Friday, June 08, 2007

Women and Comics: Two Terrific Comics Posts

There's been a lot of hoopla on the blogosphere about certain comics covers and statuettes solicited for sale recently that have upset a lot of comics fans. So much so, even folks who have web columns for comics and publishing sites have flung themselves into the web-fray in order to add their POV.

For larger context: the mainstream superhero comic book industry's Big Two Publishers -- you, the non-comics reading public, would know them as the folks who make the comics the movies of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, X-Men, Ghost Rider, Fantastic Four (and others) are based on -- have been increasingly writing and designing their superhero comic books to appeal to an increasingly older set of mostly male readers. This, in spite of their widely-publicized movies and licensed tie-ins (toys, posters, costumes etc.,) that are marketed to appeal to younger readers. Many parents find themselves in stores looking to buy the comics for their kids, only to find they lately often contain material that is only teen and up appropriate, or even mature readers appropriate.

Publishers/Editors have also increasingly allowed writers to use scenarios and "character plot devices", and allowed artists to depict images that (to put it nicely) increasingly demean, degrade and debase women characters. In many instances, instead of requesting art corrections on visuals that 15 years ago would have been flat out changed because they were editorially considered visually "impolite", editors nowadays let them go, and they will often be unnecessarily and/or inappropriately explicit for an All-Ages category audience.

So, enough time has passed now that disgusted fans have resorted to what they have available to let Publishers know they've had enough of what has become sloppy editorial policy: They vote with their dollars by not buying the product. They write letters to the publishers and editors explaining what was offensive in said product. They also go further and blog about the offensive point(s) in said product.

The results have been mixed so far, that I can see. (You can read for yourself at the Women In Comics links) Publishers have been understandably defensive, and bloggers have been increasingly vocal. I think we might be getting somewhere.

I wanted to post links to two excellent posts -- one over at CrazyElfGirl's blog "Dude! It's a Chick!" titled "If You Don't Like It Make Your Own"; and the other at the "Sequentially Speaking" blog by retailer Lisa, titled "A Couple Of Thoughts About The Industry".

Fact of the matter is, the mainstream comics industry's Big Two are owned by publicly traded companies. They have spent lots of money licensing, marketing and promoting their product to a very wide and all-ages audience. When comics themselves start to become dangerously exploitative of a certain section of the fan base then we are unnecessarily compromising the enjoyment of a lot of readers. (Yes, there is precedent for use of the term "exploitative". And yes, there is a certain amount of suspension-of-disbelief needed to enjoy superhero comics in the first place).

Change to this exploitative phenomena has to come from within AND without.

Fans who want to work in the industry should prepare themselves in the best, most thorough and professional way possible to work on staff or freelance. That way they can effect a direct change in what they find to be too-excessively narrow a focus within the product itself, in order to change the nature of the product.

Fans who want to remain fans should always speak up and point out when the publishers get off track and become inappropriate with what is supposed to be a widely enjoyed product.

We don't stop learning to get better once we get the job. We should get the job and improve and do it better. We are all learning how to do this better -- whether that is to be better creators, or be better editorial shepherds of product, or be better fans and enjoy the merchandise produced.

After all, publishers need fans. Fans need publishers. Let's work together to fix this.

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