Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tony Effing Harris and The No-Good, Very-Bad Day

SOURCE: Tony Harris Blasts Cosplay Girls: 'Yer Not Comics'

As you might guess from my nickname, Starman is one of my favorite comic series of all time.  Created by James Robinson and Tony Harris back in the mid-1990s, it is one of the more unappreciated classics of The Dark Age Of Comics and - in many ways - was as much a rebuttal of the ideals of The Dark Age as Kingdom Come and Astro City.  For those of you who haven't read it, despite my numerous reviews and writings on the series, let me thematically sum up what I think the series is about in a nut-shell.

Jack Knight, the youngest son of scientist/superhero Ted Knight, is forced to take on his father's identity as Starman.  A sarcastic bohemian generally more concerned about his collectibles and his junk-shop than the people around him, Jack slowly (and reluctantly) grows into the role of a hero.  More importantly, Jack slowly grows into a better person and realizes the difference between being a hero and being a good person.  By the series' end, Jack matures into both a respected hero and a genuinely good person who gives up everything he previously considered the most important things in the world in exchange for what really matters most - the people who love him.

In truth, I'm somewhat embarrassed about how I got the Starman nickname now.  I was introduced to the comic through a friend who handed me a copy of Starman #29 and said "You'd like it. This guy sounds like you."  Sure enough, Jack Knight did sound like me at the time - an elitist, pseudo-intellectual who resented anyone he saw as a poseur and a fake, who hid his own insecurities behind a veneer of sarcasm and pop-culture references.  I think it fair to say that my emotional connection to Jack Knight as a character helped me to grow as a person as I recognized his flaws in myself and sought to correct them.  I'd like to think that, like Jack, I've gotten somewhat more tolerable over time, acquired some degree of wisdom and become generally more tolerant of those whose ignorance comes form inexperience instead of willfulness. 

That makes today's news all the more painful to me - that an artist whose work I have enjoyed so much and who had always struck me as a down-to-earth and respectable man should say something that, try as I might, I cannot reconcile with the lessons that Jack Knight taught me.

Starman co-creator Tony Harris made several comments today on his Facebook wall, regarding some female cosplayers  I note this because some chose to attack Harris as if he were addressing all female cosplayers.  Indeed, before I quote from those comments, I'd like to note that many people went beyond criticizing the comments to criticizing the man... and some of these people had no clue what they were talking about, descending into libelous personal attacks that did no credit to their arguments.

They said he was attacking all female cosplayers.  He wasn't.  At the very beginning of his speech, he said he was only talking about some female cosplayers. 

They said that clearly he'd been rejected by some cosplaying babe in the past and was lashing out in revenge.  By all accounts, Harris is a happily married man and father of two and I've never heard anything to suggest otherwise.

They accused him of creating gratuitously sexist artwork.  He hasn't.  He isn't in the same league as Greg Horn, Frank Cho or Jim Balent.  Not even close.  Indeed, apart from one of his Conan The Barbarian covers and one sex-scene in Ex Machina, I'm hard pressed to think of anything he's done that I've read which had sexual conten/nudity.  As I recall, all of those were tastefully done.

That being said, let us consider Mr. Harris' comments, in bold, with my own considerations in between.

I appreciate a pretty Gal as much as the next Hetero Male. Sometimes I even go in for some racy type stuff ( keeping the comments PG for my Ladies sake) but dammit, dammit, dammit I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics.

A fair start.  Nice and respectful.  Language is a bit saltier than I'd go with, but I try to be even-keeled on these things.

So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule.
And here is where we start to go south - the idea that women who like comics and cosplay are the anomaly - the unicorn, as it were.

Moving on...

Heres the statement I wanna make, based on THE RULE: "Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. 
Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? 

You seriously undercut any claim you have to not being sexist when you start off insulting women's appearance/weight and then try explain that big boobs are not necessarily desirable, quantifying the difference between Big and Great.
Just saying....

You are what I refer to as "CON-HOT". Well not by my estimation, but according to a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU.

*face palms*  I don't know what's more offensive to me.

1) The stereotype that the majority of male comic book fans are hapless virgins who don't know how to talk to women.

2) The idea that most female cosplayers are some form of predatory animal or monster.

And what's so bad about being a virgin anyway?  There is such a thing as saving yourself for the right one.

You have this really awful need for attention, for people to tell you your pretty, or Hot, and the thought of guys pleasuring themselves to the memory of you hanging on them with your glossy open lips, promising them the Moon and the Stars of pleasure, just makes your head vibrate.

So... the majority of women who cosplay enjoy thinking about how many guys are masturbating while thinking about them in their costumes?

Keep that thought in mind for later.

Moving on...

After many years of watching this shit go down every 3 seconds around or in front of my booth or table at ANY given Con in the country, I put this together. Well not just me. We are LEGION. And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.

So the vast majority of women who cosplay pick the skimpiest outfits possible?

If this were even remotely close to true, I'd have seen a lot more of Phoenix Five Emma Frost this past year than Black Widow.  Or any version of Emma Frost, come to that.  

And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face.

Yes.  All these women who cosplay, - who are really quite average looking and are desperate to have their egos stroked, whom enjoy thinking about men masturbating while thinking of them in their costumeswould never think of talking to any of you stammering male virgins outside of a con!

... wait, wha?

Seriously, if I never hear this argument again it will be too soon.  We're supposed to believe that, on the one hand, most of the women who cosplay are repulsed by the average male comic book reader and would never dream of pursuing a romantic relationship with one... but on the other hand, they are utterly dependent upon the approval of said male comic fans and will parade around in next to nothing in public in order to fuel their egos?

If that were the case, there would be a heck of a lot easier ways to get the attention of more socially-acceptable males than by cosplaying!  Hanging around a sports bar in short-shorts and a jersey for the local sports team comes to mind.

At this point, I think it's a toss-up who should feel more insulted - female cosplayers or male comic readers.

For that matter, what about male cosplayers?  Why do they do what they do? 

Yer not Comics. Your just the thing that all the Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons. And the real reason for the Con, and the damned costumes yer parading around in? That would be Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up.

You know what - he's right  The mainstream press frequently is  more interested in the people who dress up at conventions than they are the creators at the convention.  I know that following Dallas Fan Days, I saw more galleries of photos than I did articles about the creators who were in attendance.  But that's the nature of visual media - you need images to hook people and people who bring superheroes to life and do it well are a perfect visual summation of the magic of comics.

Take it from a writer.  My 5000 word essays upon the themes of isolation and martyrdom in Silver Surfer are not going to get as much attention as the guy who spent six months building a screen-accurate set of Iron Man armor out of parts he scavenged from an old '72 charger and a Tandy.  And that's fine.  Creation is creation, whether you draw, paint, build, act, write or whatever and should always be honored.

That being said, I honor Tony Harris as a skilled artist.  I'm sure he's a wonderful husband, a loving father and was good to his mother.  But I'm just as sure I won't be buying any more of his work in the future.  Because I can't reconcile what he's said with any reality I want to be a part with. 

I recognize what he was trying to say.  I have encountered some women who were desperate for attention and saw conventions as an easy place to carve out a niche as a queen bee.  And there have been some Wizard World-sponsored cons I've been to where porn starlets dressed in cosplay had booths where they were trying to sell their swag.  But those women are not the majority.  They are the exception - not the rule.

I know a lot of female cosplayers.  Some of them are models.  Most of them aren't.  And I don't doubt for a moment that they all love comic books and video games and other geeky things just as much as I do.  And I don't think for a moment that they have to try to impress me. 

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