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There’s been this huge shitstorm on twitter (and subsequently on blogs, websites, and forums everywhere) over the last few days regarding a comment cartoonist Kate Beaton made about sexism.  It was a mild comment, intended, I believe, in goodwill, to just educate people about being aware of some stuff that’s pretty offensive and not okay to say to cartoonists – of any gender really, but yes, specifically women, since that’s who 99% of these kind of things are said to.  If you follow any comics professionals on twitter you probably got an eyeful…though it’s ridiculous trying to follow cohesive arguments on twitter…so you may have thrown up your hands in frustration and given up as I often do.

I’ve been thinking about this for days.

I thought about writing about it here, but after getting in a massive fight about it with my significant other, decided it was a third rail I just shouldn’t touch.  But then today I read a comic by Gabby Schulz and I realized that it’s my responsibility as a woman that works in the comics world to stand up for what I believe – which is that Kate Beaton and the others that have stood with her publicly are 100% correct.

The bottomline is, regardless of the perfectness or accuracy of Beaton’s initial example, it’s just not okay to say sexual and intimate things that put people’s bodies on display to professional people, even if you think it’s a compliment because she’s HOTT.  We (again, all comics professionals, but especially women comics professionals) work very hard to divorce our personal physicality from our work, because it’s not something that should have to go together.  The same way no man should be expected to be SUPER sexy while he’s busy being brilliantly talented and bringing me awesome comics, it’s unfair to tie a woman’s hotness (or lack thereof) to her work, again, yes, even if you think you’re being nice and complimentary.

The two things don’t go together, and should in fact have nothing to do with one another, and linking them is a problem.  Consider that what you find to be a compliment, is immediately and inexorably linking that woman’s work to her sexuality and level of attractiveness to YOU.  What you think you’re making about her, you’re really making about YOU and how she applies to YOU.  And in many cases, for many women, it feels threatening.  Consider – at a minimum – women who are not straight and not interested in YOU and women who have been victims of sexual abuse (which at 1 in 6, makes the odds pretty high that you’ll eventually say this to a woman who has had a history of sexual violence perpetrated against her at one time or another).  But even if you’re lucky enough to say it to a straight woman with no history or triggers that doesn’t seem to mind – it’s just not appropriate.

Ladies are tough, nine times out of ten, we laugh this kind of stuff off or ignore it because we are used to it, because we’ve trained ourselves to try not to care, because we’ve learned that it’s usually a bigger hassle to deal with it than to sweep our feelings under the rug (case in point, the exact shitstorm that is going on now).  But that doesn’t make it right, and sweeping it under the rug means that nothing gets fucking better, and in many cases people don’t even know that what they’re doing is offensive and wrong, because they didn’t intend for it to harm anyone.  But if we needed any proof that this stuff goes on in high numbers it’s evident in the vitriolic sexist response to Beaton’s simple bit of advice to fans, which was essentially – make it about the work, the same way you would for any creator, and not about whether you’d bang us or not with your awesome penis.

Let me lastly say that there are TONS of dudes that are supportive and progressive and that get what Beaton and others are talking about and have been and continue to be wildly supportive in breaking down these barriers and making things equal and civilized so that we can all just be treated like human beings.  There are also tons of dudes that might have made the mistake of saying something like this to a creator, without ever realizing why it was wrong, but have now learned something (which was the intent I believe of Beaton’s tweet in the first place)…so this is not some JUDGMENT OF ALL DUDES.  It’s not.  Plenty of you are awesome and show it every day.  But there are also plenty of asshats that need some education and unfortunately they’re a big vocal aggressive group, one that’s especially prevalent on the internet.  And I’m not going to pretend there aren’t asshat chicks too.  There’s plenty of them.

Anyway, I don’t have the time, energy, or emotional fortitude to go further – and I certainly can’t do it with as much charm and grace as Gabby Schulz, so I’ll just put myself out there publicly with Kate and her supporters and post a page of Gabby’s strip, and link to the rest of it.  Check it out.

by Gabby Schulz

Comics this week was a crazy high and low bag.

I read some stuff I really liked more than usual this week:  Zatanna #6 has finally turned a corner for me and turned into a book I might just like – mostly due to some gorgeous Jesus Saiz art – I hope he stays on.  I thought Dini stepped it up here as well as the story was more fun and had much more pop (and much less borderline sexist weird stuff) than the previous 5 issues.  Here’s hoping it holds.

The Hellboy/Beasts of Burden one-shot was hilarious, adorable, and more fun than 98% of comics I read…how I wish this book existed as an ongoing…or at least another/a new mini-series.  Jill Thompson’s art is spectacular and Evan Dorkin (with an assist from Mike Mignola) nailed the story.

Madame Xanadu #28 was a nice strong close to the ‘extra sensory’ series, it’s too bad MX isn’t going to continue (this issue confirms that #29 with Wagner and Reeder is the last)…especially as by the end of this issue I was super intrigued to see the continuation of character Charlotte’s story.  Nice work by both Matt Wagner and guest penciller Marian Churchland.  Greg mentioned in his What I Bought column that this issue is a blatant rip off of Chew…which I believe, but as someone that doesn’t read Chew and only kind of vaguely knows the premise, it didn’t really bother me.  Also, as someone who has had (for more than 10 years now) a very specific idea for a novel and who recently found out that someone else is shortly publishing a book with a VERY similar very specific idea…I guess I feel like this kind of thing probably happens all the time.  I agree with Greg that it’s odd DC/Vertigo would publish anyway…but what do I know?

