Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

DC or not DC? Is that the question, now?

I WAS going to blog all gushingly about Green Lanterns, Booster Gold, and all that other good stuff, but I got distracted by something that, perhaps irrationally, annoyed me a tad.

There's been an interesting post here at Dick May or May Not Read Your Blog in which he calls Ragnell, me and Dorian out for our stringent defenses of DC. He mentions my response to Occasional Superheroine's article specifically as "total wishful thinking (exactly what she accuses D'Orazio of!) combined with willful neglect of certain realities of corporate culture."

Of course, the evidence for that is again the Mother Jones article. Which is a criticism I'd directly addressed in the piece and I stand by that. I hardly think Time Warner is going to care about what one fringe publication thinks, as influential and valuable as said publication is in some circles. Especially not in comparison to positive publicity from CNN and the New York Times. I'm sorry but New York Times trumps Mother Jones any day.

I don't know, personally I think anyone can read both articles and see where wishful thinking truly lies. Especially as even if Dick's claim that "firing DiDio would be the clearest way for Time Warner to send the message that the content of DC's comics must be more sensitive to women" is true, there's still the assumption that Time Warner actually cares to send that message. (Not to mention there's no guarantee that Jann Jones, should she succeed Didio, would actually be any more transigent on the specific problems Occasional Superheroine mentions in her article. Not every female fan supports Stephanie Brown getting a case, for example, so why should we immediately assume a female editor would?)

The criticism of that post isn't what gets my goat though. Dick has every right to disagree with my interpretation, just as I have every right to disagree with his and Ms. D'Orazio.

What gets me is how he introduces the whole segment:

But here's the thing: many of the most prominent voices advocating diversity and sensitivity in superhero comics are dyed-in-the wool DC fanatics. I really should point out that this is not so true for those bloggers who focus on race; Brothers is clearly a Marvel dude, while I can't really detect what, if any, allegiance Cheryl Lynn or Rich Watson hold. I know Guy LeCharles Gonzalez was very critical of Dan DiDio back when he was still an active online presence. His and Loren Janvier's absence, however, seems to be tipping the balance towards DC partisans.

I wonder to what extent this influences Lisa Fortuner, Melissa Krause, and Dorian Wright to defend DC against (apparently) irrational fan behavior. 2007 has not been a great year for DC, sensitivity- and diversity-wise (it hasn't been great for Marvel either, but there was a two or three month period where DC just seemed to have one controversy after another). I haven't read the comic alluded to in the posts above, and I sure haven't read any online reaction to it. Maybe these responses are justified; maybe I'm just not invested enough in DC's crossover wrangling to care about these overreactions; maybe there's a shared fear that these particular overreactions are vastly overblown, and exactly the kind of thing which will undermine the cause of feminist superhero fans. But I found it a bit odd that all three would devote so much time to overheated fan rhetoric. Fortuner in particular dwelt on the subject for a number of posts.

Okay, first of all, it's factually inaccurate that DC's been one crisis after another while Marvel has been more sporadic in its offenses. May I gently remind us all how the Mary Jane Statue fervor had only JUST died down when the Heroes for Hire controversy popped up? What has DC done to quite equal that? The Power Girl cover was pretty bad, sure, but it didn't get nearly the press. While the major offenses DC is still criticized for seem to be Sue Dibny's rape and Stephanie Brown's lack of memorial. Both issues are several years old.

The Amazons Attack fervor is comparitive to the aftermath of Civil War fervor at the most. The only real gender tie in is that it's tied to the premiere female superhero. Few people are actually attributing sexism to the claim when they scream "this is ruining Wonder Woman". (c.f. "This is ruining Cap/Iron Man/Spider-Man!")

I should point out that while making a true comparison of this sort of fan reaction is all but impossible, Ragnell and I ARE the compilers for When Fangirls Attack, and thus probably as qualified to judge this sort of thing as anyone else. I respectfully submit that Dick must have got his companies confused, because the only multiple-month outrage that *I* remember chronicling was centered around Marvel.

The thing that gets me though is that if you look at that set of paragraphs, Dick doesn't ask why David Brothers is more inclined to read Marvel. He doesn't appear like he's questioning why the bloggers that focus on race might or might not like a certain company over the other.

So why is he questioning Ragnell, Dorian and my willingness to defend DC? Is it because of our gender focus (extending that umbrella to both sexism/feminism and sexual orientation/homophobia issues)?

Is THAT why we're suddenly "influenced" by much of anything beside the simple fact that, hey, maybe we actually LIKE DC? Maybe we, *gasp*, even LIKE Dan Didio?

Or maybe it's just that we prefer and support a company that Dick does not.

