GIRL COMICS: Will we ever, ever learn?


ADDED: Here’s another interview with editor Jeanine Schaefer that answers many questions, including the secret origin of the title.

When I posted my little exclusive on GIRL COMICS the other day, I expected there would be the usual twiddle rompus in my comments, but I didn’t expect the full-on blogosphere firestorm of confusion and disparagement that ensued. A deadly gauntlet of clueless sexism and feminist suspicion greeted the announcement of a thing as simple as an anthology of comics. By women. Something the world has seen about a thousand times before. Granted there is always the threat of marginalization in such works, but it ain’t exactly a groundbreaking (or life-threatening) premise.

Yet the outrage! The concern trolling! Before we take a tiny sampling of reaction, I’d like to give another tiny sampling, below the cut, of the comics that the anthology’s announced contributors have written, drawn or edited over the last 30 years or so:


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(Okay, I had to throw in a picture of Carla Speed McNeil because when you image google her you get a lot of great pictures.)

Now how on EARTH would anyone object to an anthology by these people, who have created some of the most memorable comics and characters of the past 30 years? It’s utterly ludicrous.

And yes, I understand the folks who are saying “Things won’t change until more women are on monthly books!” But after reading all the drivel people have posted about this anthology here and elsewhere I can see why Marvel (or DC) wouldn’t want to come anywhere near the horrible danger of a non-male working on their precious comics for fear of DESTROYING THE MAN. Take one Newsarama poster (ulp) named Jimalsi for example:

I was ready to buy this until I saw the cover. Another book featuring females that can only highlight them by trashing men or showing them beating men. No equality, just in-your-face stomping on guys. If that cover was the other way around, you could open your window and hear “Misogony! Misogoney!” echoing in the air.

And couldn’t the man being beaten at least be a villain? I’m as 30-year Marvelite who’s is becoming more and more sick of Marvel, to where I now buy more DC comics (not even counting Blackest Night stuff). Everybody likes to call Tony Stark names, but he stood up for Law and Order.


I can’t speak for other New Yorkers, but I often open MY window and hear shouts of “Misogony! Misogoney!” echoing down the steel canyons. Other times I hear “Falafel!” or “You said you’d give me FIVE dollars!” but that is beside the point. Holding up a Newsarama poster who can’t spell for the opposition is a cheap shot, but he’s just the ugliest example of more subtle profiling by people who should know better.

What about the actual creators? What do they have to say? Laura Martin:

Yes, I colored Amanda Conner’s cover for Marvel’s Girl Comics. There’s an interview with editor Jeanine Schaefer over at The Beat. And of course there’s whinging in the comments. But why should we ghettoize girls into their own book? If I’m a dude, can I buy the book? Isn’t the title “Girl Comics” misogynistic and stupid?? OH NOES DRAMAZ!! Whatever, all right? I’m wracking my brain for when I last colored something drawn by a female penciler, and I think it might have been in the late ’90s when Joyce Chin and I paired up on a portrait of 7 of 9 from Star Trek Voyager for a gaming magazine. And that wasn’t even comics. I have colored a few things inked by Rachel Dodson, and I’ve worked with several female writers (most notably Jen Van Meter on Black Lightning), but that’s pretty much it. Why? Because I am in the superhero clubhouse. Not just the superhero clubhouse, but the big-numbers, hot-selling, VERY male-centric super-superhero clubhouse. Women creators do not often cross trajectories with this particular clubhouse, either by choice or circumstance — so hell yeah, I’m *thrilled* to color Amanda Conner. I hope I get to do it again. I hope I get to participate in this project more than just this one cover, because I’d be working with new-to-me artists, and that’s ALWAYS awesome to me.


Colleen Coover went through the annoyance of having people speak for you on her Twitter stream:

Thank god the internet is here to prevent me being patronized by a company that pays me money to do what I love… THE FIENDS!


…which sort of sums it up. You can hear the weariness coming right across the inter-tubes. NOT AGAIN. Yeah ghettoization and marginalization suck, and GIRL COMICS isn’t going to solve anything, but the crazy ass knee jerk reactions to the concept instead of the content is part of what is keeping non-white male creators so marginalized! A NY Times best selling author. A creator who has won the Ignatz and the Eisner ( and a multiple nominee). A creator who has won seven Eisner Awards! All of them defined not by their achievements or talents, but purely by gender. Wouldn’t YOU be sick and tired of that?

There were a few reactions around the blogosphere that seemed to thread the needle. Some fellow named Ryan Day:

But it goes both ways. Marvel may ignore these talented women creators 99% of the time, but so do most of the fans, male and female alike. Most people recognize the talented lineup, but some casual searching suggests few fans would be talking about these women if they weren’t appearing in this anthology or working on a similar title.


And J. Caleb Mozzocco:

A lot of the comments I’ve seen today have predictably talked about reverse sexism, the ghettoization of female creators, that the book’s existence is a somewhat sad fact in that it highlights the need for books like this just to get a bunch of women working on Marvel Comics, or that it would be better news if some of these creators were announced as parts of creative teams of some of Marvel’s regular titles.

I suppose there are arguments to made about some of those charges, but, as a comics fan, what I see when I look at the announcement is a book with some of my favorite creators on it, including several creators from my own personal “I’ll buy anything that this person does” list.

I’m down for anything that has Jill Thompson, Colleen Coover and Amanda Conner involved, for example, or anything that gives Ming Doyle, Molly Crabapple and Carla Speed McNeil access to the Marvel characters to play with.


While this whole tempest will be forgotten as soon as the next pot of tea is brewed, it did raise up a few points that had been rattling around in my brain so, before we all go on holiday break, have a gander:

1) We really, really really need to move beyond Power Girl’s breasts, girls. It’s totally a distraction from actual progress. To the point where one prominent female blogger who blogs about those chachas all the time can’t even praise a female cartoonist without comparing her to a female body part. Isn’t it better just to sneak in mentions of female creators as if they were, y’know, NORMAL? Like I just did today elsewhere on this blog?

