Previously on Comics: The More Things Change, The More Things Stay the Same

Hello, comics fans! Kate here, returning to my role on Previously on Comics after a year away. Time away made me think that I missed writing this column. Then I sat down to actually write this week’s column and I was hit with a wave of deja vu. It’s enough to make you wonder if anything actually changes in this industry. 

But then other things happen, and you think–well, I’ll be damned. Maybe things can get better.

DC continues to make The Best casting decisions with their new live action TV shows. It was announced that YouTuber Chella Man has been cast as Jericho Wilson for the next season of TitansIt’s been a very, very cool thing to celebrate.

You can also check out his first interview with HuffPo here. Titans also announced Esai Morales and Chelsea Zhang as Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) and Rose (Ravager), respectively.

But then there’s comics.

Despite the joy and goodwill that Emerald City Comic Con, Toronto Comic Con, and C2E2 have generated, reminding con-goers of why they voluntarily suffer as fans or creators, comics itself kind of sucked again this past week, reminding con-goers why they voluntarily suffer as fans or creators. 

Let’s start at the beginning, when a tweet went out:

Okay, so, this wouldn’t be a big deal–except that it was picked up by NYT author Shannon Hale, who tweeted:

Which, you know. Isn’t really a friendly invitation so much as a reminder that well, publishing as an industry is super racist. Hale, bucking convention, did not delete the tweet and actually seemed to learn from it, but Hale isn’t who I want to talk about. I want to talk about Nilah Magruder.

I was in the audience the day that Magruder won the first ever Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity at Long Beach Comic Con, and I wrote about the experience back when, and her wonderful acceptance speech. Magruder also was the first Black woman published by Marvel. Because, you know. 2016 was finally the right time for that. At SDCC in 2016, Marvel had announced that Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey would be writing the World of Wakanda accompanying series to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther, but Magruder’s story was published first, which makes her the first Black woman published by Marvel. In conversation with other WWAC contributors, it was noted that almost every Black woman hired by Marvel (Magruder included) has an advanced degree if not a doctorate and an established career outside of comics, which is kind of a high bar to set. Just saying.

Also as a final postscript, the day after the discourse The Chicago Tribune published a really nice article about Black women in comics ahead of C2E2.

And maybe it’s just me, but when I see conversations like this happening, and then I see Marvel announcing Jonathan Hickman’s return in the most annoying bombastic way, my head starts to throb. Like, don’t get me wrong. I am a giant Hickman fan, because he’s one of the few Marvel creators who actually likes the Fantastic Four and can write them well. But Marvel’s announcement was eyeroll-inducing and I think even Hickman thought so too, based on his tweeted reply.

But wait, there’s more! Demonstrating just how much some people in the comics industry don’t get it, this week marked yet another announcement of a new comics vanity press in the same vein as TKO and AHOY. This one is AWA–Artists, Writers & Artisans. See, they think they’re clever in a UA “United Artists” kind of way. That’s a direct quote from the article by former Marvel chief operating officer and publisher Bill Jemas.

But Jemas isn’t alone in this endeavor. Also involved are former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, Garth Ennis, J. Michael Straczynski. I just need to sidebar a moment to point out that the author of this article described JMS as “a screenwriter and co-creator of Netflix’s Sense8,” which just boggles my mind but apparently no one writing or editing at the NY Times has read a Spider-Man comic before. So, it’s the usual suspects. Again. And yet Jemas, Alonso, and probably even the writer of this article seem to truly believe that AWA is going to give us comics we’ve never seen before. And yet, given the descriptions, creative teams, and artwork of their first titles–I’m going to go with, yeah, no. What probably stood out in the most surprising not surprised kind of way was the Frank Cho series Fight Girls, described by the article as a series about “warriors vying for the title of queen of the galaxy,” which, if you know Cho, means that readers can expect a lot of “girl-on-girl action” and not a lot of critical consciousness, so that’s going to be a hard pass from me. 

Speaking of industries that need to do better, Patreon announced major changes coming in May with the creation of Patreon Lite, Patreon Pro, and Patreon Premium.

After the initial panic died down, the gist is that if you make a Patreon before May, you’ll be grandfathered into the middle tier or “Patreon Pro,” without getting the hike from 5% to 8% that Patreon will start charging for new creators who join and want tiered membership options, so get on that!

Also, Kickstarter workers are trying to unionize, so if anyone from Kickstarter is reading this, we support you. 

So…basically, everything sucks–but sometimes it’s good. And I can’t let this, my first column back, end on such a downer, so here’s some more joy to remind us that good things can and do happen:

  • A new Garfield-themed restaurant coming to Toronto in April. Many comics creators have proudly confessed their love of the chubby orange feline, and so I expect this restaurant to be a con destination dining experience during future TCAFs and Fan Expos, and maybe even the upcoming Comics Studies Society conference.
  • You can support the CSS and help them send more women and NB comics scholars to said conference, by purchasing the “Read, Cite, Invite” swag, whose design was created by Dr. Carol Tilley. Check out their store
  • It was announced at the C2E2 Women of Marvel panel that Tini Howard signed a Marvel Exclusive contract, and that her first project is going to be a miniseries that, among other things, stars Wiccan and Hulkling, aka Marvel’s often neglected but fan favorite queer couple, so congrats to Tini (and to all of us).

Clip from Captain Marvel, Disney 2019

Kate Tanski

Kate Tanski

Recovering academic. Fangirl. Geek knitter.