Regardless, while I appreciate the kind words that Dick has to say about Ragnell and my contributions toward the internet discourse surrounding women in comics, I dislike the thought that we have to explain ourselves to Dick and to others about why we may, individually, I might add, support a company or even a person that they don't think warrants it.

Maybe, we don't actually think there needs to be a conflict between our fan-preferences and our politics. MAYBE, we're seeing something that you're not.

We might be right, we might be wrong, but I think that's our business and our decision to make. And if you do respect whatever contributions you think we've made to the internet-comic-feminism-whatever-it-is, maybe you ought to trust that we might have some idea of what we're talking about.

I'm not saying you can't disagree with us. Just please, respect our right to disagree with you.

(Edited to say: I hate when this happens, but after a bit of sleep I ended up with a much better summation of what annoyed me about Dick's post here. It's the comment to Thom. It's quite a bit more coherent than this post.)


  • At September 13, 2007 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I posted my own thoughts on this as well.

  • At September 13, 2007 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know...I recall a point back at the beginning of the year where DC got called on the carpet every other week, including major complaints about anime figurines, Supergirl, cancelling titles featuring minority leads to name a few. Marvel had three major "diversity" dust ups.

    Now, the anime statue thing really can't be laid at the feet of DC's comic wing, their not the ones behind it. But then, the same is true of Marvel and the Mary Jane statue. Neither Didio or Quesada are the guilty parties there.

    But what confounds me is that when DC had their screwup, fans complained, but demanded change. When Marvel had it's controversies? People were declaring they were done with Marvel. Marvel was not asked to changed, they were getting told to "f*** off." It just seemed inconsistent.

    Now, certainly, a lot of those people most likely continued to purchase Marvel books after declaring Marvel dead to them. We readers of the big two are notoriously bad at sticking to our promises. Look at how many bloggers declare they are giving up comics only to find they still are reading them months after said declaration. Hell, I decided to stop reading comics BEFORE I started my blog. ;)

  • At September 13, 2007 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You know, I think the main point some people miss is that the DC universe sucks, even though they do put out one or two decent books, and if you like and praise DC, then you're hurting comics.

    I should probably end that with some kind of winking smiley.


    There, now I'm covered.

  • At September 13, 2007 11:00 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    starman: Ooo, that's a nice one.

    thom: I'm not going to claim that fans don't react differently for whatever reason to DC and Marvel (though it may be where you look, I remember a lot of folks declaring they're done with DC after Kon or Bart's death for example).

    Though I'd point out that while there were minor controversies a lot of the time, nothing really seemed to last much longer than that initial week and didn't have the spread that I noticed at least about the two big Marvel scandals. Except Supergirl, and that's sorta fixed for now.

    I think Starman's link's got a good point with regards to editorial reaction though. When asked about Steph Brown, Didio says "no plans for a case" and if pressed may say something like "I think Steph wasn't a real Robin." Which. Okay, that's going to offend a lot of Steph fans, sure. But that's a legitimate disagreement.

    In contrast Quesada looks at the Heroes for Hire and says "there's no sexism here. The people who see sexism are ignoring the fact that these are strong female characters..." and so on.

    There's a HUGE difference there. Didio's never, as far as I've seen at least, said that the people complaining about Steph were complaining about nothing/reading too much into it/whatever. He just has a difference of opinion. We might take issue with that difference, disagree profoundly and explain why...

    But at least our feelings aren't being invalidated in the process. Quesada's "YOU're forgetting these are strong women"/"YOU are reading too much into it" not only invalidates the feelings of a very vocal segment of the audience, it tells us that it's OUR FAULT for being upset by it.

    Which, actually, come to think about it may be why Dick's entry annoyed me so much. I didn't get a sense of disagreement

    "I think Marvel handles the treatment of gender issues better, for example..."

    I would have been fine with that, like I'm fine with Dick's criticism toward my counter to Val's essay. I DISAGREE, sure.

    But when Dick uses words like "intransigent defense" or "what influences bloggers like"...

    Then I get the same sense I got reading Quesada's justifications. That my opinions aren't being disagreed with, they're being invalidated., there must be something WRONG with the people who defend DC so stringently. It must be because they're intransigent and stubborn...NOT because we might possibly just have our own reasons for liking DC better.

    Besides, it's not like Ragnell, Dorian or I really fit into the categories of fan reaction you're describing. We complain about what we see with both companies. We read what we like to read. We bitch about things we don't like. So why target US? :-)

    It's very likely I'm irrationally reading too much into it. But that's my own personal reaction.