2) I wish a lot of people in this terrordome had a better sense of history. The “big breakthrough” always came about 10-15 years before the present day, whether that was a break forwards or backs. It’s absolutely the best time ever for women in comics outside the superhero/Wednesday “mainstream” — between alt.comix, manga and book publishing there are more women making a living at comics than ever before and that is truly awesome. But in the Big Two? And the little six? No better than before. While I was researching the art above I quickly realized that as great as today’s women are, in superhero comics no one could possibly do more than Louise Simonson has already done. And only a tiny handful of writers — Devin Grayson and Gail Simone among them — have matched what Ann Nocenti already did. And not much has improved since the days of Weezy and Ann. There has to be more than one woman writer working regularly at a time!

starstruckleekaluta GIRL COMICS: Will we ever, ever learn?For instance, only yesterday, PWCW ran a story on IDW’s reissue of STARSTRUCK by Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta. I was the editor who comissioned this story by Stephanie Mangold, having been a big fan of the book when it came out — from a bunch of different publishers – back in the 80s, but reading the article I was amazed at how well the series matched up against anything coming out today. (PS, it really is great and the reissue should get a lot more attention than it has.) Having been pals with Elaine back in the day, I assure you she had to answer every single question that is being asked now back then. Only without the internet so you could do it in one afternoon.

3) There is, generally speaking, a huge amount of discomfort with women — as creators, as characters and as consumers — in Nerd World, and by extension the big media that caters to Nerd World. I don’t know if its the fact that nerds control the internet, or what. One look at the appalling demotion of women in the STAR TREK reboot shows how badly we’ve backslid. (In the OST we had a Vulcan matriarch like T’Pau; in the new one, a 38-year-old plays the mother of a 32 year old — THE HUMAN MOTHER.) It’s like we’re in a huge episode of THE BIG BANG THEORY — women are scary and yet enticing, but one is more than enough.

I was going to bring up the whole Mahnola Dargis/Kathryn Bigelow thing, but Sean T. Collins did it for me. You do have to wonder why Catherine Hardewick launches the biggest new movie franchise in years — and promptly gets fired from it. Or why Kathryn Bigelow directs some of the most stylish (and admired) action films of the last two decades and still has to scramble to line-up jobs. Or why every 10 years the same article about why female directors can’t get a break get written….over and over and over. Nothing improves.

In a comment on the thread, Jennifer De Guzman puts it even more succinctly:

As for movies, the only thing I can contribute is that it seems like whenever someone in Hollywood is interested in one of our books that has a female protagonist, the first question they ask is if she can be changed to a male. It drives me crazy.


In Nerd Movie Culture, women can never have their own agency — they are bystanders and sidekicks. Alien would never star Ripley today.

4) That GIRL COMICS cover by Amanda Conner really is teh awesome. Nuff said.

Comments

  1. We at Fantastic Fangirls think the GIRL COMICS anthology is a great idea, and we’ve blogged about it this morning.

    http://fantasticfangirls.org/?p=1645

    I find your remarks here to be quite on-the-nose, and I really appreciate the work you do, bringing these stories to us. Thanks again!

    And that Amanda Conner cover really is awesome.

  2. I looked at the list of contributors on this book and immediately thought “SOLD.” And I don’t even really read superhero comics!

  3. Thanks for bringing up Hardwick’s ouster from Twilight, Heidi–I meant to mention that in my thing but plum forgot. It’s definitely worth noting.

  4. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I used to dream of a heaven where I ran around punching comics fans in the face, but after reading some of those hilarious posts yesterday I realize that would be much too tiring for a proper afterlife.

    I’m not sure I agree with the world of examples brought in — I imagine that Kathryn Bigelow has to scramble a bit in large part because two of her big-budget movies in a row tanked super, super hard and her plight sounds equivalent to someone like Terry Gilliam — and I think it’s almost always problematic to conflate the work of female creators with the representation of women in art, but mainstream comics clearly has a horrid record of developing talent outside of a very comfortable box and clearly has some issues with the representation of women in some of its books.

    In the end anything that gets us more good comics is a great thing, and I imagine there will be some good comics in this book. And I imagine if more opportunities are given talented female creators on the regular books more good books will develop there, too. The rest of it seems like a strategy meeting by people who can’t even agree what’s on the table.

    PS — I bet there’s a greater chance that the supporting characters in McG’s Alien would be 10-20 years younger than that they’d switch genders on Ripley. Also, it may be worth noting that I believe Ripley was written non-gender specific and that they cast Weaver because she blew them away at the audition and because it positioned them in a different way in the market. It’s not exactly an instance of creative expression.

  5. This is hardly the first “all girl” anthology, just the most high profile to date. Remember Sarah Dyer’s “Action Girl” title?

  6. Thanks for rolling up a newspaper and hitting comics fans on the nose.

    And for an interesting, parallel discussion, check out the recent kerfuffle over the recent African-American Literature cover of Publishers Weekly.

  7. Michael says:

    I have no problem with the anthology itself; I just wish it had a better title.

  8. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as Heidi says. I think by over-reacting to what a few backwards goobers say about women in comics, we end up validating their ignorance a little bit. That’s not to say you can’t make a valid point about sidelining, but growing pains, guys, growing pains. I certainly don’t feel those oddball anti-female sentiments are representative of the majority of readers in any way.

    The book is going to be great, it’s going to spotlight some of my favorite talents, and it may, as a complete side-produce, open some eyes and smash some preconceptions.

