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.