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As an example, if this column should refer to the disastrous employment practice reputations of any company in the comics field, any resemblance of the company that is described to any company that actually exists in reality, including but not limited to, as a wholly random example, DC Comics, it is wholly coincidental and unintentional on the part of the authors as well as The Comics Journal -- any comic company described in the column should be understood to have no real-world significance and the column itself should be understood to be at most a shoddy work of fiction or some lesser form of random typing that should be given by this or any other reader even less weight than fiction. Indeed, the fact that the mere letters utilized resemble words that are understood by the reader should be seen by the reader more often than not as an unpleasant coincidence. 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Nothing written in this column was written with any malice, and any statement which appears to contain any malice should be immediately understood to be a parody, created for educational purposes, to assist underprivileged children. The authors of this column have no malice for any person, living or dead, who has ever existed-- the authors of this column are beings of pure love, who want the best for you, and who hope you live forever and never grow old -- just like in that movie Cocoon, for each and every one of you. Each author of this column in fact has not read significant portions of the column written by the other author, and is thus unaware of its contents as well as the overall gestalt created by their collaboration and thus denies any responsibility for any unintended and inadvertent meanings, metaphors, or allusions created by the above-referenced gestalt which a reader might unilaterally and arbitrarily choose to perceive; however, both authors nevertheless insist that any such meanings, metaphors, or allusions a reader might choose to perceive or claim to perceive does not actually exist and are merely a trick of the eye created perhaps by an evil Trickster god of a long-dead religion whose worshipers were scourged from this Earth. Beware the Trickster God! Furthermore, nothing contained herein shall waive or alter the provisions of California Business and Professions Code 16603 which prohibits and makes it a misdemeanor to condition the sale of any magazine, book, or other publication by requiring the purchaser to also purchase a horror comic book, which the Business & Professions Code defines as where an "account of the commission or attempted commission of the crime of arson, assault with caustic chemicals, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, kidnapping, mayhem, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or voluntary manslaughter is set forth by means of a series of five or more drawings or photographs in sequence, which are accompanied by either narrative writing or words represented as spoken by a pictured character, whether such narrative words appear in balloons, captions or on or immediately adjacent to the photograph or drawing."
With special thanks to The Look of Disapproval for Felix's participation.
Every day across this great country, we get letters from young boys and men looking to break into the comic book game. Letters from troubled youths, man-children with absent father figures, men looking to change careers from "robbing old women of their social security money," all men whose lives could change if they just heard the motto of our Infamous Artists Correspondence Class: YOU TOO CAN COMIC BOOK!
Why, let's check in with one such troubled youth, young Felix from a little place called Anytown, USA...
FELIX: I want to work in comics but I think I might be a terrible person. Why, just yesterday I used the phrase "I'm not racist but..." I should just eat a bullet, right? There can't be a place in comics for a guy like me.
Haha, oh Felix, you scamp, none of that matters! Terrible? You sound more like a silly goose. Have you ever lied about being a member of the military? That's the only mistake in American history that's prevented a man from making comic books, and even then nobody gave a shit until long after he'd a healthy enough run to put a down payment on a small condo he christened Golden Falcoln's Den. Do you think your god-given right to get hard boners--papa bones, naughty bones and all them bones in between-- are reasons you shouldn't be allowed outside, let alone openly celebrated in comics? Not allowed to prey upon unsuspecting flesh at comic conventions? What are you talking about, Willis? You so crazy, girl. Don't get it twisted! Put a bird on it! No snitches!
And you, you reading this: You too can comic book, be you human garbage or be you clean, and we're going to show you how through straightforward instructional texts. Not only can you triumph over the limitations that hold other people back from a career in comics--like having a functioning conscience--but you can get so good at it that, even when you're caught out publicly and shown for what you are, you can still totally keep doing it, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
Chapter 1-- Breaking into Comics
First things first: Build a reputation as a champion of female characters. Work with female artists. You won't have to do anything beyond that--you won't even have to write anything that makes sense, your work won't even need to be likable--because the standards in comics have been set so impossibly low, so unbelievably embarrassingly low, that anything that even vaguely pretends to have some kind of forward momentum away from the popular (and shockingly accurate!) stereotype of an obese self-righteous freak of nature who openly despises everyone who disagrees with him--be they black, gay, women, or unwilling to take Superman seriously as a modern myth--will be praised with the sort of fervency one usually has to become a Scientologist to experience. If you've got the stones to handle the slings and arrows of the Android's Dungeon types--and if you know how to type the simple phrase "It's always funny to me how...", you totally do!--than maybe you'd like to steal a page from one contemporary writer's playbook by taking generic CBS drama scripts and swap that alcoholic dude character for an alcoholic lesbian character. GLAAD awards will be festooned across you quicker than you can say "lesbian trapped in a man's body."
