Social Justice Minded Feminist Laments Too Many Men Working in Comics

We have here a feminist site called Book Riot, similar in some ways to the awful Mary Sue site (I don’t know if they’re owned by the same sources, but they may have at least a few of the same contributors), and in this post, the writer only seems worried about a lack of social justice-based choices for scriptwriting at DC:

 

 

DC Comics has a problem. And I’m not referring to the recent “bloodbath” of layoffs at Warner Brothers that included much of the editorial staff at DC. Nor am I referring to the latest round of sexual misconduct accounts in the industry in which numerous creators, many of whom have worked for DC, were alleged to have harassed, groomed, and manipulated coworkers and fans. I’m not even referring to the fact that DC is continuing to publish work by some of these creators, most notably Warren Ellis, though it’s relevant.

No, today I want to talk about the massive gender disparity in their hiring. Again. Still. Yes, really.

 

Seriously? Because in the following notes:

 

1. I’m only looking at gender here, but from a glance the creative teams are not particularly racially diverse, especially the writers. I would imagine the representation when looking at sexuality, religion, and ability level is not great either.

2. I looked at eight projects, all of which have 40–70 named creators associated with them, and only noted one nonbinary creator. If I have missed any other nonbinary creators, I apologize and will happily take corrections, but it’s also worth noting that not everyone is out about their gender, so these stats are of necessity largely based on my assumptions from names and photos and should be taken with a grain of salt.

 

And how! I thought she was talking about women, and here she goes off ranting about the lack of non-binary identitarians? I don’t think that should be an issue here, yet she demonstrates a lack of courage to focus on a clear issue and goes the politically correct path. Because inclusiveness of ideologies cannot be left out, even if it comes at women’s expense. It’s amazing she’s willing to cite sexuality, religion and ability, since Judeo-Christians of any political leanings have been almost entirely excluded from many publishers, and their track record on sexuality is abysmal of recent too. Not to mention that talent is sorely lacking, or editorial mandate is stacked against it. She goes on to cite the 80th anniversary Robin special, and says:

 

It’s also worth noting that many of the stories in the anniversary issues were written or drawn by creators with a history with the character in question, which is charming. However, it further highlights the historical (and not so historical) lack of women on these books. In the Robin issue, the only story not written by someone strongly associated with its protagonist is the Stephanie Brown story, which was written by Amy Wolfram. While I’m happy to see the female Robin get a female writer, it’s notable that she’s never had one before. (But if we’re going to talk about the sexism Steph has been subjected to over the years, we’ll be here all day.)

 

Let’s get something straight. Yes, Spoiler was very badly handled during the mid-2000s when Bill Willingham was one of the leading writers in charge of the Batman: War Games crossover, and Dan DiDio was a very bad lot who took things to extremes. But, the whole notion a woman could or would do better is very flawed, assuming she thinks otherwise. If a woman were hired to carry out an editorial mandate involving a shock tactic death for a character, it’s entirely possible they’d accept, just like Willingham took the task of offing Chuck Dixon’s creation unquestioned. In fact, if we were to consider what Chelsea Cain did with Mockingbird, that’s why anybody who thinks a woman writing can’t do something embarrassingly bad would do well to think again. Consider also Devin Grayson’s mishandling of Nightwing’s solo book, with a significant difference being that she apologized for her worst mistake, unlike some male hack writers, who didn’t. And just because a woman wrote a flashback story for Spoiler doesn’t immediately make it significant, mainly because the story was tainted by the 2004 crossover in hindsight, and Stephanie Brown worked far better in the role she was created for in 1992.

 

This SJW comic was cancelled after only 8 issues

 

All that aside, the above is a clue somebody’s not approaching this topic based on merit, which Willingham’s story briefly replacing Tim Drake with Stephanie Brown as Robin lacked. Nor does the columnist seem particularly dismayed Spoiler’s creator, Dixon, has since been blacklisted, something that could easily happen to any lady writer too, regardless of her politics. If you can’t defend Dixon’s honor, what’s the use of defending Spoiler’s?

 

Finally, the Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular also had eight stories with no female creators, but a better average overall, with two female writers and a female penciller. The women on this book were overwhelmingly assigned to (or perhaps pitched for?) the single main continuity female Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz: her story has a female writer, penciller, and letterer, and her pinup was drawn and colored by two women. With a female writer on the John Stewart story and a female artist on the Kyle Rayner pinup, that’s seven women out of 54 creators, or juuust under 13%. (Side note: unless I’m mistaken, N. K. Jemisin—who does not have a story in this issue—is the first woman to write a Green Lantern book. In 80 years. Yeah.)

