Apparently, Bongo Comics is shutting down production, and the last issue of Simpsons Comics will be issue 245, after 25 years.
I don’t know the particulars of it, I haven’t asked for inside knowledge. But it’s a shame for a number of reasons.
Just culturally, Simpsons were often the ONLY comics available on some newsstands. They were also one of the few non-superhero books to have loyal followers AND casual readers. They employed top-notch creative and editorial people.
And personally, they were the first professional publisher to hire a particular red-headed hairdresser from the Oregon boonies.
I never thought I would be a writer. It was drilled into my head as a kid that I would never make a living from it. And certainly, I had things going against me by many accounts; wrong gender, wrong background, wrong home base, on and on.
Bongo didn’t care about any of that, they only cared that I was funny and could tell a story. They never failed to treat me with respect, dignity and kindness even though I was a nobody from nowhere.
I remember, I had been writing a comedy column on CBR for a while. Many Comics editors asked me to pitch for them and I turned them all down flat, I just didn’t think I was a “real writer” and me getting a job would take one away from a REAL writer, whatever that is.
Cartoonist Scott Shaw had read and liked my column. He said, Bongo needed writers, and I should call them. I said no. He said, well, it doesn’t matter because I’ve already told them about you and they’re calling tomorrow.
I sat up all night trying to figure out what to do. Then I finally decided I had to take the chance, because it was never going to come again. I took the call. And it changed my life.
They were kind, and they were patient. They asked me to send a few springboards, they had to explain what that was. I sent 25. They liked nearly all of them.
After that, they helped me learn how to outline, how to write for a cartoonist, and all about the vocabulary of comics. If I had been thrown into the thresher at a bigger publisher, I would likely have been mangled up before I could ever learn all that. But Bongo was like that, they cared.
And being female was never an issue, never. I remember after my first couple stories, I got a note saying they wanted to call. I was worried that it was bad news, and this lovely dream would end. I worried a lot back then, it all seemed so precarious.
And they called, and said, “Gail, we are bumping you to our highest page rate. Our best writer deserves our best rate.” I sat down and cried, not because of the money, but because of the respect and kindness. And I stress, this was fifteen years ago, when it still was a little more unusual to see female writers.
I tell that story not about because it says anything about me, I tell it because that’s how they operated. No drama, no goofy politics or power struggles. They just wanted to put out good comics and they treated people with dignity and respect. And it made me want to be a Comics writer forever.
I have a couple more short memories.
First, I remember they invited me to come see their offices…it was very plain from the outside, intentionally so. But once you got past security, it was a huge building with seemingly every square inch of wall space covered with Simpsons art and merch. It was Willy Wonka for cartoons. They had a room with all the Simpsons arcade and pinball games. Weirdly, the only room that WASN’T covered in that stuff was Matt Groening’s office.
At one point, they said they would take all the space on my schedule I could give them. I wrote comics, tons of Sunday strips, and pieces for their big collections, and more. For a while, they were hot on the idea of Lisa Simpsons child mystery novels, with Ralph as her Watson. Somewhere, the first chapters of those exist, but they never happened as a published work.
I remember meeting Matt Groening. He was very kind, especially about my Sunday strips. It all seemed surreal, Simpsons wasn’t just the funniest thing on tv, it was the BEST thing, as well, and the world loved them. And I got to write them.
Bongo was always run by Bill Morrison and Terry Delegeane. Two of the most stand-up guys in comics. If they said something, you immediately knew it was true. And both had a great eye for what would make Bongo great. I miss working with them.
Two of my all-time favorite scripts were written for them…an issue length take about the Simpsons going to Scotland for a golf tournament…I was so PROUD of that story. You may have seen the oft-memed on-panel fight between Grant Morrison and Mark Millar.
And the other is a Treehouse or Horror story I wrote, that the amazing Jill Thompson drew, about evil cereal mascots. It might still be my favorite single story I’ve done.
All of it happened because of Bongo. They had some tight restrictions given to them by Fox, but they still encouraged risk and whimsy.
Even forgetting the Treehouse or Horror collections, they routinely had talent like Ian Boothby, Chuck Dixon, Scott Shaw, and Ty Templeton. Every issue achieved and maintained a high quality, they just didn’t waste time with mediocrity.
I’m sad to see them go. I wish more mainstream readers had read the books, because in 25 years, they published some of the funniest, smartest and best-drawn comics out there.
And they gave me a chance and taught me how to do this weird thing I love so much.
One of the joys of having returned to the comics convention scene this fall was seeing old friends and industry comrades again after too many goddamn years – Walter and Louise Simonson, Marv Wolfman, Fabian Nicieza, Timothy Truman, Jim Salicrup, Dave Gibbons, Cat Staggs, and Jill Thompson, to name just a few – and to have a chance, at last, to meet, face-to-face for the very first time, a woman whom I’ve wanted to meet for a very long time, a woman of immense talent and of immense class…
The first time Gail and I communicated it was through Facebook, by which she reached out to me to apologize for all the press she was getting about her assignment to write Wonder Woman, i.e., “Wonder Woman Gets First Female Writer” and so forth, and that she wanted me to know that she kept trying to correct the press.
I said something like this: “But, Gail, if they print that, if they call you the second ongoing Wonder Woman writer, there’s no story.”
Of course, Gail went on to write one of the best ever run of the Amazon’s adventures.
Anyway, that led to Gail asking me to participate in her “Five Questions with…” site. Check it out. I just reread it – it’s one hell of an interview!
Gail and I continued to communicate via social media, but we still remained only “Facebook friends” until…
At this year’s NYCC, knowing Gail was there, I walked up and down the aisles until I finally found her booth. She was off at a panel, but I was determined to make time to at last meet one-on-one. So at timely intervals I kept walking over to her table – it was about the fourth time that I knew that she was back because the crowd and line around it snaked up and down the aisle. I stood off a little bit watching her talk to fans and sign her work until there was a (very) momentary break – I slid in, with apologies to the fans at the front of the line (“Justwant to say hello for a quick second”) – and felt like a complete idiot. I finally had a chance to meet Gail, and I was tongue-tied.
It felt like an eternity; but it was probably a maximum of three seconds, until I said, “Hi, Gail, it’s Mindy Newell.” (Like I was on the phone or something.) I think I stuck out my hand for a shake and said, “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
She just stared at me. I thought I had done something wrong, so I think I said, “Well, I don’t want to hold anybody up,” and left.
Then, yesterday, I found this on my Facebook page:
It was lovely to meet the legendaryMindy Newellbriefly at my table at NYCC.
She’s the REAL first acknowledged writer of the Wonder Woman ongoing title
(something I get routinely, but incorrectly, credited as being).
She’s a huge inspiration and a lovely person, and when she came to meet me at my table I was too overwhelmed to do much more than just gasp out a hello.
But she’s a legend and I adore her!
Honestly, guys, the last thing I think of myself as is “legendary.” Legends in the comic books industry, to me, are people like Stan Lee, or Jack Kirby, or Steve Ditko. Or Neil Gaiman, or Marv Wolfman. Or George Pérez, or Alan Moore, or Karen Berger. (And yes, you, too, Mike Gold, as I kiss up to my editor here at ComicMix *smile*.) To me, it is absolutely incredible that I even know these people. Or worked with some of them. Or can call so many of them, and others, friends. Or that I knew and worked with Julie Schwartz, whom my daughter still remembers giving her pink sucking candies from the jar on his file cabinet in his office. Or Len Wein, who actually invited me to a poker game where sat around the table people who had only been names on a splash page before. Or Mark Gruenwald, who always made me laugh and actually hired me to work at Marvel.
