When Tuesday rolls around, you know it's time for Joe McCulloch's guide to This Week in Comics! This entry highlights new titles from Julia Wertz and Kyle Starks.

We also have Greg Hunter's review of the new relaunch of Howard the Duck, with writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Joe Quinones trying to fill the shoes of Steve Gerber and Frank Brunner/Gene Colan. Here's Greg on how the title fits into the modern Marvel universe:

Several years ago, Zdarsky’s Sex Criminals collaborator Matt Fraction scripted a brief, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead-style run on Punisher War Journal in which the lead character prowled the fringes of whatever “event” storyline was taking place. A few years later, Jeff Parker and Kev Walker took a similar approach with Marvel’s Thunderbolts series, dispatching a band of super-convicts to fight the minor battles of recent major events. Howard 2015 suggests the limitations of this storytelling style. Howard’s as suited to it as any other Marvel character, but the new series arrives at a time when Marvel’s properties—always the contents of a shared universe—have been so thoroughly integrated as to contain Iron Man, Spider-Man, and a few thousand Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns. The first issue’s tagline reads, “Trapped in a world he’s grown accustomed to,”[3] but this world has also grown accustomed to a figure like Howard. His role as a witness to costumed absurdity has become increasingly common.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—News. The Miami Herald reports on Xavier Bonilla, the Ecuadorian cartoonist who has been persecuted by his country's government and who recently received a death threat from a person claiming to be a member of the Islamic State.

Dave Sim has checked into the hospital with stomach cramps

The longtime Mandrake the Magician cartoonist Fred Fredericks has passed away.

DC has cancelled a controversial variant cover for an upcoming issue of Batgirl, at the artist's request, following many reader complaints. Ardo Omer explains some of the issues fans had with the artwork here. As with a few other recent controversies, whether or not you think the fan critiques are legitimate, it seems wrong to decry this move as censorship, as some have; this seems more like a corporation trying to please a book's fan base.

—Reviews & Commentary. Tom Murphy writes about Dylan Horrocks's Sam Zabel and the Magic Pencil.

Abhay Khosla writes about meta-superhero exhaustion by way of reviewing Multiversity: Mastermen and Supreme: Blue Rose.

Sophia Foster-Dimino initiated a Twitter discussion on the alleged unpopularity of autobio comics which attracted many cartoonists, and which has now been Storified. I remember when I used to "hate autobio" (even while I read a ton of it); it seems to me this is something people tend to say for reasons that aren't always rational.

—Interviews & Profiles. The Beat talks to James Kochalka.

Black Girl in Media has an interview with Cheryl Lee, the blogger and Ormes Society founder.

—Funnies. Dane Martin has published many of his recent comics on Tumblr.

7 Responses to Splash

  1. noni says:

    I don’t have the demographic breakdown for Batgirl’s readership, but it’s not hard to imagine that what DC fears from these displeased fans is less a loss of readership and more a PR disaster (which I think is a legitimate fear- though in this case it looks like it was the artist who backed out under pressure, unlike Marvel who pulled the plug themselves on the Manara Spider Woman cover). And I personally think it’s fair to describe this as an undemocratic or illiberal means of effecting change- insofar as a perfectly liberal means already exists for expressing your disapproval as a customer, which is not buying the product.
    And if you are one of the, I don’t know, let’s say 90%* of DC fans who are perfectly content with your [arguably (though I would argue strongly in the affirmative)] harmless escapist fantasies remaining exactly as they are- the idea of an extreme minority of fans appealing to forces outside the circuit of producer and consumer to alter the product must be pretty appalling. And if censorship isn’t the right word for what this majority is trying to describe, it’s pretty close.

    Anyway- I guess the big takeaway is that getting so personally attached to a corporate Frankenstein like “Batgirl”, whatever your politics, is setting yourself up for guaranteed heartache.

    *extrapolated from this:

  2. Max West says:

    I just learned of Dave Sim’s hospital trip via the Moment of Cerebus blog. Let’s all wish Mr. Sim a speedy recovery!

  3. Tim Hodler says:

    The creative team behind the book have said they think the proposed cover was inappropriate, and the artist of the cover himself called for it not to be released. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with their reasoning, or think that cancellation was the best outcome, but it simply isn’t a case of censorship.

    I also fail to see how public debate is illiberal or undemocratic.

    But I agree that becoming personally attached to corporate characters is usually a recipe for disappointment.

