Sunday, September 17, 2006

Why Publishers Do Not Read My Blog (because I know they have better things to do!)

It has been suggested, Gentle Reader, that the feminist comic book fans are nothing but rabid, blinded, single-minded harpies. This Humble Author is quite above pointing fingers, but in this case, there really are too many places to point. A sly insinuation here, a discreet jab there, posters across the blogosphere are blaming female fans, yes, even We Few, We Happy Few, for executive decisions made by The Big Houses Of Comic Publishing. Without the prettier words, that means that some people believe that Publishers are making *executive plot decisions* because a hundred or so women call them to task in their blogs for not making comic books more feminist-friendly.


This kind of post hoc, ergo propter hoc publishing argument is quite ridiculous.

If The Houses are making *bad* plot decisions, i.e. tiptoeing around Big Issues, it’s not because they don't want the feminists to get in a tizzy. The notion that Big Publishing Houses would Censor their stories because of *bloggers* and *critics* is a Very Silly Notion indeed. By all means, if bloggers and critics are making publishers and writers become more socially aware and making them consider gender issues, then huzzah! That's a *good* thing. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the very idea that multi-million dollar corporations would *make plot decisions* based on their worry over the internet reaction. To wit, if it's true that Publishing Houses are beginning to consider controversial plot choices in an age in which many people are reconsidering controversial decisions across the board, perhaps brought on by a rather conservative and censorial air in the world and a desire to always, always "protect the children," that doesn't mean that they're doing it because they're afraid they're going to be blogged about.

Dear Reader, I have as much of an inflated sense of importance as anyone else posting his or her thoughts out on the internet, and even I know that there is a *very* slim chance that The Houses give two good what-fors about my blog and/or the things I have to say. And on the outrageous chance that they *did*? I consider it My Fandom Duty to make sure that I never, *never* pussyfoot around The Big Issues At Hand: rape, prostitution, preposterous body types, marriage, sexuality, motherhood, fatherhood, censorship, fashion, and the poor, horrific plight of the maligned partridges stuck in those wicked pear trees.

Why do people believe that when someone calls attention to a problem, then that person must automatically want to shield the world from that problem? That the person wants to *censor*? Rape is a *very real problem* in our society. Women and men are raped *every single day* and more often than not, a person who has been raped will *not* report it because he or she is afraid that *no one will believe him or her*. Therefore if I'm angry that Sue Dibny was raped, it is *not* because Mr. Meltzer wrote a rape scene, but rather, because *a woman, even a fictional one, was raped*. This Humble Author has applauded Mr. Meltzer, again and again, for his wonderful story in Identity Crisis. This Humble Author is currently working through Mr. Meltzer's thriller novel oeuvre because she enjoys his writing so. If I criticize Identity Crisis, and the depiction of Sue Dibny's rape, it is because I want the world to TALK about it, not brush it under a rug and pretend it doesn't exist. If we pretend it doesn't exist, then we allow it to exist, and we never, ever force ourselves to take action *against it*.

When I talk The Big Feminist Issues, when I call comic book stores to task for ignoring me in favor of their male customers, when I discuss the overwhelming amount of intangible powers female superheroes possess rather than tangible physical powers their male counterparts do, it's because I *want* people to pay attention to these things. I *want* them to ponder, to discuss, and, if they desire, then dismiss. I want the world to consider the impact that female superheroes' bodies have on impressionable youth (will no one think of the children?!?). But for Heaven's Sake, I certainly don't want anyone to *stop* talking about these things, whether in blogs or in the comic books themselves, because then, we have to pretend that they don't exist. And that is the True Crime.

And if These Wicked Rumors Are True? Well, then, I would call The Houses of the Comic Publishing World into question for *not* talking about these issues anymore. If any House decides to stop publishing controversial storylines, then I may just Stop Reading. Literature, and yes, This Author considers Comic Books to be Literature (with the capital L), is a safe space in which to talk about important social, cultural, gender, racial, economic, political, and personal issues. We discuss these very things as they happen in the stories because it's easier to discuss X-Superhero's drug problem than, say, our sister's or brother's or best friend's. It's easier to express horror over society's reaction to women's accusations of rape as it appears in Z-Book than as it appears in our own towns. It means that we are reading, we are aware, and we are trying to do something about it.

(Talk may be cheap, but sometimes, the best stuff in the world is cheap. Consider your favorite Burger House. Chances are, it's the cheapest place in town.)

Thanks to When Fangirls Attack!, I've recently found out that some Publishing Houses actually *do* read blogs, and actually *do* consider seriously what bloggers have to say. And This Humble Author would like to add that thank goodness they're reading smarter blogs than Mine! Marionette has recently announced that a comment she made caused a higher up in the Publishing Echelon to think, yes, *think* about important social issues and how they appear in comic books. Congratulations, Marionette!

