Mhairi Black’s speech about misogyny

Mhari Black is an SNP MP who since being elected in 2015 (and even prior to that when she was still best known as one of the voices in the Scottish independence movement) has been subject to some of the most appalling abuse attacking her based upon her gender, sexuality, accent, politics, everything really. The other day in Westminster she made a speech in a debate about classing misogyny as a hate crime.

Have a listen (and if you’re interested as to who the MP accused of sexual abuse is, there’s some possible names here) and it is very sweary….

The strange case of infeasibly large breasts on comic covers

Due to recent circumstances the majority of my weekly comic reviews are going to be ditched, or moved to That’s Not Current, the site I also write for, but I’ll still keep the odd thing here like my Crossed, Miracleman and Providence reviews which I know from looking at my stats a lot of people read, and hopefully enjoy.This blog I’m going to keep for all the fun cancer and stroke stuff, plus the odd rant like this.

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading comics or scouring the weekly lists on Comixology and as for this week there’s nothing especially interesting out, but one thing caught my eye.

This cover for a comic called Tarot.:

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Apart from being poorly drawn and tiresomely derivative  (seriously, there’s tens of thousands of covers like this that have been printed over the years) how on earth does that poor lassie go through life without serious backache?

I mean look at her; she’s got two watermelons attached to her chest (with optional blood dripping off her nipple) and from what the odd ex-girlfriend or friend who has large breasts have said, it’s a chore at times having essentially two large bags of sugar growing out of you.

It’s obviously sexualised for people with a certain peccadillo, and I’m not adverse to the odd bit of cheesecake myself, but the fact that this sort of thing is still being published is depressing. Now I’m not doing a Guardian columnist thing here and saying they should be banned, but if you’re buying this to have a cheeky wank in the year 2016 and you’re above the age of 14 then for fucks sake guys have a wee word with yourselves!

A bunch of blokes online are upset about the Ghostbusters trailer as it features people with vaginas

The trailer for the new Ghostbusters film was released this week to much controversy mainly from male fans who outraged at the idea that any film can feature people with vaginas, have vomited their hatred online for all to see.

This Cracked article covers some of the usual comments, and that saves me from linking to the same tired auld bollocks from arseholes talking about ‘pandering’ or pish about ‘Social Justice Warriors’. The article does pretty well in summing up the main points against the film which mainly seem to be that;

1/ Why are women cast in a much loved franchise reboot?

2/ If they are to cast women why can’t I masturbate to them?

3/ It’s raping my childhood!!!!

There’s also some nonsense about the black character played by Leslie Jones, but she’s presented a pretty good justification for the character, so we’re left with yet again a situation with a section of male fans crying into their chests about the usual bullshit every time a non-sexualised female lead takes a major part in these sort of films, or when a male character is revamped into a female one.

Around a decade ago the cheesy 1970’s SF series Battlestar Galactica was revamped with a very adult, post 911 mentality. The character Starbuck was recast as a woman to much crying and wailing online about how this was pandering, or how it raped people’s childhood, though these people probably masturbated their wee hearts out. Very quickly Katee Sackhoff’s portrayal became a fan favourite and all the bitching and moaning vanished into the recesses of the internet.

So this has happened before and it’s been successful enough to run opinion round. The same may happen with this reboot of Ghostbusters, a film I enjoy on the times it’s on TV, but something I don’t hold in any sort of awe as it’s really not that great a film. It’s fun, but there’s large parts of the film that just seem disjointed and all over the place. The less said about the sequel the better.As for the reboot, it looks better than anything Michael Bay has shat into the world, and it’s looks at least fun unlike say, Batman versus Superman which looks appalling.

I’ve not got a problem with people despairing of yet another unimaginative reboot, but if your problem with a film like Ghostbusters is the lead characters have different genitals to yours then frankly, you’re a sexist arsehole. There’s no sensible intelligent reason to feel ‘threatened’ by one genre film featuring female leads out of the dozens released every year with male leads. The only reason you dislike it is because you don’t see women as equals, so in this case where women have adopted traditionally male roles, you somehow feel personally threatened because you can’t deal with the fact it’s 2016.

Frankly this sort of cultural sexism is on a par with religious extremists. It’s insanely stupid. It’s just a bloody film for god’s sake, it’s not that important! Perhaps interacting with the real world and more women might help these people stop being knuckle-dragging arseholes but I sadly doubt it would, even if they got out their house.

