on voodoo, ron marz, black women, & comics [somebody call sandman sims]

July 25th, 2011 by | Tags: ,

I was out of the news loop while I was in San Diego. No, that’s both true and untrue (Schroedinger’s Anecdote I guess). I was clued into the Image and Marvel news, as I was covering their panels (as seen on ComicsAlliance!), but DC and Fantagraphics and everyone else? I got their news via Twitter or word of mouth, if I got the news at all. At some point, I checked in on the DC blog and saw this post, which had the art for all of their Edge titles. The standout is easily Travel Foreman’s work on Animal Man, with the I, Vampire pages by Andrea Sorrentino being the surprise “whoa, that actually looks cool” of the day. (It looks very Jae Lee.) There were also these two pages by Sami Basri, artist of Voodoo:

And you know, the pages are aight or whatever. Basri’s style is very clean, but not particularly… spectacular, right? He can do the pinup, cheesecakey stuff fine, but he’s never really done anything that made me go “whoa.” DC uses him to make sexy girl comics, which is apparently what Voodoo is going to be. And I dig Voodoo, I love the whole Wildstorm Universe (or I did, anyway), but man, talk about a pitch that fails to grab you.

I saw the pages at… I don’t know, waking up o’clock in the morning and tweeted about it a little bit, with the intent of leaving it at these quick hits:

’cause I mean, I don’t have to tell everyone every single one of my opinions. There are hundreds of comics I’ve never mentioned here that I don’t care about, right?

buuuuuuuuut there was this:

which immediately brought to mind one of my favorite Jadakiss bars: “Fuck boys do fuck shit” and probably a whole bunch of unfair (psyche) ad hominems. It’s not even a foot-in-mouth thing, it’s just a dude turning into a defensive jerk in an attempt to head off a controversy that, near as I can tell, didn’t actually happen anywhere. This guy is all, “Heh, look at all these dummies jumping to conclusions from the preview images released to sell my comic to them.” and there’s not even anybody on Twitter, the ultimate in personality spamming technology, talking about it beyond me and one person I know with locked tweets. As far as freakouts go, this is on the same level as taking a swig from a soda bottle and going, “Hm, is this a little flat? Maybe not.”

Anyway, it’s midnight-something, and I gotta be up in the morning, but I really don’t like how this guy is assigning all types of bad faith arguing on the part of readers who (probably) have very reasonable questions about Voodoo. So: let’s freak out.

“Waiting for the inevitable ‘she’s half-naked!’ freakouts over Voodoo pages.”

Thought about writing a rebuttal to this, but it’s late and this isn’t really the part I want to focus on because it’s stupid. The meat is in the second sentence. But I mean, congrats on being defensive without someone even challenging you. He sounds like the little kid who tells his mom that nobody ate any cookies while she was out and the dog broke the vase not me, I promise when she comes home and just says “Hello.”

“There couldn’t POSSIBLY be a story reason for that, right?”

There’s a story reason for everything. Dizzy Cordova from 100 Bullets is hands-down my favorite lady in comics and her introduction to the world featured a chick forcing a kiss on her in prison. Elektra wears a stupid looking costume. Blah blah blah, there’s a reason for everything.

There’s probably a great reason. She stripped in Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.s, too. That’s reason enough, I’m sure. “It’s faithful to her origin!” We’ll find out the reason later on, when we get to read the actual comic. The reason doesn’t matter, though. Months before the books hit the shelves, the only thing that matters is the perception that the PR tour DC is currently on creates in the minds of readers.

This interview with Marz at CBR and this interview with Dan Didio at The Advocate are the most substantial sources of info on the new series.

The CBR interview begins with this:

Ron Marz: Well, obviously, we’re trying to stay away from giving out a whole lot of detail on any of the stories. I think there’s unfortunately a great desire to have spoilers in this business, period. And frankly, I do think it takes away from the experience of the story. So even if I could tell you what we’re going to do, I probably wouldn’t anyway. I feel like people should approach these books — or any books, really — not knowing what they’re really getting into.

and as a result, here is a list of things we know about Voodoo in the New DC Universe:
1. She’s a point of view character for the new universe
2. She takes her clothes off for dudes
3. She likes kissing boys AND girls

The first point is a bit bunk, because every single character will serve as a tour through the new universe, and the second is expected. I’m from Georgia–we might as well have invented strip clubs down south, so that’s fine, I don’t have some bias against strippers. The third is new, to my knowledge, and to the knowledge of a couple of my other Wildstorm Fan Club Crew. It’s not a big deal–kissing girls is fun, I know girls who kiss girls, it’s 2011, I live in San Francisco, whatever whatever–but it is a surprise.

