Tagged: Sina Grace

Joe Corallo: Diversity, Comics, and the Culture War

There are so many things that have happened in the past week that I’d love to talk about. I’d love to talk about our successful Kickstarter campaign for Mine! which raised $9,360 over our goal. I’d love to talk about what I thought of Runaways #1. Unfortunately, what I need to talk about is Aubrey Sitterson and Diversity and Comics.

Aubrey Sitterson is currently writing one of the G.I. Joe comics over at IDW. He has a reputation for poking the bear when it comes to those on the right who are upset about decisions he’s made in changing characters and the roles of said characters in order to create a more diverse book that will appeal to new audiences; something that properties like G.I. Joe could always use. Last week on September 11th, Aubrey sent off a couple of tweets regarding 9/11. He talked about who has a right to be upset about what happened on that day and questioned the sincerity of some people expressing anger and grief over what happened.

While I agree with Aubrey’s politics in terms of pushing for wider diversity in comics, in comments regarding 9/11 were very inappropriate. They were not comments made to friends in private, or even on a private Facebook page; they were public statements made on his public Twitter account. I have every right to be offended by what he said as do many other people.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. I’ve been disappointed to see some reporting on the left side of comics politics that make it out as if Aubrey Sitterson’s comments didn’t mean what he said they mean, and that by being upset with his words that we are somehow allowing those on the right side of comics politics to score some sort of victory. While I don’t feel that he needs to be fired or anything like that, we don’t have to act like what he said was great and unworthy of criticism either. No one wants to hear your hot edgy take about 9/11 on 9/11. No one.

That being said, if the reason you’re calling for the firing of Aubrey Sitterson is because of Diversity and Comics, then we need to talk about that.

Diversity and Comics is the equivalent of a right-wing pundit for the comics industry; think Alex Jones’ Info Wars. He came to the scene earlier this year and his following has been growing massively on Twitter and YouTube. I hadn’t been paying too much attention to what he was doing, but over time he began to make very personal attacks towards writers I admire like Kwanza Osajyefo as well as personal friends and Mine! contributors Sina Grace, Gabby Rivera, and Mags Visaggio. He has stated that he wants a Comics Culture War. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

What Diversity and Comics does, similar to what Trump and the far right often do, is to take a universally recognized problem and spin things to find a scapegoat they can rally around using bigotry and guttural emotions. Many people would agree that the comic industry could be doing better, or at least we would like to see it do better. Diversity and Comics takes those who are looking for an answer to why comics aren’t doing better and offers up a solution; it’s SJWs, the far left, women, queer and minority creators. This results in targeting specific creators and vile, personal attacks fueled by bigotry and hate being thrown around in an effort to try to force people out of comics that they don’t like. I don’t care to share any of those attacks in this piece.

People often talk about leaving trolls alone and they’ll just disappear. In this instance, Diversity and Comics has been growing his following this whole year. He has more Twitter followers than ComicMix, a Patreon where he brings in several hundred dollars a month, YouTube channel with over 37k subscribers and over 9 million video views, with many videos over 10k views a piece with hundreds of comments. I don’t see him going away anytime soon, and his followers and subscribers have grown between this past weekend and me writing this. Many people were wrong about how much support a candidate like Trump would have, and you may be wrong about how much support Diversity and Comics has too.

This is a sizeable group of people that exist. They want comics for them; them being cishet white guys and some outliers. In their effort to do so despite having the majority of mainstream comics already catering to them, they have made many creators at best feel unwelcome and at worst feel unsafe. It’s not a sustainable way to operate in a fandom the size of comics.

Some of the people involved will never change the way they feel or operate, and that’s how it is. Some of them got caught up in the rhetoric and maybe don’t truly believe the horribly sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic words used to promote the ideals of Diversity and Comics, but rather found his answers about the industry to be plausible on the surface. Those people may come back around one day as they see he does not have the real answers to the woes of the comics industry, but rather an agenda to craft a comics fan base in his own image.