It’s 2016, and we’re still having this discussion. Think about that.

Memoirs Of An Occasional Superheroine

I’m busy with a lot of stuff at the minute, and I really, really will get a blog out about last weekend’s Bristol Comics Expo out in the next few days, plus there’s another Glastonbury blog (I’m up to the year 2005) waiting to be finished.

I have however been distracted by work, the horrors of real life and reading Valerie D’Orazio’s extraordinary book about her life and her time working at DC Comics.Memoirs Of An Occasional Superheroine is a painfully honest, painful and amazing read. It’s often hard to read as she recounts her abuse from her father and at school, but it’s when she delves into the world of comics that it hits it’s stride.

It’s a highly recommended read for anyone interested in comics, not to mention how women are seen in the mainstream superhero circle which dominates American comics. The book is available for free download at D’Orazio’s site here and I suggest taking an evening out to read this book as it’s wonderful.

Why do we still have to talk about sexism in comics

Last weekend saw Wondercon happen in the US. On sale at one of the retailers there was this t-shirt. Seriously.

The makers of this posted a frankly, utterly pathetic response.

“So, we’ve apparently received some bad word on our fan girl shirt, with accusations of sexism being thrown at us from a certain few bloggers…

…who have completely ignored our other variant shirt on display or didn’t even bother to ask our take on it.

Apparently it’s only sexism if it is insulting to one gender. Woo double standards.

Anyways, the fangirl/fanboy shirts can best be explained like this: fangirls/boys =/= fans. Fans are people who like and genuinely respect a fandom, and it’s creators. Fangirls/boys are like those creepy fedora wearing neckbearded bronies, or hetalia fanfiction shippers, who make us all collectively cringe in pain at what they do to the things we love.

No one should ever defend these kinds of people. Seriously, they make the rest of us look bad.

oh and fyi: the ones who bought the shirt design, the fangirl one in particular, half were girls who bought it.”

This came after writer Greg Rucka weighed into this with a blog which should be read because it’s important. This especially needs to be read until it gets through to people.

Portland Public Schools has a lottery system to get into its magnet programs. For two years, our daughter has been dreaming of attending one specific middle school, one that’s art focused. She’s been in a science-and-math magnet program, and she’s done very well there, mind, but the social aspect… it’s been grinding her down. She was looking to escape. She was looking to go to a place where, she imagined, she could be who she is and not suffer for it.

Such is the dream of all of us geeks and nerds and whatever we’re calling ourselves today. Such is the call of our fandoms, and why we answer.

So, yeah, lottery system. Random. Not merit based. Not application based. Just jump through a couple of hoops to apply, check a couple of boxes, and hope your number comes up.

Her number did not come up.

And it wrecked her. It devastated her. One of those situations, those moments that, as a parent, there’s not a damn fuck thing you can do to make it better. All you can do is hold on and tell them that yes, they were right all along, life is not fair. All you can do is tell them that sometimes you get the bad bounce. All you can do is tell them you love them, that you believe in them, that you see their glow, and that one day, others will, too, honest to God.

Needless to say, it did not really help. Because, ten years old, and oh do we forget how damn hard ten years old was for some of us, at least.

She’s trying so hard to find who she is, to find a place to be who she wants to become.

And some asshole thinks selling a shirt that, essentially, says, GURLS STAY OUT is funny. He’s talking to my wife. He’s talking to my daughter. He’s talking to my friends. He’s talking to my fans. He’s talking to some of the best writers in the industry, some of the most gifted artists, some of the most talented creators in the arts.

GURLS STAY OUT. Heh heh heh.

Fucking mouthbreather.

I wrote about this again fairly recently and thought that would be it until it flared up in a huge example of sheer sexist stupidity but I thought I’d be talking months, not weeks but i was going to ignore this until reading Rucka’s comments. Not because it was worth ignoring but because I thought all that needed to be said was said, but clearly I’m wrong and Rucka’s comments are ones which needed to be said.

The truth is that at no time in my 40 odd years of reading comics has the medium of comics seen such a huge audience. Yes, a lot are drawn to comics for superheroes but on the whole that’s not a bad thing as they learn more about the medium and expand their knowledge of what’s out there.

It’s a perfect time to enjoy comics so why the living fuck do some people insist on this being a boys club for mainly sad wankers who want to be ‘real fans’. Fuck that. If you want your fandoms to survive then welcome everyone in, especially women and kids because if kids don’t buy superhero comics especially  then they won’t keep Marvel or DC in a readership in thirty years time when most of these pricks moaning about women and kids ‘invading’ their fandom will be either dead or blind from all the excessive wanking.

