Tagged: Mindy Newell

Joe Corallo: Mine @ NYCC & #ComicsGate

This past week or so has been about getting ready for NYCC. ComicMix has a panel for our successfully funded comics collection, Mine!, which benefits Planned Parenthood. I’ll be there with fellow ComicMix team members Molly Jackson, Mike Gold and Mindy Newell as well as Mine! contributors Tee Franklin, Gabby Rivera and moderator Sheilah Villari. We’ll be at room 1A02 from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm on Saturday, October 8 at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s mid-town west side. If you’re at NYCC, please come on by – we’ll have a sneak peek at some new art from the book!

This past week or so, there has also been more than a little turmoil in the comics community.

Since I wrote my piece about the Aubrey Sitterson incident a couple of weeks ago, events surrounding #ComicsGate have escalated. From blocking and doxxing to accusations and deplatforming, things are really intensifying in the lead-up to NYCC as followers and subscribers keep going up after these conservative comics critics involved. Because of everything that’s been going on I feel that it’s important to discuss this further.

As I stated last time, part of what’s been going on has been that comics critics on YouTube and social media who lean conservative (or libertarian, in this instance) are calling out specific creators for their content; being Social Justice Warriors (SJWs); and are, in some cases using direct and targeting language that attacks a creator for their minority status. Often in cases like this, and #ComicsGate is no exception, some followers end up taking things to the next level and using even more divisive and hurtful language and carrying out acts of targeted harassment and doxxing.

A video one comics critic released last week specifically targeted one comics journalist. The video ended up being flagged, then deleted by the uploader. Not long after, more videos were flagged on this comics critic’s YouTube account, leading to the account in question being suspended. Tensions have risen as accusations of attempted deplatforming of comics critics by comics journalists are being raised. As in #GamerGate, we are seeing similar arguments of “It’s about ethics in journalism,” whether or not that’s the actual issue.

Whenever issues like these come up or any other divisive politically driven issues arise you often hear the same things. You hear people talk about how the other side is horrible, how we shouldn’t even attempt to understand them and how we need to focus on beating them back and diminishing them. But in my case, I usually like to at least understand how things have come to be how they are.

Many of these conservative-leaning comics critics do more than provoke harassment of comics professionals to whom they are opposed: They’ve built a community. Like-minded comics fans who have similar issues with the direction that mainstream comics are going in get together for online hangouts, talk about the comics and creators they like, and more. Some of what they talk about I can even get behind, like how Black Bolt is one of my favorite books that Marvel is putting out right now. It’s easy to paint everyone involved as a troll, and that’s not to say there aren’t any trolls involved, but there are a lot of others who are fans of comics that want to see changes made and get riled up and moved to action when they can rally against perceived hypocrisy and calls to violence from the left.

Look, I’m an unapologetic liberal and political activist — I’m working on a Planned Parenthood benefit anthology, after all. That said, comics is not an exclusively liberal or conservative space and we have to exist without this level of conflict. There are plenty of conservative voices in comics who have put out quality work over the years including Chuck Dixon, Mike Baron, and Frank Miller. I (and others) am not advocating for an eradication of conservative thought from the comics medium.

With that in mind, there are things that cannot be tolerated. Transphobic language and personal attacks targeted at comics professionals and journalists cannot be tolerated. Using a creator’s’ background and minority status to attack them and their work cannot be tolerated. Allowing followers to go unchecked in their further attacks on comics professionals cannot be tolerated. Creators are getting death threats. We need comics professionals to feel safe.

Conservative voices in comics aren’t ever going to go away. If these comics critics, or anyone for that matter, want to be taken seriously by the comics industry that they’re criticizing then they need to drop the bigoted language and personal targeted attacks, and lead by example and call out the increasingly abusive behaviors of some their followers.

 

Molly Jackson: Loud Voices

/opt/books/Bitch-Planet-4.pdf

I’ve spent the past week or so in a bubble, apparently hiding from the news of the world. Which is why I was startled by the influx of posts yesterday announcing it was International Women’s Day. A day to recognize all the inspirational women in our lives.

It seems odd that I would miss such a day but it is a funny thing to have a single day dedicated to all women from the planet Earth. Women still make up half the planet, and there are similar days on the proverbial calendar. Still, the necessity of such a day is irksome. The year is filled with days where I can laud women from all walks of life.

