Sunday, February 12, 2012

Enough Is Never Enough: A Response

I was catching up on my Twitter feed, when I read a most worrying post over at the DC Women Kicking Ass Tumblr. In brief, they discussed a recent survey conducted by DC Comics regarding public response to the New 52 line. The survey concluded that - despite much talk about the revitalization of the line bringing in new readers - most of the people reading the New 52 books are males between 18-34 and that they were avid or lapsed fans. No word on how many of them think all these new #1s will be worth something someday.

Now, I find most surveys to be suspect. Especially one that was conducted, in-part, through the Internet. But even if we could assume that this survey was wholly accurate and accept the conclusions that less than 10% of the current comics market is made up of women and children, does that mean we should give up trying to make the comics industry a wide-spread cultural institution?

Here then is The Question: Is it a waste of our time to fight for better portrayals of female characters? Is it foolish for us to demand quality comics aimed at children? Is it utterly futile for all of us to try and save an industry that, by most appearances, doesn't want to be saved?

In the words of The Mighty Thor, "I say thee nay!"

The comic book publishers in general have a lot to answer for. But they aren't the only ones to blame for the current state of things. There are some comic shop owners who have a lot to answer for too - owners like my former bosses from my days as a comic shop employee, who gave orders that any woman entering into our store was to be escorted toward the fairy statues or the Hello Kitty merchandise. Because there's no way any woman would ever come into a comic shop wanting to buy comics! Stores like this are just as much to blame for driving women out of the hobby as the publishers creating products that ignore half of their potential market.

I know it is frustrating having to deal with this sort of thing and that some days you are bashing your head against a wall. But fighting sexism is never a mistake. Fighting for your children is never a mistake. Fighting for a better world for everyone is never a mistake.

That being said, I do believe we have made two mistakes.

The first mistake is thinking this change will come quickly when it does come. That all it will take is one magical reboot and the world will change overnight. Change doesn't work that way outside the storybook pages. At the very least, constructive change rarely comes about that easily.

The other mistake is thinking that the comic book industry must be the one to initiate the change. It's us. It has always been us and it must begin with us. If there are going to be any lasting changes, it is going to have to come from all of the fandom united together. But those changes can be small ones. And like pebbles falling down a cliff, eventually an avalanche will come.

I don't claim to have all the answers. And I've thought about hanging up my pen and giving up comics more times than many would guess. But I've also come to relish the small positive changes that I've helped bring about and all the signs that as bad as things may be, there is still something worth fighting for.

The girl I wrote about a week ago, who decided she wanted a Supergirl birthday party instead of a Princess one? That's a small change.

The ex-girlfriend I got into comics by introducing her to Fables? That's a small change.

The Manga fan who I introduced to American Comics through Birds of Prey? That's a small change.

The little girl who came into my store with a brother who just wanted Yu-Gi-Oh cards and wound up walking out with a copy of Amelia Rules? That's a small change.

The girl at the movie theater, where I was handing out comics on Free Comic Book Day, who - when told by her friend that they were out of girl's comics - said "No, they still have Iron Man". That's a small change.

As saccharine as it may sound, those little changes do give me hope. And they keep me going. They say we can't fight the system. But people fight the system every day in little ways, spawning little changes and little victories.

Will their be a big victory someday? I hope so. But until then, I am content to do what good I can and change what little I can. Because we win every time someone says "No. This isn't acceptable. And we can be better."

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