Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ur Doin It Rite

I can really get behind an attitude and statements like this. There is so much that is so right about this.

I don't believe I've read any of Elizabeth Bear's work before, but I may just look some up next time I'm in the store.

ADDITIONAL: Seems Rational Mad Man has also endorsed the same post, and has received, well, what he usually gets lately, scorn and name-calling. Since my reasons for endorsing Ms. Bear's post are somewhat different than his, I'll elaborate on what I like about it, lest anyone automatically equate my statement with his and dismiss it outright, because I know some folks out there would, given the chance.

RMM sees her post as an extension of the "go make your own" argument/bingo-card-spasm-trigger, but I see it differently, because she really doesn't seem to be encouraging other creators to forge ahead with her statement (although I don't see any reason why she wouldn't be in favor of more female creators).

What she is saying, and what I like, is that she's forging her own path regardless (and in spite) of anything 'The Patriarchy' does or says in opposition. She doesn't need them to make her career work.

This is feminism I can get behind - the kind that says, "okay, here's what I think is wrong, but if you don't want to fix it, fine, screw you, I'm gonna have my own party and it's gonna rock."

By contrast, one of the failings I see in feminism as it intersects with mainstream comics fandom is that it is (quite probably inherently) dependent on 'The Patriarchy'. Long-standing feminist icon or not, who owns Wonder Woman? Not Gail Simone, especially not The Fandom, but corporate structures and shareholders, i.e., The Establishment, i.e., The Patriarchy. If this Patriarchy dominates DC and Marvel, then any appeal for change from feminists must be cajoled, begged or wheedled out of the Bad Mans. (Coerced, perhaps, but that assumes there's actually sufficient leverage with which to coerce.)

If you can't divorce yourself from the idea that you must have Wonder Woman, no imitations, no substitutes, no fanfic/fanart, it must be canon and she must perform to your expectations, then you leave yourself at the mercy of The Patriarchy, and their decision to put whatever creative team they choose in charge of her story, whether that's Good (Gail Simone and competent artists) or Bad (I dunno, say, Judd Winick and whoever people hate these days that draws WW with a wedgie and broken spine). And am I the only one that sees that situation as kinda messed up?

Which is why I find a statement like Ms. Bear's so refreshing: it demands nothing from the Patriarchy except that it step the hell aside if it isn't going to cooperate.

I think that's just gotta be healthier in the long run.


Rational Mad Man said...

Actually Anon, we are endorsing the post for the same reasons it seems. I have never told people to "go write their own" as a way of minimising thier criticism, in fact my reasons for doing such are very similar to your own.

You see I disagree wiht Ms bear that there is such a thing as a patriarchy holding women down, However our disagreements on whether it exists or not is irreleveant. What is relevant to me, is that rather than complianing about it, she is creating something that that can exist independant of it.
Rather than complianing that a given work by a given author is sexist, she is going out and creating the type of work she would want to read.
Your point on the patriacrhy re wonder woman is dead on. And the same one Ive been making for a while now.
DC's readers are overwhlmingly male. DC comcis are written overwhelmingyl for males. Dc makes its money catering to Males. Therefore DC will not stop catering to males. As a result in order to get the types of books they want, feminists will have to creat their own.
We are actually agreeing for very similar reasons, just articulated differently.

Jigsaw Forte said...

Not to say I don't agree, but there's a certain level of futility involved in the creation of a new brand. It's one thing to tell people to do it better, it's another when those people feel that their own efforts to do so are in vain, while the mainstream (i.e. patriarchical) opinion recieves all the proverbial Sex and Cash.

The same way the phrase "Get a Blog, You Attention Whore" has (overall) negative connotations, there is still something socially and economically flawed with the idea that a person can make it big with their own brand and ideals. Telling them off and doing it yourself is certainly cathartic, but the fundamental shift necessary to accept this as a valid means of protest is still missing. Almost in sight, perhaps, but still far too indistinct to be of true use.

Rational Mad Man said...

Not to say I don't agree, but there's a certain level of futility involved in the creation of a new brand. It's one thing to tell people to do it better, it's another when those people feel that their own efforts to do so are in vain, while the mainstream (i.e. patriarchical) opinion recieves all the proverbial Sex and Cash.


Not ot hijack your blog Anon, but I had to respond.

Jigsaw, why do you think the mainstream gets all the "cash and sex"
Its becasue they started it over 80years ago. During the "golden age" there were dozens if not hundreds of comic publishers. Since then thousands have been foiunded and failed.
But the simple fact is, if the guys at image, or at DDP, or at moonstone, or at etc etc could do it.....

You see my point?
The "patriarchy" built DC/Marvel by doing exactly what it is still doing. Giving its readers what they want better than thier competitors.
All feminist have to do is the exact same thing. Yes its hard. So what?
Since when is anything worth doing easy?

Anon, A Mouse said...

Jigsaw Forte:

Yes, it's true, the small creator of *either* gender faces pretty daunting odds when trying to establish a new brand, at least to the point where it is financially viable.

Any creator, regardless of sex, politics, or race who wants to succeed will have to be able to deliver that ineffable SOMETHING that other people want, and that's the zillion-dollar issue, isn't it?

But, if I'm reading Ms. Bear's post correctly, she's doing it, to some extent. It can be done.

