This past week, I went out to LA for the first time. It was primarily to attend fellow ComicMix movie reviewer Arthur Tebbel’s wedding, and he had even movie popcorn as a snack during the cocktail hour.
I flew in on Thursday where I spent most of the day either meeting or hanging out with queer comics creators. They like The Golden Girls out there too. Sidenote: that was also the name of the cheerleader squad where I went to high school. And no, they were not senior citizens.
What was equally impressive was the rain. I rode up from West Hollywood with some other comics creators and it took about two and a half hours to get to Long Beach while going over flooded roads and hoping for the best. As a result we missed Joe Illidge’s keynote speech, which was quite disappointing. The harsh rain kept more than a few people at home as well.
Additionally, some people ran late who had every intention of being early and the torrential downpour adversely affected the sound equipment. And to make up for some lost time at the Comic Creator Conference, the panels were cut in half to about 20 minutes or so.
I originally thought it might have been nice if they were the original length, but after talking to The Beat’s Heidi MacDonald, she sold me on how it ended up being a real positive. Having the shorter panels kept them concise and got people the time to see them all if they wanted. As soon as we arrived and got to the panel room myself and most of the attendees stayed until they wrapped up the last panel. While this format was made to accommodate an unforeseen situation, it’s something the organizers should consider repeating next year if they do this.
Before Arthur’s wedding on Saturday I took a trip over to Meltdown Comics. I’ve heard a bunch about it and it wasn’t too far from where I was staying so I felt I owed it to myself. It’s a big shop with a nice, diverse selection. What I was most attracted to was the indie comics and zines from local creators section. I made it a point to pick a few up.
One of them is called Low Light by Tristan Wright. It’s a 28-page oversized comic about a young woman who misses what she thinks is her last train home only to discover a strange train pulling into the lonely station. From there she meets some interesting characters that flesh out a bizarre world that we can only happen upon through the odd hours and happy accidents that ever-so-rarely crash into each other. I definitely recommend you check out Tristan Wright’s work. You can check out a preview of Low Light on the website under Late Night Special in the comics section.
I also picked up one of the Melt-thology zines; number 28 to be exact. This is a series of in house zines made up of one page comics drawn by dozens of creators in one day then made available at Meltdown. The one I picked up was mostly dedicated to sending off 2016, and it was the send off it deserves. I think this is a pretty great idea that other stores like Carmine Street Comics here in New York City should be doing. Or maybe Desert Island.
Another one of the comics I picked up, The Mad Mind Of Anton Sebaum, was drawn by Jude Vigants, one of the creators I rode up with to the Comic Creator Conference. Small world. Check out his stuff.
It was a really nice trip and I’m looking forward to going back and discovering more. Hopefully it will have stopped raining by then.
As a child, I loved the Legion of Super-Heroes. Teenagers from all over the galaxy formed a club together and saved the universe, sometimes several times an issue.
The rules for joining the Legion were a bit odd and really didn’t stand up to scrutiny. No one could have the same powers as another member, unless they were Superboy, Supergirl or Mon-El. Abilities that were not super on a hero’s planet could qualify that hero for membership, like telepathy and chameleons and magnetism. I suppose if we, as a people, were blind, someone with sight could be a member, but we wouldn’t know because there wouldn’t be comic books because, really, they are better when we can see the pictures.
Anyway, I didn’t really care about the Legion by-laws, since I would be a teenager if, by some chance, I lived 1000 years and could apply for membership. I cared about all these people, so different from one another, who still teamed up and made things better.
So that’s the lesson I’m urging us, the emissaries of Geek Culture, to learn from Where We Are Now.
These are actual crimes — vandalism, stalking, assault — not just threats and hurt feelings. This is not to say that threats and hurt feelings aren’t real things.
ComicMix pal Heidi MacDonald recently reported on the latest bout of on-line harassment directed her way. If you click on the link and read the comments (which, normally, I would urge you not to do, but this time it’s educational), you’ll see a weird combination of solidarity, rage and condescension.
What struck me most forcefully was the anger some commenters held against superhero comics with female leads, especially if those characters riffed off earlier versions. While I don’t think Donald Trump won the Electoral College because RiRi Williams is Iron Man, he did capitalize on the same rage we see in those fans.