 

On that note, one can only wonder what she thinks of Kyle Rayner’s tastelessly prepared origin – his girlfriend Alexandra deWitt getting throttled and her corpse stuffed into a fridge by Major Force in 1994? It’s something that till this day has not been changed, despite remaining such a revolting setup for Rayner becoming the GL star, which didn’t amount to much over the span of a decade. Worst, it could be argued the whole setup for Rayner grew out of one of the most dreadful relaunchings of a title tragically helmed by one Gerard Jones, a man who was later convicted for possession of child porn. Based on some of that, what’s the use of celebrating Rayner as a character if no improvements were ever made, and all the mistakes of the times taint the 3rd GL volume in retrospect? And then, when the columnist turns to Wonder Woman’s anniversary special:

 

There are nine stories in the issue, not counting the reprint of Diana’s first appearance in All Star Comics #8 by William Moulton Marston and H. G. Peter, since I don’t think it’s fair to hold DC of today accountable for the staffing of DC in 1941. Two stories have all-male creative teams; one has a nonbinary writer but no women. One of those all-male stories is the conclusion to the then-current arc in the series, meaning that the regular Wonder Woman book had no women on the creative team. (You might be wondering, after all the talk of all-male stories, whether there are any in any of these comics with no men. The answer is of course not. There’s at least one male creator on every single story in every single comic I’m discussing.)

 

Hmm, what if that non-binary writer happens to be a woman pretending she’s not of either sex? Then the Boot Riot buffoon’s made herself into a joke. If a man like Brian Visaggio pretending to be a woman were one of the contributors, don’t be surprised if the columnist would give him a full pass for PC’s sake. Yet she was willing to indicate her disdain for a writer who’s been around longer, and until recently was given keys to the entire Superman franchise, effectively ruining it:

 

While we’re here, I also want to talk about the current storyline in Legion of Super-Heroes, “Trial of the Legion of Super-Heroes,” which will stretch over issues #8 and 9, publishing in September and October. We don’t have the full credits, as the second issue isn’t out yet, but we do know the writer (Brian Michael Bendis) and all of the pencilers, since Bendis proudly shared a poster listing the whopping 43 artists who will be participating; we also know the colorist and letterer for #8, and there’s a variant cover by Dustin Nguyen. That gives us seven known female creators out of a total of 47, or 14%. But I suppose this isn’t too shocking from Bendis, whose pop-up imprint at DC, Wonder Comics, launched with four books but not a single female writer or penciller.

I’ll admit, based on Bendis’ track record that’s otherwise concealed in the wider media, it is good whenever somebody calls him out on his pretensions. But if she’s implying nothing short of 70-80 percent female contributors would make mainstream comics infinitely better, that’s a laugh. Women can also do offensive things that detract heavily from art. Just check the recent scandal on Netflix, when they went miles out of their way to broadcast a French film called “Cuties”, which comprises some of the most repulsive sexualization of children possible, and is directed by a woman. And they defended all this under the allegation the film is a “commentary” on too much sexualization in entertainment today, even as there’s PC advocates who’ve been toning it down, but not for the right reasons, as the sudden push by the left to uphold this abomination should make clear. Just because the filmmakers and Netflix say it’s one thing doesn’t mean it’s what they say it is, or that it was handled appropriately.

 

 

When the columnist estimates only 14 percent of creators at DC are female, she declares:

 

I used the word shameful before, and I stand by that. DC should be ashamed of these numbers. They should be embarrassed by them. They should see this as a very real and very obvious problem that they need to put a serious effort into solving.

(And let’s throw out the idea right here that women just aren’t interested in comics in general and superhero comics in particular. The state of market research in the industry is dire, but various analyses over the past five years or so repeatedly indicate that somewhere between 30 and 45% of comic book readers are women, with even higher percentages indicating interest in superheroes in general—i.e. a potential growth market if the industry would only cater to it.)

 

Surely it isn’t more shameful they lack artistic merit, in no small part due to SJW tactics they’ve already been incorporating into their approach over the past decade, all without doing enough to prove they’re sorry for their past mistakes under DiDio, who continued in his role for far too long? Their steps have practically led to the downfall of the Superman franchise under Brian Bendis, as he got to dictate almost the entire direction to take, not the least being an abandonment of the Man of Steel’s secret identity. It didn’t help Greg Rucka was part of this farce either. Nobody’s saying women don’t read comics, or the mainstream products, for that matter. They certainly did when New Teen Titans came about.

