Image Comics & Provoking Thought

You know, more often than not, and mainly because I’ve been a superhero fan of the Big Two for so long, I’m used to either Marvel or DC Comics making colossal mistakes with regards to representing people from marginalized groups.

So imagine my surprise when Image Comics came into my field of notice with their series, The Divided States of Hysteria, written by Howard Chaykin.

Why? Well, not only does the first issue feature a transgender woman being beaten to death, but the cover of the 4th issue was to feature a Pakistani man being lynched.

Thankfully, the cover has been pulled and replaced with something else, of a bald eagle flying alongside remote piloted US Military drones, but the fact remains that someone saw the cover and signed off on it, thinking it to be a good idea.

They also thought it to be a good idea to depict a transgender woman being brutally beaten and murdered.

And Image’s defense, as produced by President Eric Stephenson, is this:

“Rooted in the worst aspects of reality, this is indignant, rebellious fiction, designed to make readers both angry and uncomfortable,” Image Comics President Eric Stephenson said in a statement when the first issue returned to press. “But more than that, it’s intended to provoke thought about how and why things have reached a state where the tools for progress — discourse, understanding, cooperation — are shunned in favor of treating anyone with an opposing viewpoint as an enemy combatant.”

This is, without a doubt, one of the most disingenuous things I’ve ever read from a comic book publisher since serial sexual harasser Eddie Berganza begged female fans of Supergirl to stay on board for the series back in 2007.

Because here’s the thing, Eric, we are already having discussions on racism, islamaphobia, and violence against transgender people. Transgender people themselves are talking about this because, surprise surprise, it affects them a whole hell of a lot more than cisgender people like you and me.

We don’t need nor want yet another cisgender white guy to tell us these things. A quick look on google can tell us these things, and more importantly, we can find sources from and by marginalized communities.

In fact, here are some examples:

Transgender Cartoonist Sopie Labelle faced a series of online threats, was doxxed, and had to cancel a book appearance.

Hate Crimes against Muslims double in Canada.

Trump rolls back rights on LGBTQ workers.

A mosque is sent pieces of the Quoran wrapped in bacon.

These are just a few of the examples of me spending a couple minutes on Google, so really, having glorified violence against transgender and Middle Eastern people in a comic by a writer who whines about identity politics does absolutely nothing to further the discussion. The defense of provoking a discussion is nothing more than that; a flimsy defense.

Another terrible defense came up yesterday from writer Kaare Andrews, in this bizarre twitter thread:

Reciting old moral codes from the Comic Book code, put in place after Fredrick Wertham’s book “Seduction of the Innocent” came out in 1954, appears to be Karre’s response to criticism over the violence depicted against transgender and Middle Eastern people. After all, as one person said to me in defense of Karre:

So, we have two problems here:

  1. Criticism is not censorship. This has long been a problem hard for dudebro gamers angry over women and minorities talking about representation in video games to udnerstand, and it’s certainly a problem for comic book fans, seeing as how comic books have long catered to straight white dudes.
  2.  Marginalized people do not have nowhere near the power to censor anyone, nor were they looking to censor Image Comics and Howard Chaykin.

Instead, what was being sought was to tell Image Comics just what in the hell was wrong in depicting these images of violence against marginalized communities. Islamaphobia is on the rise, and violence against transgender people in fiction has been around so long it’s a terrible, crude joke. It’s pretty much well known as transgender pain porn, where in the sole existence of transgender people is to show us how much misery is in their lives.

And to give straight, white, cisgender dudes Oscar Awards.

In fact, here are two good threads on Twitter about Image Comics’ grossly ignorant decision to showcase the violence against marginalized communities that I highly recommend you read:

And Alexis Serios had this thread of comments to talk about where the line is with regards to bigotry and transphobia in comics:

So what to do about it?

Well, as others have done, we point out why what Image did was wrong, the responsibility they have as a majour publisher to do right by marginalized communities, and to not hide behind such flimsy defenses.

We, as in we straight, white, cisgender people, listen to said marginalized communities when they talk about their very real lived experiences. We don’t wait for some white dude to say “Hey, this is bad, hmmkay?” before agreeing and doing something.