Being torn on how to move forward with this column, I decided to err on the side of not nitpicking yesterday’s recognition and to try to enjoy the moment.

Truth be told, women have made strides in comics, both in the industry and in the stories. A few decades ago, I doubt Kamala Khan would have made it to the page. Even if she had, I doubt that she would have the same depth that she does now. The same could be said for one of her creators, Sana Amanat, who is an editor at Marvel Comics. But now we have a character that resonates across cultural and gender lines as a role model to the young and old.

The same exact excitement could be applied to Bitch Planet. Could we have had that book years ago? Of course. Would it have received the same praise it receives now? I doubt it.

However, this is still a small percentage of the comics pie.

Female characters still lead fewer books than male characters. Female creators still make up a small portion of the industry. Now, it is a point of conversation and an area of development. Companies are looking for ways to expand as they realize that courting the opposite sex is a growing market. It will continue to be as long as we look towards the future and remind them that we women are still here and will not be ignored.

On this site, we have amazing women who broke barriers in comics for my generation. For starters, Martha Thomases and Mindy Newell both worked in the industry, creating female-driven stories as they worked in a male-dominated industry. Emily Whitten has written for multiple sites about geekdom, something that isn’t easy as a woman. All of them have been an inspiration as well as a source of encouragement.

So, on this random day, I want to thank all the women who made it possible for me to be recognized as a voice to be heard. Everything you’ve done is helping move us to an equal future.

 

Mike Gold: The Magic Of Comics

At MoCCA this past weekend – that’s one of my favorite shows, by the way – a surprising number of people asked me about how I felt about DC Comics Entertainment Periodical Publications moving to the Left Coast.

It amuses me to note that only one of these people actually worked at DC, and he was being sarcastic.

In its 80 years DC Comics has moved more frequently than a family of vaudevillians. I worked at only three of their locations; I know many who worked at five or six. Every time DC moves, they relaunch Aquaman. They are now a fully integrated part of Warner Bros., so moving to LALALand is a no-brainer.

And I hope my friends at Marvel are paying attention.

Once Marvel joins Disney out in Hollywood, only one comic book leaflet publisher will be left in New York City proper, that being Valiant. (If I’m missing anybody, forgive me – you really can’t tell the players without a scorecard, and, besides, I haven’t seen Jim Shooter in about a year). If you consider the entire New York metropolitan area, that number grows to… what, two? Archie Comics is in Westchester County. If ComicMix returns to leaflet publishing, and, yeah, we’re considering it but then we collapse in a fit of giggles – then that’ll make three. The combined output of the New York comic book leaflet publishers wouldn’t amount to a fart.

For the record: I think it is absolutely great that we have comics publishers all over the nation. There’s no magic to publishing comic books in Manhattan, despite what lazy publishers told poor cartoonists between the middle of the Depression until the election of Ronald Reagan.  Actually, I think it is great that we have so many comics publishers that they can be all over the nation.

I admit: the first time I dropped my butt into my chair at 75 Rockefeller Plaza – that’s four locations and 40 years ago – I was in fanboy heaven. It was a great feeling. Jenette Kahn offered me the job at a moment when, as they say in the business, I was “between radio stations.” In 1976, stations were changing their pretty much after every third song and I saw the handwriting on the wall. It said “Work for Superman.”

The fact is, most of my best and most enduring friendships have been formed while in the comics racket. I’ve lunched with Steve Ditko, I’ve worked with Will Eisner and Peter O’Donnell, I intervened in a, ah, friendly discussion between Stan Lee and Joe Orlando. Great stuff. ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Martha Thomases, Denny O’Neil, Mindy Newell, Bob Ingersoll, and Robert Greenberger? These folks have been my friends forever, and I met them all through comics. Yes, they have amazing intestinal fortitude.

John Ostrander is different. (I can’t tell you how much I wanted to end this paragraph right here.) I’ve known John even longer, through our common interest in both theater and comics. I brought him into this business – at his own request, so he can’t complain.

I have absolutely no doubt that there are a ton of people just out of school out on the Left Coast who will put in their time at DC Comics and come out of it exhausted but with plenty of great friendships.

And for me, that is the magic of the comic book racket.

 

Mike Gold: No Fire This Time

In her column last Monday, Mindy Newell talked about how an old-time friend and fellow comics reader was jumping off of the ship. Too many cataclysmic events leading directly into too many cataclysmic events. Not enough real story.