 

But if merit is missing in the finished product, why do they expect women will flock to them? Or, does the columnist actually believe a woman’s helming alone will ensure shiploads of lady citizens will buy en masse? That was hardly the case with any book scripted by Gail Simone over the past decade or so (Birds of Prey sold little more than 30,000 to 40,000 copies on the sales charts when she scripted it), even though her writing’s sometimes built on elements that could be a putdown to men. As appealing as the thought could be that women do like to read superhero comics “in general”, I’ve got a feeling it’d be ill-advised to take that claim at face value, because what if drama and comedy are the preferred genres among many women, not the action-adventure themes many superhero adventures are built on?

 

And if they do like superhero comics, it’s wise to remember that there’s bound to be many who support Wonder Woman’s classic bustier as a costume design, as cosplayers 3 years ago prove, following Gal Gadot’s starring film, for example, and don’t approve of the SJW tactics ruining these ideas in the past decade.

 

Obviously, the wildly disproportionate nature of these numbers is a problem on its own. But let’s dig into what they indicate a bit more.

First of all, it’s clear that women are overwhelmingly being hired to write and draw women. The Wonder Woman and Catwoman books have by far the highest percentages of female creators on them. On books where there is one solitary female character (Stephanie Brown, Jessica Cruz), women worked on that character. Now, don’t get me wrong—I think having female creators on a female character confers depth and authenticity that men often struggle with, because our male-focused culture doesn’t often require men to empathize with women, just as Black writers and artists often do more justice to Black characters than white writers and artists, gay writers and artists do more justice to gay characters than straight writers and artists, etc. I’m not saying we should take the women off the female characters. But they still don’t come anywhere close to 50% of the creators on those characters, let alone a majority the way men massively outnumber the women on, say, the Joker and Flash books.

Male characters also massively outnumber female ones in terms of which characters DC gives books to, which means that if women are mostly assigned to work on women, the opportunities are already smaller to begin with. There are four boy Robins and one girl. There are six male Green Lanterns in main DC continuity and one woman. A 1/3 or 1/4 chance to write or draw one out of five or seven characters isn’t great odds. And the picture doesn’t look any better outside of these anniversary issues. As of the latest round of cancelations, there are only two female characters at DC with ongoing books: Wonder Woman and Catwoman. No Batgirl, no Supergirl, no Harley Quinn; no women of color.

 

So Stan Lee, as creator of Black Panther, couldn’t do justice for T’Challa because he was white? Or didn’t have what it took to create Jean Grey, and later She-Hulk in 1980, at a time when his writing efforts were few and far between? And I guess his improvements to how he wrote Invisible Girl and Wasp as participants in combat as time went by during the Silver Age don’t count either, huh? Gee, some ingrate we must have here. Granted, there is validity to the assertion women are only being hired to write books starring the same at this point.

 

 

Things have sadly changed quite a bit from the time Louise Simonson was working on series involving male protagonists like New Mutants, and later the Superman franchise, while Ann Nocenti had significant success writing Daredevil. It’s called ghetto mentality, and it comes as the result of the very PC mindset Book Riot’s writer happens to be advocating. But she fails to make a clear enough argument on the vitality of story merit. Has it ever occurred there’s lady novelists and filmmakers on the market whose books failed because they weren’t considered well written enough? So why would you expect a comics writing assignment to do any better?

Her weak whine doesn’t even consider how badly handled Stephanie Brown’s shift to a female Robin was to begin with, or ask if it even matters as a result whether she’s a Robin or not. And why is it such a big deal a villainess like HQ have a series, let alone a miniseries? I’m not impressed by this.

 

Furthermore, even when women do get hired to work on (almost exclusively) female characters, there are indications that they are not treated with the respect and inclusion their male colleagues receive. During the latest round of reports of sexual misconduct in the industry, other stories came out, ones that weren’t about sexual harassment or grooming, but professional marginalization and exclusion. Mairghread Scott, who wrote Batgirl from 2018–2019, posted a series of tweets detailing being excluded from multiple Bat-family summits. These are meetings during which writers and editors hash out future storylines, which, given the way the DC universe works, are all intertwined. By deliberately excluding a woman from these meetings, DC not only potentially opened themselves up to a lawsuit, but actively made her job exponentially harder, since she didn’t know what the rest of the writers were planning and had to continually revise her own book to fit in with what the male writers were doing. Eventually, Scott said, the amount of extra work for no extra pay made it unfeasible to continue working for DC. (Her successor on the book, Cecil Castellucci, confirmed that she was likewise excluded.)

But of course, it’s easy to exclude women from a meeting when there’s only one. If there was more gender parity at DC, it would be a lot harder to get away with leaving the women out of the summits.

