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Committed: The More You Know…

Do we, as comic book readers and lovers really want to hear about the business of comic books?

Do we want to hear about a director who used violent hate language to talk about women and homosexuals?

Do we want to hear about the departure of one of the most visible, powerful women in alternative comic books from a mainstream company (while everyone tip toes around the fact that this coincides with their decision to publish more and more books aimed at little boys)?

Do we need to see male superheroes depicted as seductive female superheroes, or debate what the definition of the “female gaze” means?

Do we benefit from poking at the occasional incidents of isolated, middle-aged men freaking out on social networks in obvious cries for help?

What do comic book readers get out of going behind the scenes of the toilet-end of the comic book industry? Is this ruining comic books for us? We live in a world where equality means drawing men in stupid “broke back” poses, as if shitting on men because women get shit on will make us equal. Instead we all get stuck in the shit. Calling for the head of whatever villain of the week is acting out online just turns us all into violent, vindictive assholes. Are we ignoring the fact that a major publisher doesn’t publish a single book that I can get on board with because they’ve been clear about not wanting money from the adult female demographic?

Don’t we all just want to go to the store and pick up the books we love? It is a small, beautiful, luxurious indulgence of fiction that we can enjoy at the end of a hard day in the ‘real’ world. Has it become too difficult to block out the noise behind major comic book publishers trying to sell us what they think we want.

Has the feedback loop from reader to publisher back to reader become corrupted?

Years ago, when I started writing about comic books it never occurred to me that doing this would change my perception of the medium in such fundamental ways. I never thought that it could cut into my enjoyment of them. When I started working on the comic books themselves, I rationalized that as a designer I still wasn’t deep enough in the “business”  that it would impact my understanding of comic books. Now I look back and I see how much more I know about the ins and outs of the industry and I have a new “appreciation” of the entire thing. Even if I walked away now, my view of the comic book industry and the quiet men and women who make them would have been irreparably damaged. The best thing I can think to do is strive to do something better, to try to keep talking about the parts we love, and the comic books which inspire us.

Last week I got an email from a reader despairing over the sexist state of new and upcoming comic books, asking what we could do. At the time I advised to vote with your wallet and buy the good stuff, talk about and propagate the good comic books, ignoring the bad. I feel like this week I did bad job of that myself. I couldn’t filter out all of the negativity and misery, and it created a completely jaundiced, depressing view of comic books for me. All I can think to do in future is to try harder to focus on the good stuff and talk about what I love from superheroes and comic books. After all, wasn’t this meant to be fun for all of us?

15 Comments

Kind of like the saying “Everybody loves hot dogs but no one wants to see how there made”

Reading comics was a lot simpler back in the day.There wasn’t as much info about what went on behind the scenes.Yeah there was some magazines or newsletters about the industry but I don’t remember them being very popular. I didnt even have access to a Previews or Advance comics catalog until the mid-90s sometime. Then Wizard magazine came out and the internet really started to take off and all of a sudden everybody was a expert and it was easier to have your opinion heard then mailing a letter and hoping it was read in a letters page.
But I think knowing more about the industry and being able to interact with creators has been largely positive,of course there’s all the negative things that keep getting bought up and talked bout over and over. But thats in any news media: Ppl like to talk about the bad stuff,the bad stuff always gets the headline.
All we can do as fans is just keep reading the books we like and try and not turn into the jaded Fanboys that seem to frequent the internet.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan

December 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

It’s not just comic books that face this problem of information overload: pretty much every industry, especially entertainment industries, has its dirty laundry hung out on the internet.

Journalism in the internet age has pretty much gone back to the days of muckrakers and yellow journalism because, sadly enough, that’s what gets page views, which is how internet ad revenue is generated.

As for comics specifically, I only let extreme instances get in the way of my enjoying a title. Even then, the negative quality would have to be reflected in the work itself in order to truly bother me. For example, I’ve heard that Dave Sim is a pretty big misogynist, but I wouldn’t let that interfere with me enjoying a work of his unless it was a He-Man Woman Haters Club Manifesto.