I know other readers who feel the same way, and this spring’s cataclysmic events from DC and Marvel provide an excellent opportunity to take the time they now spend reading DC and Marvel and watching the movies and teevee shows produced by, or with, DC and Marvel.

I get that, and I feel the same way. I love this medium. Always have, always will. A great many of my most enduring friendships have their roots in comics fandom, as did my marriage. But, damn, by the time I hit the staples I want a real story and not just another overwhelming grab for whatever’s left in my bank account.

In terms of my time, the Two Universes’ loss is Image Comics, Dynamite Comics, Boom Studios and IDW’s gain. Oh, I’ve always been attracted to these publishers, as well as to the artsy-fartsy output from the intelligent folk at Fantagraphics and Abrams and their ilk. And Archie, too. Hell, if Harvey was still around, I’d probably find something worthwhile over there as well. I enjoy the medium that much.

But I’ve spent all of my literate life having a special love for superhero comics and for their creators. It’s the backbone of American comics. And I’m kind of pissed that the Two Universes are trying to chase me and my buddies away.

Not that a lot of people care. North Americans spent about two-thirds of a billion dollars on tickets to Marvel’s The Avengers (source: Box Office Mojo). In the United States, The Avengers comic book sells around 50,000 copies. That same year North American comic book sales totaled less than one-half billion dollars (source: Comichron). All comics. From all publishers. All year long.

That’s pathetic.

We vote with our feet. If we don’t like something, we don’t spend money on it. Of course, fans are a bit different: we’re likely to continue to spend money on once-loved comics titles until we’re either absolutely certain they suck, or we are hopelessly confused.

Mindy’s friend is by no means alone. Disney and Warner Bros don’t give a fart about comic books, they care about return on investment. Fine; that’s their job. But from looking at the bottom line – hell, even trying to find the bottom line – it is quite possible that the movies and teevee shows in all their forms will be the only places we’ll be able to get our capes on.

(With apologies to James Baldwin.)

Martha Thomases’ Girl Fight!

Last week, I vented my pique at Marvel’s tone-deaf marketing of the new Spider-Woman comic. Then, on Monday, my esteemed colleague, Mindy Newell, offered a different perspective. Who’s right? Normally, I would say I’m right because I’m the mommy. However, in this case, Mindy has also given birth, and even trumped my creds by being a grandmother. So I’m not playing that card. This also means I can’t just say “Because I said so.” Denied my two favorite debating tactics, I’m going to have to approach this from a different angle. Despite what one might think about feminism and other kinds of so-called “identity politics,” there isn’t a single governing board that determines what is “politically correct.” There are married feminists who take their husbands’ last name, stay home with the kids, and volunteer at the PTA. There are radical lesbian separatists who live in communes and never have to interact with men at all. There are feminists who wear make-up, dye their hair, use Botox and wear high heels. There even used to be Republican feminists. To be a feminist, you must support equal rights and opportunities for all, and respect the right of women to define themselves and their role in the world. See? You don’t even have to be a woman to be a feminist. Being a feminist doesn’t mean one doesn’t enjoy sex. Not even heterosexual sex. It does mean one opposes coercion, rape, and the unwilling objectification of one’s partner or partners. It means one can imagine a woman being the subject, rather than the object, of desire. In other words, feminism is not the same as Puritanism. So, what does this have to do with comic books, I hear my editor thinking? Plenty. For one thing, it means that a comic book cover, like the variant for Spider-Woman #1, is not a feminist image. It is not intended to make women feel empowered, nor to show a woman being heroic. However, that doesn’t mean a feminist can’t like the cover. Manara is a famous artist with millions of fans. Liking the cover doesn’t make them “bad” feminists. As a feminist, I am in favor of pleasure and joy. I like a lot of media that isn’t specifically feminist. I like Power Girl, for crying out loud. I like those inane Silver Age stories where Superman has to “teach a lesson” to Lois Lane for having the nerve to try to do her job and find out his secret identity. And, as a feminist, I’d like to propose a new standard for graphic storytelling, similar to the Bechdel test, dubbed the Willis test by the Jezebel blog. They quote pioneering rock critic Ellen Willis, who wrote this: “A crude but often revealing method of assessing male bias in lyrics is to take a song written by a man about a woman and reverse the sexes. By this test, a diatribe like [the Rolling Stones’] “Under My Thumb” is not nearly so sexist in its implications as, for example, Cat Stevens’ gentle, sympathetic “Wild World”; Jagger’s fantasy of sweet revenge could easily be female—in fact, it has a female counterpart, Nancy Sinatra’s “Boots” – but it’s hard to imagine a woman sadly warning her ex-lover that he’s too innocent for the big bad world out there.” Would Supergirl try to teach Jimmy Olsen a lesson if he tried to find out her secret identity? Of course she would. Would Superman wear a costume that distracted his enemies by focusing their attention on his sexual organs? Of course he would not. Would Spider-Man stick his ass in the air submissively, as a way to demonstrate his web-sticking abilities? I don’t think so. Is this a comic book I would buy for a young girl? Probably not, unless she was taking a class in gender studies and had the vocabulary to talk about it. None of this will stop me from enjoying Power Girl stories (unless Scott Lobdell starts writing them and turns her into Starfire), as long as I still find them fun. Comic books and fun. Now that’s a marketing campaign I’d like to see.

