Monday, August 12, 2013

What Mark Millar Doesn't Get

Could fill a lot more than one blog post as proven by Millar's recent tone-deaf comments concerning depictions of rape versus violence within his work. But two very different views of one comic in particular may shed a little light on what Millar and many more still don't get.

A few years ago when I still worked full time at Graham Crackers Comics, a lot of our time was spent talking about comics. A shocking pastime for comic shop employees, I know. We talked about what we liked more often than what we didn't, though we would oblige any customer that asked for our honest opinion (haunted vaginas and pentagram boob tassels - apparently there is a place in the world of comics for books like Tarot). Healthy debates about the merits of comics and creators thrived. Was the work of Alan Moore still the benchmark to which we compared the best of the best superhero titles? Was the ending of Final Crisis satisfying for anyone? Are there really readers out there that have read and disliked Preacher

Top sellers were sure to be discussed, especially if they were receiving an upcoming movie adaptation. Casual readers would come into the store looking for these books and with their curiosity comes a lot of questions. When Mark Millar and J.G. Jone's Wanted was adapted for the big screen, the trade paperback was re-released with a special movie variant cover. We saw a lot of those books cross our counter, with Anegelina Jolie's photoshop disaster worthy manipulation gracing every cover. Much like its poster, the film bares little resemblance to the source material, so any time customers would ask about the comic, we'd be sure to let them know that it does not include a society of ancient weaver assassins. This is a story where the bad guys win and the protagonist never makes the leap from villain to anti-hero as the trajectory of the book implies. 

Wanted trade paperback movie variant cover, Mark Millar says something stupid, Top Cow, Wanted comic
Poor J.G. Jones did not draw these tangled human appendages

In one of our Tuesday morning discussions, a co-worker of mine asked what I thought of Mark Millar and I said that I enjoyed his  licensed character work for Marvel and DC, but found his original concepts often had questionable uses of violence, particularly sexual violence. It felt like there was no editor sending feedback challenging these choices, so every ill advised decision made it into the final story. It's such a prevalent trend in his work that it makes one think that Millar's Civil War might have been a very different story without a PG-13 constraint. The conversation shifted to Wanted and I said that I found it greatly disturbing how Millar used rape in the story. My co-worker looked at me a bit puzzled and said, I don't remember there being a rape in that book. Think about that for a minute. The main character rapes someone and it is forgotten.

I refreshed my co-worker's fuzzy memory and reminded her of the brief use of rape in the story. After having discovered that he is the son of one of the world's most prominent super villains, the main character decides to embrace his legacy by embarking on a crime spree. He then complains to a fellow character that he is disappointed his rape of a movie starlet didn't make the evening news. It's a brief moment in the book, and the rape is not depicted. It is a flippant remark that readers like my co-worker (and many more I'm sure) would have read and quickly forgotten.  Imagine how different the Wanted film would have been had James McAvoy's character bragged to Angelina Jolie about raping someone.

Millar has attempted to justify his use of rape within comics as a means to demonstrate the truly depraved nature of evil characters. But clearly this lazy insertion of rape as plot device had the exact opposite of intended consequences for Millar and the audience; readers could literally forget it even happened in Wanted. The only part about this interaction that feels authentic is that no one in the story is phased by this information. Mark Millar doesn't see the difference between rape and decapitation, so why should his characters?

No matter what terrible thing a creator makes a character do in a story, it is a decision made by the creator. Context matters as much as the actions depicted, and the frequency of said actions within the real world cannot be disregarded. If a person is mutilated in front of a crowd of people, there will be no debate as to whether the victim "wanted it". A victim of gun violence will not first be asked if they were drinking, by themselves, or what they were wearing. Women don't often worry about a drunk acquaintance attempting to cut off their head.

Sorry Mr. Millar but you might not know the difference between rape and decapitation, but 1 in 6 of your female readers know the difference all too well. I couldn't find any statistics on the prevalence of decapitation, though your readers with first hand experience in that area are most assuredly non existent. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Death of Blogging: Long Live The Hivemind

As of late, readers may have noticed our absence from the world of comic book blogging. But visits to our tumblr, facebook, or twitter pages will reveal a different narrative. I recently provided photography coverage at San Diego Comic Con for the Comics Beat, a leading comic book news website. Soon we will begin a regular monthly column focused on the world of comic book retail, Sell It Like It Is, for Woman Write About Comics. In other words, despite appearances here on the homefront, we're busier than ever blogging about comics.

