Thursday, June 07, 2007

There goes my last Marvel read.

Daredevil #98:
Karen Page. Elektra. All the women Matt Murdock has loved have been violently taken from him, victims of unspeakable tragedies and in Daredevil #98, his wife Milla Donovan may be next! The Gladiator has returned, more enraged and brutal than ever, with one purpose in mind: making Matt Murdock suffer! With the defender of Hell’s Kitchen in police custody and the Gladiator alone with a terrified Milla, things aren’t looking good for the wife of Daredevil…and history isn’t on her side either. The penultimate chapter of “To The Devil, His Due” will have huge ramifications for Daredevil as he races towards the milestone Daredevil #100.
Brubaker shows and gets into an argument with an offended party, with the regular Newsarama peanut gallery in the background. Of course, this is a golden opportunity to tell a pro precisely what I think of this story idea so I couldn't pass it up (even though I hate the boards there). Here's what I posted:
Mr. Brubaker,
I like your stories and I don't think you'd kill Milla in a horribly tasteless fashion, and were it other circumstances I'd say you sound more reasonable and side with you, but here's the thing:

That solicit calls up the disposable girlfriend trope. It points out a trend in Matt's life. It plays it up for tension. And the disposable girlfriend trope, the "You touched my stuff" story (where the hero gets personally offended because his loved one was hurt/murdered) is sickening in all forms of media, and that article plays it up.

Milla is a fairly new character, she's not Foggy. She hasn't been around long enough to be an indispensable part of the franchise. She's not Elektra. She doesn't have the fan appeal to be brought back to life to kick ass on her own. She is to all appearances a disposable girlfriend, so its not a big stretch to figure she's on her way out when we see a solicit like that.

And in the comics world, where nearly all of the female characters are dating other heroes who can protect themselves, but the majority of the male heroes (who are also the vast majority of the heroes) have disposable love interests or set damsels-in-distress, its hard not to get the message that women are disposable to the writers and get really annoyed when you see advertisements that play it up as exciting.

And its really hard to get the motivation to spend money on something that sounds almost sure to offend, so if you'll excuse me I'll wait until after Milla's fate is leaked to decide if I'll buy another issue of Daredevil.
They probably won't notice me, though, as they are arguing over whether or not Scarlet Witch's breakdown was sexist.

(Whatever they decide about that one, it sure as hell wasn't in character.)


  1. Was Daredevil really your last Marvel read? You don't like She-Hulk or Fantastic Four or Runaways or Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane or Ultimate Spider-Man or Marvel Adventures Avengers or X-Men First Class? Just curious. Those are all Marvels that I'd put on a scale somewhere between pretty good and really good, and I'm hard-pressed to think of any examples of any of them being offensively sexist.

  2. Caleb -- Lost interest in She-Hulk a few months ago.

    Never developed an interest in any of the others, so yes this is my last one.

  3. It's not like Brubaker wrote any of the promotional material. He probably didn't even choose which pages to preview.

    I've got a tremendous amount of faith in him as a writer, and whatever Milla's fate (I'd be very surprised if she dies), I'm confident it will be an exciting and well-told story.

    Your reaction is your reaction, and you're certainly entitled to it, but I think the story itself will be much better than Marvel's crass marketing of it.

  4. I love how blatant that solicit was about WiR too! XDD

    It's like they're not even trying nemore. :\

    That was a good letter to him btw :D

  5. Just checking - you do know that by the time solicits are printed the book has already been written and is probably at least at the coloring stage, right?

  6. Rob -- I'd have given him the benefit of the doubt if he hadn't waded in there and sounded like one of Kyle's writers.

    Elayne -- Yes, I do. I'm not an idiot. I also know that a different department writes the solicit than the writer.

    That still doesn't change that the writer was calling complainers overly PC because they drew the obvious conclusion.

  7. I'm just amazed that Milla didn't get killed when Bendis was writing the book.

    Everything since then has been bonus as far as I'm concerned...

    Hey, Ragnell, if I wanted to send you a personal email, how would I go about doing that? I don't see it anywhere on your Blogspot blog or LJ... I have a question of a non-personal nature I'd like to ask you.

  8. Well, one of the posters called him "culpable" in the abuse of women. (Fictional women, it's presumed.) It's not like all the complainers were just complaining about the marketing -- some were offended that he'd even dare put Milla in such a situation.

    I can't blame him for getting hot under the collar. He shouldn't have waded in -- god knows there's no percentage in publicly interacting with fans who want to tear you a new one -- but I can't find fault in what he said.

    The marketing's a problem, I agree. It's a crass way to sell books. But marketing is ephemeral, and I'm confident the story itself will be engrossing and well told. And that's what will ultimately stand.

  9. Gee, I've been waiting for them to kill Milla horribly for ages. She may as well have "Refrigerate after Murdock screws" tattooed on her forehead."

    Don't forget the woman he went chasing after in Europe, even though she betrayed him. They iced her in, what? two issues?

    BTW, it's usually the editor who writes the solicits, so yeah, s/he knows what's going on.
    Were I sane, I'd never date Murdock or DD.

