‘You can get much further with a kind word and a gun batarang than you can with a kind word alone.
- Al Capone Some Goddamn Batman
My Background: I’ve read Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Kotler and Roberto’s Social Marketing, and I’ve written Competitive Marketing Strategy (along with Strategic Internet Marketing). I’ve got a bit of a background in marketing, lecturing, social marketing, politics, lobbying and selling expensive commercial product to an unwilling market. I have a PhD where I developed a new theoretical model to describe how people deal with the hypernew products and the key factors involved in getting the really new stuff out of beta and into people’s hands via their hip pocket.
My role: I’m a mercenary civilian contractor. Trained as a marketer, employed as a marketing educator, and working as a columnist and military adviser consultant to Girl-Wonder and the Project Girl Wonder, my self anointed part in this process is to aggravate, agitate and educate.
It’s easy to dismiss complaints about sexist portrayal of women in comics if it’s just coming from female readers. All the usual dismissal methods roll out and get thrown around. Throw in the complaints from men, and it makes it harder to pull the wholesale dismissal. Being an aggravating male with a propensity to snipe on topic areas where I can pull out the heavy artillery as required means I can get under the skins of certain bloggers, draw some heat, and make the sockpuppets dance.
It’s called stirring. I do it well. For example, to agitate the crowd, I could put forth my hypothesis that the desire for overwrought caricatures of women that are distorted, impossiby proportioned and unattainable figures could be the result of overcompensation to mask other latent desires and needs. Similarly, being able to start fights, point out flaws, raise counterpoints and every now and then stand on the rooftops and shout at the top of my lungs is a valuable part of the change movement. Gandhi was the last saint like figure to bust out a completely passive move set for victory. The rest of us get along by being much more human and flawed.
Somedays, at the end of it all, you just can’t avoid the fact Dan DiDio has a tendency to be a dick (not as in Grayson). He’ll never accept such a judgement of himself, but when you’re looking at the things he does accept, it’s worth being in the category of wrong in that man’s head. That said, is it counter productive to call him a dick? Probably not since a huge chunk of recent rounds of problematic content to come from DC have had his fingerprints on it, letting him (and the successors to his title) know that his actions are tarnishing his reputation will help in the long haul. If people thought he was a respected figure for the decision that’ve been made, statements said, and general dickishness, then it’ll be a cold shower moment of ‘Wait…do I want that for me?’ for the next in line to consider when planning how they’d deal with the situation if they were the editor
One of the things about this sort of change campaigning activity is that our internet addicted TV stained minds have been taught by by a news media with weekly ratings battles that any sort of long term activity beyond 18 months is a failure. Compare this with the fact it takes 10 to 12 years to get someone through school, another 3 to 5 years to get through college/university, and the entire Harry Potter franchise took 10 years to from releasing the first book to releasing the last book. Changing the way a comic book industry works in 18 months? Sure,it’s possible, but I heartly recommend fire and nuking from orbit if you want to be that quick. Otherwise, take some time and schedule it for generational change.
My view on the comics book change movement: Are the various campaigns making headway? Hell to the yes. Are we all doing it the hard way? Yes, because there isn’t an easy way. This is generational change that I’m talking about in aiming for the reform of the comic book industry. I’m talking about keeping the fires burning for the people starting out into the game now as much as trying to persuade those at the top to reconsider their position and standards. When the DCU and Marvel replace the current editor, that editor will still have been shaped by coming through the same sort of system that created the current mindsets. Within a few editors, and a couple of generations of writers, artists and in-house staff changes, then you’ll start to see people implementing the sort of changes that are being blogged about here and now.
I’ll speak solely for Girl-Wonder (there are other groups who can speak for themselves). People have heard of the site, the associated causes, and the Robin-in-a-jar project. I was looking at this sort of recognition around three to five years in, and certainly nothing of the level we’re at right now we’re on the radar of the majors and that’s rapid fire success.
The Framework: In social change, there’s this wonderful little model we use to demonstrate how social causes take effect.
Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model
Pre contemplation Potential targets are unaware of issue
Contemplation Targets become aware of the issue and start to consider it in light of their lives
Preparation Targets determine what they need to know or do to change their behaviour
Action Targets trial the alternate behaviour
Maintenance Targets adopt the alternative behaviour long term as their ‘normal’ behaviour
In my opinion, Girl-Wonder is somewhere in Precontemplation to Contemplation for the vast bulk of the comic book fandom, industry, readership and creator base. To get to Action and Maintenance will take time, and the implementation of an additional array of strategies which will come into play in Preparation and Action. That’s the time and place for negotiations, creating alternative products for creators, making exchanges and trade offs.
Right now? There’s a need to raise the roof, start the fires and let the world know that there is an issue, the issue is important enough to require addressing, and that girls read comics and they’re pissed.
You’d be surprised how much this is an under realised issue in the business. Even the fact that girls read comics wasn’t something the mother of a girl standing in the comic store in front of me was 100% onboard with despite the fact her daughter was selecting comics to purchase. There’s some light on the subject, but there needs to be more light. Perhaps a large bonfire with a huge plume of smoke so people can see that yes, there’s smoke, there’s fire and there’s something afoot here worth investigating (and it’s a worthy sacrifice for the rum to make).
So right now, on the generational change for the betterment of comics project timeline, this whole damn thing is running way ahead of schedule because ass is being kicked, attention is being raised, dialogue is being opened with people who are saying or thinking ‘Look, I know so and so is a tool about this, but I don’t want to be one myself, what can I do?’ and a bunch of very pissed off people are getting to shout loudly, stomp and do all the sort of frustration venting moves that are par for the course in any other environment seeking long term change.
Once the foothold is established in contemplation, and the advance scouts hit the beachhead of Preparation, then it’ll be time to look at options, alternatives and talking quietly in deal making situations. Right now, this movement has some attention to raise, and one of the many ways it’s being done is by shouting loudly and being visible.
PS: Project Girl Wonder is in currently in dual win situation either DCU relents and matches Jason ‘Not Dead’ Todd’s Case with Stephanie ‘Still Dead’ Brown’s case, and the balance is redressed, or DCU continues to provide a clear example of how a dead female Robin is treated with less respect than a dead-and-got-better male Robin. DCU can prove a point about gender in comics, or correct an editorial oversight.
PPS: For those wondering about time frames and comparative success look at how long it took for comics and tradepaperbacks to move from ‘Funnybooks for kids’ to being sold in mainstream book stores and reviewed in mainstream newspapers. (Don’t forget to check when the last ‘Comic books aren’t just for kids’ story ran as well)
Prochaska, J.O., DiClemente, C.C. & Norcross, J.C. (1992). In search of how people change: Applications to addictive behaviors. American Psychologist, 47(9), 1102-1114.