Approaching debates within the geek community always feels like walking down a diving board and seeing sharks circling below. No matter how you frame an argument or try to get your point across, there is almost a guarantee that your feelings and thoughts will be pounced upon the moment you put them out there and torn gleefully to shreds by the first person who responds.
Even here, where the majority of readers are not hip-deep in the community all the time, it’s a little scary to put my thoughts out there. But I’m going to do it anyways because my community feels like a less friendly place than it used to be, and it makes me unbelievably sad. Why can’t we all just get along, darn it?
In the last seven days, two things happened surrounding DC Comics that inspired a lot of debate, a fair amount of vitriol, and made me regret giving the company my money on Wednesday even though I only purchased one of their titles on the regular.
I won’t be buying anything else from them.
On Wednesday, part of the creative team behind the popular comic book Batwoman left their positions because of creative differences with the editorial department. In the hours that followed the announcement, rumors flew around the internet, and the common belief seemed to be that the reason behind their departure was that editorial decisions had stated Batwoman would not be allowed to marry the girlfriend she had proposed to in recent months. Accusations and opinions on sexuality discrimination were shouted from all sides. It wasn’t a fun day to be a fan of DC Comics.
Then it came out that the decision actually had little to do with the sexual orientation of the character, and that editorial had really just decided that they didn’t want a wedding in the book period – regardless of the genders of the participants. Things calmed down a little bit.
I spent a lot of the day reading articles and pieces around the web about how this situation was further evidence that DC Comics institutionalized sexism, prejudice, and was part of the problem not the solution.
I have to say, I read it all with a fairly skeptical eye. I have liked DC Comics for years. I’m not a rabid fan by any stretch of the imagination, but characters like Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman have kept me coming back for more for years and years. I had been excited by the prospect of the upcoming Villains Month that had artistically beautiful books coming out for an entire month that would focus on villains male and female from around the DC Universe, and I eagerly snapped up a copy of Poison Ivy that night, completely drawn in by the 3D cover art.
And I was ready to blow off the arguments people had made all day about not supporting DC Comics in light of the whole Batwoman issue. I really was. I was going to keep my mouth shut, go about my business, and continue to buy the titles I was already reading from the company. I’m a little ashamed to admit, that’s kind of how I operated within my community. If it didn’t hurt me, I turned the other way.
It’s not a good place to be frankly.
Then Friday rolled around, and DC Comics made the decision for me.
On Friday, they announced they were opening a competition to find more artists for the company. It was a nerd-dream come true for artists all over. Submit to this contest and potentially get to work for your favorite comic company.
The problem was the prompt:
Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.
Granted, this isn’t the only prompt. In fact, it’s one of four different panels people can submit. It’s also the only prompt in which it specifies “naked” in the descriptor for the artist to work with.
Why? Why are you sexualizing suicide, DC Comics?
Is that really necessary? Don’t you get enough criticism from your readers for art that depicts women in ridiculous poses (just google brokeback Mary Jane, reader)? Don’t you get enough press for art that is too “boobalicious” and scandalous?
What would possess you to write up an art prompt with naked and suicide together?
Maybe your prompt writers were thinking, “this will really challenge an artist and show them that drawing comics means being able to draw disturbing images well.” Who knows?
I have to say I really don’t want to buy your books anymore. I don’t want to support a company that would put a hyper-sexualized character in this situation for a prompt. For storytelling purposes? Sure. If there’s a reason for the character to go there for the story? Go for it. I am all for stories that make me shudder and completely disturb me. But it’s not necessary for an art contest.
As your reader, it really just solidifies the image in my head of the DC Comic offices: a group of fratty-frat boys sitting in rooms plastered with posters of pin-up girls who don’t exist, giggling over what they can make their characters do. I don’t want to read stories written by those guys.
I’m not going to be buying comics from these guys anymore. I’m not going to find out what’s happening with Wonder Woman in the next issue. I’ve already taken it off my pull list.
Write your violent comics. Do it. Make them gory and awesome.
Write your sexy comics. Seriously, I am all for it.
Stop sexualizing violence in your books. It’s disgusting.
Featured image via Andrea Tamme