    BTW, it's the editor who writes up the solicits, so, yes, s/he does know exactly what's coming.

    Tammy Pierce

  10. That doesn't mean that the solicit isn't intentionally misleading. Only one way to find out...

  11. Tamora, if you're talking about Lily Lucca (I think you are?), she's not been 'iced' at all.

  12. Lily is still alive, and looks to have a major plot role coming up. Kingpin's wife did finally die, which may be what you're thinking of.

    Brubaker, for a while at least (I think back when his Cap run first started) wrote his own solicits with an eye toward misleading those guessing at where he was going to go with the return of Bucky. I do not know if he still does it, but I wouldn't put it past him.

    Brubaker hasn't done me wrong in ages now, especially with his Marvel work, so I'm along for the ride. I've found that the blatantly obvious solicits for his books tend to be misdirection. I trust him and where he's going with Daredevil. If she does die, I've got no doubt that he'll do a good job with the story. He's killed Cap and "killed" Foggy Nelson, and both of those are/were great stories.

  13. Sorry for the double post, but I'd also argue that Milla does have quite a following and is a major part of the franchise. Bendis treated her as such and used the Murdock/Milla relationship to great effect. Brubaker's one-off starring Milla was one of the best issues of his run. I don't know that she is the prototypical disposable girlfriend at all.

  14. Wow, Matt seems to be straying into Kyle Rayner territory. I too, would NOT chose to be his girlfriend. As for Milla, I do hope that she has her will all made out and handy, 'cause it seems as though they are cleaning out the fridge just for her.

  15. Never mind about the email question, I found it!

    I don't know about Milla having a following per se, but I do like the character. I hope that Brubaker (who is, at least by my reckoning, a good writer) resists the obvious road with her.

  16. While it's unlikely that she'll overpower him, it's entirely possibly that she'll outsmart him or even convince him he's doing wrong. Gladiator's weak points are his head and his heart, and Milla could beat him eaither way if she finds an opening.

  17. So I guess you changed your mind about supporting characters, then?

  18. On the one hand, Milla Donovan existed as a plot device rather than a character during the Bendis run, and there's a part of me that would be glad to be rid of her. But Brubaker's done a pretty good job with her. Oh, but how much FUN would Ann Nocenti have with it...

    On the other, Brubaker's been around long enough to know better than to get into an argument over this. Or just... can these creators please just flip the "it's just fanboys they're all idiots" switch off for five minutes?

  19. I think if Ragnell were changing her mind, JLG, she'd have said so.

    Just because someone may not have a problem with a narrative phenomenon in general does not mean that they can't object to a particular instance of it OR the manner in which it's marketed.

    Trying to trip Ragnell up with her own words like that, intentionally or no, merely makes you look petty.

  20. JLG -- While I make no claims as to absolute consistency (because I am human and my opinions evolve over time) I fail to see how these two links indicate a change of heart/mind/opinion or invalidate each other.

    The linked post discusses how a general moratorium on female death is a poor solution to the WiR problem.

    This post discusses the marketing decision of specifically calling up the women in refrigerators cliche as a selling point.

    Do read before you comment, darling.

  21. Sorry, I probably should've been clearer. Cubs' loss that day made me cranky. It wasn't meant to trip her up with no reason, it just seemed odd that this case of a minor character being killed was such a grievous offense, when similar cases in the past (that I was bothered by, which probably does make it come off as petty, admittedly...) were brushed off.

    I thought that old post lined up with some posts (like the Devil May Care trackback link down there) that defended stuff like this because supporting or minor characters are fair game to be killed/screwed over for the main guy because that's what they are there for. That was where the Red Shirt discussion took place. Why should this case so bad (enough to quit Marvel completely), when people's opposition to other, earlier cases meant they were being "overprotective"?

    If is with the WiR cliche being used as a selling point, shouldn't the criticism be directed toward the marketing department instead of Brubaker?

  22. Hmm.

    With my "Devil May Care" post, I wasn't intending to say that supporting characters are there to be killed/screwed over to give the lead character angst. As a matter of fact, I thought I was pretty clear that it's unwise to write them out as long as they're still serving the story, which I think I made a case for Milla doing.

    I was just trying to draw a distinction between the marketing and the story itself, and the choice to put a character in jeopardy and the decision to kill her (a fate which is unclear at this point). And also, the difference between the use of underwear for titilation and underwear for heightened tension and vulnerability (admittedly, in the eye of the beholder, and I guess some creepy folks might will get turned on by those pages, but I don't think they're written or drawn to elicit that effect).

    So if I've somehow conveyed the idea that I'd be okay if Brubaker used Milla as cannon fodder, let me assure you that that's not the case. I'd be disappointed with him if he does; it's lazy writing, and I expect better from him.

  23. JLG -- The marketing department wasn't in there calling it PC overreaction when people drew the obvious conclusion from the solicit. That was the writer. So, I directed my letter at Mr. Brubaker. I told him where I felt he was wrong. (Also note I made one post, said my piece, and left the man alone.)

