This is the bonus article I mentioned. Friday’s regular article is here.
While I’m not a known personality in the comics community or anything, I am someone who is involved in and actively promotes the Superhero genre and yes, I do have aspirations for writing some stories about my favorite mainstream characters one day.
And if I want to be part of that world and this community, it would be irresponsible to let what happened last week with DC comics go by without comment and yes, condemnation. If you’re not familiar with the situation, here’s a link to a neat encapsulation to the cascade failure of flubs that span out of DC last week.
This is really just the mid-point of an ongoing implosion, sad to say. The Big Two, DC especially, have been actively seeking out the desperate, immature attitudes they adopted in the 90’s that eventually led to the near destruction of the industry: gimmicks like 3-d covers and constant ‘new #1’s’, line-wide mandates on mean-spirited, cartoonishly gritty stories and attitudes in general, crass disrespect and objectification of women, and more prominent in this case: outright abuse of creative talents.
If you didn’t follow that link, there are two major, over-arching stories here.
One, the talent behind the current run on Batwoman walked out on DC after editorial, at the last minute, forbid them to do several storylines that had previously been green-lit including the origins of Killer Croc, and more importantly, the wedding between Batwoman Kate Kane and her (female) fiance.
When accusations started to fly that DC was being anti-gay with this decision (having previously trumpeted their choice to make Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, gay… only to then immediately kill off his fiance), DC shot back that no, this wasn’t an anti-homosexual thing, they actually didn’t want any superheroes in their stable being married. And in fact, the New 52 reboot did indeed erase most of the prominent and long-running marriages in the DC Universe including Jay and Joan Garret, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Ralph and Sue Dibny, and the Hawks (two characters partially defined by their eternal love). It was even revealed at Baltimore Comic Con that Aquaman and Mera… the KING AND QUEEN of Atlantis, are not married despite clearly being written as a married couple by writer Geoff Johns.
It was then that DC co-publisher, Dan Didio said something so stupid as to be revolutionary:
Heroes shouldn’t have happy personal lives. They are committed to being that person and committed to defending others at the sacrifice of their own personal interests.
That’s very important and something we reinforced. People in the Bat family their personal lives basically suck. Dick Grayson, rest in peace—oops shouldn’t have said that,—Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon and Kathy Kane. It’s wonderful that they try to establish personal lives, but it’s equally important that they set them aside. That is our mandate, that is our edict and that is our stand.
If you’ve been following my work at all, you will recognize this is my anti-mission statement. Also as demonstrably wrong.
Let me just lay this out there. Heroism is a job, a calling. People don’t perform acts of heroism because they’re bound to some inexorable fate, but because they want to do it. They want to be heroes because it is the right thing to do, or because they want to protect others from tragedy, or right some wrong either they had a part in, or just feel needs to be corrected. The key element here is that they are human and they are making a choice.
It is the same choice that policemen and firefighters and soldiers, and hell, even paramedics and linemen for the electric company and construction workers who dig people out from disasters make. Yes, they are putting their lives on the line, yes, they must make some sacrifices, which might include time with their families or chunks of their social lives—but it does not consume them.
In fact, when a cop or a soldier or anyone else becomes so consumed in their work so much that they can no longer maintain any semblance of a personal life and brings them nothing but sorrow and pain something is wrong. If this happens to a person, they should seek out a mental health professional immediately and deal with what has obviously become an unhealthy way of living their life.
And that right there is why what Didio said is not only not realistic or gritty, but stupid and a case of bad storytelling. Any hero that continues on amid the living hell that is the Peter Parker lifestyle is either mentally unstable of just stupid and the idea that every single hero in the nDCU is like this is unrealistic and breaks suspension of disbelief harder than any superpower or jet powered ape could muster.
Yes, in-universe, superheroes exist to protect people, but in out world, they exist to inspire. And what the nDCU stable of heroes seems to be meant to inspire us to is… to never help anyone or do the right thing ever again because it will destroy your life. Morals!
Oh, and if you read any DC comic because you’re interested in a relationship there (like if you actually like Superman and Wonder Woman getting together), well Dan Didio just gave you spoilers that it will never amount to anything ever. So you don’t need to keep buying those comics, guys.
There’s a bigger issue attached to this, but I’m going to get to it after the second big story because it ties in.
Anyway, in the meantime, several weeks ago, DC announced a talent search (for reasons I will get into below) for artists that would involve drawing a page from the upcoming Harley Quinn series. Harley is a fan favorite, having made the jump to the main DC Universe after getting her start in the excellent Batman: The Animated Series, so not only were artists champing at the bit to try their shot at the big time, but fans were excited as hell that Harley was getting her own comic (she’s had a… bad time of it in the New 52). So how did DC screw this up? By releasing script pages, without context, that involved Harley committing suicide while naked.
