Tagged: batgirling

Joe Corallo: Don’t Call It A Comeback!


I’m sure many of you are aware of the upcoming DC Rebirth. I’ve been following it along since the first bits of news surfaced, and I almost wrote about it last week. Now I feel enough is out there where I can start forming some level of opinion on it. And try as I might, it’s not a particularly positive opinion. However, that’s strictly regarding Rebirth. I do think DC may have a couple of good ideas here. Just not with diversity in mind.

Hear me out on this one.

Rebirth shouldn’t shock anybody. As far back as last August, we heard that DC was going to “Stop Batgirling” and get back to “meat and potatoes.” Many people wrote about this and how problematic it was since “meat and potatoes” came off as “more straight cis white guy stories.” Back in August, that was just an opinion on what might happen. Granted, a well informed opinion, but still an opinion. Based on the titles being offered starting in June, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t now a fact. At least it took almost a year for this all to happen, which gave us time to enjoy comics like Doctor Fate and Midnighter. They will be sorely missed by me and quite a few people I know. Not enough people, apparently, but still quite a few.

In lieu of diversity, DC is doubling down on its core characters. It may come of as a sound conservative move to retreat back, reassess, and plan accordingly to expand after. Looking at the line-up DC has presented certainly shows that they are taking far fewer risks than they did back with the New 52. Outside of arguably Gotham Academy: Next Semester, every single title is a superhero one. At a time of where publishers like Image are encroaching on the big two with its wider variety of genres, this seems like more than just one step back for DC Comics.

Why would DC think this is such a good idea?

The short answer may very well be DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. He’s a talented writer that has helped DC a great deal in the past. However, he’s also constantly looking backward when it comes to important aspects of the stories he’s telling. This is the guy that orchestrated the biggest reboot of Green Lantern which involved bringing back straight cis white Hal Jordan as its torchbearer. Similar strategies were used in his runs on comics like The Flash and Teen Titans. His comments that he made regarding Rebirth are troubling. A lot of looking backward and keeping the fan base small, isolated, and nearly impenetrable is what I and many others got out of it.

As a queer reader, canceling the only gay male superhero comic alone hits a bit hard, especially after a fairly short run. Cancelling Catwoman as well seems a bit excessive. In addition to Batwoman staying gone, Poison Ivy not continuing to have a series (I know it was just meant to be a mini-series, but still), that just leaves Harley Quinn and Hellblazer. The only queer characters worth having in their line are only the ones who have been in movies and TV shows I suppose. It’s rough enough that the queer representation lately has been almost exclusively cis and white (at least in headlining a book), but this step back makes it seem like it may be a long time before we can even move past that. It looks like it could be a long time before Alysia Yeoh becomes a kickass vigilante (if she ever does) and don’t even get me started on when we’ll see Rene Montoya as The Question or Kate Godwin as Coagula again.

At this point you may be curious as to what I was getting at before when I said that DC may have some good ideas here. They might. Not with Rebirth, but with Vertigo and their Hanna-Barbera titles. Not too long ago, DC’s New 52 did have quite a few risky books coming out. While doing that, they neglected the Vertigo line. Saying Vertigo as an imprint was anemic at the time would have been a nice way to put it. Part of that was DC bringing back characters like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Constantine, and Doom Patrol into the main continuity. They also just weren’t pumping out the same number of titles, and books like Fables were coming to an end. Now, Vertigo appears to be thriving. It seems pretty clear to me that DC’s approach now is to keep it’s main line more conservative and less risky and using Vertigo to take chances and experiment again. When framed in this context, it doesn’t sound quite as bad. I haven’t really seen it framed this way yet, but maybe as the new Vertigo titles get further along and Rebirth begins, we’ll see commentators putting this all in a slightly different context.

With the Hanna-Barbera titles, DC can address the problem with the lack of comic offerings they have for kids. That’s a good thing. We need more kids reading comics if we’re going to keep expanding the readership. And the way Jim Lee is apparently looking into making Hanna-Barbera comics a shared universe, it allows the kind of story telling that’s used in most DC comics while having it for a younger audience. Hey, it works for Archie.

If your head is currently exploding because I haven’t taken the time to acknowledge how much I hate the new hipster looking Scooby Doo character designs, it’s because I don’t. If you have a non exploded head on your shoulders you’ll be able to find out why. It’s because the new Scooby Doo isn’t supposed to be for me. It’s supposed to be for kids. Some of which might not even be aware of Scooby Doo. This could be their first look at these characters. Maybe the kids will hate it. I don’t know. What I do know is hating character designs for kids’ comics clearly not made for me is a waste of my own time and energy. I have plenty of other things to get angry about. This is an election year after all.

