4×4 Elements: Icon: Mothership Connection

July 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Icon: Mothership Connection. Words by Dwayne McDuffie, art largely by MD Bright, inks largely by Mike Gustovich, assorted art by an army of creators, colors by a horde of colorists, letters by Steve Dutro.

I read various issues of Icon as a kid, though I don’t think I ever read more than one or two in a row. I think as far as Milestone went, I kept up with Static and bought the rest as I could, probably because Static was about a kid. When I got grown, I read, or re-read, Icon and found a lot to appreciate. Here are four things in particular.

Icon has a point. Stories that have no meaningful content may be entertaining, but they don’t stick with you like stories that have a point do. It doesn’t have to be a sermon, it doesn’t have to reveal some profound lesson, and it doesn’t have to use heavy-handed metaphors to examine life. There just needs to be some level of meaningful content, something you can look at and go “Oh, this. This means _______.” This is true of everything, not just comics.

Batman is about coping with grief. Daredevil is about survivor’s guilt. Spider-Man is about being better than you are. Donna Troy’s stories are about how people will read anything, no matter how bad, just because they liked a character as a kid. X-Men has gotten awful muddy, but somewhere under all of the fetish writing and laborious continuity is the metaphor that made them a hit. You can kick over most of the popular heroes and find something underneath their adventure stories that speaks to someone, somewhere.

Icon is about responsibility. Augustus Freeman is living well amongst other rich people, which has unfortunately segregated him from his history. Freeman, comfortable in his own abilities, leans toward believing that each person can pull himself up by his bootstraps. Essentially, he is responsible only for himself, and everyone else should follow that example. After all, if he did it, anyone can, right?

The problem with that is that it simply doesn’t work. Ignorance holds a lot of people back, and if you don’t know better, you can’t do better. Icon the series and Icon the hero are there to show people that they can do better. When Raquel gives icon a name, she tells Augustus that “[i]t means like an example, or an ideal.” Augustus corrects her, and explains that “it’s a symbol, something that stands for something else.” She asks him, “What do you stand for?”

You hear it all the time. “The children are the future.” (“and Wu-Tang is for the babies.”) (Sorry.) It’s both literal and figurative. The children are who inherit the future, but they are also the guides of the future. Their choices decide what’s going to happen.

Writers are the keepers of the past. They take what happens now and make sure that it lasts into the future. It’s very important to maintain a connection to your past while proceeding into the future. That is how knowledge survives from generation to generation.

Raquel represents the past, present, and future. She’s a writer, charged with protecting and judging the past, and she’s a mother, shepherding and guarding the future. Her knowledge of the past informs her present and provides a foundation for the future of her child. She names him Amistad, after the slave ship.

Buck Wild represents progress. Buck is essentially every black comics character, pre-1990, rolled into one. He’s primarily Luke Cage, from his design to his demeanor. McDuffie and Doc Bright amped up his more stereotypical accents, such as slow wit and fake way of speaking, but you know exactly who he is supposed to be.

At his funeral, we get to see Buck’s parodies of several black heroes. All of those heroes were lacking in various ways. Some were sidekicks. Others were dependent upon white heroes for powers. Some just had stupid villains. Buck represents all of these heroes, and by being presented as a backwards, but useful, hero, McDuffie and Bright are saying something very specific about black heroes in comics of a certain time and style.

Icon, at Buck’s funeral, says, “[F]or all his failures, he died as he lived, trying to do what was right. Let us hope that when our day is done, history remembers us as kindly as it remembers him.” His point is plain: Buck was not perfect, but he was an attempt to do right. Extrapolate from that: all of those stupid black heroes who spoke in fake jive and had powers that boiled down to “has muscles, hates the man” were a necessary step. You don’t get to have great heroes without having the wack ones first. Buck Wild paved the way for Icon, and hopefully, one day, Icon will pave the way for something better.

All of the meaningful content in the world don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. You can preach until your voice goes hoarse and your congregation falls asleep in the pews, but it doesn’t matter if what you’re preaching isn’t entertaining. If you want to preach and preach and preach, go write some non-fiction. If you’re doing a comic, bring your biggest guns and entertain. Fortunately, Icon is entertaining.

There’s a wry sense of humor woven throughout the book. The citizens of Dakota are quick with a flip remark, Raquel is smart-mouthed enough for both her and Icon, and Buck Wild is hilarious, in an Uncle Ruckus sort of way. McDuffie wrote a particularly effective black preacher in Icon: Mothership Connection. Every black preacher has a little bit of James Brown inside him, and McDuffie nailed it, even down to the call and response from the congregation.