Many people have towed the company line on this, citing how the idea was meant to invoke the classic Loony Tunes short, Duck Amok,
And it is a glorious short
and how it’s about metahumor and ho Harley is sort of a twisted comedy character who is being moved into the same territory Deadpool normally treads.
There’s a saying on the Scans Daily comic community ‘Context is For the Weak’, often used to describe single panel comics that are hilarious because there’s no context. In this case… context is everything. For one, a script for a page full of jokes about killing yourself came out just days before World Suicide Prevention Day, which was nothing but classy.
Second… it was Harley Quinn. See, she’s not just a fan favorite. Remember up there when I said she had a bad time in the New 52? Yeah, first she was the center of a big controversy when the cover of the then-new Suicide Squad title feature Harley in a new super-revealing costume instead of her traditional harlequin outfit (Harley Quinn. Harlequin. Get it? Yeah, DC didn’t.). Then in the Death of the Family event, Joker informed Harley that she is, in fact not the first (or last) Harley Quinn and that he killed all of her predecessors, finding them disposable.
So needless to say, both sexualizing and joking about killing Harley in particular is a touchy subject. Also, while Deadpool has made jokes about offing himself (he’s effectively immortal and in love with Death herself, after all), I can’t recall a time where he was shown naked while doing it. Because no one wants to ogle Deadpool.
After Jim Lee took to twitter and patronize the hell out of everyone, one of the writers, Jimmy Palmiotti (presumably red faced with embarrassment and panic) came out to explain what he and his co-writer had in mind and apologize for the script coming out with no explanation with all sorts of horrible connotations attached.
Personally, I can forgive him. That doesn’t mean I’ll buy Harley Quinn #0 because a fourth wall breaking Harley isn’t the Harley I fell in love with, but if it turns out good, more power to them. Buuuut, I notice that DC editorial never said anything about this one. They just sort of left their creators to swing for this debacle, which was the fault of DC’s PR department. (Update, over the weekend, DC finally released a statement apologizing for the fiasco)
And that’s where the big issue lies. It turns out that the ugliest part of DC’s behavior actually isn’t their sort of shaky stance on homosexual characters, insensitive treatment of female characters, disrespect for their fans, or desire to suck all joy and light out of their heroes. Those are all important issues, but it’s starting to look like this is all just symptomatic of their utter disregard, bordering on contempt for the creative staff.
There have actually been dozens of creative defections from DC over the past few years and editorial meddling has been a major issue for them for even longer. That link will take you to a big ‘ol list, but I just want to break out one specific quote from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov:
“Just a quick note to confirm what everyone knows, I am no longer the writer of GLC and Red Lanterns for DC Comics. There were editorial decisions about the direction of the book that conflicted with the story I was hired to tell, and I felt that it was better to let DC tell their story the way they want. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’ll miss working with the entire Green Lantern team.”
Emphasis mine. See, the editors are running the show at DC and not just in the ‘no you can’t do something stupid like have Lex Luthor blow Ma and Pa Kent’s heads off, Paul Jenkins‘ kind of way. No, they’re telling the writers exactly what the write and what’s worse, there’s multiple levels of editorial all trying to overrule one another and so not only do the creators’ stories not get told, but there’s really no single person with common sense doing the damn job and editor is supposed to do and saying ‘hey, maybe there’s too much rape in this story’ and ‘hmm, I’m not sure this will actually go over well with fans’ because they’re all too busy pretending they’re writers.
Bottom line, DC is a mess at its highest stations and the sad thing is, even the most basic simian elements of self awareness is all it would take for them to catch themselves before they implode completely. Jeez, I didn’t even get into the ‘Fake Geek Girl’ ad thing here (suffice it to say, the ‘fake geek girl’ concept is bullshit and if you meet anyone that has ever accused a woman of being one, I implore you to throw them a beating for me).
Luckily, DC has seen fir to bring in Bob Harras, better known as the guy who fiddled while Marvel burned in the 90’s, so maybe bankruptcy and purchase by Jeff Bezos isn’t far behind…
In the meantime, here’s a handy banner that will tell you when DC does something stupid again.
Small Announcement: I’ve dropped the price of the A Girl and Her Monster paperbacks to $9.99 USD (available on Amazon and Createspace [use code “JC6FHA72” to get 25% off at Createspace]. You can still contact me for a signed copy, and for our friends and Europe, the ebook is now finally free on Amazon UK.
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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.
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