And yes, I recognize the irony considering how I am, myself, a straight white, cisgender man.

And if comic companies like Image, Marvel, and DC don’t want to listen, then we do what I’ve seen also used as a defense for them to make our voices heard, and vote with out dollar.

As such, and to end this article on a more uplifting note, here are some comics you should support!

Alexis Sergio.

She’s the writer of Wish, a webcomic about a transgender woman who is brought back to life and is granted super powers. Alexis also contributed one of many amazing threads about diversity in our media, comics creation, and listening to people who aren’t straight, white cisgender dudes.

Kiva Bay

She’s a writer of Bowled Over, a cute story of girls of various, diverse backgrounds falling in love. She’s also a pretty darn good artist who discusses fat activism.

Crash and Burn

A Canadian comic about a diverse group of people who crash land on an abandoned amusement park world alongside alien royalty, I found their booth at the Calgary Expo and the artwork and story instantly grabbed my attention. I also appreciated that their booth had buttons featuring bisexual, asexual, and transgender flags.

Go Get A Roomie!

Written and drawn by Chloe C, this is the story of a free loving hippie and her sleep obsessed friend who grow and develop and learn while interacting with a wealth of other people.

Strangely Katie

An illustrated and comic book artist, Katie drew one of my favourite comics ever, Princess Princess Ever After, a story that deals with fat shaming, gendered roles, and fighting ogres and dragons.

BOUNCE!

A story of a bouncer dealing withoverly entitled white people, racism, and just trying to get through life. Humourous and funny, it is also touching and poignant at times.

Blind Spots

Sorry about the radio silence here! Between work, dealing with anxiety, and my computer finally dying and the new one taking its time to get here, my output has been really, really low.

I’m trying to turn it around, so I figured I’d talk about blind spots in relation to writing diverse characters, specifically the case of Brian Michael Bendis and Spider-Man Issue #2.

I admit to being a bit late to this party, as I’m not a regular reader of the adventures of Miles Morales, mainly on account of just not being a fan of Bendis’ writing. I just get this sense of how much he hates writing superheroes and was, from what one friend told me, instrumental in ripping apart the relationship of the Vision of Scarlet Witch.

Also, randomly killing off Ultimate Gwen Stacy for no good reason? Yeah, never was a fan of that.

So, when he made Miles Morales, the half black/half-‘hispanic’ new Spider-Man of the ultimate universe, I gave it a pass, same as I did for Silk, as created by Dan Slott.

After all, when your introduction of the character is of someone hidden away by men ‘for her own good’ and shown to wear webbing in a sexy pin up pose, it’s loaded with Ick Factor, made all the worse for Silk being Asian.

But enough about Dan Slott… heck, the less said about him when he’s not checking up on google alert for his name and bad writing, the better.

In the latest issue of Spider-Man, a vlogger excitedly discusses how cool it is that there’s a new Spider-Man on the scene after footage of him fighting a demon is uploaded online. The footage shows that part of his costume is torn and his brown skin shown through it.

Miles’ reaction to the vlogger is to not like being the black Spider-Man, which the vlogger does not call him, and wants to be counted on the content of his character instead of the colour of his skin.

Now, other people have explored this issue, and much better than I ever could. In fact, I highly recommend everyone reads “Gamergaters are rallying behind the new Spider-Man for all the wrong reasons” by Charles Pulliam-Moore. He and another friend really dive into the material and about how troubling it is for a young, biracial boy of colour to not want to discuss his skin colour.

And while you’re at it, listen to Fresh Out Of Tokens. It’s a great podcast about diversity in games, but in the latest episode, episode 39, they spend some time on this topic as well. It’s roughly in the last 10-15 minutes of it and definitely worth a listen.

What troubles me, and was highlighted by a discussion I had yesterday, is the age-old idea that because one has relationships with people of colour, either as friends, colleagues, family, or lovers, it does not mean that you’re suddenly immune to being racist.

It is, as one friend once told me, not a one time immunization shot, but an ongoing process.