My qualms with the Hanna-Barbera line of comics lie in diversity. They are white. Very very white. And straight. And cis. That’s the downside of going back to older properties like this. It’s a point I’ve brought up before, and this is just another example of the problems of resurrecting much older properties that didn’t have diversity in mind. I’m not angry that Scooby and the gang look like they’re living in Williamsburg or Bushwick now, but if you don’t mind updating the designs, why do they all still have to be straight cis white people? If it’s not at all important that Shaggy stays clean shaven and is allowed to be drawn with crazy facial hair, then why is it so important that he has to be portrayed as white?

The Vertigo line seems to have more stories involving women than the main DC line. That’s great. We definitely need more of that. However, Vertigo does seem very white. They have some great titles, but between DC’s main line, the Hanna-Barbera offerings, and Vertigo, I can’t help but feel we’ve taken a few steps back in queer and minority representation. Maybe this is temporary, since comics focusing on diversity seemed temporary at DC, but we’ll have to wait and see.

In other news, I’ve caught up on Image Comics’ The Wicked + The Divine. Now that is a great inclusive comic.

Molly Jackson and the Mystery Quota

Mystery Quota
A couple weeks ago, Jessica Jones premiered with much fanfare. The internet vomited up so much detail about the character you would have thought Alias had been Marvel’s biggest selling book since Amazing Spider-Man. Fans are tripping over themselves to talk about Jessica and her abusive relationship with Kilgrave. But another, more disturbing line of conversation has emerged: the competition between female superhero shows.
Yes, people are taking to the Internet now saying Jessica Jones should and will get Supergirl cancelled. Because those two shows are exactly alike, have the exact same audience, and must compete as per the laws of the Internet.

Oh wait, none of that is true. But sadly, this type of fear mongering will always continue.

In geek culture, we are taught from a young age, that things we love will get cancelled by the network, the creative team will get taken off the book they made big, our childhood loves will be rebooted into a steaming pile of crap or our favorite character will get ret-conned into an asshole. Just because we have suffered through that kind of trauma doesn’t mean we need to succumb to it. Right now there are geeks who are saying Supergirl should be cancelled because Jessica Jones is a better show. I’d surmise that each has their own place in entertainment. I’d also like to point out that I don’t think Netflix shows can be considered anything similar to network television due to the differences in distribution. The entire show structure has to be thought out better since viewers are more likely to binge watch. Though, that is really an argument for another column day.

My point, long and rambling as it is, is that geeks seem to need to compete against other geeks, like we are all fighting for a limited spot in the geeky quota. Yes, the quota does seem to show up on occasion. In comics, we’ve seen a limited expansion of diversity on creative teams and in characters. At DC Comics, they were even told to stop “Batgirling” a.k.a. stop exploring new things.

Entertainment as a whole has stuck with the basic “meat and potatoes” idea. But when a new idea takes off, it does explode with similar stories and genre exploration. I don’t see why superheroes, which is having an amazing renaissance in television, would be any different. Would it be great if there was more? Of course. But that is no reason to take two slightly similar shows and say one can’t be on the air because another show is. Then we wouldn’t have 30+ different cop shows on TV. (That is an entirely arbitrary number. I was going to count but it already seems like a lot. That’s probably closer than TV would want to admit.)

Show the entertainment companies what you love and you might get to keep it. Just don’t knock other creations in the process.

Joe Corallo: Diversity — People, and Content

Marvel MysteryIn addition to being really into comics, I’m also really into history. I like to know where things came from and how they were made. This fact about myself has resulted in my reading of quite a few comics from the Golden and Silver Ages. Nearly all were reprints, but comics of those ages none the less. Although some of the comics then may not offer us the kinds of lessons in diversity and inclusion I’m normally advocating for, they actually do give us a valuable lesson in diversity that is lacking in mainstream comics today.

The norm for decades in comics was an anthology format. Marvel Mystery, Adventure, Action, Detective, Showcase, Journey Into Mystery, Police, Crime Does Not Pay, Eerie, Creepy, My Greatest Adventure, all of these and more would offer us up multiple stories featuring different characters in each. The first issue of Marvel Comics featured the Human Torch, the Angel (not that Angel), Sub-Mariner (yes, that Sub-Mariner), Masked Raider, a short story titled “Burning Rubber” and Ka-Zar. Yes, it wasn’t the standard 20-22 pages we see in most comics, it was 64 pages. The point being that you could have a single issue with many characters and stories. One title being the feature, with the highest page count, and the other stories being back ups.