    I’m sorry the women involved are taking shit for what sounds like a hugely fun project that is going to blow the doors off quite undoubtedly. I commend Marvel for doing it, and haven’t looked this forward to an anthology superhero book in, well, ever. I myself tried recruiting a LOT of these women to do superhero projects over the last couple years, so for Marvel to get this roster, including so many returns and debuts, is actually pretty thrilling.

    Heidi has beautifully made the point that these women aren’t exactly affirmative action hires. They bring a body of work to this project that is astounding and ongoing, and all the things that make comics great even after all these years. Marvel’s lucky to have them. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some interesting career paths skyrocket upwards based on this work when they knock their stories here out of the park, as I’m certain they will.

    It’s a good thing.

  9. “In Nerd Movie Culture, women can never have their own agency — they are bystanders and sidekicks. ALIEN would never star Ripley today.”

    What, just because women weren’t significant in the TREK reboot and Kathryn Bigelow (who’s totally awesome, BTW) can’t find jobs easily?

    You gotta do better than that.

    Frankly I think Nerd Culture (by which I assume not just the Mating–or Non-Mating– Habits of Nerds Themselves but also the genre-products they patronize strongly) has in the past 40 years unleashed a buttload of empowered women when compared to the record of The Majority Culture (my term), whose taste has tended to favor movies that solely featuring male heroes in solo roles (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage) or buddy-teams like those of Gibson and Glover.

    I realize this is a side issue to the “Girl Comics” thing (which I support, BTW), but let’s define our parameters here, can we?

  10. I think that people have way too much spare time … They should read comics instead. :)

  11. Synsidar says:

    Refusing to employ women for comics work that can’t be credibly gender-dependent (artwork, lettering, production) is almost certainly institutional sexism. The men in charge simply enjoy the feeling of being in a boys’ club, and having to deal with women on a professional level diminishes the feeling. If there is evidence that male and female artists are taught differently, or that female artists would draw, e.g., Superman differently than male artists would, I’d love to see it.

    Refusing to employ women as writers is a bit more complicated, because the audience for superhero comics is predominantly male. Even if the heroes aren’t hypermasculine, reeking of machismo, they’re still stereotypically male, fighting mostly stereotypical male villains. I don’t doubt that talented women could write such characters relatively well, but why would they want to? Why would a woman want to write a screenplay for a James Bond movie?

    If women were creating superhero characters for serialization, and/or they wrote superheroes as SF characters, with the depth and complexity that good SF novels have, then there could be issues similar to the ones female SF writers deal with.

    I’m afraid that the reps the women have as artists are irrelevant to me. I don’t read comics for the artwork. I read them for story content. Reading comics for the artwork, enjoying the artwork separately from the story, or responding more to the artwork versus the content as a whole amounts to reading the publication for the format, not for the content. That’s not unusual for comics fans, but such a response detracts from enjoying a story because of the writer’s command of technique. Even if a reader doesn’t consciously analyze/criticize a story as he’s reading it, the impact that a brilliantly structured story has exceeds that of a story with a hackneyed structure, a tired plot, etc.

    Even if the writers are terrific in terms of technique, the fact that they’re dealing with serial characters limits what they can do. A writer can’t transcend the limits of the character unless she transforms him or has the story focus on something other than the title character. “Name” SF authors wrote original Star Trek: TOS novels over the decades, but none of them, to my knowledge, offered revelatory perspectives on the characters or on the series as a whole. They merely had somewhat better command of technique than less-published writers did.

    So, if a female writer does a Doctor Strange story, or handles one of the other few Marvel characters I’m sentimental about, I’d buy it as readily as I’d buy a Strange story written by Englehart. But there’s no more reason for me to buy stories about other characters than there is to buy a genre prose novel by someone I’m unfamiliar with, simply because he or she is said to be “good.” I have to be interested in what the story is about.

    SRS

  12. The Beat says:

    >>>You gotta do better than that.

    Oh, I can. I can.

  13. Nate Horn says:

    But in the Big Two? And the little six? No better than before.

    I think that’s a *really* important point being totally lost – every other genre of comics right now currently enjoys phenomenal work from female creators and no one even cares about their gender. It’s only the insular superhero world that’s gone backwards to the point where an anthology by all women needs to be named “Girl Comics” and advertised as being all women.

  14. Joe Helfrich says:

    The project, and hopefully the product, is good, and I’ll try to pick it up. The branding is awful, and Marvel should at least have its knuckles rapped over it.

  15. It’s not just the superhero world. Remember Dark Horse’s Sexy Chix anthology from a couple years back?

  16. Really looking forward to this book.

    Excited about the title? No –

    Gonna have it make me not buy the book? No, it looks chockful of creators whose work I already enjoy. :)

    I hope this does exactly like Gail says I gives a foot up to some talented artist or writer.

  17. alex reager says:

    I look forward to picking these up from the 3/$1.00 boxes at the convention this summer…

  18. Tom, the Dargis piece lays out a pretty solid comparison of Bigelow to Michael Mann in terms of how their big-budget movies have done and what became of them afterwards. It’s not an entirely fair comparison, since I read a lot of critics who regard Michael Mann as a genius, whereas I’ve never heard a positive word about a Bigelow movie that wasn’t Near Dark, Point Break, or The Hurt Locker, but still.

  19. I buy comics for my library system and I’ll be thrilled to purchase copies of this when it’s eventually collected. My concern is what will happen at that point. The talent for this project is incredible (a lot of Carla Speed McNeil’s art adorns the walls of our home) and they’ll be handling major Marvel characters.

    However, the title is a deterrent. “Girl Comics” comes with expectations towards gender and age and I’m worried that this cool project will wind up being a shelf-sitter.