When it comes time for action, McDuffie and Bright go big, with Superman-class action. Icon‘s populated with aliens, thugs, politicians, protestors, plenty of other heroes, and inky black alien shapeshifters bound and determined to destroy everything Icon holds dear. Buildings get knocked down, cars get thrown, and people get punched in the jaw.

Make no mistake: this is a superhero comic. Icon flies, shoots beams, and beats people up. It’s a very entertaining one, too, and more than capable of keeping your interest. The meaningful content is simply icing on the cake.

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DC Comics: Meanspirited, spiteful, and childish.

March 3rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

I don’t think anyone reported on it when it happened, but DC pulled several subtext-laden quotes from Milestone Forever #1. They said that the quotes weren’t covered under fair use and they didn’t want to get sued. However, rather than informing McDuffie of this at the time and giving him a chance to alter the quotes or create new ones, they waited until the book was at the printers. That’s shady, but okay, maybe they really would’ve gotten sued.

Milestone Forever #2 comes out later today, and whoops, it happened there, too. Click through for the quotes. Read them? Okay, now look at this one again:

“Sometimes I suspect that we build our traps ourselves, then we back into them, pretending amazement the while.”
—Neil Gaiman

Whoa! Neil Gaiman! That’s a good one, right? The thing is, it’s from The Sandman #75… a book wholly owned by (wait for it) DC Comics.

So! Let’s recap. DC Comics pull quotes from Milestone Forever #1 and #2 because they didn’t want to get sued. They wait until the book is at the printers to let the writer (and owner of the work) know, preventing any changes from being made. At least one of the quotes they pulled was from a property that they own completely, it being a legacy character and created pre-Vertigo. It’s the latest in a long line of shady, but legal, moves they’ve made regarding McDuffie and Milestone, and possibly the last, considering that McDuffie has no announced DC work coming up.

Were they gonna sue themselves? Is that it? Was Karen Berger gonna run across the hall and whack Dan Didio with a shoe if a quote from The Sandman made it into a comic that isn’t from Vertigo?

Or is someone at DC a petty, childish, scummy, shell of a human being? I don’t know who, nor do I have any ideas, so I’m not dry snitching here. I honestly want to know: who’s dicking around McDuffie? ’cause at this point, beyond of a shadow of a doubt, somebody up there is a firm believer in Industry Rule #4080: comic book people are shady.

I could go on and on and pile insult upon insult, but you know what? This situation should be clear to anyone with half a brain and half a shred of basic human decency. Someone there is prizing beef over money, and someone up there is mighty stupid. End of story.

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Fourcast! 35: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

March 1st, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music
-Guess what movie we’re talking about!
-No, really.
-We talk some about DC’s past animated features, their upcoming live action slate, and how horrible Daredevil was.
-I thought the tangent where I diss Kitty Pryde and Joss Whedon was much longer, particularly considering that I go “Why am I talking about this?” at the end of it, but it was relatively short! Just F-Y-I.
-Catch the movie on Amazon on DVD or Blu-ray.
-See you, space cowboy!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
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Black Future Month ’10: Things Are Getting Better

February 16th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

The first all-black comic was 1947’s All-Negro Comics. Everything I know about it I read from this site. It’s a somewhat lengthy read, but well worth your time.

All-Negro Comics once attempted to be a representative and standard-bearer for an entire race. The situation was so off-center and dire that an attempt to educate both blacks and whites as to the history and prestige of the black race was seen as necessary. I transcribed the introduction that Orrin C Evans wrote, because I find it pretty fascinating.

Dear readers: This is the first issue of All-Negro Comics, jam-packed with fast action, African adventure, good clean humor and fantasy.

Every brush stroke and pen line in the drawings on these pages are by Negro artists. And each drawing is an original; that is, none has been published ANYWHERE before. This publication is another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism.

All-Negro Comics will not only give Negro artists an opportunity to gainfully use their talents, but it will glory Negro historical achievements.

Through Ace Harlem, we hope dramatically to point up the outstanding contributions of thousands of fearless, intelligent Negro police officers engaged in a constant fight against crime throughout the United States.

Through Lion Man and Bubba, it is our hope to give American Negroes a reflection of their natural spirit of adventure and a finer appreciation of their African heritage.

And through Sugarfoot and Snakeoil, we hope to recapture the almost lost humor of the loveable wandering Negro minstrel of the past.