    As for quitting Marvel completely, this is the last book I'm reading at Marvel and between the idiotic solicit and the author's weak defense I don't see a reason to bother reading it. This is not a matter causing me to drop multiple books that have nothing to do with it, and I've saved myself $3 over much less offense.

    Also, if what you thought I was getting at in that post was that "WiR deaths are justifiable as cannon fodder" you need to reread the post.

    Hell, you're battling a thousand today since you misread Rob's post as well.

  24. Well, what drove me to think that was the line that said:

    "Which is why supporting characters exist. They’re the ones to threaten if you want to sell more issues. They can be killed, because their death doesn’t end the story, but if done well it could change the hero, and give the readers something new for a while."

    So I don't think I'm entirely off. It was similar to a post Scipio made on it, so I think that's why I thought it that way.

    Ragnell: I may just still be hung up on certain old arguments, why some things got a pass as being OK despite having the hallmarks of a WiR (and those that complained about those deaths were more distressing than the kill decision), but only a solicit here is so bad. I may just be in a pissy and unfocused mood, though. But I don't think I'm a complete idiot here... :P

  25. I see what you're saying, jlg. What I was getting at is something I heard one of the writers of Lost say. (Or maybe it was Brian K. Vaughan, talking about a term he heard in the Lost writer's room. Cliffhangers that threaten the main character's life are what they call "idiot bait." They're not effective on anyone with a brain in their head, because most people know the lead character isn't going to die. You've got to affect them in other ways.

    Threatening a supporting is a better cliffhanger, because by their nature they are expendable. But that doesn't mean they should be spent at every opportunity. Just reminding the audience you can do it is enough.

    Just the same, if you keep waving a gun around and never fire it, eventually someone will suspect it's not loaded. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made. I just think there are better uses for Milla at the moment.

    Another important thing that too few writers consider: They're mining a rich history to build their stories, so it's nice to not kill off everyone you want to writer out of the book -- even if you created them. It's good to leave something for the next writer in line, or one years down the road.

  26. JLG -- I have very little patience for people who misrepresent me in order to support their own arguments.

    Your favorite character Pantha is not a comparison here because this post is specifically was about a solicit (which you point out yourself by calling it "only a solicit"), about the marketing department acknowledging WiR and using it as a selling point and the writer getting mad at a fan who interpreted it that way.

    Show me the lead-up to Pantha's death that advertised "Buy this because we've killed off women before and we may do it again!!" rather than the generic "a hero of unspecified gender may die" and the follow-up where Geoff Johns came to the board and called everyone overly PC for drawing the conclusion that a character was likely to die because she was a woman.

    And right now you're probably thinking of the quote of Johns considering the motivation for Pantha's death, or the many times he politely dismissed you on his board after you've shared your grievances. Well, save it, because my disgust was about marketing and creators reacting badly to fans reacting logically to the marketing and no marketing factors into that situation.

    If you don't understand how this is a different complaint from the usual WiR happening, I don't think there's any way I could phrase it that you will.

    Granted, if we'd naturally started discussing WiR occurrences that had no marketing building up to them, and someone had brought up Pantha without trying to discredit me, then I wouldn't be bothered about the conversation veering that way.

    But I'm personally offended at the implications of that link, and your followup comments, so I'm not open in the least to discussing her, and I'm really pissed off you brought it up even under the little shield of carefully not mentioning the situation by name because everyone knows who you're talking about when you do that.

  27. I guess what I've been trying to get at, and failing to express, is why we should get worked up about this if we don't even know the character's actually going to be killed off. And if the death of minor characters has been shrugged off in the past. I wonder if the solicit was meant to be like the Countdown ad hinting the "Crisis convention" of a dead Bart Allen, really. If it turns out she doesn't die, would all the criticism and dropping the book be justified?

    So I think we're seeing this from two different angles, which probably is the problem. I think you're only looking at the marketing angle, which I don't have anything on, while I'm looking at it from a story and character view, I guess. I wasn't trying to dance around things, because I honestly did assume that it was already known (I brought something up before in another post and was explaining it, but you said you already knew about) and your opinions were set. (just to clear things up, your buddy Johns only actually addressed me once not "many," and not immediately or in further posts like with Brubaker. My first PM to Johns went unread and unreplied to. And Brubaker's tone honestly doesn't seem any different from Johns' one response).

    It wasn't meant to discredit you, but the asshole-ish way I originally phrased it probably made it come off that way, so I apologize.

  28. I'd be more inclined to accept your apology if you stopped dancing around things in this manner.

    Referring to Geoff Johns bitterly as "your buddy" tells me that particular bit is not said just to clear things up not matter what your disclaimer says, but to further air your grievances towards the writer.

    If you don't understand the difference between a story death and a sales pitch based on the cliche of killing off the girlfriend, then you never will.

    If you feel I'm overreacting, then I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm sure you've had opinions that others feel are overreacting towards but I do not appreciate you using this disagreement to turn my comment section into your personal soapbox.

    You have your own fucking blog. Type it up there. I'll even give you the first slot in WFA.

    But this is my blog, and at this point you are trolling it.