Charles Stross on “The myth of heroism”

Running around doing too much today, but if you’ve been enjoying our columns from Dennis O’Neil, John Ostrander, and Mindy Newell on the topic of heroes and superheroes, you might want to look at what Charles Stross has to say about it:

Where do heroes come from?

I will confess that I find it difficult to write fictional heroes with a straight face. After all, we are all the heroes of our internal narrative (even those of us who others see as villains: nobody wakes up in the morning, twirls their moustache, and thinks, how can I most effectively act to further the cause of EVIL™ today?). And people who might consider themselves virtuous or heroic within their own framework, may be villains when seen from the outside: it’s a common vice of fascists (who seem addicted to heroic imagery—it’s a very romantic form of political poison, after all, the appeal to the clean and manly virtue of cold steel in subordination to the will of the State), and also of paternalist authoritarians.

But where does it come from?

via The myth of heroism – Charlie’s Diary.

A lot of “The Literature Of Ethics” here, and an unintentional connection between pre-monotheistic mythologies, Lois Lane and Lana Lang, and Betty and Veronica. Serioiusly.

Martha Thomases: A Call to Alarms

Thomases Art 140207This is the time of year when the ComicMix crew starts to firm up our attendance at various comic conventions in the year ahead. It’s a frustrating process because there are a lot of shows and we can’t go to all the ones we’d like to attend.

It also makes me really angry.

Last year was the first in a long time that I went to a bunch of cons. It was fascinating and fun most of the time, but annoying at others. Twenty years after we started Friends of Lulu, there are still remarkably few women invited to be guests at the shows.

This is odd, because there are a lot of women working in the industry, and (capitalists take note) even more buying comics and tickets to cons. Wouldn’t show organizers like to demonstrate to this market segment that they are welcome and valued?

I, for one, am sick of complaining about it. I’ve decided to do something.

I want to use my position as a busy body on this website to point out conventions that don’t have many women on their guest list. For example, Emerald City Con, which I’ve always wanted to go to and sounds amazing has, on their website, a list of 235 guests, of which 20, I think, are women (I qualify that because there are some names that could be appropriate for any gender).

Here’s another example. Heroes Con, which is one of my favorites, has 48 announced guests, and only four are women.

The Asbury Park Con has announced 54 guests, and three are women. No women listed on any panels currently scheduled.

A press release I received today from Baltimore Comic-Con said, “This year’s previously confirmed guests for the show include: Marty Baumann (Pixar artist); Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl); Dave Bullock (Batman Black and White); Greg Capullo (Batman); Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps); Sean Chen (Amazing Spider-Man); Jimmy Cheung (Infinity); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (X-Men: Battle of the Atom); Richard Clark (House of Gold & Bones); Steve Conley (Bloop); Alan Davis (Wolverine); Tommy Lee Edwards (Suicide Risk); Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys); David Finch (Forever Evil); Bryan JL Glass (Mice Templar); Michael Golden (The Ravagers); Cully Hamner (Animal Man); Dean Haspiel (The Fox); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); JG Jones (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Black and White); Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Green Lantern: New Guardians); Barry Kitson (Empire); David Mack (Shadowman); Kevin Maguire (Guardians of the Galaxy); Ron Marz (Witchblade); Bob McLeod (X-Men: Gold); Tradd Moore (Deadpool Annual); Mark Morales (New Avengers); Dan Parent (Archie, Veronica, Kevin Keller); David Peterson (Mouse Guard); Eric Powell (The Goon); Joe Prado (Justice League); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Ivan Reis (Aquaman and The Others); Budd Root (Cavewoman); Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man); Andy Smith (Superman #23.1: Bizarro); John K. Snyder III (Zorro Rides Again); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Charles Soule (Thunderbolts); Ben Templesmith (The Memory Collectors); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Two-Face); Herb Trimpe (GI Joe: A Real American Hero); Billy Tucci (Shi); Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing); Matt Wagner (Grendel); Mark Waid (Daredevil); Bill Willingham (Fables); Renee Witterstaetter (Joe Jusko: Maelstrom); and Thom Zahler (My Little Pony).”

