Sunday, 11 August 2013

Comics. They're Not For You, Ladies.

So, I'm sure you've all seen the furore surrounding Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle by now? During the press tour for it Todd McFarlane, Len Wein and Gerry Conway argued that the way women are portrayed in comics has nothing to do with the creators.....er, what?

Apparently, history is to blame.

Again...er, what?

I'm pretty sure that the "history" argument is utter bullshit given that back in the day, certain comics were also horrendously racist. But I don't hear comics creators saying "Comics aren't for black people because, you know...history".

Comics do reflect society which is something I agree on with Conway.

So with that in mind, surely creators should be writing diverse interesting characters of all ethnicities regardless of gender because that's the world we live in now? 

Society is constantly changing. History doesn't define what we do now. It is something we look back on and learn from. Just because comics were created a certain way in the past doesn't mean they have to be created in the same vein, today. 

There's a thing called progress and all industries thrive on it, unless it's comics and video games.

Kantor, McFarlane, Wein and Conway at the Television Critics Association press tour. Image Credit: LA Times

don't agree with creative censorship however, because I wholeheartedly believe that people should be able to create whatever they like artistically speaking. But claiming that creators have no responsibility over their work is incredibly na├»ve. 

As a creative, whether that's as a writer, artist, filmmaker etc. you have a tremendous amount of influence over an audience and that has to be taken into consideration. You control whatever industry you're in based on the work you create.

In the documentary, the point is put forward that if comics fully adhered to diversity, it would weaken the story and the readers wouldn't be interested. Er...what?

I say it's your job as a writer to make your readers interested in your characters. If you really are a great writer, you should be able to find a way to make a female character interesting. Or to challenge your reader's perception of what comics are or should be. 

If you only write two dimensional women in refrigerator types then that's your problem, not your readers. There's a reason people don't find those characters interesting; not them, you.

There are no rules. There is no guidebook out there, no list of commandments that states comics must be like this, comics can't include that. Comics are an art form like any other, as a writer you have the power to crush pre-conceived notions or nurture them. You do that, not history. 

Blaming history for your actions is LAZY and is a poor excuse for sexism, racism and whatever other isms exist in a medium.

And using your readers as an excuse not to write female, or Asian, or disabled characters is EVEN LAZIER.

Supergirl, a slave to her emotion (and kitties!)
Whenever I write characters in my scripts, I write them without gender and whoever performs well in auditions is who I cast. I'm not saying my way is the correct way to write (and obviously it is different in comics) because there are subtle nuances that exist in each gender which, when drawn upon can make a character more believable and well rounded. 

My point is, characters can be interesting without resorting to stereotypes.

I'm not arguing that everything anyone writes should always have an equal mix of male and female characters, if you want to write all male characters then do so, just be sure that when you do write a female character you do so without resorting to lazy writing. 

The damsel in distress, the femme fatale, the loyal girlfriend, the sassy black woman... BORING. 

The same can be said of male cliches, the strong brooding type, the jock, the geeky scientist, the smart Asian guy... ERGH.

Even Todd McFarlane admitted of male superheroes that "they are Ryan Gosling on steroids. Right? They are all beautiful. So we actually stereotype and do it to both sexes. We just happen to show a little more skin when we get to the ladies.”

By all means, write these characters if you want to but eventually your audience will tire of them. They'll yearn for something different. 

Society changes, as a writer you are a commentator of the society you live in. Every other industry has to adapt and keep up with society so why not this one?

Our society still has a lot to learn and is not perfect, but neither is art. Art and any creative endeavour has to strive to be better. Standards are set and it's the artist or writers job to surpass these standards. Why create if what you are creating is the same as everything else and never changes?

Another point was raised in the documentary, namely comics aren't for women. It's a man's world ladies so back off and let the men carry on because they know best.

Sorry Gail Simone, Fiona Staples, Amy Reeder, Becky Cloonan, Kelly Sue DeConnick and all the other women who have been making comics since the Platinum Age, you ladies don't count. 

Neither do all the women I know in the industry or who are trying to break into it. Why bother? 

Todd McFarlane says... not for you, ladies!
Oh yes, if you're a woman then comics aren't for you, there's too much testosterone in comics for your delicate constitution to take according to Todd McFarlane who also insists that comics aren't for little girls like his daughters because they are too testosterone filled. It seems his daughters represent ALL daughters.

As a child, I read comics, I played with action figures (and also Barbie dolls), I played video games, I would play "wrestling" and I loved science, art, dressing up, dinosaurs and Disney films. I was never pigeon-holed by my parents.

If I told my parents I liked Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and wanted to read the Sonic the Hedgehog comics I wasn't told "that's not for you, maybe you'd like My Little Pony and prefer to read GIRLTALK magazine instead?" - incidentally, I also liked those things but I was never confined a world where everything I liked had to be pink and sparkly. I owe my parents for that, big time.

If Todd McFarlane wants his daughters to live in a narrow corridor of a huge world, then that's up to him. 
It depresses me that some of the biggest names in comics can make such sexist comments and think it's okay.

I don't know why I bothered to write this post because I know there will be hundreds of other female comics readers (and male!) who will also be calling your bullshit if you're the type of person who agrees that comics aren't for women or that the representation of women in comics doesn't matter.

Because if you are a woman like me who reads comics, you shouldn't complain about the way women are portrayed in them because that's just the way it is and how it's always been, right? Be grateful that you're even allowed into this special elite club.

So, sorry to McFarlane, Wein and Conway for complaining I guess? 

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