What Not to Do in Comics #2
The Kids Are Not Alt-Right
When it comes to what not to do, I think we can all agree that making yourself look like an a-hole is probably on the list. Unfortunately, many comics pros don’t seem to be on the same page. Subjecting the fan base to name calling and horribly bad takes are all too common. So, let’s talk about what not to do in comics.
Lies, slander, defamatory remarks, and general vitriolic behavior has been a constant aspect of the mainstream for years now. And nothing has been more wildly subjected to that than ComicsGate. Now, as the walls of their paycheck-issuing corporations weaken, leaving them to possibly rely on fans and customers for once, some pros are looking for a free pass from those they derided for so long. From the inception of ComicsGate, it has been a direct result of the intolerant and hateful antics of those within mainstream comics. CG formed as a response to several factors that came about because of the intolerant ideologies that infected publishers. This is not a partisan statement. It’s not even political. It’s simply the fact of the matter. However, these results did stem somewhat from politics. Fans revolted when characters and stories became nothing but hollow vessels for agenda-laden propaganda pamphlets. When fans expressed their opinion as the consumer, they were called nasty names. You know the ones. This is the crux of the issue I’m discussing here—the strong tendency of opposing individuals to vilify customers, as well as stigmatize them with the use of hate labels. The whole “alt-right” argument is beyond stale at this point. All the nasty labels of “istaphobic” leanings are demonstrably false. They have been and remain to be. The tactic was utilized to such a degree and at such volume that it became truth to those who did/do not know any better. The reality is that ComicsGate is a predictable reaction to how business is conducted in the mainstream. When you don’t give customers what they want and instead berate them and attempt to shame them into buying what you’re selling anyway, it produces a justified amount of enmity. A customer’s wallet is not a free candy jar. You can’t just take at will. You have to offer something worth paying for. This is business. If they criticize you, then realize that you’re not offering what they want and make the needed adjustments to make them happy. That is, if you want to remain in business and profitable. You certainly cannot allow employees to call the customer an alt-right bigot and expect them to fork over out of guilt. That’s an insane proposition. But this is what we’re dealing with. Let’s get into some of the “what not to do’s” that have added to the current frail state of mainstream comics.
First up, we have a recent (April 2020) take from the legend, Larry Hama.
This one is particularly frustrating as a fan of Hama. I can’t help but feel like Larry is just regurgitating rhetoric he’s heard from those around him. But maybe that’s just my own admiration talking. Either way, it’s this kind of thing that not only puts undue labels on a whole community of fans and potential customers, but it also makes the perpetrators look bad. When a highly regarded pro like Hama does it, it hurts to see. CG is made up of myriad different types of people. People of all backgrounds, political leanings, genders, and many other demographics makeup ComicsGate. It’s not a group of “istaphobes” collectively spreading hate. Now, let’s look at another high profile figure in the mainstream, Frank Cho. This silly statement was made in 2018, at the height of CG hysteria and the sentiment is still perpetuated.
There it is… “alt-right.” Frank is another pro whose art I enjoy. It’s a shame to see how pros act towards a group of fans who care enough to start a movement in response to the industry not listening to them. Those are some passionate fans. They are not bigots for criticizing the state of the industry. Why would a professional comic artist say “FUCK” a group of comic readers? And why do it in addition to slanderous vitriol? Being an artist who’s dealt with the wrath of new wave puritans, it makes even less sense that he’d join in on the ignorant hyperbole to me. What’s funny about this one is that the words he’s saying are echoing the principles of ComicsGate. He seems to have been twisted up here. “...everyone is welcomed at the comic table and no one group should try to force another to their idea of what is normal and not normal.” ComicsGate agrees. The firing and blacklisting of those who didn’t agree with the particular political insertions in story and business were pushed out. What’s the problem, again? Apparently effective slander. If the recent New Warriors announcement from Marvel was any indication, I don’t think many folks are onboard with their on the nose style of creations. It’s not just ComicsGate.
Oof… look at those dislikes. Looks like CGers aren’t the only one that find this stuff unappealing. The list of pros who’ve added to this nonsense is too long to remember. Big name creators like Gail Simone, Donny Cates, Patrick “Patch” Zircher, Dan Slott, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid and many more have all thrown hate labels on ComicsGate and those within it. Taking a look at the state of things in mainstream comics, that approach probably wasn’t the best. It’s one of the only industries that’s been nearly obliterated by a few weeks of shutdown. It wasn’t the beer bug that did it. The foundation was already shaking. Then, you’ve got Riri Williamses like former Marvel and current Valiant editor, Heather Antos...
And writer, Ron Marz...
Who can’t seem to understand their role in selling comic books. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, honestly. In fact, Antos is learning that right now. I’m sure Valiant is loving the great response to her being a representative for their brand. Just take a look at the love for her in this thread. You can’t attack customers and the fan base and expect them to come rushing to you with wallets open! This shouldn’t have to be said to so-called professionals. There’s quite a trend in doing this in the mainstream. It needs to stop before they’re all crushed by the falling debris. With the fans having such awful interactions with these people, they won’t have much luck trying to sell in a direct to consumer market. In that scenario, they’d actually need a degree of tact and a loyal audience who doesn’t think they’re douche bags. People like Dana Schwartz are pulling these fan-bashing trends over to the film and television sector, as well.
This makes sense to say, why? Look, I realize she’s writing a TV show (She-Hulk), not a comic, but when you’re making a show based on a comic book property I’d expect a large portion of your demo would be comic fans. So, when the large majority of fans and buyers are men, why the hell would you start finger pointing at males? That’s just bad business and these people can’t seem to separate their feelings from industry. These tweets are customer facing. They’re public. As a public representative of a business, I’d expect a lot more professionalism. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this type of behavior. There’s years of examples to point at. Regardless, it all points to what seems to be either a shockingly low understanding of their environment, or a glaring lack of care.
What Not to DO?
So, what not to do in comics… Don’t push away your fan base and audience with silliness like these pros have. It’s absurd. How much of their awful takes are of their own opinion and how much are indoctrination or sheer ignorance, I have no clue, but I’d wager many simply give in to pressure. However, there’s no excuse for directly attacking and disparaging fans and customers who express distaste in the direction of mainstream books. Those that engage in self destruction of that nature are incompetent to the highest degree. Those concerns should instead be met with an analytic approach. These are the people who hold you up with their patronage. Their taste is what you should cater to. Why denigrate them, push them away and pull the rug out from under yourself? That makes no sense. It makes even less sense to spew hatefulness at your audience unprovoked. That’s simply unprofessional and is likely a considerable factor in the fragility of the mainstream comics industry. It shouldn’t require a consumer movement to get something this basic across to these people… but here it is. It’s called ComicsGate. And it’s winning. I think Jon Malin summed it up quite well when he said: “Criticism is not harassment and certainly isn’t an Alt Right Hate Group.” It’s that simple.