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Life Skills for Fanboys: Comicsgate Continues

written by Tony DiGerolamo, Copyright 2018

To further my goal of helping fellow fanboys, I have included an index of links of previous columns with their topics.  Don’t take it personal, I’m just trying to help.  Previous columns are indexed at the end.

The Latest

Gail Simone, who has been in the mix raging against Comicsgate for a while, has posted one and two Facebook posts on the subject recently.

Now I know Gail about as well as Ethan Van Sciver and that is, we may have crossed paths at a con but beyond that—  I don’t know her personally.  My closest encounter with her online is that I was going through a time of following various comic book pros on Twitter.  She was among them.  Then, one day long before comicsgate, I looked at my Twitter feed and noticed six or seven tweets in a row from her.  Deciding that was too much for anyone to tweet, I unfollowed her or muted her.  I forget.

Anyhow, let’s get into her posts.

Gail Post One

“I have a question about conventions and comics gaters.  This is two incidents. It might not mean a damn thing. But I’m curious if others are seeing it, too. They might not be connected at all.”

Okay.  I’ll respond.

“I was at DragonCon a couple weeks ago, and it was one of the funnest Artist Alleys I have ever been to. Lots of room, people having fun, everyone smiling, very different from some of the bigger con AAs.”

Other than having lots of room, that’s pretty standard at DC.  Go on…

“Now, I don’t follow individual creator gater accounts, I don’t care about these people and their pathetic harassment movement.”

Let me stop you right there Gail.  I think that’s obviously not true.  You’re a writer for DC Comics.  And not just one of the random ones, a pretty decent name.  That’s kind of like saying you’re a star baseball player in the Major Leagues and you’re about to lay down some wisdom to some guys in the AAA’s, but that you don’t really care.  One must ask, “Then why are you bothering to post at all?”  I’m going to set aside your characterization of comicsgate as a harassment movement, but let’s say that’s true for the moment.

Why are you giving them air time on your Facebook page?  Again, this is like a star player in Majors calling out some no-name nobody for their behavior.  It shows that you’re already weak and insecure about your own position in the world.

And, for the record, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a “harassment movement”.  I’m pretty sure Meyer and crew have said some nasty things, but standing mostly on the outside of this, it’s hard to parse that because of the hyperbolic, emotionally charged language coming out of the “anti-comicsgate” side.  I was threatened and I felt my first piece on the subject was pretty centrist.  You’re eating up your side’s credibility fairly rapidly with this strategy, regardless of whether or not you have a point.

“But as far as I could tell, there was only one known gater creator with a booth. I’m not going to mention his name because fuck that guy. But he seemed to be the only one, a fake internet tough guy lately, who went on a goofy rant about an artist a thousand times more talented and influential recently.”

So Ken Griffey Jr. is in spring training and “walks by” the AAA training and hears some young upstart talking smack about someone above him.  Again, it begs the question, “Why do you even care?”

“Now here’s the thing, I had met this guy, a few years back, and he was smiling and pleasant and I liked his work and talked to him about variant covers for a project I was working on (ironically, the artist for that project vetoed the guy flat as not being any good, and that artist is ALSO a prominent gater).  But the key is, he was nice, he was friendly, and his booth was busy. That was a few years back.”

So here’s the thing: you’re saying that one of the comicsgaters vetoing another comicsgater’s artwork on a project is ironic.  Thing is, that’s pretty common in this industry.  Now that they’re in the same camp years later only speaks to your own tone deaf take on what comicsgate is.  It’s a reaction to establishment politics in an industry that was not meant to be so political.  I would still trust that the gaters would be able to distinguish quality artwork outside their political views.  It doesn’t sound to me that you can anymore because you’ve allowed things to get so polarized and the politics are more important to you.

