July 10, 2015

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Weekend Pattering for July 10, 2015-- The "We're not at Comicon!" Edition

** After last week's Image Expo diatribe, we really didn't cover all of the Pattering that's been happening here at the Panel Patter (and elsewhere) so here's two weeks worth of pattering for your Comicon weekend.

I can't wait to see that on the pull quote for the new Archie #1!

** Not comic related but after just about two years of operation, the excellent movie site The Dissolve rather abruptly closed shop this week.  It was a website that featured excellent, varied writing about almost everything about movies without resorting to clickbait articles.  And they couldn't find the audience that they needed to last over a couple of years.  It's just kind of sad to see that site go away.

**  At The Comics Journal, Howard Chaykin has a nice piece on Leonard Starr.

** Panel Patter favorite Alex de Campi shares here thoughts on the return of Tokyopop, the past damage that they've done and offers advice to anyone looking to get published by any publisher.  In a related post, she talks candidly about the working environment you've got to learn to navigate in the comics publishing industry.  There are a number of pros like her and Sean Gordon Murphy who seem willing to talk about the current working conditions in comics in an effort to warn/prepare/instigate change among those who are coming up in the business.

** At Panel Patter, we didn't address that big issue of the past couple of weeks; Airboy #2, that was first brought to everyone's attention by the LGBQT site The Rainbow Hub.  (And for the record, this isn't a statement of Panel Patter or anything.  It's just more of my trying to process everything.) In that comic, James Robinson and Greg Hinkle are on some self-destructive rampage trying to figure out how to approach an Airboy comic that Image wants to publish.  Only as they're doing all the drugs that they can do and having all the promiscuous three way sex that they can handle, the character Airboy appears before them.  It's a World War II character trying to act as some kind of spiritual guide for two depraved modern men.  So the depravity wins out and Robinson and Airboy find themselves in side by side bathroom stalls in a bar, getting blowjobs.

From transvestites.

It's a joke.

Yeah, we didn't find it too funny either.

I've read both issues of Airboy and the series hasn't done that much for me.  But I'm easily coming at this from the point of view of both Robinson and Hinckley-- straight (I presume their straight but maybe I'm wrong/projecting there as well,) white and male.  Since the 1970s, I've read enough comics that have used the transvestite blow/hand job joke as a way to show the cluelessness or backwater thinking of some character or another so seeing it again kind of went right past me.  It wasn't funny anymore in 2015 but the potential harm from it didn't register.



The odd thing is that this was coming just a week after DC Comics, J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen and Howard Porter did a very similar thing in Justice League 3001 #1.  That comic shows a distant future where the DNA (and somehow that equates to the mind and consciousness) of Guy Gardner is put into a woman.  So again here, we quite literally have a man's consciousness in a woman's body.  And all Superman can do is think that she's doable and all Batman can do is keep referring to her as "him."



For two weeks in a row, we had comics that had major issues with culturally tone-deaf creators.  (Three weeks if you potentially consider two white men writing about racism in the American south.)  

Fairly quickly after both comics were released, both Robinson and DeMatteis acknowledged that they understood how painful the ways that they approached these issues of gender were after they were confronted about it.  And their trying to make things better in the future.


Both DeMatteis and Robinson (and Giffen, Porter and Hinckle) hurt a portion of their readers.  They have readers, trans men and trans women, who saw themselves reduced to objects or subhumans in their comics.  All of these creators were trying to make a joke or a point about their male and manly man characters but it came at the expense of other characters and types of characters.  The trans women giving Robinson and Airboy the blowjobs don't even get to be anything more than props to show what a shit head Robinson is or how out of touch Airboy is.  I seriously doubt that anyone involved saw it as anything more than a way to put down their own characters.

Art is meant to stimulate and challenge but I can't think of any good or great art that does it at the expense of someone's humanity.  Maybe it challenges our own humanity but it's meant to make us look inside ourselves, not down on someone else.  Now there's plenty of art that does just that but it's not what we should be looking for or wanting.  If you're wanting something that props you up or makes you feel better about yourself at the expense of someone else, it's not art that you're looking for.  It's propaganda.

Which isn't what either Airboy #2 or Justice League 3001 #1 is.

Unfortunate choices by creators don't also equate to hate by them.  In the heat of anger after both comics first appeared, their was some fiery conversation calling particularly for Image to recall Airboy #2.

Honestly, I'm still not too sure what this all means. These are all creators that I like so I may be giving them the benefit of the doubt when they apologize and admit that they didn't understand what they were writing.  But I'm concerned that in neither case were they isolated incidents.  If you count the the incident in Batgirl earlier this year, we've had three variably high examples of transphobia in comics already this year.

And all the creators involved in these examples have at least been able to admit they they may have made mistakes, unlike other once great artists who just can't admit that maybe, just maybe they're not as smart as they think they are.

** In other words, what James says.
If someone tells you that they find your work (or some other work) offensive or problematic, maybe take what they (as a fellow human being with thoughts and feelings) have to say seriously.