The latest run of Young Justice is called “Invasion,” and while it is not in any way the same, it draws certain elements off a late 80’s comics crossover called “Invasion,” in particular focusing on the discovery and exploitation of the Metagene and ways to eliminate powers, control metahumanity and the like, as well as the use of shapeshiftes (Durlans in the original).
“Invasion,” the comics crossover was plotted largely by Keith Giffen, working with scripter Bill Mantlo. Mantlo, known more for his Marvel work, where he created and developed long runs on the Micronauts and Rom, as well as creating properties like Cloak and Dagger, was involved in an automobile hit and run in 1992, which gave him irreparable brain damage. He had some progress getting better, after institutionalization, but his insurance ran out and he ended up in the only care facility his family could afford (and that just barely). The story is heart-rending for anyone to read. For someone who grew up with his comics, it is agony to think about.
DC? Warner? You don’t owe Bill Mantlo anything, legally. He did a job for you, did it well, was paid and you both move on. I don’t mean or want to claim otherwise. (I might have choice words for Marvel in this regard, but not DC). But here you are, drawing elements off work Mantlo did for you for a storyline in a popular cartoon. This is an opportunity. An opportunity for great press. An opportunity to have a public statement — to say “we recognize that we have no financial obligation to Bill Mantlo, but we and all the modern comics industry owes a lot to this man, and as the “Invasion” storyline develops, we want to demonstrate the kind of heroism we have always stood for.”
Please. Subsidize Mantlo’s care. It might be too late to give him the kind of recovery he once could have had, but at the least you can greatly improve his quality of life. At the least what progress could be made could be made.
I don’t have much I can offer as inducement, but here’s what I can offer. I’ve been critical of the New 52. I don’t apologize for that. But if you do this… I’ll buy every issue of every comic in the New 52 produced in its first year. It will take some time — I’m not particularly flush — but as long as they remain available via Comixology I’ll do it. I’ll buy all the good ones I couldn’t get to. I’ll buy all the ones I don’t care for. Hell, I’ll buy all the ones I actively dislike. Red Hood and the Outlaws? I’ll buy every. Stinking. Issue.
Like I said, it’s not much, but it’s what I can offer. It absolutely pales in comparison to what you can offer Bill Mantlo, his family and his legacy.
I’ve been asked what I’m actually looking forward to from the New 52, since… well, it sounds like I am hating all of DC and everything they do! Which I’m not. DC has always been my favorite comic book company, and it is entirely likely they will continue to be my favorite comic book company after all of this. The diversity issues have me deeply concerned, and I still think their core plan is deeply flawed (I’m still a huge fan of them having set all of this in a brand new iteration. Say on Earth-1, leaving ‘New Earth’ exactly as it was but transitioning to an entirely new DC Universe). Assuming we get some kind of answer in regards to their issues of diversity, I’m going to be looking at quite a bit of DC.
Admittedly, things like Justice League aren’t among them, and a big reason are the ones we’ve been going through quite a lot. Lack of women. Lack of non-white men. A feeling like we’re regressing instead of ‘relaunching.’
So. It seems like I have three basic types of forthcoming New 52 books: ones I’m actively interested in pursuing and looking forward to, ones I can take or leave based on what they actually turn out to be, and ones I’m not going to pick up. After the break, I’ll go through the lists. Why? Because… well, because.
We are on the far side of the San Diego ComiCon. This is a con where DC’s creators have had their most direct exposure to their current fanbase’s reactions to the New 52. In particular, they’ve heard loud and clear that the ongoing lack of gender parity both in the comics and behind the scenes creating them is, simply put, no longer acceptable.
Inevitably, this has led to backlash. The surest sign that a message is beginning to be heard is the annoyed and dismissive response by those not affected. I’ve heard the woman cosplaying as Batgirl being described as a bully. There was applause for Dan DiDio’s response (“well, who should we have hired”) to the question. The inevitable (overwhelmingly male) fatigue with the issue has begun to emerge.
Well, speaking as a male myself… get used to that fatigue, because the complaints are only going to get louder and more common.
There are two reasons for this. The first is simple: the complaints have merit. Women comprise just over fifty percent of the population. Inevitably, any popular media that refuses to acknowledge that is going to be accused of sexism, because it is in fact sexist.
Seriously. Having a brand new Justice League and having less than 50% women on it? Is a sexist decision. There is no way to justify it as anything else. Having a Teen Titans so out of whack demographically? Same deal. And no, the existence of the Birds of Prey doesn’t make up for it, any more than the existence of the Negro Baseball Leagues made up for the lack of black players in Major League Baseball pre-Jackie Robinson. Seperate is not and never will be equal.
But second, and significantly more importantly? The complaints will continue because the female readership is where all the growth is.
Seriously. The Manga explosion of the 90’s and early 2000’s created generations of female fans of sequential art. Adventure cartoons have huge female fanbases. (There is a reason the new Avatar is a girl.) And those women like superheroes. Young Justice has a big female fanbase. No shock — how many women were raised on The Powerpuff Girls and Kim Possible? And the whole My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic phenomenon comes from a cartoon being written for girls by creators who actually understand their audience produces not a “good girls’ cartoon” but a good cartoon, period. No wonder guys like it too.
Sooner or later, someone senior to the entire DC Entertainment hierarchy at Time Warner is going to notice all these consumers with all their money and all their complaints, and change will be imposed from above with all the force and subtlety of a meteor. Why? Because executives like money and there’s piles of it to be made, and shareholders don’t like loud, legitimate claims of sexism. The current creative team at DC can take great, legitimate strides towards fixing it before that happens, but they actually have to take them.
