How to get women into comics: Part a Billion

November 3rd, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Recently a friend of mine got into a conversation about how to get more women into comics. I’m beginning to wonder if such conversations are necessary, considering the plethora of women into comics right now. From the moment I got into comics, I went online and was neck deep in female and feminist comics discussion. It was everywhere. With the overall superhero comics market shrinking, though, I guess everyone is looking for a potentially untapped market.

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Who buys this stuff?

September 19th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I don’t think that 4thletter is a unique site.  (Apologies to David.)  Sure, it has a bunch of writers who mix excellent taste with class and intelligence, but there are other sites which do that.  (Particularly the ones which hire me.)  At the same time, there are a lot of places more dedicated to comics news and comics commentary, than this site is.  Everyone who reads this post will be reading other sites, and will be commenting on message boards, and if they live in a big enough town, will have people they get together with to discuss comics.  What I’m saying is, add up everyone on this board and you cast a wide net, with a wide variety of tastes and preferences.

For all that comics tend to veer towards sex and violence these days, there is enough variety within them to cater to all these tastes and preferences.  Some comics are darker, some lighter, some for adults, some for kids, and so on.  What I’ve noticed, though, is that some comics will get an overwhelming bad reaction on every single site on which they’re mentioned.  Don’t get me wrong, there are individual defenders of the comics on each site.  But still, there are some which get a collective groan on every site and in every venue.  It’s almost common knowledge that these books suck.

And yet they’re still published.  More than that, they’re often so popular that they’re expanded on.  I don’t know how much of the comics community is represented online, but I can’t help but wonder, “Who buys this stuff?”  If every single forum I go to responds with contempt at the very mention of a certain character, book, or storyline, if the very idea of it is ridiculed in internet memes, if no one likes it; why is it so very, very popular?

Because often this stuff is flying off the shelves even as everyone on the internet denounces it.  I know it’s a cliche that the rage of net nerds is impotent and inflated.  I also know it’s a cliche that people often profess to hate something as soon as it has turned popular.  But I have to wonder how things get to be and continue to be so overwhelmingly popular even as everyone talks about how terrible they are. 

Have you noticed things that fly off the shelves even when those who are most passionate about comics hate them?

Have you seen who buys the stuff that most people don’t like?

Have you ever lied and said that you would never, ever buy that crap – and then gone somewhere incognito and bought that crap?

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What hath blog wrought?

March 9th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Rants are like flame wars; I tend to regret them.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of my life.

All right, the last part was just to complete the allusion.  Still, a moment’s post in anger tends to have long consequences.  (The first, of course, is a lot of hits.  There’s nothing like a rant to get people clicking, and I can’t blame them.  I love a good internet fight, too.) 

Sometimes you’re wrong.  Sometimes what you are ranting about gets reversed, taking away the anger and making you look like a goof.  And sometimes time goes on and you just don’t care as much as you once did, while the rant stays as fresh and angry as ever.

So, I probably should have anticipated the moment when David switched off the podcasting equipment after my second rant about Cry for Justice #7, and mentioned that the writer had gotten death threats.


Obviously, death threats are illegal, creepy, and stupid under all circumstances.  But there are other responses that, while legal and lighter, also make me feel bad for The Ranted.

The thing about a small community on the internet, is that when something happens, it can be hard to get away from it.  People all read the same thing at the same time, and they respond at the same time.  Sometimes they (like me) don’t read the original material, but see the event discussed on another site, and respond to that.  The more people write, the more people read, the more people respond, the bigger the thing gets, and often, the angrier people get about it.  Because it all happens at once, all that anger blasts out, and while each outburst of it might be in correct proportion to the event, the collective response can be bigger than the offense.

I’m not saying that any part of a response is wrong, or that people are wrong to write what they think (Except, of course, for the death threats.  For crying out loud, people!), but at the same time I can’t help but feel sorry for people who made one decision that just happened to implode the internet.