    I’m tempted to go on a bit about libraries and comics, but I think I’ll stop here. :)

  20. Thank you Heidi, and once again (as noted in the original thread) I am behind this (and more). I’ve always supported diversity in comics — both on the page and behind the scenes.

    And Nate Horn is right, in the *indy* world of comics most folks wouldn’t give two cents about such an announcement. So why with this project? Why can’t we celebrate the good news?

  21. Slightly off-topic, but —

    I’m afraid that the reps the women have as artists are irrelevant to me. I don’t read comics for the artwork. I read them for story content. Reading comics for the artwork, enjoying the artwork separately from the story, or responding more to the artwork versus the content as a whole amounts to reading the publication for the format, not for the content.

    I’m afraid that you don’t have a full understanding of how to read comics, if that’s your perspective. Writing and artwork cannot be separated with one part doing the storytelling and the other part not. They work together to tell the story. That’s pretty basic sequential art theory.

    Many of the women contributing to this anthology are both writers and artists, by the way — so their reputation has grown not just from their art, but their writing.

    However, I do get what you’re saying. I think that this anthology is a fantastic idea and Marvel superhero fans should be excited to see such great talent telling stories about characters they like. But I’m not a Marvel superhero fan. I want to support women in the industry and the medium, but the genre just isn’t what I’m interested in.

  22. Synsidar says:

    Schaefer talked about GIRL COMICS in a Q & A at Marvel.com:

    Marvel.com: Female characters and creators have been a part of comics for a long time, but sometimes women characters in comics aren’t treated “fairly,” I want to say. They’re often dressed more provocative or act as plot cannon fodder.

    Jeanine Schaefer: Right. I think that any woman who wants to write in super hero comics, there’s a little bit of that: the sexualization part and the costumes and getting past that to make it about the women in the costumes. You can get into all that, but if a woman wants to create super hero comics, there must be something in the genre that grabbed her to
    begin with. I’m not suggesting that all women need to be covered up and there can’t be any raunchy stories with women, you know what I mean? That’s not the genre we’re talking about. There have always been the tropes of the damsel in distress and the sexy bad girl and whatever else. For me, I don’t think those things have to go away for women to feel comfortable reading and creating comics-I’m not ashamed to see a woman’s body in skintight spandex, I am ashamed when I see them not getting their own plots and motivations beyond being the woman in the man’s story; I hate not seeing them being able to be heroes.

    Marvel.com: I guess it’s more of finding the right balance between it all?

    Jeanine Schaefer: Exactly. There is being disrespectful to a female character and there’s writing a female character who actually has a personality. Sure there have been portrayals of women that I would have done differently if I had been the one doing it, and portrayals that I loathe outright, but I think in general, you can’t take a lot of tropes away because then the genre becomes something that it isn’t.

    A person has to learn how an industry works before he or she can try to change it, much less transform it, but drawing the women in skintight spandex is a major part of the problem with superhero comics. Give a heroine one or several standard powers, send her up against a standard villain, and the result will be fighting that’s nearly identical to that in a superhero-villain fight. Her appearance in the spandex will be the only notable difference.

    Take her out of the costume, write about her as a woman — that’s progress, but doing that in enough scenes to make the material significant will alienate readers who prefer the fighting and spandex.

    How many women think that Emma Frost in UXM is a good or even likable character? Isn’t she eye candy whose powers are convenient at times?

    SRS

  23. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Mann’s not a good comparison because his down movies were a) not as down, b) major Oscar bait, c) driven by their male stars, not by the director — if Bigelow unsuccessfully shopped a moderately-priced project after K-19 that had Tom Cruise attached, it’s worse than we thought. You can’t just acknowledge this stuff in an aside like Dargis does!

    It’s the problem with rustling up direct comparisons — there’s too many factors involved. Collaborative art is practically alchemical. Nic Cage sees the Hurt Locker script at a spa and we’re maybe still not talking about Bigelow at all but Cage’s odd hairpiece in a direct-to-video effort with a good script. Bigelow’s niece is an early reader of Harry Potter during a year at school in the UK and maybe we’re getting Bigelow’s fourth blockbuster-sized movie in a row while Chris Columbus is executive producing a series about modern wizards on fX.

    The numbers are pretty brutal generally, though, and because they’re so clearly load I’d you don’t really need to hash individual cases. That’s all I’m saying. There should, on balance, be more.

  24. Synsidar says:

    ’m afraid that you don’t have a full understanding of how to read comics, if that’s your perspective. Writing and artwork cannot be separated with one part doing the storytelling and the other part not. They work together to tell the story. That’s pretty basic sequential art theory.

    My understanding of how to read comics is not impaired. What I don’t react to in the way that others do iis the prettiness of the artwork, the artwork as entertainment by itself. People react that way quite often, though, as indicated by reviews that rate the artwork and the story separately. A story with award-winning artwork and a lousy or absent plot, mischaracterization, etc., is a terrible story. The artwork can’t save it.

    If people dislike the trend toward publishing comics that are primarily storyboards, Marvel and DC are largely to blame with the dialogue-only stories. I’ve been considering comparing AVENGERS and NEW AVENGERS issues based on word count in three areas: dialogue, narration, and thoughts. The difference in content will probably be substantial.

    SRS

  25. This project has my full support – it seems to be similar in vein to the Strange Tales 3 issue series that sold remarkablely well according to talks I’ve had with some LA area retailers.

    And that was one series that got me back into comic book stories on a semi-weekly basis (another being DC’s Wednesday’s Comics) – so I think the announcement of this project is the perfect compliment.

    In fact, I’d support Marvel even if they came out with a 3 issue mini-series of a MARVEL GAY & LESBIAN anthology to make it a real celebration of diversity trifectca.

    ~

    Coat

  26. The Beat says:

    Tom: can X EVER be compared to Y? Aren’t there always mitigating factors? SHould we even try?