Action ComicsAs the years went by, anthology style comics at the big two were either getting canned, or morphing into books about one hero or team. My Greatest Adventure turned into Doom Patrol, Action into another Superman comic, Detective another Batman comic, Journey Into Mystery a Thor comic, and so forth. DC in particular tried to carry on with that tradition longer, having books like Legion of Superheroes have a feature story with a large portion of the team followed by a shorter back up with only one or two members to help us all get to know them better. Eventually, these efforts more or less faded away. Occasionally, like in Action Comics, Detective Comics or Justice League they’d have some sort of back up, but it was just furthering the feature story and not really it’s own thing.

Police ComicsDC did try bringing back more anthologies with Adventures of Superman, Legends of the Dark Knight, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, but all of those only featured the character in the title. Though those weren’t a bad idea, I do think it misses a key point of the older anthologies; to help introduce new characters to a market that might otherwise not pick up a book featuring one of those characters.

Both Marvel and DC have hundreds of characters at their disposal. The market only allows a certain amount of comics hitting the shelves at once while still being able to sell X amount of them all. Maybe instead of testing out different solo titles, they could try more anthology style comics.

Wouldn’t it be great is characters like Batman got more people reading Batwing and Batwoman because they were in the same book? What if you alternated who had the feature story, so maybe Batwoman would be the feature for a few months, but that Batman story in there helped keep enough readers on the title who otherwise wouldn’t be and kept the title afloat? What if we used a format like that to expose readers who otherwise wouldn’t go out of their way to read a comic with racial or religious minority characters, or LGBTQ characters in it?

DC editors recently decided they needed to stop “batgirling” and get back to “meat and potatoes.” That kind of talk usually ends up meaning going back to a less diverse time in comics. I get worried when I see Marvel or DC seemingly spread themselves too thin in certain areas. For example, as I mentioned last week, DC now has Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy, three white bisexual women as leads in their own solo titles. That won’t last forever. Maybe when that starts to change, a Gotham City Sirens book featuring all of them would be easier to maintain.

I think if comics are going to be serious about diversity, they have to do more than just cater to the readers of the different communities. Preaching to the choir is one thing, and it is important, but it’s not everything. We need to get more people outside of those communities to be exposed to them, and understand them better. It’s an important and necessary component in making comics a more diverse place and assuring that it won’t just end up being a fad.

Besides, this feeds into nostalgia, and what comic book reader in their right mind doesn’t love that?

Molly Jackson: The Good, the Bad(?), and the Interesting

Ashley A. Woods

The past few days of comic news has been a wowza of roller coaster articles and announcements. I spent hours trying to decide what topic to tackle. Which sucked. A lot. It was way too difficult to settle for one tidbit to chat about. Then I realized, “My column, my format!” I also realized that I’m adult enough to have chocolate ice cream for dinner. So here’s my personal favorites of the week.

In my good slot, we have the exciting announcement of Ashley A. Woods joining Marvel as an artist. I’ll be honest, I had never heard of Woods. Once I checked out her work, I’m just so eager to see what she can do with the Marvel characters. Her upcoming book Niobe is abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous.

That isn’t the only reason that this is big news. It is exciting to see a woman joining the Marvel team and even more exciting that this is a woman of color. If the word on the web is correct, this is the first African-American woman to be a creator at Marvel. That’s pretty big @#^%!* news. And, I’m sure that Woods could teach the guys over there a few things about female proportions.

In my bad(?) slot, I’ve got DC rumors that the head honchos have told everyone to “stop batgirling” or being creative. The reason I went with the question mark on the end of that bad is because this could be a bad thing or an ok thing. It really depends on how they do it.

Truth is, if they don’t do a complete 180 on everything they have done creatively, it could just trickle through their other books rather than tidal wave. Large universes tend to get muddled and crazy pretty quickly. Perhaps this could be a way to keep this world easy for new readers to follow. I just hope they don’t destroy all the innovative progress they have made.

And for interesting, I recently read about the Middle East’s rising interest in comics. Comic cons have been popping up all over the place and new comic creators are developing new characters and stories. Some comics are used to as a veiled way to fight sexism or explore Muslim traditions.

Comics are a great way to embrace the best and worst parts of your world, in an engaging and descriptive way.  Since comics are such a mainstay in the US, we rarely talk about other countries comic industries. While it may have been an American influence at first, it sounds like other cultures in the Middle East are using it to do their own thing.

So those are the three things I couldn’t decide between. I’m betting that there is at least one thing you hadn’t heard about. One thing is sure though. Comics, they are a-changin’.