As Long As You Play Their Game, Girl, You're Never Gonna Win

A lot of people have been making a lot of commotion lately about DC dropping most of their female talent in the current reboot boondoggle. For anyone not aware, and I envy you who are not, DC Comics, publisher of the oldest superhero titles in the world (which happen to be the oldest comic titles still in regular print,) have decided to take their convoluted miasma of decades-thick continuity and character/world-building and start everything from scratch. I guess it's not important that they don't really seem to be changing much and are just screwing with things because it's been a year and a half since they rewrote their entire history.

The big hullabaloo is over the extreme changes they've made in creative teams, and more specifically that they're canning almost all of the women on their creative staff. One writer, Gail Simone, and one artist, Jenny Frison, are all that will remain. Women in the industry are losing their minds a bit over this, and while I do sympathize with the burrito-turd-sized level of bullshit that this is, I'm also forced to wonder why anyone is surprised.

Along with Marvel, DC is one of the two biggest producers of adolescent male fantasy in our business, perpetuating a gender-tilt in comics that Archimedes wouldn't be able to lift. Why would anyone expect them to be egalitarian in their hiring? Women have been working in mainstream comics for years (as long as there's been a comics industry in fact,) but at the end of the day what they produce is targeted towards boys. Whether they admit it or not, whether it is intentional or not, whether a handful of girls absolutely love it, superhero comics are not friendly to female audiences. So why do we expect the companies that produce them to give a rat's ass about whether women are drawing them?

Marvel Comics has gone in a different direction than DC, actively trying to win female audiences. Unfortunately, they've gone about it by slapping FOR GIRLS on the cover, hoping no one would notice they're just repackaging the same material they've been selling for years. And the truly sad part is, not many people seem to have noticed, and all that's happened is that xenophobic male readers don't bother with the titles, and female readers just aren't interested. Points for trying, I guess, but not that many points.

Is this to say women don't like comics? Of course not. There's a reason Japanese import comics have hit huge in the last couple decades...young girls as well as young boys (and creepy old men with poor cosplay choices) love them and can read them without feeling alienated. And there are indeed scores of new female comic artists exploding onto the scene with fun, imaginative and well-produced work. The main distinguishing feature of these new artists and new works is that, generally, they don't involve capes or spandex or physics-defying boobs. Another big determining factor in the wave of women making comics is how many of them are doing it online where they don't have to pass the Old Boys Club to get accepted. All they have to do is be good, and sometimes they don't even have to be that.

We're culpable for the current state of comics and the gender divide because we've deluded ourselves into thinking we can open up the industry and change the sexist attitude by doing exactly the same things that created the divide in the first place. Even the women who get to play in the big game are only allowed to do so if they conform to the same, let's face it, he-man woman hater bullshit that keeps the larger amount of women readers away in the first place.

Generally speaking, women don't read superhero comics because superhero comics aren't particularly friendly to female audiences (yes, I know, some women do and that's a natural effect of women not thinking with one hive Barbie-mind, but no one should fool themselves into thinking that reading superhero comics is something women do in any great numbers.) Women won't rush in droves to read them just because women are writing and drawing them.

So, are we really looking at Marvel and DC to level the playing field? Isn't that a bit like looking to the Religious Right to help legitimize gay marriage? Or imposing Affirmative Action on the KKK? Extreme analogies, sure, but the picture is painted. We've been hoping and wishing and praying for the boys to let the girls play for a very long time, and it's pretty obvious that it isn't working out.

Are you pissed off at Dan Didio for possibly being a misogynist ass? You should be. You should be pissed off at a lot of other people too. Dan Didio is by no means a lone gunman, as much as he makes an inviting target for the internet's righteous indignation of the day, and his voice only reflects an over-arcing mentality in mainstream comics that women should be kept in their place. Be pissed off!

Is being pissed off likely to change anything, though? Absolutely not. Anyone who thinks their ire will change his outlook or that of anyone else in the industry is fooling themselves. What will? Sales. If you disagree with DC's hiring policies, do not buy the merchandise they produce. It doesn't matter how angry you are, or how many internet forums you visit to flame and spout off, no one with any power to change it will ever care as long as you're still dropping coins in their pockets.

Support webcomics, where women are thriving. Support independent female authors and artists who are producing their own work. Support smaller companies who print and promote female talent. Stop supporting companies whose policies and products hurt the growth of equality in our industry. Spread the word and encourage others to follow you. Mainstream superhero comics are top-heavy and taking on water, and they can only bail so much water. Stop helping them and let them sink. Taking your dollars out of their bottom lines will have a much bigger and longer lasting impact than complaining on the internet ever will.
posted by Gibson Twist @ July 30th, 2011, 2:01 pm  |  3 comments

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shagbark (Guest), July 31st, 2011, 10:48 am

I don't give a rat's ass about DC or Marvel In almost 80 years of writing, DC and Marvel have not produced much worth reading by people over the age of 12. They have /acquired/ some, such as Will Eisner's post-Spirit works and Megatokyo. And the DC imprint Vertigo has put out a lot of good stuff. And DC did Watchmen. Okay, they've done some good stuff. But the vast majority of work produced by DC and Marvel is drivel for dim-witted adolescent males.

Ignore them. They are a waste of time and money. They will not lead comics anywhere but back to wallow in the same old muck.

The_Hankerchief, August 6th, 2011, 3:27 am

Very true. This goes not only for the comic book industry, but for everything in the free market. Pissed at the crappy service at a local diner? Angry about a certain clothing designer using seal furs in their latest line-up, or the way animals in feedlots are treated? (These are examples, and are not from my personal opinion) Take your dollar elsewhere. I can guarantee that when a merchant or an industry is hemorrhaging money because people are boycotting their product(s), they'll either change or go broke. Don't estimate the power of boycotting!

jchriselam, September 2nd, 2011, 2:15 pm

Thanks tremendously for posting this, and for pointing the way that consumers can exercise influence on the market.

It makes me proud that i've read more of your wife's comics that DC and Marvel put together for the last 45 years.

You DID make up that name to keep from being sued didn't you? It can't really be so close to Damn Dildo can it? His real name must be Misogynist McPrick.

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