And I don’t get it.
I mean, I understand that it’s annoying when a creative team takes one of my favorite characters in a direction I don’t like. I couldn’t stand what David and Meredith Finch did to Wonder Woman. That said, it was easy enough to skip their run on the title and re-read some of the thousands of other Wonder Woman stories that I had liked previously. I have reason to believe there are a similar number of Tony Stark Iron Man stories out there.
Also, there are lots and lots of other comics written and drawn by people who might have written or drawn a Tony Stark Iron Man story, and they might have stories about other characters that would appeal to this reader.
I have no problem when readers who don’t like RiRi Williams or the Finch version of Wonder Woman complain about the stories they don’t like. I do it all the time. However, I do have a problem when readers who don’t like the direction a series is taking make physical threats against the creators or those critics who do like the series.
Marvel, and DC, and Disney, and other corporations do not owe their customers a steady diet of the same stuff. That would be a business model that is doomed to failure. There has to be constant attempts to broaden the market or in five or six decades, all the existing customers will be dead.
As a fandom, we can’t sit around and gripe when our favorite media (comics, film, TV, music, yada yada yada) don’t spew out a steady stream of the same stuff we loved as children. We cannot expect the entertainment industry to love us as much as our parents did.
Read what you like! Explore a little and, maybe, find more to like! Liking more different things is fun! And teaming up with people different from yourself lets you discover what your own super-powers might be.
A lot has happened recently at DC Comics. They’ve announced plans for their Rebirth which drew mixed reactions – including from myself a couple of months back. They went on to announce a talent workshop with the idea of being able to bring in some fresh faces in comics to help breathe new life into their properties. Then earlier this month they announced a new imprint called Young Animals headed by Gerard Way, which I and many other people praised. Things coming down the pipeline from DC Comics seemed to be showing promise and certainly the return of titles like Doom Patrol have me excited.
Then last Thursday happened.
First, news broke that Shelly Bond, Executive Editor of the Vertigo imprint who had been with the imprint since its inception, had been let go as a result of “restructuring.” Vertigo editors will now be reporting directly to the top brass at DC. Many creators who have worked with her expressed sadness in seeing her go and wished her luck in her future endeavors, which is expected. Then, something slightly less expected happened.
Not long after the Shelly Bond news broke, a discussion began on Twitter revolving around why DC would let go of an editor beloved by many while keeping an editor on board who has a history of HR problems and had openly engaged in public sexual harassment. The person in question was outed as Superman group editor Eddie Berganza.
The Outhousers were one of the first to report on this. They pointed out how Bleeding Cool reported on his very public harassment of a woman at Wonder Con in 2012 that led to a demotion shortly after. Recently, Janelle Asselin (as reported in The Outhousers link above) stated she had filed a complaint with HR about his behavior back in 2010 (she originally stated 2011 then corrected that in her tweets), that DC to her knowledge did nothing to remedy the issue, he got promoted and it helped prompt her to leave the company. We not only have her word to back up this claim, but the timeline also fits with the editor credits in the comics that were coming out. It’s important to note that no one from DC Comics as of the time I’m writing this has denied the claims made by Bleeding Cool or Janelle Asselin.
Additionally, other creators like Sophie Campbell have named Eddie Berganza directly as a reason she turned down a freelance gig on Supergirl. Others have come out saying that Greg Rucka has agreed to return to Wonder Woman only if he didn’t have to work with Berganza, and it appears that Berganza will not be editing the title but rather the Bat family group editor will. I have not seen any statements directly from Greg Rucka to back up if that is the full story. Additionally Alex de Campi has been cited as almost naming Eddie Berganza, and the person and their title that she describes in her piece linked does sound like it’s almost certainly Berganza, but stops short of naming him. Other outlets such as DC Women Kick Ass (where I found the above image from as it’s just perfect) have written powerful opinion pieces on this as well.
So why is Eddie Berganza still editing over at DC Comics?