This is important to highly because in the interview Bendis has with Comic Book Resources, he talks about the people in his life who face bigotry and being judged on their looks, as well as his being Jewish.

And yet, all I could hear was “I have black friends! I have black friends! I can’t be racist, I have black friends!”

Yeah, so do I, but that doesn’t mean I won’t automatically say, do, or write racist things. I’m constantly educating myself and watching what I say and examining it because as a straight, white, cisgender, able bodied male from Canada, I am at the top of the privilege pyramid.

Privilege is a hell of a thing, and it comes in many forms. In her book Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafetreia?, Beverly Tatum, in her exploration of racism and how it affects us, points out that she has privileges others don’t. She might be a black woman living in America, but she also has straight privilege, cisgender privilege, and able bodied privilege.

So even though Bendis is Jewish and has a black daughter and knows many black people and other people of colour, he has privileges others don’t, and that can result in blind spots.

And damned if there wasn’t a glaring blind spot about Morales dismissing his blackness which is, again, better explained and discussed by the people in the links I provided.

It also doesn’t help that Bendis has said to tune in next time, continue reading, when facing criticism over this. That feels like an excuse to run away and not face up to what people have said of his writing, and seeing as how he is someone writing a character who is afro-latino, he has a greater responsibility to ensure he writes a good message.

Yes, he’s human and he makes mistakes, same as the rest of us, but it’s especially harmful when Bendis is so dismissive, to say nothing about the character of Danika Hart, the vlogger. It feels like a shot at all the SJW tumblr types, as though to say they care more about diversity than quality, when really one can have diversity AND quality.

After all, look at the latest Star Wars movie.

So, while hardly being enamored with Bendis’ writing to begin with, I think I’m going to be sitting this one out. After all, when our writing ensures that Miles Morales is going to become Gamergater’s Vivian James entry into comics, you’ve fucked up.

Also, hispanic means you speak Spanish. It’s not the same as being latino. Get it right, Bendis.

 

DC Comics Screwing Up – The Trap Card

Hello everyone and welcome to yet another installment of DC Comics Fucking Up that I like to call… The Trap Card!

Here it is on youtube:

And here it is on Blip.TV:

And for further information, I’ve included some of the links that delves further into some of the things I mentioned in the video.
Chris Sprouse Leaves Adventures of Anthology #1.

Interview With Richard Neal of Zeus’ Comics

USA Today Discusses Chris Sprouse Leaving The Superman Anthology.

Summit Entertainment Executives Nervous About Adapting Homophobic Bigot’s Book Into Movie And People Finding Out That The Movie Is Based Off Of A Homophobic Bigot’s Book.

White Guys – The ONLY Superhero

Hello everyone and welcome to a comic book movie rant, specifically about the stream of vanilla superheroes coming out of Marvel Studios for the next two years.

This was influenced heavily by a discussion on Ars Marginal, specifically this post, which was, in turn, influenced by a picture someone made on tumblr.

This one, to be exact:

The website I pulled the quote from was twitchfilm.com and the article in question can be found here.

The movie I forgot to mention that was the Another White Guy was Marvel’s announcement that they would be making an Ant-Man movie… Ant-Man.

Ant-Man?! What’s next? DC is going to make an Aquaman movie?

DC and Diversity

Hello everyone, and welcome to Jolt Studios, where today I will be openly discussing two subjects of great interest to DC fans, the Flash Point reboot as well as their lack of diversity and the steady white washing that has been occurring in the past couple of years as Silver Age fanboys write what they want, regardless of what the fans want.

First off, I have for you my rant on Flashpoint, posting last month, but still relevant to our interests:

And then I have my second comic rant on how DC has been following a disturbing trend of getting rod of their more prominent characters of colour and replacing them with more white people than you can shake a stick at.

Frankly, between this and all that Marvel has done in the past few years, I am starting to get sick of everything that the Big 2 do to superheroes. I know it’s forcing me to go elsewhere to read stories about good, decent people written by good, decent people.

Except for the ones done by Gail Simone. She’s super awesome.