Targeted creators do not want you to look at what Diversity and Comics is saying about them and reporting back. Don’t do that. It just hurts people. What you can do is if you see inappropriate behavior, nasty personal attacks, or threats to report them to Twitter or whichever platform you are using and see it on. The comics community is small, but we need to step up and help creators to feel safe and welcome.

Please help all of us to have a safer, more welcoming community for creators now and well into the future.

Joe Corallo: Still Mine!ing


This column going up marks the first full week of our Kickstarter campaign for Mine!, our comics anthology to benefit Planned Parenthood. As of this typing, we’re 44% funded. Not bad for one week.

And a busy week at that. It’s been all hands on deck over at ComicMix and Molly Jackson and I have spent time together than we’d care to discuss. It’s a wild ride, and we still have a few weeks to go.

One of our stops on said wild ride was Flame Con. I’ve been going since the first one in 2015 and have tabled at the past two. This year Molly printed out a lot of fliers, brought recording equipment, signs, and coffee. That last part may have been the most important.

Pat and Amy Shand

We had quite a few of our Mine! contributors at the con including Sina Grace, Justin Hall, Marc Andreyko, Pat Shand, Amy Shand, Mags Visaggio, Aria Baci, Alexa Cassaro, Stevie Wilson, Robby Barrett, Rosalarian, Tee Franklin and Fabian Lelay. Molly took some great pictures with everyone, got fliers to their tables, talked us up at panels, and more. We were also approached by people about potential venues for book release parties and signings. One of the people that approached us about that was our contributor Andrea Shockling, who is illustrating ComicMix own Mindy Newell’s story. It was wonderful to get to see so many friends and meet contributors that I hadn’t previously gotten the honor of doing so.

Flame Con, as always, is a positive experience for me. I’ve tabled both years with Robby Barrett and he always does well with his prints. Steven Universe and Pokémon are both still real popular at this convention.

I realized that one of the things about Flame Con I like so much is they don’t have a lot in terms of people looking to flip comics, or those guys with the short boxes on a cart that try to get creators to sign entire long runs or comics they’ve done. Part of that is because they don’t have a lot of people selling back issues and another part is because they don’t have too many legacy creators you could do that with, but it’s still nice. I hope it stays that way as long as it can.

Okay, I know this is short and I didn’t really get into much, but working on this Kickstarter is time-consuming and I have to get right back to that. Thank you so much to everyone that’s pledged and spread the word so far. Keep spreading the word about the Mine! Kickstarter and I’ll be back next week to complain more about how tired I am.

Joe Corallo: Amazing Grace

Okay, let me clear up a couple of things first.

One: This is not about the song “Amazing Grace” by poet John Newton. It’s about comic book professional Sina Grace.

Two: I shamelessly took the concept of this column title from Christmas at Pee Wee’s Playhouse when Globey says that in reference to Grace Jones’ performance of Little Drummer Boy.

Now then, if you aren’t familiar with Sina Grace I’m here to help change that. Especially since Sina has a few new comics hitting the shelves on Wednesday.

He’s someone entirely unique in comics. He’s worn nearly every hat you can in comics as a self-publisher, imprint editor, writer, and artist. His skills have graced most of the comics publishers here in the States that you can name, he’s edited The Walking Dead, put out deeply personal memoir comics, and is most recently taking on Iceman over at Marvel… but more on that later.

I first got into Sina Grace’s work as an artist with The Li’l Depressed Boy, written, colored and lettered by S. Steven Struble. He happened to be in Manhattan signing at Carmine Street Comics in 2014 just after my birthday so I picked up the first two volumes. He was incredibly sweet and welcoming. I even got a sketch of Jem (as in Jem and the Holograms) from him, which he seemed to look up reference for on his phone, but I like to think he could have done from memory. Fun fact about me; I prefer this version of the Jem theme song that basically everyone else hates.

Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked. Anyway, The Li’l Depressed Boy is a surrealist take on unreqited love with an indie film aesthetic filled with music and youth. It’s the kind of comic that checks a lot of boxes for me in terms of what I like, so it both was a comic I enjoyed and something that put Sina on my radar.

That really paid off when Self-Obsessed came out in 2015.

