Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PC is Killing Comics

*WARNING*

This post may offend the easily offended. If you are offended by possibly controversial statements then don't read this post. Nasty comments will be deleted. You have been forewarned. That said, this isn't intended to piss people off but you can never make everyone happy.



Thanks to Dan Didio Affirmative Action has come to a comic book store near you! I wouldn't want to get a job due to my minority status (or gender for that matter) so why should a superhero be written as a "miniority" just for the sake of attempting to be PC?

OK, I realize that heroes should be diverse, I have no issue with that. I do have a problem with the idea that the new Batwoman is a lesbian as a selling point. I could care less what Batwoman's sexual orientation is - sure I understand that love and romance is part of the story behind a character... but why is it so important to Didio to keep talking about Kate Kane being gay? Answer: he wants to appear PC.

Yes - bring in minorities, yes - allow for gay characters. That is how it should be because a hispainic guy or a lesbian is just as likely to be a hero as anyone. But I want characters to be created because someone has been inspired to write about them, not because their editor tells them that they have to come up with a minority character because it's PC. That's a death sentence for the story right there... it's a character fostered by a business decision and that leads to a character without the passion of the writer behind it. The way Didio presents it, it's as if he doesn't care much for the character themselves but only if they make him look like a politically correct guy. It's just another way of selling books to him.

Sometimes people wonder why there are so many white male characters in comic books. I myself had a hard time identifying with many of the female superheroes that were around when I was growing up (some girls think they had it rough growing up wanting to look like Barbie - that's nothing when there's women like Starfire running around). But let's face it - the best way to write is to write what you know - and even now the comic world is populated by more men than women. So you're going to find the male characters more prominent... most guys find it easiest to write male characters... and you can tell when the female characters are written but a man most of the time too. It's only natural. Some of the best female characters out there right now are written by a woman - Gail Simone writes strong women who ring true to the female reader. This is because she's writing what she knows. (This doesn't mean you can't write a female character if you're a guy or vise versa, but every writer knows that if you can pull from your own experiences you can write a better story. It's one of the first rules you learn in writing.)

My point here is that diversity will come to comics naturally over time the same way female superheroes have grown more varied over the years. If it's forced I have a feeling it will piss off more people than it pleases. If a character is given to someone to write JUST BECAUSE someone wants a gay character it won't be done well. If some writer is gay or has gay friends and wants to bring some of that culture into a story and because of that they come up with a character to explore that world, then it has a chance of becoming a great story. Until that time just make sure that at least your supporting cast is varied to reflect the world itself. Let characters evolve naturally.

Diversity in comics is great - we live in a diverse world and comics should reflect that. But I think it's also important to remember that people are all PEOPLE first and foremost. Homo sapiens... there is no biological race and no genetic trait for sexual orientation. I think the heroic journey itself should be held with more regard than the color of someone's skin or who they find attractive. At least for me I continue to care more about the virtue of the character themsleves than any accident of birth.

I'm hoping Batwoman's writers will focus on the character herself and not making her the token lesbian vigilante. With good writers she could be a neat character.

31 Comments:

Anonymous Thomm Remaley said...

You had me until "no genetic trait for sexual orientation". There are, in fact, some biological differences between gay and straight people that have been determined. Now, whether those are because gays are wired differently to begin with or because gay activity causes the wiring to be different is unknown. I can tell you that I'm a proponent of nature over nurture in this debate. I grew up in the same household, with the same parents, and the same experiences of parental affection as my brother, yet he's gay and I'm straight.

I can't really comment on the validity of your main thrust here because I haven't read any of the books. I'll take your word for it that gay is driving the story rather than being simply and element thereof. If that's the case, the market will quickly show the error of that approach when no one buys the book.

Say hello to your dad for me. He and I worked together at State Farm.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Very good post. I agree with your sentiments fully. There is a backlash brewing and getting ready to strike DC. People on all sides of the argument are not happy with the way DC is handling this diversification. One thing they don't like is that DC is favoring lesbians over homosexuals. There are a slew of lesbians over at DC now, but in and out of costume. But how many homosexual male heroes are there? And why is it that DC is only giving us extremely attractive lesbians? Where are the more typical Rosie O'Donnell or KD Lang type lesbians? What we're getting is more apropo to the "lesbians" who appear in porn purely for male gratification.
Cshiana is dead on. Let the new characters evolve naturally. Let them grow and develop and find an audience over time. Forcing diversification down our throats is not the way to go. Some of my favorite heroes are Luke Cage, Mr. Terrific and Manhattan Guardian. This is not due to the color of their skin, but to their personalities and quirks. So you've got 3 great characters here already with a built in audience. Why not give them their own titles or feature them more prominently? Give us more Zatanna. Give Catwoman a push(new Catwoman is a lesbian by the way. didn't hear Didio making a big fuss about that). Try your best to promote characters and see who survives. Let it be natural, not some PR stunt like Marvel's Rawhid Kid or marriage of Storm and Black Panther.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Hi Thomm.