Chapter 2-- You're in Comics; Enjoy Yourselves!
Why work in comics anyway? Well, it's perfect: the women in comics are already ignored at best, consistently groped and harassed most of the time, and they'll be on the lookout for creators who care about their issues. They'll be vulnerable and looking for friends; it's much easier to fuck them that way.
FELIX: But aren't I going to have to stick it out with one broad? Aren't I going to be expected to maintain a stable healthy relationship with women to be taken seriously as a "champion" for female characters?
Not at all! You can cheat your brains out! The fact that you've positioned yourself as a champion of women doesn't mean you actually have to do anything for women, it just means you have to SAY you're doing something for them, and as long as you can point to the fact that some of your characters have longer hair than others, there will be plenty of people who are going to be more than happy to pick up that ball and run with it as far as is necessary. Nobody gives a shit who draws these things in the first place--this isn't fucking art, it's comics. In fact, the major publishers are going to love working with you, because just like every other industry in the United States of America, the women in comics don't make nearly as much as the boys. You're saving them money and keeping the wolf away from the door. (In this case, the wolf should be understood to be regular people.)
Most of the dudes who write these things can't manage to string a sentence together if that sentence isn't heavily built around where they are with their upcoming Image pitches anyway. It's like taking candy from a baby, and then making the baby watch while you eat it, and then convincing the baby that it should go out in the streets and get strangers to give it more candy because you're still hungry, but when the baby comes back after a long hard day hustling for candy you're nowhere to be found because you met another baby on the Internet who was going through a really hard time right now and you got hard again anywhere and baby had been gone so long what did you fucking expect it's not like we're fucking married I thought you were cool, I just guess I made a mistake, I really thought you were cool.
But what if they say no to my totally reasonable offers to blow me in public? Even when I'm Dungeon Mastering, I still sometimes get stuck without a natural 20 to seal the deal. And don't women sometimes say no because the woman hormones in their brain go frigid? My dad wasn't around much.
If they won't fuck, they'll be so ashamed that they'll keep their mouths shut, even when the story gets out, even when they're being humiliated and degraded publicly. They won't have a choice. They've got no one to complain to, and no one cares about them. Who can they go to? The other creators, whose only interest in women is posting naked pictures of them on Facebook? The guys who are on the record as being virulently opposed to Batwoman being a lesbian for some archaic reasons that involve newspapers and Chester Gould? You were their safe haven, and they turned you down? Shame, spite, and humiliation--those are your trump cards, and they'll work every time.
But my pregnant girlfriend just doesn't understand me, man. She's such a ball-buster. Like, she doesn't understand that sometimes a man needs to use his status at a company to try to peer-pressure a low-level employee at that company to blow him at a kindergarten playground. Or she doesn't get the part about how if the girl politely declines, how every dude out there would totally spread a false rumor about her being a slut and have Rich Johnston disseminate that false rumor on the internet, destroying her professional reputation in what is already well-understood to be a small industry. My pregnant girlfriend's always saying things like, "I don't understand why you have to do the part where you spread false rumors about girls on the internet because I'm not a M-O-N-S-T-E-R."
Some people refuse to understand that your needs and whims and bizarre fits of cruelty have to come first. Pregnant girlfriends, people who have values or functioning consciences-- put them out of your head. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, if you can ignore the "you're a monster" noise, then yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—what is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.
MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTION TESTING YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONCEPTS CONTAINED IN CHAPTER 2:
You are on a train traveling from a comic convention in Sacramento to a comic convention in Bakersfield, holding a carton of popcorn. You have cut a hole in the bottom of the popcorn carton, through which you've inserted your male sexual organ. A woman approaches you who still hopes to be taken seriously in the comic book industry. You stifle the urge to laugh at her dreams and instead, immediately offer her popcorn. As her hand involuntarily touches your now butter-stained penis, do you ...
a. verbally abuse her for having an interest in cosplay?
b. verbally abuse her for not shoving her head into the popcorn carton?
c. verbally abuse her for being a "fake geek girl?"
d. verbally abuse her for not having come to your hotel room the night before?
e. verbally abuse her for not having realized you were faking it when you told her you liked her art?
f. verbally abuse her for believing anyone would treat her like an equal?
g. verbally abuse her for complaining that her boyfriend's editor had inappropriately groped her in front of her boyfriend?
h. verbally abuse her for things she didn't do, just for sport?
i. verbally abuse her for not "shaking hands" with your penis, and doing a little curtsy while bellowing "How do you do this fine winter day, old pal of mine?" OR
j. verbally abuse her?