Self-Obsessed is a deeply person memoir. Prior to this, Sina had put out another memoir, Not My Bag, back in 2012. Whereas Not My Bag dealt with Sina’s personal struggles working retail, Self-Obsessed cuts deeper. It’s filled with comics, essays, photos, and interviews. It’s an incredibly blunt, raw, and unapologetic reflection on life. It’s a brave graphic novel and I have a great deal of respect for Sina putting this out. If you like memoir comics and the kind of books you see over at the likes of Top Shelf and First Second and you haven’t checked out Self-Obsessed yet, then you need to add it to your list. Seriously. Do it.

Sina Grace was back in New York for NYCC in 2015 to promote Self-Obsessed. Needless to say, I picked up a copy then and read it on the train home after. Self-Obsessed went on to become a web series starring not only Sina but Amber Benson, Colleen Green and more. It’s currently two seasons in.

I’m stressing how much I enjoy Self-Obsessed not only in the hopes that maybe you’ll go pick it up but because his new graphic memoir, Nothing Lasts Forever, is one of his new books hitting the shelves Wednesday and may turn out to be even more personal than his other memoirs. A lot has happened fairly recently in Sina’s life and he’s gonna lay it all out for us. I’ll be picking it up on Wednesday, and I hope you do the same.

One of the other books with Sina’s name on it coming at us on Wednesday is Iceman #1. This book is part of Marvel’s X-Men ResurrXion reboot. Now, I made my feelings clear the other month based on the first book in the series, X-Men Gold #1. TL:DR, I wasn’t a fan. X-Men Blue #1 was better, but still not quite there for me. And I’ll be honest, I picked Jean Grey #1 off the rack at a shop and skimmed through it only to find that in the first issue they are already talking about the Phoenix force so I’m gonna hard pass that one. No offense to the creative team, really, but the idea of dealing with the Phoenix force again is just too exhausting and a wasted opportunity to make Jean Grey something more. Because of all that, I’m relying on Iceman to restore my excitement in the X franchise.

Seriously though, this book has a lot going for it. Though editor Daniel Ketchum has been let go from Marvel, this is certainly in part his baby. I got to talk to Daniel briefly back at NYCC 2015 about Iceman and my reservations to how the character had been handled in All-New X-Men. Daniel told me to stick it out and see where the character was going. This book is where it was all going. Between Daniel Ketchum editing, Sina Grace writing, and Kevin Wanda doing the cover, we have three queer men of color working on a queer superhero. That’s really huge and means the world to me. Many of you familiar with my column know I bitch about diversity and inclusion here a lot, and Iceman is the kind of book I’ve been demanding over at that big two. Please, if diversity in comics is important to you, or if the X-Men are important to you, pick up this book. We all need Iceman to succeed.

No pressure, Sina!

Finally, Sina also did a pride variant cover for the latest issue of The Walking Dead and it’s gorgeous! Image is doing pride variants for multiple titles, and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Human Rights Campaign. Considering the kind of rollbacks in LGBT rights we see happening all across the country, this is an important stand for a comic company to be making and I applaud Image for taking a stand against bigotry.

This Wednesday, comic shops will be stocking up on three different projects that Sina Grace has poured his heart into. When you hit up your local comic shop tomorrow, go out and take some of those home with you.

Joe Corallo: The New X-Men Blues

Last week I wrote an open letter to Marvel about what the X-Men mean to me, primarily as a reaction to X-Men Gold #1. If you missed it, you can read it here. Since then, X-Men Blue #1 has come out. I read it, so now you get to read me talking about it.

Although I’ll be avoiding the biggest spoilers, if you are looking to avoid any and all spoilers for this comic I suggest you go give it a read before you continue.

Oh, you already read it and can keep going? That’s great!

X-Men Blue #1 is written by Cullen Bunn, drawn by Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni, colored by Matt Milla and lettered by Joe Caramagna. Cullen Bunn is someone I’ve been a fan of for a while now; it’s really hard not to enjoy Bunn’s writing. I’m really looking forward to reading his, Danny Luckert and Marie Enger’s Regression over at Image Comics. You can read an interview with them on this new series here. It was Cullen Bunn’s involvement in this series that made me excited about this particular X title.

