Comics, Diversity, Harassment, Race, TV

Mighty Marvel Monday: Stories, Support, and Speaking Louder than Silence

It’s Monday, and this is your regularly scheduled Mighty Marvel Monday, although this week’s column is anything but regular.

It should have been a good week for Marvel. The Jessica Jones teaser trailer is out.

Agent Carter comes out this week on DVD and Blu Ray (although troublingly as an Amazon Exclusive).

Best of all, another diverse comics title was announced. The story should have been about the great strides Marvel has been making in terms of diversity both in regards to its comics and the people they’re hiring to create it. Last week we got a rebooted Hulk. This week, Marvel announced the rebooting of their Native American hero, Red Wolf, whose creative team includes, as has been quoted many times from the press release:

[C]over artist Jeffrey Veregge, a member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe based out of Kingston, Washington, who’s also of Suquamish and Duwamish decent. Veregge will also be providing consulting when it comes to characterization and design for the new series.

The story surrounding the Red Wolf reboot isn’t just that Veregge is merely the cover artist/consultant expected to support (and potentially excuse) the work of the white male creative team, although obviously, it would’ve been better to have a creative team made up entirely of Native American creators. 

The story became focused on what Nick Hanover has termed the “chorus of silence,” in comics journalism, and the comics community, wherein certain figures are “known” (within the community) to be abusers or worse, but allegations are rarely made public, and when they are, they are generally anonymous, off the record, or unable to be supported in a way that would be sufficient in a court of law, much less a the court of public opinion, which has a habit of willfully ignoring the criminal actions of white men.

Oddly, it is not the story that comes up when you do a Google news search, even on sites like The Mary Sue.

Last week I pointed out that while I support a Korean-American Hulk and a Korean-American creative team, I had reservations about supporting a work by someone who has been disrespectful towards women and fans who have pointed out his disrespectfulness towards women. That Frank Cho doesn’t care about being called out for his art and his dealings with fans is an assertion that I can back up with concrete examples.

The same cannot be said of Nathan Edmondson’s behavior, and the fact that this is a problem that goes beyond Marvel, as has been sincerely and persuasively argued by Nick Hanover on behalf of himself and David Fairbanks, by Heidi MacDonald, and by many on Twitter, including Janelle Asselin, who discussed at length how those brave enough to speak up are often the ones who are punished by the community–unofficially, of course.

So that’s the story: Marvel Reboot of Native American Superhero Red Wolf Sparks Renewed Interest In Comics Culture And (Of) Abuse. Must be Monday.

Now what? Woody Allen is still making movies even after 30 years of being “controversial,” so what are the chances that the comics community will do anything other than remain silent and continue the status quo, with those who seek to quietly ignore the allegations of abuse and continue to hire known abusers making their black marks next to creators who speak up, and potentially the websites they speak up on?

According to the articles I linked earlier, the chances are not good, requiring systemic changes in the nature of comics journalism, and potentially, an incredible amount of time and energy. These articles are written by people who have vastly superior knowledge and experience in comics compared to myself, and I trust their judgments. I’m a former academic who spends a considerable amount of time on Tumblr. But when I was an academic, I spent the last few years of my research studying marginalized and subversive groups who fought against a larger, powerful institutions. One of the subversive groups I studied was fandom.

Fandom has the power to change things, and, even more powerfully, to operate both with and outside of The Powers That Be. Small things, like repositories of information, or compilations and analysis, can have far reaching effects. Women in Refrigerators is an example of such “fannish” actions. The website today is little more than an archive, but also stands as testimony to how change need not necessarily come from sweeping systemic changes. Do women still get fridged today? Absolutely. But they get called out when it happens. 

Another example would be the way the phrase “problematic fave” has become so well known it’s now often used as a jokey disclaimer. Humor is, as many are aware, one of the standard strategies institutions in power employ in order to suppress a threat to the status quo.  While the concept of a problematic fave can be problematic itself in terms of holding people accountable for opinions they no longer have due to personal growth (Taylor Swift and Jonah Hill come to mind), the concept has nonetheless entered into mainstream consciousness, and the Your Fave is Problematic Tumblr continues to operate in a non-ironic context.

I’m not suggesting that comics journalists begin curating a Your Creator Is Problematic tumblr. Part of the problem, as has already been pointed out, is that “evidence” for certain individuals would be difficult to come by when comics websites routinely don’t cover these kinds of stories. A better model would be the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which is a non-profit organization whose goal is to financially support those who come under legal attack, and one of the main tools of silence of harassers and abusers is the threat of legal action. Public and private assurances by outlets and individuals are well and good, but we, as a community, can do better.

I will not be purchasing Red Wolf because 1) there will be better Native American Superhero comics, ones that will have Native American creators, and some do already exist, and 2) the argument that supporting this comic would be in any way good for diversity is both a false equivalence and chock full of white privilege.

We are told so often that we should use our dollars to support our opinions, and I can think of no better use for the money I would have spent supporting the Red Wolf reboot if it was written by a different creative team than to donate it to a Comics Harassment/Abuse Support Legal Defense Fund, should one come into existence, since it was this comic that re-sparked the discussion.

What about you?

  1. Skye

    September 14, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Oh, wow. Thanks for writing about this, or I might not have known all the backstory (since I only just started reading this site.) This is definitely a “one hand giveth, one hand taketh away” scenario.

    1. Kate Tanski

      September 14, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      I was completely unaware of this situation before I researched it too, so yay, I’m glad it was useful for people other than me! 🙂

  2. DMaster

    September 15, 2015 at 1:43 am

    Sorry I bought that Black Widow series he did.

    REAAALLLY hope we get a writer change soon enough for this title to be worth buying before it’s on the chopping block.

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