Some may argue that Eddie makes money on the Superman titles while Shelly was heading an imprint that hasn’t been very profitable in a long time. It is true that Vertigo’s heyday was years ago, and DC Entertainment had recently dedicated a quarter million dollars in advertising for Vertigo with little to show for it. However, comparing Vertigo to the Superman titles is hardly an even playing field.
Superman has had other group editors while the titles were doing much better, like Mike Carlin, whose success with The Death Of Superman has yet to be matched, and that was over 20 years ago. And Mike Carlin did go on to become executive editor, like Eddie Berganza did, but certainly Mike Carlin had more to show for it. Eddie Berganza even oversaw a drastic drop in Supergirl sales under his watch back in 2007, in which he’d go on to pen an awkward column blaming the readers, and specifically women readers, for the books poor sales. Oh, and that incredibly embarrassing editorial mess where DC claimed that “Pakistanian” was a language? That was Eddie Berganza, too.
Certainly Eddie Berganza has done some good work though, hasn’t he? Well, yes he has. During his brief reign as executive editor we saw the implementation of The New 52. Love it or hate it, it did start as a financial success and not only created successful series with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee on Justice League, brought back Grant Morrison to Superman with Action Comics, launched Scott Snyder into comic superstardom with his run on Batman, gave Brian Azzarello a mainstream comics comeback with Wonder Woman, but it also brought back many older and experimental titles with surprising success such as I, Vampire, All-Star Western, and Animal Man which launched Jeff Lemire’s mainstream comics career.
Perhaps these successes have elevated Eddie Berganza to being someone that is viewed as an invaluable asset to the company, despite past shortfalls with titles such as Supergirl and editorial disasters like “Pakistanian.” The New 52 also saw the diminishing of the Vertigo line as titles that previously may have ended up there such as Swamp Thing and Animal Man went back to the main DC universe.
This is not written as a defense of the behavior being called into question. It’s just to highlight why he may still be there outside of legal reasons like his contract which may or may not be hard to do anything about, we don’t know. As Heidi MacDonald highlighted at The Beat last week, the idea that Eddie Berganza has blackmail on anyone is simply not true. However, Heidi did find that several sources confirmed to her that there was at least an informal policy that no women would work with him physically in the Superman office. Women were still able to work freelance on the books. This is a shocking and disgusting revelation, but also as it was a seemingly informal policy it’s hard to tell if any legal wrongdoing was actually done by this, and if women were denied equal opportunity. I suppose we’ll have to see if people come forward on that one way or the other.
Everything above this are the facts and insights from people close to this issue or have sources close to it. To help you understand where I’m coming from and what’s informing my thoughts on this, I’d like to tell you about some of my experiences which – to be clear – have all been outside of the comics community. Not because I want to, but because I think it’s important.
Over the course of my life I have experienced cat calling, including being cat called while on the phone with my grandmother as I walked down the street. I have had countless unwanted advances and I’ve been the victim of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I’ve been flat out asked if I’d be interested in sexual services for money, been groped, and more. I’ve been told by friends, good friends, about how so-and-so is just “handsey” or “that’s how they get when they’re drunk” or “that’s just their sense of humor.” I’ve way more often than not have been confronted with the notion that I should really be reflecting on my behavior before I jump to conclusions. That is not okay. It wasn’t okay years ago, and it’s not okay today.
I don’t like talking about this. Actually, I really hate it. I get anxious just typing this and knowing other people are going to read this. But it’s important for people to know that these things do happen. It’s important to understand that people allegedly committing sexual harassment or abuse aren’t a monolith. They are single, in committed relationships, have kids, have a loving family, have great jobs, great friends, they may know you, they may not. They aren’t everyone, but they could be anyone.
Pressing charges or suing aren’t always options. Just because I didn’t call the cops to have to sit there and be asked demoralizing questions doesn’t mean I wasn’t demoralized. Just because I didn’t decide to go into a long drawn out lawsuit to get my name dragged through the mud or worse doesn’t mean someone didn’t do something really shitty to me or anyone else. Dismissing victims for not pursuing legal action is narrow minded and needs to stop. And it’s certainly not appropriate with respect to Eddie Berganza, should these allegations bear out.
