For those looking for reading material to avoid watching TV,  here’s a whole week’s worth of links.

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§ An oldie but a goodie. Those were the days. We were so young!

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§ I think this qualifies as a must read for the week past: Arnar Heidman has a piece at WWAC called  The “Reveal” of Trans Characters in Comics . I won’t quote much of it, but most of the well-known trans voices in comics, along with Heidman, has a problem with the introduction of Dr. Victoria October in Detective Comics #948, written by James Tynion and drawn by Ben Oliver. She’s a new supporting character for the Batverse, a“post-human bioweaponry” expert who is also a transwoman we learn, in the above scene.

The writer at Autostraddle, Mey, was excited about Dr. October – who does have a fantastic comic book name it must be said – as was Andrew Dyce at Screen Rant, who felt the character was being introduced as a cool supporting character and the trans aspect was casually mentioned, which they found to be a good thing. But actual trans comics commentators did not like this scene, arguing that  the character’s identity was being used as a prop, and coming out as trans is a private matter and should not be treated as a “diversity checkmark.” Heidman wrote:

When so many creators go down this invasive path, and very few of them ever acknowledge how big of a problem these scenarios are for their characters, they reiterate to their readers that trans people’s bodies are not their own to command; they’re commodities of the public to be viewed and judged in exchange for our right to exist.

Now there are several reasons why I think this piece is a must read:

  1. it is important to see how actual trans people feel about a a new trans character
  2. This is far from the first time a comic (or other kind of)  writer from a more privileged group has been taken to task on the internet for writing a character from a marginalized group in a way that is problematic.

Now I think it would be easy for many, many writers, lets say, for instance, while cis het white male writers, to see these criticisms and think, “Jeebus, I’d better not even TRY to write a character who isn’t like me!” For so many writers, their hearts are in the right place, but that doesn’t get a pass any more. And people who “mean well” get hurt and defensive when criticized and pull back.

And so we get  a vicious cycle of books that are only about white cis het men because they are afraid to write about people not like themselves.

So we need to find a way to avoid that.  The first way of course, is for more writers from marginalized groups to get jobs writing comics. Things are inching forward on that front.

The other thing is that writers need to take the time to listen first and get it right. Representation shouldn’t be a bingo card. We don’t need more cookie cutter stereotypes. It should be about creating well rounded, interesting characters. Alysia Yeoh, created during the Gail Simone/Ardian Syaf run on Batgirl, is often pointed to as a character who does get it right, and it isn’t quickoreasy, but the payoff is strong.

Why is Heidman’s piece a must read on this account? Because they take the time to explain how they almost made the same mistake in their own writing, and why the scene is problematic.

While it is not for me to say how well Dr. October’s trans identity is handled, I will say she seems like a very cool character, and I personally think it’s cool that the Batverse now has a disabled transwoman supporting character  (she’ll be appearing regularly in Batwoman, co-written by Marguirite Bennett). We have to all try to inch forward together, maye Doctor October can be part of that.

 

§ And NOW I’m just going to dump a whole bunch of links in there.

§ I did not realize that  Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou has regular column on comics storytelling at Comics Alliance called Strip Panel Naked News.

§ What are Alan Moore’s Most Controversial Comic Book Stories? CBR is going to tell you!

§ I had this in the links for AGES. Remember how I told you how Netflix was going to be doing even more comic book based original programming? Well, they’ve even adopting a Popular Web Comic Into A Korean Drama:

K-drama addicts should brace themselves for a binge-fest in 2018. Netflix announced Wednesday that it will be producing its first original Korean drama based on an already popular Korean Web comic. The new show, “Love Alarm,” will be a 12-episode live-action version of South Korean graphic novelist Chon Kye-Young’s Web comic of the same name. Similar to Chon’s existing work, the Netflix series will follow the story of a software developer who creates an app that tells users if someone within 10 meters has a crush on them.

Please note, this is for Korean Netflix not US. SAD FACE. There are a lot of Korean TV shows based on webcomics.

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§ I am pretty obsessed with Aggretsuko, a new Sanrio’s Character, an adorable red panda who is also a 25 year old single Scoprio (blood type a) office worker who harbors secret rage against her deadend life and cuts loose by binge drinking and singing noise metal karaoke. Not an exaggeration.

I can’t wait to get an Aggretsuko purse!

§ A nice profile of Amanda Conner  at Rogues Portal

There’s certain parallels to underground cartoonist Julie Doucet in the way that Conner revels in the gross and projects a clear enjoyment of it in her work, but the main difference between their approaches and engagement with bodily functions and fluids is how it interacts with their figurative work. Doucet, and others like her, generally use it to desexualize the female body and create a context for it as divorced from an eroticized male gaze as possible. Conner’s female figures, on the other hand, intentionally remain open to and frequently invite a scopophilic if not outright objectifying gaze. It comes into play most obviously in The Pro where Conner poses the heroine in typical pin up poses, then complicates and obscures the expected sexualized gaze by literally dirtying her up with things like cigarette ash falling into her cleavage, stains on her underwear, and various scuff marks on her body. Conner coats her subject in a messy, confrontational layer of humanity that forces the viewer to take in the subject as more than a vehicle for sexual gratification.

 

§ I found this blow by blow account of how ace letterer Todd Klein updated his decade old computer and software  utterly compelling.