That is all, however, incidental to the fact that mainstream fandom is in thrall to the forces that run Marvel and DC. Feminist fandom, as it mostly stands now, is in the position of trying to convince 'The Patriarchy' to grant it concessions and scraps. The things it says it wants depend entirely on Marvel and DC's beneficence (something you can't always depend on).

For the feminists, this is not a strong bargaining position. As long as they want the familiar iconic characters (or even the second stringers) more than they want some new, untried thing, they are at the mercy of the Big Two.

Tamora Pierce said...

But you're pre-supposing that Bear and any practical person in the arts believes such alternate-to-the-Big-Two work will make the big bucks. If you're not married to the concept that any comic you start will bring in similar income, if you are just doing it so you will have comics that make you happy and satisfy what you want from the craft, then it doesn't matter if you're financially competetive with the Big Two. What matters is that you do what you want. If you can manage to stay afloat fiscally, so much the better, but Bear--and plenty of other people--spent years using their day jobs financing their creative lives so they could do what they wanted with them.

It would be lovely to be able to write for Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and all the other icons of our childhoods. But if doing so means writing to standards that are offensive to us, and we can't persuade the Big Two to alter their standards, then we can go off and create forms that meet our standards.

I know what Bear's been talking about. I've been doing the same thing for nearly 25 years, and I've never had to compromise what I believe to do it.

Anon, A Mouse said...

Tamora Pierce:

Assuming your comment was directed at me and/or my original post: No, actually, I'm not pre-supposing anything of the sort.

I don't have any idea of what kind of financial gain Ms. Bear's work brings in, but in her post she refers to "making a living" without The Patriarchy's aid, and later on, being obliged to only a few things, the "bottom line" being one of them, so I infer from that that she's doing at least well enough to get by at this time. Whether she had to support herself with day jobs while she worked to get to that point really has nothing to do with anything.

(Not to mention that it's a common motif not only among comics creators, but artists in general.)

As for the rest, you're pretty much supporting my point: a creator who feels they simply MUST write (for example) Supergirl must deal with Marvel and DC on their own terms, there's no other way to actually work on the iconic characters. (Well, and legally get paid for it, there IS always fanfic/fanart.) Just like the fans, that puts such creators in the position of depending on The Big Two for whatever boons they feel like tossing down to the little folk.

Overcoming that is a two-sided problem: Creators have to be able to provide alternate material that people want, and fans have to AT LEAST be willing to try something else, if not be able to give up the icons entirely.

The will to completely give up on the icons, however, is not something I see a whole lot of in the WFA-oriented commentary. Not that I'm saying a feminist is obliged to abandon Wonder Woman or any other favorite character, but I think it's worthwhile to realize where such character worship puts one on the food chain, as it were.

Tamora Pierce said...

Actually, anon, I was more talking to your respondents about the pre-supposition part.

Elizabeth Bear is one of the rising stars of science fiction and fantasy at this time, with something like 7 books in print. I think she reached critical mass in the last 2 years, where she's able to more than just survive on her earnings as a writer in an industry where she was told than female writers doing female characters would never make it. (This is just to supply background, nothing more.) Now she is more than making it, for the reasons she pretty much stated. There was a market out there for what she does, one that was being overlooked by those who told her she'd never make it.

It would be nice to be given the chance to work on a food chain character. But there is the other choice, to spend years doing your own thing, and build characters who end up creating their own food chain, independent of the current ones.

It's a shame. Not reaching out to bigger markets is going to doom the Big Two in a time when their market share is shrinking. But I don't see any openings in anyone's minds at Marvel, and too many fanboys turn on anyone new, not just women, with the fury of a starved pitbull who just saw a steak. I haven't seen such a hostile work environment since I left investment banking. I think women are better off creating a working environment like the webcomic women are doing, where they have control and where they can build their own audiences.

Yes, it's a risk. That's the arts for you. We all take them. It beats sitting around wondering what you could've achieved if a bunch of guys who despised you had given you a chance.

Anon, A Mouse said...

"It's a shame. Not reaching out to bigger markets is going to doom the Big Two in a time when their market share is shrinking."

Weeeelllll, I wouldn't write the epitaph for either one just yet. Owning licensable characters as they do is going to go quite a long ways towards keeping the respective companies going in some capacity, even if it isn't in a way we are used to or recognize. Even if they abandon, say, the "floppy" pamphlet form of comics, even if they stop publishing comics as we recognize them altogether, nobody's going to let Superman, Spider-Man, et al., just vanish from the public view.

It may be that the superhero genre itself has reached the limits of its sustainability at this point in time, but just as it's hard to guess what will be "the next big thing" in any other mass media, it's hard to attribute a shrinking demand to any one specific thing, such as sexism in the material.

Certainly a resistance from the fans to new superheroes outside of The Big Two isn't new. I've seen countless operations, some well-financed, that have attempted to establish their own superhero universes. Only a select few have survived, mostly under the Image banner. Even alternate takes from the Big Two themselves often flounder. The Tangent universe? New Universe? That Epic line? Once the older companies like Fawcett, Charlton, etc, died off and their properties were bought up, it's been pretty much Marvel and DC's world as far as superheroes go.

I suspect that the superhero genre will putter along much as it has been until something arrives that is demonstrably superior and sells well enough to be a signpost for the Big Two's beancounters. Other than that, the only "reaching" I foresee is along the lines of Minx, that is, not really superhero oriented, aiming not to collect disaffected superhero fans, but attract the non-superhero fans that like comics well enough to buy the heck out of manga and the like.