As you can see, that is two women.

There can be a lot of reasons for this. Sometimes, publishers promote their “hot” talent for guest spots. Sometimes, the people planning the show want a particular kind of fan to attend, and that kind of fan has testicles.

However, when there are no women on the guest list, not only does it send the false message that women haven’t achieved prominence in our corner of the entertainment industry, it also reduces the number of women on panels, taking part in our public conversations.

So I’d like to keep track of who is being welcoming to women, and who isn’t. I would also be delighted to report on who is being welcome to other groups who are under-represented, such as people of color and LGBTQ folks. It would be my honor to be your ally.

I’m not asking for a quota at shows. I want to see more women, but I don’t have a number in mind. I’m not making any demands. I’m simply reporting facts, gathered from promotional material (including websites) created by the shows’ promoters.

It is my opinion that if there are more women welcomed as guests at these shows, there will be fewer incidents such as this. As I said in a previous column, “It would be easier for women to be taken seriously by convention goers if they were taken seriously by convention planners. I don’t think we should sit back and wait for others to fix the problem. I think we need to fix it ourselves. Every time we see bad behavior, we should say something, loudly. Every time a convention or industry event ignores women, we should ridicule them for their lack of knowledge about our industry and its future.”

So while I’m trying to keep track of how many women are treated as professionals at shows, I’d also like to also offer my mailbox (martha@comicmix.com) as a place where women can share their unpleasant experiences with disrespectful men and boys at the same shows. With their permission, I’d like to ask show promoters to explain how such things can happen under their auspices. If my editor and I think there is a story, we’ll run it.

All e-mails sent to me will be considered to be “on the record” unless there is a compelling reason to keep it confidential. This means that if, instead of keeping to the spirit of this conversation, you hurl gratuitous insults or threat me, I’ll make it public (including taking it to the authorities if I feel threatened).

Let’s stand up for ourselves and let our voices be heard. The people, united, can never be defeated.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

A WEEK FROM THIS AFTERNOON: Oh, that would be telling…

 

John Ostrander: Upsides & Downsides of Writing

Ostrander Art 140102There are some days that I love being a writer. When the everything is cooking, when the words are flowing, when the characters are speaking to you, when you’re on the top of your game, it’s all magic. That’s not every day. Not by a long shot.

There are the days when you’re staring at the screen and it stares back – and the screen does not blink. You pray and the gods/patron saints (depending on your belief system) do not smile, do not answer, do not share their favor with you. There are days when I have considered offering blood sacrifices to these gods/saints. On those days, the cats hide.

I make my living off of my writing. There are upsides and downsides to that. On the upside, I’m my own boss. On the downside, I frequently hate my boss. He always knows when I’m goofing off and I can hear his voice in the back of my head saying, “Are you making money doing that?” It’s hard to get a day off; there’s no paid holidays, there’s no paid sick days, no paid vacation.

On the upside, I work out of my home. The commute’s a breeze. The only traffic jam is when one or more of the cats gets in front of me as I head towards the office and decides to stroll or flat out lie down right in my path. A semi jack-knifing in front of you is not as likely to stymie your passage as completely as a downed cat. Swearing sometimes clears the path; sometimes it just gets me a blank look.

On the downside, it’s hard to get away from the office. It’s always there and that damned boss keeps on asking “When are you getting back to work?” Yes, I have my own separate office in my home and, yes, I could close the door. I’ve done that. I think there’s a small gravity well at my desk and it keeps sucking me back.

