Saturday, December 08, 2007

Give up all this?

Karen Healey:
I fully support any woman who turns her back on the Big Two and makes her own comics, and I sympathise entirely with the frustration and rage that engender that "If you won't change these comics, I am willing and eager to make my own" decision.

The thing is, as a reader, I'm not prepared to cede that territory. White Tiger is *mine*. Power Pack is *mine*. Rogue and Storm and Emma Frost are *mine*. Insofar as they belong to any fan, they belong to me, just as much as to those protesting feminist activism in the comics. And I don't want to write them. I want to read them without being disgusted or wearied or saddened by the sexism with which they are portrayed.

I can't believe that nothing will ever change, when so much has changed already. I have to believe in a future where sexism in artworks, like sexism in general, is considered as outdated and bizarre as a "democracy" where women aren't entitled to vote - superhero comics included. It won't be in my lifetime, but I can do what I can now.

I can support indy creators *and* work for change in the Big Two. Because I won't be satisfied with less.

Karen's answering Tamora Pierce, the latest person to chime in and second Elizabeth Bear's Dear Patriarchy as a call to leave the mainstream and create more entertainment free of the stresses of mainstream gender-based assumptions.

The people who roll up their sleeves and say "Lets just do our own" are people who would probably be inclined to make their way in the published world whether they were satisfied with the entertainment out there or not. They are writers who have stories to tell. That is awesome.

However, even those of us who like to tell stories like to listen sometimes. And a lot of us have our favorite characters and settings that we grew up with, that we learned to love, and that we are very very attached to. We like those characters and settings. We want to escape with them.

Those characters and settings are legally owned by someone else. That's all right. We want to give those people who own the characters money for stories with them. We want to support them and keep the stories coming.

And there's things that fans love and hate, little directions and fannish things and characters. And then there's the stuff that's bad for everybody. There's the insulting messages, the confining cliches and stereotypes that are nearly everywhere in the world and that slip into these stories with these favorite characters. They piss us off too.

But we would like to give the owners of these characters money. And we know they would like money. So we, as readers and fans and customers tell them what needs to happen in order to keep that money coming.

And sometimes it is ignored. And sometimes it is listened to. Sometimes we shout. Sometimes we whisper. Sometimes they insult us. Sometimes we get pissed off. Sometimes we don't realize we were insulted. Sometimes they try to pander to us. Sometimes we love that. Sometimes we get angry anyway. Sometimes they laugh with us. Sometimes they make us so happy we can't write anything but nonsensical little fangirlish words. Sometimes they piss us off and we can only write obscenities when describing what they did. Sometimes they play on our insecurities and fears and anger to get more money anyway.

And some of us give up and go off to make their own stories.

But some of us stay and keep complaining and reading and talking and buying. We stay because we remember when we are listened to. We remember when they at least tried to pander to us for a change. We remember when they laughed and joked with us. We remember putting down the issue and dancing. We remember when we were so happy we could feel the joy and excitement rise in our chests and stop our vocal chords from forming the words to describe it. We remember being so excited after reading a first issue just to try something out that we went straight back to the comic book store to catch up on the entire series. We remember when they played on our insecurities and fears and angers but understood why we felt that way and wrote what they did because they felt that way too. We remember when we cried because the story was just so good and it was that good because we went in knowing the character and caring for them already.

Some of us remember all of that even though we get pissed off at times. And so while we drop series and follow writers and try to minimize the bad as much as possible we don't truly leave. We don't leave because we know the good things will happen again.

And we complain because we know those things would be happening more often, but the company forgets that women are reading too. The company forgets that there's a lot of shit out there in the entertainment world and the real world that's getting called up by the writing and the art that's interfering with the story. Writers and artists forget that when we point that out, we're telling them a better way to communicate with us and get those good moments that keep us shelling our money.

So every once in a while someone tells the mainstream to "Fuck off" because they can write a better story themselves. Good for them. The bad outweighs the good for them, and they feel they're better off working on their own stuff.

Good for us, because we can read their stuff and grow to love it too.

Still, for some of us the good does outweigh the bad. Its just the bad is so pervasive and distracting and just plain wrong that we have to talk about it if we want to have any way of keeping sight of the good.

So yeah, go off and write good stuff. I'll read some of it. I may even try and write some of my own. (I wouldn't hold your breath, but its an idle fantasy many of us have.) But give up reading the stuff I love completely? No, fuck that. I'll continue to enjoy what I enjoy and complain about what interrupts that enjoyment.

And sometimes the industry won't listen, but sometimes it will.


  1. Thing is, going off and writing your own stuff helps, but it doesn't solve the problem you started out with. While it might give other people an alternative, it doesn't give you anything to read. You don't read your own stuff for entertainment.

  2. Then learn to love comics as they are.
    Because I, and many, many, others, dont want things to change one fucking bit. And we have money too. And theres a hell of a lot more of us.

  3. You know, Lisa, it would be nice if you did support independent publishers and artists. To me , you're just saying "I'm a addict and I don't care how bad they are, I'll keep supporting them." Give up?! Honey, I've been fightin' since I first got published in 1988! Just because I do indies doesn't mean I don't do freelance work for mainstream comics. I've worked in mainstream comics and it isn't going to change the mainstream in the way you're talking about until the editorial hierachy changes either people or minds by sales or lack of them. Let me reiterate, just because I do my own comics, it doesn't mean I'm too stuck up to do mainstream! BTW, could you please pass on the comics that you picked up at Wizardworld on to someone who actually does care about female comics creators? If you stated you absolutely hated and loathed the independent comics I write and publish but linked my website to let people decide for themselves, it'd least get some server hits, but it's been over a year now. Thank you.

  4. And I'll continue to support this fight because I think it's an important one, despite what I said yesterday. I am a reader too. And I'm too old and mean to surrender any ground to the recidivists completely.

    But I'd like to see women creators take a big chunk of cash away from the people who treat them like shit if they can.

    I hope it's okay by you--I'm going to link this on my lj so my readers who don't always follow WFA will have a chance to see what you have to say.

  5. To me the real strength in doing your own isn't abandoning the Big 2, but the ability to come back to them with success under your belt. DC and Marvel seem to be looking for writers who have succeeded in comics and other writing media to take over books. That's how Tamora and Jodi got in.

  6. To add somewhat to what Scott said:

    And if success is achieved outside of the Big Two's domain, it provides the best enticement ever for them to change their ways. The success of Image sparked a lot of Image-like comics in the Big Two; the success of manga inspires the Minx line, and so forth.