I’ll tell you a secret.
Sometimes I feel like a fake. A fool. An illusionist.
Someone who didn’t try hard enough. Someone who gave up too easily.
Yeah, it’s easy to say, “I suffered, and still do, from chronic depression syndrome.” It’s easy to say, “I had a daughter to raise.” It’s easy to say, “I needed a job with benefits and a regular paycheck.” It’s easy to say, “I didn’t have any support.”
For those following along at home, this has been a contentious week. For reasons I’m too bored to research, writer extraordinaire Gail Simone has started a blood feud with Fabian Nicieza over the specific pseudo-science of an X-Man’s mutant ability.
Before we explore the depth of the debate, let’s just catch up those few of you who truly don’t know your X-Men from your West Coast Teen Titanvengers.
Cyclops, the almost-often leader of Charles Xavier’s mutant strike-force, has the mutant ability to (according to Wikipedia which cites the Marvel Handbook as a source) shoot Optic Blasts — the product of his body metabolizing sunlight and other ambient energy. This is similar to his brother Alex (alias Havok) who metabolizes cosmic radiation. This metabolized energy is then released in the form of the beam from his eyes. (Thank you, Wikipedia)
Ms. Simone posits that these beams are, in fact hot, and as such said blasts are akin to Superman’s heat vision. Mr. Nicieza dutifully leans on his Marvel Handbook definition wherein the blasts are merely concussive – hence not containing any heat. Hilarity has since ensued as each creator has taken to social media to defend their point of view.
Conflicting reports have buoyed from the argument being tongue-in-cheek to absolutely-sincere. The fanboys have taken to arms over it. One might even posit that Simone’s initial declaration was more a way to oust angry fan-boy-man-children into a stupor to question her authority – not as a creator, but as a female creator. But subsequent meme’ing across the Facebook-Twitter-verse has perhaps grown what might be a funny little distraction to an all-out who-gives-a-flying-fuck (pardon me) for folks now declaring themselves #TeamGail and #TeamFabian – with equal membership aligned on the aforementioned spectrum of sincerity.
In the same week where #MeToo has spurned significant debate and discussion, it’s hard to figure out if the snowballing of the argument itself has been the barely concealed point this whole time, or offered as scapegoat distraction against some heavy and tumultuous postings.
Furthermore, why I bring this all to you this week, comes seated in my own idiotic apprehension to voice my (unnecessary) opinion on who specifically is right.
Whilst a litany of women whom I love have bared their souls across my feeds, I was personally compelled to do something, anything, to show my love and support. I cribbed a posting from a good (guy) friend who did his best to respond. In short, he wrote a blanket apology to all women whom he might have inadvertently scorned or hurt through his jovial nature; making it clear while he had never committed any heinous physical action to any women, he was unsure if in his own brand of humor had not ever accidentally offended any women in his life, or made them feel harassed. His sentiment was pure, and in seeing it, I was compelled to share it myself.
The reaction was positive – as many of my female friends ‘liked’ and commented in support of my desire to ensure my stance as someone who never intends to harm any living soul with my actions or words – keeping in mind that no matter how mindful I may be, my own brand of humor may have pushed limits unintentionally. Within the post came a desire for any women who I’d ever committed an inadvertent sin to let me know (privately or otherwise) so that I may sincerely apologize, and (of course) recognize where I might have previously been an idiot.
But in taking even that action, I was reprimanded a day later. A very intelligent, thoughtful, respected friend of mine took my posting to task. She let me know that in my desire to right a wrong, my intentions may have been pure, but the desire to do so was couched in the very thing the #MeToo movement is in essence fighting to change. To tell a woman (or anyone who has been harassed) to speak up to correct me may be unduly forcing them to relive erroneous feelings I caused. In short: If I can’t recognize what I’ve done wrong? I’m still part of the problem.
And with that, we return to CyclopsGate. You see, I side with Fabian. To the best of my recollection, Cyclops’ beams carry no heat. While they may have the ability to melt objects and such as shown in many comic books throughout X-history, I’ve long held the belief in those instances the concussive blasts caused friction across the target, which in turn caused combustion. Or, at very most, when specifically stressed Cyclops can add heat to his optic blasts inadvertently (like, say, he’s mad. Mad beams hot. Being tactical? Beam stays cool.).
The thing is, I love Gail Simone. I am thoroughly #TeamGail. But to declare her right when I believe her to be wrong? Well, I got #MeToo’d into silence.
My fear of missing the joke (or non-joke) of this feud (or faux-feud) has me fretting over my opinion. Gail is clearly a lot closer to mainstream comics than I am. Perhaps she is right! But if I voice my opinion (one bolstered only by the internet research I could complete via sources that vacillate between hearsay and Wikipedia), do I accidentally side with tiki-torch-wielding man-children?
I don’t know, so, I’ll just declare myself #TeamWolverine (X-23 though, not that misogynist Logan, damnit).
The past few weeks I’ve been talking a lot about other people’s Kickstarter campaigns. This week, here at ComicMix, I’m here to talk about our Kickstarter campaign that is active right now. That’s right; ComicMix LLC is working on a new project – a major comics collection to benefit Planned Parenthood.
I’m going to get into that in a minute.
This project has been in the works for nearly two years now. It started back in December of 2015. Fellow ComicMix columnist and my co-editor Molly Jackson and I were at Mia Pizza in Astoria NY. I was a mere two months into my tenure as a columnist here and we were discussing something we could do. We immediately thought of doing a comics anthology. We had a lot of ideas we were throwing around, including a throwback Crime Does Not Pay style anthology.
Eventually, Molly and I went on to bug our EIC Mike Gold about it. We thought of different things we could do, and different strategies we could take. I had a connection to Planned Parenthood and after discussing it with the ComicMix team we moved forward on that. After many, many months of moving up the chain, discussions, conference calls, and an election that shook us all deeply and put the idea on the back burner, we have finally come to a point where we can move forward with Mine!, A Comics Collection To Benefit Planned Parenthood. It was a lot of work from everyone to put this together, and I’m so excited I get to be a part of th15is.
Both Molly and I are editing this collection. We’ve been working with a wide variety of people in comics and beyond in lining up contributors for this. We’ve been provided incredible stories and gorgeous artwork for this book that has been inspiring to the whole ComicMix team. It swells our hearts to see so many people in comics coming together for such an important cause. It’s this coming together and working together that gives us all hope that things can and will get better.
Below is the press release. As I stated earlier, the Kickstarter is live. Please share this around and please consider pledging so ComicMix can put out a high-quality comics collection with incredible talent for one of the worthiest causes that I think of.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND COMICMIX L.L.C. TEAM-UP FOR MINE!,
A COMICS ANTHOLOGY FUNDRAISER
ComicMix Editor-in-Chief Mike Gold today announced the forthcoming publication of a graphic novel of original short stories to celebrate the important work of Planned Parenthood. The volume, to be edited by Joe Corallo and Molly Jackson, will be published this fall in celebration of over 100 years of Planned Parenthood.
Mine! will feature the work of Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Sandman), Gail Simone (Wonder Woman), Yona Harvey (Black Panther), Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance, Umbrella Academy), Gabby Rivera (America), Amber Benson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Witches of Echo Park), Mara Wilson (Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame), Mags Visaggio (Kim & Kim), Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat!), John Ostrander (Suicide Squad), and Jill Thompson (Wonder Woman), among many other top comics creators.