    Eric: No no, you're ignoring the fact that ALL comics suck and are, in fact, setting all feminism back decades. ;-)

  • At September 13, 2007 11:27 AM, Blogger ShellyS said…

    Sheesh. Given how not all women agree re: the recent controversies surrounding DC, I'd say that's a rather biased statement as in intro to an opinion piece. I've been reading DC for 47 years and except for my personal issues re: the death of Kara Supergirl back in 1985 (and I would've boycotted DC if they'd killed Dick Grayson or Roy Harper, instead, because having one's fav characters killed is not about sensitivity or balance, it's about my feelings, damnit!), DC hasn't done all that much to irritate me, except to put out comics with ugly art or poorly written stories.

    And I'm happily still reading DC because they are also publishing plenty of good, exciting, fun comics.

    Again, sheesh.

  • At September 13, 2007 11:46 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Shelly: Mine or his? :-)

    To be fair, a bit of bias is expected in an opinion piece. But still his annoyed the crap out of me. :-)

  • At September 13, 2007 12:03 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Yeah, I've read his blog before, and I find him to be a bit...dogmatic. I suppose that's fine, we all have our opinions. I don't particularly like being told that mine are invalid however, when I have the temerity to disagree with him.

    As for Marvel vs DC, I sill like a lot of Marvel books, and characters, I'm just not particularly thrilled with the current direction that Marvel is taking them. In a few years, when it all changes (and it will), I'll be happily back in there.

  • At September 13, 2007 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Eh...Dick will be done blogging in a couple of months. His posts have fallen off to barely one a week...and the strain in maintaining his "above it all, yet still somehow having an opinion" schtick has nearly run its course.

  • At September 13, 2007 1:42 PM, Blogger Will Staples said…

    Why does anyone care about anyone else's taste in comics, anyway? Thank God I'm not a "Big Name Fan" and don't have anyone with too much time on his hands picking apart my personal preferences for other people to read about...

    I also don't know what he's talking about Re: Loren (whose surname he misspelled). He had plenty of criticism for the company, but guy was still a huge DC fan from what I could tell.

  • At September 13, 2007 8:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've read your excerpt of dude's blog, and I did not get what you got from it.

    I don't think he was claiming that DC was worse on the, excuse the notion, diversity front than Marvel this year.

    I got that what he found notable was that when or if ... fan outrage, or whatever, tipped away from legitimate diversity concerns towards fan entitlement, there were prominent blogging voices (yours included) ready to defend DC, but not so much ready to defend Marvel.

  • At September 13, 2007 9:29 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Eric: That's fair enough. :-) That's why I always try to provide a link! There's always the chance that I'm reading too far into stuff after all. It's always best to make up your own mind. :-)

  • At September 14, 2007 12:50 AM, Blogger Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said…

    Geez Mark, I thought we were buds....

    I really should have just cut out the part about the counter-reactions to the Amazon Attacks mini, because that drew attention away from my larger point (which I'll address shortly). I just thought it was an interesting development, but I didn't mean to try to draw any additional meaning out of it. Sorry if this offended you--if I were going to insult your tastes in comics, I would have adopted my anti-superhero snob guise.

    But I really am curious how you see your fandom for DC intersecting with the portrayal of women in their comics. I agree that Jann Jones is not guaranteed to improve the situation--I think I made that point in my original post--but her hiring would, hypothetically, be a major turning point in the history of the North American comics industry. Do you ever feel like you're being pulled in two directions at once? I don't mean this as an insult; I'm always struck at how you and Lisa retain your enthusiasm for superhero comics in the face of the WFA project. It's kind of a unique situation, and I was mostly interested in hearing your thoughts on that (apparently false) dichotomy. Again, sorry if my intentions were unclear.

  • At September 14, 2007 1:12 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Hi Dick, thanks for clarifying. I admit that sometimes I can be a bit kneejerk in my reactions (which is why I tend to keep them to my own blog for a bit before trolling comment sections. :-))

    I can't speak for Ragnell, but for me essentially what it boils down to is that I'm happy more often than I'm unhappy. The complaints are more common for me, because I'm generally happy enough that I will easily pick apart the faults.

    I can, when pressed, name many things about DC comics that actually please me on a feminist level. Marvel not as much, though I admit, a lot of that's just because I prefer DC so I've read more DC.

    It probably should be noted that I don't share the G.W. Steph Brown goal and I don't see the lack of a case as sexist so much as it's reflecting other factors, some of which I agree with.

    I tend to think, and it's true that a lot of this is strictly perception, that DC's editorial body tends to be more...approachable in terms of complaining about sexism. I see a lot of times in interviews where DC writers and artists will respond frankly to questions about sexism and their intentions. WITHOUT making it a case of "there's no sexism here, anyone who says that is..."