And yes, you are partly to blame for this.  You keep feeding comicsgate.  This rant is more fuel for the fire.  What choice do these artists have when you won’t acknowledge the basic truths?  The entertainment industry has a hugely liberal bent.  Standing on top of an ivory tower with you arms folded acting like you’re not liberal you’re just smugly correct isn’t going to help.  Doesn’t matter what some of the gaters have done on Twitter.  Shit happens on Twitter and when some nameless nobody screams at you, you block ’em.  End of story.  You wanna call him names too and get him removed from Twitter?  Congrats.  You’ve just lowered yourself to their level.  You’re just as bad and actually worse because you have power in the comics world.  He doesn’t.

“I could see his booth from my table at DC. The booths around him were constantly crowded. And I swear, almost NO ONE stopped at this gater’s booth the entire time. And he was no longer pleasant. He had an angry scowl on his face the entire four days, actually looked hostile to the people giving him a cursory glance, like he was furious the whole time.”

Why are you being so coy about this?  Just say it.  You think comicsgate has turned him evil and toxic and thus—  No one wants to come to his table.  How busy was your table that you could surmise this?  I’m not buying this assessment.  Seems like you’re taking some observations to validate your already well known opinion.

“And his art had lost all of it’s cheesy fun, which had been horror-oriented. Now, it just looked drab, it was drab, kind of tepid superhero stuff, not much different from the goons who splatter paint on someone else’s art and say it’s theirs. He was still talented, but there was no spirit in his work anymore.”

Again, you’re punching down.  Waaaaay down.  And you expect me to believe that Gail Simone, a well known comics writer, was so free at her table that she had the time to observe another table closely enough to notice all this?  Either the con was dead for both of you or you’re making sweeping judgments based on furtive glances between signing Catwoman comics.

“It made me think of another incident, a small East Coast Con where a similar thing happened. I was at the Dynamite booth, and I could see this prominent gater with a huge following and resume, and again, just no one stopping at his table. I had never seen anything like it with this guy. Brand new creators with no resumes at all were having more people stop.”

Pretty weak sauce, Gail.

“This is two incidences. That’s not a lot of evidence. It might not be evidence at all.  But it makes me wonder. Are conventions just not the place for Comics gaters, and if not, why not?”

Remember the East Coast/West Coast rap battles?  This would kind of be like Tupac saying he went to a Biggie concert and there weren’t that many people there.  Are East Coast rappers not drawing the crowds anymore?  It’s no evidence, Gail and I think you probably know that.  This just seems like a launching point for you and the choir to start pushing comicsgaters out of comic book conventions and polarizing that already too tiny a marketplace.  Well, good news, it’s already happened in Canada.  (BTW, I’m saying “good news” sarcastically.  I think this is a disaster.)

“Is it really just an internet phenomenon? Or is it possibly that most gater followers don’t actually buy comics or attend conventions?”

Considering the gobs of money Sciver and Meyer are raising, I’d have to say that you’re either completely tuned out or just being incredibly disingenuous.  And how exactly would you even know who buys comics?  Are you selling stuff at your table?  DC is doing that for you, right?  That’s a bit different than striking out on your own and having to make sales at cons.

“I am going to again separate people who are conservative from this goofy movement. I still have a lot of conservative friends who hate these creeps as much as the rest of humanity.”

So here’s where Gail sets the bar: you’re okay if you hate the same people I hate.  You know, the movement she cares so little about she won’t stop talking about it or intently watching its members at conventions.

“But it does seem like there’s something there. There has to be at least a little bit of an explanation why these people just barely seem to exist suddenly.”

Pretty simple.  Every action creates and equal and opposite reaction.  Much like what happened in the 2016 election.  The left side of politics have overplayed their hand.  That doesn’t mean the left side of politics doesn’t have good points, it just means it’s gone too far.  It was too much to put “Ask me about my Feminist Agenda” on a T-shirt on a popular comics character.  It was too much to suddenly flip half the characters in the Marvel Universe and bitch about Trump in its pages.  And the smug, from-on-high attitude.  And the response that everyone is “toxic” who doesn’t agree.