After reading it I have to say that Cullen Bunn did not disappoint. He took what could have easily been a rough start to a series and crafted a tight, fun story that didn’t take itself too seriously throughout. That way, when the reveal at the end of the issue is made, it hits you harder. Tone is important and Cullen Bunn knows how to make you feel every panel of every page without feeling pandered to.

The art of Jorge Molina and Matteo Buffagni creates exciting page layouts the move the story along at breakneck speed when it needs to and is aided by the primary use of wide across panels and tall thin panels. My only complaints are that everyone looks too young and pretty –especially Black Tom Cassidy – and I don’t care for the new Juggernaut design. It’s too Bane.

Matt Milla’s colors are bright and really pop. It only gets dark mostly when dealing with Juggernaut and on the last couple of pages, which helps the mood greatly and in particular moves the reader on the second to last page of the main story to start feeling the sense of dread before they even get to the reveal. Excellent coloring.

There are two problems that jump out to me from this book that are no fault of the creative team. First, that the book doesn’t necessarily fit with the 90s nostalgia that these X books represent. This isn’t the old Blue team, but rather the original team of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby years minus Professor X. While it made sense in the 80s to bring the original team back in X-Factor as the Lee and Kirby run was on only two decades old, it makes less sense when it’s five decades old. Anyway, after a few years they completely changed the X-Factor team back. You have so many great, compelling X characters to have a team limited like this seems entirely unnecessary. Now maybe the team will change in the next few issues or do, but the issue #1 is where you wanna grab people and it’d be a shame if people skip out on this because of this particular team, with the team on X-Men Gold being far more interesting character wise.

The second problem spins out of the first. We end up with a team that’s all cis white characters. A major problem with some of these older comics is that they are straighter, more cis, more male and more white than what people today would often expect. Even straight cis white male readers who are against diversity in comics at least expect their to be diversity, or else what are they going to yell about on Twitter?

That’s the danger with nostalgia. You can often go the route of nostalgia or go the route of diversity, but it becomes difficult to wed the two – particularly when the property in question is over fifty years old. There is a reason people like Len Wein, Chris Claremont, and Dave Cockrum made the team more diverse, and it seems silly to be taking steps back like this.

Despite how some people have reported on the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel has not come out and said they are anti-diversity. This particular team doesn’t ring true to what many X books have stood for the past few decades. You can’t point to Jean Grey being the leader as being terribly progressive when she’s the only woman on a team of five, and it’s hard to point to Iceman as being particularly progressive here when his orientation isn’t really discussed. That won’t be the case in Sina Grace’s Iceman, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

Look, nostalgia can be complicated, and can often be very, very white. That doesn’t make it bad reading. Like I said, I enjoyed reading this book. These problems with nostalgia still need to be looked at, and maybe a few issues or so down we will have a shake up with this team to have it feel more like a book in the spirit of the X-Men. And with Cullen Bunn at the helm and the reveal at the end of this issue, I feel like that’s a very real possibility.

Joe Corallo: An Open Letter To Marvel Entertainment

To Marvel Entertainment,

Last week I read X-Men Gold #1 and, controversy aside which I won’t be getting into as you have gone above and beyond to address the issue properly and professionally, it really invoked a lot of strong feelings in me. Because of that, I’d like to talk about the X-Men and what they mean to me.

I first discovered X-Men on television when I was in elementary school. I remember watching the first episode and immediately being sucked in. To this day, the Sentinels are still menacing to me and I’ll always have a fondness for Jubilee, Rogue and Storm. I remember the time between Saturday morning after the episode finished to the next Saturday felt like an eternity. I was a shy kid who knew he was queer, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t have a lot of friends, didn’t enjoy sports and couldn’t really connect to other kids on a lot of things, but one thing I could talk to the other kids at lunch in the cafeteria was about cartoons like X-Men. That meant a lot to me.