I’m writing this piece because I saw this story break, I think it’s awful, and it reminds me of things that have happened to me and to others I know. I’m writing this because far too often we feel it is only appropriate to discuss someone sexually harassing or assaulting someone if it’s just happened and not a moment later, and it’s not right. I’m writing this because it’s important to listen to victims because in this case it is not merely “he said she said” it’s “he said they said.”
I’m writing this because workplaces need to be safe spaces. If your company claims that diversity is important, that company has a responsibility to make the workplace safe for everyone. Having someone with a reputation like Eddie Berganza’s on staff while the Janelle Asselin’s of the world leave, or the Shelly Bond’s are let go, creates a less safe space. If you aren’t dedicated to making your company a safe space, then any talks about being dedicated to diversity is just that; talk. Which is especially troubling to think about when DC is currently running a Talent Development Workshop. How many women or other diverse creators have seen what’s been going on with DC since last week, seen the lack of a response from DC, and are now thinking twice about applying? How many people are now applying with the thought that if they end up making it far enough to get a freelance gig out of it that they’ll tell DC “just don’t make me work with Eddie Berganza?”
And I’m writing this because we need to keep discussing this. We can’t let this story fade away with last week’s news. We need DC Comics to know and understand that these are issues that are too important to turn a blind eye to. People need to make statements to address what’s going on.
Even if those statements come down to the fact that this is an issue that has been taken care of internally and that they pledge to be striving to make DC a safe space for its staff, it still needs to be addressed to their readers. DC Comics needs to know that things have changed since 2011, and this kind of shuffling around sexual harassers in the company and protecting them will not fly in the future.
I don’t know what the legal issues are for DC regarding this matter. I don’t know what Eddie Berganza’s contract states, or if these allegations have even been investigated. I don’t know if DC is even in a position to do anything about this situation at this time. But I do know that it’s important for us, the readers, to make sure that DC does not put their personnel or anyone else in this position.
I’ve said before that, despite liking to attend all flavors of fandom and comics conventions, including (clearly) the media guest-focused cons, I really love Baltimore Comic Con because it has stayed so focused on comics and comics creators. I’m happy to report that this has not changed.
I had a great time in Baltimore this year, doing some of the things that make me happiest at comic cons, like walking the exhibit hall and wandering Artist Alley to see what new things old friends are up to, meet folks whose work I know but whom I’ve never chatted with, and flip through the work of creators I haven’t ever encountered before. Amongst the fun things I discovered were this nifty accordion-style comic by Christa Cassano and Dean Haspiel; a gorgeous limited edition coloring book by Charles Vess, whose work I’ve loved for a long time but who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting before; some great art and collaborations by Tony Moy and Nen (I want Tony’s Vitruvian Totoro woodblock print so much!); these excellent interlocking covers for Amazing Spider-Man #17 and Spider-Gwen #3 by Mike McKone, which I hadn’t previously seen; some new pieces from Francesco Francavilla, whose work I never tire of; and this print of Poison Ivy by Tom Raney.
I also enjoyed watching the always-talented Barry Kitson work as he completed a striking She-Hulk commission; getting to know writer Amy Chu; running into longtime friend and artist Kevin Stokes, who I didn’t even know was going to be at the show; and catching up with other great talents like Cully Hamner and Clayton Henry. And of course it’s always great to hang out with my fellow ComicMixers, and this year I was delighted to finally get to chat in person with John Ostrander, whose work and columns I always enjoy. Good times!
I also really enjoyed another staple favorite of my BCC experience, The Harvey Awards, hosted this year by the heartfelt and engaging Vivek Tiwary, creator of The Fifth Beatle (a signed copy of which we received in our swag bags along with many other great selections, yay!). It’s always a pleasure to attend and see the industry honoring its creators (and shout-out to Mark Wheatley for his Harvey’s art and work on the media presentation for the ceremony); and of course the afterparty ain’t bad, either! It was fun to sit next to first-time Harvey winner Chad Lambert and experience his reaction to winning, to chat with BCC Guest of Honor Mark Waid (and covet his awesome Legion ring), and afterwards, to nerd out with Vivek, catch up with the likes of the super-nice Thom Zahler, hear some great industry stories via Dirk Wood and Paul Storrie, chill with fellow comics journalists like Heidi MacDonald; see Charlie Kochman’s historic Jules Feiffer button live and in person; and more. So glad I could make it, and congratulations to all of theaward-winners this year!
