It’s a good thing I’m sick today and cannot write a full appraisal of what’s been going on in comics this week, because between the Batgirl variant cover and the Chris Sims debate, I’m left only thinking “nay for comics.” I know I try to keep my irregular comics column positive, avoiding the ongoing inequities and abuse that occur in its fandoms and business practices, but it’s hard this week not to look at them as they stare in me in the face and bubble up to the surface with friends taking opposite viewpoints from my own.
However, I am also feverish, sneezing and otherwise unwell, so I think, for now, I’ll just ask a few questions the last few days have brought up for me.
1. At what point does a legitimate concern become “backlash”, “outrage” or the cries of the “moral police?” At what point is okay to discount a group’s concerns? In the case of the Batgirl cover, DC Comics and artist Raphael Albuquerque chose to take the legitimate concerns with the cover — showing Batgirl as a helpless victim at the mercy of the Joker, echoing back to her apparent rape in The Killing Joke — and accept them at face value, removing the cover from its upcoming variants cover program celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Joker’s first appearance. A friend complained that DC was too weak-willed to publish the “controversial” cover and suggested this was censorship. It left me questioning at what point a corporation’s choice not to do something is a valid as their choice to do something. If corporations are given the same rights and responsibilities as people, are they not allowed to reconsider one of their marketing initiatives?
2. At what point do we truly accept that people have changed? Over the weekend, I went to a party manly attended by friends from college. Several noted a certain change in me from the vitriol and contempt I once held for just about everything (even something as silly as Julia Roberts — a person once referred to only as “Eric Roberts Ugly Sister” on this very blog). Disclosure: for the later half of the 2oth Century, I was an asshole. My angers led my thoughts and, well, at some point I learned empathy and awareness. It short-circuits so much anger to be able to see beyond yourself. It’s also led to an overall sense of well-being in myself … though, I’d be lying it I didn’t admit that it’s still tough some days to avoid general negativity. I bring this up because of Chris Sims and his apology for being a shit seven or so years ago to Valerie D’Orazio and leading the active and constant harassment of her in various online quarters. Since nothing disappears on the Internet, at what point do we forgive someone for their younger days and ill-considered actions? Do we punish a person filled with hate five years after they’ve learned better? Ten years? Twenty? The Internet also shows us that Sims has worked actively against his old proclivities and yet … it still feels like some sort of atonement is required. Should he lose his upcoming writing gig at Marvel for helping to shatter a former Marvel writer’s livelihood and interest in comics? Should he resign from Comics Alliance despite using that platform to decry the very bullying he perpetrated years before? To bring it back to empathy, at what point do we extend our awareness to his mea culpa and not assume he’s just trying to cover his own ass?
Clearly, these are not easily reconciled issues; and as comics — both the artform and the industry — grows up, it must confront more and more of these topics at blinding speed. But, hopefully, we will soon be able to shout Yay for comics again sometime soon. Until then, let’s keep growing. We’ll be better off for asking these questions and trying to find answers.