Project Co-Editor Molly Jackson said, “Planned Parenthood is a vital resource for women and men from all walks of life, providing needed health care and support to millions of people all over the world. We are proud to do whatever we can to bring attention to their amazing work.”
Co-Editor Joe Corallo said, “The comics community is built on freelance labor that relies on the kind of access to healthcare that Planned Parenthood provides. We’re thrilled to see such a diverse group of people in the comics community coming together to support this essential cause.”
A Kickstarter campaign to help finance printing and distribution costs launches August 15th at 8:00 am EST. Mine! will be available in bookstores, comic book shops, and electronically all over the world.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
ComicMix, LLC publishes a line of graphic novels by some of the best new and established talent in the industry. ComicMix Pro Services works with creators to produce, publish and market their work in a highly competitive marketplace. In addition, ComicMix runs one of the Internet’s most popular comics-oriented pop culture opinion and news sites.
Press inquiries and interview requests can be sent to email@example.com
A few weeks ago, it was announced that Aspen Comics would be launching a new crossover series titled No World by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Jordan Gunderson. Shortly after that, we learned that a new trans character was being created for the series. I had a lot of questions and wrote about that here last week. Scott read it and offered me the opportunity to interview him about No World and this new trans character. Here’s that interview.
Joe Corallo: You’ve written at Aspen Comics for a number of years now. How did No World come to be? Was this something you thought should be happening, or did Aspen approach you with an idea and you ran with it?
Scott Lobdell: It was 100% Aspen! They have been making overtures over the last few years towards stitching their different sub-genres together – so they could paint a more vivid landscape on a broader canvas – and so a team book seems like a natural extension of that endeavor.
I think there was some concern that crossing streams might dilute some of the uniqueness of each of the characters/worlds – but you just have to look at a Justice League to marvel at, say, the dynamic of a street vigilante teaming with an alien powerhouse from a dead world to see that mixing characters and genres can benefit everyone.
JC: In your over 25 years writing comics you’ve tackled LGBT characters including Northstar and even creating characters like Bunker, a gay hispanic superhero, at DC Comics. What made you decide on creating a black trans woman for this comic, and how much of a say in it did Aspen have?
SL: I felt if Aspen was giving me the marching orders to explore their world, that their world (and ours) had a lot of different people in it – and that like most comic book or sci-fi worlds (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc) black trans women were woefully under represented.
The same way that DC allowed me to use the relaunch of Teen Titans to create a brand-new character in Bunker, Aspen was very supportive of the idea of using No World to do the same.
They didn’t blink at the idea of introducing a trans woman. Even when I said I didn’t want it to be what I feel is often the “typical” scenario where we meet a trans character and are “shocked” to discover they are trans!
It feels, to me, that the most acceptable way to have a trans character introduced in a comic or television show is with the “This girl is just like me – wait! What? She’s trans?! That really upends my expectations about human sexuality and what I’ve always considered normative behavior!” trope. While I am sure that happens a lot in real life, I think it only scratches the surface of the trans experience. I wanted to go deeper.
I wanted to introduce a character that wasn’t there to “shock” us with the revelation she is trans, but rather someone who is very clearly trans and isn’t concerned at all with your feelings on the matter.
The only caveat they had was “Don’t use her as a punchline.” Which was great because it had never occurred to me to do that so it meant we were all on the same page.
JC: Since you brought up punchlines I wanted to address that on your Twitter page you used the hashtag #passingisforfootballs. While some people seemed to appreciate it while others voiced concern about a cis man using a hashtag like that saying things that included, “That’s a gross joke at the expense of marginalized people.” Readers can view that thread here. How do you respond to that?
SL: Well for starters, that was the character’s perspective on passing or not passing. She has no interest in being defined by what other people think of as “beautiful” or “feminine” or “sexy”… she is 100% comfortable in her own skin.
Second, there is a difference between humor and mocking. She uses her sense of humor to indicate how interested she is in other people’s notion of “passing” – which is zero interest. She’s not mocking people for whom passing might be a goal or a desire, she is simply bluntly expressing her own feelings on the matter as they relate to her.
And third, that line was given to me by a trans friend who was elated as I explained the character to her – it was her off the cuff reaction to the character and I loved it so I went with it.
While it might make some people feel better to draw a line in the sand and set themselves up as the judge for expressions or all things trans, I am comfortable depending on my close friends for their personal feelings on the matter.
JC: On Twitter you had used the hashtags for non-binary and gender non-conforming in reference to this new character. Is this how the new character identifies, is the character’s preferred pronouns they/them/themselves rather than she/her/herself and how did you come about to making that decision?
SL: Currently she uses female pronouns but identifies as gender non-conforming because she doesn’t care about living up to gendered expectations of womanhood or transwomanhood. That’s not to say she couldn’t start using gender neutral pronouns in the future. She doesn’t care to be defined by or conform to other people’s version of beauty or of being a woman.
JC: Many readers within the LGBT community are cautious about people outside the community doing stories that specifically involve transitioning with trans characters. It’s been mentioned that this new character is a former NFL player. Does that mean we’ll be seeing a transition story, flashbacks to before the character was out while they were playing football, and use of this character’s deadname? If so, can you go into detail about why that’s an important aspect of the story and needs to be told.
SL: This isn’t a transition story. When we meet her she has transitioned – and because the public has always known her as a world famous athlete before she transitioned (not unlike Caitlyn Jenner) – her past is as much of her story as her present.
She doesn’t have a dead name. Three of my closest trans friends have the same names before and after their transition, and that is part of the experience that I’m drawing from.
I don’t perceive flashbacks as being part of the series at all – but that’s because it is an action adventure story with a lot of forward momentum. But if I write the character again in the future, I can’t imagine I would shy away from stories about her past.
Like two of my close friends, I have lots of memories of our lives before their transitions. Hanging out at the county fair, having lunch after a meeting at Disney – those things happened before they changed their pronouns and their gender presentation. I think it would be odd if, in my head, I tried to have different memories because of who they are now. Or if I tried to erase those memories altogether.
JC: Who are some of the trans characters in comics and other media that have inspired you? Who are some of the trans people in your own life who have made you want to tell stories about trans characters in your comics?
SL: No other trans characters inspired me. I can’t think of any non-trans characters in comics or media that have inspired me. Real life is inspirational – comics, movies? Not so much.
As far as trans people I know in my own life…
There is Shakina Nayfack, a brilliant and beautiful actress/director who is currently lighting up the small screen on Hulu’s Difficult People. (Shakina is actually a consultant on No World.) Christian Beranek, a comic book writer and publisher who does the wildly popular web-series Validation.
Then there is trading card artist without peer, Rhiannon Owens. Emmanuelle, Aryn, Gia … many more. Some people I’ve known for years and IM with every day, others I only knew in passing but they left an impression.
The reason I want to tell a story involving a trans woman is the exact same reason I want to tell a story involving a cisgender male who dresses up like a bat to avenge his murdered parents, or a gay Mexican teenager who can create psionic bricks and direct them with his mind. Simply put, I want to write and read comics where everyone can be included.
Now, realistically, not every gradation of person can be in every issue of every story – but if I have the opportunity to introduce a trans woman of color into the comic book industry, you can sure as hell bet I’m going to! #includeeveryone.
