Comicsgate and Move the Needle – should the industry be worried? P.T 1
The entertainment industry has been hit with a multitude of scandals and harassment campaigns. The biggest being Weinstein and Gamergate. Now, the comics industry has been infested with one too–Comicsgate. ”What is Comicsgate?” and ”how did it happened?” aren’t questions with simple answers. Here I will try to explain in full what and how Comicsgate happened. I will also explain how it spawned the movement #Movetheneedle.
What is Comicsgate?
If you search Google or Twitter for the term Comicsgate you will get a multitude of different and sometimes conflicting answers. To so called ‘SJW’ Pros Comicsgate is a harassment campaign targeting minorities in comics by the alt-right, Nazis, & Trolls to make the industry cater to white men only. To others however, Comicsgate is about not wanting forced diversity, and push a political agenda sacrificing the quality of content in their comics. While others just want comic pros to treat their fans with respect online.
I personally feel it’s a combination of all three, however the current narrative will have you believe it is the former not the latter. To understand how these definitions came into place we must first look at the origin.
The Origin stories
The true origin of Comicsgate is not known but the events involved in Comicsgate are.
Make Mine Milkshake
In July 2017, the first pieces of Comicsgate began to form. Several female Marvel staffers got together for milkshakes to honour the life of Fabulous Flo. The Unbelievable Gwenpool editor Heather Antos posted a selfie of the event. The selfie however, sparked the wrong reaction from trolls who used the image as an excuse to harass Antos, and the women of Marvel.
— Heather Antos (@HeatherAntos) July 28, 2017
Their reasoning was that the women in the selfie are the ones responsible for the slump in quality, and sales of Marvel comics. This was a horrible event and no one should be harassed to which the community agreed. They created the hashtag #MakeMineMilkshake in a show of support.
Make Mine Milkshake however, was just a tipping point in the event that would become Comicsgate.
Diversity’s to blame
Under the guidance of Axel Alonso, Marvel began to change the universe they played in by changing the genders and race of male superheroes. These changes began in 2014 with Jane Foster (Unknown at the time) taking up the mantle of Thor. Other mantle changes included, Wolverine, Iron Man, Hulk.
These changes caused outcry from trolls, and critics alike. They felt these changes weren’t progress but a means to steal the headlines about being progressive. The critics were quickly silenced when it came to Thor and Wolverine, the trolls however, continued.
Why were critics so accepting of female Thor & Wolverine?
The answer may line with the direction the respective creative teams went with the character. Jason Aaron took Jane Foster and gave her a personality fans could get invested in, with adventures that were apolitical as possible. X-23’s transition to wolverine was done with great care and explored the impact and importance Logan had in the Marvel universe. This eased fans into the idea of a female Wolverine. The ongoing has been great thanks to that throughout transition.
This however, cannot be said for characters like Iron Heart and Amadeus Cho as the Hulk. This was largely due to how they were introduced and the personalities they adopted. The Hulk became a juvenile immature teenager, which was a shock and off putting after reading previous arcs of a more developed and complex Hulk. His introduction also felt a little cheap.
Iron Heart, suffered from a similar problem in the way she was introduced. Riri Williams began as a cameo in the ongoing Iron Man series, slowly building to her meeting with Iron Man. However, after the events of Civil War II she was bumped to Iron Man with little development.
Now I’m not saying Riri is a bad character, I’m saying her induction to the Iron Man mantle felt rushed and forced. I truly believe if Riri was developed over 2-4 more issues before the takeover, her appeal would be greater.
These are just some of the changes Marvel made to their comic characters.
Comic con controversy
These decisions went down well within the LGBT and ethnic communities however, not with some retailers and fans.
The true effects and thoughts to these changes were heard by Marvel in 2017 at a special breakfast panel held at New York Comic Con. The panel was Diamond’s annual panel for comic book retailers, in which Marvel were in attendance. The events reported to have gone smoothly until some retailers decided to voice their anger at the publisher over low sales.
The retailers laid the blame on ‘’Black,’’ homo,’’ and ‘’Freaking female’’ comics put out by Marvel. This kind of language should not have been used however, I can see the retailers concern.
A fraction of retailers had seen a dip in sales of comics, these retailers also felt the blame was on Marvel’s forced diversity titles. People and fans do not hate diversity when the diversity is written well and not the whole selling/ narrative point of the comic.
An example of this is Iceman. The way in which Iceman ‘came out’ has been an issue for a lot of people in the comics community. There are trolls who hate the idea of a gay Iceman and they are clearly wrong as Iceman has always had a queer undertone. No, the real controversy around gay Iceman is in X-men #40 it was Jean Grey who told young bobby he was gay and with the way this interaction was written it felt like Jean was the one making the decision for bobby to come out as gay not bobby, himself.
Iceman then got his own series. The series was about exploring Bobby’s journey as a gay man in the Marvel universe while going on fun adventures. The writer however, focused a little too much on Iceman’s sexual identity. This is especially a problem in Iceman #6, the issues central focus was suppose to be the Champions reuniting to mourn Black Widow. This however, only lasts a few underdeveloped pages and the rest of the book follows Iceman going on his first date. This felt like a real missed opportunity to explore another side to Iceman.
This is an problem a lot of fans have with Marvel titles like Iceman that have great stories to be told with these characters, if only the writers put the story before identity politics. This valid criticism however, was used by both trolls and comic pros to attack and harass each other. I personally love the idea of exploring Iceman’s sexuality, however I figured him for Bi. I also think under the guidance of a better writer Iceman could be a very compelling character again.
Homophobes hated the idea of a gay Iceman and used anything as validation for their hatred. This however, was a small but vocal group of people. The ignorant trolling form homophobes lead to pros creating blanket statements which in part was the biggest catalyst of Comicsgate.
End of Part one – Click for Part two