Look. So, yesterday the comics internet decided to explode in one of its usual firestorms of outrage over something I do, actually, take fairly seriously. This is such a usual occurrence that I think its, from time to time, worth looking at what is being said versus what is happening. And so I talked a bit about the "controversy".
I absolutely do not share everyone's views, and/ but I am not dismissive of negative representations of women in comics. Or the under-representation of women in the industry. I do think we're going through growing pains as women have joined the ranks of readers in the past few years in numbers that I find truly surprising and welcome.
Like any critical read of a work of "art", there's always more than one point of view. Any kind of reading from a feminist perspective is constantly undergoing convulsions as the narrative of gender roles is no longer defined by the mores of the 1970's culture movements.
Yesterday via Twitter, Comics Alliance EiC Laura Hudson declared her fury regarding the comics we talked about yesterday. In fact, its how I became alerted to the issue.
Today Hudson wrote a post that I think addressed some of what I was discussing (though not at me, because it is extremely, extremely unlikely anybody but NTT and myself actually read yesterday's post). But enough people must have raised a hand in question that she went ahead and put together a thoughtful post that went well beyond the usual Gender Studies 101 rhetoric that usually defines these conversations. I appreciate her honesty. I don't agree with everything she says, and I'd actually argue her one example of an "acceptable" approach is open to the same criticism she ladles elsewhere, but I very much recommend reading her post.
You can find it at Comics Alliance.
The trouble is: I think Hudson is hitting a cross-roads that a lot of us are hitting. DC just relaunched. Its seeking new readers. Its counting on old readers to stick around, but there's a calculated move going on to appeal to a very certain demographic.
I don't know that the shock comes so much that this was stuff we had never seen before in mainstream superhero comics, or the fact that, with the relaunch, there was an opportunity for those comics to be different.
I'd be lying if I didn't see some of what's happening in comics as the beginning of the end of me grabbing everything off the shelf. In some ways, I'm actually quite okay with that. The demographic is men ages 18-34. I'm a dude, but I am not 18-34. I don't know Laura Hudson's age, but she is not a dude. And like so many women AND men who've come to superhero comics from the big 2, at some point the shine of the superheroes wears off, and you want your superheroes to love you back, but some editor and creative team with different ideas from your own goes off and does something dumb.
The nearest analogy I can think of is if DC suddenly decided Superman would spend an inordinate amount of page-time in a thong, standing around posing. I guess I'd think that maybe Superman was now aimed not so much at me, and I'd find that awfully disappointing. I may support my arguments from yesterday, but I also don't want to dismiss the totemic power of fictional heroes, feeling those heroes are yours, and the sheer disappointment of seeing those heroes portrayed in ways you find a betrayal of why you loved them in the first place. Maybe loved them enough to build one of the internet's most popular stop-offs for conversations about DC and Marvel superheroes.
I am not "in the industry". I don't even attend conventions. I'm just the chubby guy who buys all the Superman stuff DC puts out each week at your local comics shop.
For virtually anyone else, I stand by my point that "if you don't like it, don't buy it or read it". I believe in diversity in superhero books, and while my ego can crush mountains, its not big enough to believe I truly like and appreciate "everything". And if you support the stuff that DOES match your tastes, that's all you can do. But Hudson is now a bit like the film critic who has to go see, oh... The Smurfs, which you just know isn't aimed at you and is likely going to be absolutely rotten. Folks in the reviewing game don't get to say no to "experiencing" all that comics has to offer, I guess.
I said this in the comments in a prior post, but once upon a time I was rolling my eyes at some movie trailer or other, and my wife (wise as she often is) turned to me and said "You know, it isn't for you. They don't make every movie to please you." And this was true.
My hope for the New 52 was for a greater diversity in product, and I'm not sure we've really gotten that in the first two weeks. I don't think that was even possible given the slate of talent Didio and Lee lined up for the initial effort. Old dogs. New Tricks. Blah blah blah. But there CAN be room for diversity other than genre diversity. Superhero horror, space adventure, etc... we can also have differences in tone, in appeal.
However, here may be where Hudson and I fundamentally differ: I don't really care that much if Red Hood continues on this way or Catwoman is nothing but weird rooftop hook-ups with Batman and Catwoman. I won't read it and it won't affect me. Sure, I think its stupid, but I also think both Maxim magazine, NASCAR, cake baking shows and 95% of Sandra Bullock's output are stupid, but I just don't care that any of it is out there. It doesn't affect me.
But what I would like to see is counterprogramming within DC. Maybe DC could consider printing some stuff that people who aren't into fantasy-sex-with-orange-aliens might want to read. And I think that's maybe there already, and its important to remember that and point it out. I've only read Wonder Woman and Supergirl from this week's haul, and I like them okay. And you will hear about WW this week around the comics internets, I think.
Anyway, I don't want to dismiss Hudson's emotional appeal, because people don't buy comics or fall in love with characters or stories or comics or comics universes thanks to scoring debate points. If it doesn't engage them, that's a loss. And that's a loss of readers.