JC: I understand this is a team book. Can you tell us a bit about how that will play out and how big of a role this new character have in it?
SL: While she doesn’t appear until the second issue, she immediately establishes herself as an important ass-kicking member of the group. What’s more, she has a lot of resources afforded her by her former NFL career and lots of connections that the other members of the team just don’t possess.
When you consider Dellec is essentially a ghost, Miya is an ancient warrior hiding in plain sight and Executive Assistant Iris is an assassin, it leaves it up to our character to be the public face of the team’s efforts to save the world.
While I haven’t written her introduction yet (on this week’s schedule) I don’t see any of her teammates being much interested in her gender.
JC: Some sources, including myself at ComicMix, have cited Suzie Su (a villain) as a previous example of you creating a trans character. I understand that she was never meant to encompass the entire trans community, but with there being limited positive portrayals of trans characters in all media let alone comics, some members of the LGBT may be cautious after seeing Suzie Su. I’d like to give you the opportunity to talk about that character and address people’s caution.
SL: I welcome people being as cautious as they want to be. Who doesn’t like a little caution in their lives? Heck, it is why we wear seat belts!
When I say #includeeveryone, I mean that all kinds of people should be represented in all kinds of roles in comics. Heroes, villains, sidekicks, roommates.
My friend and colleague Gail Simone introduced a trans roommate for Barbara Gordon in Batgirl – and it took several issues for the character to reveal she was trans and even one of the World’s Greatest Detectives was surprised. Suzie Su was introduced, was only ever referenced as a woman, and if I hadn’t identified her as trans in interviews no one would ever have known she was trans.
(Someone at a convention once argued that Suzie can’t possibly be trans because Jason would have called her a “he” and not a “she”! I felt that was a misunderstanding of the character: Red Hood respects pronouns.)
For trans people that get excited about seeing trans roommates represented there is Alysia Yeoh.
For trans people who get excited about seeing trans international crime lord who can go toe to toe with Red Hood and don’t. ever. stop. there is Suzie Su.
JC: Who would you say are some of the trans creators in comics whom you admire? What are some of your favorite comics by trans creators you’d recommend to people?
SL: Christian Baronek and I go way back – to her days when she was an executive at Disney and doing such creator owned books like Dracula vs. King Arthur and Silent Devils. She currently writes a really fun, really sweet, really poignant and often insightful web series called Validation. I wrote about it here.
Also, the lovely and talented and (I’ll say it!) vivacious Rhiannon from RhiannnonDrewIt always amazes me… both with her art (she draws all those trading cards in those exact dimensions! The details!) and how funny and sweet she is whenever I see her at conventions across the country.
There are probably lots of other trans creators I follow, but I don’t genuinely inquire about people’s gender… so unless someone made it a point to inform me of their status I would have no way of knowing.
JC: Anything else you feel people should know about this new character and your new comic No World?
SL: I would say that if you come into the series with a particular agenda that you should probably be prepared to be woefully disappointed and often offended.
No two trans women I know are very much alike in terms of their experiences, their sense of humor, the people they date, the decisions they’ve made about their transitions, their relationships with their families, their decisions to self-identity or let their sexuality speak for itself and on and on.
Anyone who expects Aloysius Thicke to conform to your specific version of a trans woman or to represent your personal feelings about how a trans woman should act or feel should probably not read this series.
Anyone who wants to get to know Thicke, root for her, follow her adventures – hop on!
JC: Thank you for your time, Scott! No World #1 hits the stores April 27th.
In my last column I talked about my expectations for the Fan2Sea comic-con cruise, how it fulfilled them, and some of the things I generally loved about being at a con on a cruise ship and about the way in which Fan2Sea pulled off its maiden voyage (haha!).
Today, it’s all about the details. Want to know what your daily experience will be like if (when! I hope!) Fan2Sea happens again and you decide to go? Well, I can’t say, but I can tell you what mine was like! So here goes:
Day 1 was pleasantly low-key from the start. Because luggage was still being delivered to staterooms, I spent the first bit of ship time chilling in one of the main areas overlooking the bar, with my lovely roommate, ComicMix assistant editor Adriane Nash, and with PR guru (and former Comic Book Resources writer/editor) Steve Sunu. After some people-watching (and excited taking of first-day selfies), and a little bit of a ship tour, we wandered up to one of the main eating areas where we found plenty of food on hand; and in the midst of a mellow lunch out on deck in the warm weather, I also caught up with the ever-fun comics creator Reilly Brown (and lovely family). It was the beginning of several times when I got to actually just chill with friends I usually see in only rushed or crowded circumstances at cons, and that was super nice.
Once staterooms were accessible and we’d gotten settled in ours, I rustled up my Hot Topic Walking Dead-themed blood spatter sundress (although I do like to do full-on cosplay, I’d opted for more referential casual cosplay on this trip, given I was packing for ten days and also didn’t want to wear a lot of layers on a warm, sunny trip!). Then we headed to the pool deck, where the first two big panels, for The Walking Dead (with Michael Rooker, Lew Temple, Madison Lintz, and Seth Gilliam) and Guardians of the Galaxy (with Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn), were taking place in quick succession.
Although it was a bit windy and distracted out on the deck (which is why they moved later panels inside), it was also super cool to be reporting on a panel out in the beautiful sunny weather while literally standing in a pool. (Yes, that’s right – your intrepid reporter stood in a pool to bring you this con round-up and accompanying photographs!) And the actors fielded some great audience questions. I enjoyed the Walking Dead actors’ talking about the challenges and quirks of working on such a gruesome show; for instance, Michael Rooker shared that the bloody makeup didn’t really bother him – until he saw the zombies during lunch sitting around eating while wearing it! And one of my favorite questions to the Guardians panel elicited discussion from Sean Gunn about Gunn’s providing the rehearsal stand-in for the CGI Rocket Racoon, which the other Guardians actors would act against. Apparently at first Gunn was simply going to stand in and read Rocket’s lines, but he thought he could also provide the acting and eyelines for the others to reference, so he gave it a try – and lo-and-behold, he did such a good job of it that he ended up doing it throughout rehearsals.
After the panels we had a bit more time to explore, including checking in on the casino, which had an excellent and thorough Sin City theme, before it was time for the ship to pass under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was pretty exciting considering our ship was so tall it barely cleared the bottom of it. (Also, the sunset was beautiful!) After that we headed to the formal dining room, where I confess that upon ending up at a table with some veteran cruisers, we were unable to resist the peer pressure of each ordering two appetizers and two desserts to accompany our entrees. And all were tasty! (P.S. Pro tip that I didn’t know beforehand, having not been on a cruise before – if you want to be seated with a group in the formal dining room, you have to show up with your group. But our small party also enjoyed talking with folks at the larger table, so if you don’t form your group beforehand, you might just end up making a new friend!)
The only thing that could properly finish off a dinner like that would be a great cocktail; so of course after dinner I headed up to the Walking Dead / Guardians of the Galaxy cocktail party and, on the recommendation of another attendee, tried a “twisted” peach and mixed berry daiquiri. It was a great accompaniment as I enjoyed chatting with folks at the rotating bar (which took us by surprise when it started moving!), including Lew Temple (who I was really sad to see die on The Walking Dead, and who was really friendly and laid back to talk with); and Sean Gunn (a favorite from both Guardians and, of course, Gilmore Girls, and with whom I had a really wide-ranging and interesting conversation).