    I've honestly been impressed by the handling of Stephanie Brown's case so far. Because, while they haven't agreed to do it, Didio and co. seem to have been fairly open about answering questions about it. When someone asks things like "Why did you change Cassandra Cain?" or "Will we ever see Batwoman again?!" in conventions, there's usually a frank answer. Even if it's not always the answer we want to hear. (Contrasted with say the Heroes For Hire reaction: "Sexism? What sexism? These are strong female characters! It was drawn by a woman! There's no sexism!")

    And DC seems to have proven ameniable to certain complaints, going by the revamp of Supergirl or the breast reduction on the JLA cover. Even Minx and Berganza's kind of ill-fated DC Nation Supergirl column at least indicate an attempt to reach that segment of the audience. (This is not to discount Marvel's efforts, it's just I'm in more of a position to appreciate DC's.)

    Really though, when I defend DC, it's just because I tend to think the other side's being silly. (Seriously, Amazons Attack was BAD, but kill Wonder Woman?! Hardly!) Not because of any deeper passion for the company, even if I'm genuinely happy with it.

    Hope that makes sense some. :-)

  • At September 14, 2007 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dick is a troll in Billy Goat's clothing.

  • At September 14, 2007 8:37 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Dick, I'm going to get around to answering the rest of that end paragraph when I get a decent chance but I just needed to point out that Jann Jones, EIC wouldn't be a historical turning point for women in the industry by virtue of her gender, because before Didio and Levitz a woman (Jenette Kahn) was Publisher and then Editor-in-Chief of DC Comics.

    Kahn ran the place from 76 until 2002. That was during the time of the WiR list, fumbling of the WW franchise that is at least equal to the current fiasco, 90s art, Kyle Rayner's first two girlfriends and the Killing Joke among other things.

    I became a fan during that era, but it was hardly better than this one for feminist concerns.

  • At September 14, 2007 11:44 AM, Blogger Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said…

    I knew about Kahn, I just wasn't sure how invested she was in the management of editorial content at DC. This is probably a logical fallacy on my part: DC wasn't especially enlightened during her tenure, thus she must not have had a heavy hand in the running of editorial. Ultimately, though, the EiC certainly has a greater role in determining the content of DC's (or Marvel's) books, but they also have the publisher to answer to (who in turn has other corporate masters to please). This line of thinking actually kind of supports Dirk Deppey's "corporate comics culture" line of thinking, I'm afraid. No hope!

    I think another reason I'm interested in the DiDio situation is (a) he's probably (possibly?) on the hotseat, (b) DC, by all accounts, has never had the frat house mentality that apparently characterizes Marvel (it sounds more like repressed nerd central), and (c) he has an obvious replacement in the wings who holds at least a glimmer of hope for improving things. That might be true at Marvel as well--presumably either Alonso or Breevoort would succeed Quesada--but Joey Q probably isn't in danger of being fired any time soon.

    That's a good point about DC "correcting" the Power Girl cover. I was going to mention something about that, but I've been trying to streamline my posts so they don't have so many long, rambling asides. I've got a tendency to sacrifice clarity for accuracy (or attempted accuracy), but I might have erred too far on the other side this time.

  • At September 14, 2007 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Didio's response vs Quesada's response--

    I'm not sure that that analogy is 100% fair. Didio being able to say "I don't think she was a real Robin" is an option that Joe Q doesn't exactly have.

    Steph getting a case is nuanced. There are multiple sides with different rationales for each of their POVs.

    The H4H cover... it's either/or. It's sexist or it isn't. Joe Q, being EiC of the company, can't come right out and say "Wow, yeah, what were we thinking? That cover is horrible." I can't think of a position regarding that cover beyond "It is" or "It isn't." Maybe "It isn't, but it kind of is?"

    It's kind of an apples and oranges situation to me. Q was between a rock and a hard place, Didio at least had the benefit of being able to play the opinion card and deflect. From Q's point of view, he could either piss off his bosses or piss off the fans... fans of a mid-list at best book that's probably getting the axe after WWH.

  • At September 15, 2007 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I feel your pain. As a man I'm disgusted at all the sexism. All those men drawn with impossibly rippling muscles that don't reflect real mens' bodies. Then they keep killing off male characters or they retcon them into a crude stereotype. Something must be done to stop the sexism.

  • At September 15, 2007 10:19 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    David: I don't know about that really. As far as the case situation goes, I'm not really sure who decides what, where.

    And I really do think that while Quesada was in a difficult position, there were still a number of ways that he could have answered that without angering his bosses or the fans. (Heck, if he'd left it at "We didn't intend it to be seen as sexist", that probably would have worked better. Not admitting sexism necessarily, but not dismissing the complaints out of hand.)

    Anonymous: It's so cute when you guys pull that sort of thing and somehow imagine that you're expressing something clever or original. :-)


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