The reason I’d advise against taking this info at full face value is because, when I checked the third link above, I discovered that the site writer was relying on allegations from Alex deCampi (Book Riot’s writer does too), one of the most galling Whisper Networkers, and if the aforementioned Simonson ever attended meetings with issue in the past, chances are, at the least, it wasn’t always this way. Though I do wonder why little mention is made of DiDio and Joe Quesada or Axel Alonso, and whether they made the environment more toxic in recent times? She goes on to cite the Pledge made following several sexual misconduct allegations a few months ago, and says:

 

But when I look at the men who shared it, I see big, successful names in the industry, many of whom appear in these anthologies: Tom King. Scott Snyder. Joshua Williamson. Jeff Lemire. James Tynion IV. Did any of them ask how many women would be participating in these books? How about luminaries like Brian Michael Bendis, like Matt Fraction, like Brian Azarello? Did Geoff Johns or Ed Brubaker say a word? Greg Rucka or Chip Zdarsky? Some of these men have built careers off of writing strong female characters for largely female audiences. (Some of those characters have starred in TV shows that made a hell of a lot of money.) Did a single one of the 216 men credited across these books ever ask where the women were?

Maybe they did. Many of these men have created work that means a lot to me. I’d like to believe they spoke up.

Either way, DC clearly has massive ground to cover to bring their hiring practices anywhere close to in line with their readership, let alone the actual statistics of the real world. Can they do it?

 

It just occurred to me: if DC is so important, why doesn’t Marvel count? They too suffer from similar problems, not the least being modern ghetto mentality, yet only DC’s a problem here?

 

If the columnist’s not interested in objecting to ghettoization, to say nothing of hiring only based on the writer’s politics, then I don’t think she’s got much to stand on here. Certainly, a lot of the menfolk she’s cited here made some serious mistakes in the past, and it’d be ill-advised to think they wouldn’t repeat them today. Which is why BR’s writer shouldn’t be surprised if they couldn’t make a case for aspiring female scribes in today’s mainstream. But she doesn’t seem particularly interested in making a case why these specific male writers are so unsuited to work in the mainstream, probably because she believes the work they did really does have meaning. But if it’s coming from somebody like Bendis, or even Azzarello, who blatantly retconned Wonder Woman’s background, do they really have meaning? Not in book, they don’t.

 

Maybe there is an argument buried somewhere in the BR columnist’s piece making a case for meritocracy, but it’s drowned out by the slapdash complaint about not having enough female writers or artists around. Are we to believe there was never a lady writer whose work let her down? It’s just so silly when you make it look that way. Certainly, there’s valid arguments to make on poor conduct towards women in the mainstream. But she’s failed to do justice for those arguments based on how ignorant her blather is of the vitality for merit.

We could also take a look at the following item on the same site about – wouldn’t you know it – young adult comics, a list that includes the new Muslim Ms. Marvel, curiously enough:

 

Currently starring in the Marvel’s Avengers game, Kamala Khan made her debut in G. Willow Wilson’s hugely successful No Normal back in 2014. After she gains body-morphing powers and takes on the mantle of Ms Marvel, following in the footsteps of her favourite superhero Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel), Kamala has to balance her superheroic duties with her everyday life as a teenager from a devout Muslim family. Kamala is a joyful heroine, bringing her enthusiastic fangirling outlook to a world that can sometimes get a little too grimdark, and is one of my favourite characters in and out of comics.

 

If they’re normalizing Islam in turn, then they’ve just let down whole generations of women who fell victim to the Religion of Peace. If anything, the comic is an example of a biased approach to optimism: apparently, optimism and fun can only employed based on the politics involved, as then, it makes for a great propaganda tool. The BR writer here even cites Bendis’ Ironheart, another example of SJW-pandering:

 

Teenage genius Riri Williams steps into the space vacated by Tony Stark in the first volume in the Ironheart series. Ironheart is an ideal YA comics read, and a great way for new readers to get into the wider world of Marvel – while the story fits neatly into the continuity, and many characters familiar to more regular readers turn up throughout the volume, Riri taking centre stage marks a beginning that brand-new readers can pick up from. Riri herself is a compelling heroine – brave, clever, and grappling with trauma from her past while working towards a more positive future for the people she cares about and the wider world.

 

And this is no doubt deliberately biased for a top pick of the month. Tony was pushed out of his role at the time for the sake of a politically motivated replacement (apparently, Jim Rhodes is no longer good enough for their PC mindsets), and they accept it without question, even though Marvel has since reversed that part of their SJW pandering and brought back at least a few of the characters they threw out with bath water, much like continuity. In any case, no arguments are made why it’s better to create new characters who can take up their own roles, let alone whether the stories they star in are watered down into dismal fanfictions.

And this seems to be all a site like Boot Riot amounts to. Political correctness without convincing interest in merit, and fawning over social justice propaganda of the most abysmal kind. Not a great place to get recommendations on book reading, let alone how they should be written, for that matter.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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