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Where Do We Begin?

Sean Collins and I received pushback on a number of comments in my column last week. I appreciate everyone who took the time to offer feedback, particularly on the issue of female voices in comics criticism. In hindsight there are definitely things I wish I had said differently or thought about more carefully, but even if I may have framed the discussion poorly, I think that the issues Sean and I addressed last week are important ones and I’m still glad that I devoted my attention to them in the column.

When I started the Comics Workbook Tumblr, I talked about “flipping the script” of most comics criticism outlets by attempting to have more female than male contributors. I’m actively working to maintain a strong diversity in the perspectives represented in the new Comics Workbook Magazine as well. I’ve asked some cartoonists who are women about the issue of gender representation in comics and comics criticism, and some have told me that they feel it isn’t an issue that needs to be discussed (particularly by men) — similarly, I imagine, cartoonists who are women (rightly) resent being asked interview questions about being “female cartoonists” rather than just about being cartoonists. I certainly appreciate that viewpoint, however I feel it’s important to have an open discussion about these issues, on which a great deal of progress still needs to be made. So I plan to continue addressing ways that we can promote a diversity of perspectives in comics through this column.

Also, I’m trying hard to be attentive to not just defining diversity along gender lines. I also think talking about all of this (however awkwardly) will facilitate progress. I think that’s possible. Simply saying there’s a problem doesn’t really do much, and that’s probably why so many women are frustrated by having the conversation over and over again. Really, just being inclusive and diverse and all that is better than talking about it.

Thanks for your patience.

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Please check out the piece by Heidi MacDonald’s response to last week’s column over at The Beat. Also please check out Ng Suat Tong’s response to the column over at Hooded Utilitarian.

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I’ll be at CAB this weekend selling the first issue of Comics Workbook Magazine. Please come by and say hello if you are at the show. I’ll be downstairs along the left wall. I will also have a big selection of old mini-comics from yesteryear as well as a selection of comic book back issues.

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Thanks! Over and out.


123 Responses to Where Do We Begin?

  1. patrick ford says:

    The main thing I notice is this tempest in a tea cup is simply another attack on TCJ from the Archipelago of Misfit Toys.

  2. As always, Frank, you’re a class act.

  3. Rob Clough says:

    Heidi said it best: the best way to be inclusive is TO BE INCLUSIVE. This refers to both those who are gatekeepers and editors, as well as the choices individual critics make in the kinds of comics they talk about.

  4. patrick ford says:

    I’d like to see the list of articles by women, or articles about women, which Groth rejected for publication in TCJ.
    While I’m waiting I could chose to read all the great interviews with women creators the magazine has published in the past as well as forty issues of Roberta Gregory’s NAUGHTY BITS.

  5. Andrew White says:

    Oh come on…the argument isn’t that Groth, or anyone else, is barring articles by/about women from publication, but that in order to address a firmly entrenched lack of diversity, it’s incumbent on him and others to actively seek out female, minority, etc. contributors.

  6. patrick ford says:

    It’s nothing more than petty ax-grinding.

  7. Joe S. Walker says:

    We’re invariably told that female comics creators/bloggers are “awesome”, “amazing”, “incredible” – or they tell one another that. They don’t want critics, they want cheerleaders.

  8. Peter Sattler says:

    Cross out the word “female” and you’ve got a point.

  9. Ian Harker says:

    Not that we couldn’t all do better, but isn’t alternative comics pretty diverse already compared to most sub-cultures? I’m thinking back to just SPX alone and the room was filled with black, white, asian, straight, gay, man, woman, transgender, you name it. In front of and behind the tables that is. It seemed like a really welcoming environment.

    Alt-comics has always been a DIY business, so if you’d like to see more diversity make things more diverse. Don’t wait for an invite, open the door yourself. The community is ready to welcome you.

    Of course nepotism and an “old boys club” is always going to be present, but in my opinion this only serves the mediocre. Nobody is getting Kate Beaton’s spot out of nepotism, that’s pure talent and value. At the end of the day good work is going to sell and mediocre work is going to die on the vine.

  10. patrick ford says:

    Further TCJ and FB have a long established history of publishing and promoting women cartoonists. There is clearly an open door for women, and writing by or about women.
    The true motive behind this trumped up “controversy” is simply the latest incarnation of TCJ hurt my feelings.

  11. Andrew White says:

    Of course TCJ/FB have published many great female/queer/minority cartoonists. But, for instance, of the 39 books on the FB Kickstarter I count at least 20 made by straight white men. Heidi’s article thoroughly covers an even more stark imbalance in the print TCJ. This isn’t to pick on Fanta, because there’s obviously no malicious intent here and I’m sure they do indeed have an open door for women. It’s just another important reminder that, despite the significant advances in terms of diversity that Ian discusses below, there’s still progress to be made.

  12. ‘Women need to be better critics’ says a man to another man ‘they just want cheerleaders’. ‘I don’t perceive of a problem of gender imbalance’ says a man to another man ‘so it mustn’t be there’.

    ‘There’s clearly an open door for women to walk through’.

    Well, clearly, there isn’t. Inequality is pernicious and its mechanisms so often invisible, accidental or unintended as much as it is deliberate or malicious.

    I’m a man. I hold no conscious prejudice against anyone. I try everyday not to be sexist. But you know what? I bet I am, sometimes. If you are culturally the status quo, you won’t always see if someone else isn’t getting heard, is getting hurt, is getting silenced.

    Andrew points this out, so does Rob. The message is for gatekeepers to be attuned to the debates and give the voices to the people best positioned to field the conversation.

    I take Ian’s point to it seeming open as a world. But power structures offer imbalance in different places, spaces, scales. We may all be in the room, but we may not all experience the process of getting there, staying there, being there the same way.