This isn’t my only response, of course.  Like I said, I like an internet fight.  Also, in situations like Cry for Justice, I often hope that big kerfuffles like this will inspire the company to reverse their decision.  Much as people like to pretend otherwise, they know that comics companies at least try to give them what they want.  Still, I feel a twinge of guilt for being part of the internet rage machine vomiting lava over someone.

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When Amateurs Should Turn Pro

February 23rd, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I couldn’t think of what to write for this entry.  First I scanned links on When Fangirls Attack, and Scans Daily, and various news sites, but I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to write about, so I just clicked random links and googled random things for an hour, until I found myself, once again, reading the-blackcat’s Batman and Sons series.

The Black Cat, posting on deviantart and on livejournal (as the_dark_cat) did a series about Bruce, Dick, Jason, Tim, and baby Terry living together as a family and the wacky domestic adventures they get into.  It’s syrupy and ridiculous.  It runs completely counter to the Batman tone and almost everything that is happening in comics right now, and it is one of my favorite things to read. 

I cannot believe how much I love this series and everything in it.  It’s not just the silly adventures – it’s the artist themself.

This is an example of someone how knows their comics so well that they have clearly gone nuts with it. 

That’s a scene at Chris Kent’s birthday party.  Yes, that’s the Creeper handing out balloons to Jade and some kid I don’t recognize because I don’t know comics as well as this person does.

Later Terry gets into a scuffle with the youngest Arrow kid, not only because in the limited number of strips that The Black Cat has created he has been established as a kind of pushy baby, but there has also been established a feud between the Bats and the Arrows, with the Supers acting as peacekeepers.

Let me put this bluntly:  This is a person who should be hired.  To do this.  Because this is freakin’ fantastic. 

There are in-jokes, there are sharply delineated characters, there are visual gags, there is a sense of timing and flow to the panels, and every strip tells a story.  Some stories are poignant, and some are sweet, and some are mean, and most are funny.  I recognize that this is not everyone’s kind of story, and that it has to lean on the Grim Bat Mythos to stand.  Still, this artist has it all, and is giving it to us in these strips.  I wish they could get paid for it.  And I wish that I could pay for an issue every month.

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February 16th, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

There was a huge upset, over at scans_daily, about a week ago.  I know.  How could that happen?  But some of us like scans_daily, in part, because of the fights.  This fight, however, frustrated me, because I’ve seen it too often.

I’ve seen a few too many arguments like this, lately, where someone does something dumb and offensive and then shouts at everyone who bothers to tell them that it’s offensive.  Here are the arguments that they always, always, without fail, make.

1.  But I didn’t know it was offensive.

2.  But I didn’t mean it to be offensive.

3.  But you should have been nicer to me when you explained what was wrong.

Number two has its variations (it was supposed to be funny, it was supposed to be satire, it’s not really important anyway), but number three?  Number three is the catchall.

People who invoke number three will use any excuse in the book to make it work.  They will use the excuse of politeness (there are certain ways we do things), and morality (don’t ever sink to their level!), and location (this isn’t the place for it), and loyalty (but I’m really on your side), and they love using practicality (You shouldn’t have to explain this but otherwise how will they learn?  However will they learn?).

I hate all of those arguments, because all of them – every single thing I’ve listed above – boil down to this assumption:

You have consider my feelings, and I don’t have to consider yours.

That’s what every single person who ever makes those arguments is saying.  That’s all they’re saying. 

And when the original offender himself comes on in the second page to thank the people who ‘defended’ him, and not the people who acquiesced to the demands of all the idiots, waded thigh-deep into the bog, and educated him? 

Man, I’m glad I can’t comment on that site since they moved to dreamwidth.  Trying to get through to him would have been one hell of a waste of a few days.

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May 6th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

The other day I was in a comics forum and saw a certain creator roasted in absentia.  Par for the course, so far.  We’re comics geeks.  We eat our own.  Most of the people in the forum joined in the, how shall I put this, unholy orgy of hate.  Again, that’s pretty normal for the internet, and I have, in the past, not been above joining a group that took pleasure in tearing into an innocent human being who has done nothing more than write a comic in a way I don’t approve of. 

