Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Cartoonists Of Color Protest Newspapers
Now, here is an interesting news item.
A group of syndicated cartoonists are protesting newspapers that chose not to syndicate another strip featuring people of color on the basis that they already are running strips (or even just one strip" that meet "diversity demand."
Can you imagine if this happened in the comic book industry?
"Oh, we already have a 'black' book. We can't have more than one black book at a time."
"We're already using an Asian female. What, you want TWO Asian females?"
"We've been instructed by the Higher Ups to include a Middle-Eastern character that is not a terrorist. If anybody can think of something, please e-mail me."
"Well, if we have another gay character on this team, we fear it is going to be perceived as the gay team."
"We already have an Asian female writer. You want TWO Asian female writers?"
Posted by Verge at 7:00 PM
Labels: race in comics
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Another nail in the coffin of the newspaper comics page.ReplyDelete
What is "news-papers"?ReplyDelete
"Well, if we have another gay character on this team, we fear it is going to be perceived as the gay team."ReplyDelete
Doesn't that already happen?
PS> Oh yeah, us fags don't count.ReplyDelete
I dislike it when a team has only a token gay (who never seems to get laid) or two gays (who, of course, will end up dating each other). You miss out on the wacky intra-team dating that makes long trips in the Blackbird so uncomfortable for the X-men.ReplyDelete
All those dinosaurs in newspaper comics made getting anything new onto those pages impossible even before the meteor of the internet hit them. I suspect time and energy spent on the protest could be spent making more money and increasing diversity elsewhere at this point. But whatever makes them happy.
Not to be too cynical, but aren't several of these already the case? Token "black" books, one gay character per team (who's almost certain to meet with an untimely end) or other minority, just to say they have them - these are hardly new trends to comics, are they?ReplyDelete
Who are the token gay superhero characters who have met an untimely end? The only ones that are immediately coming to mind are Phat, Vivisector and Bloke, but all of them died, it was par for the course on the team.ReplyDelete
What other recent teams have had the token gay guy that dies?
Chris, Freedom Ring springs forth instantly. That's just me though.ReplyDelete
Can’t speak about more recently, but Northstar was infamously killed off just a few issues after he was outed. Mind you, he eventually came back to life because this is comics.ReplyDelete
Maybe I'm missing something, but Northstar was outed back in the early 1990s, and to the best of my knowledge was never "killed" until Mark Millar's Wolverine run a couple years back. Am I missing a killing?ReplyDelete
"Who are the token gay superhero characters who have met an untimely end?"ReplyDelete
I know Judd Winick has created his fair share (Kyle Rayner's assistant springs to mind, but I can't remember if he was killed or just beaten up) - whatever happened to the Asian girl from his Exiles run? Northstar, as somebody else suggested, is another example.
A bit of google-fu turns up this link from author Perry Moore's blog, detailing a long list of GLBT characters and how they've been used and portrayed. A great many of them are either dead or have been killed at one time or another. It's not quite up to date, as the last mention of Moon Dragon here has her tortured/maimed in the first Annihilation crossover, with no mention of her recently being turned into a dragon and then dying.
Sigh. That list is pretty clearly created using Wikipedia and Google and not even really paying any attention to comics. The worst part is that he has received (and in some cases, posted on a separate page) e-mails detailing the extensive errors on his list, but for whatever reason he chooses not to edit the actual list, perhaps because a factual accounting wouldn't seem so harsh.ReplyDelete
Few if any of those characters were token gays that immediately got killed off. Which is what we're talking about here, not the question of whether or not gays could stand to be portrayed in a better light in superhero comics. I agree with that.
But he confuses Ice with Ice Maiden, acts like Northstar never came back (and was not treated throughout the story as someone on par with Wolverine and Elektra) and the list is generally either misinformed or willfully ignorant.
And even though the list (or a more accurate list somewhat like it) might be of some use, it doesn't prove anything about how "one gay character per team (who's almost certain to meet with an untimely end)" is a common trope in superhero comics.
Young Avengers have two gay characters on the team who are not dead.
Runaways has at least three LGBT characters, none of whom have died as two of their straight brethren around them bit the dust.
The Power Company had a gay leader and while it is true the team's book got cancelled, the leader didn't die.
The Outsiders have had multiple LGBT characters and none of them have died.
The Authority have two gay members who have been subject to some horrible brutality but that's pretty much the way the comic operates, I find it interesting that that list both criticizes the makers of the Authority for having Apollo and Midnighter be abused, and also criticizes the fact that the two of them abuse/kill their attackers.
The gay characters in Top Ten were not killed off.
Northstar has been an X-Men on and off for years, and while he did "die" briefly, so did Wolverine in the exact same way. Hardly a ghettoizing of the character.
I guess Knockout and (if you really want to read into it) Parademon both died in Secret Six, and every single character in X-Statix died. Those are the examples of this "cliche" I can come up with.