    Be open to someone saying ‘I find this a problem’ and think why they said that and address their concerns with due humility and a genuine will to empower their voice to have the conversation. Don’t fucking accuse people of axe grinding and snipe to your own fucking kind.

  13. AND SO FAR WE’RE ALL MEN HAVING THIS FUCKING CONVERSATION

  14. Ian Harker says:

    Just to be clear i wasn’t trying to deny anyone’s perspective, i just think we should be proud of the diversity we’ve managed to achieve so far. In the 10 years or so i’ve been hanging around comics i’ve seen improvement first hand. I’m not saying anyone should be satisfied, i’m just commenting on the general right-track/wrong-track.

  15. patrick ford says:

    TCJ isn’t even published once a year. That right there means the articles are going to lean towards things of a historical nature. Or as it’s apparently know by today’s beat generation “pap-pap.”
    If Bob Levine had submitted a long article on Dori Seda I’m sure TCJ would have published it.
    Should the Maurice Sendak material have been cut? He’s “not even” a cartoonist. And Groth “goaded” him into calling Spielberg as “pile of shit.”
    Would the article on Wertham have been better if it were the Carol Tilley article rather than the Warren Bernard?

  16. Leah says:

    I am a woman. Hi. Appreciated your above response, Simon. I also appreciated frank’s follow-up on this. I look forward to getting my copy of Comics Workbook Magazine, and have been aware of his efforts to get women involved as much as possible.

    Speaking from my own hesitation, women might not be commenting as much on this forum (or others) because we fear the backlash of men telling us that we are crazy and don’t know what we’re talking about. At least I’m pretty used to seeing that sort of interaction go down, not necessarily in the alt-comix scene (as Ian mentioned, it is a very friendly one), but as you so rightfully pointed out, our tiny community is still a part of the greater system and its power structures that we have to deal with every day. It conditions us women, us POCl to behave and be silent.

    Anyway the mere fact that this is being so openly addressed and discussed I consider to be a positive, even if the road to progress is awkward on filled with bloopers (I’m not exempt from being completely wrong on occasion myself, it happens). Here’s to hoping for the best.

  17. My contact info is on the site, and we’re actually working on the next print ish right now. Feel free to pitch me pieces by and about women (and of course we’ll hold them up to the same standards we always do). Haven’t received a single pitch yet.

  18. Ian Harker says:

    I’d like to nominate Sarah Horrocks for her own column if she’d do it. Seriously, she’s got the best blog on tumblr and is extensively covering comics no one else is.

  19. I recognise that – my bile was aimed at the other commenters and my own disgust and exasperation at the whole thing

  20. I should add my second comment was rage, disgust and frustration at the tenor of the commenting, not an attack on those with other voices not participating. I guess I meant the conversation proved the point about exclusivity and that upset me

  21. patrick ford says:

    It’s axe grinding.

  22. Kristy–

    If you’re waiting for people to contact you with pitches, that might be contributing to the problem.

    Perhaps my circumstances were unusual, but it sounds as if things have changed since TCJ 301. I really didn’t pitch anything. I was solicited. Gary emailed and asked if I wanted to participate in the Crumb Genesis roundtable. He also asked if I was interested in doing a feature-length review apart from that. I said how about the big Eddie Campbell Alec collection, and he said sounds good.

    If you’re interested in diversifying the content and contributors, maybe that more active approach would be best? Solicit people. Plan a cover-featured roundtable on Are You My Mother or The Property or another recent effort by a major woman cartoonist. Contact the better women writers and ask them to do a piece of their choosing. Go to them rather than waiting for them to come to you.

    If you’re already doing this, great.

  23. “I’m a man. I hold no conscious prejudice against anyone. I try everyday not to be sexist. But you know what? I bet I am, sometimes. If you are culturally the status quo, you won’t always see if someone else isn’t getting heard, is getting hurt, is getting silenced.”

    This is an excellent point that doesn’t get made enough. Sexism and racism are institutional problems that affect (to varying extents) everyone. Too often people react defensively to these topics with some variant of “But I don’t hate _____ people!” That’s rarely the point—assholes with overt prejudices are easy to spot and hopefully easy to ignore. I’m not sure that we often accomplish much by labeling a person sexist or racist. But I’d argue that we’re each beholden not to do sexist or racist things. Communities are built by their members, and as others have said, the cartooning community is a pretty good one. But it could be better. And it’s not that hard for each of us to examine her or his actions, reactions, and beliefs to see if they’re just.

  24. BVS says:

    AGREED! go look at the piece she wrote about Alberto Breccia’s Dracula.
    http://mercurialblonde.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/complete-thoughts-on-alberto-breccias-dracula-comics/

    if you’re looking for other places to begin measures to increase inclusiveness. please, no more articles and 100+ comment flame wars about:
    Kirby’s heir’s lawsuit, Kirby’s original art,and who Stan stole credit from. it’s been covered, it’s done, it’s done, it’s done. if this topic is so vital and necessary maybe it can have it’s own site , I suggest the title MARVEL RAGE

  25. Are you suggesting that there were no female cartoonists in the early and mid 20th century? Because that’s friggen’ bonkers. Maurice Sendak was a children’s book author. Do you have any idea how many incredible female cartoonists were making childrens books 60 or 70 years ago? Probably not, because TCJ doesn’t really talk about it, nobody does.

  26. Axe grinding or not, it’s a good point.

  27. patrick ford says:

    “Do you have any idea how many incredible female cartoonists were making childrens books 60 or 70 years ago? Probably not, because TCJ doesn’t really talk about it, nobody does.”

    http://www.fantagraphics.com/browse-shop/pretty-in-ink-american-women-cartoonists-1896-2013.html

  28. patrick ford says:

    What I’m suggesting is TCJ and FB have done more to promote and publish women cartoonists than any other publisher.

  29. patrick ford says:

    If old comics by men are “pap-pap” comics does that make old comics by women “baba” comics?