This whole ‘genuinely respects a fandom’ is a wankers phrase because this flexible expression means that people, especially women, won’t ever meet the criteria (whatever the fuck that is) for ‘respecting a fandom’. It’s not about ‘respect’ or ‘working hard’, it’s about bloody enjoying yourself so if you read an issue of Captain Marvel, or Walking Dead or anything you pick up and enjoy and you want to join in whatever fandom has grown up around that, then do it. It doesn’t matter that you’ve not ‘worked hard’ or whatever nonsense these sad bastards come up with to exclude people. You enjoy it, then you get involved.

Don’t let the bastards win.

Can Male Comics Fans Stop Threatening Women With Rape?

DC Comics are printing yet another Teen Titans comic for what seems the 200th attempt, and here’s the cover for it.

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It’s a pretty awful cover, but look at it remembering that these re supposed to be teenagers, so why has Wonder Girl (the blonde character in the centre of the page) got tits that look like a  Page 3 model?

It’s because DC are pandering to a core readership while doing it’s best to alienate potential readers, or ‘women and girls’ as they’re better known as. There’s nothing too different to what’s cropped up in a number of superhero comics, but the problem with this is that it’s, well, creepy but I’ve touched upon this sort of thing in the past. So when Janelle Asselin wrote a critique of the cover for Comic Book Resources title Anatomy of a Bad Cover, the reaction is insane, not because Asselin’s piece is rubbish. It’s not. the reaction to it is because she dared actually say what a number of male fans didn’t want to hear.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Wonder Girl’s rack. Perhaps I’m alone in having an issue with an underaged teen girl being drawn with breasts the size of her head (seriously, line that stuff up, each breast is the same size as her face) popping out of her top. Anatomy-wise, there are other issues — her thigh is bigger around than her waist, for one — but let’s be real. The worst part of this image, by far, are her breasts. The problem is not that she’s a teen girl with large breasts, because those certainly exist. The main problem is that this is not the natural chest of a large-breasted woman. Those are implants. On a teenaged superheroine. Natural breasts don’t have that round shape (sorry, boys). If you don’t believe me, check out this excellent tutorial from artist Meghan Hetrick.

A secondary problem is that no girl with breasts that large is going to wear a strapless top for anything, much less a career that involves a lot of physical activity. In previous New 52 “Teen Titans” covers and issues, we’ve seen this same costume, but more often than not, WG’s breasts are drawn smaller, or the top is pulled up higher. The way Rocafort has drawn her here, we’re one bounce away from a nipslip. On a teenager. In case you forgot that entirely relevant point.

And this line is worth repeating:

Lest you think I’m singling Rocafort out for doing what, let’s be honest, way too many comics artists do (drawing unrealistic, circle-shaped monster boobs on teen girls)

These are only two comments in a lengthy critique of the cover but this was enough to provoke a response against her which wasn’t just from fans stabbing their replies into Twitter, but a professional by the name of Brett Booth.You can read his reaction in this article from the Outhousers, and it’s utterly reprehensible along with the people falling in line cowardly behind him and in one case because the person doesn’t want to annoy DC and lose all that exclusive content for their blog. Well fuck exclusive content. Don’t call yourself a journalist or an aspiring writer if all you do is repeat corporate news, as that just makes you part of their marketing team.

The reaction however became much, much worse as Asselin makes clear in her blog here. 

You see, I’m also doing a survey about sexual harassment in comics. (If you’d like to take this survey, you can find it here.) And so as soon as the angry fanboys started looking me up after the CBR article, they discovered this survey and started answering my questions and using the open box at the end to write in all sorts of awfulness. I’ve gotten all manner of bullshit within the survey now, but at least the ones with the rape threats or other asshole comments tell me which responses to disregard.  If you really want to “get me” and prove that sexual harassment doesn’t exist in comics, I don’t know, maybe it’s better for you to answer honestly about how you haven’t been sexually harassed. Because certainly sending me rape threats proves my point, not yours.

This has been followed up by an article by Heidi McDonald at The Beat which needs to be read by anyone with even a remote interest in comics, especially superhero comics. In it she calls out for men to step up and speak out about this sort of shite, so here;s me speaking out about this shite.

