Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It's Not About The Sexism. It's Not Even About The Dialogue. It's AboutTruth in Advertising.

I'm so glad that I'm not giving Marvel any more of my money.

Why? Well, there's many reasons, but here's the most recent one...

This is not a Photoshop job. This is not from a comedy book. This is an actual panel from Mighty Avengers #11 by Brian Michael Bendis. A writer actually got paid for this dialogue. An editor actually approved of this.

Now, I know I'm a little slow in commenting on this because - as I said - I don't read anything Marvel publishes anymore and I just heard about this after reading another blog. And no, I haven't read the entire issue in question. In this case I don't think I need to. Because this line, as has been pointed out by many people by now, is not only grammatically unsound: it is also so horribly out-of-character for Doom that it makes any further review of the issue unnecessary.

Of course, since one of the more famous Feminist comic-bloggers wrote one of the most visible criticisms of said issue, the usual charter members of The He-Man Woman Haters Club are crawling out of their caves and their mother's basements and screaming defense after defense of how Bendis isn't sexist and how very silly it is that the womenfolk are complaining about Doom saying bad things about a woman because Doom is a very naughty man who says and does very bad things.

Of course, had these fine specimens of manliness actually bothered to have - you know - read said article, they would have found out that Ms. Fortuner's article was not about Ms. Marvel being called "fat" or "cow" or "whore". It was about how while Doctor Doom probably is a Misogynist (by simple virtue of him thinking himself superior to everybody), he has always been portrayed as being the chilvaric "women on a pedestal" sort of sexist.

Doom has also never been the kind to stoop to simple insults, particularly physical ones. He may insult a woman's stupidity for being trapped so easily but Doom would never stoop as to comment on her weight or her sexual habits. Because Doom, whatever else you might say about him, is a classy guy. He'll throw a banquet for his arch-enemies so that they have a good last meal before he kills them. He honors his agreements and shows at least a modicum of respect for those he contests with. And he'll even, should the world be at stake, put aside his vendetta against the accursed Reed Richards and those who would aid him in the name of the greater good.

So why did I feel the need to comment on this when so many other more distinguished luminaries, including that master parodist Christopher Bird, have already weighed in on this issue?

Because of something that the children's librarian in me remembered from reading through a catalog and something that I think is rather important. Namely, that this book - Mighty Avengers #11 - was rated All Ages by whoever it is that Marvel has rate their comics for age-appropriateness.

Yes. All-Ages. As in, you're supposed to be able to give this to anyone without fear of it containing inappropriate material.

Now, I'm not a prude. Far from it. Anybody who has read my work, knows my reading habits or is familiar with my weekend exploits as part of a Rocky Horror troupe can vouch that I am not easily offended nor am I a Helen Lovejoy "Won't Somebody PLEASE Think of the children" type. But I have to ask: Since when has "whore" been an acceptable word for use in children's books? Even children's pictorial bibles don't drop the W-bomb!

Before now, I was content to limit my ban on Marvel Comics to my own personal reading habits. Now, I'm enforcing it at my library. Because if I can't trust Marvel Comics to honestly and fairly rate their own materials, then I can't be bothered to take the risk on anything they publish.


  1. Bendis wrote that? That seems extra odd to me because I've read the previous two issues of the Doom story arc and thought it was one of the better depictions of The Man that I'd seen in a long time. (Until that panel, anyway.)
    For instance, in the previous issue, Iron Man calls Doom a horror and Doom returns with, "More people hate you than hate me." Which I thought was great in light of Civil War.
    But regardless, I agree with your take. It's out of character and probably shouldn't be in an "All Ages" book. Beyond that, I'm all for writing whatever the character calls for regardless of how many feelings it may hurt.

  2. Dammit. I forgot to go out on a joke.
    Why must we jump to conclusions since Doom is a so-called "super-villain"? Perhaps Doom is only concerned for her health? Look at that... she's obviously put on weight and he's just trying to offer some motivation. Lucky for her, there are super-villains around to say what her team-mates can't!