I was lucky to have parents that did well enough to get a lot of those action figures. It was very confusing to me, and I’m sure my parents as well, how they had action figures based on the cartoon as well as ones based on the comics. Why did my Storm action figure have a black costume when it was white on the show? I remember some of the times very clearly of being at Toys R Us in Levittown, NY with my parents specifically wanting X-Men action figures. It’s a DSW Shoes now. I really pushing hard for the yellow and blue costume Wolverine and how exciting that was for me to get it. Or how it took my mom more than one attempt to get a Phoenix action figure for me.

My parents also got me the VHS of the pilot that never took off, Pryde of the X-Men. I watched it over and over again. I once used all my quarters allotted to me to beat the X-Men video game based on that unsold pilot at the arcade in Bayville, NY. I’d got to beat it again in Walt Disney World a decade before Disney bought Marvel;the only character that worked was Dazzler. I’ve been obsessed with Dazzler ever since. I also had played that Sega Genesis X-Men game where it almost all takes place in the Danger Room – it was definitely harder than it needed to be. I was even in an AOL chatroom X-Men role playing game for a bit. I played Cyclops.

The first X-Men movie came out while I was in high school and watched some of the resulting X-Men Evolution cartoon. I saw that first X-Men movie opening weekend, and have seen each X-Men movie opening weekend ever since. College brought about a lot of nostalgia for the 90s animated series. Covered in scorpions was a running gag. A guy I met while in college, Jake, was the first openly gay X-Men fan I befriended. It was when Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassiday was coming out. I’d pick him up and we’d go to Fourth World Comics, our local comic shop. We’d go back, read it in silence, then discuss. We also went together to pick up X-Men Legends 2 the day it came out and played it as late as we could into the night.

Since then I’ve befriended people in comics, other LGBT fans of the X-Men, and have had all sorts of long philosophical and meaningful conversations about these comics. I’ve waited on long lines to get signatures at cons from people like Chris Claremont, Louise and Walter Simonson, Mike and Laura Allred, Peter David, John Cassiday, and Frank Quitely because of the work they did in the world of X-Men and have gotten original comic pages, con sketches and commissions of the X-Men.

I’m telling you all of this not to brag or claim that I’m a bigger fan than anyone else because it’s honestly no astonishing feat. I’m saying this to let you know how much the X-Men has meant to me over the years, how it’s impacted my life for the better, made me more social, and is one of the biggest reasons I’m writing about comics at all. I’m also telling you this because I read X-Men Gold #1 and it left me so frustrated I that I had to write this.

I think it’s fair to say that as an X-Men comics reader I’m within your target demographic and would take that one step further and say I’m likely be perceived as low hanging fruit. I have to be completely honest and say that there is something wrong here with this book. It’s not the writing, and controversy aside it’s not the artwork. It’s not even the editing. Marvel put together an impressive team to work on this book, and it shows. The problem I’m talking about runs deeper and doesn’t necessarily have an easy fix.

The weight of the X-Men falls heavy on this book. Because of the decades and decades of continuity, this debut issue spends so much time trying to explain what happened before this started that it’s basically all we get. We get reference after reference, explanation after explanation, and we are left with little story. And despite all of the references and explanations we still get six full pages at the end of the comic to further explain everything leading up to this issue. If you need six pages at the end of your comic to explain your comic then we have a problem. A big problem.

Writer Marc Guggenheim talks in his letter at the end of the issue about how this is going to be more of a throwback to an older time in X-Men history when it was fresh and new. This is also a problem. Nostalgia has been driving these books for a long time and it has to stop. It needs to stop or you’re condemning the X brand to never grow its audience.

I’m 31 years old and the X-Men has been a part of my life for well over two decades. I for one am absolutely sick to death of nostalgia, and I’m not the only one. I fell in love with X-Men when I saw the animated episode Night of the Sentinels Part 1 because it was inviting, explained enough of what was happening so I could follow it, and told an engaging story. Had that cartoon been a bunch of characters making references to things they did 30 years previous and took so long to set everything up that the first episode ended a few seconds after something started to move the plot forward, I might not be the X-Men fan I am now. Nostalgia has its place, but it is not why we fall in love with stories and it is certainly not what will grow an audience.