  4. noni says:

    Certainly it’s not censorship in the sense of some government agency stamping a red X on the book, but I do think the intent of some of the folks complaining about this cover is well described as “censorious”, in that: this is a product (this alternate cover) that they have no reason to buy if they don’t like it. Even if they’re Batgirl fans they can still buy the default cover. But their objective, it seems to me, is that NO ONE should be able to buy this product- they don’t even want it for sale at all, to anyone- that’s what strikes me as, at the very least, resembling censorship. I suppose the righteousness of that outcome depends on whether or not you think the cover is harming (not just offending) people just by existing. I definitely don’t. I also don’t expect this is the means for effecting change that these aggrieved fans would want used against them by people who disagree with their taste. I expect they would make an appeal to economic liberalism, which is the system we already have in place to decide which harmless commercial products flourish or fade, and which I think most Americans would agree (at least until their hackles get raised by a comic book cover) is a pretty enlightened system.

    And I think public debate, in this day and age (and lots of others, but this one in particular), can feel a lot like intimidation if you’re on the receiving end of it. The consequences of being the target of an online firefight are scary and real: when PR reaches a critical mass, people actually do lose their jobs and/or reputations over it. So when companies are making decisions based not on the prospect of losing customers, but out of fear of becoming pariahs to potential advertisers based on the actions of large groups of people who aren’t actually a part of their market- yes, I think that subverts our liberal economic system. But again, if you think this cover, just by existing, is committing an injustice for which we don’t yet have adequate laws to address, I can genuinely see how you’d be pleased with this outcome. But even still I’m not sure you should be!

    (And yes, this particular case is a little murky to talk about since the artist backed out of his own volition, but I do think the trend in general is real and worth talking about.)

  5. Tim Hodler says:

    Look, I’m pretty close to a free speech absolutist, and that position includes defending people’s rights to criticize art. As far as I can tell, that’s the only thing opponents of the Batgirl cover did. (If anything more sinister occurred, I am unaware of it.)

    I agree that public debate can be intense and even intimidating, and that as a culture, we still haven’t figured out exactly how to productively argue online in the (still very young) social media age, but that seems to me to be a somewhat separate issue.

    Bottom line: you have to choose your battles, and if everyone involved agrees this was a stupid choice for a cover, it seems like the wrong hill to choose to die on.

  6. noni says:

    Well, let me just say that, in my humble opinion, if you, as an individual, recognize in yourself that you’re criticizing something harmless and legal which you are completely free to ignore and which will ignore you too- with the intent/hope in your heart that if enough other people criticize it too the pressure will be enough to make that something have no choice but to disappear, then you are behaving as a de facto censor (though fully within your free speech rights), and you should think about how you’d feel if that was done to someone/something you like/love!

    What I suspect though is that a lot of these critics actually would argue that the cover is in fact harmful- but that’s definitely a whole different can of worms.

    (Also I can’t quite get myself to take the artist, in his remorse, totally at his word- at least in the theoretical context of the argument I’m making- since he was already under some duress when he changed his tune, and, if he hadn’t, like you said: he would’ve died on that hill. Not much of a choice.)

  7. Jordan Smith says:

    Not that it matters to me in the slightest, as I don’t buy these comics, but I am in agreement with Tim on the matter of it supposedly being censorship, which it simply doesn’t look like from where I’m standing. Another typical internet kerfuffle where everyone’s yelling at each other, threatening each other, calling each other things they don’t know the meaning of – generally behaving like angry children who want everything their way. Or: why I avoid getting involved in debates on the internet unless it’s with friends or people who aren’t going to sling shit at me in response to anything I may say. Not using social media, where all this outrage seems to have originated from, except for very basic purposes is also a great way of not wanting to kill yourself in despair of humanity.

    It’s interesting to me that creative teams get no say in the variants though. With the way they appear to be themed, this one included, I can see why that’s the case and I guess that these are planned well in advance behind the scenes, irrespective of project, but this strikes me as a silly debacle that could’ve been avoided entirely if the writers and artist of the strip could have even seen a selection of thumbnails and taken their pick from those.

    Anyway, I can see some of both sides points on the matter of if it should have been removed regardless of the creative team’s wishes and the artist kindly obliging, but hell, as noni put it, “the big takeaway is that getting so personally attached to a corporate Frankenstein like “Batgirl”, whatever your politics, is setting yourself up for guaranteed heartache.”

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