Thursday, May 10, 2007

This needs a more solid stance

Recently it was revealed that Dan Didio wanted to keep Isis alive, which has spawned a number of bemused and confused reactions that I think need to be addressed.

1) From everything I've seen and heard them say or publish -- the editors, the writers, and the artists on the whole do not think about how women are portrayed in comics. They don't think about the patterns. They don't think about the subtext. They don't think about how it looks. They are, in general, clueless, and have been for a long, long time. That is the problem. That is what needs to be fixed. You can't assume awareness because even their recent attempts to reach female readers have betrayed their cluelessness on a number of issues.

So, Mr. Didio wanting to off a character or save a character is most likely based on whether or not he likes that character, or whether or not he feels he can sell that character. I believe that "we can't sell girls/gays/minorities" comes into the equation when deciding whether or not a character can be sold or is liked, but its highly unlikely that this is a conscious train of thought.

This is not indicative of a change in attitude of Dan Didio's, or a criminal record of Mark Waid's (he has a genuinely mixed record at handling female characters, hardly Miller's rap sheet). I haven't seen any evidence that they think on that level.

2) This is not indicative of Gail Simone being part of the problem. I don't know this came up, as she had shit-all to do with 52, but it was mentioned a few times. Anyway, just to point out, she had shit-all to do with 52 and likely couldn't have saved Isis.

3) Real people are not perfectly good or bad. They are not even consistently good or bad. Someone who writes an awesome character such as Soranik Natu may kill off a female character in as pathetic a scene as Jade's. Creators have ups and downs. Someone who's decisions you usually dislike holding an opinion you agree with, or someone you usually like doing something you dislike really isn't this big a deal.

4) The treatment of Ralph Dibny and Isis is not a good case for the double-standard. Dibny's an established fan-favorite with a few decades of history behind him, and in his little ending they tried their best to rectify the beginning of Identity Crisis which caused much outrage way back when. Isis was a character completely contained within the story of 52, based loosely on an old character who had some popularity from her TV show. The treatment of Isis and Daniel Carter? There you've got an argument.

Now, none of the above points is a reason not to criticize the work in question, even though personally I'm not bothered by Isis. She's got Egyptian symbolism, is tied to a character who's getting his own series, and the Editor-in-Chief wanted to keep her alive. That's a recipe for resurrection. Plus, we had enough (Montoya, Batwoman, and the Dibny resolutions) to balance it out in this series. Sure, if they'd offed Natu instead I'd be mailing catshit to Tomasi right now, but I'd like to think I can keep some perspective on exactly what to criticize. I can see where you're coming from, just exactly what you're poking at is awkward here.

Anyway, I recognize that there's an argument to be made from her death. I'm just asking you to please, please, when you criticize matters of social issues in creative works, don't assume a conscious pattern. This is a problem that lies at the base of societal gender roles. Never attribute to malice what can be better attributed to laziness. Its considerably more likely unconscious and you can argue a better reason for change from a wider base of evidence without alienating the people who are capable of making the necessary changes when you lead it back to cliches and trends.

Plus you just look better in the long run.


  1. I had a similar conversation with a friend regarding why I was far more furious about Caiera Oldstrong's death over in Hulk than I was about Isis. As you mentioned, the mythological Isis is strongly associated with ressurection, her death didn't seem at all like the end of her story.

  2. I realize that this is totally politically incorrect of me, but frankly, I didn't mind in the least when Isis bit the dust. Nor Osiris either, because I didn't like either one of them. Hah!

    However, I DO like Soranik Natu, and even Iolande...and I liked Caiera Oldstrong a lot. But Isis was just a little too much like one of those inane paperback romance heroines, at least in my opinion.

  3. Indeed. Laziness rather than maliciousness...that's a good use of Occam's Razor.

    (I usually use Nair, myself.)


  4. Gail Simone came up because of a blogger who has a bug up his butt about Gail Simone and drags her into any vaguely tangentially related discussion.

  5. Eh, my own bemused reaction had more to do with the irony of the situation given Waid and Didio's respective reputations in the online fan-circles I frequent, more than anything else. Though, given that Waid does have comments (specifically about the death of Ice) available on the Women in Refrigerators website, he can't be entirely unaware of the WiR dynamic, whether or not he was thinking of it at the time the possibility of saving Isis was discussed.

  6. If Isis was gay she'd still be alive.

  7. But since when maliciousness actually ever comes up?

    I usually take the laziness as the moments that misogyny comes out the most, as that particular brand of laziness being somewhat together with imaturity, thinking with their cigarette while dressed in a cheeto-stained underwear (sure we don't think someone draws Supergirl with malicious intent, now do we? It's just maliciously stupid, and very rarely it's stupidly malicious).

    (ok, maybe that Mary Jane little statue of her doing the laundry might have been made to maliciously poke, or made for a "har har, I'm man therefore I think that" -- when they really don't, but just want to have more connection with machismo, even if ironically --, or if lazy and actually see that as natural, then... well, either cases it's terrifying...)

  8. If Isis was gay she'd still be alive.

    Of course. Because she wouldn't have married Black Adam, and there would have been no reason to kill her!