The party was a ton of fun, and when it wound down, no one wanted the good times to be done – so first, a few of us had the idea of playing a round of mini golf – but the wind was so crazy up on that deck that we had to postpone that for another time. Luckily, on the Fan2Sea cruise there was always stuff going on (including, e.g., the movie theater, the in-room monster channel, and the game room); so instead we located the karaoke just in time to see Steve and Chris Sims singing Toxic by Britney Spears (yes, really – and trust me, it was an experience!). But even that kind of fun has to end sometime, so eventually, we made our way to sleep and…
Day 2 started with a relaxing room-service breakfast on our lovely private balcony, followed by a jaunt to Key West in the beautiful weather. I confess we had all kinds of complicated plans for what to see in Key West, including a butterfly garden and Ernest Hemingway’s house; but by the time we got off of the ship what we actually ended up having time for was a scenic trolley ride, a chill lunch with friends at Fogarty’s and the Flying Monkey Saloon, and a little stroll through the streets before it was time to get back to the ship.
Back on board, I attended one of the great Master Classes offered with the comics creator guests – this one with Reilly Brown. I always like watching Reilly’s approach to art, and this was no exception. He illustrated how to use dynamic action and expression to convey character in comics, and I especially enjoyed his example of how adding details to the same base character frame can result in two such disparate characters as Wolverine and Tony Stark. (And I totally claimed that sketch afterwards.) After the class, I hurried over to the live read of Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s Curse Words #1. I love live reads, and this one featured some of the great guests on the ship – including writer Charles Soule, and actors Randy Havens, Catherine Dyer, and Sean Gunn. It was excellent fun and very well done, and I even managed to get a couple of clips on video.
The live read overlapped with the Batman pub quiz, which was also on my must-do list, in part because ComicsAlliance’s own “Batmanologist” Chris Sims was running it and had created the questions; so as soon as the live read had wrapped, I rushed over to the pub to join Adriane, who had been holding down the fort for two of the six quiz rounds all by herself. Steve joined our team there, and despite us all missing the first round entirely and only one team member being there for rounds 2 and 3, we still came in fourth! Go team! The quiz was great, and pretty darned challenging, too! (Kudos, Chris!)
Of course, all of that hard work made us hungry, but the cruise more than took care of that with another trip to the formal dining room, before we headed back to the pub for the After Hours War Stories with comics creators. This was a pretty unique program (with no recording allowed) in which creators shared the sort of personal industry and convention stories you wouldn’t usually get at a big convention panel. The stories shared definitely made this program a favorite of mine, and I was glad they enforced the No Recording rule so that everyone felt comfortable sharing.
By that point, we were well into the late night activity portion of the day. I stopped by the Nerdlesque (it’s not really my scene, but there were definitely some creative themed scenarios being played out onstage) and then was challenged to a game of air hockey (I totally lost) and issued my own challenge for a game of pool (Adriane and I totally won!). And then somehow, it was five a.m., and way past time for all sensible reporters to be in bed. Ah, convention life.
Day 3 was the one day Adriane and I had decided to book a specific excursion through the cruise line, since we were going to Mexico and had a longer time in port. We booked a Mayan ruins tour that included lunch and a trip to the beach, and were delighted to find the lovely and talented Gail Simone and her husband Scott were part of our tour group. We had an adorably charming and funny tour guide named Luis to show us all around; I could actually feel the history of the Mayan ruins as it was described to us; the lunch was tasty; swimming at the beach was exciting (there were reasonably strong currents and also underwater rocks to avoid!); and we had a great time experiencing it all with Gail and Scott.
On returning to the ship, despite a pretty full day in Mexico, it was Stranger Things day and of course there were con things I wanted to do; so I first stopped for a brief glimpse of Goonies, which was being screened on the pool deck; and then changed into my Stranger Thingsparty cosplay (yes, I was costuming The Wall, with a Hot Topic picture frame dress and blinking Christmas lights!), and went to the Stranger Things cocktail party, where I had an entertaining time talking with other fun cosplayers and fans, and meeting Shannon Purser, Catherine Dyer, Randy Havens, and David Harbour – all of whom were wonderfully nice and fun to talk to! (Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo were also circulating, but I did not get to chat with them due to the crowd – they looked like they were really enjoying themselves, though.)
After the party, I stopped by the pub to see how the Cards Against Humanity: Writers Edition program was going; and discovered that all of the comics guests were there chilling. So I sat down for a chat; and more friends came around; and then we wandered over to the casino; and next thing I knew, it was almost five a.m. again and we were ordering hamburgers from room service. Ah, cruise life!
And then suddenly, it was Day 4! Our last full day on the ship, alas!! It was also the day of the Deadpool Panel, which I was moderating; so I donned my Hot Topic Deadpool dress (love that store for geek dresses!) and headed to the Pacifica Theater, which, incidentally, has some really interesting props backstage. This panel featured Gail Simone, Reilly Brown, Scott Koblish, and Chris Sims, and we had a riot of a time talking Deadpool on stage and taking questions from the audience – probably the most fun I’ve had on a panel to date! We talked about everything from how to get into the head of such a character to what it’s like to draw a story that’s told entirely on the covers of comic books to what the comics creators thought of the Deadpool movie adaptation – and happily, it seemed like the audience was having just as much fun as all of us on stage!
After the panel, the Deadpool folks headed up to their tables at Artist Alley, and after a brief rest (hey, even I get a little tired after such late nights) I did too. Even though this con was, for obvious reasons, organized differently than a traditional convention, it still had sections of time set aside for fans to meet comics creators in Artist Alley, and I was pleased to see a setup that made it easy for everyone to interact, and a good number of folks waiting to meet the talented guests. While there, I enjoyed watching Scott Koblish and Reilly Brown draw, chatting with Laura Martin, Scott Snyder, and Gail Simone, flipping through some of Creees Hyunsung Lee’s cool art, and picking up a copy of Curse Words #1 (hey, after that live read, I had to have it!) from Charles Soule.
By the time Artist Alley closed, it was just about time for the Wayne Foundation Black Tie Dinner (for which I had brought my fancy sequined Suicide Squad Harley Quinn dress, because what else do you wear to a Batman-themed fancy dinner?). By now I was a Super Pro at cruising (hah!), so I’d suggested we get together a big table of folks ahead of time, and we managed to make it happen. It was great to have our last big dinner be with a solid group of friends; and fun to get all dressed up for it! But it was also nice to relax for the last bit of the cruise, so after dinner Fancy Dress Harley turned into Casual Cruise Harley, and then, fittingly, ran into The Joker. Who managed to convince me, a solid non-gambler, to go gamble. (Look, when someone says they’ll bankroll you to go play a slot machine called the “Enchanted Unicorn,” there is really only one response, and that is: “Let’s go!”) And solid non-gambler me might have to revise that solid stance, because lo-and-behold on top of the money we put in we won a whole $54! At which point I decided it was probably best to end on a high note, and Adriane and I took our end-of-cruise sad feet back to the room for one last night of sleep in our cozy little stateroom.
But since I can’t go back just yet, I’ll just have to console myself with looking at the full album of photos I took and crossing my fingers that soon, we’ll be hearing announcements of another Fan2Sea. When that happens, I assume you’ll all be signing up to go with me!
And until then, and until next column, Servo Lectio!