Knockout didn't even die in Secret Six, she died in Birds of Prey, as part of Death of the New Gods which logically involved New Gods dying.ReplyDelete
I wasn't aware of the errors or mistakes in his post, or the emails to correct them, and being at work when I responded I didn't have time to check up on what he was saying. Good to know.ReplyDelete
That said, you seem to be ignoring the (rather large) number of gay characters that have been maimed, killed, turned into dragons and then killed, or subjected to some other nonsense for no apparent reason. While I think the treatment of gay characters has gotten better recently (see your example of Runaways and New Avengers), it's not hard to see what appears to be a tendency of introducing and then hurting or killing gay characters for little more than the shock it'll provide. I'm all for the situation getting better, but it's still hard to see a new gay character show up and immediately wonder how long before the very special "this month...SOMEBODY DIES!" issue comes calling. As I said in my first post in this thread, I could well be cynical about this. Then again, I don't see much of a reason not to be.
And I don't think anybody here has said the characters are "immediately" killed off, just that they seem to have a nasty habit of dying.
Wow, my memory sucks. The Northstar ‘controversy’ from his outing had to do removal of the writer at the same time the issue hit the stands. Here’s the details:ReplyDelete
Comics Should Be Good!
Sorry for just talking out of my butt.
That’s right, someone on the internet is apologizing for being wrong. That sound you hear is the final trumpet.
As for the maimings, killings, etc. of the past, that tends to be what happens to characters when the writers inherit them and have no idea what to do with them. As more gay friendly writers and artists have joined the industry, this has slowed down and more have out characters have started to creep into the D-list and C-list heroes. But that's not a high enough profile for me. That's right, people! To make me happy, you have to come up with character that's cool enough and popular enough to carry their own title! I want it on my desk by Monday.
"That said, you seem to be ignoring the (rather large) number of gay characters that have been maimed, killed, turned into dragons and then killed, or subjected to some other nonsense for no apparent reason."ReplyDelete
I'm not ignoring it, I granted that it's a valid and ongoing concern, but to make shoddy lists or (as you yourself said), to say that most teams throw a "token gay" character on in order for them to "meet an untimely end", isn't really addressing the facts so much as creating strawmen to attack.
And the apparent reason bad things happen to characters in these comics is because they're violent melodramas that have loads of bad things happening. To use your Moondragon example -- yes, she mutated into a dragon and was later apparently killed. In the same comic, loads of characters (gay, straight and indeterminate) are exploded, have their legs blown off, are tortured, brainwashed into killing their friends, are killed by their friends, and many combinations of these nasty fates. Yes, one of the characters who had a bad thing happen to her was a lesbian. But her girlfriend is also one of the driving heroic forces in the series. To single out "MOONDRAGON WAS KILLED" and say that therefore gay characters are mistreated seems extremely myopic; people get hurt and die all the times in superhero comics, and the more non-straight-white-male characters you have, the more non-straight-white-characters you will see have terrible things happen to them. You could look at a show like the Wire and catalog all the terrible things that have happened to gays and people of color in that show, but to do so would be to miss the point entirely.
"While I think the treatment of gay characters has gotten better recently (see your example of Runaways and New Avengers), it's not hard to see what appears to be a tendency of introducing and then hurting or killing gay characters for little more than the shock it'll provide."
Actually it is hard to see this tendency, that's why I asked about it. Young Avengers, Runaways and the Authority are probably the three best-received 'new' teams of the last decade, and thus far both teams have had multiple (straight) casualties while their LGBT characters have remained unscathed. Likewise Renee Montoya, Holly Robinson, Grace, Thunder (okay so most of them are lesbians and not homosexual) aren't dead. They even killed the homophobic straight Rogue in Countdown, not his gay buddy. But that's Countdown so I don't know if we want to use it as a yardstick for anything good...
Much like the previous (now closed) discussion of matters of race in comics, there are certainly a lot of steps that ought to be taken to improve the lot of non-white-straight-male characters, but to throw hyperbole around everything anything happens to any of them doesn't really send the message "hey, we better do something better with these characters" as much as "well jeez people throw a fit when we use these characters, we can't win, who wants to revamp Mister America?"
"Likewise Renee Montoya, Holly Robinson, Grace, Thunder (okay so most of them are lesbians and not homosexual)"ReplyDelete
Chris, you're arguments would go more smoothly if you got the basic terms right. Heck, I bet even wikipedia could straighten you out on that one.
(Straighten. :) I amuse me.)
When I made that comparison, it was to point out that (again) there are valid criticisms of DC's handling of LGBT characters, such as the tendency to have a lot of "lipstick lesbians" as opposed to having many (or, well, any) homosexual males in prominent roles in their titles.ReplyDelete
I realize that lesbians are in fact homosexual by definition. I left out the word "males" there. I apologize. Unless there is something else I need to check out on Wikipedia that I'm missing?
Although while we're doing recommended reading, if you'd like to review the rules of grammar and usage, you might notice that "your" is the possessive form, and "you're" is a contraction of "you are".
Now that those technicalities are out of the way, did you want to address anything else? Or should we get into ending sentences in prepositions?
