Some of you may have heard of the Mockingbird controversy and harassment of Chelsea Cain. Less of you probably heard about Tokyo Comic Con banning men from cosplaying as female characters. While the two events are unrelated, they both involve intolerance in the comics industry… and they both have a happy ending. Well, happier than it could have been, I guess.
Back in March, the character of Mockingbird was given her first solo series at Marvel Comics. The character of Bobbi Morse, Mockingbird’s alter ego, debuted at Marvel back in 1971 with her becoming Mockingbird in 1980. Though she was created by Len Wein and Neal Adams, her first published story was written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith. Mockingbird has appeared on and off in Marvel Comics as part of S.H.I.E.L.D. and different Avengers teams ever since with varying success. Once Mockingbird appeared on network TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on October 21st, 2014 it made sense that Marvel Comics would want to try a solo series for the character.
Enter Chelsea Cain, successful novelist, columnist and outside-of-the-realm-of-comics recruit. Comics taking in people from the outside is hardly new and has been seen as having at least some potential to tap into a different audience. Despite solid reviews the series has been cancelled at only eight issues in. After brutal backlash on Twitter towards Chelsea Cain’s pro-feminist take on the character, she quit the social media outlet. Heidi MacDonald’s piece at The Beat goes into more of the details, which I linked to back up at the top.
While her future in the realm of comics is currently up in the air (as far as we know) there are some important takeaways here that may not be quite as obvious – the biggest of which for me is how well the first volume is selling. It’s reached number one on Amazon’s graphic novels list. Some of this may be due to the controversy, but that’s still an incredible feat for a comic cancelled for lack of sales… although that is hardly new.
I remember I, Vampire getting cancelled for lack of monthly floppy sales even after its first volume made it to #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. That was over four years ago. More recently we had Tom King’s Omega Men cancelled by DC Comics, briefly uncancelled, then ended for good with trade paperback sales also hitting #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. Mockingbird may end up enjoying that same fate.
Since then, the big two have seemingly made no real attempts to try and adapt to the changing markets. Sure, they’ve upped the output of straight to graphic novel stories such as DC Comics’ Earth One, but they can’t seem to solve this particular problem.
Though Axel Alonso tweeted out his support of Chelsea Cain, for which I applaud him –it’s something he didn’t have to do – the real support may need to be the comics industry putting more faith in their talent and their product similar to how Vertigo used to years ago. If Neil Gaiman’s Sandman came out today with the sales it had at first, we’d likely never have gotten past a dozen issues. I don’t have the answers to that. Maybe moving print comics to digital-only if they’re selling that well as trade paperbacks, I’m not sure. Either way we need the big two doing more for creators and to cultivate worthwhile stories so that maybe Mockingbird getting cancelled can have a happier ending.
We already got a happy ending with Tokyo Comic Con, a large convention featuring guests like Jeremy Renner and Stan Lee. Well, sort of. After a large public outcry through social media, the organizers decided to end the ban on men cosplaying as female characters. It was very bizarre, and seeing how quickly they were able to change their minds on this decision it lends itself to the idea that it was entirely unnecessary.
What’s still a bit troubling is that Tokyo Comic Con is issuing gender specific registration cards that will be checked to make sure that only people of the corresponding gender will have access to changing areas and restrooms. I haven’t found anything specific on their policies regarding transgender and non-binary attendees, so these gender specific registrations do raise some red flags for me.
While I do hope there won’t be any issues because of this, we’ll have to wait and see. I’m thrilled that they reversed their needless cosplaying restrictions, but it does seem to me that if they were trying to keep men out of women’s changing areas by implementing such a ban that their attitudes towards transgender and non-binary attendees may be troubling.
That wraps up last week’s examples of intolerance in comics. I’m sure there were more, but I only have so much time to research. Come back next week to see if people have become more tolerant by then.
The answer may surprise you.