Comics Marketing Pet Peeve

July 17th, 2012 by | Tags: ,

Fans & critics seeking better representation in comics for women/blacks/gays/asians/etc has been a Thing the past few years. Just between you, me, and the wall, I’ve dabbled in it myself, just a little.

That’s the preamble. Here’s the meat. Don’t do this, in part because it is a huge pet peeve of mine and I am the center of the universe, and in part because it’s bad marketing:

CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 by @kellysue is out THIS Weds! You SAY you want books w/ strong female leads. You SAY you want books by top female creators. Time to put your money where your mouth is.

This is going to be the start of a GREAT run– not just of a great “girl” comic– of a great comic for EVERYONE. This one’s got a LOT of talent and heart in it. Give it a go!

This is from Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott’s Twitter feed. It is good intentioned, and I appreciate the sentiment behind it. Kelly Sue DeConnick is a pretty dope writer (Osborn: Evil Incarcerated with Emma Rios and I think Becky Cloonan for a bit is great comics, the best Normie since Jenkins/Ramos on Peter Parker, and her Slam Dunk adaptations are A+) and I get why they want this series to be a success. But.

1. Guilt is a crap motivator. I come from a family of guilt trippers, and as a result, there’s not much I hate more than a guilt trip. This is a guilt trip that also implies dishonesty on the part of the guilt tripped. “You SAY you want books w/ strong female leads. You SAY you want books by top female creators.” The suggestion is that you have to buy it, because otherwise, heh, guess you didn’t mean it, eh?

2. People say a lot of things about a lot of things, and there is always an unspoken caveat after the phrase. I want more comics by and about black people… that are good comics. I want more comics by and about black people… that don’t involve them being all sad about being black or fighting racism. The “you” here is a wide mass of people, each with their own wishes and peeves. “I want more comics by and about women… [that fit my criteria for things I enjoy].” Captain Marvel certainly seems to be eagerly awaited, judging by the stuff I see daily on my tumblr, and that’s cool. (Actually, tumblr being so energized is really cool in a grass roots sort of way, but that’s not this post.) But that doesn’t mean that it is the lynchpin on which future comics about women revolve. I mean, I hope it isn’t, because, wow, that would be a tremendous dick move and also pretty unlikely. But Captain Marvel It is just one comic. A comic with a lady lead, female writer, a cool mohawk, and a good amount of buzz, but still just one comic. Some people who want more lady-orientated funnybooks might not dig it. Others might. And that’s okay. If you keep making those books, they’ll like something else, and all of us can argue over which one is the best. (The obvious answer is the Jubilee: Firecracker twelve issue maxiseries I just made up, aka “The New Watchmen That Is Also Better Than Watchmen“)

3. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, basically, and I’ve seen it before and I’ll see it again. “Buy this book or we’ll shoot this dog” is funny on a cover. It’s less funny when it’s someone actually telling you that. It’s bad marketing, it’s annoying, it’s insulting, blah blah blah. Y’all know the drill. Your mileage may vary.

4. Have I done this? I’ve probably done this. Sorry. I think a lot about this stuff, both this “I want more comics by/about blacks” stuff and “I love/hate to talk about wanting more comics by/about blacks” stuff. My thoughts are evolving. How I approach this stuff is evolving. I’m evolving.

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20 comments to “Comics Marketing Pet Peeve”

  1. Just volving all over the place.

  2. @was taters: You’re never gonna forgive me for coining the term “vulving,” are you? 😡

  3. Well said.

  4. Yeah, Slott’s recommend would have been way stronger without the Jewish mom guilt trip.

  5. On a similar note, Jeff Parker’s post about Red She-Hulk is good. “Here’s what we’re trying to do, here’s the situation, support us if you feel led and we’ll all have a good time.”

  6. I think Dan Slott was right and people should buy this comic. I come from a family of people that put women down. So now I support women. I plan on buying this comic to show my love for women.

  7. quit gavok press B before you are lock out of any more new moves for David brothers!