§ A long long article on Turkish comics culture

§ Paste offers us Beyond March: 10 Other Graphic Novels That Confront Prejudice ::

§ Mariko Tamaki has gone from respected YA author – winner of the Printz Prize, a Caldecott Honor, the Governor Generals Award, little stuff like that  – to comic book kick ass, writing Tomb Raider and now She-Hulk. This could be fantastic y’all. Here she is talking to  CBC Listen about writing “a different story in the Hulk universe

§ Let’s end this on a positive note. Here’s a piece by Julius Vergara called How Going to A Con Alone To Take Photos Started My Cosplay Photography Adventure that’s a really sweet step by step account of how going to cons helped the author make friends and become a part of a community:

At the LA Cosplay Convention I met this group of friends who happily welcomed me to hang out with them for the rest of the night. I got to drink and eat with people I’d never met before, but I ended up talking with them as if we’d known each other for years. That feeling of being able to openly connect with people became addictive, and I wanted to keep that energy going. Whatever fears I had about going to cons alone was allayed in a single night (or so I thought), which left me wanting to go to more. So I did. One month later, I went to Anime Expo.

I think in all the hub bub we often forget how fandom is a thing that brings people together and gives shy folks a way to find groups they are comfortable and safe in. The reasons I call out bad cons is because this community building is such an important part of why there even are comic cons, and when greed droawns that out…it doesn’t work for anyone.  There are many reasons  why the circus ended but the comic-con continues on…community building  is one of them.

13 COMMENTS

  1. James Tynion is not a cis het white writer, and as far as I remeber has been out as bisexual for a couple years now. I think as important as it is to get representation right, it’s also as important to get your facts right about those writing about these characters and not stereotyping the creators based on what you want your (I mean the writers of the article here and not necessarily you Heidi) critique of them to be.

  2. I am well aware that Tynion is bI. That doesn’t make him qualified to write about trans women from a first hand perspective. He is of course also an ally, and a good writer and I feel confident he’ll do a great job with this. But it’s not my place to judge it on that basis.

    It was pointed out that future writer Marguerite Bennett walks with a cane, as does Dr. October. Perhaps that is a more apt comparison.

  3. A writer is “qualified” to write about any type of character they damned well please, whether that character is straight, gay, bi. trans, space alien, sentient machine, other-dimensional entity, or talking animal. A reader is qualified to either read the book, or not A reader is certainly not “qualified” to tell writers whether or not they’re qualified to write certain types of characters.

    Congratulations though on being part of the reason why half the country threw up its hands in disgust and gave us our new president.. Time to roll back this ridiculous tide of authoritarian “social justice” and get back to being a free society. “Free” means you can’t dictate what other people do no matter how well-intentioned you believe yourself to be, or how much social media pressure you are able to being to bear against people whose views you disagree with.

    Do I think the above piece was risibly stupid and offensive to my beliefs about creative freedom? Yes. Do I believe you therefore aren’t “qualified” to write it? No..

    See? That’s what creative freedom means.
    .

  4. Just in the interest of further fact-checking, it should be pointed out that Marguerite Bennett is a listed co-writer on the Detective Comics issue in question, not just a future co-writer of the Batwoman series. In an interview at Comics Alliance, it’s stated that her writing role on the DC story is as a co-plotter, while Tynion is responsible for the script.

    As far as I know, Bennett identifies as a queer woman, and so has no first-person experience with being trans. Like Tynion, she is not a cis-het white man, she belongs to the larger queer community, and she can be seen as an ally, but her particular identity does not provide the authenticity to counter any charges of appropriative or exploitative representation.

    In essence, this factual clarification does not change any of the arguments in the least. Nevertheless, #artcred.

    As a simple reader, and speaking from my potentially privileged position of identities x, y, and z, I can only add that the degree to which readers are required to know intimate biographical details of creators in order to properly read comic books these days can at times distress and confound. If we are to feel distressed for poor Dr. October, who is so cruelly and violently manipulated by her writers into revealing the history of her gender identity, then surely we must feel even greater #concern for the living creators and commentators who are expected to relinquish all privacy and dump their various identities and issues into the public arena for the benefit of important public discussion.

  5. Oops, I inadvertently got some terminology wrong. I should have said that, to the best of my knowledge, Bennett identifies as a queer cis woman. A queer woman can, of course, be a trans woman.

  6. >> A writer is “qualified” to write about any type of character they damned well please, >>

    You appear to have ignored the last five words of the sentence in order to pretend Heidi was saying something she wasn’t saying, so you could get mad about it.

  7. Clearly nobody should be allowed to write Batman unless the murder of a close relative has inspired them to dress up as a bat and fight crime.

  8. Mr. Busiek: I was responding to the silliness of the entire article, not just what Heidi MacDonald wrote about it. The notion that certain groups of people (because of course we should all be divided up into as many groups as possible based on economic status and ethnicity and sexual orientation, right?) are off-limits or “problematic” for writers who are not part of their group to write about is nothing more than a way to shut down differing viewpoints. And it has dangerous implications for artistic freedom when people get together online and decide to bully someone for having the audacity to create a fictional character without having the tacit “permission” of the self-appointed gatekeepers of that fictional character’s ethnic or sexual group,

    It’s shameless authoritarianism dressed up in politically correct code words, and the worst thing about it is that its obvious surface stupidity disguises how dangerous it actually is. This is a pernicious attempt to control the way people express themselves to fit with one group’s agenda. A group of frightened people who run away to “safe spaces” in order to protect themselves from the apparently terrifying prospect of hearing an opposing point of view.

    These are the kinds of people who ban books.

    Joe S. Walker–and clearly someone should have told Mark Twain he wasn’t allowed to write about any type of characters except white Americans! The scary thing is, if the internet existed when Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn, the Social Justice bullies really would have excoriated Twain for the character of Jim, because how dare a white man write about a black slave?

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