Taken all together, though, it’s crap.

Voodoo is now (inexplicably) one of the highest profile black characters in the DC Universe. (She’s specifically Louisiana Creole, I believe, which was maybe/probably finally established in Alan Moore’s Dancing in the Dark? [as opposed to “generically ethnic” i mean]) It’s her, Mr Terrific, and Cyborg. Voodoo and Terrific have their own solo series, which I would argue puts them a notch above Cyborg, who is just a member of the JLA. Arguable point, to be sure.

(morningtime edit: I forgot about Static, whose series I want to buy, and Batwing. John Stewart’s going to be in a series, and Jason Rusch is costarring in another, too. My point stands, though: Voodoo is top dog when it comes to DC’s black ladies.)

Voodoo is starring in a book that, judging by the choice of artist, is meant to be sexy. Now, all comics should be sexy, but this is a sexy first sort of thing. “We got a comic starring a lady and it’s gotta be sexy so the fanboys buy it” sexy. “Bad girls for fanboys” sexy. “We need hot girls falling out of their tops while serving drinks to dudes rocking ugly sunglasses, as seen on page two of our preview images” sexy. That’s what Basri does, and that’s fine. He did the job on Power Girl. The problem: all we’ve heard about the interior of Voodoo has to do with her sex life. With Power Girl, he was brought on to draw her boobs real big or whatever, but we still got story info, relationship teases, villains, and so on. Voodoo gets none of that because this guy is afraid of spoilers.

DC sucks at black people. They especially suck at black women. So for the first taste of the most important (and the only one to have any measure of press–I think Vixen is on the JLI, but hasn’t gotten any press focus?) black superheroine in their entire universe to be about how you get to see her boobies sometimes, and oh man, wait until you see her kiss a girl at the beginning of issue two (we taking bets on that?) and hey hey hey look at these awesome pages in a strip club bros is crap.

It’s worse than crap. What message is that sending? Mr Terrific has been described as the most eligible bachelor in the DCU in the run-up to his series, so obviously love and/or sex will play a major role in his series. You know what Eric Wallace and them haven’t done, though? They haven’t spent time subtly letting us know that he’s gonna be running through every white woman in the DCU with his big black mandingo johnson. They’ve said that he’s highly sought after, but also talked about the types of stories he’s going to be in (I believe he’ll be in outer space by issue four?), his supporting cast (of black people! of a variety of ages and skillsets! also at least one white dude, and probably a civilian version of Power Girl), his status quo (he’s rich!), and plenty of other bits intended to whet your whistle. What do we actually know about the series? Probably nothing that we won’t find out in the first eight pages. We don’t know details. We don’t know plot points. We know the barest hint of teases. We know the equivalent of an iMDB summary and cast page–that’s it. And it got my interest! It worked! Here DC Comics: have three (or two) dollars!

Here’s what we know about Voodoo, in case you forgot:
1. She’ll make out with a girl with her top off while making eye contact with you, brother, and let me tell you–whooo!–it is hot.

Great advertising, dudes. “Here’s a black lady–she might give you a chubby. ~diversity~

So yeah, it’s nice that you have story reasons for Voodoo stripping. Alan Moore did, too, and so did Jim Lee and Grant Morrison and Joe Casey (well, post-stripping in that case) and everyone else who ever touched the character. But we aren’t reading the story. We’re I’m reading the advertisement for the story. I’m trying to decide if I want to test the series out or not. I’m doing exactly what all of this information, as unbelievably scant as it is, to meant to do: decide whether or not Voodoo is worth my three (or two, actually) dollars.

If my reaction to your preview material is “Oh, well, this looks like the same old garbage,” that’s not my bad. That’s your bad. That’s you not being able to sell water to a man who’s dying of thirst.

As a black dude who has been increasingly and pretty much unceasingly disappointed in how DC approaches colored folks over the past few years, Voodoo isn’t worth it for me. And with Ron Marz already on the defensive, throwing up stupid, mean-spirited snaps that anybody could take apart with five minutes thought about the portrayal of black men and women in comics, Voodoo isn’t even worth stealing.

DC needs to muzzle their boy and maybe start thinking outside of the fanboy box. Listen to “Black Girl Lost” or “Dear Mama” or “White Man’z World” or something, man. Read some dream hampton. Find some dumb college kid in a daishiki who’ll talk to you about “the black experience.”

Do something. Anything, really. ’cause I’m basically what should be the target audience for this book, being both a Wildstorm fan and black, and every word out of this guy’s mouth is making me less and less interested in the series. Wait, no, that bit’s a lie–it’s turning me from bored apathy toward actual scorn.