Finally, Dew Dillies will give all of us–young and old–an opportunity to romp through a delightly, almost fairy-like land of make-believe.

And we’re proud, too, of our big educational feature–a monthly historical calendar on which the contributions of the Negro to world history will be set forth in each issue.

What’s important about All-Negro Comics is that it is an answer to a trend in comics. A conscious answer, one calculated to present something that hadn’t, to my knowledge, been properly represented in comics. In mainstream comics at this point, Whitewash from the Young Allies and Will Eisner’s Ebony White were par for the course. Clumsy, bumbling racial caricatures were, as near as I can tell, the norm and accepted by polite society. Will Eisner himself accepted that White was a racial stereotype with an excuse that boils down to “it was funny back then.”

All-Negro Comics, then, was a shot across the bow of pop culture racism. It is counter-programming against the cultural politics of the era it was written in. It puts the lie to the flimsy excuse of “It was just a product of its time.” Accepting that excuse means assuming the worst about the people of that time, that they were okay with denigrating and marginalizing an entire culture. It reminds me of the saying about how all evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing. At the same time, if you’re doing nothing, are you really that good?

Evans’s opening editorial begins combat against the idea of the shiftless, lazy Negro. It introduces Ace Harlem, a positive black role model intended to represent the modern black male. Ace Harlem was cast in the same mold as Dick Tracy or The Spirit- an upstanding man out to do good simply because it was the right thing to do.

There’s a message implicit there. Ace looked out for his people, tried to do the right thing, and was specifically intended to represent the black community. As near as I can tell, he was created to be what we often mistakenly assume a lot of black characters to be nowadays: a representative for the community at large, rather than a specific person. The existence of Ace meant that black people, just like whites, weren’t born criminals or inferior. They had just as much drive, just as much of a sense of justice, as anyone else did.

Ace Harlem says what everyone should have known already, is what I’m saying.

All-Negro Comics puts me in mind of Spike Lee and, more recently, Tyler Perry. Spike has a rep for being a loudmouth jerk, but he’s a guy who also aggressively pushed a very specific agenda: movies should reflect real life. Sometimes this meant a majority white cast and sometimes this meant majority black. He wanted to show that, at the heart of things, we’re all the same. If you look at the casts of his movies over the years, his track record reflects that. He saw a gap and he worked to fill it.

Tyler Perry, on the other hand, saw a different gap. He saw that no one was really marketing movies to black women and leapt upon it. He pounded out cheap movies aimed at that demographic and look at that– little old black ladies hit the movies in droves, bringing half the church with them, and Tyler Perry sleeps on a mattress made out of dollar bills.

Between then and now, there was a hole in comics. All-Negro Comics, like Spike Lee and Tyler Perry, attempted to patch that hole. It lasted long enough for only the one issue, but it shows that the thirst was there. Someone recognized the hole and attempted to fill it.

That market is out there. Black people, just like everyone else, will read comics. Black people will make comics. Black people are doing both. Where All-Negro Comics was meant to be counter-programming in 1947, what we have now is even better. Take a stroll down artist’s alley at your local convention. There are black creators doing their thing in a variety of genres and styles.

The rise of the internet, graphic novels in bookstores, and affordable print on demand turned black comics (for whatever definition of “black comics” you’re using) from something with a niche appeal into something that can genuinely be considered a success. You can buy Aya at the same place you buy your Stephen King novels, you can read World of Hurt or Ants on your lunch break, or you can order Ho Che Anderson’s King off Amazon and have it the next day.

Things are better than they were before. We don’t need one single comic to represent the fact that black people, like white people, are human beings. I’d rather that the mainstream comics didn’t marginalize or exclude their black fans and characters, but you know what? Comics has plenty of Spike Lees and Tyler Perrys. I don’t have to beg Mark Millar for table scraps when Dwayne McDuffie is ready and willing to provide a full course meal.

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Pre-order Planet Hulk and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

January 25th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Two superhero flicks are coming out on DVD & Blu-ray in Feb- Planet Hulk and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. Planet Hulk hits the first week of February, while Justice League comes out February 23rd.

Pardon the blatant marketing, if you’re looking to buy them on any format, give some thought to pre-ordering them through our Amazon referral links. Amazon doesn’t charge you until the item ships, and if the price drops between now and when the movie ships, you get the lowest price automatically.

Planet Hulk is going for $14.99 on DVD and twenty bucks on Blu-ray. Justice League has a Two-Disc Edition for $14.99 and a Blu-ray for $25.99.

So, yeah, if you’re interested- give them (and us) a pre-order.