    I notice no one is talking about Hardwicke. The comparison to Chris Weitz is pretty close. Hardwicke directs an immensely successful franchise debut, the studio thinsk she had nothing to do with the success, and she gets bounced. Weitz kills off what was a promising franchise and gets another job stat.

    Does anyone reading this really think male and female directors are treated equally in Hollywood?

  27. BEAT sez:

    “Oh, I can. I can.”

    I sez, talk is cheap.

    Or mebbe “cheep,” like in “chicken…”

  28. Synisdar sez:

    “Give a heroine one or several standard powers, send her up against a standard villain, and the result will be fighting that’s nearly identical to that in a superhero-villain fight. Her appearance in the spandex will be the only notable difference.”

    So are you advocating that the spandex is a problem only for female characters, or is it a problem for male characters as well?

    “Take her out of the costume”

    I’m all for that but it’ll never play in Peoria.

  29. Synsidar says:

    Here’s some historical perspective on women in the film industry:

    Over the last four years, the percentage of women working as directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors on the top 250 domestic grossing films has declined from 19% in 2001 to 16% in 2004.

    Women comprised only 5% of directors in 2004. This represents a decline of 6 percentage points since 2000 when women accounted for 11% of all directors. In other words, in 2004 the percentage of women directors was slightly less than half the percentage in 2000.

    There are also reportedly more men than women reviewing movies:

    Men write the overwhelming majority of film reviews in the nation’s top newspapers. In Fall 2007, men penned 70% and women 30% of all reviews.

  30. December says:

    “A story with award-winning artwork and a lousy or absent plot, mischaracterization, etc., is a terrible story. The artwork can’t save it.”

    And it works the same in reverse. A well-written story is worthless if the art looks like someone drew it with a pencil clutched between their toes.

    Sucky story = bad comic.
    Sucky art = bad comic.

    Comics are a marriage of art and story. If you care about one but not about the other, you’re obviously missing the point. Go read prose, because you cleary don’t have the mental capacity to understand the medium of comics.

  31. Tom Spurgeon says:

    “Tom: can X EVER be compared to Y? Aren’t there always mitigating factors? SHould we even try?”

    I’m suggesting that it’s problematic to compare X to Y in the way Dargis did it, and, further, that one *shouldn’t have to* make problematic comparisons to buttress general numbers that overpowering and convincing.

    It’s less problematic to compare X to Y when there are enough samples that more rigorous comparisons become possible, and even then I’m not sure it’s a great idea.

    I mean, I’d like to see Sarah Polley make another movie if she wants, but not because Keith Gordon has made a bunch of them.

  32. Hardwicke or Wietz? Can’t we all agree that they were equally shitty movies regardless of gender? I don’t think either was supeior to the other and in a movie franchise conducted like this one the director is almost inconsequential. To give one credit/blame for it’s results or future is sort of a disingeniuos way to prove your point. As is saying the new star trek set feminism back somehow. In recent years we’ve had strong women leads on abrams produced lost, fringe, and alias. Not to mention bsg and Buffy. In movies, yes there hasn’t been another ripley, but females are represented well in the genre as a whole.
    But I do agree that anyone shouting reverse sexism is probably a curmudgeonly shut in.

  33. michael says:

    everyone has their nerd preferences and objectivisms…be it recognizing Twilight as legit entertainment or women given comics for them to make.

    But i don’t understand any of it. Why should what one prefer mean that their opinion is any more valid than another’s opinions? O.o

    Fight on, strange, strongly opinionated geeks…. :(

  34. Fun Gnome says:

    Before I read this whole thing, I’d just like to commend The Beat on embedding that Little Britain video. That show is GREAT!

    Nicely done.

  35. K-Box says:

    TL;DR – What will probably be a very good comic is going to die on the stands because Marvel is a) marketing it almost exclusively to the existing crowd that has already proven itself resistant to comics made by, for or about women, at the same time that it b) markets it in a way that’s pretty much guaranteed to turn off NEW readers.

    See also: Marvel Divas.

    See also: MINX.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

  36. Synsidar says:

    Comics are a marriage of art and story. If you care about one but not about the other, you’re obviously missing the point. Go read prose, because you cleary don’t have the mental capacity to understand the medium of comics.

    Talking heads are an example of how the art can be practically irrelevant to the story in a comic book. The characters’ expressions don’t change; the word balloons by themselves don’t reflect subtle emphasis on certain words or how a speaker’s thoughts might contradict what he’s saying. Dialogue interspersed with narration is far more useful for describing aspects of the character than dialogue plus artwork. For a writer concerned about the subtle aspects of characterization, the narration-dialogue balance is as important as a balance of art and words:

    Novels need to balanced. Dialogue interspersed with exposition or action makes for a more interesting story than dialogue or exposition or action alone. A novel that is mostly dialogue seems lightweight; a novel with too much exposition feels heavy-handed; a novel that is all action gets boring after a while.

    _____________________________

    And it works the same in reverse. A well-written story is worthless if the art looks like someone drew it with a pencil clutched between their toes.

    That’s a meaningless statement. A story with art that dysfunctional wouldn’t make it past an editor. GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS #4 is an example of an issue in which the artwork was relatively terrible, but the story still worked.

    SRS

  37. alex reager says:

    Maybe you hit it on the nose K-Box (in your own unique harsh way). I agree that calling the book Girly comics (I know, I added the y for effect–because it might as well be called Girly Comics) is going to turn off fan boys at the shops and most likely wont create an influx of new readers. And yes, it will “die on the stands” in some shops.

    What if Marvel isn’t putting this series out for the express purpose of selling comic books? What if they have their own agenda that has nothing to do with selling comics? What if executives at Marvel (or Disney) decided, “we need to show our stock holders more female diversity in the industry” knowing full well it won’t sell very well? For example, maybe they’re planning to use these failed female comic forays to achieve a “bigger picture” achievement.