  3. What really has some people cheesed off is that in the next panel, Ms. Marvel is thinking about how much that insult actually hurt. Which - you know - I'm not a Ms. Marvel fan, am only familar with her thanks to her tenure in Kurt Busiek's Avengers and even I know she's not the type to take anyone's trash-talk seriously. At least, she wasn't...
    Dunno if you read any of McDuffie's Fantastic Four run, but he had one nice Doom moment where Victor - in response to all the insane stuff Reed pulled during Civil War - made a statement condemming the American Government and promising that he would - if pressed - put all of his resources into defending the rest of the world. :)
    But yeah. This dialogue is just BAD. You know it is bad when Chris Bird's "gangsta rap Doom" sounds more plausible.
    "For Doom is down with the street and Latveria, as always, stands foremost in the world's efforts at bringing it and serving it."
    There's an inspirational poster of Doom I saw elsewhere I need to send you the link for once I'm home of Iron Man and Doom, asking what the difference is between them.
    Answer: One is an armor-wearing fascist who is hated by everyone. The other is Doctor Doom.:)

  4. Bendis should be ashamed that he ever wrote this, and Joe Q should be down right embarrassed that he let it go out the door. Then again, Joe has shown that he doesn't really care if the name writers or event writers commit character assassination. In that scene, Bendis did it twice. Insanity.
    How long until the "Doombot/Skrull" defense comes in to play?

  5. Oh, it's already in play.
    One of the major lines of defense being used by the Bendis fans is "We don't know that's really Doom! That dialogue could be a subtle clue that it's not the real thing!"
    Only in Modern Marvel could someone calling somebody else a fat whore be considered subtle...

  6. That still doesn't excuse the bad dialogue though.
    Were it truly Doom, it would read thusly.
    "Carol - your posterior has grown to such proportion that Galactus might consider it fit for consumption were it not for my protection!"
    As for how this dialogue SHOULD sound...
    "Give thanks then that Doom is a generous captor, Carol Danvers. For were it not in my best interest to see you held safely, it would be an easy thing for me to end your pitiful existence!"

  7. Hrmm... Cow Mouth and Whore....
    Me thinks Carol best be slappin' a ho.
    Because clearly that's a ho trapped in Doom's costume. That's just bad. And You know I liked Bendis once upon a time but that panel.. KILLED DEAD.

  8. I think it'd work for DC too.
    Wait, I know...MAGIC! That is what made Doom say that...Or time travel!
    Sometimes comics having a bunch of outs for stories is good. When it is jsut so they don't have to be responsible for there actions, it is a bad thing.
    That said, even Skrull Doom wouldn't talk like that. Maybe iron Man hacked a Doombot, he is a prick like that, and he has probably always wanted to tell Carol about her cow-whoreness.

  9. Yes. All-Ages. As in, you're supposed to be able to give this to anyone without fear of it containing inappropriate material.
    No. Not all-ages. Look again. It is rated A, which is not all-ages, but age 9 and up. The rating for all-ages is "all-ages."

  10. It's listed as "All Ages" on the site for the book company my library uses for order.
    And regardless, I still don't think that's appropriate language for a nine-year old to be reading.

  11. When you say it's not appropriate, what do you mean? What do you think will happen if a 9-year old reads it?
    (Sorry if this posts twice!)

  12. Scott, he fact that you need me to explain why the word "whore" is inappropriate for children's literature (and make no mistake - A, while not the same thing as 'All Ages', is still children's literature by Marvel Comics' own definition) confirms for me that you are just as mentally incompetent as I've always been lead to believe by your writing.
    Nevertheless, I will indulge you this one time.
    What do I think will happen?
    I think they'll probably decide it sounds cool.
    I think they'll parrot this word - which they don't know what it means but it sounds like a cool insult - back at their friends and parents.
    I think their parents, horrified that their elementary school-age children are apparently learning about sex - or at least the idea of somebody who is paid to have sex - from a comic book they got at the library, will come to some rather horrifying conclusions regarding what most comic books are like.
    I think they will tell their friends who have children.
    I think they will all stop buying comics for their children.
    On a higher level, I think that, at the very least, we will lose even more of the next generation of potential comic fans.
    On the local level, I think those parents will stop trusting the library to provide them with appropriate literature for their young ones. I think they'll stop coming to the library completely. I think those children will suffer for not having all the benefits that a good library has to offer.
    In a worse case scenario, I think those parents will turn on the library and suddenly I'll have the Mayor (whose personal pet project involves childhood literacy) and the City Council (who are currently investigating an apparent epidemic of pornography on the library computers) taking a close look at everything I do, everything I order and eventually deciding that since the biggest comic publisher in America can't be trusted to label their product correctly, that it is probably better that we not have any graphic novels at all.
    I think that one large city making this declaration may start a new CCA panic and that it may well be the final death throe of an already injured comic industry, as this generation's Dr. Wertham (my money is on Jack Thompson making the leap from video games to comic books) steps in to scream "Won't somebody PLEEEEEASE think of the children!".
    And I think that - because I already saw that happen at the library I used to work at. One 9 year old checked out "The Sandman". One parent read it and thought this was typical of what was meant to be in the children's comics. One parent called the Library Director. One Library Director decreed that the library could not order any comic books unless they were specifically rated for Teenagers or above.
    All of DC Comics - because it is not rated - became off limits. The possibility of getting anything published by Vertigo was laughable. And forget getting anything by an independent publisher, so there went any chance of getting Strangers in Paradise. Even obviously kid-friendly fare such as Bone or Amelia Rules was verboten because it didn't have a rating.
    I'd like to avoid that happening at my new library. And as much as I personally believe in Free Speech and the right of a writer to use the words they want, I also believe in a parent's right to decide what is and isn't appropriate for their children. And since most of the parents I know don't want their nine-year-old knowing what a whore is, I have to factor that into my considerations when I'm deciding what materials my library should or should not carry.