I can't spell. Never said I could. Of course, it also wasn't the topic under discussion, so that doesn’t advance your core argument. My previous post was merely a note that accurate usage of the basic terms of the topic might increase the strength of your rhetoric. Since you’ve managed to get me to admit a bad earlier mistake concerning Northstar, it has not been ineffective. However, less patient people are less willing to listen to challenges to things they already know if you sound like an outsider.ReplyDelete
In the case of the LGTB community, anyone in generation X or above certainly remembers AIDS being described as God punishment for their sins, which echoed many stories in every medium where homosexuals had only bad things happen to them. Convincing them that it didn’t really happen in comics too requires one to pick their words carefully.
For the record, I think you’re right. I think American comics have mostly avoided the worst of the historical story treatment of homosexuals. Mind you, I think they managed to do it by ignoring them completely until recently, which isn’t exactly treating them well. This is still better than some of the historical treatment of minorities in the medium. As it stands, mainstream comics still under-exploits the commercial potential of minorities of every stripe, which I personally find frustrating. No art sells until it does, and then it looks inevitable. Comics does not have such a high production cost that the big boys should be so afraid of routinely trying new stuff. When your core market is saturated, you look to related markets where you’re strengths can work or you end up getting your brains beat in by manga (comic books) and webcomics (newspaper comics, to make a brief stop at the original post of this thread).
In superhero comics, the secondary characters always take more damage, more often and worse than those who carry the title. And who carries the titles in the majors? White guys. Oh, we have we have sprinkling of color, but the blue and green people easily rival their numbers. We have a few homosexuals in there. (Including the answer to my earlier plea for a headlining character. What issue number is Midnighter up to? Guess I let my disillusionment with the Authority cloud my thinking.) Still, white guys are the clear winners. Give me more minorities, and I’ll restrict my complaining to how bad comics used to be. Until then, don’t expect me to pretend anything is sunshine and rainbows. Could be better isn’t good. Period.
And prepositions? Is there still some debate about that?
A refreshing conversation. Thank you, Chris.
"My previous post was merely a note that accurate usage of the basic terms of the topic might increase the strength of your rhetoric."ReplyDelete
I would like to officially apologize for leaving out the word "male" accidentally from one part of a comment, thus invalidating all my other statements and giving the impression I did not know that lesbians are also homosexual individuals. I'm sorry. But I know that. People who might have ignored all my arguments because of that slip-up in the third post, please go back and insert 'male'. I would if I could. I'm sorry, give me a second chance.
"Convincing them that it didn’t really happen in comics too requires one to pick their words carefully."
Well, unlike the real world or "media in general", superhero comics are a fairly small and easily quantifiable realm of data. If something happens (or doesn't happen) in them, it's pretty easy to track.
"Mind you, I think they managed to do it by ignoring them completely until recently, which isn’t exactly treating them well."
I agree with you here as well, but comments here were talking about the current comic book industry, not their exclusion decades previous. Any sort of argument along the lines of "superhero comics ignored or portrayed [insert group here] poorly for decades" I will wholeheartedly agree with.
"As it stands, mainstream comics still under-exploits the commercial potential of minorities of every stripe, which I personally find frustrating. No art sells until it does, and then it looks inevitable."
While I agree with this, part of the problem is a readership who never seems to actualize the commercial potential of these books by, you know, actually buying them. Ignoring something like Milestone Comics (which on both sides of the reality fence was a really diverse and open company), looking at recent books:
-Runaways was critically loved but barely sold anything until Joss Whedon came along and forgot to actually write issues of it.
-Catwoman's been selling like crap for ages, despite having Holly and Karen (two female homosexuals, aka lesbians) on the supporting cast.
-Blue Beetle is a book with a Latino lead and diverse supporting cast, which is also hovering near cancellation.
-Checkmate continues this trend, with a highly diverse cast and almost no sales.
The list goes on and on: Marvel Team-Up ft. Freedom Ring, Black Panther (both volumes), the Crew, Firestorm, Gotham Central, Crime Bible, Division X, Blade, Infinity Inc, and I am sure other books I am blanking on. What do these books all have in common? Poor sales and often early cancellation.
I'm not ready to write this off as a Big Ol' Racist/Sexist/Homophobic Comic Industry/Readership, since what those titles have in common with each other (and with whitebread other cancelled titles) is their featuring of characters that are not long-running franchise characters, like you mentioned. And long-running franchise characters are, by and large, white dudes.
"Give me more minorities, and I’ll restrict my complaining to how bad comics used to be. Until then, don’t expect me to pretend anything is sunshine and rainbows. Could be better isn’t good. Period."
Things could always be better, when will they be good? Things could be better for straight white males in comics, do they have it bad? I realize this was probably just an aphorism but how could things ever be good by these standards?
My problem with conversations like this (especially when they're so gloom-and-doom and speaking in generalities) is that Marvel and DC are publishing more diverse titles. Some of them are very good. But you (rarely) hear about that, because I suppose it lessens the impact of the complaint about how crappy the companies are.
But it seems like being cynical and ignoring the improvements (incremental though they may be) in diversity really just throws another good book that is a step towards greater diversity onto the trash pile.