    I know politicians run for elections that they know they can’t win for the purposes of spreading ideas. Sometimes professional athletes become front office people for football or baseball teams where they had a successful career. Could the sports franchise choose a more appropriate candidate for the job? Of course. But they obviously are doing it for other reasons. Maybe they’re friends with the guy, maybe the athlete is so well liked in the market that they feel its worth paying to keep them around the clubhouse. Those are just a couple off the top of my head. Obviously there are tons of other examples of this sort of thing. K-Box I just think its short sighted for you to assume Marvel’s motivation is book sales.

    (With the Disney purchase, I’ll bet a lot of newly wealthy marvel employee’s/stock holders have a whole new perspective on a lot of things.)

  38. Diamond Gussets says:

    All this hand-wringing is very unbecoming.

  39. K-Box says:

    “K-Box I just think its short sighted for you to assume Marvel’s motivation is book sales.”

    The only times Quesada’s Marvel has ever given two shits about anything other than sales are a) when they’re supporting shitty creators who are their buddies whose books nobody actually likes – Ron Zimmerman, Frank Tieri, Reginald Hudlin, etc. – and b) when they’re supporting shitty status quos that nobody actually likes – killing off 90 percent of mutants, having Spider-Man sell his marriage to the devil, etc.

    Even the “experimental” days of Jemas basically just consisted of “let’s throw a bunch of shit at the wall, in hopes that some of it will sell!” Beyond money, all they care about is their own grudges and biases.

    Indeed, given the fact that Quesada’s response to feminist objections over Marvel Divas was IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE MARKETING THEN STFU AND DON’T BUY IT, if Marvel really is playing a “long game” here, then I honestly believe that they’re intentionally trying to marginalize female readers – either they’ll buy a book with sexist marketing, thus validating Marvel’s use of sexist marketing, or else they won’t buy it, and Marvel will be able to throw up its hands and say, “SEE? Comics by, for or about women JUST DON’T SELL!”

    Given the level of malice that both DC and Marvel routinely direct at their own readership, I don’t think it’s out of line to say that they’d be willing to lose money just to spite their own audience in an incredibly passive-aggressive way, especially since Jemas ACTIVELY CAMPAIGNED AGAINST one of Marvel’s own titles IN PUBLIC while he was still in charge. They’re petty little fratboys who reek of entitlement.

  40. Fun Gnome says:

    First, excellent post.

    “It’s not an entirely fair comparison, since I read a lot of critics who regard Michael Mann as a genius,”

    Heat was good. I hated Public Enemies. I think it’s more that Michael Mann himself is the brand which gets Michael Mann more work and/or gets the tickets sold for Michael Mann movies. It’s sort of why I gave Public Enemies a shot, but it greatly disappointed.

    SRS: “but drawing the women in skintight spandex is a major part of the problem with superhero comics. ”

    One-track mind. They’re all in bloody spandex, sir! Whether it’s pectoral muscles or breasts, they’re covered in skin-tight fabric allowing them to be easily noticed. I don’t know why you’re so fixated on the female superheroes and their outfits, but it clearly blinds you to the facts at hand.

    SRS again: “Give a heroine one or several standard powers, send her up against a standard villain, and the result will be fighting that’s nearly identical to that in a superhero-villain fight. Her appearance in the spandex will be the only notable difference.”

    Well 1) doesn’t that prove the female characters don’t get special treatment and their specific attributes aren’t a factor, and 2) aren’t men and women shaped differently thereby necessitating female-defining body characteristics notably differ from the male-defining ones especially when clothed in skin-tight outfits which accentuate said characteristics. Seems simple enough to me, but this somehow screams conspiracy to you.

    More SRS: “People react that way quite often, though, as indicated by reviews that rate the artwork and the story separately.”

    I see no problem with this. Similarly, one can rate the cinematography and sound design of a film separately. However, I agree that one cannot save the other if it is truly terrible to the point of distraction.

    The Beat: “I notice no one is talking about Hardwicke. The comparison to Chris Weitz is pretty close. Hardwicke directs an immensely successful franchise debut, the studio thinsk she had nothing to do with the success, and she gets bounced. Weitz kills off what was a promising franchise and gets another job stat.”

    In fairness, she kind of doesn’t have anything to do with its success. Same can be said of Chris Columbus with Harry Potter. They may have fought the good fight behind the scenes to prevent the projects from going into the crapper and therefor having something to do with the success but not in the way most people give credit to directors for their successes. Similarly, you’re placing a whole lot of blame for the disappointment of The Golden Compass on the head of Chris Weitz. I thought he did a good job with a marginally popular book series saddled with a whole heap of bad press, and the lackluster performance of Prince Caspian sort of proves that there may be a general lack of interest in fantasy stories of that nature at this time… which will hopefully pick up again when The Hobbit comes out. They replaced Hardwicke with Weitz and Weitz’s film has made A LOT of money…so…doesn’t that prove it was the right decision by your logic? I think that movie would have done exactly the same business had Hardwicke directed it because the content sells itself. There’s a new director on the next one too, so what big conspiracy is the result of that? It could be that something more than a Y chromosome requirement goes into these decisions.

    More Beat: “Does anyone reading this really think male and female directors are treated equally in Hollywood? ”

    Does anyone think that ANY two people are treated equally in Hollywood? I don’t, so I believe that sort of makes your question irrelevant. On the other side of the coin, I believe women are given a lot of breaks just by being women especially if they’re attractive. There just isn’t an internet war whenever that happens because men mostly don’t give a crap yet women always seem to.

    There aren’t a lot of old people in NASCAR either. I think it’s time to make an issue out of it.