  13. Scott, he fact that you need me to explain why the word "whore" is inappropriate for children's literature (and make no mistake - A, while not the same thing as 'All Ages', is still children's literature by Marvel Comics' own definition) confirms for me that you are just as mentally incompetent as I've always been lead to believe by your writing.
    Umm, I don't know if you noticed, but I didn't say that I couldn't think of reasons that "whore" should be left out of books for kids. I was thinking of posting something on my blog about your post. I found a picture of Helen Lovejoy to upload to my blog, had the piece written, full of snarky jokes, but I thought to myself, "He might be thinking about kids repeating the word at inappropriate times without knowing that it would be considered in bad taste, and he might be thinking that parents would object to their kids reading the word even if he doesn't think the word would somehow ruin the kids."
    In other words, when I asked those questions, I was looking for the very answer you gave. SoooOOOooo, does the fact that I agree with you make me seem less mentally incompetent or you more so?
    Scott ; )

  14. I accept your apology ... such as it is. Thanks.

  15. What's really upsetting is that apparently, in the next panel, Carol is thinking about how much that sad attempt at an insult hurt her feelings.
    Kill it. Kill it with FIRE!

  16. Bravo! On both counts! The first line goes right up there with the Doom hip-hop parody.

  17. Doom does not stoop so low to petty insults! Doom is verbose and has the wit when insulting! Doom is so far beyond Xxxtreme that Doom eats Xxxtreme before morning tea time.
    Um, I just drank a lot of caffeine. This comic is for kids? Seriously? Plus, having Ms. Marvel's derrière staring at me doesn't help.

  18. Dude, my girlfriend's niece is 9, and my own niece is rapidly approaching the same age. I wouldn't want them reading the panel above. I don't envy Matt here.
    Also, I am getting damned sick and tired of some writers like Bendis trying to inject their own "KEWL STREET BADASS" stamp on a long-established villain like this, even if it means writing said villain completely out of character and wrecking him (and yes, it's usually a "him"). I recently saw a cover of SHOWCASE:ATOM where Dr. Light has trapped our hero in the lethal light bulb, and by God there's still a stench of the whole Sue Dibny debacle on him. Likewise, I see Black Mask voiced by the awesome James Remar on the Batman cartoon and keep flashing back to that damned power drill.
    I was so happy with Johns' "Sinestro Wars" because Sinestro escaped such treatment while remaining menacing.

  19. Yeah. Apparently John Byrne (who did a very good run on Fantastic Four back in the day) became so annoyed that he wrote and drew a panel that is probably the best single work he's done in ten years showing how it SHOULD have been done.

  20. Kids 9 and up, as The Mad One was so kind to point out.

  21. Yeah but, to be fair Johns is REALLY GOOD about that kind of thing. In this case, "that kind of thing" being equal to using established characters and past conventions even as he is moving things around.
    Case In Point: I think part of the reason that the big revelation behind the Sinestro Wars (i.e. there's a whole spectrum of emotional energy waiting to be tapped) has gone over so well is that while it has been a radical departure from the established status quo, it was at least respectful of the status quo and used elements of that status quo to make it plausible.
    We know The Guardians have lied to The Corps in the past about their origins and the limits of their powers in the past. We know that The Guardians kept their lies going even to the point of suiciding themselves in order to keep their past misdeeds covered up. And as comic-book science as it is to say that emotions have a spectrum and can be harnessed as energy, it's no sillier than the physics behind how Superman can fly because of the dominant color of starlight.
    Compare that to the arbitrary "Everyone is a Skrull and everything you know is wrong!" nature of Marvel nowadays and it's easy to see why a majority of fans are more excited about Final Crisis than Secret Invasion.