This past week was quite busy. President Trump pushed back against a “so-called” judge, Melissa McCarthy nailed Sean Spicer on SNL, the Patriots pulled off a record-breaking upset that would have never happened if they were playing the Giants, and it was announced that Aspen Comics would be creating new comic with Scott Lobdell writing a black trans woman titled No World. As much as I’d like to hit on all of these topics, I’m going to focus on No World.
So let’s get into it. Aspen’s new comic is a team book. It will have characters from Soulfire, Executive Assistant, Dellec, as well as some new characters. Lobdell described one of the new characters as “Former NFL. 6’5. 250lbs. She’s here. She’s trans. She’s gonna kick evil’s ass!” You can see that Tweet here. We still don’t have a name or much of a background to this character outside of her being a former NFL player, but we have some information we can start examining.
Let’s start with former NFL player bit. When we’re dealing with a trans character and one of the only bits of information we get on them is about something from before they came out, that raises a few red flags. There’s a concern that when cis writers tackle trans characters, that there is an unnecessary focus on transitioning. Take a look at Alters where the character of Chalice is in the process of transitioning and we see her as her Charlie persona about as much as we see her as Chalice. If you look at trans writers like Rachel Pollack and Mags Visaggio, we see kick ass trans women without ever having to see them prior to their transition, hearing them go by their dead name or even knowing about it, and so forth. Unfortunately with her being a former NFL player we are likely here this character’s dead name multiple times. Sometimes cis writers do a good job with this like when Gail Simone had Alysia Yeoh come out as trans, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t approach this with some caution.
Moving on to her being 6’5 and 250 lbs, Scott follows that up using the hashtags #gnc, short for gender nonconforming, and #nonbinary. There is also an image of her that Scott shared with the line “passing is for footballs.” These elements are a bit more interesting. Trans characters in comics are mostly white and mostly attempt to pass. Trans characters of color, particularly black trans women, have been very rarely seen in comics and are also easily of the most victimized members of the queer community. This type of representation is sorely needed.
It’s also important to note that some people who consider themselves gender nonconforming or nonbinary may be okay with she/her/herself as well as they/them/theirself, so that could end up being just fine.
Scott Lobdell is no stranger to creating a trans character. He created Suzie Su for Red Hood and the Outlaws. This particular trans character was a very unflattering portrayal, a villain, and someone who was more than willing to murder children to get what she wants. It’s worth noting this was his only other portrayal of a trans character in comics that has made it into print and should at very least cause many to wait and see how No World plays out before praising or condemning this representation.
Unlike comics like Alters, No World has no trans representation in its creative team, which seems to be mostly straight cis white men. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but when tackling a character like this one it’s not necessarily comforting either.
Scott has at least stated on February 3rd that he’s consulting with some members of the trans community. You can see that Tweet here. He talks of a few trans friends that helped him as well, including Shakina who plays Lola on Difficult People. One thing you may notice following that link, at least at the time I wrote this, is that Scott Lobdell has yet to responded to Mags Visaggio’s questions and offering to consult with Scott on this character.
For the most part, I’m concerned about how this comic will play out. While there is evidence of talking with some trans women, there isn’t any evidence of Scott Lobdell consulting with people who are gender nonconforming or nonbinary. It seems this will also be a story that involves dealing with the characters life pre-transition. It’s also very possible that this character will not even be featured heavily in this series; it’s a team book.
I do hope that Scott will use his position in comics to help trans creators here on out. For example, Neil Gaiman wrote a trans character in The Sandman which helped get Rachel Pollack and Caitlin R. Kiernan noticed by DC Comics, which in turn lead to them working for thay company for years. While the character has been reexamined and there is valid criticism, by helping trans creators get noticed it shows that Neil genuinely cares about the trans community. Paul Jenkins on Alters got Tamra Bonvillain work on that title.
No matter how this particular title develops, I hope Scott Lobdell’s interest in the trans community goes beyond No World and that we’ll see him help lift up this group of comics creators that are too often overlooked.
I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise. I love being out on the water, and have even joked that I’d live in a tiny house surrounded by water if I could. So it’s kind of silly that I’ve never been on a cruise, isn’t it? And I love comic-cons, as anyone who’s ever read my column will know. So when I first saw that someone was organizing Fan2Sea, a comic-con on a cruise ship (and one with an adorably punny name, at that!), I thought, “What? I have to go! Also, this absolutely sounds too good to be true! Because it’s a comic-con. On a cruise ship. How can this be?!?”
So when I went to look up the details of Fan2Sea, and I saw that their line-up includes cast members from Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and also Deadpool and Batman comics creators, my mind pretty much exploded from excitement. Add to that the excitement of going on a cruise, with all the cool experiences that has to offer; and port stops in Tampa, Key West, and Cozumel, Mexico (I’ve never been to Mexico! But I’ve been meaning to go!); and it’s a wonder I’ve even been able to pick up all the little brain-pieces.
Fortunately, I recovered my wits enough to determine that I had to know more about Fan2Sea. Like: where did it come from? Who had this marvelous idea? Is it going to be as awesome as it sounds? More awesome?!? (Which I might not be able to handle, but I’m willing to take the risk.)
To get answers to all of the questions swimming through my overheated brain, I got in touch with the people who are putting on this wondrous event, and Stefan Lawrence of Rethink Leisure & Entertainment sat down with me to give me the lowdown on everything all of us con-goers need to know before we decide that we must embark on the grand Fan2Sea adventure. Read on for all the details!
ESW: So who came up with the idea for a comic-con on a cruise ship, and what was the inspiration behind it?
SL: We were brought this project by one of the investors who had the idea of a boutique-style comic-con on a cruise. It’s a response to some of the larger comic-cons. They’re delightful, they’re amazing, but there’s also so much friction involved – there’s the waiting in lines, there’s the crowds – a lot of it can be a little bit stressful even if you love this stuff. So we have partnered with a travel agency that specializes in themed cruises; and had the idea to do basically a boutique comic-con – where it’s a limited number of people, and you’re eliminating all of the standing in line, waiting around…all the bits and pieces that make comic-con both maddening and delightful at the same time. We want to take all the good stuff and eliminate all the other bits. So you’re staying at a luxury hotel, on board this ship. You’re not waiting in line forever to get to huge panels. We’re running the big panels twice so that everybody will get a chance to see all the big panels on the ship. It’s a lot about making this the most artist-friendly and the most fan-friendly convention that anyone’s ever attended.
ESW: I know some of you come from a theme-park background; and it sounds like at least some of you have gone to enough comic-cons to know what they’re like and know why something else is needed. Can you talk about the background of the team that is making this happen?
SL: I work for a company called Rethink Leisure & Entertainment. We’re a theme-park design company made up of a gang of ex-Disney Imagineers, ex-Universal creatives… So the thing that we’re really good at is customer experiences; basically creating fun events and experiences for guests. So that’s always our focus. Because whether you’re master-planning an entire theme park or you’re doing an attraction, you’re constantly thinking about how an experience is from beginning to end. So that’s been our focus from day one. We don’t want to welcome you on board the boat and be like, “Here’s a bunch of celebrities – have at it.” We want to make sure that the experience is fun the entire way though. So for instance, we’re working with the 501st in Tampa so that the moment you get on board, there will be storm troopers that are welcoming you on board the ship on the gangway. We’re going to have themed parties every single night. We really want to make sure that it’s…kind of a “surprise and delight” thing. So that you feel like this is a party that was created and curated just for you.
ESW: It sounds like your Rethink staff comes from some of the best companies geeks are familiar with; what are some other things that Rethink has done that we may have heard about?
