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As anticipated, writer James Robinson has made a statement to GLAAD  about the controversy over the issue of Airboy #2, which we reported on earlier today. And as also expected, he knows that he fucked up.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this affects reprint volumes of AIRBOY. When Batgirl has a similar controversy, the trade reprint was changed to reflect a more enlightened view.

Here’s Robinson’s statement:

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I thought long and hard before writing this response, with the time it’s taken me to do so I fear having been misinterpreted as indifference on my part to the ire this sequence has caused for some.  Often public figures just issue a quick apology, a snippet of contrition, in the hope that the light of scorn will then shine away from them.  But those apologies often feel inauthentic or meaningless, and I didn’t want to do that.

It was with much regret that I learned how I had angered and offended members of the transgender community with a sequence I wrote in the second issue of the Airboy mini-series I am currently doing.  As anyone who has read the first issue will know, this series is a semi-autobiographical piece of meta-fiction that shows me at a self-destructive and unhappy time in my life before I sobered up and entered a better place in both my work and the world as a whole.  To illustrate this, I portray myself and my artist Greg Hinkle as two blithe idiots pin-balling through a succession of stupid and self-destructive actions, doing and saying stupid and thoughtless things.  I intentionally portray myself in the worst light possible and as the worst kind of person.

Stepping outside of myself and the work, I can see how, while my intention when writing the scene was never to defame or harm the trans community, I did indeed fuck up and for that I sincerely apologize.

In my intention to create an ugly version of me and my world, I have inadvertently hurt and demeaned a community that the real non-fictionalized version of myself truly respects and admires.

It’s a sad and terrible fact that the transgender community is one that is often misunderstood and mocked.  And that honestly, truly, breaks my heart.  It is a beautiful community full of shining souls, which in a different work on a different day I would proudly show in all its variety and wonder.  Honestly, that is the truth.  Anyone who actually knows me, knows my feelings on such matters, and anyone who doesn’t will just have to take my word for it.

And yet here I am, in my eagerness to create a scenario that mocks my own moral worthlessness, I do no better than the worst kind of person, blindly marking the transgender community with the same sullying brush I chose to paint myself — instead of giving it the dignity and respect it deserves and is so very often denied.

This is a work of deliberately ugly satirical fiction.  One part of me believes a creator has the right to tell the story he feels the need to tell.  There’s a part of me that feels that it’s acceptable for a work of fiction to hurt or offend.  That at the very least the work elicits feelings.

Then there’s the other part of me — the major part, I might add — that is truly saddened that the transgender community, comprising men and women who carry the burden of an ever-hostile society, should have me adding to their load.

There is minor solace — very minor — in the fact that I note the discourse I’m seeing on-line about this, is at least allowing an exchange of views that I think is open, healthy and ultimately a good thing. I hope comic book fans and creators will think more critically about the way trans characters are portrayed.

I consider myself an ally to the LGBT community and I promise to work harder in the future to ensure that any trans stories or characters in my work are portrayed in a thoughtful and accepting way.

I know this response won’t satisfy everyone, but it comes from the heart.  I love all people.  I wanted this statement to convey my complete feelings on the matter.

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. Wait, I thought censorship was really, really bad, and self censorship was just another form of censorship. Wow, I just can’t keep up anymore with the speech “rules”.

  2. People don’t know how to read comics anymore.

    Being upset is no longer a challenge but something to DESTROY. How dare a book make you feel uncomfortable.

  3. Alex, protest is a matter of free speech. Think of the racial politics of, say, 1940’s comics, and think about how many would be tolerable today. People have a right to be outspoken and to shame publishers if they think necessary. And the publisher can choose to listen or not. The true opinion of readers will be what matters in the long run. If the protesters are simply a crackpot minority, their opinion will have little influence.

    That said, I don’t think Robinson is anti-GLBT. A few years back, I heard an interview with him where he was talking about loving the San Fransisco party scene, which is pretty much code for: I stay out all night at drugged up parties (an idea somewhat substantiated by this series itself). This sort of scene is generally quite GLBT-friendly, and I have to imagine San Francisco is even more so (my own experience is from Toronto, where most places were ⅓ gay after 4 am). I can’t imagine a person saying they love the SF party scene being trans-phobic, since diversity is a lot of the appeal of the whole thing. I haven’t read this issue, just some articles about it with some panels posted, but simply setting a story in such a bar seems to be something that Marvel or DC would veto in the planning stage.

    I won’t disagree if people in that group (I am not a transgender person) are offended by what Robinson wrote, but from the little I know of him, I do believe he would consider himself an ally and have good intentions.

  4. This is sad. Turns out the internet can smother creativity just as easily as it allows it to flourish.

    Press Release Translation App:

    “giving it the dignity and respect it deserves”

    I will continue to write my story as I see fit until I write about anyone who isn’t a straight white male in which case that character will go from a realistic portrayal to something forcibly sanguine.

    “I hope comic book fans and creators will think more critically about the way trans characters are portrayed.”

    Watch your backs. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

    “I promise to work harder in the future to ensure that any trans stories or characters in my work are portrayed in a thoughtful and accepting way.”

    I have been advised to belabor the point that I will continue to write my story as I see fit until I write about anyone who isn’t a straight white male in which case that character will go from a realistic portrayal to something forcibly sanguine. Seriously. You win. Lesson learned.

  5. Let’s see what happens, ok, before we go on a “whaaah! Another comic creator cowed by the Internet posse!” bender. It might be that a single caption gets added for context.

    The danger with this sort of ‘bad boy’ stories is that all too often readers do identify, see the behaviour as ‘cool’. Asshole things that the asshole characters do are laughed about, and there unfortunately there are folks who feel that “it’s funny, so it’s permissible.”