ANSWER KEY: We're not sure which one is the correct answer because our capacity to distinguish right from wrong is one of the first things we jettisoned when we got into the comic business. We recommend you do likewise!
Chapter 3-- So They Know You're Damaged; Dealing with Public Relations Issues
Did you get caught? Don't worry about it. First things first: say nothing for a long time. 99.9% of the time, the story will get replaced by another story, preferably one where some bloggers argue about some other bloggers for the interest of the other bloggers who are hoping they'll get argued about next time. If you respond at all, it'll feed the beast. Wait it out, and if you get tempted to respond, just remember: Everyone in comics is way, way more concerned with making sure they get to stay "in" comics than they are with doing something that might make them seem "difficult," "disloyal," "empathic," or "a non-piece of fucking shit who cares about anybody else except themselves and a fucking shitheel who spends all his convention time trying to ram his cone-shaped penile pyramid between the slushpuppy thighs of American fandom." You can get through this. Go to the gym. Maybe buy your wife some flowers. She'll need 'em if it turns out ignoring it won't make it go away.
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER 3-- Sample Apology Letters
The English poet John Donne once wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." What that means is sometimes you're going to have to fake sincerity when writing apology letters. It's a real son of a bitch-- fuck you, John Donne.
For that reason, we've prepared these sample apology letters for you to use as a template. Whether you're issuing a phony apology for calling all women fans "fake geeks," or for verbally abusing women who decline to have sex with you, or for spreading false rumors to ruin women's professional reputations when they decline to have sex with you, or for saying racist things on Facebook, or for writing comics for contests where children's cartoon characters commit suicide, or for attacking transsexual women on Twitter, or for selling t-shirts making fun of women complaining about your rape jokes, or-- look, it's been an extremely busy year for comic creators!
SAMPLE APOLOGY #1--
"To Whom It May Concern:
"I'm sorry you misinterpreted my utterly normal attempts to get totally laaaaaid. The one and only thing you did get right is that I did totally try to get laaaaid, like a boss. Everything else you're saying is fucking lies and you are as incorrect as President Romney shitting a three-dollar bill, but I really don't want to encourage anyone to speculate why you are so crazy and wrong, or which orifice of the fucking devil that your delusional nonsense ejaculated out of. I guess my problem is...
"I'm just too nice a guy, that way.
"Please let me know when you accept my apologies. By the way, would you like to see a photo of my daughter? I have a daughter. Did I mention that I have a daughter? Because I am most daughter-having. P.S. Daughter. Daughter. Daughter. Sorry, I thought if I said daughter three times that Candyman would come and make this whole thing go away. Worth a shot.
"Take it Sleazy."
SAMPLE APOLOGY #2--
"To Whom It May Concern:
"I am writing to apologize to you, [___________ VICTIM'S NAME HERE] for that time [_____] years ago when I spread false rumors about you being a slut throughout our small industry via a widely read online gossip column, callously and carelessly damaging your career, your reputation, and your emotional well-being. Whoopsey-daisy! My bad! Also, I probably should have apologized all those years ago, but back then I was really busy-- you would be surprised how much time it took back then to spread false rumors about how you titty-fucked me on a tilt-a-whirl, just hours and hours. But I'm apologizing now-- and of my own free will. It's not at all because I want to maintain the continuity of my brand and preserve the integrity of my fakey-fake-fake online persona, like many will say, often, repeatedly, choking back giggles of disbelief, while whispering 'the fucking balls on this guy!' to themselves.
"In conclusion: What are you wearing?"
Sample APOLOGY #3--
"To Whom It May Concern:
"I just want to say that I totally support a feminist conversation about feminishness to happen and for every other comic creator and comic professional to be discussed, without their names ever being used, never referring to me and my hideous misconduct. According to a flowchart I checked, it is totally part of my marketing and my fakey-fake-fake online persona to support that kind of thing.
"Merry Christmas, ladies."