There is not one fucking serious reason why any woman needs to be threatened with rape, or diminished as ‘not a real fan’, or whatever bollocks these wankers come up with to make her opinion worthless. Make a criticism of her piece rather than wade in like some massive arsehole throwing around rape threats because a woman has dared to suggest that your wank fantasy superhero comics are a wee bit weird.

Comics should be for everyone, and superheroes more so than any other genre so having a load of ‘fans’ try to close the genre off to anyone who isn’t ‘one of them’. It’s depressing and people like Brett Booth should really know better because if DC Comics keep cutting out women and kids from their titles and aim their books solely at 20-40 something blokes then it doesn’t take a genius to work out that they’re going to hit a point when publishing comics ins’t sustainable, at least on the scale they are at the minute. There won’t be enough new readers buying smaller selling books like Teen Titans to make it viable and people like Booth will have helped cut off a way of making himself (and others) a living.

It’s not hard. Be nice when you can be, Call people wankers who deserve it. Don’t threaten to rape women from the anonymity of your keyboard. Start acting like human beings, not spoiled fanboys with no real morals or concern for other people.

Really, it’s not difficult.

The Sad Sense of Entitlement of Genre Fandom

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Watch this video. My first reaction was to laugh and take the piss, which is the sort or thing I do and did indeed did last night when Peter Capaldi was named as the new Doctor Who. Then I looked at the comments under this, and even for Youtube comments which tend to be appalling, and I realised I wasn’t actually watching someone who shouldn’t be abused as she is, and frankly I felt like a cunt, not to mention being quite ashamed of myself especially after writing this blog.

Thing is the reaction to that video sums up exactly the point I was trying to make. That girl is gutted it’s not someone she wanted to happen in a programme you can genuinely see she loves from the start of the video. Yes, she might be shallow and an idiot. Yes it is funny initially but she doesn’t need the venom being spat at her, because frankly, a bunch of fans calling her ‘fake’ and worse is essentially sexist bullying of the type common in SF/comic, genre fandom, as is the pompous sense of entitlement as we can see if you for example wade through the typically moronic comments on sites like IO9.

As I’ve said, I think Capaldi is a spectacular choice, and any Possil boy doing good is going to get my support, and given the right scripts he could consistently hit the heights the programme often fails to hit. However throwing your toys out the pram because you don’t fancy him, or if it’s a choice you disapprove of because he’s been on the programme in another role and this is canon now, or if he’s a bit old, or if he’s got too much baggage on his CV, or any of the hundreds of frankly annoyingly pompous reasons fans are wheeling out just makes you look like a bloody halfwit.

Why?

Most of these people were throwing the same toys out the pram when Matt Smith took over because he was too young, or wasn’t David Tennant, or they didn’t know who he was, or he was too white, or too weird, or had a big chin, or wasn’t (insert name of vaguely well known American actor here), and on and on.

It’s the eternal frustration of the man-children that make up large swathes of genre fandom. It’s not what they want so why should they accept it because they’re a real fan and not a fake like that girl who clearly isn’t a real fan because real fans wouldn’t act like that!

Bollocks.

Take a note of the reaction to the news that Frank Miller is consulting on the Man of Steel sequel. You have people moaning that he’ll make it ‘too dark’, or that he ‘hates Superman’ and all manner of gubbins without realising that again, the studio went ”dark” because they listened to fucking fans moaning that Superman films weren’t dark enough. Forget the fact that casual viewers seemed turned off, the fans were happy because people were being hit on screen.

Look at the campaign to reinstate Hal Jordan as Green Lantern. It ended up succeeding and in return spawned a countless load of piss poor superhero comics because an executive decided to give the fans what they wanted because they scweamed and sceweamed til they were sick and in return DC realised they were stuck with a mess. But fans got what they wanted which ended up being a horrible, horrible mess.

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I could go on but I’d not know where to stop, but the fact is people listening to fans, only fans, and especially the most vocal fans is a really, really bad idea. By all means fans should be considered, but something like Who is for everyone again, which it wasn’t for decades, and as pointed out in this rather funny Bleeding Cool piece, the programme has been full of this sort of pernickity shite since the early days but it’s got worse as the internet has amplified people’s stupidity, bigotry, misogyny and general hatred to a stupid degree.