This time, however, it surprised me.  A single apoplectic comics fan can happen anywhere.  And, of course, there are pockets of fan-worship and deep hatred depending on which section of the internet you stumble into.  On one site Frank Miller is a misunderstood genius.  On another he’s Satan incarnate.  But this creator would have been popular anywhere a couple of years ago.

I haven’t been a comics fan for all that long, but even in a few years, I’ve noticed that there can be a complete reversal of popular opinion about one creator or another.  Sometimes it can be as simple as having a huge build up to a disappointing run.  Sometimes it’s an unpopular decision about what to do with one character or another (although that usually is what gets editors in trouble).  Sometimes it’s an unfortunate public statement.

Sometimes, however, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it at all.  One year, the creator is the best thing happening, and then the tide turns.  Fans go from clamoring for more to screaming about how that’s enough already.

I wonder how comics professionals feel about this.  I suppose anyone in charge of a  comics company has resigned themselves to hatred, but what about those who depend on popularity for a living?  Do they live in dread that one day their name on a website will mean an avalanche of scorn and criticism?  I certainly would.

Fortunately, critics are immune.  Right?

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Fan Tantrums: Have Them Below. (I know I will.)

January 21st, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I was reading a scans_daily post about a Wonder Woman story quite some time ago.  In the story a deranged Green Lantern was attempting to destroy a race which had slaughtered his people.  The discussion threads were pretty standard; lewd comments, art critique, Simone-worship, and snarking about the story.  In other words, all the reasons why people read scans_daily.

But one comment stood out.  A poster went off, just went off, about how this comic was another horrible smear on the name of the Green Lanterns, and how there seemed to be a sort of conspiracy dedicated to refusing to let the Green Lanterns be the noble, scrupulous guardians of the galaxy they used to be.

From what I remember, the comment was not received well.  The responses ranged from telling the commenter to relax because that wasn’t the intention of the story, to outright mockery of the fan’s rage.  Still, I think that that comment struck a chord, because is there a fan in the world who is sure that they won’t be next?  Who among us doesn’t have a few characters that, if they’re not handled in a way we approve of, will have us do the forum-post equivalent of biting the head off of a live chicken painting our faces with its blood?

What I’m saying is; batten down the hatches and don’t read any more if you don’t want to be spoiled for Robin #182.

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September 19th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I know there must have been a stage when my interest in comics was something between non-existent and monomaniacal, but I don’t remember it. One day my fingers had never touched mylar, and the next I was ordering long boxes and clearing out my bookshelves.

My obsession began in my mid-twenties, in the mid-2000’s, which was a pretty good time to start the habit. I had a job that paid enough to order everything I needed and I could find what I needed easily, since comics culture was thriving on the internet. I could buy trades, and if they weren’t available, look up what issues referenced what storylines and buy full stories online.

Which is why it was a shock to me the first time I picked up a new issue and realized it would be a whole month before I got the next piece of the story. More than a shock. I think, in fact, we should have a clinic, or a hotline, or an online support service to deal with that.

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the feeling, but there are still comics which give me withdrawal pangs. Lately it’s been Secret Six and Blue Beetle. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Anyone else?

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One Sentence Entry

September 8th, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

I believe that a small part of every fanboy’s soul dies screaming whenever someone suggests that Superman would beat Batman in a fight.

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Everyone’s Life Sucks

June 30th, 2006 Posted by Wanderer

Over at Girls Read Comics Too, Karen Healy takes Joss Whedon to task for the current Hellfire Club arc in Astonishing X-Men:

    What is it with Whedon and strong women? Not Whedon and strong “girls”, or at least his version thereof – they all get happy endings, even when they are, in fact, unacknowledged sexual abusers*. But what happens to his women?

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