MARTHA THOMASES: Penis People
According to stories like this, there was quite the kerfuffle at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con about the decline in the number of female artists and writers on the new DC reboot.
Raising questions about this is guaranteed to get one labeled a bitch (or worse). Kudos to Batgirl for being the bitch. It’s a thankless job, but somebody has to do it. However, I’m disturbed by DC’s response. They claim they were looking for the “best available” talent. Apparently, the best indicator of talent is a penis.
Look, I understand that DC (and Marvel, and Dark Horse, and IDW and so on and so on) want to hire writers and artists with built-in fan followings. It’s a competitive market, and anything that helps to sell the product is desirable. I also understand that these publishers want to hire people who have demonstrated an ability to meet deadlines reliably, and the easiest way to do that is to employ people you’ve already employed.
The entertainment media require a steady influx of new talent. Some, like music and movies, demand youth, and too much experience can be considered a drawback. Other branches of publishing, such as books and magazines, all have systems in place to not only keep successful writers, artists and photographers, but also to develop new ones.
Mainstream comics, not so much.
I got my break at Marvel because I hung out at the office a lot. This was back in the mid-1980s, before heinous security measures engulfed New York office buildings. I had interviewed Denny O’Neil for High Times magazine, and exploited our acquaintance (and subsequent friendship) so that I could hang out, use the photocopiers, and make free long-distance calls. Because of this, I was a familiar face, and when Larry Hama wanted to expand the kind of comics he was publishing, he took a chance on me, and we developed Dakota North with Tony Salmons.
No one has since taken a chance on me. Dwayne McDuffie once told me this was all the evidence he needed that comics is a sexist business. As things stand now, most people who enter the field of mainstream comics are former fans. The business won’t attract more women until it creates more comics that girls like. And it probably won’t create more comics that girls like until there are more people who used to be girls making comics. It’s a vicious circle.
The easiest way to break this chain is to make it less profitable. The first step in that direction, at least at DC, seems to be the failure of the Green Lantern movie to make a boatload of money. Geoff Johns, fanboy in chief, seems to be getting the blame. I admit that I kind of liked it, but that’s because I’ve been reading the comics for 50 years … and, also, Ryan Reynolds in a skintight suit. Most people who buy movie tickets don’t have my knowledge of the backstory, and so didn’t have the patience to sit through it.
Bringing in new perspectives isn’t easy. The old ways are easy. Unfortunately, the old ways inevitably produce the old results. Since this is comics, it doesn’t have the same impact as, say, firefighting, but the results of this laziness are the same – ostracizing newcomers and alienating the general public.
Comic book editors, look beyond your slush piles! Seek out new talent at places other than portfolio reviews at comic conventions! There’s a whole world of talent out there.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
- DC Responds to Concerns over Lack of Female Comic Creators (comicvine.com)