There is nothing separating the comments under that Youtube video to those the likes of Mary Beard has been getting. I’ve no problem with taking the piss and mockery, especially those pompous enough to proclaim themselves ”real fans” of something just purely in order to essentially stop any progress. After all if everyone watches Doctor Who, it’s not the preserve of ‘real fans’, but those sill wee lassies who don’t know the history, or those people who don’t realise Hal Jordan is the ‘real’ Green Lantern, and on and on in order to make what they love a ghetto for them rather than everyone for reasons I frankly can’t get my fucking head around.

As said, take the piss out of wankers for being wankers, but not because it’s a teenage girl who’s been disappointed because something she loves hasn’t turned out how she wants. Separate the reaction from her gender. Drop the sense of entitlement. There are other people on the planet. Grow up.

Misogyny and Male Privilege in Mainstream Comics

There’s a lot of chatter at the moment in regards to the various issues with misogyny in mainstream comics, and in particular comics fandom as if this is somehow a new thing. It isn’t, but what is new is the venom, not to mention the sheer closed minded ignorance shown by fans and within the industry.

As people who have read my rambling blogs will know, I’ve been reading comics most of my life, and have spent around half my working life working in the industry in retail, publishing and distribution so this is me laying out a few credentials here before any passer-by chips in with a ‘well, what do you know’ load of bollocks. I’ve discussed comics as a medium with the likes of Will Eisner, Alan Moore, John Wagner and a load of other creators over the years. Basically I’m coming at this with just a wee bit of pedigree just in case anyone tries to rubbish my opinions based on what I know so now that’s out the way let’s move on.

Firstly, I’ve no problem with cheesecake. I love artists like Dave Stevens, Steranko, or the great damaged genius that was Wally Wood. Wood especially is someone who is as far as I’m concerned one of the best comic book artists America has ever produced but he could knock out either something so sublime and subtle..

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Or exactly the opposite..

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This isn’t about censorship but it’s about quality, and to make the point clear, there’s nothing wrong with what used to be called ‘Good Girl Art‘ as there’s a naive innocence in much of it even though it’s objectified images of women, it’s playful fun though as pointed out, it did just sometimes cross into soft porn it was mainly relatively harmless, if often crass.

The fact is that mainstream comics in the US are essentially power fantasies, so the male characters are strong defenders of the truth who look like wrestlers, while the women were sexy, but relatively chaste women who were initially window dressing in post Comics Code comics which was the status quo for women in comics up til the 70’s when women started to develop into nearly two dimensional characters (male characters like Spider Man had got acne giving them that much needed realism superheroes needed back in the early 60’s) and being treated nearly like people. Yes, they did dress like Disco Strippers, but Luke Cage also used to wear a tiara and if they can make him look sensible, then they can do that with female characters.

Sweet Christmas!

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The point of this meandering is to basically say that there was sexism and misogyny, that it was plain to be seen, but there was an innocence as things (Red Sonja’s metal bikini for example)  may have been ridiculous, but there were attempts to make things better for women on the page. There wasn’t the pornofication of women characters, though that was happening in Underground Comics but that’s a blog all by itself.

It should be pointed out that the majority of people working then and now in mainstream comics are white blokes with the odd exception like the great Marie Severin or Ramona Fradon it was mainly men so you can see how things developed which isn’t to say that someone like Chris Claremont (Claremont is now marginalised by many modern fans but without him Joss Whedon has no ideas) didn’t try as can been seen over the horrible tale of Ms Marvel’s rape in an issue of The Avengers but the problem was and indeed, still is, a lack of women working in mainstream American comics. This means we get a very male, often very middle class, very white and obviously very American view of reality which sometimes threw up drivel like Ms Marvel’s rape, or the downright mess that the character Power Girl became over the years.

It really wasn’t til the late 80’s that the real pornofication of mainstream comics kicked in, with artists like Rob Liefeld drawing people very badly but to staggering amounts of popularity. It’d be wrong for me not to post this image of Captain America as it’s so bad it never fails to make me laugh….

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But it was Liefeld’s women who were from another world.

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Women no longer started to look real, and the concept of Good Girl Art went out the window for this pornofied, utterly objectified version of women which tapped into an older audience as mainstream comics moved slowly away from being aimed at children and now at teenagers and older. I don’t blame Liefeld all by himself for this as that would do even a hack like him an injustice, but he’s by far the best example of this. There’s dozens more just as bad, if not worse but the Bad Girl Art style was created and as comics were driven away from newsagents and newstands thanks to the growth of the direct market, publishers went for more ”adult” material which in fact meant, tits,& arse with lashings of violence, which by the 90’s was joined by rape, gore, more extreme violence and women’s roles being defined in most titles as the ‘warrior maid/kick ass babe’ type, the ‘whore with a heart’, or the love interest waiting to be killed to give the male hero justification, or  Women in Refrigerators (WiR) as Gail Simone coined it.