Additionally, though I don’t usually read Action Comics, Death’s guest appearance was fun in Action Comics #894 and showcased some lovely art by Pete Woods.

Clay Mann continues to deliver an X-Men (and especially a Rogue and Magneto) I really enjoy looking at in X-Men Legacy #241, though I confess that I did not love how this arc wrapped up.  But it wasn’t bad, just my expectations were perhaps too high for the cliffhanger I was left with in #240.

The Supergirl Annual #2 while not super interesting to me (annuals rarely are), was well done and the pencils by Matt Camp were quite good (also, Amy Reeder cover for the win!).

On the other hand: Superman #704 was a cliche borderline offensive trainwreck – on both the writing and art front.  I don’t even read Superman regularly and this book felt like a retread of thoughts and ideas…just cliche filler, penciled atrociously. 

Black Widow #7 was wonderfully written, but full of objectifying imagery (that’s also pretty fucking ugly…which is quite a feat) and at one point (the last page) was so bad it had me laughing out loud at the absolute sexist ridiculousness of it.

Detective Comics #870 felt really off to me in the writing.  In my personal take on Batman, which in fairness I have created personally by picking and choosing which stories I consider canon to who Bats is, Batman rarely every speaks in exclamation points, which this issue is littered with.  Even if not every reader sees eye to eye with my version of Bats, can we at least agree that Batman doesn’t just go around yelling ALL his dialogue?   Additionally the story felt like something we’ve seen a million times before. Really, the villain became a villain because something horrible happened to someone he loved?  Never seen that before. /sarcasm.  Also, I don’t mind revisiting the idea of “did Bats create the villains, or did the villains create Bats” but you’ve got to do something interesting with it or it just feels like noise.  This felt like noise.

Wonder Woman #604 continues to be definitively not good and uninteresting and the art slips with every issue – not that I was every really on board with the art anyway – the giant pushed up boobs really annoy me, as do some of the action poses – and I’ve mentioned the costume sucks too, right?  Yeah, I thought so.

Uncanny X-Men #529 is so ugly that despite being interested in some of the things Fraction is doing, I just have to drop it…it’s scarring my eyes and I worry for their future if I keep reading this ugly ass book.  It’s gone.

However, Uncanny’s ugliness is nothing compared to X-Men Curse of The Mutants: Mutants vs Vampires #2 (of 2, thank god) which though it has cute, fun, nearly wordless short (Call Me Santo by Simon Spurrier and Gabriel Hernandez Walta) and a fun reprint of Uncanny 159 (by Claremont and Sienkiewicz) also has two of the most offensive, myopic, ignorant short stories I’ve read in comics recently. 

Flesh Fangs and Burnt Rubber by Mike Benson is a fucking nightmare that basically equates hunting (and killing) hot vampire chicks with wooing a woman and falling in love (and falling out of love).  Equating falling out of love with beheading a hot vampire is fucking offensive and ignorant and doesn’t take half a brain to figure out not to fucking print.  Gambit, who I loved as a 15 year old girl and have slowly been falling out of love with over the years, has NEVER looked like a bigger asshat than in these 6 or so pages, which is saying a lot.

And then we have Skin Deep, a story written and drawn by Henry Chaykin, which I was delighted to see featured Xi’an Man Coy, a character always underused.  And if this story existed in a world (or medium/genre) in which women weren’t treated as sexual objects 24/7, that must always look an exact and perfect stereotypical way in order to be considered worthy of existing 100% of the time then maybe it would be a funny little tale.  But since it’s set in a world in which women are treated this way all the time, I find it offensive and unnecessary to try to do a funny insignificant short that makes light of significant issues and clearly didn’t take the time to work towards finding some insight into a real woman’s life, motivations, and pressures, but instead boils it all down to “gotta look good in the costume, gotta lose a few pounds”.  It’s poorly researched and lazy work that’s fairly offensive when set in the current context of women in comics.*

So all that said, among the good book and bad books there were too many good covers this week to pick just one, but I narrowed us down to three four:

#1.  This Mark Buckingham Madame Xanadu #28 is GORGEOUS.  It’s one of my favorite covers of the year, hands down.  And I guarantee it will be showing up in my 52 covers of the year list next summer.

#2. Jill Thompson’s cover to the Hellboy/Beasts Of Burden one-shot, which I think we can all agree is just MADE OF AWESOME**:

#3.  I am LOVING these gorgeous Travel Foreman covers for Black Widow.  And Frankly, I loved his Sif cover this past year as well, it even made my 52 covers list.  He’s got a great style and he’s surprisingly good so far with keeping the objectification to a minimum:

#4.  A bit of a cheat because I didn’t actually buy the book, though if my shop had had this variant cover available, I would have.  I don’t buy Secret Avengers because despite my very high interest in Valkyrie, I just can’t get past the Mike Deodato art.  But the variant cover of Valkyrie on Secret Avengers #6 by Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic (confirmed by commenter James – thanks!) is just lovely.    It’s a simple cover but I just love it…the boob plates ALMOST work even.  🙂

I so wish someone would give Valkyrie an ongoing with a great writer and artist, I’d be so excited by it:

Also, while we’re here…how amazing would a Valkyrie penciled by Chris Bachalo be?  OH GOD. WANT!

*of note is that Batman: Bruce Wayne The Road Home: Oracle #1, was sold out at my shop, so I can’t say one way or another, but chatter on the twitter leads me to believe I might be pissed…time will tell…

**it’s also worth noting that Mignola’s Hellboy/Beasts of Burden cover is quite fantastic as well.




October 2010
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