It is a little sad, but the one woman operation blogs have been on the decline for quite some time. I think I joined the comic blogging community right at the beginning of the end, when the growth of  one's audience still depended more on the content than the place it was posted. With the rise of more interactive and timely platforms like tumblr and twitter, comic book blogging is still content driven, but depending on the outlet, some signals get a much larger boost than others. If people aren't reading the feed so to speak, blogging on a platform with a dwindling community yields smaller returns than say posting to tumblr. There are still plenty of homes for longform comic book essays and reviews, but more often bloggers are joining forces to form collectives. Over at Women Write About Comics, the success of their past blog carnivals showed that joining forces not only extended the scope of conversations on a single topic, but they brought a whole lot more eyeballs, too. In this sense, the rise of group blogs (or resurgance considering the once popular LiveJournal communities) is a good thing for fostering more in depth analysis of topics within comics. 

Splitting ones' own thoughts up amongst the hive mind of various social media platforms feels both repetitious and fractured at times, but we will do our best to compile our internet footprint here at home. We'll start with our San Diego Comic Con coverage at the Comics Beat:

Beast cosplayer SDCC2013, San Diego Comic Con, Marvel, Hank McCoy

Tons of cosplay, crowd images, toys, and more; we were really overwhelmed by the convention on our first day. It's a lot to take in, especially for a sleep deprived first timer like myself.

Felicia Day, Dark Horse Comics, The Guild, SDCC2013, San Diego Comic Con

By Friday I had really found my stride as far as navigating the con floor and figuring out how to get the most out of the convention. I took more chances with attending signings and tried to engage in every interactive experience I could find, though I missed the Hannibal panel that I so desperately wanted to attend (I watched it online later).

Grant Morrison, SDCC13, San Diego Comic Con

The second half of Friday was when things really got crazy and the events that transpired provided our most memorable comic con moments. I randomly ran into Grant Morrison on the street and asked him if he was cosplaying as Grant Morrison before realizing it was in fact him. Then I attended a special launch party for Petco's upcoming line of Star Wars themed pet accessories, an event that involved lots of cosplaying dogs. And to top off the day we attended the Eisner Awards, where we saw Challengers Comics + Conversation win the Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. Oh and we met Neil Gaiman. Best single day ever?

Clark Gregg, Marvel, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., SDCC13, San Diego Comic Con, Agent Coulsen

Saturday at Comic Con is as crazy and packed as one would imagine. Sadly, this was my last day on the con floor, so there was an added sense of panic to shoot all of the things and buy all of the gifts. We did not attend any panels, but we did get to see the cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. signing at the Marvel booth, and though we were not as close to see the cast of Captain America 2: Winter Soldier during their appearance, we will still brag that we did in fact breathe the same air as Chris Evans. 

Harley Quinn and Joker Cosplayers, nuclear family, SDCC13, San Diego Comic Con, DC, Batman

The end of the day and the end of our comic con experience. Plenty more cosplay photos, a picture of me looking extremely wonk-eyed next to Brandon Bird, and photos of the massive crowds leaving the convention floor.

Ashely Challenger and Neil Gaiman, Eisner Awards, SDCC13, San Diego Comic Con, Spirit of Retailer Award, Challengers Comics + Conversation

"In the weeks and months leading up to the annual spectacle known as “San Diego Comic Con”, dread of this event is expressed as frequently as anticipation by attendees, professionals, and fans staying home. The cost, the planning, the con crud; these are a few of fandom’s least favorite things, and they are all mainstays of SDCC. But what about the comics, many say? Why must the news of films overshadow the beloved source material from which they came? Why should comic fans have to tolerate the droves of people only attending to get a glimpse of their favorite actors? For those that miss the comic con of yore, these are valid complaints...."

Like transporters of the future, being in many places at once (on the internet) is easier and more common than ever. We will still create original content here, but we hope you enjoy our expanded roles elsewhere, too.