Put another way, reading the work of a creator with questionable views doesn’t mean you share those views. If it did, everyone who has ever bought a Michael Jackson album would be a pedophile, which we know isn’t the case.

All in all, I like that we have more information about the process of making comic books and the creatives behind them. It’s just that sometimes we find out neither of those is as glamorous as they seem.

the fact that Rich Johnson reported on the voice mail being changed at DC means it has gotten rediculous

I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that there are some creators whose work I will no longer buy because they seem like awful people.

It’s pretty bad that DC has gotten so insular and their product has become both shoddy and homogenic, with almost no exceptions. Marvel has made plenty of bad decisions, too. All of them seem to spring from treating people poorly. It’s depressing.

I often wonder what comics I would read if I didn’t know the behind the scenes kinds of things that go on. Would I read or not read a comic based on an interview with a writer or if an artist posted something on Twitter that was offensive, if they have a political opinion that I don’t agree with? Most of the those things don’t affect whether I read a book or not but I do have those kinds of things in the back of my mind when I’m reading a comic.

I try not to judge art by the artist – either for better or for worse. So a misogynistic rant on a blog won’t turn me off of an unrelated awesome comic, but I also don’t care what personal obstacles someone overcame to make a comic – I only care whether it’s good.

I agree with Mike T., nowadays there’s just such an overload of comic book information out there. When I was a kid I learned all my comic news from Wizard magazine, and that was it. Nowadays I can read dozens of articles about a particular issue of a comic before it even comes out, as well as the eventual outrage that the fans will undoubtedly have over it (Because it seems the ones who speak loudest are the ones who have the most negative things to say).

I noticed that most comic companies create storylines, crossovers, or books that will be controversial in order to get this kind of fan talk going. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Would people still talk about a comic if it followed a standard villian-of-the-month formula? Probably not. So why not shake things up a bit, like have Cyclops kill Professor X or have Spider-Man turned into a teenager again? These aren’t the best stories, but they get people talking, and it generates press and (Hopefully) sales. But strange how comics keep selling less and less the more the companies keep doing this crap.

don’t worry. we all will die in the end.

“What do comic book readers get out of going behind the scenes of the toilet-end of the comic book industry?”

~The unexamined life is not worth living.

“All I can think to do in future is to try harder to focus on the good stuff and talk about what I love from superheroes and comic books.”

~Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

true story, I walked away from the last 2 comics I was buying in the 90s because of the public fighting between Eric Larsen and Peter David. Stayed away from the LCSs for over a decade.
I love both creators even now, but I can’t get into their work because I just saw too much of the pettiness between the two.

I used to love the old Marvel Bullpen pages. during that time period it was the only way I had access to any goings on within the industry. in a lot of ways the internet has took away whatever magic was there, kind of like dvd’s have ruined the magic of movies.

I’ve recorded albums and I’ve put out comics. The end result is the same… once I actually did it myself, I started noticing things about other people’s music and comics from a technical standpoint that would have normally gone right past me. It’s taken a lot of the enjoyment out of both. It’s better when all we see is the end product so that we can enjoy it for what it is.

we need some fresh ideas. Now!

Only one way to confront the “visible dirty laundry” problem: make the companies do their laundry.

In all seriousness, you want to get away from the dirty business of the Big Two-dominated comic industry, do the hard thing and stop reading any of the books you would consider “junk”. I would say right now I’m a devotee of Transformers comics first, and do not care who the license holder is. Right now, IDW, for the most part, is doing fine, though the only title I’m buying and reading is their “Transformers: Regeneration One” series that continues the Marvel continuity. I would also advocate reading stuff like their Godzilla titles, Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ANYTHING that doesn’t have the DC swoosh, the Marvel red rectangle, or even Image or Dark Horse. Does anyone here read ANYTHING from IDW?

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