Too much, Gail.  Too much.  That’s how you got comicsgate.

And by ranting about it and insisting that comicsgate have no valid points, you’re making it worse.  Much worse.  I know comics pros and indy guys that are creeping closer and closer to the comicsgate camp everyday because you’re giving them no choice.  There’s no out.  There’s the acceptable liberal opinion, the acceptable “others” that tacitly agree with you and then everyone else in the camp of “because fuck that guy”.  You’re not being reasonable or credible.

Stop punching down.

“I’m not saying it matters to them, they may well feel they don’t NEED traditional comics buyers anymore, as long as they keep getting indiegogo money from angry non-readers. “Wingnut welfare” someone called it recently.  But it’s curious.”

You’re not fooling anyone with this passive aggressive “it’s really them” strategy.  YOU and your side are driving away traditional comics readers.  Traditional comics readers enjoyed Thor, as a man, for many years.  They know the original Ice Man was not gay.  They also are mostly guys.  The same guys, by the way, that bought the comics about Northstar, an actual organically created gay X-man.  Not this retro-fit, let’s-take-advantage-of-the-trend-like-the-Rawhide-Kid new Ice Man.

So please, the comicsgate phenomenon is driven by comics fans who have had enough of being preached to, not “non-readers”.  WTF are they?  I’ll tell you who doesn’t traditionally buy superhero comics:  Women.  Superhero comics have always appealed to mostly boys and you’re well aware of that fact.  You can keep hammering in women empowerment stories all you want, but I don’t expect to see a comics rack in the Victoria’s Secret store any time soon.  Female readers in the U.S. like Manga.  That’s why the Anime conventions here are jam packed with girls.  Are you planing to “balance the scales” there too?  How about at Payless Shoes and for Oprah magazine and those stores where you paint and drink wine?  Men and women like different things, it’s not a crime.  Sorry you feel left out in a hobby that traditionally appeals to men, but I see no reason why your women empowerment comics can’t be sold alongside of the traditional superhero ones.  But if they don’t sell, then maybe you should do Manga where your audience appears to be.

“So I am asking people who maybe have been paying more attention. Are cons avoiding inviting these people? Have they alienated the traditional fan with all the hate rhetoric?”

No.  YOU have.  For saying things like “hate rhetoric” and expecting us to agree or to take the hit for disagreeing with you.  It would be like answering the question, “Are you a traditional fan of comics or are you a supporter of wife beating?”  You’re framing every answer as a zero sum game.  Agree with me, but if you don’t you’re screwed “because fuck that guy”.

“I honest to god have no idea, but these two incidences seemed very out-of-step with all my previous experience with these two creators.  Could totally be coincidence. But I am wondering if gaters are seeing it at the cons they are invited to or simply attend.”

Yeah, you’re just innocently wondering about that “pathetic harassment movement” you have no interest in, that you ignore, but notice sharp declines in artistic spirit, fanbase and overall tone.  You’re just randomly asking questions like do you agree with me or hate because, hey, you’re just your average major name in comics, wandering along on Facebook, minding your own business, oh, but “fuck that guy”.

Post 2

“I have one more stray thought about comics gate and then I’m done for the day.”

Well, I’m certainly glad you “don’t care about these people”.

“There’s no pretending what this group is about. You can’t be an adult and toe the party line that this isn’t a movement that started because some female editors at Marvel had the temerity to take a photo celebrating the life of a beloved Marvel legend. They took a sweet moment honoring an important figure in comics history and her legacy, and made it all about themselves and their personal failings. They harassed those women endlessly, and these pros sat by and supported them, pretending they didn’t see it.”

I’m not sure of all the details of the incident to which you refer, but I cannot trust your assessment of it at all.  You’re not playing fair.  You hyperbolic language and demands make me believe that you’re overstating what happened.  It may very well be something bad happened and I certainly don’t think the guys at comicsgate are completely innocent.  But if you’re going to stand there and tell me what I can and can’t be to be an adult—  I have no time for you, Gail because you have no time for the truth.