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22 comments to “on voodoo, ron marz, black women, & comics [somebody call sandman sims]”

  1. This made me laugh out loud at the idea of DC doing interviews and running ads about Mr. Terrific running through every white woman with his big black mandingo johnson.

  2. HA! Epic post.

  3. Personally, I’m having a similar reaction to the way DC’s been advertising Catwoman. All the focus is on how “dirty” and “sexy” it is, with every piece of art I’ve seen for it thus far, featuring a woman in some state of undress. No mention of a supporting cast, a single-line pitch for the first story arc, or anything of that nature. Just a focus on how “hot” the protagonist is.

    It’s so crass, like DC is trying as hard as they can to sell to the lowest common denominator.

  4. “It’s her, Mr Terrific, and Cyborg.”

    To be fair, that isn’t all. There’s also Batwing, Static Shock, John Stewart co-starring in GLC and Jason Rusch co-starring in Fury of Firestorm(s). And that’s not counting the other ethnicities and sexual orientations.

    So Voodoo might have a sexy side to it. I think considering the fact that Ron Marz took one of the most stupidly sexy characters in comics today and made her a credible and compelling character gives me more than enough confidence that this won’t turn out to be nothing more than the late-night Skinamax flick without the nudity.

  5. @Jared: Oh! And I almost forgot Vixen in Justice League International!

  6. @Jared: Right, I don’t know how I forgot Static, when I’m planning on buying his series. Con lag, I assume. But other ethnicities or sexual orientations don’t have anything to do with black characters. I mention Vixen, too.

    And as I said in the post: sure, the series might be fine. But Marz’s attitude and the marketing for it is absolute crap.

  7. Ron Marz says a lot of stupid shit on Twitter. I think Twitter has just given everybody short attention spans; you write a quick, pithy, marginalizing comment without much thought or effort from your cell phone or you iPad and go about your day.

  8. Is it wrong of me that I have never viewed Voodoo as black, given the way she has been drawn and characterized on the whole?

    Even with the (forced) intersecting of the WS characters, STILL not touching this one with a 10 ft pole….

  9. All this lazy bad girl stuff is just made worse by the equally extreme chastity of some of their other female characters. Did Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon get beyond holding hands in Birds of Prey? Theres some tedious virgin/whore divisions at work here.

  10. @Daryll: I’m right there with you. My memories of a lot of the comics that I read before my brief hiatus in the mid-2000s isn’t that great these days (I need to do a serious Wildstorm reread), but I’ve been surprised by all the reference to her as black in the last few weeks. Like David said, she always seemed just vaguely ethnic.

    I wonder if Ron had any input in the release of these pages or if it is all DC’s marketing. I like the clean look of Basri’s art, but it does seem like they’re targeting the stereotypical comic reader based entirely on T&A rather than content.

  11. You are kind of stretching to find something to complain about here.

    Historically, DC does suck at black people, but the new 52 is going to 8% solo black leads. That is more than four times as many solo titles with a black protagonist that Marvel is soliciting for the same month. In fact, Voodoo is the first non-white female lead of an on-going ever, isn’t she?

    Ron Marz may not be a genius at promotion, but he has a history of doing long runs that turn cheesecake-y female characters into credible protagonists. Sam Basari might not be Frank Quitely, but he is not Greg Land either. This title seems a lot like what people have been asking for from the Big 2.

    Priscilla Kitaen is neither straight, nor white, nor a dude. There is not the barest hint of nostalgia, or legacy about her. She is getting her own spotlight series that is front-and-center in the biggest marketing push in DC history. She has been assigned a creative team that would move the needle on a Robin solo series.

    If this series tanks, then it will be (not unjustly) cited forever as proof that the message board chatter has nothing to do with sales.

  12. @Dean: “You are kind of stretching to find something to complain about here.” < --nah, not really. Not at all, actually. This isn't a stretch at all. And yes, this is better than they have done, but with Judd Winick dropping monolithic Africa references like crazy and Marz running his yap about something he clearly doesn't know anything about (because if he did, he wouldn't), I'm not going to feel bad about pointing out where they screw up. No, Voodoo is not the first non-white female lead of an on-going ever. If you want to dial it down to specifics, she might be the first weezyanna creole newly-bisexual dancer lead of a comic ever, but that's pointless. And it's nice that Marz has a history of doing long runs with female characters (though I think that's misleading--isn't it just Witchblade you're talking about? Comicbookdb backs me up there), but I'm not talking about his run or the end result of the book. I'm talking about the marketing of the book to its audience, and the way that marketing falls into a bunch of old, stupid traps in the name of (presumably) pandering to a certain audience. That's it. Marz/Basri would move the needle on a Robin solo series? I don't buy that at all, with Marz being out of the DCU for a fair few years now and Basri not having a particularly spectacular effect on the sales of Power Girl, but I'll chalk that up to a difference of opinion. Message board chatter already has nothing to do with sales. Everyone already knows that, including fans who pay attention to these things. If this series tanks, it will be just another cancelled comic. I'm not sure I like your tone there, though--doing a series with something other than a brunette white dude has very little to do with message board chatter and everything to do with making comics for everyone, not just John Q Fanboy.