I certainly do not mean to diminish the works of everyone at the company. Marc Guggenheim is a wonderful writer whom I’m embarrassingly not as familiar with as I should be and will be rectifying that in the coming weeks. Daniel Ketchum is a great editor who took the time to chat with me after a panel at NYCC a couple of years back encouraging me to keep giving the Iceman storyline a chance and it’s really paying off now as I’m most excited for Sina Grace’s Iceman #1. Jay Leisten is an incredible inker whose work I first got into with Peter David’s run on X-Factor that is one of my favorite chapters in mutant history. Cory Petit is great letterer and a friend. Axel Alonso with Peter Milligan and Mike Allred put together what is easily to me one of the best things that ever happened to the X franchise with their run on X-Force/X-Statix.

These are amazing people doing spectacular things, and I honestly believe they are doing the best they can with what they have to work with.

As a long time fan I want to tell you that I acknowledge that X-Men has become too old, too bloated, and is crippling itself under its own weight in continuity. As a long time fan I want to tell you that it’s okay to let it loose, cut it free from its continuity and start fresh. It’s unsustainable how it is right now. Let it have that new fresh start it needs to survive.

I felt a certain magic when I first picked up X-Force/X-Statix, Grant Morrison‘s New X-Men, Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, Peter David’s X-Factor, and Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. I want to feel that magic again in an X book, not because they’re going back to what works, but because they’re trying something new and daring and they aren’t getting caught in the current of continuity and dragged under. I didn’t feel that magic in X-Men Gold #1.

That’s not to say it won’t ever come. I’m picking up issue 2. I’m going to be picking up the rest of the X books coming out in this new wave and I’ll see what sticks. However, the flagship title of a franchise relaunch should be blowing a reader away, and that wasn’t the case here; at least for me. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m the odd man out in this situation. Maybe my love of the franchise has set the bar unreasonably high and that’s not fair of me.

I just want the X-Men to continue to succeed well into the future. I want the queer kids in school like me who maybe didn’t understand they are queer and what it is to have a team of heroes to look up to, because they need a team of them. They need to see a world where there are a lot of people like themselves and they can work together and be special no matter how the rest of the world perceives them. They need to see a world where these characters who sometimes have vastly different philosophies and strategies on how to keep themselves safe can come together to protect each other because taking care of each other is most important thing. They need Northstar, Iceman, Rictor, Shatterstar, Mystique, Destiny, Karma, and more.

I know this was long, yet I have so much more I could say. Please don’t let the X-Men crush themselves under their own weight. I’m still going to be a fan, and I’ll keep giving these books a shot over and over again, but I’d love to have some of that magic back.

Sincerely,

Joe Corallo, Lifetime X-Men Fan

 

Joe Corallo: Love Is Patient

Before I go into this week’s column, I wanted to acknowledge the passing of Carrie Fisher. Mere hours after my column went up last week it was reported that she had passed. It was truly tragic for her family, friends and legions of fans whom include myself. Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher.

Last week I picked Love Is Love, the joint DC Comics and IDW publication to raise money for Equality Florida benefiting the victims of the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. I had written about this book’s announcement back in September and how it filled me with pride that this was happening, but that comics still has more to do towards creating stronger queer inclusion. Now that the trade is out and I got the chance to read it, I have more to say.

This charity project organized by Marc Andreyko was originally a joint project with DC Comics and IDW. As of last month, Archie Comics added itself to the mix and included two separate Kevin Keller stories for the anthology, one by Kevin Keller’s creator Dan Parent. We get a short comic featuring Chalice from AfterShock’s  Alters. The Will Eisner estate even gave permission to use The Spirit for a comic in the anthology as well. All of that combined with an introduction by director Patty Jenkins and you have an anthology with more star power and support for a cause than I, at least, have ever seen before in comics.