  30. Joe S. Walker says:

    Bullshit.

  31. Joe S. Walker says:

    “Due humility”? Like Heidi MacDonald calling TCJ “shameful” and sneering at “pap pap comics”?

  32. Charles says:

    go to bed dude

  33. Bob Ralph says:

    “the 39 books on the FB Kickstarter I count at least 20 made by straight white men”

    What are you asking for? A particular percentage by each gender, race and sexual preference? A particular percentage by each gender, race and sexual preference that matches society according to the latest census statistics, or…? What about the dozen or so dead creators on the list? Should there be a percentage of living/dead for publications? What about fucking foreigners (haha) like Tardi? Should American publishers have to meet quotas with a percentage of foreign work?

  34. Bob Ralph says:

    “At the end of the day good work is going to sell and mediocre work is going to die on the vine.”

    My god, are you serious? Would you like a list of extraordinary art, comics, music, novels and film that was neglected in its day, only to be rediscovered decades later (usually in the creators declining years or after their sordid deaths)?

  35. Peter Sattler says:

    I guess, being gender-blind and all, they’re too busy being open to everybody to actively include or invite anybody.

  36. Lightning Lord says:

    You really like the taste of the TCJ koolaid, don’t you Pat?

  37. Lightning Lord says:

    Yeah, only women in comics are clamoring for people to praise them, whereas the mighty men of the funnybook set don’t need that shit.

    Bullshit yourself.

  38. Lightning Lord says:

    Amen.

  39. Lightning Lord says:

    It really makes you mad that not everyone in the world thinks TCJ is the greatest publication of all time, doesn’t it?

  40. Lightning Lord says:

    So any critiques of TCJ by groups that also cover mainstream comics are invalid? Ok, dude.

  41. mateor says:

    Wicked cosplay.

  42. Joe S. Walker says:

    “Do you have any idea how many incredible female cartoonists were making childrens books 60 or 70 years ago?”

    How many competent female cartoonists were there? How many mediocre ones? How many lousy ones?

  43. patrick ford says:

    Still not seeing any women creators or critics show up here to pile on TCJ.
    What I do notice is people who are interested in super heroes, and people trying to draw attention to themselves or their blogs.
    In other words: ax-grinding.

  44. Lightning Lord says:

    Ah, so the criticism of people who are interested in super heroes (In other words, me) or people with their own blogs is invalid? Good to know.

  45. “Still not seeing any women creators or critics show up here to pile on TCJ.”

    Annie Murphy has a post up here, in case you’re interested.

    http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2013/11/so-what-does-a-gal-have-to-do-to-get-into-comics/

  46. patrick ford says:

    I’m waiting to hear from Lightning Lass.

  47. patrick ford says:

    What I found interesting was one of the comments in reply to that article. It came from an interview with Debbie Drechsler.

    Tim O’Shea: Again, in the back of the book, you thank a number of people for making the book possible, and in particular, editor Gary Groth, for keeping you laughing as you put the book together. How important was it for you to be able to laugh when dealing with such a subject and such a process?

    Drechsler: Really, the laughter happened after all the stories were written, and helped more with what I find to be the boring process of revisiting work I’ve already done. Gary was great at keeping me going when I just wanted to go and work on something NEW instead of reworking something already done.

  48. Robert Fiore says:

    I saw the comment above about Sarah Horrocks, and I clicked through and found that the article linked to is indeed better than quite a few things that have appeared on the Comics Journal website. I also noticed that it appears on Horrocks’ own website, which can be accessed just as easily as the Comics Journal website, particularly since the editors of this website seem to link to it pretty frequently on their daily blog. If I’m Sarah Horrocks and I am asked to write for the Comics Journal website, the question I might well ask myself is, why should I improve their website by taking content away from my website, thereby lowering my own page views? While the Comics Journal does pay contributors, it’s not so much that you would write for the Comics Journal for money. We no longer live in a world where freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns a press; it now belongs to anyone who has access to a computer. It seems to me that not having women in the Comics Journal would have been more of an issue in the days when it was one of a very few magazines publishing serious comics criticism on a regular basis than it is now.

    The question I have is this. Suppose the Comics Journal website finds that it is getting enough content from a predominantly male pool of writers to satisfy its needs. What is the problem with that? I pose this strictly as a question. Commentators here seem to be assuming that the problem is self-evident, but it doesn’t seem quite so obvious to me.

  49. TCJ still has a good bit of cachet. Some money is more than no money. That’s often enough to get people to write a post or two. And sometimes folks just like the chance to speak to a slightly different audience (Sarah’s written for HU:

    http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2012/10/salammbo/ )

    There are a number of reasons to try to get more women contributors, it seems like. First, and again, TCJ is still (as Heidi suggests) an important touchstone for comics criticism and for canon formation. When TCJ prints a massive article about Crumb’s lawyers rather than having anything at all about female cartoonists, it sends a message about what’s important. That message can matter (see Annie Murphy’s piece about how discouraging as a cartoonist she found tcj’s approach to female cartoonists.)

    Perhaps more importantly, TCJ’s mission is to cover art comics. Failing to engage with female critics and female cartoonists is a failure of that mission. TCJ should do better in this regard (especially the print edition) because otherwise they are failing by their own standards.

    Finally, the world remaining what it is, men and women are not treated equally, which means that women have experiences and perspectives which are different from men. Those perspectives are valuable in lots of ways. Paying attention to women can involve being more thoughtful about the role of gender in the work of all cartoonists; it can mean seeing women creators as more central and so having a different canon (say, focusing on the history of children’s book cartooning rather than on EC; or thinking about shoujo rather than superhero comics). Not that all women share common interests or anything, anymore than all men do (Qiana Whitted who writes for HU is very interested in EC as just one example.) But, gender and genre share a common root and have a certain amount to do with each other, and so including women will tend to have an effect on content, and help make tcj (esp. the print version) feel less like a guy’s locker room filled with aging hippies who can’t talk about anything other than Crumb.