There’s the Freelancer’s Disease. If you’re offered work you tend to say “yes” even if you’re overbooked because you fear if you say “no” the aforementioned gods/patron saints won’t send you any more work. And there’s the corresponding Freelancer’s Nightmare when the work does stop flowing. Will the work ever come again; how will you pay bills, how will you eat if the work doesn’t come back? It’s not a rational fear but it’s a very real one and you can wake up in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning with an attack of it. Been there; felt that.

There’s a corresponding hope that lightning will strike. I was on a plane once and the guy next to me began talking. We were both in our forties. I told him what I did and he told me he was a corporate lawyer. I expressed some envy at him; he had a steady paycheck. He agreed and he said that was the problem: he knew how much he would make this year, and the next year, and pretty much ten years down the line. “You,” he said, “on the other hand, could be hit by lightning.” I could write something, come up with an idea or a concept that could make me millions. It could happen at any time. It hasn’t yet… but it still might.

That’s one of the things that keeps me at it, that and the joy I get when the writing works. I’m also too damn old to work in an office. I can’t see anyone hiring me. I really don’t have any marketable business skills and no résumé.

Nope, for better or worse, for all the upsides and downsides, writing is what I do. I’d better get back to it before the boss yells at me. Again.

The bastard.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Marc Alan Fishman: The Powerpuff Pituitary Problem

What’s one more  pundit’s perspective on the recent Powerpuff hullabaloo, right?

For those not in-the-know, let me catch you up mighty quick. The Cartoon Network and IDW publish a Powerpuff Girls comic book each month. Recently, artist Mimi Yoon’s variant cover to issue #6 hit the Internet, and soon thereafter, everyone went crazypants. Or maybe it’s more apropos to say crazyintheirpants. If you look at the art for today’s article (above) you’ll see Yoon’s piece.

Are you lighting your bra on fire yet?

It depicts Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles as pin-up inspired… shall we say… more mature versions of themselves, feeling victorious after defeating an oddly gigantic Mojo Jojo. All three look at us, the viewer, with kewpie-doll-meets-smoky-playboy-cartoon eyes. Their outfits true to cartoon scale, but their proportions now in an uncanny valley inches shy of legal jailbait. They exist as true ‘toons; impossibly impossible in every way.

For many a’ person, this is ludicrous, angering, and a smite upon the very Earth. But much like last week’s Wonder Woman crisis, I’m not lighting the torches, nor and I leading the mob towards Castle IDW.

I’m not sharpening the blade to thrust at the fire-starters either. As I read it, said blaze was started by a friend of mine, Dennis Barger, who owns and operates a great store in Taylor, MI. His point is valid: a book clearly aimed at children has little to gain over what might be construed as a less-than-wholesome depiction of the titular (‘natch) characters. He, as a parent and a store-owner, felt that it was a poor choice for a cover – even if it was only a variant cover – and as such sought to spread the word amongst the socially interconnected in order to create discussion. He succeeded. And, it would seem it also vilified him to those looking to stand up for the artist, and the artistic choices made therein. Debate is debate though… and for creating one? I tip my hat to Dennis. He got us talking, as we are all prone to do, about feminism on one hand, and the over-sexualization of children’s properties on the other.

When I saw the cover in question, I giggled. Then I paused. Then I thought “Huh, that really is a bit much, right?” Then I moved on. Arguments abound circle the choices of the artist here. Why age the kiddie property in this manner? What does an image of a Powerpuff Girl, nay, Powerpuff Young Woman do for a li’l lass (or lad) who reads the book? More to the point: How does this art in particular seek to become a commodity, had it not been canceled, and released to the public without any more fanfare than an ad in Previews?

To answer my own questions: The artist was working in the faux-pin-up style that is clearly rendered beautifully, and that style wouldn’t allow the Puffs to be pre-pubescent in order to fit the style. For a little guy or gal, the cover is fantasy: what might Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles look like a bit down the road? Oh, they’re taller.

I’m not much for overly sexualized underclassmen in mini-skirts and mascara. If IDW saw the work and thought that there would be a subset of customers out there who would pursue the book because of the cover, I guess they are entitled to an opinion, and I wouldn’t shake the hand of any man buying the book because of it.

