Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Things I'm Pondering

I've been reading a lot in the comics blogosphere lately about feminism in comics, female characters, exploitation of same, costume issues, gratuitous ass shots, etc. I've read arguments from one end to the other. We support what's there when we buy it, so do we have the right to complain? Do comics publishers owe us anything? I have no answers, just questions right now.

If we don't support what's being published, is there a danger comics, especially from the big companies that need to make a certain profit margin, go belly up? Would they decide to become even more exploitive in an attempt to generate sales, making things worse?

If we do buy what's being published and think it's exploitive, do we have the right to complain because we've paid for that right? If we buy that stuff, do we sound like whiny-assed crybabies, because if we don't like something, we shouldn't buy it?

If we don't buy or read comics, or a particular comic, do we still have the right to bitch about it? What if the reason we bitch is valid and if it's changed, we would become paying consumers of it?

How subjective is this? Is your exploitation my exploitation and/or vice versa?

Can good write compensate for "exploitive" art? Is great art enough to make up for mediocre or uninspired writing?

A suggestion, especially for horribly late comics, has been to wait for the trades. But not every comic gets a trade, and if they don't sell well, would we, by not supporting them, cause the companies to not issue trades?

Which is a more effective form of protest? Complaints in various media/formats (blogs, letters, emails, bitching at local comics sellers) or not buying the things (protest by wallet)?

Consumers of any product expect certain standards. If those standards aren't met, and customer support won't help, consumers move to the competition. Don't like Gateway, anymore? Buy a Dell, or even a Mac. But is that a viable alternative for entertainment media? Is subbing one title for another equivalent entertainment?

Like it or not, readers become invested in longstanding characters. The creators and owners should have final say, but to expect readers not not complain when things aren't to their liking is rather ostrich-like, IMO. Readers who get that involved are loyal folks who will keep reading. Comics readers will buy issues they don't like to keep a complete collection. Unlike books, comics don't all appear in libraries. To read them means to borrow from friends or buy them. Paper is expensive so prices will go up for quality printing. People complain about prices of anything they buy; it's not just comics readers.

DC and Marvel and any of the others owe us nothing, but they owe us everything, because without us, they have no reason to publish. So much entertainment media is grappling with a changing public dynamic, from the music industry dealing with downloads, now to the movie/tv industry dealing with the same. Book publishers have POD, ebooks, audiobooks, etc to work into their business plans. Comics more and more are being offered online. Print comics need to evolve to maintain a consumer base. That means appealing to the broadest demographic possible that will pay for the product, so alienating a group of readers (females, for ex, or people of color, or people who prefer sexual partners of their own sex) is not a good business practice. If they're happy with the way things are, then maybe it's fine, but if they want to keep growing their readership, unh unh. Bottom line economics is the ruling factor, and that means producing a product lots of people want to buy.

If we buy it and think it's flawed, our circular argument goes, are we simply rewarding that which we don't like. If we don't buy Supergirl, for ex, how would we know what's going on, if things get any better, what's happening in Kara's life? Maybe one person can buy it and tell the other thousands of us.

But I have to believe publishers want to put out a good product, that they are sincere when they say they want to make things better and simply don't do a good job of it or as good as some would wish, and not because they don't give a shit. Otherwise, things would not have changed at all over the years, and after reading comics for 46 years and counting, I can say with conviction that they have.

I was looking at Courtney/Stargirl's costume in the recent JSA. Those bike shorts are skin tight and almost as exploitive as Kara's short skirt, and sit almost as low on her hips as Kara's skirt does. Her top is almost as high, too. In looking at the old Supergirl comic, I think Kara's old panties were as short as her current skirt, although she was a few years older in that book. So no, some things haven't changed. But for me, I want attractive costumes. Yeah, an inch or two more fabric would be better, but anything after Jesse Quick's breast Q looks positively wonderful. What I want is to see these characters, like the men, be well-written, fully developed, interesting, intelligent, capable. Then the costumes won't matter so much, same as the tight spandex on the guys.

As for late comics, well, sometimes, I just want to read the stories and I'm not as into trades. To wait for a trade means yet a longer wait. I hold miniseries til I have all the parts these days after George Perez burned me twice on Crimson Plague. But I think I'll drop All-Star Batman and Robin because, unlike All-Star Superman, it hasn't been worth waiting for.