    In some ways the fact that you have to ask the question is symptomatic of the problem, maybe? This is feminism 101 stuff. Discussions of canon and inclusion are really old hat in literature and visual art. The fact that comics doesn’t get it makes comics look really backwards and staid and a more than a little ridiculous. If you care about comics being taken seriously as an art form (which is TCJ’s mission) then including women as writers and pieces about women is a no-brainer. Are comics art, or are they a nostalgic pastime for male hobbyists? If you want the answer to be the first of those, you need to include women. (And just to be clear, I take this as what Frank is saying in this piece, which is very much to his credit.)

  50. eriknebel says:

    “…content from a predominantly male pool of writers… What is the problem with that?”

    Hello Robert, I’m a fan of your writing.
    In response to your question, I think the basic idea is that it’s good for the comics community to go in the direction of seeking diversity. So we have not only a mix of men and women, but also representation from the LGBT community, and blacks, asians, latinos, and elderly fellows like yourself.
    I don’t understand all the recent “Pap Pap” comments people have been making. This seems to be a criticism directed against old people, but I can’t make any sense of it.

  51. patrick ford says:

    “Pap Pap” comics are comics made by dead people. In other words they are old comics.
    You also have “Pap Pap” movies which are discussed at length in the Marice Sendak interview in TCJ. Cutting edge hipsters read comments by Sendak and Groth on Simone Signoret, Carol Lombard, and Claudette Colbert and sneer at the old men talking about their old movies when they could be talking about super hero TV shows and movies.

  52. patrick ford says:

    Tim O’Shea: Again, in the back of the book, you thank a number of people for making the book possible, and in particular, editor Gary Groth, for keeping you laughing as you put the book together. How important was it for you to be able to laugh when dealing with such a subject and such a process?

    Drechsler: Really, the laughter happened after all the stories were written, and helped more with what I find to be the boring process of revisiting work I’ve already done. Gary was great at keeping me going when I just wanted to go and work on something NEW instead of reworking something already done.

  53. Scott Ashworth says:

    I just noticed that Matt Seneca’s blogs have been deleted, so the archive of most of his critical work is gone. That’s a shame.

    Not least because he produced the best critical work on Aidan Koch that I’ve seen.

  54. Lightning Lord says:

    While I often vehemently disagreed with the man, I agree that it’s a damn shame that he obliterated his criticism like that.

    I’m not sure if it’s a result of him wanting the focus to be on his cartooning, or if he objected to people calling him out on his rhetoric. He seemed to be particularly bothered by the response to his work on Comics Alliance, where a couple people (including myself, admittedly) questioned why the site was giving a platform to someone who burned and ate a book. He also reacted harshly to people questioning his views on gender, bringing us back to the issue here.

  55. Lightning Lord says:

    Pat, the chip on your shoulder about superheroes and people who enjoy them is tiresome. As Heidi MacDonald put it, you’re one of those “playing their rejection of Marvel and DC as the Oedipal crisis of their adult lives “

  56. Lightning Lord says:

    The way I understood it was simply that TCJ has a focus, intentional or not, on previous eras of cartooning.

  57. If you’re interested in Matt’s criticism, it’s not gone. You can start by clicking here:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20131024090621/http://deathtotheuniverse.blogspot.com/

    Looking over the rest of this thread, it seems one respondent in particular is having a very difficult time differentiating between androcentrism and misogyny/chauvinism. The sexism TCJ is being criticized for is the former, not the latter.

    I’m as critical of Gary Groth as anyone, but attacking him, TCJ, and Fantagraphics for the latter–the tolerance for misogynistic material notwithstanding–is fairly ludicrous. Fantagraphics has been supportive of many women cartoonists, and as far as the print TCJ is concerned, there have been at least four women managing editors, including the current one.

    However, the magazine has been defined by its lionization of 1960s comics, exemplified by its adulation of Jack Kirby on the one hand, and Robert Crumb on the other. That speaks to a taste not many women can identify with. As such, TCJ cannot rely on inertia to be inclusive of women, either as artists worth covering or writers worth publishing. It has to actively work for that inclusion. The magazine’s default position is to fall short, and when it does, as it has with the last two print editions, the complaints deserve to be heard and respected.

  58. patrick ford says:

    Looking over the thread I see a lot of ax-grinding from people who see TCJ as the enemy because the magazine is seen as not giving super heroes their proper respect, and from people who feel they have been disrespected in some way by TCJ.
    The women’s issue is simply being exploited to further those petty goals.

  59. Robert Fiore says:

    I feel I have to ask the question because I can’t read your mind, and it is possible that you have reasons that I wouldn’t presume, though evidently not in this case. My view on the matter is that in a field of endeavor where men greatly outnumber women such as writing comics criticism, it’s quite possible to go through long period of few female contributors as a matter of pure chance. I believe that a magazine of criticism is a magazine about ideas, and I personally don’t see ideas as gendered. I agree with the late Dr. Carl Faber of UCLA that the differences between men and women are genuine but romanticized out of all proportion. At any rate, seeing things as you do you must be quite gratified with developments in reactionary politics, where figures such as Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and those young blonde women who read the news on Fox are so prominent. Indeed, an aficionado of reactionary politics might proudly boast that there is no woman nearly as significant on the left/liberal end of the spectrum in recent decades as Margaret Thatcher was on the right. Come to think of it, gay men seem to be surprisingly well represented too, problematic as that is. I always say undercover operatives are the bravest soldiers, as they can be shot for fighting out of uniform.

  60. Robert, my point was that you needed to ask the question because you haven’t made any effort at all to think through these matters in even a basic way. The internet is at your fingertips; you could read something about this issue rather than pretending that your ignorance makes you a clear-sighted truth-teller.

