Sean McKeever.”

Which sounds like a more positive way of saying that DC belated realized that Beechen is actually a pretty awful comics writer whom too few fans are willing to put up with, and they snatched Titans away from him, giving him Countdown to Adventure as a sort of consolation prize. (Certainly the trio of C-Listers in Countdown to Adventure aren’t as high profile as a title starring Robin, and the latter is less likely to earn more money for Beechen than the former.)

What’s interesting about the announcement, and its timing, is that Beechen literally just started working on Titans. He co-plotted and co-wrote much of the last arc of the series, and the very last issue, #46, was his first issue of this run solo. It was also the worst goddam DC comic I’ve read in a good, long time. I’m hard-pressed to even think of a worse written DC comic. Maybe something from Erik Larsen’s Aquaman? Or Extreme Justice?

I’m not the only one who noticed, and loudly complained that this fan fiction was not living up to my specifications. I can’t recall hearing a single person issuing any sort of praise for Beechen's solo issue of Titans; the most positive reaction among posters following a “Best Shots” thread that week seemed to be, “Yeah, it was bad, but I’ve read worse, so I’ll give it another four issues to improve before I drop it.”

Now obviously DC editorial didn’t see a problem with it. The script came across someone’s desk, they read it, approved it and handed it over to the artists (who also did a shitty job) to draw, and then they printed and shipped the damn thing. So it wasn’t until after the blogosphere panned it that they decided maybe it wasn’t so good and that someone else should write the title from now on.

The lesson? Well, maybe online bitching does accomplish change in those superhero universes once in a while after all (For another example, see World War III which, while badly bungled, seemed plotted entirely in response to posters’ questions about “One Year Later” changes).

So maybe EDILW isn't a complete waste of time. But I probably should get some inking done tonight too.

A final note on Deppey’s piece: Johanna Draper Carlson linked to it as, I don’t know, Round Three of her “superheroes aren’t for girls” coverage of the last week. I honestly didn’t think of Deppey covering the same ground as Carlson until she pointed it out herself, but she says, “It’ll be interesting to see if he receives the same level of outrage I did. I suspect not, for several reasons: the first blush of venom has already been expended; he’s known for being outrageous (working for Fantagraphics gets you that rep); and he’s not female, which I suspect played into the kind of attacks I received. (I think both men and women see females as easier targets online, and I could be considered more of a betrayer to my gender, thus raising more of an emotional response.)”

So if you think Deppey’s full of shit, be sure to tell him so in the comments section at Journalista.

Otherwise, you hate women.


Did things get a little too heavy this post? Yeah, maybe. So let's take a deep breath, and cleanse our souls by contemplating this image, which, like the MJ comiquette, combines elements guaranteed to stimulate male interest—a pretty young woman, sports and a gorilla.

Is it demeaning to women because Wonder Woman is portrayed as prone and forced to play sports against a sub-human opponent, as if she isn't even worthy of playing against men?

Or is it a pro-feminist image because she seems to have outrun the throw and be sliding into home safe, winning at a man's game?



Jacob T. Levy said...

It's hardly as though people don't complain about product lines or ad campaigns that they find offensive in the rest of commercial life.

When the paying customer pool is as small and stable as we are-- when you have to go into specialty shops that only we understand the schedule, ethos, and even location of-- our voice counts for even more. The business model of the industry at this point rests on keeping about a quarter-million people happy, in the shops, and spending as much money as possible.

If something disgusts thousands of us and we vote with our feet and wallets and stop going into specialty stores altogether or drop comics altogether, that's a bad outcome. It's better for us to say, loudly, what we don't like.

And I'm glad that so many of us are using our voice to say: the statue's repugnant.

Gus said...

Is it cliched to say "I agree on almost every point?"

I mean, yeah, isn't comic fandom (or fandom of any stripe, really) all about "fanfiction written to their specifications?" I don't know of very many people who take in any form of entertainment completely passively and don't bitch even a little bit: "Yeah, it was good, but I really would have liked to have seen..."

That's harmless. I think the distinction that Dirk (and, more subtly in her original argument, Johanna) is drawing is that when that casual bitching and wishing turns from "I wish they would have" to "They should because they owe me", that's the problem.

How to tell the difference, and keep the former from turning into the latter? That's the question. And probably asking it on a regular basis is the first step to making sure it doesn't happen.

James Figueiredo said...

Personally, I think *any* comic script could be filed under "fanfiction written to (insert writer's name)'s specifications".

Really, most comic book writers are fans themselves who managed to get into the medium profesionally.

So, the "fanfiction written to their specifications" line sounds like rubbish to me, yes.

Also, I don't think women are not the bulk of comic book readers because of anything intrinsic to comic books themselves, but as a reflection of their role in modern society in general.

I think they are more than entitled to "bitching" online and getting into the field as profesionals as well.

rachelle said...

The crazy thing about the whole "fangirl's sense of entitlement" argument is adding the word "girl" to the word "fan." I have heard/read a million, zillion complaints made by guys about a million, zillion different minute details about comics. Why is saying "Lois looked like a skank in that issue of Superman" any different from saying "Martian Manhunter's new costume sucks"? I hear guys complain all the time about inaccurate or ugly action figures. This statue is inaccurate and ugly.

What I am saying is, I agree with you, and Dirk Deppey is stupid.

Unknown said...

To stray away from the "fangirl" discussion, I must say I'm intrigued by the prospect of Sean McKeever writing Teen Titans. I like his work on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane quite a bit, but I'm hesitant to dive into the continuity morass of a mainstream DC book, especially one that I've never followed. I'll consider it though.

Oh, and who is that girl on the Countdown to Space (or whatever it's called) cover with the vertebrae ponytail? Oh yeah, I believe that's I-Don't-Care-Woman.

Finally, are you really working on a self-published project, or was that a joke? If so, congratulations, sir, and please tell us more about it.

Medraut said...

Speaking as one of the aforementioned "adult male fanboys", what kills me is the concept that the only way to get men to read comics is by filling them with hyper-sexualized women.

It just seems very cro-magnon. Or to rip of Xander from Buffy, "Yes. Men like sports. Men watch the action movie, they eat of the beef, and they enjoy to look at the bosoms". Honestly, is this the only way they can come up with to get men to read these books?

Oh well, I guess I will just vote with my wallet on these matters since it has been made clear that our comments are not appreciated.

Slay said...

Agreed: the statue's repugnant.

But have you flipped through the second half of a Previews lately?

Every month I see something that I find utterly unbelievable.

Maybe I'll start a blog just about those anime statues. I bet it'd be pretty popular.

Tony said...

I think the problem with these feminist blow-ups is this: Individually, each big-breasted statue, cheescake cover of Black Canary, woman in a refrigerator, or what have you, can be explained. Individually, none of them seems like such a big deal.

Taken as a whole, they point to something kind of sick about our genre.

Caleb said...

Finally, are you really working on a self-published project, or was that a joke? If so, congratulations, sir, and please tell us more about it.

Yeah. I have two things I'm working on, both 18-page "one-shots," one written and drawn by me, the other at least written by me, which I'll probably publish in the next...oh, decade or so. I'm not much of an artist, and hate inking (since, for me, it really is just tracing, as I don't have anything to add in terms of shading and whatnot).

I'll be sure to talk about them non-stop here at EDILW when I finally get done with them.

I can see your McKeever-on-Titans concerns. The Titans were at one point DC's X-Men, and they definitely have that long, convoluted backstory thing going for them. I'm hoping McKeever can divorce his run from all the Wolfman/Perez and Johns stuff and just start over with a Justice League of teenage superheroes kinda thing.