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“We On Different Earthes”

January 23rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Oh hey, Dwayne McDuffie posted 45 seconds of the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths on his site!

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We Care a Lot Part 18: The Sammy Hagar of Cannibalism

October 13th, 2009 Posted by Gavok

“Oh, no. No no no. That’s—that’s Venom. That’s Venom as me. That’s—and it’s not even the good one. It’s Mac Gargan.”

— Spider-Man, New Avengers #50

Due to popular demand, I guess I have to dedicate one of these installments towards Mac Gargan, the current Venom. First, a quick refresher on who Mac Gargan is and what he was up to before donning the hungry goo spandex.

Mac Gargan used to be a greedy private investigator, doing just about any job as long as the price was right. Jonah Jameson hired him to figure out the link between Spider-Man and Peter Parker. Mac wasn’t getting anywhere due to Peter’s spider-sense indicating when to slip away, so Jameson pulled out the big bucks for more desperate measures. Using an experimental serum and a cybernetic suit, he transformed Mac into the Scorpion. On the plus side, he was granted strength and agility to counter Spider-Man, along with a cool tail that shoots stuff. On the minus side, it drove him completely mad.

I think we need more villains who are only evil because whatever gave them powers also made them fucking crazy. A lot of the early Spider-Man villains had that going for them.

Scorpion existed for decades as a B-list Spider-Man villain. He was one of the many, many villains who in some way existed as the dark shadow of Spider-Man. Due to his insanity and his insatiable hatred for Jameson, Gargan tended to fail as a team player. Also, some of his insanity came from his inability to remove his costume.

Mark Millar reinvented Gargan for the better during his run in Marvel Knights Spider-Man, which I covered earlier in this series. At some point, Gargan had become a top henchman for Norman Osborn. His armor was gone, though with many operational scars left behind, and his sanity had been more or less restored. Sure, he was still a bad guy, but he was a coherent bad guy. Under Osborn’s orders, he orchestrated the kidnapping of Aunt May as a way to mess with Spider-Man and get Osborn out of prison.

As we know, the Venom symbiote – having skipped on its latest host – decided that Gargan was ideal. Perhaps it was how Gargan’s Scorpion powers are notably comparable to Spider-Man’s. Perhaps it was Gargan’s hatred of Spider-Man, spiked with his lack of Eddie Brock’s morals. But by the end of the day, Mac Gargan had become Venom.

Read the rest of this entry �

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“He paints pictures beautifully, but comics is nearsighted”

August 25th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I saw some screwy news courtesy of Rich Watson’s Glyphs about another entry in the DC vs Dwayne McDuffie saga. An excerpt:

Plans for a Static monthly were scrapped by DC last spring. Based on their actions, they never really wanted to publish the Milestone stuff, they wasted my time. We could have done a little deal for them to use Static without me having to spend so much money on lawyers.

I checked his message board, and wait, there’s more!

Static Shock currently runs on Disney XD four times a day. I know that’s somehow not as good as appearing in Teen Titans, a comic with over 20 thousand readers, but I’m not sure why.

From another thread:

No. I did not accept the offer. I have completed the script to a Milestone mini-series that is currently being drawn. DC has also given the go ahead to a major project about their black characters and their place in the DCU, but I’m no longer sure I want to do it as I’m increasingly concerned about their posture on racial matters. I hope I’m wrong. I’m sure we’ll talk about it in the next few months.

-Static Shock was the #1 or #2 rated show on KidsWB for most of its run. I think it was trading top spots with whichever variation of Pokemon at the time.
-Static Shock’s cartoon, which is around ten years old, runs on a Disney channel four times. It’s reasonable to assume that Static Shock has more fans than, say, all of the Superman comic books put together.
-DC’s shown no interest in solo Milestone books, despite undoubtedly shelling out a lot of money and paperwork on the characters.
-Instead, they’d rather have Teen Titans feature Static, even though Titans is a book that has been of poor quality and a laughing stock for two or more years.

So, what happened here? DC picks up one of the more marketable cartoons in recent memory, and a fondly-remembered and ahead of its time universe, and fumbles the ball. The universe is shuffled off to a brief series of one-shots in Brave & the Bold, Static ends up in a comic no one likes (if you like Teen Titans, you like a bad comic, this is gospel truth), and the guy who is the face of the deal ends up shuffled off a book he was writing with handcuffs, out of the DCU, and off into cartoonland.

What happened?