    I don’t know what you’re babbling at at the end of your comments. Certainly feminism has made important progress, and one of the ways it has done so is that there’s more women represented across the political spectrum. Still not that many (Congress is overwhelmingly male). But the argument that there shouldn’t be more women critics at tcj because Michelle Bachman strikes me as so utterly idiotic that it seems clear that you’re just trolling. I presume you’re trying clumsily to say that women can believe lots of different things, to which my reply is, duh. I said that myself in my comment above.

    And…there are tons and tons of female comics critics. Possibly as many as men, really; there are a great many of them in the magasphere. You’re just making excuses. Tired ones at that.

    “I believe that a magazine of criticism is a magazine about ideas, and I personally don’t see ideas as gendered.”

    Misogyny is a gendered idea. So is equality. R. Crumb’s work is insistently and intentionally about gender. So is Kirby’s. The idea that there’s some realm of ideas where you don’t have to think about bodies is itself an idea with gendered implications, which you’re demonstrating here.

    But I’m done. You’re not arguing in good faith and, as is generally the case when you discuss anything other than comics, you have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is. I’m glad it’s Tim and Frank dealing with editorial at tcj.com rather than you.

  61. Cole Schenley says:

    I don’t think most of the people arguing care about superheros getting their proper respect in TCJ, regardless of how much they enjoy those kind of comics. I get that RSM and Noah have had past issues with TCJ and it’s editors, but they’re actually being pretty respectful and intelligent i their posting, I don’t see much in the way of ax-grinding at all. And the issue of including more women (and really, more diverse voices in general, be they from POC, people come from the LGBT community, feminists, foreign born writers, etc) isn’t a diversion or something being exploited for sinister means: it’s a serious issue that deserves examination.

  62. Lightning Lord says:

    I’m guessing Ford believes that part of the issue here is “not giving super heroes their proper respect” because of my username.

  63. Robert Fiore says:

    If the cadres could conform to doctrine on their own we wouldn’t need a commissar . . .

  64. patrick ford says:

    I’m guessing the issue here is ax-grinding because it’s so obvious, it could not possibly be more obvious. I simply look around and see the usual suspects.

  65. patrick ford says:

    Good guess.

  66. Lightning Lord says:

    If you’d like, I could start posting under the username Buddy Bradley. Would that somehow be arbitrarily better?

  67. Lightning Lord says:

    What’s really obvious is your attempt to trying and take attention away from the actual issue at hand because some of the people making it are ones who don’t meet some standard you’ve arbitrarily set. Oh no, some guy is using a character from a DC comic’s name as his internet handle! Oh no, the criticism is coming from the Beat!

    Please. The TCJ forums are dead.

  68. lauren weinstein says:

    They should get a giant vagina to do the reviews. Its labia lips could clap together every time it liked a comic and then queef if it doesn’t like the comic. I keep pitching this idea to Tim and he tells me to shut up and make him dinner.

  69. Robert Fiore says:

    And just think, this thread is being moderated.

  70. patrick ford says:

    What’s really obvious is petty ax-grinding.

  71. James says:

    I don’t agree with Pat that the lack of female engagement in comics criticism is a non-issue. After some years of the comics industry largely ignoring women as creative practitioners and as a customer demographic, things are slowly getting better—there are many active and significant female cartoonists, some VERY respected— and there can be little doubt that the critical response should reflect that fact, but often doesn’t, nearly enough. I too am at fault in that regard and will endeavor to rectify the shortcoming. However, it is hardly appropriate for the usual suspect, who should remain (triply) nameless, to blame Jack Kirby for the sexism of the comics industry. Kirby, who didn’t draw template women, but who, unlike so many of his contemporaries, depicted a range of individualistic body types and who wrote his female characters with a Caniffian depth and diversity, except where his intent was derailed by the disempowering likes of Stan Lee, who preferred his girls “invisible,” compliant, decorating the backgrounds. Please.

  72. patrick ford says:

    James, I’m not saying it’s a non-issue. I’m saying the issue is being exploited here by ax-grinders who carry an obvious chip on their shoulders.

  73. Robert Boyd says:

    ” If I’m Sarah Horrocks and I am asked to write for the Comics Journal website, the question I might well ask myself is, why should I improve their website by taking content away from my website, thereby lowering my own page views?”

    I read this statement with amused recognition. I have a blog which is my hobby and pays exactly nothing. I am frequently asked to write for publications which pay their writers. But I have a nice day job and don’t really need $100 from some web magazine, so I end up making exactly the same calculation that you suggest that Sarah Horrocks makes. Since very few people are “professional” writers about comics, this dynamic means it’s harder and harder for sites like TCJ to get new writers–male or female. Some potentially excellent writers would rather just play in their own sandboxes.

  74. Lightning Lord says:

    This is a tortured, circular argument, but I just have to say that your attempts at characterizing anything I say as being the work of “an obvious ax grinder” because I’ve committed the sin of enjoying superhero comics – and you don’t even know to what extent, and that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the types of comics the Journal covers as well – is laughable. i have as much right to comment as anyone else, and just because I am sometimes critical of the contributors here doesn’t mean I hate this fine publication.

  75. Chris Duffy says:

    Ax grinders should not carry chips on their shoulders. It sounds really dangerous! Maybe if the chips were less obvious?

    Sorry, I just liked the image.

  76. James says:

    Well, I mis-repeated what Pat wrote; he assures me he didn’t say that critical sexism is a non-issue. As well, in anticipation of the blowback, I suppose I misstated what the unnameable one wrote. He didn’t say that Kirby was responsible for comics sexism—Kirby was just lumped in with Crumb for no good reason. I have known plenty of women who appreciate Kirby’s work—-and TCJ’s writing about him, his ongoing disenfranchisement by corporate creeps and the editorial abuse of him by those creeps has absolutely zero to do with the issue at hand.