  8. quick*

  9. I’m just glad that the words “Brian” and “Reed” appear nowhere near this thing.

  10. @david brothers: I wish it was just called “Hulk”, still.

  11. This is the problem with trying to increase the representation of marginalized groups. People who are well represented sit around acting like they’re doing us some kind of favor. The people with all the privilege sit around thinking that we’re all the same and so if the one thing they give us doesn’t work then nothing will work. It’s never “this book didn’t connect with people” it’s “this marginalized group didn’t buy the one product we make for them so now we don’t have to listen to them complain anymore cause we gave them a chance.” It’s stupid.
    I still want read more books by black folks and I love people talking about it and will read about it a bunch (as well as the books I actually like).

  12. […] reminds me of the article that David Brothers posted on Tuesday about guilt as a marketing tool. Publishers and creators can’t expect people to buy comics just because they’re […]

  13. No need to apologise bro.

  14. @Micah: i don’t know exactly how true that is because that would be stupid. i don’t think the writers/business execs are as flippant as “here you go and if you dont like it tough! now go to bed minority groups!”. They’re a business so they’re not about to be all one and done with it, if something didn’t connect they’re try and try again. Its not them trying to do you a favor, its money making

  15. If Jubilee: Firecracker is a series in which she’s not a vampire, please sign me up! 😛

  16. I disagree. Sometime you have to call an elephant in the room an Elephant.
    Saying put your money where your mouth is..isnt a guilt trip its a put up or shut up declaration. Im all for it.

    Too much pussyfootin around the issue. If you say you support diversity do it or shut up.

  17. @RolandJP: Who is the “you” in that situation? No one should feel obligated to buy a book they aren’t interested in just because the lead character is not a white guy. That is the entire point of my post. There is no “you” to order to buy books, there are only a bunch of people with wildly varying opinions that, if you’re wanting to be needlessly reductive, can be boiled down to “I want more diversity.”

    Slott isn’t calling an elephant in the room an elephant. He’s guilt tripping. “You say you want a thing, and I have decided that this thing is the thing you want, so buy it or stop talking about how much you want it.” That’s stupid.

  18. speaking for the most part sincerely, as a middle class cis-hetero-male WAS(ex)P who is a moderate fan of Carol Danvers and is hype for female work in the industry, is it okay to feel kind of weirded out about the fact that the book opens with Carol fighting (very successfully) a big musclebound guy who is acting stupid while attempting to do something even stupider and who is also making stock misogynistic remarks, while at the same time Captain America is basically saying “Carol it is great that you are great, good job”? Because I understand that this issue was meant as more of an introduction to the character than most Marvel #1 issues have been in a few years, but….that bit made me feel a bit weird, to the out.

    Maybe it’s just moe~ on my part for Crusher Creel.

  19. The book starts out pretty slow, but looks to take us far away from everything we see in the beginning, and toward a more Superman-races-the-Flash sort of superhero book. So I’m all for that.

  20. @~:

    I felt the same way when reading the comic. Bad characterisation always takes me out of the story. Creel’s an idiot, but he’s married to the strongest female villain on the planet. Him making “Lol, wimminz is really weak and should go back in teh kitchin!”, jokes are as sensible and in character as Doctor Doom’s “Lol, fat Carol is fat!”, dialogue in that ignoble issue of Avengers. Also, Cap’s sense of humour is dry, not cutting (I can see him making cracks about Danvers’ ever-fluctuating rank, but he’d do so with a smile.)

    Sad part is, there are villains in the Marvel database who could do that job (strong enough to be a threat, jerk-like enough to be believable as disdainful assholes). The Wrecking Crew exists for a reason, you know. For that matter, Graviton or Moses Magnum (who’s due for a decent comeback) would work as well. But yeah, go ahead and use one of the few villains who actually chose his wife for her strength(s) as the token “retrograde chauvinist”. Right, the villain most likely to receive a call during combat to remind him to bring home half-a-dozen porterhouses and a box of wine (and who would actually remember to do it )is now “Captain Token Misogynist For Our ‘Strong Female Character’ To Beat.”