Despite enjoying the focus on comics guests, I was still excited to see Baltimore hosting very quality media guests – i.e. Paul Blackthorne, Katie Cassidy, Ming-Na Wen, Edward James Olmos, and Raphael Sbarge. It was cool to see them at the show, and the panels were very entertaining. I hope they had a great time at the con, too, and decide to come back again!
And until then (or next week!), I hope everyone who was at Baltimore Comic Con with me can catch up on some rest (I know I need it); and Servo Lectio!
In the early 1970s, when I was in college, I went to hear Gloria Steinem speak. The modern version of the feminism movement was still in its early stages. My memory of the talk is fuzzy, but I remember her recounting the reaction of men on the left to women’s issues:
“She walks! She talks! She gets down on there belly and slithers like a snake! It’s – a woman who thinks!”
That quote kept coming to my mind while watching She Makes Comics, a terrific new documentary directed by Marisa Stotter. I say “terrific” because it is a thorough overview of women who have worked in the comics industry, from newspaper strips to cosplay costumers. To quote from the promotional material: “Featuring dozens of interviews with such vital figures as Ramona Fradon, Trina Robbins, Joyce Farmer, Karen Berger, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Becky Cloonan, She Makes Comics is the first film to bring together the most influential women of the comics world.”
Unlike a lot of films about comics, this one looks at the entire industry. There are veterans of the early days, like Jackie Ormes and Ramona Fradon. There are the rebel women who rallied against the macho underground comics of the 1960s, like Trina Robbins and Joyce Farmer. There are retailers and cosplayers and journalists and academics. There is Karen Green from Columbia University, my current hero.
And yet, I was unsatisfied.
Maybe I’m too old for this (I say, like a cop in a buddy-cop movie). I’ve been having the conversation about women in comics with women in comics for nearly forty years now. Many of the women with whom I’ve had this conversation are in the movie, like Trina Robbins and Heidi MacDonald.
For most of those long decades, there have been many many many documentaries made that say, in essence, “Oh, look! Women can do this, too!” As an example, just a few years ago, there was The Girls in the Band, about women in jazz. It’s not a radical idea that women can be as creative and independent and talented (and venal and commercial and pretentious) as men.
Rather than an overview, I’d like to see more emphasis placed on people we don’t know as well. The filmmakers know this. In an interview with Stotter in Newsarama, she said:
“As we dove into the research, we found that there were actually far more women cartoonists who were working in the decades prior to the 1950s, enough for us to realize that excluding them entirely would be a disservice to our project’s mission. We broadened our scope a bit to include many of them, and Jackie Ormes is one of them. Her story we found particularly interesting because of her personal life. She was a real star in the black press, enough of one to hobnob with prominent black celebrities of the 30s and 40s, and land on an FBI watch list for associating with alleged communists.
“Her story was so fascinating on numerous levels, and we felt that it wasn’t enough to simply address the fact that she existed. We wanted to expand upon her story and highlight how important her contributions were to elevating depictions of middle class black life at a time when most newspaper images of African Americans were offensive stereotypes and caricatures.”
Please make that movie. And then make a couple dozen more.
This movie is a wonderful introduction to a topic that requires at least a twelve-part mini-series. It would include fans and distributors and teachers and librarians, at the least. It would talk about race and class and gender roles.
And maybe publicists, too. Then I could get interviewed.
I listen to feminists and all these radical gals – most of them are failures. They’ve blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That’s all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they’re mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They’re sexist. They hate men – that’s their problem. – Jerry Falwell
“Because feminists never disagree with each other. ” – Martha Thomases
That’s what Martha Thomases posted in response to my column last week at the League Of Women Bloggers site on Facebook, where she and I both share opinions and work with other women (such as Trina Robbins, Corrina Lawson, Kate Kotler, and Heidi MacDonald) in the comics and blogging industry.