  13. @Chris: I think I’d always read her as black or latin, but she was always that sorta ambiguously “not white” that used to abound in comics. The garish coloring didn’t help any.

    @Mark Clapham: A good point, and something I hadn’t considered.

  14. @ David:

    I am sorry that you do not like my tone, since I intended no disrespect. I enjoy your work and probably should not have started commenting here on a disagreement.

    My point was that DC appears to be making a genuine effort to get better in an area that they have traditionally done poorly. To me, that is an admission that they have a problem. The Judd Winnick Batwing series looks terrible, but Static, Firestorm and Mr. Terrific all seem to be worth a look. If even two or three of the five series DC is launching catch on, then you are talking about a major change.

    Neither Marz, nor Basari, are stars, but they are reasonably popular creators. Marz is coming off a well-regarded run on Witchblade (of all things). The Winnick-Basari Power Girl series lasted quite a bit longer than I expected, which suggests that he has some commercial appeal.

    Maybe I missed something, but I cannot recall either DC or Marvel launching an on-going with a solo lead that was neither white, nor male.

  15. @Dean: Nah, it’s no big deal. You’ve been a reader for a while, I just wanted to point out that I don’t think it’s a matter of board chatter at all. You have a good point, to be sure. And the last thing I want to do is stifle actual disagreement.

    Storm’s had a couple miniseries, but Heroes for Hire is notable for starring a black woman and a half Japanese in the lead roles, not to mention Icon (which featured a black woman as the main POV character and arguable star of the book) and a couple other Milestone titles. I’m less interested in milestones and firsts than I am in someone doing the job RIGHT, you know? It’s cool to be first, but it’s better to be good.

  16. There’s a lot I agree with on the internet, there’s a lot I disagree with on the internet. Rarely do I read an entire article and bob my head vigorously in agreement to EVERY. SINGLE. MOTHERFUCKING. WORD.

    Thank you for being so eloquent David when I’ve long ago given up.

  17. Awesome post. At the end of the day is Marvel much better with using black folk in comics? To answer my own question, slightly. They still can suck at it horribly though, with it seeming sometimes that Luke Cage is representative of all black males in the Marvel Universe. I love Luke Cage though so if they want to put him in a ton of comics I won’t bitch too much. Voodoo has been terribly marketed it would seem, with a focus put on her getting naked and kissing boys and girls instead of telling an interesting story that happens to involve her getting naked and kissing boys and girls. We may get that good story for all we know, but from what has been shown of the book and how the writer has acted on Twiter I have little faith. Then again I had zero interest in Voodoo (super-hero stripper? Pass.) and wasn’t going to get the book so it doesn’t matter what I think. Were I a potential buyer who was pushed away, then DC has an issue, but until Grant Morrison acts like a huge dick whilst promoting Action Comics I won’t hesitate to get that book and other good-looking ones. I like Wildstorm too, but will pass on Voodoo for favor of Grifter and such.

  18. @David I am taking this line:

    “I’m less interested in milestones and firsts than I am in someone doing the job RIGHT, you know? It’s cool to be first, but it’s better to be good.”

    And making it my new rule for comics man….

  19. Marz’s tweet sounds like he was really thinking “Why are we not getting all the free publicity I wanted to piss people off into giving us?” I’d rather have a book preview that’s more than cheesecake for cheesecake’s sake, thanks much.

    Let’s take the Daughters of the Dragon miniseries, for example – I’m not going to lie and say that Kaare Andrews’ art didn’t make my decidsion to buy the book easier, but what made me want to pick up the book in the first place were the things Marvel put out on it other than just that it had pretty women in it. If all you give me on a book like Voodo is “why isn’t anybody complaining about the boobies yet”, I’m more likely to leave it on the rack* than not.

    *Pun not necessarily intended.

  20. “let’s freak out.”
    no, lets not. lets decide we won’t buy th’ book.

  21. What is with all these white dudes pretending to be non-white lesbians?

  22. […] DC’s previews reveal their priorities. -An interview with the now-infamous Batgirl of SDCC, who made it her […]