We all have to make our own decisions on these issues. And we get to discuss it because it is our passion. And we can give others new ways to look at the issues that might affect their decisions. But it's always going to be subjective and what works for one reader won't for another and that's okay. I'm a follower of Wittgenstein's uh, concept of concepts and that means my definition of exploitation might not be as wide as the next person's.

I hope DC and Marvel are paying attention, because we are their consumers, and one of these days, we will stop complaining and vote with our money. And then comics might go the way of the dinosaur, which no one wants, certainly not Marvel and DC.

Just some longwinded pondering from yours truly.

11 comments:

  1. Great entry, Shelly

    I tend to support books I want to succeed, even if I'm not necessarily loving it. For example, I now know that Black Panther has gotten better because I continue following it.

    My thing is that I'd like to promote change and it would be hypocritical of me to say things need to change, yet I plan not to see if you're doing it.

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  2. Thanks, Loren.

    My main point, I guess, is that there is no one way to go about promoting change and that there's nothing wrong with wanting it. But we're all not going to agree on what that change should be and we shouldn't criticize people who don't look at this the same way we do. There are no easy answers.

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  3. Yeah, some of the recent posts that are funny, but with messages like "don't blog" and "stop complaining". Reviews and feedback, that's a big part of what comic blogging is about. Nice post.

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  4. Thanks.

    Now I'm pondering if I should bother reading WW 4 now, or wait til I have the end of the story whenever that may be. ;)

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  5. shelly - I just posted a long train of thoughts in response over at ink destroyed my brush, so check it out and let me know if you agree.

    You ask a great number of important questions, ones that generally have more effect upon being asked than being answered. Good job!

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  6. Talk about timing. I was just reading that post and commenting when I saw your comment pop in!

    As you'll see, I'm a bit less cynical and a bit more undecided. The whole personal taste thing really determines what I'll read or not read and I'm fairly tolerant.

    Hmmm.... wonder what DC would think if I boycotted male character books unless they added more butt shots. ;)

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  7. Great post. :)

    I tend to think that feedback helps and I think the comic industry is more accessible than say... the movie industry in taking fan-generated feedback. :)

    There's 2 ways to look at it. That if you dun like it, you dun buy it and then the comic industry will change their ways.

    Or, that if you dun buy it, you've lost your right to complain b/c you dun buy it neways.

    I dunno XD I personally buy comics cuz I like comics and I want them to be good. If they're not good, I complain, and tell other ppl that they're not good >.>

    If I just tuned all comics out, I think DC would just focus on the ppl still reading, and on those TYPES of ppl, i.e. not me.

    Neways, I think your post was rly nuanced, and I liked it, esp with the stuff lately about "if you dun like it, dun read it, period", which I think is a narrow point of view. :)

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  8. Hi, Ami,

    Thanks for your comments. I think I agree with all of them, but I'm middle-aged and don't speak webspeak, so I didn't understand half of what you said. ;)

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  9. Aww ok :) Well it's not rly that different, but I'll fix it for you :D

    Great post. :)

    I tend to think that feedback helps and I think the comic industry is more accessible than say... the movie industry in taking fan-generated feedback. :)

    There's 2 ways to look at it. That if you don't like it, you don't buy it and then the comic industry will change their ways.

    Or, that if you don't buy it, you've lost your right to complain b/c you don't buy it anyways.

    I don't know XD I personally buy comics cuz I like comics and I want them to be good. If they're not good, I complain, and tell other people that they're not good >.>

    If I just tuned all comics out, I think DC would just focus on the people still reading, and on those TYPES of ppl, i.e. not me.

    Anyways, I think your post was really nuanced, and I liked it, especially with the stuff lately about "if you don't like it, don't read it, period", which I think is a narrow point of view. :)

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  10. Thanks, Ami. :)

    It might not seem all that different to you, but it sure does to me. ;)

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  11. I don't mind. :) I understand that not everybody knows my chatspeak :D It's just the way I like to type and sound XD

    However, if ppl ask nicely, I'm always willing to accomodate them :D It's when ppl start insulting me and telling me I HAVE to type like they do, that I tune them out XD

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