  77. Scott Grammel says:

    And speaking about large chips on various shoulders…

    James, reading RSM’s carefully modulated and largely reasonable viewpoint above as him blaming “Jack Kirby for the sexism of the comics industry” was, even for you, an impressive triumph of spleen over common sense.

    As for the range of female body types found in Kirby’s oeuvre, well, they may not all be pneumatic Kewpie dolls a la Wally Wood, but they hardly approach any kind of real-world variability: in general, across his decades of work (and I say this as someone who’s also read pretty substantially in Kirby’s romance output), they are white, attractive, and range very slightly from semi-slim to average-healthy build. The Female Furies of Mister Miracle, including Barda, are an unusual though happy exception to the overall rule.

    Glad to see you could slip in a bonus shot at Lee, though.

  78. Scott Grammel says:

    Are you taking it back or doubling down on it? I can’t tell.

  79. Scott Grammel says:

    From what I can tell, I think that Pat Ford considers it all ax-grinding. By axe-grinders. I’m not sure, but I think that’s what he’s saying here. Maybe he’ll make it clear eventually.

  80. James says:

    Hah, double, no, triple, quadruple down, just for you and your “carefully modulated” pal.

  81. patrick ford says:

    And as if on cue we have definitive evidence of ax-grinding. This is almost to funny for words.

  82. Scott Grammel says:

    It’s a goldarn axe-grinding epidemic!!!

    Oh, and: Robert Stanley Martin, Robert Stanley Martin, Robert Stanley Martin. My pal.

  83. Kristy: My contact info is on the site, and we’re actually working on the next print ish right now. Feel free to pitch me pieces by and about women (and of course we’ll hold them up to the same standards we always do). Haven’t received a single pitch yet.

    Kristy — obviously this approach is not working. As an editor I am always seeking out new writers I like and seeing if they are interested in writing. That’s kind of how that works for all editors. It’s this passivity that seems to be the root of the problem, not any actual intent.

  84. Say, how about Anne Elizabeth Moore?

  85. Lightning Lass says:

    Find me a woman human who would read this comment thread and look forward to writing for an audience of these ding-dongs.

  86. Dominick grace says:

    Does anyone really look forward to writing for an internet audience? (I’m only half-kidding.)

  87. Greg Fontaine says:

    “Of course nepotism and an ‘old boys club’ is always going to be present,”

    As that old boy Sophie Crumb can attest!

  88. patrick ford says:

    Since TCJ is just starting out and all…and really hasn’t a clue never having done anything to promote and publish works by women, I’ll wager they are all grateful for the advice.

  89. The perks on my end are I can get some free comics that I would have bought anyways, some money, and maybe hit a slightly different audience. But you’re right, for the most part past a certain point, the people who are reading my stuff, are the people reading my stuff.

    My preference though would be to drag whatever new audience I would get from a TCJ article back over to sites on which I have complete control. Whenever I write for another site, I always feel like I’m cutting up my own audience as much as I am adding to it. Usually when I post a new article on my blog, it’s a post and cross-post thing, and people know where it’s at. If it’s on an exterior site, it’s like I have to keep reminding people that it’s there and where it’s at. Whereas on my site, people can just pop in and plow through it at their leisure. The downside of my site is that I don’t have it organized very well, so there’s probably a fair amount of criticism that’s just vanishing in the internet netherworld. Though I suppose it’s like that everywhere.

  90. Kristy Valenti says:

    Whew! Now that Fantagraphics has made its Kickstarter goal, and there may actually * be another Journal in future, I can turn my attention to this a little more.

    Part of the problem is, as an editor, I try to connect writers with subjects I am particularly interested to read their writing about. The pieces that have lady contributors I’m developing for 303 before the topic came up on tcj.com came about because I was interested in what those women had to say about that topic given their specific professional insight, not because they were women.

    Heidi: to address your concern about women being left out of history, on the Fantagraphics side of my job, one of the four books by women I just edited is Trina Robbins’ Pretty in Ink.

    http://www.fantagraphics.com/browse-shop/pretty-in-ink-american-women-cartoonists-1896-2013.html

    I advocated to publish, helped update, and wrote some of this book. After everyone buys it and reads it, I look forward to the massive thread about what women were left out. (I am not being sarcastic. I fully expect one.)

  91. “it’s harder and harder for sites like TCJ to get new writers–male or female.”

    Hey Robert! This just is not at all true in my experience. HU is significantly less prestigious than tcj, and we don’t pay at all, but I consistently have folks showing up in my inbox to say they have pieces for me, and I often have success asking new people to write for us.

    It certainly involves a certain amount of work in terms of asking people, and not everyone says yes every time, but I think if you tell folks you’re open to new contributors and actively seek them out, it’s not that hard to find folks who are interested in a new platform, or like the idea of being part of the community or chatting with new folks or what have you.

  92. R. Fiore says:

    There’s that and there’s that when people don’t see new material on a site frequently enough they stop coming.

  93. patrick ford says:

    Heidi McDonald had positive things to say about TCJ.com. Her complaint was with the print edition.

  94. Kristy, that is a pretty awesome book (I’ve seen an advance copy) and it should definitely be published and purchased and read and shared and so on. But it’s still a SEPARATE history of women in comics, and Trina by her own admission just touches on the modern era. I’ll be happiest when I see the very real and important contributions of women simply integrated into the history of the last 40 years, not treated as an exotic topic.

    Glad to hear issue 303 will be more integrated, and very much looking forward to it.

  95. Ha! The gal Noah keeps citing actually suggests that, just not as a joke.

  96. I have a response to this discussion and some of the comments on the thread here, if people are interested

    http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2013/11/why-care-about-women-comics-critics-anyway/

  97. Dorian G. says:

    I just appreciated this bit from the column

    I feel like I pay close attention to new art comics from all over the world, and I can’t even keep up. How’s the casual reader supposed to keep up?