SL: We ourselves are a fairly young company; we’ve been around for about three years now. In the sort of comics space, we designed the world’s largest toys and collectibles store, which is in Dubai – it’s called Comicave. It’s 17,000 square feet, it has themed areas – we actually have a full Iron Man hall of armor in there; there’s a Star Wars collectibles room that looks like the Death Star; there’s the “rooftops of New York,” which is where you can buy all of your single-issue comic books; there’s an otaku anime and Gundam area – so that’s one example, and the whole store is pretty spectacular.
In terms of our team here, they’re the people who have worked on everything from – we have the show writer from Harry Potter in Orlando, and Universal Studios Orlando and Hollywood. They wrote all the scripts for the rides for Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. One of our senior creative directors here was on the opening day team of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The President and CEO worked on Disneyland Paris. People here have worked on Transformers, the ride. Everyone here in the office lives and breathes pop-culture – so shifting over into this realm of things really is not much of a stretch.
ESW: So are you guys super excited to be getting into this area?
SL: Speaking just for myself – I love this stuff. I love comics, I love movies – this is all stuff that I do anyway – it’s all completely up my alley. So to be in this playground is a delight for me personally. But we also have an office full of people who have desks covered in toys, and we all make the pilgrimage down to San Diego every year and come back with mounds and mounds of stuff. So it’s all a world that we love already. It’s tangential to what we have done in the past, but it’s completely in our wheelhouse in terms of what we love.
ESW: You’ve talked about your goal, which is making sure everyone has an amazing time. Can you give me both the immediate picture of what this particular cruise experience would be like for a fan; and then what goals Rethink has for the future?
SL: The immediate experience is that we want this to be like a big geeky slumber party. As opposed to a comic-con where everybody is on the show floor during the day, and then you have to disperse and go find parties or whatever else you feel like doing. We’re going to be running panels into the evening; but then when the evening time comes, we are going to transition into parties. We’re having cosplay karaoke; themed DJ parties; outdoor movie nights on the pool deck that are going to be themed, with themed cocktails – so like the first night we’re doing a double feature with Jaws and Piranha, and so we’re going to have Blood in the Water themed cocktails that go along with that. We’re going to have complete Stranger Things ‘80s themed parties. So we’re looking to extend the entertainment, so when you come out of your panels and you’re like, “What’s next?” there’s a full array of things to do.
We’re working with the chefs on board the ship to provide special menus – so that you can have a Game of Thrones menu that you can choose in the dining room, or you can have a Bladerunner-themed future Asian fusion-style thing that you can choose as part of your menu. We’re running movie marathons all day every day – so there’s always going to be something to do. And even when you go back to your cabin, we’re partnering with a company called Monster Channel that runs late-night monster movies as programming, so there will be a bespoke monster movie channel that you can turn on in your cabin at all hours of the day. And there’s no one else on the ship except comic-con attendees. Some ships will buy a block of rooms for a themed event – but we have the whole ship; so everybody on the ship is going to be there for this one thing.
ESW: You know what it reminds me of, in a good way, is the way Dragon Con works, in the sense that you get to stay in the place where everything is happening, as opposed to trekking to a convention center. But again, Dragon Con is a big, big show; and the Fan2Sea experience sounds like a more intimate experience without the hassle of the habitrails or anything. That sounds amazing.
SL: Exactly – and we are filling every single venue that we can fill with programming. We are taking over almost every single open bar or space. So you can just wander through the ship and see something cool that’s happening.
ESW: That is amazing and brings me to the question of: what with being on a cruise ship, that has a comic-con, and stops in ports and everything – how in the heck are we going to overcome our FOMO, our Fear of Missing Out? Because it sounds like the sort of thing where I just want to do everything, immediately. Any tips for people who are like, “This sounds good, but I’m overwhelmed by all the potential awesomeness?”
SL: Not to worry: well before the cruise sails, we are going to be releasing schedules and checklists you can put together. I know people who go, for instance, to Disney World, and they program everything to within an inch of its life, and that’s how they vacation; and I know people who want to go on a journey of discovery, and they’re like, “I just want to go out and see whatever I want to see, as I want to see it. We are going to give you the tools to be able to plan everything beforehand, if that’s what you want to do; or if you just want to wander into the cinema and see what’s playing, or wander down to the pub and join the trivia quiz that’s happening, or head on over to cosplay karaoke because you hear it from down the hall; the ship is set up to accommodate both things. You can rigorously plan your day; but then you can also take it as it comes.
We are being careful to get out of the way of some of the bigger stuff – so if you definitely want to see a Stranger Things panel, we are not going to be doing something exactly in that category somewhere else at the same time. We’re trying not to cross programs so that there are two blockbuster programs at once. We are trying to make sure that the program gets out of the way of itself. But, you know, you are going to miss something, because there’s just going to be too much happening for you not to.
ESW: Sure – and that happens at every con. So I’ve been to a ton of comic-cons, but I’ve never been on a cruise. For those of us who are cruise newbies, are you going to be putting up tips for that, and if you want to experience everything on the ship, are you going to feel like you’re losing out on that if you take time to explore the ports?
SL: The ship gets in to port usually at about 8:30 in the morning for both Key West and Cozumel. We are delaying our big programming until later in the morning on those days; so the big panels will probably start around 11 or 12, although that’s not final yet. So that if you would like to go to port, you can do so. You can get off, go check out Key West, go check out Cozumel; but necessity dictates that we will have to start the panels sometime. So we are giving some windows of exploration if that’s what you want to do. We are also cognizant that we are programming things to go late into the evening – most of the programming will last until three or four in the morning. So you can also sleep in a bit, because the earliest programming will start around 9:30 or 10:00. So there’s no crack-of-dawn programming.
ESW: So if this all goes well, what’s next?
SL: Our goal is to be the comic-con destination of the year. Like, we’re never going to be San Diego Comic Con, or that scale; we’re never going to be New York Comic Con. But outside of that, we want this to be the coveted destination so that when this goes on sale, people are excited, and they can’t wait to see what the line-up is. We want it to be something people look forward to every year, and get excited about; and they can sort of make their own, and it can be something special that happens. We want this to be a yearly tradition. And our goal would be to start with one a year; but a West Coast and East Coast launch would be something else we’d be interested in doing – but we’ve got to get this one done first! But I think people are going to be surprised to see what a good-quality experience this will be, for fans and guests – and the quality of our guests is top-notch, as well. And then we want to grow this as an experience every year.
ESW: I like that. So if you are someone who has been to a ton of comic-cons, but you’ve never been on a cruise, what would you tell people about why they should try this experience?
SL: If you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, you might be surprised by actually how nice they are. We went and did a visit to one of the sister ships earlier this month; and the ship is absolutely spectacular, the venues are gorgeous and themed, the cabins are really, really nice, the restaurants are fabulous; it’s going to be completely unlike staying at the Marriott and going over to a con. The actual experience is going to be completely different than your usual con experience – but in a good way.
ESW: It sounds amazing, Stefan; and thank you for this great information!
After our interview, Stefan also let me know that the con has just implemented a fab booking feature for those of us who want to experience Fan2Sea but aren’t sure who else might want to go and be our roomie, and who can’t afford to just book a whole room without roomies. Now, if you go to the Eventbrite page, the ticket choices include several room options where you can book a bed in a four-guest cabin, and roommates will be assigned by gender. The individual bed ticket includes all fees, too, so it’s easy to know what you’re paying for the whole experience. Pretty cool!
