February 6, 2008

Breaking Legs and Avoiding The Facts

It all started, innocently enough, with an offhand drawing in Batman # 673. A dream sequence, where Batman views a display case with three Robin costumes - two male, one female. One of the talking points of Girl Wonder seems to have come true...and of course, victory was declared.

Or was it? Dirk Deppey of Journalista countered with his opinion, which was to patronizingly dismiss the "Girl Wonder crowd"...and then state that, since children were the driving force behind comic sales, that reinstating the Comics Code Authority - and making comics "for kids" again - would help save comics.

Personally, I think both sides...could use a little shot of rationality.

(Disclaimer - yes, I have been linked to by When Fangirls Attack, and I am sympathetic to their thinking. But I would not consider myself part of the "Girl Wonder" crowd, nor - I honestly believe - would they)

First, about the display case - although it was a nice gesture on DC's part, it was - let's face it - superficial. One can imagine Dan DiDio mocking Girl Wonder, saying out loud, "Are you happy now?" (Of course, rumored plans to bring back the Spoiler character seem to make this... well, more a gesture of rudeness and contempt than generosity).

But Mr. Dippey's argument...It would be easy to call him backwards-thinking, dismissive of the growing influence of graphic literature. (And yes, I am ironically doing so by saying how easy it is). Rather than focus on making comics more women-friendly, or even child-friendly, I propose a radical idea:

Make comics better. Promote good comics. Avoid and openly criticize bad ones. Invest in a diverse range of comics.

It's easy, on the comics blogosphere, to rant and rave about everything that's wrong. Heck, I've done it myself - I can't remember the last time I openly mocked Joe Quesada (who seems to approach Colbert-ian levels of self-parody). But when was the last time anyone openly said, "Hey, here's a great alternative - it's not as well known, but deserves your love and attention". It's not easy - it's simpler to be cynical, and cast stones at the Big Two simply because they're there.

But let's face it - right now, we're in the midst of a changing media world. Comics that deserve our attention...should get our attention. The Big Two will always go for their main demographic - 25 to 35 year olds. Attempting to get them to cater to women...well, it would be much like a DVD I tried to watch, which was titled Comics Women Pajama Party (Since I am trying to forget that DVD, I may be misremembering the title). It trafficked in typical female-comics-fan stereotypes, and had the pretension of "appealing" to those who could not believe girls could be comics fans. I would hate to see how the Big Two would appeal to kids.

It also means a shift in economics - the only way the Big Two will be affected is in their pocketbooks. (And by "affected", I don't mean "illegal downloading" - that's wasting bandwidth on bad books). It means that, for smaller companies, the difference between self-sufficiency and closing its doors early. It means a possible next issue of a book that someone might like. It might even mean (gasp) a comic being referred to someone who typically wouldn't like comics.

However, I am sure that Mr. Dippey will post a rebuttal, telling me how wrong I am, and how comics are a dying art form. The Big Two may be dying...but graphic literature has taken some major strides. To impose creative limits at this stage does a great disservice to actual mature storytelling. (And in all honesty, most of what DC and Marvel do is adolescent pandering. So I'll agree with Mr. Dippey on that point).

But the best thing anyone can do - help move comics forward. Not take steps backward.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

If the big two take hits in their profits they don't produce better books they just create dumber more controversial more scandalous and negative stories. You want the big two to change and be more responsible support their books their do it right and spread the word on that. Then those writers that get what comics should be will be in charge and make things better.