DC needed new toys to put into the meatgrinder. They’re getting consistently outshined by their biggest competitor, which can’t look good in front of their bosses. They have exactly one respected and profitable movie franchise, but Marvel’s buckshot approach has seen some success. By tapping Milestone, or rather, Static, they get the bonus of a built-in fanbase, a pedigree, and a little check on the Minority Box. That’s a Triple Word Score.

So, like a toy collector buying cases of crap he doesn’t want, they get their action figure, the one they think will make them money, and toss the rest. They think that Static himself won’t sell on his own, because they’ve trained their audience to view new characters with distrust, if not outright malice, and non-event stories as Not Necessary, so they botch any plans of a solo series. Stick him in a team book and you get all the benefits, none of the minuses!

And then, at some point in the future, they’re going to put Static back in their toy chest, ready to spring out again when they need a young black kid (who is drawn like a grown man) to talk about how cool someone else is, take a dive for a new hero/villain, or catch a hot one in the next Crisis.

All of the drama, all of the hoopla, is about money. It’s about being able to make a profit on the short-term, and hoping that that keeps you going enough that you can catch more later on. It’s an extraordinarily near-sighted way to do business. According to McDuffie, a number of comics creators, ones with names, ones who sell books, wanted to do Milestone work. They remembered the universe, they wanted in on what looked like a good thing. But, money talks, and if you aren’t looking at an immediate profit, well, sorry. You aren’t talking loud enough.

But when arts meets commerce, commerce eventually wins out. It doesn’t matter how groundbreaking (original, cool, artistic, awesome, whatever) a character is. For the companies, and this includes Marvel, they are products to be sold, and whatever gets them sold is the right thing to do. DC dicking McDuffie isn’t about a grudge. It’s about having more action figures in the toybox that you can pull out, rather than creating new ones. It’s about being able to point and say “This is a comic for _______ people!” and expecting them to come just because you built some mediocre, at best, story.

DC saw that a character was successful elsewhere, hunted it down, and didn’t care about the consequences of that act. So now there’s a creator, one who has proven that he can do popular work amongst comics fans in at least two mediums, who is pretty much thoroughly alienated, a gang of savvy fans who are pissed, and a character who is going to slowly disappear into the ether.

I don’t get it. It seems like you have a ready-made formula for success. You have characters people like, creators who actually care about doing stories with them, and an audience who just might be receptive. Instead, you instantly shuffle most of the characters off into Nowheresville, put the one you like in a lame duck that no one, not even the writers, enjoys, and shut it down before it even gets started.

Well done. You’ve succeeded in completely playing yourself.

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Four Color Reality, or Lack Thereof

August 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

I attended the Four Color Reality Panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2009. It was described like this:

6:30-7:30 Four Color Reality: Making Comics Relevant to Readers Across Cultures— Comic book stories have become the core of American pop culture—is there a big-budget spectacular that doesn’t in some fashion owe its existence to comic book roots these days? But sales of traditional-format comic books themselves have been in decline for years. This panel explores one reason for this shrinking market: the divergence between the identities of mainstream comic icons, who are typically straight, white, male, and American, and the demographic makeup of a new generation of readers. How can the comic book industry connect with changing audiences—not just of diverse races and backgrounds, but of different cultural and national origins as well? Moderated by Jeff Yang (editor-in-chief, Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology). Panelists include Dwayne McDuffie (Milestone Comics, JLA, Ben 10: Alien Force), Gail Simone (Wonder Woman), Gene Yang (American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile), Stuart Moore (Wolverine: Noir, The 99), and Jai Nitz (Blue Beetle, El Diablo). Room 3

Jeff Yang had a powerpoint presentation that kicked a few facts to start off the panel. One was a comparison of readerships between now and fifty years ago. Back then, comics were read by both boys and girls, at about a 50/50 ratio. In 2008, or 2009, I forget the exact year he quoted, it’s 90/10 in favor of boys. 90% of comics readers. He also showed a few quotes. I have the Paul Levitz quote exactly, since I took a picture of it, but I may have slightly paraphrased/cropped the Gary Groth quote.

Like all American media, [comics have] reflected the culture, which means there were things in the 1930s and the 1940s and the ’50s I’m sure we’d be less proud of today…
But in modern times, there have been either heroes or supporting characters introduced in our line that represent different ethnic groups and the world.

-Paul Levitz

It’s the chicken-and-egg question. The market is mostly teenage white boys. The reason is that the content has been aimed at white teenage boys. That’s why women and black adults don’t read comics. Most literate, intelligent people don’t read comics. We’re trying to change that, but it’s really difficult to do.