    Because this is something readers brought up with Seneca and he had some good responses to as well: the art comic world is really, really, really hard to explore if you’re not an artist yourself, and one intimately involved in all of the conferences, tumblr and other means of communication for artists, which isn’t a great thing for either artists or readers.

  98. Dorian G. says:

    To explain that in more detail:

    My impression as a non-artist and a reader of art comics is that social media such as tumblr have led to an unconscious creation of a sort of “underground gang star” mentality around creation, where it’s about building a personal brand, but building it through esoteric codes and signals so that it’s only accessible to others in the same in-group.

    People seem to build their reps within these group in part by presenting (in a publicly facing forum like tumblr!) a defensive insider persona that is unnecessarily hard to surmount, which really adds to the entry cost for readers outside the group. This can take the form of name-dropping, or of hitting all the right notes to be accepted as a middle-brow vulgarian consumer of certain other media.

    Isn’t the cost already high enough for just accessing and appreciating the art – as well it should be in many cases?

    So the barriers around the cliques and crews you’ve always seen in art seem to be broken down in art comics but they’ve really been reinforced as the outside reader confronts a public persona that suggests: think you’ll like my work? you won’t, don’t bother and you’re not welcome.

    It’s disheartening and I feel like if there’s a creator out there whose work I might enjoy I only ever hear about it through trying to decipher hieroglyphics found in a tumblr or blog post by someone who’s a little bit better at engaging readers through the same media.

  99. Dorian G. says:

    Lightning Lord, I think the issue is that you generally post on TCJ for one reason, and that is to clumsily troll about how Tucker Stone doesn’t like superhero comics enough, enough that I openly suspect you of being Tucker Stone.

  100. Dorian G. says:

    This is the first time I have ever seen you post anything that was not about how TCJ does not respect superheroes enough. I don’t think anyone takes you seriously, and that’s based on your voluminous and frankly obsessive defensiveness in all your other comments elsewhere on the site, to the point of parody.

  101. Dorian G. says:

    Finally, I think the problem is self-reinforcing: in a desolate hellscape where it seems like the only one appreciating your art is other artists and the only way to compete with big media is to give your work away for free, it becomes incumbent upon artists to prove that they’re as inaccessible as anyone else, since it seems like the only people who will reward them in any way for their work are people within that esoteric in-group. Not to mention that the whole environment breeds bitterness and anger at the unwashed.

    But behavior to defend oneself and one’s work through closed-off, art-world-only interactions – or even worse, interactions through fully public media that suggest that interactions with the public exist mainly to show other artists that one is more inaccessible-than-thou – contributes to the hostile environment for artists in general. It’s a huge waste of energy.

  102. Scott Grammel says:

    Other than having virtually no viable mainstream marketplace for their work, and there being no single break-out artist (a Dylan, a Crumb) that would compel those outside the scene — as well as the greater media — to pay attention, I think the alt/art comics scene is doing fine. Least as long as all the big names can still find jobs, money, health care, etc. by working in higher education.

  103. Dorian G. says:

    Except many of them are doing poorly at matching themselves up with potential readers.

  104. R. Fiore says:

    I suspect the perception of the Fourth Universe at the time was conditioned by expectations. DC was judging the results on what comic books were selling in the 1960s rather than what they were going to be selling. The standard of success was to sell on the scale of the original Marvel Universe, and when it wasn’t that magnitude of success it was judged a failure even though it was doing decently on its own terms. Jeanette Khan famously looked back on the sales figures and believed that they didn’t justify cancellation; this was a perception conditioned by what comic books were selling in the 1970s. The thing that made the Fourth Universe less of a commercial success than the Marvel Universe is precisely the thing that resonates with many readers now, which is that as time went on Kirby’s work became more personal. Myself, I was always somewhat turned off by Kirby’s weakness for crackpot ideas, and as a matter of personal character I identify more with Ditko’s neurasthenic outlook than Kirby’s bluff manliness. Anyway, the phenomenon of a work of art being judged a disappointment at first encounter and having its reputation grow over time should be too commonplace to be surprising.

    You see the phenomenon of perceptions shaped by expectations in a somewhat different way with the perception of the “sweet spot” of Charles Schulz and Peanuts. (Here we speak exclusively of the perception of quality rather than commercial success — did Peanuts ever actually lose a paper while Schulz was alive?) Actually I think the sweet spot of Peanuts was simultaneously both narrower and wider than previously thought. I think it hit an absolute plateau of invention and inspiration between about 1962 and 1965, and when you were reading it in the 1970s you were judging it against that peak. Now when you don’t expect it to maintain its peak performance you can appreciate a broader sweep of it. I write of course as someone who previously wrote criticism of Schulz that was indefensible.

  105. Lightning Lord says:

    Please, a comment about how I really wish Tucker would start finding shit horrible art/small press comics and nailing them to the wall again instead of saving his opprobrium for mainstream stuff isn’t exactly “clumsy trolling” about how he doesn’t love superheroes. And it’s true, back when the column ran on his site he did talk more about completely awful “The only thing I’ve read is Dan Clowes and Joe Matt, here’s me jerking off” comics.

  106. Lightning Lord says:

    Please read harder, I may enjoy mainstream comics but I also enjoy the type of comics this site focuses on. You may have confused “haha look at the people getting mad about a He-Man comic possibly being ok or Tucker Stone damning a recent Spider-Man comic with faint praise” I don’t give a shit about how they feel about punching books. There are tons and tons of other places I can get intelligent criticism about those, this is where I come to read about dudes getting pissed on.

  107. Lightning Lord says:

    Also Kim Thompson kicking my ass up and down the street early this year is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me digitally.