You have the power, Gail, not them.  As a big name at DC, you could come out and stay above the fray.  You can’t choose to wallow in the mud and then to complain when you get dirty.  You choose to appeal to my feelings rather than state the case as it is.  I still don’t know all the details of what happened, but I can tell you that if it happened on Twitter—  I could give two shits.  Twitter has become a cesspool of nonsense and virtue signalling run amok.  It’s the world’s shittiest message board where normal people are savaged for posting a wrong phrase and zealots are elevated and deified for their 15 seconds of fame.

For Christ’s sake, take a break from social media.  Maybe go talk to some people.  This shit’s gone too far.

“Most of the pros, honestly, no big loss. I don’t mean creatively, some are inarguably talented.”

So here’s the bar: talent and creativity are secondary.  You must believe what I believe.  What was that about toeing the party line, Gail?

“But for example, one decided to DM me one day, out of the blue, right here on facebook, to tell me why he was against rights for lgbtq people. At length. In the stupidest way possible. I didn’t know him, I asked him to go away a million times, then I told him to go fuck himself.  He’s one of the top guys in this group.”

So I am not against lgbtq people.  This guy sounds like a jackass.   However, you realize you’re not sitting in your living room alone, right?  Facebook is public.  You’re on social media all day.  And btw “stupidest way possible”?  Is there a NOT stupid way he could’ve presented that to you?  And you “asked him to go away”.  You realize Facebook has buttons where you can block and unfriend people right?  That’s totally within your control.  Why do you allow him to continue to post to you?  Is it because you enjoy the drama of it?  So you can frame yourself as the champion and him as the villain?

So here’s an adult thing to do: block him and never speak of it again.

“SO as I say, these people who want to believe people are going to hugely overpay for comics to ‘own the libs’ forever seem to be no big loss to me. Maybe they’re right, and it’s sustainable (though there’s a lot of grousing from the audience about feeling ‘used’ already).”

“Hugely overpay”?  Mmm, the only people I see hugely overpaying for things is your average DC or Marvel comics buyer.  Quite frankly, I offer my webcomics for free.  Everyone in print is overpaying as far as I’m concerned.  And please, spare me your assessment of the comicsgate audience.  That you can get a read on “there’s a lot of grousing from the audience”—  You mean the audience that you are supposedly don’t care about because you think they’re “non-readers”?  You sure talk alot about people you don’t care about.

“I think making comics for conservatives is fine. I think making a COMPANY to do that is fine. And I think any publisher should be able to publish what they want. I genuinely believe that if you aren’t getting what you want from a media, it’s fair to do other options.”

Do you?  Then why support the Marvel Diversity-is-everything strategy?  Seems to be costing them readers and comic book stores.  Why not just make another comic book imprint?  You could call it “Grrrls!” or “Rainbow Comics” or whatever.  Milestone was great at DC.  I think I bought the whole run.  And DC didn’t have to make Batman black to do it.  Why support the “Ask me my Feminist Agenda” cover?  Seems the equivalent of putting a group of naked playmates on the cover of the next 50 Shades of Gray book.  Might send the wrong message to the audience and there are other places to do that.

“But there’s one thing that bugs me, and I can’t quite set it aside.  There’s two writers whose work I loved, who were real heroes to me. And they’ve not only gone over, they’re believers, they repeat the garbage party line, and do everything they can to pretend they magically don’t see what they’re aligning with.”

First off, there’s a reason they say “never meet your heroes”, Gail.  Second, I would say that your zealotry comes out in almost every sentence you type here.  Your smug self-assurance of your “rightness” isn’t helping your case.  In this, it’s only YOU that sees.  They can’t see the evil, but you can.  Thanks Torquemada.