Then there’s the subject of rape in mainstream comics, which isn’t to say it’s a topic not to be covered. It should be as Moore and Gibbons did in Watchmen, or Peter David did (within the limits of the Comics Code) in his excellent Hulk run but these writers didn’t use it to shock for shocks sake though when Moore used it in Miracleman #14 it was meant to be shocking and horrifying as it’s a key moment in the story, not to mention a warning for the horrors which follow.

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The problem is that writers with vastly less talent than Moore, David or Simone saw rape as an easy shock tactic which resulted in the obscenity which was Identity Crisis and the rape of Sue Dibney.

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After this the floodgates opened and what were fun children;s characters all ages could enjoy were turned into violent nutters, whores, or victims. The justification often given is that we live in a post-911 world and mainstream comics should represent that, which is true but this does not represent the world rather than a version of the world through male eyes and in particular, male eyes who’ve grown up seeing women as purely objects or plot devices in comics, so you get this grim world where writers throw around rape casually, or women are killed or maimed to make a point (yes, I’m aware of the Killing Joke before anyone asks) and we end up in a point where we have stuff like this from the fucking awful Red Hood and the Outlaws #1.

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Which is laughably defended by some as empowering for women because a section of male fans think what is empowering to women is fucking everyone around them, which brings us screaming out of providing a bit of backstory to the whole thing about male privilege.

There was always the attitude that girls were breaking into a boys world with comics in the US (unlike the UK where girls comics were huge business from the 50’s to 80’s when the weekly market collapsed) in the 60’s onwards but it moved from the ‘eww, girls have cooties‘ phase to something nastier as it is today where it’s genuinely unpleasant to read forums or the reports of women essentially being assaulted at conventions because they dress up as their favourite characters which seems to be free range for some blokes to grope, feel and molest their way round conventions.

I admit to still being puzzled by the whole cosplay thing, even back in the day when cosplay was called fancy dress and you used to have people pretending to be Mr. Fantastic by taping together a load of cardboard tubes, painting them blue and sticking them on their arms. It’s all harmless fun and should be treated as such though, as opposed to trying to cop a feel because it’s probably the only time you’ll get near a woman.

It’s also worth pointing out that mainstream comics do try now and then to give realistic versions of women and one such example was the splendid Alias written by Brian Bendis around a decade or so ago. It didn’t last and when the main character joined the mainstream Marvel Universe she moves from this real woman to one we see in superhero comics all the time with her tits and arse in such impossible poses that you wonder when her body will break.

There’s a very good article here by Kelly Thompson which details a lot of the debate, including examples of the infamous brokeback pose such as this.

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There’s always been sexy females in mainstream comics, but there was a vague attempt (within the context of the superhero universe) at realism in all but the very worst examples. Now this ridiculous idea that all women leap around fighting like Porno Jugglers with their underwear up their arse. It doesn’t serve the story, nor the context of the characters but it does serve the audience, or at least, a part of the audience. And again, I’m against censorship, and some porn is fine but there’s a context and a time and a place and it isn’t using children’s characters marketed at kids, or pandering to a core misogynistic and vocal group of fans who tend to dominate online debate.

Thankfully things seem to be changing slowly even though the debate over ‘fake Geek Girls’ continues, and people point out the inane insanity of the poses women are put through but it’s going to take a load of work to make things right and that’s going to start with Marvel and DC pulling their heads out their arses to appeal to more than 20-40 something males. Make superhero comics fun, enjoyable and most of all accessible without making them childish or excluding your next two generations of readers only know your characters through cartoons, or games, or toys rather than the source medium. Fans should pull up other fans groping women at conventions or shaming them, or calling them whores.

Before anyone says ‘but, but it’s an AMERICAN problem!‘ let’s not be so bloody stupid. I’ve seen the few women who used to go to cons here be ogled and groped, including one girlfriend of mine at a Bristol Expo around a decade ago. We’re not even talking drunken stupidity (of which I’ve done my fair share) but opportunism to feel some female flesh because you don’t know if you’ll ever get another chance in life to do so. There’s also been incidents going back to the UKCAC days which I’m not going to go into detail about as they were dealt with at the time & they tended not to happen again, but you get the point that if you sit back watching these things happen & don’t try to make it better then you’re making things worse.