    Be reasonable and you’ll get reason in return; be unreasonable, and your mother’s a whore.

  41. Fun Gnome says:

    K-Box, you’re over-reacting. It’s obviously a book with a specific purpose, and it seems to be a purpose you’re against. The title does kinda suck, but it’s just a title. Maybe they picked it because Female Force was already taken. There’s a link up there which takes you to info which explains why this title was chosen.

    Sales are important except for when they’re not. And we’re all doing a great job of making a big deal about this comic and its title so maybe it has done its job and gotten a lot of free press and attention as a result which helps get the facts about the book out there as well as generate curiosity as to what all the commotion is about. Crowds draw a crowd, and we’re all crowded around this topic like it’s SDCC and they’re giving a way ridiculously large bags or cardboard shields or something. At this point, I think they probably picked the best title possible because of what has come about since it was announced.

  42. K-Box says:

    “And we’re all doing a great job of making a big deal about this comic and its title so maybe it has done its job and gotten a lot of free press and attention as a result which helps get the facts about the book out there as well as generate curiosity as to what all the commotion is about.”

    HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

    Yes, because that worked so well for Marvel Divas. And MINX. And so on.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

  43. Mariah says:

    K-Box

    Except this isn’t that. Minx was not made by all women teams, nor was Marvel Divas. They had different audiences they were trying to reach, even if they loosely fell under the umbrella of “female”. Acting as though they were the same is strangely dismissive. The content of all of these is extremely different.

    Frankly, I’m tired of the conspiracy angle. It makes no fiscal sense whatsoever to put money, time, and resources into a book like this specifically with these creators to do some kind of “ha! girls don’t like comics”. Schaeffer herself acknowledges that they’re doing stories these creators want to tell because they know there’s no such thing a story that’s universally appealing to all women. I think fandom comes to the conclusion that women don’t read comics more than the publishers do. Because they all have books that do appeal to female readers.

    And really, what’s your solution? Never do any books like this? I’d rather see the effort made than just continue on as if it’s all fine the way it is. These are all people I’d like to see more stories from, and I’m not a superhero person. Hopefully other folks will feel the same way.

  44. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    For once a “girl” comic created by… actual women! Women who are all individually awesome creators, many of whose work I follow eagerly. Personally, I can’t wait to snap it up. Not just because sometimes it’s nice to read comics that are not written from a male point of view, just for, you know. Variety’s sake. But also because anything that has Amanda Connor, Colleen Coover *and* Carla Speed McNeil working on it is probably going to be sheer gold

    I have no idea if it will sell well, I think it would be great if there were enough female creators in mainstream comics for this to be able to happen by accident and not as a theme, and for all I know it is part of some Dastardly Marketing Plan. Whatever. Still buying it.

  45. I brought up Hope Larson in the context of Power Girl/boobs specifically because she had publicly addressed it, and her irritation with the prominence of the story — and incidentally, she had no problem with it. Conflating a joke in the hed with me seriously “comparing her to female a body part” implies some insulting and inaccurate things.

    Also, the issue of the way women are represented in superhero comics is a pretty different one from the issue of real, live women and their advancement as creators in the industry, and I have no idea why people seem to think that they’re mutually exclusive, and we can only choose one to address.

  46. “Comparing her to a female body part,” rather.

  47. I’m glad someone mentioned Sarah Dyer’s “Action Girl.” My first thought when I read about this was “why no Sarah Dyer in the list of talent?” I miss Action Girl.

  48. Chris Anderson says:

    This project has my full support – it seems to be similar in vein to the Strange Tales 3 issue series that sold remarkablely well according to talks I’ve had with some LA area retailers.

    Maybe in LA it sold gangbusters, but it sold dreadfully poorly in the rest of the country. Just look at the sales from Diamond to stores. The anthology format is wasted on superhero readers, just like the talent in both Strange Tales and Girl Comics.

  49. Chris Anderson says:

    What if executives at Marvel (or Disney) decided, “we need to show our stock holders more female diversity in the industry” knowing full well it won’t sell very well?

    That is, quite honestly, the stupidest thing I have ever read. If you honestly believe that, it’s quite frankly amazing your naivety hasn’t resulted in you dying an early death.

  50. Chris Anderson says:

    Michael Mann continues to get work for 2 reasons: 1) Miami Vice (the TV show) made a *ton* of money for a lot of people ans 2) dude’s connected as Hell. If you’re trying to compare him to Kathryn Bigelow in hope of making a point about a man continuing to get work when a woman is having a hard time of it should really never be allowed to make comparisons again. When Bigelow makes a TV series aslucrative as Miami Vice, and when she gets connections to all the money players, then it would be valid.

  51. Fun Gnome says:

    “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

    Yes, because that worked so well for Marvel Divas. And MINX. And so on.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. ”

    Closest comparison is Sexy Chix from Dark Horse. Not Marvel Divas. Not Minx. That said, Girl Comics isn’t Sexy Chix, so they’re not the same either.

    It seems to me that you should look up the definition of “same” instead of insanity. Also, I don’t think all of the projects you mentioned were seeking the same result unless the only result you’re counting is sales.

    Repeatedly voting one way on a particular issue every time it comes up and expecting things to change may seem insane, but there’s always the hope that one day the result of those votes will be different. All it takes is one project to really attract a new demographic or spotlight a chronically overlooked professional to make a difference.

  52. mark coale says:

    Could Bigelow’s treatment over the years been related to her former marriage to James Cameron?

    Just asking.

    And, didn’t you just know we were due for one of these gender thread wars? Hadn’t been one in a few weeks.

  53. alex reager says:

    Chris Anderson No, I dont really think that’s what they are doing. I was making the point that K-Box’s provincial thinking could be hurting his argument.