It’s simply an evil that exists for reasons that should shame all of us within the industry. Certainly we can debate the merit of Wonder Woman donning doomed pantaloons, or the need for Power Girl to have a boob-window versus the current feminista costume designs of the newerish Captain Marvel and Smasher. But when that debate turns towards an innocent property like the Powerpuff girls or the oddly matured My Little Pony Equestria license? Well, that’s where gentlemen like Mr. Barger make themselves loud and clear.

Children are the future and we shouldn’t make them feel like they need to grow up faster than they already are. Seeing blossoming buttercups bubble out from a skin-tight spandex suit is simply a dart hurled at a target that misses by a country mile. Had it come out, would it have created a generation of young girls praying for their own set of mosquito bites? Would it have let loose a cadre of boys with ill-fitting trousers chasing those aforementioned lasses skirts? Hardly.

The cover was a wink and a nod towards the adult purchasers of a children’s title. It was a variant cover that any responsible parent – or parent simply not looking to answer several questions they’d rather not deal with – would have purchased the normal cover. The debate is out there, and where controversy is birthed, so too will new bullets be fired into the fray. Common sense dictates to us the truth behind the yelling.

Next time, keep the kids as kids. Let the ‘shippers keep their fanfic fantasies to themselves… or you know… their Tumblr accounts.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

TUESDAY MORNING: Jen Krueger

 

Martha Thomases: Pete and Me

Thomases Art 140131Pete Seeger died Monday evening. He was 94 years old.

You can read about his life here in the newspaper of record. A simple Google search will get you a bunch more versions, but these are the facts.

And the facts are so incredibly inadequate at this point.

The first time I saw Pete Seeger perform was on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967. I’d heard him sing on the radio occasionally but had never seen him, nor did I think about it a lot. I was 14, so please cut me some slack. As a big fan of the Smothers Brothers I found out bit about him before the show aired, including the fact that the reason I had never seen him was that he had been blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee. You can see his performance here. Rather than grovel his way back into the public’s perception, he instead proceeded to piss off those who were upset about him before. Here’s a story from The New York Times about his performance. To me, this is the key quote: “Mr. Seeger’s political views, which sometimes get into his songs, have often aroused controversy. He was convicted in 1961 of ten counts of contempt of Congress for refusing in 1955 to answer questions of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction was reversed in 1962.”

It still took them five years to put him back on the air. Here’s a transcript of his testimony.

You kids today probably don’t understand what it was like to have a popular culture that influenced the political discourse, that made a difference in people’s lives, that was about more than selling cars or phones. Pete Seeger not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. He celebrated our musical heritage and used it to urge us to live up to our highest ideals. And he made it fun and uplifting to join him.

Was he a Communist? Yeah, for a while. So what?

I want you to watch a few of these clips. There’s this one, an antiwar song from the Johnny Cash show in 1970 . And this one from a British television show in 1964. This is a nice version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.

In 2008, he performed during the weekend celebration of Obama’s first inauguration. Bruce Springsteen had just put out an album inspired by Seeger’s life , so they performed together. You can see them singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”  Is that George Lucas singing along in the crowd? It’s certainly our President singing along… on my favorite verse!

In September 2013, not even six months ago, he performed the same song at a benefit for Farm Aid in upstate New York. According to his son, he was chopping wood last week.

As you watch these performances, let me point out a few things. He plays a banjo that is inscribed, “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” Most important, he always looks like he’s having a great time. Singing songs brings him so much joy, and he wants his audience to sing with him and share the joy. That’s the most radical position of all.

What does this have to do with comics? Everything. When Pete Singer lead his audience in songs, he was never really “in charge.” He’s sneak in each line of the lyrics before he sang them so we could sing, too. He never suggested we might be terrible singers, because that was not the point. We sang because it felt good. When it feels good, it is good.

Comics seem to be learning that lesson. More people make comics for the fun of it than ever before, publishing on line, distributing any way they can. You can see more styles of art and storytelling than I could ever imagine when I first started reading them. Do I like them all? Of course not. But I like the energy and the joy these folks bring to telling their own stories. They don’t need the Big Two (or any corporation) telling them how to go about their art.

When I was working at WIN, an antiwar weekly, in 1974-1975, I would occasionally get a note from him, complimenting me on some piece I wrote, always signed with a little doodle of a banjo. Although we never met, I was tickled that he took the time to encourage me.

When all the other kids his age were listening to Raffi, I played Pete Seeger songs for my son as a kid. Those were our family values.

Thank you, sir.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell