Chelsea Cain is no newcomer to publishing — she has two series of novels under her belt, plenty of accolades, and just wrapped up a stint writing Mockingbird at Marvel. But it’s that last gig that led to an acclaimed, talented and lovely writer receiving a slew of harassment on Twitter.
The final cover of the series she had been scripting, featured below, got the awareness of fake geek boys and lead to a rallying call that has, if not driven her out of comics, led her to at least consider it. This is not an isolated incident ether. Many, many women have been driven out of comics, out of comics criticism, out of our treasured geek spaces by the horde of antisocial injustice necromancers. Comics can fight back—let’s talk (some more) about how.
Before we begin I think it’s worth saying two things. Mockingbird isn’t a high profile character in comics, and Cain (or even cover penciller Joelle Jones) didn’t do anything that could even be considered insulting to her. Often character “changes” are met with screams about ruined childhoods and tweets remembering when comics were “just comics.” With Mockingbird not being a marquee character, a new spin on her can’t ruin that many people’s childhoods (as if you were still living it — but I digress); and being a minor character means it’s so easy to ignore this comic! Just go on and read the latest Spider-Man issue. If the “changes” had been negative, or happened to a flagship character, that wouldn’t change the fact that harassment is bad. But I want to make it clear, heroes for the most part are social justice warriors. They fight for social justice, it happens all the time, since nearly the dawn of comics. Marvel women are feminists — these women might be cis/het and white, they could have problematic views — but the woman of Marvel are feminists no doubt. Mockingbird is a feminist super hero. She is a women who, in the face of super powers, fights for people with nothing more than training.
We all get mad at comics. We all see someone do something bad then want to yell. The thing is most of us don’t go and start harassing people who do the things that make us made. I’ll use myself as an example: I have such a huge passion for Loki and was insanely in love with Agent of Asgard. When Jason Aaron seemed to bring Loki back to square one I was pissed, really pissed! You know what I did? I wrote about it on my personal blog and told people on Twitter, “If you like Loki, this is a let down.” I did not harass Jason Aaron. We should not be harassing creators even if they piss us off (oh gee, and I get pissed, often).
I hear all the time from company representatives and high profile creators that they “want” to do more to fight harassment. Well lucky for you companies, in particular Marvel, I got a way to fight back. Today, declare the next themed month you produce to be “Ask Me About my Feminist Agenda” shirt variant month. Make it a social justice month, activism month, whatever you want it to be — so long as it’s clear and on EVERY comic. Fans need to see that at the very top there is solidarity for their progressive creators.
Comics can fight against harassment, they really can, by doing stuff like this. Comics can say, if you attack one of us you’ve attacked all of us. Comics can say that a bigots’ dollars are not worth the health of our staff and fans. Comics can do this and they can do it today, today is the day to declare solidarity. Make a feminism anthology, make it your big push item, declare boldly you are a social justice warrior.
When Cain tweeted, “I’m amazed at the cruelty comics bring out in people,” she was right to blame comics. Axel Alonso likes to say he isn’t a social justice warrior, and other creators in Marvel’s payroll have taken a similar stance. Marvel has hired known abusers to do books, and DC still employs Eddie Berganza, a man know more for his harassment than his work, as their Superman group editor. The few links I put out there are just some of the worst of the worst. Comics creators have quote tweeted queer critics lumping them in with people sending death threats, declared they knew better then trans critics (while quote tweeting), and have straight up blaming fans for diverse books failures.
This is why it’s a comics issue. People think this is okay because creators do this, the biggest ones too. This is why it’s so important for the companies to take a stand now. Make big clear statements that they have made mistakes in the past but they are going to make major moves to prove themselves to people. Make it so today is the last we have to hear of these issues, because people are defended. Set a moral standard for employees public presence, make a 3 strike policy, make statements out of creators who treat fans the same way we don’t want creators to be treated. Lead by example and then do even more to make up for the years that women have been allowed to be run out of comics.
Today is the day to step up and say we’re not letting this happen anymore. Today is the day to make bold choices and show in your products your support. Today is the day to decide to show solidarity with marginalized creators. Today is the day to make a long term commitment to your marginalized fans that they are more important than the bigots that would want to rule the industry. Today is the day to be a social justice warrior. Today is the day to show everyone your feminist agenda.