Martha (whom I have known since I wrote for DC back in the ‘80s) wrote what I think is a brilliant rebuttal last week. So brilliant that I am here to respond. And no, this is not going to become an ongoing issue between co-workers at ComicMix. You are not going to be reading about a “cat-fight” between Newell and Thomases on Bleeding Cool or The Mary Sue or Geek Mom or at The Beat. Because despite the title of Martha’s rebuttal (Girl Fight), you’re not going to see us going at it ala Krystal and Alexis in the swimming pool on Dynasty.
I think that is exactly what is so cool and brilliant about Martha’s column is that it’s a direct stab in the eye to all those who think that “feminism” is one gigantic single-celled amoeba of a socio-political movement.
In other words, just because I can’t get all that excited about Spider-Woman’s ass sticking up in the air on “that” cover doesn’t meant that I don’t agree with Martha about the many shades of feminism. We do come in all shades, in all sizes – some of share opinions and political leanings, some of us don’t. Martha mentioned “Republican Feminists” – click on the link in her column and it leads to a page about First Lady Betty Ford. And First Lady and matriarch of the Bush political dynasty Barbara Bush said. “I hate abortions, but I just could not make that choice for someone else.”
Martha posted a comment to my original column that included the following: “We don’t celebrate the sexuality of “ugly” women (as judged by society). For example, Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids isn’t feared for her powerful sex drive. Instead, we laugh. And that movie deserves credit for acknowledging that she has a sex drive at all. Usually, only “beautiful” women (as judged by society) get to do that. ”
Yeah, we laughed, Martha. McCarthy raising her foot up against the wall of the airplane at a 90o angle as she came on to the air marshal (played by her husband, Ben Falcone) was funny (as well as impressive). But what about the scene where she comes to Kristen Wiig’s home and beats her up over feeling sorry for herself? “Get over it!” she’s telling Kristen. “Embrace yourself! That’s where it starts!” In other words, I think Melissa McCarthy’s real power is in her ability to make people accept her as a fully realized adult woman with a brain, and, yes, a libido that demands to be satisfied.
Yes, she’s overweight by some people’s standards. So what? In the past, buxom, voluptuous women were the ideal – think of the Flemish baroque painter Paul Reubens. And modern painter Lisa Yuskavage’s beautiful and erotic portraits of “fat” women have been exhibited at major art institution around the world, including the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo in Mexico City, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.
In response to her critics, who have accused her of painting “pornographic” crap, Ms. Yuskavage said, “it’s actually a reclaiming of power and the ability to depict women in all their forms. ”Melissa McCarthy does the same thing with her acting and comedy, forcing us to accept that “rubenesque” women are sensual and sexy and comfortable in their own bodies.
Leslie Tane, the author of the article on Ms. Yuskavage at www.BeautifulDecay.com, said “The essence of female power is not that women must be desexed, it’s that women can decide how they want to be seen – sexy, silly, powerful, maternal, erotic, masculine, intelligent, profound – any combination of these, and much more. ”
Yeah, I know. Lisa Yuskavage didn’t paint Spider-Woman. A man known for his erotic portraits of women painted her.
So the question is: If Lisa Yuskavage had painted an erotic variant cover for Spider-Woman #1, would there have been such an uproar?
I really wonder about that.
And one more thing….
I’ve been wondering why the owners of Twitter – hmm, since Twitter is on the NYSE, it would be Twitter’s Board of Directors and the company’s prime shareholders – haven’t blocked ISIS (ISIL, IS, whatever) from using their application to post their barbarism? Why are they enabling the publicity these monsters are using to “up” their sociopathic and psychopathic “membership” list?
I’m certainly not saying that using Spider-Woman’s derriere on the cover to promote publicity is the same thing. But Marvel’s got to be digging it, despite “apologies” from Axel Alonso, the company’s editor-in-chief – which by the why made stories in The Hollywood Reporter, Yahoo Lifestyle, and various websites, i.e., more publicity. There’s no doubt in my mind – nor should there be in yours – that Manara’s “variant collectible cover” is going to increase sales.
So maybe we – Mindy Newell, Martha Thomases, all us commentators and bloggers, all us pundits – it even made the “Bullseye” feature in Entertainment Weekly – would have been better off ignoring the whole thing.
Then it would have been just another cover of another comic book.