    However, your post says quite a bit about you. (I assume you’re not the same Chris Anderson from Wired.)

  54. Male Super-Heroes wear spandex, so should Female Super-Heroes; They don’t however, need to have their outfit unzipped half-way down their chest and/or be depicted as having back-breaking large breasts. I may be proven wrong, but I have a feelign we’re not going to be seeing a lot of the aforementioned in Girls Comics.

    I don’t think super-hero comics need to be dramitically altered, but I think we could class the place up a little. I heard Marvel Divas wasn’t a bad book and I bet with a different cover and a different name, it wouldn’t have sold any worse. The cover and name got it attention, but from what we all saw, not sales.
    We saw the same thing with Pride and Prejudice having great covers, and a new story to do in comics form, with 100% inapporpriate art. Why bother if you’re just going to screw it all up that badly? Having female creators and editors give voice to the thoughts of… “wait a second, what are we doing here” instead of just jumping in blind.

  55. Ladies! Guy nerds! Please! You can BOTH marry comics!

  56. Thanks be to Heidi for giving me a new topic for my blog, in which I take a look at her *ressentiment* of Nerd Culture:

    http://arche-arc.blogspot.com/2009/12/ressentiment-of-nerds.html

  57. K-Box says:

    “Acting as though they were the same is strangely dismissive. The content of all of these is extremely different.”

    The only way people are ever going to SEE the content is if the PROMOTION isn’t total shit, and in all the examples I cited, the promotion WAS the same, in all the worst ways, so as much as it pains me to say it, the content is IRRELEVANT, because the MARKETING guaranteed that no one ever SAW it, just as it will in this case.

    “Frankly, I’m tired of the conspiracy angle. It makes no fiscal sense whatsoever to put money, time, and resources into a book like this specifically with these creators to do some kind of ‘ha! girls don’t like comics’.”

    This assumes that the people who are in charge of the industry are essentially sensible. Given the anemic sales and shit storylines we’ve seen over at least the past decade or more, that is a fundamentally insane worldview.

    “And really, what’s your solution? Never do any books like this?”

    OR, maybe something as simple as a) don’t call it “GIRL Comics” and b) actually make an effort to promote it OUTSIDE of the preexisting audience that has proven so notoriously resistant to any comics by, for or about women.

    I love how everyone props up this strawman defense of “Our ONLY two choices are either to promote this is a really sexist, stupid, myopic way that won’t yield any new readers, or else NOT TO DO IT AT ALL.” How about putting out a book like this and ACTUALLY DOING A GOOD JOB OF MARKETING IT? Unless it now somehow makes me an enemy of feminism to point out that sexist marketing will turn away female readers.

    If this thing comes out and yields low sales, then I’ll say it – it’s almost worse than never having done it at all, because then, it just becomes one more example that assholes will use as “proof” that WIMMENZ COMIX DON’T SELL HERP DERP. If you’re going to do something like this, then DON’T SABOTAGE YOURSELVES and actually try to MAKE IT A SALES SUCCESS. Go hard or go the fuck home.

  58. Comet says:

    Concern meltdown.

  59. Stephen C. says:

    I haven’t read through all 59 comments so I hope I’m not repeating anything someone has already said, but tend to think the fact that there are so few women creators in mainstream comics has more to do with the attitudes of people working for the publishers than it does with the sexism of comic book readers. While I’m not surprised that a comic with a title like Girl Comics has drawn fire from idiots online, I have a hard time believing that many comic book fans would refuse to buy a Batman comic or an X-book just because a woman’s name was in the credits. Maybe I’m wrong. I for one am looking forward to this anthology, though.

  60. Jonathan Miller and I are on the same page! I miss Sarah Dyer’s comic book work. Action Girl was a wonderful anthology. It’s a pity Dyer isn’t involved in this new “Girl Comics.”

  61. I’ve read comics on and off for decades and after going turkey for a number of years came back to the fold a while back. There’s far too much content for me to keep up with so I tend to stick with Alan Moore and the odd nostalgia fix with Marvel Essentials and my very favourite: Marvel Masterworks – Doctor Strange.

    I think the current super hero output from DC/Marvel is just boring-ass rubbish. Keeping these characters going for eternity with reboots, but yet still trying to keep continuity with people like me who were fans when they wore underoos is just sad. I much prefer the more “real” treatment in something like Astro City — let these characters grow old, pass the torch and die or else just write stories and stop with the continuity soap opera bullshit or pump out shitty CGI-Fests for the big screen and collectable action figures.

    Books like Girly Comics the recent Strange Tales and DCs absolutely brilliant Bizarro World books always get my attention because by affectionately taking the piss out of these things they remind us that these things used to be FUN. Plus they showcase some terrific talent. I’ve pre-ordered my copy of Strange Tales and when Girly Comics gets collected I’ll do the same with that.

    I found the comments being mentioned from the original story referenced in the article above just pathetic. I find it impossible to believe many of the posters are adults as a lot of it sounds like shit I heard as a teenager. Women can write and draw comics with superheroes in them and a compilation of them is just fine. As far as changing the status quo, I think you’re probably pissing in the wind; I seem to recall this sort of conversation from 20+ years ago and look where we are now…

Trackbacks

  1. […] in Cynical Comic Book Guy Your comic quote of the day comes from Tom Spurgeon: “I used to dream of a heaven where I ran around punching comics fans in the face, but after reading some of those hilarious posts yesterday I realize that would be much too tiring for a proper afterlife.” […]

  2. […] Girl Comics Considering how many titles I read are Boy Comics, this should be a refreshing bit of fun.  I don’t see why it should really stir up any controversy.  I loved Wednesday Comics and Strange Tales and I’m ready for more great creators getting a chance to make great comics in one easy to buy package.  Who can get upset about that? […]

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