And that’s a big reason for the backlash now. Folks who like comics the way they are resent the implication they need to change. They certainly resent the accusation of sexism because they don’t see themselves as sexist and don’t like being told something they love is sexist. It feels like a personal attack. “If you like current superhero comics and current superhero comics are sexist, you must be a sexist yourself!” And they deny it vociferously.
And those denials? End up being sexist whether intentional or not. The woman who wore the costume of her hero stood up at every panel and spoke truth to power. That takes guts. The idea that woman was a bully is ridiculous. Women demanding that comics recogize who they are and treat their depictions and their talents accordingly aren’t bullying anyone. They’re refusing to be bullied. Trashing someone for speaking out against rampent sexism isn’t cutting through to the truth — it’s supporting that sexism and decrying people for not accepting it.
There’s nothing heroic about that, and DC has to get out of the business of championing it. Those who defend it or attack the fight against it have forgotten what being a hero is all about.
So, we’ve pretty much put the idea that the New 52 (I refuse to quote any more lyrics) means appropriate and much less exploitative costumes to death. All right, it had been killed pretty much the nanosecond that the new Harley Quinn redesign focused on her hitherto unknown sideline as a Juggalo Suicidegirl.
Actually, that’s not fair. Plenty of Juggalos are peace-loving folks down with the clown dressed to impress and stay warm, and the Suicidegirls we’ve known have been universally cool and wouldn’t be caught dead in that costume. All right. Harley has a sideline dressing like the way a relatively nice but terminally vanilla artist thinks a Juggalo Suicidegirl would dress after only hearing verbal descriptions of the two groups given by a 13 year old boy without internet access. But I digress.
Anyway. People are now reacting to Starfire’s newly revealed (get it?) uniform. And I’ll admit, it’s completely egregious. I mean… demicup pasties, a pair of football shoulderpads spraypainted purple, PVC thigh-highs and underwear, and a glowing ruby strategically placed over her mons? Really?
Actual Wednesday Quote Upon Seeing This Costume: It’s like… they didn’t even bother to aim the Vajazzler.
And yet, many if not most commenters — even the ones normally horrified by such things — are okay with this one. And so am I. The thinking is this: it’s Starfire. Starfire gets to be sexual. It’s part of her character, her backstory, her culture. She spent an unusually large amount of 52 naked in front of Animal Man and Adam Strange. What do you expect — she premiered less than a year after Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which makes perfect sense since she’s a complete golden skinned hybrid of the Deltans and the Klingons. Her aesthetic is the embodiment of the seventies.
So that’s not really why I’ve got the picture up here. That doesn’t offend me.
Her ribs do.
Starfire is legitimately curvy and voluptuous. Further, she’s a muscular warrior — soft but with a core of steel. She should never look like she needs a freaking sandwich!
I blame Roy Harper. You know he got her hooked on meth chased with cough syrup or something.
We have spoken about what we know so far about the DC Universe slight shift in occasional continuity around the stuff that Dan DiDio misses from when he was ten years old, the bits Geoff Johns and Jim Lee have found the perfect people to remake ever so much better than anyone has done before in the past seventy years — namely, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee — and the bits Grant Morrison has said he wants to completely remake from scratch under threat of holding his breath until he turns the various colors of the Emotional Spectrum.
I’m sorry, we’re supposed to call it a ‘reboot.’ Or “The New 52.” Which I can’t say without hearing the theme song of The New Zoo Revue playing in my head, which makes me consider the possibility that this is Dan DiDio’s attempt to drive us all completely insane.
However, this particular essay isn’t about all of that. You’ve seen my broad stroke thoughts on the subject, and anything else I elect to write on it would devolve down to the usual fannish arm waving and declarative sentences. You can substitute in any basic fan theories and “what they should dos” and you’ll get the gist, if not the substance. No, this essay is on the thing that actually has changed — and which signals the first big salvo in the end of comic books as we have always known them. Namely, same-day digital publishing. A thing I am entirely in favor of it.
Naturally, of course, the way they’re doing it could be absolutely disastrous, but you’ve come to expect that from me, haven’t you? A little bit? Maybe?
More after the obligatory break. As a bonus, somewhere down there is a picture of 80’s Hair Iron Man.
As is well known in… well, most of the circles that would be reading this, the DC Universe is going to be “rebooting” in September, with fifty-two separate brand new first issues of fifty-two brand new-or-newly-restarted comic book series.
You’ll note that I put quotes around “rebooting” above. That’s because despite liberal use of the term, this isn’t actually a reboot. As I’ve said elsewhere, at best it’s a few patches and edits being made to a save file.
As with any decision made by a large comic book company, there has been a huge discussion and debate surrounding DC Comics’s plans. People are upset about their favorite comics being tampered with. People are upset about favorite characters disappearing and other characters being changed beyond recognition (or, indeed, being changed into something too recognizable, in the case of Barbara “was-Oracle-now-once-again-Batgirl” Gordon. People are upset over the choices being made, the pants that some heroines are getting, and the fact that Superman isn’t wearing red swim trunks any longer.
And I’ll admit, I’m one of those people. I’ve been quite critical of this moderate shift in continuity. I think it’s ill advised at best and potentially disastrous at worst.
You see… I don’t think they’re going anywhere near far enough with it.