It is this success on Marionette’s part—-getting The Houses to Actually Listen—-that caused me to retract the original version of this post late Saturday night and reconsider my somewhat snarky attitude regarding The Houses. It’s not that This Humble Author believes that Publishing Houses don’t care what their fans and customers have to say. Rather, I question Joe Blogger’s insistence that political correctness has gone “too far.” I question Janet Blogger’s argument that the rampaging feminists and their criticism of comic books have frightened The Houses so much that they have pulled storylines just so said rampaging feminists won’t get angry and blog about them.

That is Absolutely Ridiculous.

There is a huge difference between censoring material to appease fans and customers, and reconsidering a sexist or racist or homophobic or economic bias in a market product. If Publishing Houses are discovering that their expanding customer base includes educated/professional/working-class/what-have-you women in their twenties and thirties, then by all means, *consider comic books for this market audience*. If Publishing Houses discover that people prefer to wear purple hats while eating green apples, they will shift their marketing a bit to better suit those people, no? Don’t believe me? Then please, Friends, open up your latest issue of Z-Book and examine the advertisements contained inside. If you would buy or participate in any of those products, then they’ve done their job.

The very idea that The Publishing Houses are listening to bloggers who make intelligent and informed criticisms is a lovely one. The very idea that The Houses are considering their expanding customer base is a lovely one, too. If we are ever to elevate comic books to the arena of Literature—-and that means, Dear Reader, that they will be considered seriously across the board—-then we need not only to read, but also to examine, compare, contrast, argue, develop, and most importantly, critique. I take comic books seriously. I take them seriously enough that I discuss them as I discuss Eliot, or Bronte, or Gaskell. Because what is Good Literature but something you enjoy to read because it makes you think?

So, a message to The Publishers, just in case they really *are* reading, although honestly, I think they should have better things to do, like tell me who fathered a certain feline-esque superheroine’s baby! (Get to Work, People! I’ve waited long enough!)

I am a *huge* fan of your work! I've been reading comic books seriously for about 10 years now, but I read them when I was a little girl, too, so don't think I'm not a True Fan! No offense intended to The Big Two, but I'm a much bigger fan of one of you than the other. No, no, it's nothing personal! I just think that one of you writes better stories paralleling and allegorizing big social issues, while I think the other writes the more interesting characters, and I am ever the character-driven plot reader. Oh, and I have personally interested a couple dozen people in comic books who would have never touched comic books before, and I also teach comic books in my classes, so I'm fighting the good fight, too.
Now look, I've heard that you're reworking some of your books better to suit your expanding market, and if it's true, I applaud you for it. But Remember the Ladies, would you? If you give a female character a history of rape or sexual violence, *give it for a reason*. Don't just give it because of the staggeringly high statistics of sexual assault among women. And please, please reconsider some of the body types of the male and female characters out there. Exaggeration, while sometimes tons of fun, gets a little stale after a while. Because really, can Power Girl possibly fight with that belt around her bare hips? That *has* to chafe.

Thanks! Keep doing a great job!

Amy Reads


At 7:23 PM, Blogger Fanboy said...

This has NOTHING to really do with your post, but your invocation of the "gentle reader" greeting greatly reminds me of the book I just finished reading. My Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen. It's about a 19th century Danish prostitute and her drunken companion/mother(?) who find a time machine that transports them to 21st century London. Wackiness ensues. The whole point of this rant is that the prostitute repeadetly refers to the reader as "gentle reader," all the while trying to compliment them and possibly lure them as a "trick." See. I said it had NOTHING to do with the post.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Amy Reads said...

Hi Mr. Fanboy,
You said, This has NOTHING to really do with your post, but your invocation of the "gentle reader" greeting greatly reminds me of the book I just finished reading.

Huzzah! I adore tangential comments, and Shakespearean asides, and all of this to say never, ever apologize for getting Off Topic! It's my favorite thing to do (ask The Dissertation Director, if you don't believe me!).

You also said, My Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen. It's about a 19th century Danish prostitute and her drunken companion/mother(?) who find a time machine that transports them to 21st century London. Wackiness ensues. The whole point of this rant is that the prostitute repeadetly refers to the reader as "gentle reader," all the while trying to compliment them and possibly lure them as a "trick."

What fun! Thanks so very much for the recommendation, particularly as I am a nineteenth-century scholar who does, occasionally, write about prostitutes and Neo-Victorianism (two things that this book seems to be about). And time travel makes me swoony. Not sure why.

See. I said it had NOTHING to do with the post.

And see that it made me utterly happy :) Thanks for the recommendation. The "Gentle Reader" and "Dear Reader" addresses have a long history in literature, particularly from the century I study (consider Jane Eyre's "Reader, I married him," for example). It always seemed... cozy, I guess would be the best word, and this blog feels cozy to me.
Thanks for reading!


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