Love Is Love opens with an “In Memoriam” page with the names and ages of all 49 victims from the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. It’s then clarified that this is an IDW publication with editorial and related services provided by DC Entertainment. Following that is Patty Jenkins introduction then nonstop one or two page comics and illustrations, followed by Marc Andreyko’s afterward and a plug for Equality Florida.

While I was aware of quite a few of the people who were working on the project, there were plenty in the book I had no idea were in it up until I read their contributions. Stories from people like Dan Didio and Brian Michael Bendis. Dan Didio is someone whom members of the queer community were upset with after his mandate that characters including Batwoman could not get married. While I personally wasn’t as upset by this decision as some people were, I did understand it.

Brian Michael Bendis is someone who I’ve met, admire, and is at least somewhat responsible for getting me back into comics with the launch of Ultimate Spider-Man back when I was in high school. One area I’ve been critical with him on is his handling of Iceman being retconned as gay. While this was out of ignorance and not malice, it still made it hard for me and others to get interested in Iceman again. Now with Sina Grace on board, a queer man and another contributor to Love Is Love who contributed a great personal two page comic, I’m more than happy to give Iceman a shot again.

Two other contributors I were aware of who have had mixed responses from the queer community as of late are Paul Jenkins and James Robinson. Paul Jenkins is the creator and writer of the AfterShock comic Alters with Leila Leiz and Tamra Bonvillain. For his contribution to this anthology, Paul did a two-page story about the trans character Chalice with Tamra Bonvillain and Robert Hack illustrating instead of Leila Leiz. It’s a two-pager about how irrelevant those oppressing the queer community are becoming and it’s a positive message. The series at AfterShock has received some criticism from people in the comics community, including myself, concerned with trans representation in comics and how the character could potentially have a negative impact.

While I had qualms with the first issue in particular, Paul Jenkins has since been using the back of each issue to have a conversation with a trans person and to stress how important using proper pronouns are and other topics people in the cis community need to be more educated on.

James Robinson is a writer whose previously been nominated for a GLAAD award for his thoughtful portrayals of queer characters in comics and has been writing queer characters in his comics since the 90s. Back in the summer of 2015, James had gotten backlash over his treatment of trans people in his pseudo-autobiographical comic Airboy with Image comics. After a couple of days of online onslaught, James Robinson released a thoughtful apology. Further reprints of Airboy #2 have been edited to make it less offensive.

What do Dan Didio, Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Jenkins, and James Robinson all have in common? That despite the fact that in their long careers they’ve had at least one instance where readers questioned their portrayals and handling of queer characters, they showed up to volunteer and dedicate their time and talent to help the queer community during what’s easily one of the communities darkest times in modern American history. Allies are important, and actions do speak louder than words. And although they may have had missteps, they showed up when it counted the most and that needs to be recognized and celebrated.

While it is important to highlight allies, I would feel horrible if I discussed this anthology without highlighting more of the queer contributors. Mainstream queer talent like Phil Jimenez, Sina Grace, and James Tynion IV offer us autobiographical looks at their life and how being queer impacts it. Although Howard Cruse isn’t a contributor, he’s the subject of Justin Hall’s comic along with Howard’s beloved husband Eddie Sedarbaum. Steve Orlando gives us a touching one page comic about a queer family. Trans comics creator and journalist Emma Houxbois, an important voice whom I admire, has a touching one page comic about how important places like Pulse are to the queer community.

There are far more queer contributors in this book and I wish I could spend time talking about all of them. Two other allies I’d like to mention, Jeffrey Burandt and Sean Von Gorman, created a one page comic with public domain superhero Rainbow Boy where they save Rockbar from a bunch of Spider-Haters. Rockbar is a bar here in the West Village that I frequent fairly regularly and it’s great to see them being represented.

Love Is Love is not just an important milestone in comics history and a loving tribute to the queer community that will help benefit them, it’s also just good comics and a fun read. It took a great deal of time and a saint’s patience for Marc Andreyko to get this book from a desire to see the comics community come together after the Pulse Nightclub mass shooting and the over six months that followed for it to hit the stands. We should all be grateful for Marc’s kindness and generosity as well as the dozens and dozens of contributors that made this book possible.