Good post. I'll give DiDio some credit with Batwoman is that he has not launched a series immediately and is trying to build her as a background character.

Ultimately the characters that suceed are the ones that the writers are vested in and not mandated stories. Brubaker has written X-Men Deadly Genesis (an editorially mandated story) and Daredevil (a book he wanted to write) - the difference in quality is unreal.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

"There are, in fact, some biological differences between gay and straight people that have been determined."

I was saying that there is no GENETIC trait for sexual orientation - as far as I know there isn't. Biological differences (which I didn't know there were any...) aren't the same as being to look at the human genome and say, oh, this person is gay.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Usually you can tell by the rainbow colored stand of DNA on the 4th helix.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Arielle said...

LOL Jim!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Didio's news is making all the papers here in the NYC tri-state area. One article, in today's NY Daily News, quotes Ron Hill, manager of Jim Hanley's Universe. He says, "They've(DC and Marvel) long abandoned things aimed at 8 year olds." So now comics are no longer the stuff kids dream of. The article also explains some of the points Didio is trying to bring about by making Batwoman a hispanic lesbian. As fans know, Renee Montoya was re-made into a lesbian by Greg Rucka. She was outed against her will by TwoFace and when she told her parents about her sexual orientation her father disowned her. With Batwoman, Didio says, "We deal with stories about identities and secret identities. And we think that a character who is openly gay, yet keeps it a secret from certain members of her own family, has a lot of strong emotional layers." So we can guess from what we've seen that when Batwoman meets Montoya, her ex, the two will argue about Batwoman choosing to hide her sexuality from her family due to the ramifications such as Renee has suffered. They maintain that the hispanic society is much more homophobic than any other. But isn't that racist?
Reactions are pouring in and most seem to feel that Didio is doing this merely for free press and shock value, not for good storytelling. After all, how many hispanics to you know with the last name Kane?
You've gotta hand it to Didio. It's not often you successfully piss off both the homosexual community and the conservative heterosexuals. Didio is quite the puppeteer, almost rivalling Stan Lee. Time will tell if this is really about developing character or just about stirring up a hornet's nest for publicity. Hopefully it will be handled better than Rawhide Kid or the outing of Northstar. I think he should look to Brubaker's handling of Holly in Catwoman and Ellis' take on the Apollo/Midnighter relationship and the stories of Strangers in Paradise to see how to do it right, not just to push forth some PC agenda.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Jeff - if it makes you feel better my Mom called me the other day to ask me about what comics would be good to get for kids (to have read to them). I was happy to hear that the 6 year old boy is a Nightwing fan (from the Batman cartoon) and that both the kids are interested in comic books. I told her to get Bone (the scholastic stuff because it's in color) and to check out Nightwing Year One because it was fairly all-ages. It made me happy that my mom, who was never much a comic fan herself, would go out of her way to find comics to read to little kids. There's still hope!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Maybe the Comics Code was too restrictive, but my concern is when we have bedroom scenes frequent in comics and ripping bodies apart as the norm, what becomes shocking? -- Not sure I want to know or see that type of stuff in a mainstream comic (if comics are even mainstream anymore).

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Arielle said...

Gotta agree with you, Jim. Comics don't need to be utterly sanitized - for instance, I read fairy tales as a child, which were often fairly violent - but they sure need to be cleaned up quite a bit before they'd be suitable for children. I think children have to grow up too fast as it is, these days - what's wrong with giving them a relatively innocent world to dream about?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

What fairy tales were you reading? I don't remember the Big Bad Wolf raping Grandma, then eating her, disguising himself as Grandma, raping Red Riding Hood, then tossing her onto the fire. How did comics get on this hideously wrong path? What happened to stories where a villain robs a bank, begins to get away, then a hero hears the bank alarm and runs to a phone booth to change into his/her costume then foiling the villain and thus teaching a child that crime does not pay?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Jeff... Grimm's Fairy Tales

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

If I remember correctly Fairy Tales (is what we call them) were actually very gruesome and gory. The big bad wolf ate grandma and the woodsman split open his gut to save the old girl and other horrid stuff. Over the years they were cleaned up and kept as childhood tales. I think Hansel and Gretel was especially brutal.

The point of the original stories was to try and make sure the kids stayed home and never left the house. Mom & Dad might have been working the fields and they needed the fear of unreal danger to keep the kids at home. As we moved from an agrarian society to an industrail society the tales changed to reflect a tamer and perhaps more civilized society. As time progress until today and now they are totally sanitized and probably unrecognizable to the orginial authors.

Comics seem to have unfortunately in their quest to be more adult lost the approach to allow more of an all age environment. This has morphed our heroes into something a little less heroic at times, but also has created some bright spots among the darkness. All things go in cycles and we can only hope comics survive to have another "golden age" (or silver age), but it will take time for the next wave to hit.

I hope the over-reaching of this regime will be replaced by a more sensible approach in the future. The cartoons seem to be getting it right and once the sales go further down with the dark stuff I hope enoguh will remain for some brighter material in the years ahead.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006  
Blogger Arielle said...

Actually, many of the original fairy tales appear to have been made for adults to begin with - in the earliest version of Sleeping Beauty, she doesn't wake because of a kiss from a prince - she wakes when they put her twins to her breasts to start nursing. (Nice prince, eh?)

The original Arabian Nights was also quite sexual. Aladdin has been altered quite a bit since its original incarnation, and some of the other tales never made it into children's books because they couldn't be "cleaned up" without losing the story. (There were a few eye-popping moments for me when I read the translation of the original Arabian Nights when I was sixteen!)

When Fairy Tales became something associated with children, the sexuality was largely removed (while still leaving the romance intact), and the violence was toned down - though they certainly weren't scrubbed clean and made pc the way they are today.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Well let's not forget that the life expectancy back when fairy tales were first written was much shorter than it is today. Back then, it was not uncommon for a woman to be married by age 14 and start having children soon after. I guess kids could handle the more explicit elements of the fairy tales back when life itself was so dangerous and harsh. It was when we became civilized and secure that we started worrying about the children's innocence. Sometimes that's been taken too far. When I grew up, Bugs Bunny cartoons were uncut and unedited. Now you can't even show them on tv with the new PC climate that says kids will duplicate the violence they see on the screen. Sometimes we're overprotective. Other times, like when a judge takes it upon herself to transfer a convicted child molester's sentence from prison to probation cuz the guy was only 5'1" and borderline retarded. What interesting times we live in.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous viciouswishes said...

While I can't speak to industry pressures to be PC, though I seriously doubt anyone said, "the next character must be gay." Have you ever watched any 'gay' show or read any 'gay' text? The major selling point has always been the gay. Wil & Grace, Ellen, The L Word, and Queer as Folk weren't shows with gay characters, they were gay shows. It's definitely a marketing tool, I'll give you that. The so-called Gay Dollar has a large mostly untapped source of disposable income. It also draws attention to DC in general. What's the saying, "No publicity is bad publicity." When's the last time a new superhero's introduction made the NYT or any other newspaper? I really think this has less to do with being PC and more to do with marketing.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're confusing PC with diversity in your argument. They are by no means the same thing.

DC is aiming for diversity, especially since they lag behind Marvel on this front.

PC is all about using neutral speech so as not to offend anyone.

Diversity is all about having different opinions, social classes, religions, races, sexual orientations, etc repreented.

And also, I don't see what the problem is. There was no Batwoman before (in current continuity), now there is. Who cares if she is gay? It's a new comic where there wasn't one before. Nothing is being taken away or altered. It's a new thing. If it bothers you, don't buy the book.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Anonymous - Being totally diverse is a big PC thing today. So the blogger didn't get it wrong.

It's not a matter is Batwoman is gay or not, its a matter of making that charater gay for the sake of having a gay character. Plus Kathy Kane is hispanic?

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

Um, I think you missed the point entirely. I don't care if a character's gay - I'm saying that I find it upsetting when they use the fact that a new character is a lesbian as the selling point.

Didio is definately attepmting to be "PC". Go read his recent interviews for proof - he keeps talking about it.

Didio is attempting to achieve a PC environment by forcing more minorities into the books - I was never arguing against diversity, I was arguing against the idea of making a gay character just for the sake of being able to go LOOK, we have gay characters!

"PC is all about using neutral speech so as not to offend anyone."

You can never avoid offending everyone. And I believe the actual point of the term Politically Correct is: Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.

It's not just about neutral speech, it's specifically for use in polital agenda. It's how politicians try to make everyone happy without taking a strong stand on anything. Didio is trying to garner publicity by any means possible and I have little respect for such tactics.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not what PC is. PC was designed as a way to create an environment where offensive speech was not possible and/or not accepted. It was specifically brought up in the early 80s to confront workplaces where people were being sexist, racist or whatever.

I agree with you: you can never avoid offending everyone. People in general are too thin-skinned these days. and too eager to claim victim status as a means of achieving their ends. But you can avoid saying deliberately hurtful things, which is pretty much what PC is supposed to be about.

The idea that PC is meant to address historical injustices is wrong, but an understandable conflation. Many of the folks that blow the PC trumpet loudest are the same people concerned with correcting historicla inaccuracies either real or imagined.

Yes, politicians use PC as a means to seem they are doing something when all they are really doing is calling shit bio-sludge, or whatever. But the hollow use of language for meaningless political gain was here before PC and will be here long after.

Just because Didio is an idiot doesn't mean he gets to redefine PC to whatever he thinks it means. Words have definitions. They mean things. The NyT article was all about DC trying to address the fact that damn near all of their comics star white, straight people with a tiny handful of comics starring people who are a bit different. So now we have a new Blue Beetle who is latino, a Batwoman who is gay and a new Atom who is Asian. Three comics, out of how many?

Personally, I'd like to see even more diverse heroes out there as long as they are well-written and well drawn.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Arielle said...

Anonymous,

Cshiana gave you the actual entry for 'politically correct' straight out of the dictionary.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

thanks Arielle, I'm glad someone else still uses those :)

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point here is that diversity will come to comics naturally over time the same way female superheroes have grown more varied over the years. If it's forced I have a feeling it will piss off more people than it pleases.

What do you consider to be "naturally" in the comics industry? Diversity has to occur because some high muckety-muck decides that it's going to occur. High muckety-mucks are not historically interested in being "PC" or gaining approval in other ways. They are interested in the almighty bottom line, and if someone manages to spin a pitch ("Joe, you're gonna love this. Lesbians are all the rage right now! Look at X, Y, and Z! We'll make major buckage!"), the muckety-muck will give the green light for the project.

You don't think this happened with earlier superheroes? Luke Cage is straight out of the blaxploitation trend of the 70s (first appearance: 1972), which resulted from the visibility afforded to black people by the civil rights movement of the late 1960s. Wonder Woman? You don't think a big deal was made about her being, you know, a woman? You don't think this had anything to do with tapping into the growing second-wave feminist movement and the Rosie the Riveters of the 1940s?

The comic industry isn't about being "PC". The comic industry is about making money. If a creative type wants to try to sneak a little diversity in there, s/he has to put the best money-spin on it s/he can, and the marketing types will be all over it.

The industry won't take a risk unless it's shrunk below the monetary benefits that the marketing campaign will draw.

So we've got a lesbian Batwoman. That's great. But lemme tell ya, we won't have "naturalized" diversity until the big name characters -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Spiderman, etc. -- start to have some reinvention as people of color, or queer folks, or transgender folks, or whatever.

None of this is the dreaded evil "PC." It's all about capitalism.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Of course it's all about the Benjamins. Whenever you have stockholders to answer to the bottom line is all that counts.
So I've been thinking about the Batwoman thing. An openly gay character in comics? How does this relate to other forms of entertainment like tv? I watched Deal or No Deal last night and the contestant was obviously gay. When they showed his supporters, they didn't refer to his boyfriend as his boyfriend but rather as his best friend. Any time the two would kiss, the camera would pan away so all you saw was a hug. I watched It Takes a Thief the other day and they had 2 lesbians on the show. They didn't refer to them as girlfriends, but as roommates. Rosie O'Donnell is openly gay, but while she was doing her show she never made reference to the fact that she was gay. In fact, Rosie did this thing for years that she had a crush on Tom Cruise, blurring the gay question. Ellen Degeneres does the same thing on her morning show. She never says anything about or refers to her sexual preference. In fact, I've heard her call the male guests sexy and even fan herself when one of them took his shirt off. The openly gay characters seem to be reserved for prime time.
The point is that society does indeed watch out for it's children. They don't want them exposed to certain things on programs that are considered family entertainment. Look at the flack of the Janet Jackson incident. Yet Didio has no qualms about putting an openly gay character in Batman's world. One can only conclude that Didio either doesn't want to protect the youth of America or that he feels no kids read comics anymore so they will not be shown the same sex lifestyle ealier than a parent might like. I think this is Didio's way of saying that they've given up on children as potential readers. How sad is that?
As for this PC garbage, I think it's ruining our country. Words do no harm, intent is what counts. Since my skin is white should I be held to a different standard when I use the N word than rappers who use it casually all the time? It's what is in your heart that matters, not what's on your lips. I am part American Indian. I have never used this fact to get a legup in life nor would I ever. I believe I should be judged on my merits, not on my ancestry. I also do not take offense at how Indians are portrayed on shows like F Troop. My family has several members with mental illness. Do they take offense at words like looney or nuthouse? Or course not. That would be silly. What really matters is that you treat everyone equally, with dignity and respect. Do not force superheroes to be of one race or another, just write strong, likeable characters that people will embrace and love. I don't have an African American cell in my body, but I love Mr. Terrific and Manhattan Guardian. Doesn't matter that they're black and I'm not, just that they're great characters.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Jim said...

Jeff - Very true. No one objects that buys into old time comic morals cares about the background (ethnic or otherwise) of a character, just tell a good story and make the character true. I remember when I was running for a low level political office and someone ask what I would do about the African-American children and I stated that we have a problem with the question in that we should be Americans first then whatever else. It's the same with heroes, I don't want a gay hero, I want a hero and if they are gay so be it.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

"So we've got a lesbian Batwoman. That's great. But lemme tell ya, we won't have "naturalized" diversity until the big name characters -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Spiderman, etc. -- start to have some reinvention as people of color, or queer folks, or transgender folks, or whatever."

Why would you want to reinvent heroes that already exist as something besides what they already are? You already said how Wonder Woman was made because she was a female superhero... and yet now the character stands on her own. Why? Because the writers no longer think of he as the token female hero - just as a hero. The same thing will happen for Batwoman if she has good writers - and I sincerely hope it does. My point is that characters should be created because someone came up with an idea for a new hero and they want to tell there story. I'm saying that a character doesn't mean anything to me if it's being written to fill someone's pocket. Yes - this makes me an idealist, but so what? I'm happy to be an idealist - if we don't strive towards ideals what do we have to hope for?

As a writer I care for the characters I create. If the writer/creator doesn't respect the characters who's story they tell, why the hell should the reader give a crap about them?

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Right on Cshiana! If Batman were to suddenly come out of the closet I wouldn't love him any less. But a part of me would be bothered that this new attribute wasn't true to the character and was being foisted on him for some alterior purpose. I would have preferred it if Montoya became Batwoman as now it appears she's been replaced and will therefore be the one most likely to be killed before the end of 52.

Thursday, June 01, 2006  
Blogger Scipio said...

Well, Batwoman is preceded by the new Catwoman in the "lesbian vigilante" department, so I think it unfair to label her a token.

Friday, June 02, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

So why do you think Didio is making so much out of the fact that the new Batwoman is a lesbian yet didn't say Boo when a lesbian took over as the new Catwoman, a character as familiar with most people as Batman is??

Friday, June 02, 2006  
Blogger Brainiac6 said...

I'm not labeling her the token lesbian (there's more than just Batwoman and Catwoman in the DCU too) - I'm protesting because it seems that Didio is labeling her that way. I don't understand the appeal of using minorities as marketing devices. I guess I just prefer the stories that seem to work naturally. In Top 10 49ers there's a gay character (two in fact!) and his story is an important plot thread. Yet the book isn't advertised as co-starring a gay character. Jetlad's love story grows throughout the development of the book and it's wonderfully executed. In fact it was one of the few well done love stories in comics today. Even if there was some concern over the age difference *cough*. I just don't want political agendas to become more important than the stories themselves. Hopefully Batwoman will be a great new character because her writers will present us with the whole person, not just one marketable aspect of her personality.

Saturday, June 03, 2006  
Anonymous Jeff said...

From a British newspaper:

As part of a diversity drive, the New York-based creators will also be launching Great Ten – a Chinese-sponsored superhero team.

And the Blue Beetle has been relaunched as the alter ego of a Mexican teenager rather than a white male.

But gay and lesbian campaign group Outrage says making Batwoman a lesbian is more about pandering to the fantasies of adult male readers than diversity.

Spokesman David Allison said: 'Most pre-adolescent children neither know nor care about the sexuality of their comic book heroes. And it is well known that lots of men get turned on by the idea of lesbians.'

However, fans are unconcerned by any controversy. 'I can't think of anyone better suited than Kathy Kane. She looks great all the time and would look awesome in a catsuit,' said one blogger.

Sunday, June 04, 2006  

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