“It’s a bummer. A lot of the best stories I read as a kid, a lot of what influenced me most, was these two guys’ stories, and their influence is still there all the time.”

Apparently, you missed part of that influence.  I don’t know who they are, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they’re not inhuman monstrous garbage people.  Perhaps they just have opinions that differ strongly from yours?

“I have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of insults and lies and worse sent my way every day by their team. Every day. My marginalized pro friends get it far worse.”

Remind me again, at what point where you appointed their champion?  So along with ignoring, but not ignoring the comicsgaters, Tweeting non-stop and writing comics, you also have time to monitor hundreds of your tweets and that of your fellow pros.  Do you ever stop to think what would happen if you used that time to write more comics?

“So I can’t just set it aside. If it was just me, I’d think maybe I’d try to make excuses. I’m sure if you’re conservative, it’s delightful to find a new audience, and maybe it’s nice to get a second wind. I don’t know what the reasoning is.”

You absolutely could because it’s nonsense on the Internet.  As far as “being a conservative” goes—  That wasn’t really a distinction that used to matter in comics.  Now suddenly, we’re on opposing side because I’m not an adult if I toe a “party line”, it’s either your choice or “hate rhetoric”, its one or the other, black or white, good or evil.  I would say that the reasoning is this: a group of very liberal, very feminist (radical by any metric) have decided to reshape the comic book industry.  It’s blown up in their face, but you’ve decided there’s no other choice but to defend the sinking ship as it goes down just because there’s some overlap with what you believe.

“So much of what we are today is the stories that moved us when we were younger. And it stings when someone you admired so much lets you down so bad.”

Yeah, I know the feeling.

“I get that there are far bigger issues. I get that this is small potatoes.”

Right, because you don’t care so much.

“But I don’t care about the crappy amateur in-joke stuff of most of the gater books. I don’t care about the recycled stuff. I don’t care about the angry jerks they have fostered as their main audience.”

I know.  I can see how you don’t care.  How you post and tweet about not caring.  How you have followers who add that they don’t care either.  Maybe you should form an alliance of creators and fans called “We Don’t Care About Comicsgate”.  That should put a stop to it. /s

My guess is, virtue signalling is either a comfort to you or you see it as a way to gather and move the fan base.  Maybe you’re deeply cynical about it in your private life or maybe you genuinely believe you’re doing some “right”.  I would say that in either case, you’re being selfish.  You’re making this about you.  If you care about comics fans.  It’s time to stop.  If you truly wanted comicsgate to go away, you’d stop giving them the fuel.  You’d ignore them completely.  Although now, you’re too invested.

“But it does bug me about these two. Can’t explain it, it just does.  Dang.  But it’s still a bummer. So much of what we are today is the stories that moved us when we were younger. And it stings when someone you admired so much lets you down so bad.”

Well, part of growing up is to realize that people are human.

When I went back stage to meet Kurt Vonnegut Jr. after a talk in college, he was pretty hammered.  I left before the line got to me.  I figured it was better to remember him in my head than have a bleary-eyed Kurt look up and say “Now who are you?”

My advice to you Gail:  Take a break from social media.  It angers up blood and you have dived so far down the rabbit hole you’re not making much sense.  You also can’t seem to see the ham-fisted way the Hollywood, L.A., liberal elitist bullshit doesn’t play in a medium that appeals to mostly men.  Especially to men who may not populate the coasts of the U.S.

I’m a big fan of Frank Miller, but I could also sensibly criticize his rant on Occupy Wall Street without deciding he was a Nazi not fit for human co-habitation.

I will offer, again as I offered on Comic Book Oblivion, to broker a peace agreement between the Comicsgaters and the Anti-Comicsgaters.  Again, we could call it the Comic Book Peace Summit.  We could bury the hatchet.  Everyone can apologize for being rude and unprofessional or we can all agree that there will be no apologies, but that we’ll all just move forward and forget what was said and strive to make new comics.  Let’s pick out a comic book convention to do this at and then afterwards, we can all collaborate on some very non-political comics.  We can show the fan base that yes, although there are deep divisions in our views politically, at the end of the day we care about the medium and the fans FIRST.  Let’s set aside the oneupmanship and the passive aggressive virtue signalling.

