I considered spending today giving my own thoughts on yet another bit of drama making the rounds, involving the comic book industry and the fallout from certain massive crossover events. But… others have already written about that, and I don’t think there is much more I can add to the discussion.
I did, however, notice that it is International Women’s Day. And being that my mind was on the topic of comics, that made me think of Girl-Wonder.org, a site with a very strong, and very important, message. The focused campaign of the site is to get recognition for Stephanie Brown, who took up the mantle of Robin, and then was brutally killed – at which point DC mostly forgot about her.
I originally agreed with the site’s goal, largely on the basis that this was a character I had grown up a fan of. One of, sadly, many that DC has done terrible things to in recent years. But it wasn’t really until I started to read Girls Read Comics! (And They’re Pissed), by Karen Healey, that I started to ‘get’ the message they were trying to get across. That I started to genuinely notice the sexism and misogny unfortunately all too present in modern comics.
That was really what struck me about the state of things. That until it was pointed out to me, I just had not noticed. I didn’t agree with women being demeaned in comics, nor could I defend it – but until I had my face shoved in it, it didn’t occur to me to question it.
I think highly of myself as a rather reasonable, open, and well-meaning individual. So being put face to face with my own… ignorance? Apathy? Unawareness? Well, whatever it was, it wasn’t exactly the best feeling.
Since then, I’ve continued to read Karen’s column, and to genuinely keep my eyes open when I’m reading comics. (Both in print and on the web.) I couldn’t claim to have accomplished anything more than become aware of when I am reading something that is slealthily offensive, but I’m glad to take that as a start.
Some time after this point, I was talking with a friend about All Star Batman and Robin. It’s by Frank Miller, and it is pretty damn terrible, in all manner of ways. Most people are aware of this by now.
I was telling a friend how bad it was, and he asked me exactly what made it so bad. My response: “The gratuitous amounts of fanservice, the exceedingly lame dialogue, and the thoroughly incompetent pacing of time.”
His response: “Well, only two of those are really reasons not to read the comic.”
Now, this individual is one of my most intelligent friends, and a person I have a considerable amount of respect for. So seeing him just as stuck in that mindset, not even seeing anything wrong with it… well, that was another shock.
I don’t know how to stop the problem. But I think talking about it, getting it out in the open, is definitely an important part of the process. Making people aware of it is important. Because it really is far too easy for someone not directly affected by it to just not notice. And that says plenty of bad things in its own rights, but also means that the more people that can be made aware, the more progress can be made.
I’m sure there is plenty more I can do to contribute. For now, though, I’ll point people towards Girl-Wonder.org, and recommend they take a good long look. They’ve said it better than I ever could, and are saying things that damn well need to be said. And, honestly, it shouldn’t take it being some special day of the year for me to mention them – but the topic has been in the back of my mind for a while, and I’m glad I had something prompt it to the front.
And hopefully, in the future, I won’t need even that.