At $9.99, there really is no reason not to pick up this full-length trade paperback. If you didn’t pick it up last week, please pick this up when you grab your comics this week.

Joe Corallo: Critical Thinking

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%e2%80%a2motorcrushpromo1Last week I picked up a copy of Motor Crush #1, the new Image comic with all the buzz, created by the team that brought us the Batgirl of Burnside, including Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, and Cameron Stewart. Part of what motivated me to pick up this comic was the report at Bleeding Cool that some retailers admitted that they did not order Motor Crush for their stores because they didn’t think their customers would buy a new comic with a black female lead.

I got around to reading this comic a few hours after picking it up, and it really was a good, fun time. We follow the sci-fi adventures of racer Domino Swift as she fights biker gangs and the world around her of both legitimate and illegal racing is fleshed out before us. Other than perhaps getting a little lost reading one or two of the action sequences, it was a smooth and enjoyable read.

%e2%80%a2iceman_teaser-600x922There is one thing about the book that stands out to me though.

No one attached to the book is black. The entire creative team and the editor, Jeanine Schaefer, are white. The letterer, Aditya Bidikar, is Indian which is important as we don’t have enough Indian voices in Western comics. This does, however, leave the book without a single black voice attached.

Is that important?

It can be for a few reasons, one of which is related to how comics compares to other media. In prose, you’re often dealing with an author and an editor so you have little room to add more voices. When it comes to television and film, you have much larger groups of people working on them and the characters are played by real people. Maybe the creators are all white, but if the characters are black, they’re played by real people who can be admired and idolized who can benefit from that in their careers and inspire other people to be actors. In comics, particularly mainstream American comics, you can easily end up with teams of  between four and a half dozen or more working on a single story. If a team that isn’t black is making a comic with a black protagonist you have a situation where only non-black creators are making financial and professional gains from a book while many black and other marginalized creators aren’t getting the same levels of press and encouragement.

%e2%80%a2bitchplanet_vol1-1Is that what we want? It’s worth pondering.

Also worth considering: this team in particular is the same team that was involved in the horrifyingly transphobic and misguided Batgirl #37. That issue is so infamous to me I didn’t even have to look up the issue number; I just know it. The team created a terrible villain using dated trans tropes that disgusted me to the point where I didn’t read anymore of that Batgirl run until issue #45 to read Alysia’ Yeohs wedding – and that wasn’t enough to bring me back in. The damage was done.

The team apologized for the events of issue #37 and the collected edition was edited to remove some of the most damning content. Do I believe we have to chase every creative team out of comics who make big mistakes like this? Absolutely not. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust that creative team with handling certain characters outside of their own experiences. Sometimes it’s important to have a team with people from a community you want to do a comic about to avoid a Batgirl #37 situation.

To a lesser extent, but with more consistency, we saw this happen with Iceman in different X-Men comics the last couple of years. I’ve been critical of how Iceman has been handled by Bendis as well as Lemire and Hopeless. Now Marvel is moving in a new direction with Sina Grace, a queer man, at the helm on the new Iceman solo series. Though the series isn’t out yet, I’m familiar with Sina’s other comics works and this seems like a step in the right direction.

There are also examples of comics that do have representation on the teams that have been wildly successful. Another title at Image, Bitch Planet, has been a big hit. Though Kelly Sue DeConnick is mostly writing women of color, her co-creator is Valentine De Landro, a black creator whom I’ve been a big fan of since his tenure on Peter David’s X-Factor, and the two of them together pulling from their own knowledge and experiences have crafted a brilliant comic that towers above most of what you’ll find one the shelves and spinner racks. Without a black voice behind Bitch Planet we might be getting a very different book that could easily be missing those high notes.

While I do believe it is important to have at least some representation in your comic of the people you’re writing about, it’s still possible to put out a good comic without that. Motor Crush #1 is a fun read and is worth considering. If supporting black characters in comics is important to you, definitely give this a chance. If supporting women in comics is important to you, Babs Tarr and Jeanine Schaefer are worth supporting. If supporting creators of color is important to you, you’re gonna have to look elsewhere.