The Cover for Heroes for Hire #13. DO NOT WANT. [Bonus, open challenge to the defenders of this cover art]

I am a male. I read comics. If this cover of powerful female comic book figures tied up, helpless, suits zipped down to expose the maximum flesh without revealing a nipple is designed for the arousal of the male reader, then I’m going to be blunt
You fail. It is not arousing. I do not want. I am not excited or titillated by the prospect of this cover. Further, I’d be embarassed to walk out of a comic store with this in my hand. One glance from the average punter, and I’m some freakshow. Ordinary punters thought the Mary Jane statue was bad. What the hell are they going to make of this? It’s reinforcing the stereotype of comic book readers as strange individuals who lack social skills, haven’t met a real female in their lives, and have immense forearm stamina.
Thanks Marvel. Way to help show comic books aren’t just for kids, they’re for perverts.
Thank god this is a Max title, and won’t make it to a really broad audience.
HEROES FOR HIRE #13
The Story: The Heroes for Hire find themselves in the middle of World War Hulk when their mission to Hulk’s stoneship leaves them on the Warbound’s death list! It’s divide-and-conquer as each hero is hunted by a member of the Jade Giant’s band of alien soldiers.
32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99
MARVEL RATING SYSTEM
ALL AGES
Appropriate for readers of all ages.
T+
9+ years old Appropriate for most readers, parents are advised they may want to read before or with younger children.
OH SHIT. What where you thinking? Wait. I remember, Marvel isn’t misogynistic! The chief editor of Marvel has a daughter. I bet he’ll sit there and read this comic with his daughter. That’ll make it all fine.
Breaking out the details
This is my personal shortlist of issues I have with the cover.
The cover is sexualised violence. The women have bared breasts without the shot of an unclothed nipple. Shaded nipples are acceptable. So are erect nipples through the cloth of their costumes. Sure, defeated, semi conscious, captured by aliens, but sexually aroused by the moment. They may be about to suffer painful torture, but they’ve got hard nipples about it. (No, I ain’t screen capping that. It’s creepy, and it’s a demonstration that the artist painted the costumes over a naked female form. I suspect porn tracing) Could you imagine a cover with Spiderman and Wolverine and Cyclops strung up, each sporting obvious erections about what will happen next? (Yo! Alex Ross! Buddy, do it. It’ll be worth the lolz)
The hands are also important here the female characters are in signs of defeat and submission, and the one set of male hands are in active resisting poses (I’m assuming that’s Shang-Chi from what I’ve read around the place)
Male handsFemale hands
Hai! A GUY! GUYS ARE LEIK ACTIVE AND STUFF!
It’s freaking Bratz Porn. The eyes that set it off.
Bratz Porn
Finally, remember, even if you’ve been fighting your way through an alien strong hold, lip gloss is important.
Faces of Defeat
So, I want to make this clear. This is a cover that has women portrayed at passive sexualised objects in the name of selling comics.
It is sexist.
It is reinforcing the misogynist view point that women are to portrayed as passive sexual objects to be acted upon by men, in this case, the male viewer of the comic.
It is offensive to consider this cover art for a series that is considered suitable to be read with children as young as nine, or read by children as young as nine.
OPEN CHALLENGE
If you want to persuade me that this cover isn’t sexist, because men are drawn in similar poses, then I’m up for the challenge. If you can find me a cover with up to three men, all drawn in passive poses, with demonstrable hardness of the nipples or penis, sad faces, and the female hero (for what little of her is seen) being active, you can tell me that this cover isn’t sexist because stuff happens to guys as well. Especially on the cover of T+ rate comics.
Checklist for you
Up to three males. I’m not even looking for parity of numbers (there are four women on the cover of Heroes for Hire).
Some obvious arousal at their situation (erection of nipples or penis is fine). If this is missing, then no dice. Harden those man parts up or go home.
Some costume change/ removal of costume. Preference is for removed pants/trousers, will settle for opened shirts (even though that’s not the same level of sexualised posing. Pecs != Breasts for sexual connotation otherwise men would own bikini tops). There has to be some evidence of interference with the uniforms of the men. I’ll accept torn (bonus for tears with bleeding cuts under them), cut, removed or opened (Nightwing’s chest to ceiling mid 80s open V won’t count unless it’s been obvious interfered with by a third party. I’m looking for parity with the white jump suit, not Black Cat’s costume)
Passive/defeated demeanor. No struggling resistance against the bonds. They need to be defeated AND enjoying it.
BONUS POINTS: An active female hero presence, doing something active about the dramatic situation that the men have accepted.
Prove me wrong with evidence. I’m not even asking for a one to one swap on most points.
Show me that the Heroes for Hire #13 cover is simply a gender reversal of existing cover art. Show me that there’s no sexism, because this has happened to men before.

Questions for male comic book bloggers who wrote about the MJ statue

I’m interested in talking to male bloggers who posted criticism or negative reviews about the Mary-Jane Watson statue, and the responses they received to their posts. I’d like to hear/read your opinion of how people reacted to what you had to say, types of commentary/feedback you received, and volume of commentary/feedback on the issue. If you have links to the posts you’d like to contribute that’d be helpful as well.
Drop me a line at designatedsidekick@gmail.com if you want confidentiality or post up to the comments.
This is a rapid fire, non scientific approach for me to get some shared experience from fellow male comic book bloggers. From one male blogger to another, I want to swap notes on the incident, and people’s responses to your posts.

Hey Fanlib An open letter from a marketer watching yet another fan connected company self harm

Dude. Mimbo, dude.
After the Mary Jane saga, I thought Sideshow’s inept approach to marketing couldn’t be beaten. Thanks for proving that was undue optimism. Chris, look, fanfic ain’t my thing, and this is a comics book blog, but I can’t watch a wounded company suffer.
In summary: Your marketing sucks.
Your site? I can’t say either way since I don’t write fanfic (if you exclude that Dr Seuss/marketing crossover one, and the Ice/Rogue/Pyro one). What I do know is marketing. You, despite your match practice at Yahoo! seemed to have forgotten a bit. The bit that starts with the words ‘the customer’.
Here’s a couple of freebies to remind you.
Do not attack the community you’re trying to recruit from ever. You want to set up a commercial fanfic archive? You need fic readers and fic writers. Don’t hurt yourself by alienating them.
Do not spam LJs. Especially when you’ve got a reputation that’s ankle-locked on the LJ base. Dude, seriously, don’t jeopardise 6A and LJ by being a jerk over another project. You’ll regret the brand damage in the morning.
Take criticism from the people who are doing what you’re setting out to do. If the fanfic community is reacting badly, then you have a problem that they are identifying for you. For free. If your lawyers and expensive people couldn’t see those problems, you hired the wrong expensive people. Ask for a refund
Accept criticism. See if there’s a valid point. If there isn’t, don’t give the critic a valid point by being a jerk (or appearing like one, or whining in LJ posts). You’re tired? Tough. Cowboy the fuck up son. This is business, you’re in a gorram startup. Start acting like the leader of the company and lead from the front. Long hours? Don’t complain to the internet about long hours chances are, we’re working crappy shifts and pulling overtime to get by. Then we get home and do this internet stuff in our limited spare time.
Above all, yes, you’re doing this for the money. NOBODY CARES HOW MANY HOURS YOU HAVE TO WORK FOR YOUR MONEY. Shut up, front up, and work for the pay cheque. Or do it for the love. Just don’t whine. Nobody likes an emo CEO with a pay cheque, options and an aversion to long hours.
Dude, seriously, you seem to be freaking because your beta test uncovered problems. That’s what a beta test and market test is about test marketing to see where the errors are, finding bugs and patching systems. You have problems, you have unresolved bugs. Shouting ‘LA LA LA HOBBITS’ won’t help.
If you’re serious about providing a decent service, start with being a decent company. Do that by listening to the market you so very much are trying to emulate. Work with them, not against them.
Above all, if you’re planning on converting a large rich mine of freely devoted time, effort and love into something that gives you financial reward don’t piss off the people who are providing the resource you’re trying to tap.
Yours Sincerely
Designated Sidekick

Money talks II: The Mary Jane Statue sells all 900 copies (Boromir sold 2000 copies without a g-string in sight)

Well, the news is in.
All 900 copies of the Mary Jane statuette have sold out. So, 900 sales are out there.
The New York Post slagged the MJ statue. Dunno what their readership looks like, but I think it’s more than 900.
Boingboing covered the negative response to the statue. Their readership? Over 95,000 unique users per day.
Feministe and Pandagon carried coverage. Their readerships? Probably more than 900.
In summary Sideshow sold 900 x $125 statues and received $112,500 for their effort
What’s the dollar value on the negative publicity? (more marketing thoughts after the cut)
Since this is a Marvel related issue, let’s bust a Stan Lee move, and present a ‘What if’
What if Slideshow had said
‘Okay, look, this product we make has made you pretty damn unhappy. Can we make something else that you’d buy? We need to replace $112500 of revenue to make this thing go away without suffering a financial hit. What can we do?’
How many suggestions would they have received? What if they engaged with the market that had arrived at the gates and said ‘We made this because we saw economic gain in exploiting women. We’re seeing an error in judgement here. What can we do different?’
Because Sideshow also happens to sell more than just this one piece. They sell products in the lines of
Aliens, Anime / manga, Buffy, Famous persons, Hellboy, James bond, Legendary musicians, Lord of the rings, Marvel, Military, Morpheus, New line horror, Planet of the apes, Predator, Scarface, Star wars, Terminator, Vintage monsters and X-files. Products that attracted a fair level of internet based interest, and internet support.
Sideshow was faced with an unhappy crowd and they choice to wall up the kingdom, delete posts and send back ‘Not thine’ level responses. How many messages did they receive? How many very unhappy people did they send to the wilderness?
In marketing, one of the things we have as a rule of thumb is that one happy customer tells three people, and one unhappy customer tells ten. When the unhappy customer tells you, that’s when you have a chance to perform service recovery, and potentially convert the unhappy person into a loyal customer.
What if II : Regaining ground
What if Sideshow responds personally now to each of the people who wrote to them?
What if they write back to everyone who wrote to them, and post on the board and apologised for having been in idiots about it and for dismissing their responses.
What if they asking for buy-in, and for suggestions? About what could do have done differently? About how to do things differently for next time?
We do this in marketing. It’s called responding to customer feedback. Ask Seth Godin about it sometime. He’d say that right now, Sideshow have created an ideavirus. The ideavirus being that they don’t like women, and don’t listen to customers. That’s an idea virus that’s spread to the New York Post and to Boingboing. Boingboing, which is a major metafilter point for online influencers. Online influencers who probably liked something in the Sideshow extended product catalog and won’t touch the ‘the creepy mary jane guys’.
So maybe the people who complained weren’t customers. Now they’re definitely never going to be customers because their complaints were dismissed and deleted. Which, even if you don’t like what they had to say, tells you, the Sideshow paying customer that Sideshow likes you when you give them money, and don’t give a damn if you have a problem.
For me, that’s one unexpected bit of news out of this I was going to buy some Sideshow products actually. Lord of the Rings figures to be precise. Boromir to be exact. I was going to join the backorder queue for one of the next 2000 statues.
Right now, unless I see Sideshow front up and take some ownership in this situation, I won’t feel safe putting my money in their hands, because they’ve demonstrated they don’t respond to feedback, delete complaints off the bulletin boards and those aren’t the features of a company I want to spend my money supporting.
Which also is contributing to why I’m quite so bloody annoyed I want that Boromir statue.
Sideshow, why don’t you want my custom?
Dr Stephen Dann

Chiming in on the Mary Jane Statuette Saga: STFU about the money boys.

I’m going to be short, sweet and blunt. Dirk Deppy called out a request.
…fangirls want female-friendly superhero comics, they’re going to have to prove that this time an audience is ready and willing to buy them, and to do that, one is basically going to have to be built from scratch.
Spiderman 1, Spiderman 2, Spiderman 3. I believe money talks, and that money says the world is ready for Spiderman. There’s your female fan base Dirk, right there in the cinema audience. Now pony the reason why they shouldn’t be given a quality product that meets their needs since they like the character, and paid the admission price to see the show.
But I’ll go one better, I’ll give you ten good reasons why comic books should ditch the whiny boy brat base and go mainstream
Spider-Man (2002) ($806,700,000) [Marvel]
Spider-Man 2 (2004) ($783,577,893) [Marvel]
The Incredibles (2004) ($624,037,578)
Men in Black (1997) ($587,200,000) [Marvel]
Spider-Man 3 (2007) ($474,829,653) [Marvel]
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) ($455,260,014) [Marvel]
300 (2006) ($436,723,517) [Dark Horse]
Batman (1989) ($413,200,000) [DC]
X2 (2003) ($406,400,000) [Marvel]
Superman Returns (2006) ($389,569,408) [DC]
Actually, make that USD $5,377,498,063 in cinema revenues worth of reasons for mainstreaming comics. After all…
The problem is that when dealing with business interested in earning a profit, moral arguments have far less weight than economic ones, and the economic argument here is what is driving the product — I choose that word carefully — that shows up in comics-shop shelves.
So why the fuck are Marvel and DC bothering with the pathetic little bottom grazer market of male comic fans? They’re a small little perverted niche that smell bad and hang around tiny little shops that don’t like expanding their market. They whine, they hate new people coming in, and apparently, they buy comics and statues as sex aids.
That’s creepy. Really. Fucking. Creepy.
Dirk thinks that ‘pictures of nekkid chicks and post-coital lesbians sell comic books’. (BTW the word is naked. It’s not that hard to spell). Well, that’s lovely Dirk. How many post-coital lesbians can you spot in Hasbro‘s line up? In fact, Dirk, I have a challenge for you go through the Top 100 IMDB films, and bring me the financial value of the naked women.
Maybe economic rationalisation is what we need the industry might just wise up to the fact that the ‘traditional’ comic book market shares suck when you compare them to the sales from movie licences. After all, there’s no moral argument to support servicing the fanboy market when you put the mass market dollar up against it.
The Spiderman movie franchise opened the door to the Spiderman franchise to a new range of minds, wallets and income. A new set of markets to pour financial support into the industry.
We should be out there welcoming these new arrivals. The people who saw the movie, and wanted more. Instead, newcomers to the Spiderman franchise, potential and would be comic book fans were treated to another round of cliched cheesecake crap when they were looking for the Mary Jane that was portrayed by Kirsten Dunst . The Mary Jane Watson of the $2,065,107,546 Spiderman movie money machine. Instead, they were met with Sideshow’s cheesecake and a bunch of male bloggers complaining. (Oh hai blogger boys, why don’t you just shut with ur whining? If you don’t like an internet with women with opinions, go make ur own BBS clubhouses.)
If this new market of wallets and minds was repelled at the doors by the gatekeeper cheesecake and misogyny, Marvel’s losing market share. So if we want to play economics here, Marvel’s best economic interests are not being served by Sideshow Collectibles if Sideshow is producing material out of touch with the movie going Marvel target audience. They could dump Sideshow Collectibles in heart beat and still afford to fund a new Hulk movie, Captain America, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and a Magento film.
Come to think of it, they are funding a bunch of new films for these markets. Great thing about cinema? Women and men go to the movies. Market shares for women are rather equal to market shares for males. Just imagine how much more money DC, Dark Horse and Marvel could make if they had female readership levels around cinema’s female viewerships? After all, we know that women watch comic book movies. Can’t be that hard to get them to read comic book movie stories.
Unless something was stopping them gee, I wonder what that could be.

Remember, genres are determined by the penis and the vagina… or not

Look, anyone who tries to tell me that I need a vagina to read a romance novel is clearly misusing their equipment (book and body part). If you try to tell me that comic books require penises to be read, I’m going to ask you to leave, and I won’t want to know what you’re doing with the print media and your body parts. So basically, quit trying to tell me that I need a gender to get into a genre. This ain’t world of warcraft people, you can equip genres of any type, in any class.
Johanna, you are one of the gang. It’s just that your gang is trying to horde a genre away from a group of people who are practically trying to beat the door down to get access to give these industries their money.
In the industry I come from, when we’ve got a market that keen to participate, it’s seen as a gift from the market segmentation gods. For the sake of improving a few standards that make the superhero genre relevant to the 2007 (like racial diversity, like gender equality, like remembering that the porn industry is a separate business, and like hiring artists who can draw) the industry could expand beyond the currently shrinking market share.
For the sake of defending an industry with declining sales figures that is hell bent on thwarting willing markets from participating, you want to describe someone as ‘unusual or non-standard or atypical’. Both of your posts seem to take a pride in fending off would be new market participants in an industry that could use a sales boost.
In paraphrased words of Jon Stewart… Why do you hate the comic book industry?
Now for a little fact check shoot down.
‘I’m sure there are occasional males who read romance novels, too, but if one started blogging about how the genre needed to be overhauled to be made more attractive to men, they’d be giggled at… and rightly so’
You might want to have a chat with the Romance Writers of America. According to Romance Writers of America’s 2005 Market Research Study on Romance Readers,
22% of romance readers are male — a significant increase from the 2002 survey that showed only 7% of readers were male.
See, rather than giggling at those aberrant males who read romance, the romance industry treated them as a viable financial growth opportunity. They were seen as a market. A market to be grown, nurtured and respected.
From 7% to 22% in three years. Giggle giggle.

Why I hate rape affirming storylines

I started writing a reply to a comment about rape storylines, over on the G-W board, and I realised that the poster’s one line hit a raw nerve with me.
This post goes for a while, and it was a bit confronting for me to write. It’ll probably change some of my readers view of me, and I accept that in advance. I took this role as the Designated Sidekick to present a male view, and this is one of those times. This isn’t every man’s world view, or representative of males in general. This is my story, and my life, and my explanation. I don’t expect to be praised or rewarded for it, I just wanted to put my reasons, my experience and my rationale on the line. I don’t know what I expect to achieve, I just think it’s worth saying and moving on from there.
TRIGGER WARNING: Both the column and resultant discussion may contain trauma triggers. Please be safe.
(Hell, it’s been a bad night writing this, take care reading it)

One of the issues that I carry is from what I went through to get to the point where I’m blogging for Girl-Wonder, rather than blogging against it. Basically, somedays, it’s hard not to still think of myself as one of the bad guys. I’m from the bad guys side. If I had the internet, as it currently exists, back when I was at high school, I’d be part of 4chan and the related cesspools. This isn’t some self flagellating cry for ‘But DS you’re not like them’ backslaps. I’m not like them now, but back then, I was one of them.
I come from the mid to upper class over privileged young white men who thought the world owed them. We felt entitled to say what we wanted, about who we wanted, and we were taught that our God endorsed right to children and wife and to be the protectors of the women for we were warrior-men. Friends of mine felt that women should fuck them just because they’re white, male and that was god’s gift to females. Back then, I’d support them either actually agreeing with them, or by shutting up and letting them take my silence as support.
Sure, I wasn’t entirely like the rest of the pack, but I had the option to join and merge with the herd open to me at any point. I was a Nice Guy (TM). I thought that just being a reasonable civil person not just meant I deserved a cookie, but full sexual favours to go with that cookie. The stuff I heard, the stuff I said, the stuff we tacitly supported because we didn’t speak up and oppose it led to my peers, my friends (and some of my enemies) thinking that woman hating was fine, so long as you fucked them while hating them. After all, the only thing most of those guys hated more than women was gay men.
That was my peer group, my high school buddies and my social circle. Welcome to my back story as a late 80s high school boy in a nice school in a nice suburb with nice boys as friends. We reinforced each other, outdid each other, and created a vicious circle of a misogyny arms race each trying to be cooler, tougher, more fucked up than the other.
Getting out of that social sphere took a lot. It took rejection, for which I note with pride, when the white power fascist kid doesn’t want to be your friend, you’re doing something right. When he’s got one of the bigger circle of friends in the school, right isn’t always backed by might.
It took bleeding, fistfights and being a target. Because I chose not to be one of them, when the rich kid who endorsed hating those who were different to him (read, anyone not rich, straight, angry, white male and avowedly misogynistic heterosexual) turned to me expecting tactic support and didn’t receive it, I was marked as an acceptable target for in-school violence. That said, don’t mistake me for a martyr. I fought when attacked and attacked when it suited me. I perpetuated that school pecking order system every bit as much as the rest of the young men who fought me and I fought. Pointless (in retrospect) violent male behaviour was normal for me. I know what they feel, because I’ve felt it, enjoyed it, and suffered the consequences (and reaped the rewards). Leaving that social structure behind was difficult.
Rejecting the social messages also took saying things to friends who stopped being friends because you weren’t agreeing with them, and they craved peer approval (which, when you’re turning into this woman liking weirdo, you’re not providing). It took the willingness to voluntarily be a social outcast as a teenager (I fear what I’d have made of Myspace if I’d had it back then)
Above all, it took finding reinforcement from places where you retreated because you were getting shunned, beaten up or rejected. For me, I headed off into left-wing late 80s comedy. I was listening to Ben Elton espousing feminism, socialism and anti-Thatcherism when my friends were reading fantasy novels where non consensual sex was eroticised and normalised as what people did. If I’d had access to comics, I’d have been reading them, and absorbing their messages as much as I was downloading Rik Mayal, Ben Elton and Alexei Sayle into my life.
[Sidenote: One of the guys who was a friend of mine loaned me this “great fantasy novel”. There were two rape scenes in it before I gave up. Note – I read the first rape scene, and kept reading the novel. The older I get, the more discomfort I have with the memory of the text of the second scene. Serves me right, I should’ve quit at the first warning mark. As far as I could see, the basic story was “Independent woman is turned into obedient sex drone for male through rape and violence”. I remember being utterly repulsed by the whole thing, and having to look a friend in the eye as I gave the book back whilst hoping he didn’t want me to approve of his choice of reading material. In the end, when I found out he had the entire series of the books (something like thirty of them, with most of those nonconsensual sex scenes marked out in highlighter pen) I had to remove another mate from my social circle. I may have gained a less noxious social sphere, but I did nothing to help him by walking away. That’s what he was downloading to his brain when I was learning that consent mattered]
So when it comes to 2007, and comics, and movies, and contemporary media, I find myself railing against the rape back story culture for a lot of reasons.
I detest these storylines because they perpetuate a myth that rape is an empowering event that creates you into a stronger, better faster whatever. If that shit was remotely fictionally supportable, Batman’s origin would have a rape story. Batman parents could live as Joe Chill just needed to rape Bruce to get the story started. Krypton could continue to exist. Uncle Ben could still be alive. All through the virtue of non consensual violent power crime. This is not to say I want rape to become the feature storyline for men. I want it to stop, and I want it to stop being the motive du jour for female heros.
I am sick to death with being presented stories of empowerment through non consensual power crime as the necessary prerequisite for female competence. It’s sickening, it’s frustrating, and it’s saying to me, as a male, that women exist as impractical, hopeless, useless and powerless creatures until violently cast in these empowerful roles through non consensual violation.
I’m sick of being told that rape is something empowering that creates heroines. It says that these women cannot become something by their own choice, they must become it because of the acts of a male. I’m rejecting the message, but hell, I’m still getting the message to reject. What’s it doing to the guys not realising they’re supposed to reject this idea?
I’m sick of having the medium that’s aimed squarely at me and my gender tell me that ‘Hey! It’s okay if she’s raped! It’ll give her really good positive things later! Really! See? RapedinBackstoryGirl turned out okay didn’t she?’.
I hate the support it gives to the guys who are looking for justification. I hate the lies it spreads to the kids like me who are desperately looking outside their social circles for cues on how to deal with life.
I hate the way rape stories are used to sell books, sell movies and make a profit from a violent, brutal and degrading power crime.
I hate it, because I was so close to becoming a rapist myself.
I have the same coding in my head that they do. I have the same privilege blinkers, my default settings are white privilege male. My language and my world view is hetero centric, empowered and powerful. I was taught that women owed me sex because I was a man, and men are entitled to sex from women.
The rape normalising storylines are something that I resist with all the power I have, because damn me, there was a time, one moment, one point in my life where my partner said no, and I stopped when frankly, I did not want to stop.
I’ve been there, I’ve experienced that point of choice.
I stopped because there had been enough messages in my life that supported my decision to respect my partner’s choice. There was everything I’d been taught that said I was entitled to keep going and there was enough countercode to support me doing the right thing and stopping. It was me and her and what had been consensual sexual activity until she wanted to stop.
Thankfully, no meaning no, and the rest of the understanding I had at the time meant that I stopped.
My fear is simple. I don’t know if I would have stopped if I’d been exposed to all of the rape affirming social messages instead of the consent affirming messages I’d heard.
In short, that’s why I won’t fucking chill out about rape stories. I know I was that close to being the perpetrator of one of those stories, and it’s only because I’d had access to the social messages that supported consent that I stopped when I did.
If I’d had the exposure to the opposite messages, there’s a chance things would have been much much different. It’s also something that I have to deal with for my life. I was very close to being a perpetrator of a very serious abusive crime with my partner at the time, who knew me and trusted me. I’ve been that close to the edge, and now I’m doing my level best to move further and further back away from it.
That’s why I hate the normalisation process that comes with these storylines. I know how vulnerable I was, and how vulnerable I could still be to those messages.
DS
[As a footnote to this, it took until comparatively recently for me to realise that I’d been socially encoded to say yes by default to sexual consent. Discovering that when I said no, the no was enough in itself for my partner was a break through. I’d been so conditioned to accept that the socialisation baggage of male consent as disposable that I didn’t realise that when I said no, it meant no, not “make a counteroffer”. I knew that when my partner said no, that was enough for me, but I never saw any problem with my non-consent being rejectable (See also Karen’s article dealing with how non-consensual heterosexual sex is covered in DC comic books. Suffice to say, Nightwing 93 really upsets me.) ]

Shades of Gray

An open letter to a few points, debates and blogs around the internet.
Girl-Wonder.org is a collection of sites dedicated to females in mainstream comics. Our goals are to foster an attentive, empowered audience community and to encourage respect and high-quality character depiction within the industry.
Point 1. Slash fiction is not mainstream, nor is it mainstream comics. In fact, it’s a small breakaway movement on the internet that’s largely more self congratulatory than it is noticed by the outside world. As an art form, it’s also old news Kirk and Spock slash fic is credited as the big break through moment for the sub genre of fan fiction.
In short, slashfic is not mainstream comics. It’s not actually on our watch.
Point 2. Feminism, and girl-wonder.org, are not the borg. As part of Girl-Wonder, I am allowed to hold opinions that differ from other Girl-Wonder staff, and the CEO. This is what makes Girl-Wonder an interesting place. It’s also so far obvious that we’re not the Borg that I have to give back my latex body suit and laser pointer eyepiece before I’ll be allowed in the group photo for the annual report. We can differ in what we do, think, read and write.
Point 3. Girl-Wonder’s mission is to be a clearing house of related themes, starting out like a local store, and maybe one day being the Wal-Mart sized megalith of comics critique work. Maybe. We don’t know, because maybe we won’t need to expand beyond the core of dealing with women in mainstream comics.
Point 4. If you want to start up a site that deals with the portrayal of male or female characters in fan-fiction, you should do that, and you’d probably get a few supporters from fanfiction, mainstream industries and some of the people writing here and reading here might join you. However, the role of Girl-Wonder.org does not currently include fan-fiction. Maybe in the future, maybe not. Right now, Girl-Wonder deals with women in mainstream comics
Point 5. Portrayals of hyperviolent women who castrate men, published under an X-Rated publishing company are outside of the Girl-Wonder gambit, definitely don’t come into Project Girl Wonder, and really, not what we’re dealing with here at Girl-Wonder.org where we deal with women in mainstream comics.
A point of personal opinion. I don’t read slash. I don’t read yaoi, yuri, femmeslash or any other form of slash. That said, I regard slash as a form of fandom, and one that I plan on actively encouraging when I get my fiction writing published. I plan on having a slashfic/fanfic license agreement built into my novels because I regard the fandom (and fanon) as an interesting exploration of the text. I don’t read Harry/Draco or Bruce/Jason because I don’t read any slashfic.
That said, I don’t regard slash fiction (or fanon) as mainstream comics. In fact, I really don’t worry too much about non-mainstream comics here at DS, because I accept that niche markets will serve niche interests. I don’t have to agree with the interests to accept that they exist, or even personally support those interests (personally, I find the whole XXX porn comic industry to be bizarre. Black and white, difficult to hold in one hand? That’s meant to be art isn’t it?).
My reason for wanting to see an improved lot for female characters in mainstream comics has been documented before here on DS. Whether or not my fellow bloggers, my CEO, my readers or anyone else produces content for niche non-mainstream markets doesn’t matter a rat arse to me.
In fact, my response is this so?
I joined Girl-Wonder.org because I want to contribute to improving the portrayal of females in mainstream comics. What anyone else from this domain does with anything else in their life is their life, and I don’t give a damn whether you like that, agree with that or what you think. Because so long as they’re pulling their weight on this project, kicking some arse on their end of the cause and being willing to let us disagree and be different people outside of the G-W.org work, then I’m damn glad to call them allies, friends and fellow travellers. The world ain’t black and white, it’s a full spectrum of gray scale, and that’s the gorram point to it all.
People can and do hold contradictory positions on issues. It’s human nature. So teh_no? I’m over here if you want to fight me about that. Except that I can accept you can have a different opinion. Can you handle the fact I’m not agreeing with you?

At the risk of consequentialising…

Catching up on my blog reading recently, I noted Feminist Allies: Gender Identity in the Comics post about (and it’s early, so I direct quote)
‘I think comic strips are an interesting place to see how gender is reinforced in our daily lives, and how that reinforcement often affects us all negatively.’
it’s an interesting piece, and one that’s noticeable in a quick scan of the black and white single panel to three panel dailies. Gender roles are reinforced or if broken, are broken as the form of a punchline. ‘So MaleRole was done by A FEMALE cue audience guffaw’ Oh Beetle Bailey, how wacky art thou! I mean, I gave up reading Cathy years back because it started to grate raw nerves with me. Don’t get me started on the creep out inducing stuff that goes on in For Better or For Worse (for worse actually) since there’s enough other people on the internet covering that watch. There are problems in the funny pages that reflect society and show both comic and society needs work.
What got me thinking was jeff’s last paragraph….
Mountains and Molehills
Some might say I’m trivializing gender stuff by focusing on a small segment of pop culturecomic strips. But again, these are solid parts of our day-to-day lives (ok, of my day to day life, and I think this is where a lot of the work on recognizing gender norms and how they might negatively affect us can be done.
In short, I think jeff’s nailed the importance of this in a nutshell. This is reality, real life, day to day, common touch ordinary people territory the funny pages. I’m an academic, I hang with an elite crowd at work, teach at a university (highly ranked one at that). I don’t run with the average person in a lot of respects, but I do read the same comics in the paper as they do. It’s the one point where I can say that I intersect with a lot of other people. Sure, I read Cathy in preference for the Phantom, but still, I could talk about the Phantom to the other boys at school. It’s more real to a lot of people than big issue changes like social reform or equity or equality of wage, or domestic violence shelters or war in Africa. It was a common ground, and a part of people’s real daily life (go on, tell me that reading the comics isn’t important because it’s done by ordinary people)
The so called small issues are places where you can intersect with the real life of people, yet we’re forever on the defensive about whether we’re trivialising the big picture by addressing these smaller real life issues. So this got me thinking about the ‘But you’re trivialising…’ concept in other contexts, namely the fact that I’m in the process of moving apartments. Did I trivialise the apartment moving by packing the small objects before moving the bookcase? Or was it a hell of a lot easier to move the bookcase once I’d dealt with the raft of smaller objects, freeing me up to take on the bigger issue of the bookcase as part of the biggest issue of moving the entirety of my possessions?
Tackling what we can, where we can, and bringing about incremental improvement in all areas of society isn’t trivialising the major cause. Assuming that the only change is big change is that none of us can really ever feel that we can acheive is to make what we work for into something of little significance or value. Getting to people’s self interest in small ways each and every day is much more significant, and a hell of a lot more valuable.
That, if you want to take Answers.com’s second meaning of trivial, is the whole point of well constructed social change taking it from the unachieved and unachievable and making it something ordinary and commonplace (and achieved) is the endgame scenario.
Change enough of the smaller parts, and the composition of the bigger picture alters. If making a better big picture isn’t significant and valuable, then what is?