Sample APOLOGY #4--
"To Whom It May Concern:
"To my fans, I just want to express how my actions have been consistently misinterpreted, by misinterpreting misinterpeters, but that I am against blowback, unless it's on a tilt-a-whirl or in a public park or in a funeral home's supply closet. Also: Hey, who's that girl you're with? Can I get her number? Oh, she's your girlfriend? Can I get her number anyways? Not for some weird, crazy reason like I genuinely admire her talent-- I just want to send her some sexts. But like, cool, sensitive sexts. Your girlfriend will totally turn to you and say, 'I just got a dick-pick, but this erect penis sure seems to belong to a sensitive, nice guy!' That will-- What? Why are you angry again?
"You're not acting like a pro."
Chapter 4-- What about the Art Part? Comics have an Art Part or something, right?
But Comics have drawrings in them, right? Will it be different if I'm just one of the people who make those?
Have you ever drawred a comic book? It's the most ridiculous thing in the world to do. You have to sit there hour after hour. That toilet in a script? Someone has to drarwr that!
The neo-Nazis using the toilet in a script? Someone has to drarwr that, too. The old woman tied up and forced to watch neo-Nazis shit into a toilet through a peephole, in a script? The chair the old woman is sitting in while she's tied up and being forced to watch neo-
Nazis shit into a toilet through a peephole in a script? The tile around the peephole through which a tied-up old woman is peeping on neo-Nazis shitting into a toilet, which isn't in the script but is obviously called for by a script? The naked-from-the-waist-down East German man in a period-appropriate blouse, snorting cocaine off the lap of the old woman in a chair, tied up, peeping through a tile-encrusted peephole at neo-Nazis shitting into a toilet, in a script? Who's going to drawrerrs all that? Even the Sexiest Comic Book Script in the World that I'm describing can't drawrering itself!
If you can produce salable pages in a remotely timely manner, nothing else will ever matter. Want to say a bunch of stone-cold racist things on Facebook, hoss? It would surprise you how little anyone will care, or how much people will continue to coddle you, if surprise is one of the human emotions you can still experience. It'll be adorable! It'll be the new quirky thing that you do. "I call black people colored, just like Frank Sinatra did." Goddamned adorable! What's that dog they make calendars of? Pinky? Boo! His name is Boo. You'll be the artist version of Boo the dog.
Could I just trace over photographs? I think I know an old lady and a well-hung German.
Well, sure... but look, why even be that guy when you could be the guy writing about the toilet instead? That way, you don't need to make even half the effort. You don't even need to have any visual imagination at all! Let other people sweat to make you look good. That way, after they've spent months and months, day after night after day on pages, and you get pulled into some internet scandal and all that hard work suddenly has an asterisk besides it, at least that's not your precious time you frittered away.
Chapter 5-- The Aftermath -- How Your Community Will Attempt to Silently Ignore What You've Done
But won't other comic creators mind that I'm making them look bad? Won't they criticize my actions?
Not enough to say anything, they won't. Go ahead and spread false rumors about girls on the internet! Who's going to say anything about it? Not other comic creators-- if anyone says anything at all, it'll be to lecture fans that the only way to support women comic creators is to keep buying your comics! They'll get that train moving before the ink is dry on the bloggerati reminding everybody that the best way to handle actual cases of predatory behavior is to turn the whole thing into a theoretical idea gangbang, whereupon everybody exhausts their intellect and patience upon comment sections that would make Fred Phelps cringe in disgust.
Never forget: No one ever jeopardized their career in comics by dick-riding all the live long day, so in comics, you wake up in the morning half-way to home-free.
Because the only thing that matters to other comic creators is those dollars and cents; so as long as your books are selling, everyone else will zip their lips. Because we know despite everything that might happen, despite every call for a "conversation," despite every horrible story and blog entry and essay it hurts to read, they're all staying totally silent about way, way, way worse people! "You know, the ones at the company, with the personnel files, and the so on and the so forth, nudge nudge wink wink hint hint hint!"
But that's not your problem-- women in comics just have to find out who to avoid informally from more experienced women who have been previously harassed within that narrow window of time before their own harassment. Easy! That's a totally normal challenge for someone to face if they want to work in the glamorous and high-stakes business of putting drawings on paper and then stapling the paper together. But sharing information on a paper-cup-and-string version of Megan's Law gives ladies something to do in between their "Being a Lady in Comics" panels, so win-win.
Chapter 6-- Conclusion