We can offer up a model where people, regardless of their political views, can talk and work freely without fear of being silenced, deplatformed or having their businesses destroyed.  I don’t agree that you should marry your cousin, but I still have to say that Great Balls of Fire is an awesome song.  I don’t agree with all of Stephen Colbert’s political views, but his 2006 monologue at the White House Press Club Dinner for me, is one of the greatest moments of comedy and politics.  And, I think Roman Polanski should be tried for his crimes, but Chinatown is still an amazing movie.

So what’s it going to be Gail?  Are we just going to keep further polarizing this until it destroys the medium?  And while it may not completely obliterate it, it’s probably going to destroy enough of it to make DC Comics, a division of Time-Warner-Aol wonder why they’re bothering with print comics they barely make any money on.  I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to cool things down, go off into neutral corners and really think about this.  Preaching to your online choir is not healthy.  Gives you the distorted impression that Twitter now gives since they’re banning people.

My prediction:  You’re not going to stop.  You’ll help polarize the comics, polarize the cons, polarize social media and then—  A few years later, there will be other comics, cons and social media that don’t do that.  They’ll make a commitment to Freedom of Speech that your camp can’t or will refuse to do because your ideology is mostly based on how and what people think.  That will lead to countless purges on your side until almost no one is left.  Then, the new comics, cons and social media that had to fight and grow outside of that will take over.  Eventually, people like yourself will be forced to come over reluctantly until the process starts again.

Or, you could use your power and influence to reverse that process.  You can admit to your fans, fellow creators and yourself that people on both sides of the political divide go too far.  Sometimes going too far is yelling hurtful things on Twitter.  Sometimes going too far standing on an ivory tower of self-righteousness and implying anyone that disagrees with you is full of “hateful rhetoric”.  And no, they are not the same thing, but they are both annoying and both something we have to deal with.

Or not.  I’ll be in my webcomics bunker watching the industry implode.  Don’t come crying to me when Twitter and Facebook become MySpace and no one wants to hear you.  Being truthful is difficult and sometimes it means facing up to truths you don’t want to acknowledge, even from people you consider beneath your contempt.

Previous Columns

Obesity at Cons
The Art of Conversation
The Line Between Fans and Pros
Geek Elitism
Convention Panels
Convention Volunteers
Food Gifts
Women and Cons
Get Your Room Party Together
Stop Bringing Your Kids to Cons
The Face of Geek Needs Work
Fixing the Face of Geek
Franchise Worship
Presenting Your Project
The New Image?
Stop Trying to Make Geek Cool
 Rethinking the Comic Book Con
Zombie Stories Should Still Be About People
Geek Stereotypes and the Big Bang Theory
Con Locations
Traveling to Cons on the Cheap
Con Economics
Comics, Sexism and Trolling
Searching for the Words
How to Fix Comics?  Stop Reading Them
Shopping at the Con
The Hollywood Double Edged Sword
Beware the Geek Scams
Success Kills
In Response to Chuck Dixon, Paul Rivoche and Janelle Asselin
Fanboy Reporters
Dealing with Critics and Haters in the Internet Age
Who Are the Creepers?
The Cosplayer Treaty of 2014: A Proposal
Female Thor
Comics’ Non-News
Geek Feminists and DC’s T-Shirts
Cosplay Blowback
Charlie Hebdo and the Other Stuff You Should Know
Customer Service
The Intolerant Internet
Superhero Movie Moral Compass
Why Hillary Lost
Creators and Politics

Political Nerd Rage

Gender Wars

The Hardwick Situation

In Defense of Comicsgate