  6. Wait, I thought censorship was really, really bad, and self censorship was just another form of censorship. Wow, I just can’t keep up anymore with the speech “rules”.
    >>
    @MWorrell :
    Yeah >> some people don’t seem to realize that they are inviting (an inevitable) backlash — and that they can loose all of the gains they’ve made (and then some) in the blink of an eye.

  7. Trigger warning for Christian readers who have suffered anti-Christian hatred. The word “fundie” is as hateful as the N-word, and should be banned from the arts and public discussion. Mocking people of faith is not only tolerated, but encouraged in comics! “Fundie,” “Jesus freak,” “Bible Thumper,” “Holy Roller” – terms all as hateful as the N-Word.

  8. Here’s the problem with this apology, which relates specifically to writing something to be published later: James Robinson KNEW what he was writing. If he is an ally of LGBTQIA (nailed it!) why didn’t what he wrote strike him as insensitive or harmful at any point in the writing process?

    When someone says something in the heat of an argument or just off the cuff, I can understand the apology more, but you have so many eyes on this, and you know what era you are in. No, being conscious of the climate doesn’t mean you will be perfectly controversy-free for the rest of your days, but no one at Image saw this coming?

  9. It’s good he apologized for that awful (awful) comic. But I’m just wondering why the editors or managers aren’t issuing a statement? I get the impulse for making despicable characters, characters that represent the worst in people, but why did no editor along the way try and help him fix this story? They seem more to blame than James Robinson.

  10. Most of the trans people I’ve seen comment on this, self included, weren’t calling for the book to be pulled off the shelves or rewritten. As far as I know, that stems from the one site Heidi mentioned in the previous article. There were people talking about no longer buying Image Comics, but that’s their right. People stop buying stuff from publishers for smaller reasons.

  11. I was telling my friend Barry about the Robinson-Hates-Gays story, and he said he wasn’t surprised. He said that TONS of so-called liberal artists are really KKK types. He told me about how John Lennon recorded this White Power anthem that just brazenly used the N-word in the title – “Woman is the N-Word of the World” – so Lennon hated blacks and women, a twofer. Why doesn’t this get much press? People talk about John Lennon, but never mention he was a defender of segregation. He also said that while feminists claim Patti Smith was some progressive songwriter, she also is an avowed white supremacist – Patti Smith proudly declared so in a song called “Rock and Roller N-Words.”

  12. I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but Woman is the N-Word of the World” is not a white power song, it’s a pro feminist song comparing the way men have historically treated women with the way white people have historically treated black folks. Lennon ran the song past several civil rights leaders of the day to make sure it wouldn’t offend or be misunderstood, the last thing he wanted was to have it perceived as a racist anthem. It should also be noted that use of the N word since the 1970’s have changed, it was a bad word in the 70’s but now it’s a BAD word. (For example 1970’s TV used the word, (on news reports, on sitcoms like the Jeffersons and on SNL) without having to bleep it, I doubt Lennon would write a song like that today if he was alive. Lennon was many things, including an admitted abuser of women, but there’s no evidence of him being a racist.

  13. I’m thinking that unless we have a world wide techno meltdown we might not have to suffer the race issue that much longer. I’m a white guy but pretty soon I’ll probably be able to spend the day (or month or year) black and my black girl friend will, if she feels so inclined, go white. The two white guys next door can turn black and get married – or only one turns black and they get into inter-racial gay marriage. Whatever. .. O-fuckin’-K by me.

  14. [quote]
    Alex says:
    07/04/2015 at 7:12 pm
    People don’t know how to read comics anymore.
    Being upset is no longer a challenge but something to DESTROY. How dare a book make you feel uncomfortable.
    [/spoiler]

    Yeah. Here I thought it was just the conservatives and Bible thumpers that searched for media to help create witchhunts around

    I thought liberals and those fighting for civil rights were better than this. I thought we wouldn’t have such push button reactionary horseshit.

    Robinson’s characters are old fashioned assholes that are getting high in the middle of San Fransisco. They are horrible people and I read the book depicting them as such.

    It’s a disgusting book. It’s supposed to be.
    This reeks of the same bullshit inability to read a story on multiple levels that Wertham had when people were burning comics in the streets.

    Reading some 1950s Batman & Robin story is not going to make a kid gay.
    Reading an EC comic where a guy murders his wife is not going make someone murder theirs.

    Reading Airboy is not going to make anyone go out and kill transgender people.

    That line of thinking is absolute poison to comics and all literature.

  15. “I thought liberals […] were better than this.”

    But a lot of this isn’t due to liberals; it’s due to the far left — which hates liberalism as much as any fundie — plus plenty of So-Cal sophomores who’ve never spent a day in the real world in their lives.

  16. Oddly enough, I binged on the 3rd season of “Orange is the New Black” this weekend, and I think the word “Tr*nnie” was used about 2 dozen times. The term “H*-Sh*” was used about 8 or 9. Plus the trans character Laverne is portrayed as not only the swishiest of trans stereotypes, but also prone to fits of violent anger.

    Another trope that has been appearing a lot lately is “The Sociopathic Bisexual.” Lately, bi-sexuals are portrayed as not only lacking empathy, but prone to murder. “House of Cards,” “American Horror Story,” and “Penny Dreadful” are two recent examples. And while I love the feminist underpinings of the new “Ms. Marvel,” I still can’t help wondering if it’s writer isn’t sending a misogynistic message when the title’s fans see her wearing a hajib. The religion-based “Cover Yourself, Woman!” attire – whether it be FLDS or Amish prairie dress, Taliban bee-keeper outfit, Iranian hajib, Orthodox Jewish headscarves – are unarguably the original form of rape victim blaming/shaming. They are built around the notion that female flesh and hair cause men to become beasts with no control over themselves. If you show it, you are “asking for it.”

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