There are a number of things horribly wrong with ”Geek Culture” and the modern mainstream comics fan ranging from an ignorance of the comics medium, to a concentration on things being AWESOME at the expense of anything else, and ooo, lots more I might write about another day but at the same time, for most people it’s about finding something fun and enjoyable so nothing spoils that more than being told you’re a slag because you’re wearing a short dress or you see the wandering hands some fans have.

It feels as if things aren’t going to change unless something very, very horrible happens to a woman at a convention, and even then they’ll be blokes blaming her. I hope it doesn’t and I hope the various campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic educate or shame enough blokes to stop what they’re doing and grow up. It really isn’t that hard just to keep your hands to yourselves and act like decent human beings is it?  Comics as a medium is just fine, but mainstream superhero comics are taking a kicking, much of it rightly so, which is why expanding the audience and thinking long term for the future is better than just running Marvel and DC for a core, mainly male fanbase while the parent companies run off and make summer blockbusters from these characters because Marvel & DC are now basically intellectual property farms for film & the associated merchandising spawned from these characters. This is why women are coming in. They like these characters but the core fan doesn’t want their boys club broken into. Tough. If you love the medium and the characters then celebrate the fact it’s not just a relatively small number of people who enjoy them now.

Sadly I don’t think things will ever be perfect, or indeed, get anywhere near it but if anything we should be standing up against the sense of entitlement from some fans, and also, praising those who do turn and want to change things.

And with that, I’m off to read some old EC Comics so I can look at some Wally Wood art….

She Was Asking For It-Sexism in Comedy

Last time I spoke about Tommy Cooper and how he was just funny, while having a wee moan about the sort of processed student comedy that passes for funny in the 21st century. One of the other things that’s astonishing about this rise of tedious comedy is the sheer amazing amount of things that are suddenly considered funny again like racism and rape jokes.

This isn’t to say that within a certain context these types of subjects don’t work in comedy. They do, as anyone familiar with Lenny Bruce or Jerry Sadowitz can testify. If you’ve ever heard a Derek and Clive album you know how extreme comedy can be, and that’s the thing with all these examples; they broke taboos for reasons or just to offend people and I’ll defend to my last breath the right of people to offend others.

However the fact that rape (among other subjects, but for this blog it’s this subject) has become an easy way for ‘edgy’ comics to show how ‘adult’ their material is. It’s the same as comic books show how ‘edgy’ and ‘mature’ they’ve made superheroes by having them rip each other apart…

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It’s as if someone was inspired by The Godfather and ditched all the characterisation, plot development and dialogue to just concentrate on the violence and gore because that’s ‘mature’.

It’s the juvenile nature of the rape jokes that’s so bloody annoying, but it’s also tied into the fact for many people it’s a direct way to attack female comedians as you can see by reading this piece by Lindy West which peels off the blackened scab to allow the pus of sheer fucking misogyny that runs through a lot of comedy fans.

Why do people think that Tweeting this:

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Is acceptable?

It’s just horrendous and shows the people saying this probably really do genuinely hate women in comedy, and probably  piss themselves laughing when Jimmy Carr cracks a few gags about rape, when really it’s sad because all Carr is doing is pandering to a section of mouth breathers who see rape jokes as ‘edgy’ because you’re not a comic now unless you’re ‘edgy’. Being funny for funny’s sake, or making a valid point, or forcing the audience to confront uncomfortable truths about themselves tend not to create bestselling DVD’s at Christmas, or get you that guest slot on panel shows.

However it’s the attacks upon women that’s shocking as just when you think we’re past all this you realise we’re onto a new generation, and they’re hiding behind their keyboards because attacking women online is just a laugh isn’t it?!

It’s the normalisation of rape that’s the worst aspect of this though. It’s the fact these scum don’t realise that rape is a crime of violence, and these attacks on female comics are acts of violence but social media gives teenagers and men the chance to do this without fear of reprisal.

There’s a scene in Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s wonderful From Hell where men across the UK suddenly start writing fake Jack the Ripper letters to the early versions of Tabloid newspapers in order to get whatever is in them out in the open, The Ripper gave them that chance and Moore touches upon this wonderfully. The same principle is here with these Tweets and attacks upon female comedians because it says how much rape especially has become ‘normal’ by a generation who see women as objectified and not people as can be seen in not just this article I linked to, but generally across comedy forums and if you go to comedy clubs, especially the large ones like Jongleurs where the lowest common denominator often isn’t low enough.