  108. Dorian G. says:

    You seem to be overestimating a bit the impact that you have on any of these writers. I don’t remember Seneca responding to you or expressing any consternation at all regarding the response he got from the peanut gallery to cooking and eating a book he bought.

  109. Luke P. says:

    At want point will those demanding more “inclusivity” be satisfied? Is the presumption that every free-floating Lockean atomized individual, being essentially equal, should/would display an equal interest in all things? If so, doesn’t this presume all *things* are universal in that they are in now way of/from specific cultural contexts? Do we really believe there are many brown women, for example, who are being denied opportunities in comics, or are we expected to behave as though that’s the case because we believe they should want to be in comics, even if they currently do not?

    If you like comics, you like something that came out of a specific historical context (Western, mass market capitalism, etc.).That we have now, or will ever achieve some kind of post-historical moment wherein all distinctions collapse, or are revealed to be “constructs” (my favorite conspiracy theory) is not evident. But why the pretense that they even should? Why is it so difficult to state, for example “I’m a white, middle American guy who got into comics at point A & chances are, will relate to or appreciate more work that is related to the distinctions mentioned. ” If this is as non-controversial as it should be, why is it more controversial for an editor or publisher to apply the same logic to his work?
    After all, isn’t representing distinction that are meaningful to us essential to maintaining authentic diversity? You must accept that the only way the demand for “inclusivity” is ever really ceded to is when one in a position of authority exchanges what he’d prefer for what he doesn’t for the sake of that principle. If it’s just a matter of finding a brown female that does whatever it might be just as well, it’s another metric altogether. The preferences of the authority figure are not altered in that case & the whole point of inclusion is to include those you otherwise would not.It is not just a matter of “looking harder”, but looking differently (as every professional multicultist will tell you).
    So, members of the jury, we must ask ourselves ‘if trading that genuine diversity for “inclusion” serves some greater end.In the case of comics, we’re mostly asking if a pudgy 25 year old with a vagina should be given preference over a pudgy 25 year old with a penis before we consider whether we genuinely appreciate the work they do.
    If we care about the art form and also value our respective culture-specific takes on comics in the same way we’d respect those of another, the only sane response is to reject the cult of “inclusion” for authenticity & diversity.If we don’t, we can expect to either a) receive disingenuous praise or opportunities b) be expected to give them or c) expect that you might be denied an opportunity for essentially unfair reasons.Is this going to help get and give what we all want out of comics?
    Again, where will this end? Will these efforts ever result in those ends? There are more people in comics from preferred minority groups than there have ever been before. We will at some point decide that lesbians are over-represented at a small press convention? Too Asian? Will we go after publishing for being too Jewish? Or do you think it’s more likely that the only indication needed by inclusivists to show their preferences aren’t being adapted to will be in the presence of “too many” straight, white males in any given context?

  110. Joe S. Walker says:

    Someone will be along to character-assassinate you shortly.

  111. Luke P. says:

    I’ll only respond if they at least try to address the questions I pose.
    Sorry for all the typos, btw.Yikes.

  112. Dorian G. says:

    ” You must accept that the only way the demand for “inclusivity” is ever really ceded to is when one in a position of authority exchanges what he’d prefer for what he doesn’t for the sake of that principle.”

    Ah, here we come down to it, the massive assumption buried in the middle of the wall of text. You haven’t made the case for that at all.

  113. Dorian G. says:

    Unfortunately for both you and your would-be respondents, rather than asking questions, you’ve instead offered a number of assumptions phrased as leading questions and statements such as “you must accept. . . ” etc. Make a case and you’ll be on more sound footing to demand answers.

  114. Dorian G. says:

    “A” comment? Quite a few comments, actually, across many, many TCJ articles, and all of them seem to be very low sarcasm about the relative value of superhero comics, not any sort of comment about art comics at all. Interesting.

  115. Dorian G. says:

    Again, you seem to be mistaken or misleading about the actual content of your comments. A quick perusal of any of Stone’s articles – or really, nearly any article whatsoever over the last year that mentions superheroes on TCJ – will reveal the truth of what I’m saying and you’re denying.

    I just want to let you know that what people are responding to is that history of short, sarcastic comments about the relative value of superhero comics; it makes your other comments here highly suspect.

  116. Lightning Lord says:

    Very well. If the mere act of not hating fiction about characters who wear capes and fight crime is a circumspect action that invalidates anything I have to say, then I’ll gladly cop to it.

  117. Luke P. says:

    It’s really simple: If the person in authority is simply finding an “A” that is interchangeable, from his values-perspective, with the “B” he’d otherwise hire, nothing new has been included. It’s logic & it’s used by proponents of “inclusivity” to counter the idea that something is being accomplished by hiring tokens ( i.e, brown people who hold the same stated values as you do, or the otherwise white employee would have).
    If this is not the case, an anti-feminist website would be applauded for hiring a female writer who is just as staunchly anti-feminist — and in the same way, for the same reasons— as they are.

  118. Luke P. says:

    I mean, this is why demands to “include” A or B are really dumb. If it’s a matter of finding a brown/vagina-bearer who is essentially someone we’d hire anyway, then what’s the point? What is being “included”? But if it’s a matter of hiring someone we wouldn’t otherwise hire, on what grounds should that be done? Should an editor or publisher simply forget about his job and publish/hire someone because I would never publish this person & they look like the kind of person these people who are complaining want me to publish?

    But these claims are just meant to stir self-righteous passions & nothing more. If there was something to this, something an editor could act upon , the claimants would need to present names, or lists of names, of women who want to write for TCJ and have been rejected who didn’t deserve to be, followed by an argument that seeks to show that this writer deserved to be published.

  119. Dorian G. says:

    Yeah, nothing you say is coming together like you want it. “Vagina-bearer”? Do you KNOW any women?

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