Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Equality: Right, Left, and Ramblings

Over the past year, a lot has been said over Marvel turning original X-Man Bobby Drake (aka Iceman) gay and that seems to be brought forth yet again with Iceman getting his first ongoing series with it's writer saying that his sexuality will be a focus in the title. Now, I'm not writing this to try and argue the good/bad of making him gay (though if you want my opinion, I don't care that they made him gay but I do feel it was a poorly written transition). I'm here to state my opinion on equality in comics and how we all need to calm our shit down.
First and foremost, take a look at most (if not all) of the big names we all know: Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Thor, Flash. The big Leaguers and Avengers alike are white and mostly male. When these long-standing names were created, the world was different. I'd like to think that at this point, we can all recognize and acknowledge that. As the years went by, society, and by proxy readership, changed. Our world was no longer the same. Hell, we're far different from the 90s already so it's safe to say the 60s and beyond are times long removed. Through the decades, the characters expanded and are still trying to expand to this day. But can you guess which characters are still the top dogs? Prominently white, straight males. The top selling characters are the same through all these decades.
Now, THAT in itself I don't see as a(the?) problem. What I can tell you from almost a decade of running a comic shop and what I would guess publishers would tell you if they could be blunt without pissing sales off is that it is hard to get anything new to really take traction. Ridiculously hard. The reason characters like Batman and Spider-Man have so damn many off-shoot books is because those names sell and sadly, sales are what businesses are about. Try and think of the last time a new character took you. It's likely either connected to larger mythos (like Atrocitus and the Lanterns) or the 90s Image books. Yet how many of you really follow or even care about Spawn any more? Could you tell me the last time you read Witchblade? 20 years later and they're already all but forgotten.
Which is why, hate it though you may, it's these bigger, already established characters that get changed. Female Robin? All those Batman readers will notice. Mexican Blue Beetle? What Justice League fan doesn't know who Blue Beetle is? Bobby Drake is gay? Yes because it fits into what the writers see as an open history and a chance to make that ever-changing readership feel more at home. No matter their reasoning (or justifying), it's altering something big that will get it noticed.
Miles Morales is one of the best examples I can speak of. When Marvel killed Ultimate Peter Parker, they were hammered with backlash because they dared to change a beloved white character simply so they could have a "token ethnic" character. Except if you actually read any of the story, it was pretty damn good. Miles is the perfect example of how a hero transcends the character. Miles has become what I see as the perfect embodiment of what Spider-Man is and stands for. Maybe Marvel was pushing for ethnicity. Maybe it was just to boost publicity and sales. Maybe it was a great story that deserved to be told.
Iceman is gay. How you deal with that reaction is entirely up to you. Nobody can force you to like it and nobody should knock you down if you do. However, if Bobby Drake happens to be your all-time favorite character and this change fills you with hate and fear and a desire to never look at him again, I would suggest looking inward for larger problems. That kind of reaction is not healthy and says a whole lot more about you than it does any publisher or any character.
The real question we should ourselves in situations like these, for me, is a fairly easy one:
'Do I like the character or do I like their appearance?"
If written properly and with care, only one of those things should change.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Frank Cho, Sexism, and the Right of Art

For the last few years, there has been a "war" being fought in the comic industry. Alas, it's not a new fight. Not by a long shot. However, there's a lot of firing at the target of Frank Cho recently. Frank Cho is known for his cartoon-styled, buxom women. It's pretty much what's helped him get a name (though if you read his Liberty Meadows, his writing was actually pretty funny as well). It's also where a lot of hatred stems. In the comic industry, there has been fighting for more equality for a long time. As reader base grows, so do the types of readers. For the most part, I feel comics have tried their best to incorporate more characters that represent more than just us white males. Ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender have all expanded over the years to try and help make everybody feel connected and comfortable. Is it likely that white males will ever bee the minority characters? Doubtful since that's pretty much what makes up all the main (and best selling) characters. While the fight still continues, my love of Mr. Cho's art has brought forth a lot of this fighting to my reading. Because of his art style.
There is a pretty avid community that despises Cho's art and thanks to his reactions to them, Frank Cho himself. Back in 2014, Marvel hired an Italian artist to draw a variant cover for Spider-Woman. However, Milo Manara is quite known for his erotica and said cover was deemed by some as far too sexual for the character and it's intended audience. Marvel cancelled the cover. In 2015, DC did a month of Joker-themed variants for all it's books with one in particular grabbed as also being offensive. It depicted a moment from The Killing Joke and had Joker drawing a bloody smile on the face of a scared and crying Batgirl while also holding a gun. The depicted violence towards a prominent female character caused outrage among some groups. DC cancelled the cover. Over the last few years, criticism has grown with some of it coming from his reaction to the Spider-Woman cover. Cho has done some sketch covers mimicking the Spider-Woman pose seemingly in an attempt to poke fun at the reaction and "non-issue" of the controversy. It's not only made that already angry group more infuriated but it's even caught some anger from other comic creators (I've only read anger from one creator but I say it's fair to assume there are at least a few others). Cho's reaction has essentially been "calm down ya babies" which naturally makes them calm right down.
Current controversy from Cho has been from his "outrage" sketch covers in which he has been drawing a lot of boobs and making fun of all the, you guessed it, outrage coming from his "over-sexualized" women. People are demanding the big guns (DC and Marvel if ya didn't know) stop hiring him because it's a slap in their face when they do. Cho has recently quit doing variant covers for the new Wonder Woman title due to what he says is censorship from the title's writer.
So where has all this nonsensical rambling been leading me to? Something that may make me sound sexist and misogynistic.
I try my best to respect every type of person I come across. At first. Some people just don't deserve respect once you get to know them. I say this because I honestly don't mean to come across as a bad person with this: so what? If I'm being honest, sexy women have been a selling point for comics since basically day one. Many, many artists draw women with curves, showing prominently ass and boobs. And on the flip side, men have almost always been portrayed as studly beefcakes. I understand that women have had a much, much, much (can't really say too many muches here) harder time fighting for equality but if you fight for the de-sexualizing of women, shouldn't men also be fought for?
Further more, what say should people have on an other's art? One person's offensive can be another person's masterpiece. So should the companies cave to demand when groups feel they are wronged? Is is better to show extreme violence (which there is plenty of and not many complaints over) then a woman with large breasts? Is Frank Cho within his artistic rights to troll angry people if he feels he is in the right? I personally don't think art con be defined or confined. Clearly we don't want comics of Spider-Man flapping wang as he slings through New York (or do we...) or Black Canary giving a cry from her nipples (or do we...) but I feel if the owners of said properties allow it, we as the audience either have to support it or walk away. Money talks in this industry (and pretty much every other one). If walk and sales walk with you, they will have to change. Bitching on the internet has never solved anything. Which is how I know this mess I'm writing will be worthless.