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The Deniability of Chuck Dixon

Oh man. The levels of issue I have with this interview is long. Very long. I know what Dixon is thinking he’s saying, and what he’s actually saying aren’t meshing up. I know there are Chuck Dixon fans, and Chuck Dixon himself on the Internet. That said, I don’t have any problem going to the dance with anyone who wants to to reply to me here and discuss my reading of the interview and my interpretation of the chasm between wanting deniability and stating support for the sexual orientation or existence of relationship between two characters. If you want to write for the deniablity, then in my view, you’re not writing for the support of the existence of ANY aspect of the character.
Onto some quote by quote work after the jump

‘Maggie Sawyer, in Superman, was obviously being portrayed as a lesbian. But there was a level of deniability because she wasn’t always being shown in romantic clinches with her girlfriend.’
Because deniability is important. Mustn’t forget that denialability of sexuality is more important than any other aspect of sexuality. In fact, so important…
‘When I was writing Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon’s romance I stayed away from stating that they were in any kind of sexual relationship. You could absolutely imply it. But you could just as easily tell yourself they were saving it for marriage.’
Yup. One of the most important things Chuckles has given us was the deniability of Dick Grayson’s heterosexual liaisons with Barbara Gordon. That way, we can deny Dick to Barbara, and it’s only implied they were an item. Thus sating Dan DiDio. Double points!
‘Astute readers picked up on it.’
Anyone who’s ever picked up on Dick Grayson’s deniable heterosexuality is an astute reader.
‘Others either didn’t notice or chose not to’
Thanks to Chuckles Dixon, you can now chose not to notice the heterosexual orientation of any character he writes. Thanks Chuck!
‘Maggie even appeared on the cartoons with her girlfriend.’
They were just good friends who enjoyed hot tea together. In a deniable way.
‘I much prefer this kind of characterization over Northstar’s ‘I’M GAY!’’
That’s because Marvel doesn’t have any truck with deniability as a core to character sexuality in this instance?
‘The important thing, for story purposes, was that Maggie was a good, three-dimensional character first and a lesbian second.’
This statement bothers me to the point I won’t mock it. What Chuck Dixon says here is that the sexual orientation of a person is an add-on pack to their character. That who we are as people is something that consists of everyone but the way we would love people, form relationships and bonds with others, and who we would choose as our partners, lovers, soulmaters, and marriage partners. It’s saying that the deniability is more important than the reality. It’s detaching Maggie’s capacity to love another woman as a partner from who Maggie is, and making it not part of her being.
Chuck Dixon didn’t say ’ The important thing, for story purposes, was that Clark was a good, three-dimensional character first and a heterosexual second.’ when talking about Lois and Clark.
I know Chuck Dixon was asked a set of questions about issues of sexuality being raised in comics, and I know the context behind it. The problem is, Chuck Dixon says some bloody stupid things here, and that’s when as far as I can see, he’s trying to be supportive.
As far as issue comics and real life issues being raised in comics… look, it’s okay to have a dissenting opinion on whether that’s the best place for it but the reality is, it’s the place it is happening. The heterosexualised normative values of the comic book is a reality that is used by artists and writers to convey messages that are sufficiently grounded in today’s reality to make sense to today’s readership.
Try going back and reading the comics of the 1950s and you’ll see an alien world. If the contemporary comic books characters have mobile phones, iPods and Myspace equivalents, then they make a connection at a base level. Characters interacting in social stratas that make sense to the contemporary reader.
‘But why can’t that be outside the pages of a superhero comic? Why do comic writers have to take on the mantle of social engineer?’
They don’t, but they do have to then accept that comic books are for kids, and that the stories they tell will have an upper age limit. Comic books would be just for kids, and that market has talking ducks.
‘I haven’t met a comic book writer yet I’d let talk to my kids about sex. Why would I want them doing it as part of a story about super-powered men and women in tights?’
Because they have been since the creation of the medium? This is an art form, a communications medium, a mechanism for broadcasting ideas, stories and characters. In short Chuck, the reason this is happening is that you’re working in a popular culture medium that addresses the contemporary culture, shapes and frames stories against the current world and filters these events through the lens of Batman, Wolverine and every other franchise character.
What we become as people is informed in part by the media we consume. Comic books aren’t given a get-out-of-influence free card (nor are they solely responsible). They’re part of the package deal of content and informational influence that shapes us.
‘It’s of paramount practical concern that the comic companies guard and shepherd their franchises even more carefully than before.’
By ensuring that all sexual and/or relationship elements are deniable?
‘They’re being seen more and more by audiences of casual readers who have an expectation of who these characters are. This is no longer the sub-culture hobby that it was even ten years ago.’
Some of those more and more readers might actually want to see characters that speak to their lives, their desires, their hopes and their dreams. When I was in high school, having Oliver Queen and Dick Grayson was to have characters who I could identify with, and to use to pin my fantasied reality of an ideal world to my reality. I wanted to be Oliver Queen, muckraking journalist by day, costumed crime fighter by night. I had that character, and the white male middle class entitled and privileged costumed hero to call my own.
For me, Ollie Queen wasn’t about being deniably ambiguous. He was about being identifiable and unambiguous.What’s wrong with wanting the rest of the place to have characters they can call their own without having to permanently wear a shadow of deniability?