I haven’t left the house today tell me I’m pretty
My girlfriend’s really pretty
Pre-SDCC commission: Psylocke & Fantomex
i don’t care if you think it’s “improper first date attire” this suit of armor is enchanted and i’m wearing it
Quicksilver concept art poster for SDCC.
Um, and Vision’s in the background
dj roomba is literally the greatest thing thats ever happened to me
Stop Chris Pratt before it’s too late 2k14
Starlord is a fictional character. Chris Pratt is a hero.
Spoiler alert: I’m never gonna try writing again
Last week I got into it on twitter with former Spider-Man artist Ryan Stegman. The day before I messaged him, he and a number of other comic book writers and artists had been making jokes about the #FireRemender movement. While they weren’t directly hostile to fans, they were dismissive of it in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable, completely ignoring the issue that caused the movement. When I pointed this out his response was that because the movement was directed at an individual there couldn’t be a larger discussion. Soon after that comic book editor Janelle Asselin who’d recently critiqued DC’s cover for its new Teen Titans book made a post essentially saying the same thing. In their minds any criticism that focused on the creators would kill the conversation.
I understand why they think that way. As I saw someone put it during this conversation, the comic book community has an outrage problem. While both Marvel and DC are guilty of feeding into it for sales, there’s no excuse for a culture that leads to things like Dan Slott and Brian Bendis getting death threats for “killing” Peter or for replacing Peter with Miles Morales. When faced with outrage like that, so vitriolic and directed almost exclusively at the writers rather than any meaningful critique of the story the only response can be to dismiss the outrage. But that way of thinking can’t be used with this. As much as the toxic environment in comics needs to be addressed so the stories can shine and be critiqued on their own merit, creators and those covering comics have to be recognize that outrage over rape and representation in comics don’t come from the same place. It cannot be judged by the same standards.
I didn’t read this story when it was released. I’m a die hard Captain America fan. You’re talking to the guy won a Cap costume in a contest on a comic blog for giving the most impassioned explanation of why my favorite arc was the best. After such an accomplished run the switch from Brubaker to anyone was going to be tough for everyone, not just me. Dimension Z failed to pull me in for more than that though. Steve Rogers can be a tough character to write and really works well when his values can play against something, as happened in Brubaker’s run with Winter Soldier and Bravo. Dimension Z instead took Captain America into a bleak, dystopian multiverse. Captain America can definitely be inspiring outside of the confines of Earth, as Jonathan Hickman showed in Infinity, but because of poor world building and a strange emphasis on telling the reader things rather than showing I could never connect. Add to that John Romita’s ill suited art and you had a book that didn’t connect on any level. I dropped it after issue nine, the penultimate issue of Dimension Z.
The scene that caused all of the outrage has already been dissected better than I can ever hope to, but that’s not gonna keep me from talking about it. While my reading of Jet Black never led me to believe she was underage I can see why some fans might. Clearly the editors or Remender himself thought there was a possibility that it might be interpreted that way and had the character say that she was 23. And there’s more than just JRJR’s ambiguous are to make them think she was younger. In the flashback of the night before Jet Black’s speech patterns reminded me of Starfire’s during New Teen Titans. It was trying to demonstrate that she was naive, that she came from a different world, but was more infantilizing than Wolfman ever wrote Kory. And whereas Starfire was developed into a well rounded and empowered whose femininity rightfully never detracted from her strength, the pages that followed in Captain America #22 read more like a man grasping at something he can’t understand. The casual detachment from sex that, given the context and the role of alcohol, tries to empower Jet Black, but only serves to fetishize it for male readers. And all of this while Falcon, the character so recently brought to life by Anthony Mackie, someone who has spoken so vehemently about representation, says “No, no, no” in the background.
Fun times, huh? It’s a pretty terrible scene. In fact I’m angry I had to read it so that I could better write about it and I hope you all feel bad for making me do it. And my anger should feel pretty familiar to you. A lot of DC and Marvel’s marketing is based around making fans angry. Remember the solicit for Superior Spider-Man #9. “The hottest comic in comics comes to a turning point that will get you angrier than you were after Spidey #700!” It’s even got an exclamation point. And Tom Brevoort himself said that angry fans were better than apathetic ones. It’s been part of Marvel’s marketing strategy for over a decade. Every comic book fan has seen the fruits of this strategy. It permeates the community.
But this is different. A group of predominantly female fans outraged over something like this can’t be judged the same way we judge the rest of the community. The fans angry about this scene aren’t just the product of a marketing strategy that treats them like crap. They’re not even just the product of an industry that’s barely given them a thought and allowed sexism ro run wild for decades. Rape culture surrounds them outside of comics. It’s inescapable. They can’t close Captain America and decide to ignore it. Remender does a pretty crap job by not even acknowledging the role of alcohol in consent, but to those female fans who read it and were outraged? Most of them between 15-25? They’re gonna go to parties where it’s more than just poor writing. They’re going to parties with guys who would read that page and laughed, thinking that the only consequence of being drunk when you have sex is a few sitcomy no’s.
Their anger is real. And more than that it can’t be policed the same way we’ve been forced to police fan outrage. A long time ago I used to think that the only way to talk about things like this was civilly. My teenage mind thought issues were solved through Sorkin-esque debates where you were passionate but always measured. And I had the flawed thought that if I was wrong and someone else was right then they should tell me in a “productive” way. “Teach me then,” I thought.
That way of thinking is wrong. It borders on sociopathic. I’m privileged. To me those were just issues, little more than mental exercise. To women sexism and rape culture are more than that. It’s the background noise to their lives. And while they were fighting against it there I was policing how they could react to it. Only aware of how their anger affected me and never mindful of their experiences. They were under no obligation to teach me anything, it was my obligation to teach myself. To recognize the world around me regardless of how they expressed their outrage.
And that needs to be applied to #FireRemender. Kieron Gillen and Janelle Asselin talk about how if fans care about having a discussion about the role of alcohol in consent in both this scene and in life then they should’ve been mindful of how it would be received by comic book professionals. Janelle said it was about “the approach and the context of the commentary” that was the problem. She makes light of how she once wrote in review that someone should consider a new career. “I’d suggested this real, human man’s livelihood be taken away… because of superheroes.” But this isn’t just superheroes. This isn’t me being upset that Bendis does a crap job writing Emma Frost(Although he does and Brian if you read this you should feel bad about yourself). It’s women once again seeing rape culture in every facet of their lives, even in something they go to to escape it. Even in a book about a hero that’s supposed to represent the best of what we can be as people.
They’re asking fans to make this a teaching moment. To make it palatable for comic book creators. Because, as Janelle says, “…the next hashtag could be for them!” Another exclamation point. Well to them I say too bad. If you’re going to chastise fans for not expressing their outrage over someone in your industry helping to perpetuate rape culture, even on accident, in a more pleasing way then you’re part of the problem. If you call yourself an ally, as Kieron Gillen does, but refuse to parse through fan outrage to discuss something important like alcohol and consent for fear that you might be called out on something potentially problematic in your work, then you need to reconsider calling yourself that.
Comics do have an outrage problem. They help create it, but it’s a problem the community has fed into. They will troll and bait fans at every turn to boost sales. It’s a toxic culture and in it it could be easy to write off #FireRemender as just another product of it. But it’s not. It’s outrage over something larger and infinitely more harmful. We, as a community, cannot dismiss it because it doesn’t come in the form we’d like it to.