Like I said, I will defend anyone’s right to offend other people. I will not however defend someone being a twat, or in this case, using rape as a threat to scare and intimidate women because some want to be comedians as some people still want comedy to be a male only territory.

It’s frankly pathetic and a sign of how we as a society need to start making things very clear to younger generations where the moral line is drawn.  You’re not a real man if you’re throwing around rape as a threat, you’re just a piece of shit.

That said, I do like how Isabel Fey dealt with those people who did the same to her.

The Sad Painful Coma of the Bristol Comics Expo

I keep getting distracted from doing what I was working on, but this time it’s slightly related to the fun and games of my time at UKCAC. It’s about the successor to UKCAC, the Bristol Comics Expo.

Last year was the first year a new organisation team after a few years of the event being reduced as one of the venues, Brunel’s Old Station was being renovated and with the recession at it’s worst, it was decided to prune the Expo down to the basics and just hold it in the Ramada hotel where the guests stayed.

This was fine, but to cut a long story short the Expo passed into the hands of the organisers of the Small Press room in previous years. Last year was their first year of organising the entire event, not just the Small Press side of things and it was a reuniting of the old Comics and CD’s team for what was expected to be a busy weekend selling comics.

It wasn’t.

The Saturday was ok, but the Sunday was appalling. Brunel’s Old Station was empty and it’s a huge space when it’s empty, and it was oh so empty if you were a dealer on that Sunday. I don’t think we sold a thing for two hours, and other dealers were making the same complaints.

Now this isn’t me saying ‘the organisers are shite’ but I know they were offered advice from many people who had large amounts of experience in organising conventions and marts, including myself. As far as I know, nearly every offer was turned down with a snotty reply.

Then there was the palaver this year with the nude Halo Jones print which brought this reaction from her creator Alan Moore:

PÓM: Yeah. There was some kind of controversy, if you like, recently over Halo Jones, and…

AM: Oh, the picture of Halo Jones with her tits out?

PÓM: The alleged topless illustration of Halo Jones, yes.

AM: I made a brief comment upon it, which was probably more than was necessary. I just heard about it, and made a brief remark about how that wasn’t how I’d originally envisaged the character, in fact that was quite the opposite of what the character was meant to be. It’s, like, I’m kind of used to the fact that, if you do work in the comics industry, for any of the big companies, then you might as well say goodbye to the characters and your control over them, you having any say in what’s done with them.

PÓM: Although, in this case it wasn’t any of big companies that were doing it, it was…

AM: Fair enough, but the thing is, if I’d got an active say in the character any more, that perhaps wouldn’t have happened. But, I haven’t. I’ve cut me ties with all those things. So, I couldn’t even really get up an awful lot of interest to make the comment in the first place, it’s nothing that I really cared about apart from the fact that lazy sexism is always wrong.

PÓM: The only thing is, there were a lot of people who were very, I think saddened by the fact that this had happened. There’s a lot of people who said ‘this is not right.’ I mean, it may only be an idea, it may only be lines on paper, but it was wrong, and that was – there were still so many people who were still so passionate about it, after all these years.

AM: That’s nice to know. But it’s a phenomenon that I’ve got used to, especially with those wretched Watchmen prequels. No, a lot of my comics work I am very very distanced from. Other than the stuff which I own.

And here’s the thing with that: it was the sort of lazy sexism that people in the British comics scene had worked hard to play down, and in one fell swoop you had one of the few female characters in British comics who was a strong character in her own right being reduced to a pair of tits for people to get excited by.

Nothing wrong with cheescake, but the snippet from the Moore interview sums it up exactly. Now had the organisers taken advice on from people, then this incredibly damaging bit of publicity might not have happened. Had they listened to marketing advice they might not be sticking flyers up on lampposts on Victoria Street in Bristol. Yes, it’s 2013 and one of the most pointless bits of marketing ever is still be used even though I was told it wouldn’t be.

So I’m a bit pissed off really. I loved the Expo because it carried the bloodline of UKCAC but to see it quietly slip into a coma, so I hope it’s busy this weekend. I hope I’m proven wrong and I get made to look like a prick.  They were still advertising dealer tables on Monday. That isn’t a good sign.

I’ll be down for a bit over the weekend, but I’ll follow this blog up with another next week as to why exactly this makes me sad, not to mention a tad pissed off.