-Gary Groth.

Near as I can tell, Yang pulled the quotes from Facing Difference, a text book that was written in… 1997. The specific article is from the November 14th, 1993 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

One more time: November 14th, 1993. That’s sixteen years ago, give or take a few months. So, let’s get into my problems with the panel, and then loop back around into specifically talking about those numbers, and what they mean.

My (former) biggest problem with the panel is the way it seemed to conflate superheroes with comics. I didn’t quite believe it, but I took the 90% number at face value during the panel, despite my reservations. But even then, there is no way that number is accurate for comics in general. Maybe, maybe, for superheroes, but not for comics, which cover a range of genres and interests. Even leaving out manga, which is a dumb thing to do but something people do anyway, you aren’t going to see 90:10. You aren’t seeing 50:50, but you definitely aren’t seeing 90:10.

And even then, should we be looking at superheroes for racial sensitivity, anyway? This past year has convinced me that the only sensible answer is… no. Superhero comics, by and large, aren’t built for nuance. They are built to punch bad guys, be deconstructed occasionally, and to have large explosions. Nine times out of ten, superheroes are going to approach a subject from a black and white point of view, there is right and there is wrong, and that really isn’t how race and racism works. You can’t beat up racism. There are too many shades of gray, too many varied experiences, and too much baggage for that to ever happen. Sorry. Time to look elsewhere. There’ll be the occasional gem, but then there will also be Superman making proclamations and an entire generation rolling their eyes so hard that they go blind.

My new biggest problem with the panel, the problem I didn’t have before I started doing research with this post, is the research that apparently went into those figures that helped to set the stage for it. Numbers (with no sources) and quotes on the state of the industry from 1993 have about as much to do with the numbers and state of the industry in 2009 as the murder rate in New York City in 1936 has to do with the crime in NYC in 2009.

It’s irrelevant, and using those numbers, comics or murder rate alike, to bolster your point is intellectually dishonest.

Since 1993, we’ve seen an industry contract and nearly collapse. We’ve seen the rise of graphic novels and trade paperbacks as a viable way of reading and producing comics. We’ve seen a burst of movies based on comics. We’ve seen Time Magazine give Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home book of the year. Not Comic Book of the Year– Book of the Year. We’ve seen an explosion of fandom thanks to the internet. That explosion led to an explosion of female fandom online, with Scans Daily, Girl Wonder, and When Fangirls Attack probably being the three highest profile sites focused around girls’n’comics. Manga wasn’t a going concern in 1993. “Real” publishers didn’t care about anything but Maus in 1993. Bone hadn’t sold several million copies in actual book stores. Batman: The Animated Series was just getting going. And so on, and so on, and so on.

1993 isn’t 2009, and you cannot, absolutely cannot, use 1993 to make points about 2009. Those numbers? They were valid, once. Then that time passed, we moved on, and we’re in a different world now. 90% of comics readers being male in 1993, which I feel is already a dubious number but that’s just off gut instinct, has zip to do with whatever the ratio of male to female is these days.

I can understand where Yang was coming from with this. Race and gender and comics? It’s better than it was in the ’40s, yes, but it could always be better. But, pulling out figures from 16 years ago and using them to frame and position a discussion about the comics world of today is a mistake. It’s dishonest. It’s arguing against, what, a strawman? It was true at one point, perhaps, but isn’t now. It’s not a valid position to argue from.

And I mean, I’m ostensibly on Yang’s side. Should comics do better with regards to whatever ism comes to mind? Yes! Absolutely! Let’s get that range of portrayals going. But, to argue from data from 1993? That’s not how it works. If I’m on your side, and I have huge issues with your data, imagine what a theoretical nay-sayer is going to say.

Things are, and have been, getting better. I’d like to think that readers are getting smarter and more, for lack of a better word, diverse. My personal experience has certainly suggested that, and the experience of the circles that I run in.

But, really, we’ve got to do better. Halfway research and outdated figures don’t cut it, not even remotely. It doesn’t prove anything, and it doesn’t say anything beyond “Man, yesterday sucked, didn’t it?”

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Dwayne McDuffie Spotlight Panel

August 3rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Courtesy of Jamie Coville, you can listen to the audio from the Dwayne McDuffie spotlight panel at SDCC09. Here’s a link to the rest of his convention mp3s, if you’re interested. Hat tip to Dwayne McDuffie, as he found it first.

Shouldn’t all comic-cons do this direct from the microphones? It’d be nice to be able to download audio of any panel from the show after a week or so.

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