Well that wraps up this column, but stay tuned for more Fan2Sea news in the upcoming weeks – and also, when January rolls around, for con reports from yours truly, because I’ll be goingon this amazing comic-con cruise, experiencing everything so that I can share it with you, my faithful readers.
…But really, you should go too and share it with me in person, because OMG why wouldn’t you?!
Last week DC Comics and IDW announced will join together to publish a 144 page graphic novel titled Love Is Love to raise money for Equality Florida to help the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL on June 12th. This groundbreaking venture between two comic book publishers and a nonprofit was organized by writer Marc Andreyko and will be retailing for $9.99.
Let’s let that one sink in. This is an important moment in comics history. Of all the causes over the years that comics have tried to benefit, this is the first time that mainstream comics publishers have stepped up to benefit members of the LGBT community in need. This is also the second time an anthology has come out to benefit victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting as Margins Publishing put out two issues of a digital zine titled Our Hearts Still Beat where 100% of the proceeds were donated to The Center in Orlando to directly benefit the queer community.
It fills me with pride that comic publishers are working to benefit the queer community. I’m proud of all the creators that have gotten involved and have given their time and talent to help others and I’m thrilled that mainstream comics is standing by the queer community. Despite all the positives and how proud we should be of DC Comics and IDW for standing with victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, we need to demand more for the queer community and the other less privileged and underrepresented groups.
Though DC Comics is helping with Love Is Love, they haven’t had a trans writer pen a story for them in fifteen years. Of all the work that trans writers have done for DC, only Caitlin R. Kiernan has had any of her work collected, and it was only a fraction of her work on The Dreaming that she shares with other writers in the collection.
While DC Comics is helping support queer people of color who were disproportionately affected by the Pulse Nightclub shooting, DC has very few queer people of color working for them in a creative capacity. Phil Jimenez has done great work at DC and has been given opportunities to work with writers like Grant Morrison and on important titles like Infinite Crisis. Ivan Velez, Jr. penned stories at DC for some time as well, but not in the past decade. Beyond that, few have had similar opportunities.
Women creators are still not being represented in comics at DC as well as they were before the New 52. For the New 52, Gail Simone was one of the only women writing stories at first. Currently, the only all women creative team is for Batgirl and The Birds of Prey. All male creative teams are the overwhelming majority.
DC Comics still has an Eddie Berganza problem. While talk of his repeated sexual harassment of employees and freelancers has died down, he still holds the position of group editor of the Superman family books. They have yet to hire a woman to work on that editorial team since he took that position back after stepping down as executive editor.
They recently announced the people selected for their Writer’s Talent Workshop. For the purposes of full disclosure I did apply and was rejected. I was happy to see that the majority of the people selected were not straight cis white men, and that people of color including a Native American man were selected. That’s really great and that should be applauded. It was discouraging to see that out of the eight selected, only two were women and they were selected as a pair and all the men are solo writers. At a time when women in comics in particular are a focus of discussion to see a selection like this does come off as tone deaf.
Newsarama went on to say “Curiously, DC describes this group as “aspiring” writers in their press release, despite each have significant credentials inside and outside of comic books – including some which have done work for DC previously.” Using the term aspiring is certainly misleading when you have award winning writers and people working in the TV biz being selected. It seems like the high caliber of talent selected could have easily been found by traditional methods of editors scouting out talent. Women and people of color shouldn’t have to be incredibly talented award winners in their field to be extended an opportunity to take a class to one day possibly write for DC Comics (or write for them again). What makes this tone deaf is it comes off like these talents need DC Comics. The exact opposite is true.
That’s not to say DC Comics hasn’t done some great things and taken some risks recently beyond Love Is Love. Openly queer creator Steve Orlando was able to write a solo Midnighter series, the first openly gay mainstream solo superhero comic, for 12 issues. Though it was cancelled due to low sales, DC has taken another risk by bringing the comic back as Midnighter and Apollo which will be the first mainstream comic about a gay superhero couple. James Tynion IV, another openly queer creator, is writing Detective Comics, one of the biggest titles at DC Comics, with the openly gay Batwoman as an important character in the cast. Tamra Bonvillain, an openly trans colorist and rising star in comics, is on the reboot of Doom Patrol with heavy hitters like Gerard Way and Todd Klein. And Harley Quinn, an openly queer anti-hero, was the highest selling comic in the month of August selling upwards of 400,000 copies, written by the team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner with Chad Hardin on art. Dan Didio has even been cited by creators like Gail Simone as caring about LGBT issues, and all of this is powerful evidence that is the case.
Love Is Love is a great project and I’m proud of everyone involved and DC Comics as well as IDW stepping up and taking a stand here when it would have been much easier to not bother. And I really do love DC Comics. I love quite a lot of their properties, they have some great people that have worked for them in the past and currently, and they’ve worked on some great progressive things like Milestone Comics. That doesn’t mean more can’t be done, and it should be done.
There needs to be more intersectionality. We need more queer people of color and women of color. We need DC to use these Milestone characters and to reprint and make available the original runs. We need the works of Rachel Pollack, Maddie Blaustein and Caitlin R. Kiernan reprinted and trans writers new and old to be brought in. And we need less privileged people to rise through the ranks and be decision makers to help secure a future for comics in an ever changing market.
I can support DC Comics and praise the good work they do while also wanting more and wanting better. I love DC Comics, but… it’s complicated.
I was out with some friends for brunch this past weekend. Brunch is a standard weekend event in the NYC area now, and it seems like a month rarely passes where I don’t have brunch plans on the horizon. The unannounced purpose of this brunch was to get to know a friend’s new girlfriend. So of course, I bring up comics as a get to know you topic. (Brunch tip: One always needs go-to conversation topics for brunch outings.)
She gave me a sad, but not surprising answer to my query. She said as a child, she found comics disappointing because there were no female writers creating stories and the female characters, dressed in very revealing costumes, didn’t represent her at that point in her life. This exact argument should be familiar to anyone who has read almost any article about women or minorities in comics, ever.
Of course, I immediately began rattling off graphic novels with female creators, important social topics, or just amazing storytelling. Afterwards, when I was on my way home, I realized that I keep this running list of graphic novels to recommend to people who specifically complain about lack of diversity in comics. A list for those people who can only think of Gail Simone when you quiz them about women in comics. Gail is great, but there are so many other women in comics; in part because of all that she has done.
Now I suspect the people I’m talking about aren’t regular readers of ComicMix. Frankly, if you tune in here on a daily basis, we’ve totally sold you on diversity in comics. Yay us! But now comes the hard part. Teaching others that yes, there is growing diversity in comic creators! Right now is the potential for a boom of diverse creators in comics. As the political climate affects change, fans are becoming more focused than ever on who are the storytellers. However, just because it is getting better doesn’t mean it’s a solved problem but we can make it better through our voices and our wallets.
With our dollars, we can continue the trend of well-rounded and well-dressed that is building thanks to Batgirl, Faith, and Ms. Marvel. We can encourage female creators like Amy Chu, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jennifer Hayden, Amy Reeder, Gail Simone, Mags Visaggo, or the many more that I’ve run out of space for.
So the next time you are in a crowd (or out to brunch), ask the question about comics. See who says comics don’t represent them and then show them that they can. Encourage reading comics written by diverse creators and together, we can show publishers that diversity matters.