Earlier this week, I discussed DC Comics' continued reliance on the women in refrigerators trope to solicit and sell a story. This week it especially hit close to home when DC Comics released a teaser image of Thomas Wayne holding the seemingly dead body of his granddaughter, Helena Wayne (the Huntress). You may recall this is the same character who's already had the misfortune of being unceremoniously killed off in a previous reboot, and systematically erased by having her entire origin completely redone as Helena Bertinelli for two decades. The point being that Helena Wayne fans have waited for a very long time to get this character back. Now that we finally have, DC Comics has been incredibly wasteful of her character by limiting her story potential in the New 52. To top it off, her place on Earth-2 has been handed over to her grandfather, Thomas Wayne, a character who never had a bigger role on Earth-2 than being Bruce's dead father. It also now appears that Helena will be functioning as a prop that services Thomas' narrative in the new weekly series Earth-2: World's End. It's both incredibly offensive and very rage-inducing.
Even earlier this week, the comics community has demonstrated the kinds of fans DC Comics attracted over the last two decades when an industry professional (who happens to be a woman) criticised the cover of an upcoming new Teen Titans series. In her critique, Janelle Asselin discussed the importance of marketing for attracting new readers, and how making basic mistakes in marketing can put off potential customers from checking out a product they may otherwise enjoy. (Look no further than my discussion on the Earth-2: World's End teaser for an excellent case in point). She specifically addressed the role that covers and other marketing campaigns play in enticing readers to buy a book. This began her discussion of Rocafort's art and--particularly--the continued sexist portrayal of women (including underage ones) in this industry. For women who are active in comics fandom, Asselin's article yielded very predictable results. Yet, people were very surprised to learn that threats of rape and violence against women who speak up against the institutional misogyny that dictates our media is actually a problem. Surprised! Let me repeat that: SURPRISED!
The funny thing is women have been saying for YEARS that this kind of behaviour exists and poses a very real problem for women. Yet, the industry itself has remained unresponsive to that problem. Even industry professionals who are men and women have said for years that the industry needs to actively change to be more inclusive of a wider readership if comics as a medium is to survive for decades to come. The industry will not--in the longterm--benefit from pandering to a niche market comprised of misogynistic adult men who think they have no other outlet for their bigotry and masturbatory fantasies, and feel entitled to having their toxic attitudes and behaviours validated in all media, including comics.
If artist Brett Booth is to be taken at his word that DC Comics is 'keeping things close to the chest' and are now at a point where they have to control their own interviews for fear of backlash, this is not symptomatic of a business being run smoothly. If they are legitimately feeling cornered by fans in recent times, it says to me that they need to reevaluate their current business model and figure out what it is they're doing wrong that's causing such a strong reaction from fans--their customers. I can safely tell you that no one gets mad or complains for the sake of doing these things, not even people who complain about people complaining. People complain when something upsets them or when they feel harmed in any way. People also complain when they are tired of being sidelined by others in positions of power, and the cries only get louder the more they continue to be ignored. Complaints and bad business practise do not exist independently of each other, and often influence one another.
Taken as a whole, this massive train wreck opens the door to a larger discussion of a much wider issue. The one that no one--especially not the current DC leadership--wants acknowledge and discuss. The elephant in the room that seems to go unnoticed every single time it comes stomping through the corridors of patriarchal society and into the female space. The very same one that stands at the very root of every problem we have seen with the way women are consistently devalued as an entire group not just in the comics industry, but the world at large.
You may recall my earlier discussion on sexism as part of a larger conversation I'm still working on about all the different ways Helena Wayne has been systematically hurt by sexist business practise. With all that has happened this week (one of which affects Helena Wayne directly), we now get to open yet another discussion on sexism's uglier cousin: misogyny.