Wednesday, 27 July 2011

SDCC DC Panels and the Batgirl Clad Fan

I have discussed my feelings on the debate about female creators in comics on this blog before, but I always try to maintain that everyone is entitled to their opinion, whether I agree with it or not. It is not unusual for debates on internet chatrooms or comments sections to turn nasty, as anonymity makes people brave and reckless in equal measure. But I didn't think the same hive mind mentality would prevail in a public forum. SDCC proved me wrong.

Kyrax2 is a DC fan who went to SDCC dressed as Batgirl with her young daughter as Raven. If you read any of the comic news sites, you'll be more than aware of what happened when she started asking questions at the DC panels. Read an interview with her at DC Women Kicking Ass to get the full story and her take on her treatment. Also, it's worth listening to the podcasts of the panels because I think in this instance, tone really does mean everything. She raised valid points about female characters and creators, but to be honest, it was the way in which these questions were handled and the reactions to them that shocked me.

It is clear enough that Kyrax2 is a relatively new fan, the kind that DC would ideally like to court and keep. Heck, she went to SDCC cosplaying DC characters with her daughter. So surely she deserves to be treated with a little respect and have her questions answered. Isn't that the whole point of a Q&A? Apparently not, if you're Dan DiDio. Kyrax2 (and others who dared question the great and powerful DiDio on the topic of gender) were afforded little more than contempt. These are the people who spend their cash on his product, and if only for that reason alone, they deserve a little respect.

The guy who asked the 'why did you go from 12% to 1% women creators' question at the new 52 panel was met with a surly question in reply. 'Who should we be hiring?' was demanded of him. As he stuttered and struggled to find a reply in the face of such surprising aggression, DiDio continued to cut him off before saying, 'Thank you, sir, for your opinion.' This dismissal and the the ironic stress given to the word 'sir' was the beginning of the change of feeling the room, in my opinion. And it was disgraceful that he was treated that way - like a schoolkid. Check out the new 52 podcast at approx. 7.09 mins for yourself. DiDio treats the panels like an ego trip.

I can understand that DiDio may have been frustrated with being asked a variation on the same question repeatedly, but if he had given fans a straight answer in the first place, everyone would have been able to move on. Instead he dodged and answered questions with questions. I was shocked at his rude and aggressive tone with fans, which can be heard on many clips from the panels. He should have been prepared for tough questions, not only about gender but also about race and the changes made to beloved characters. He should have expected some negative feedback and opposition. The fact that he didn't just proves how little he listens to or cares about the fans. DiDio will do as he pleases and how dare we question him?

His, why don't you take these questions to Marvel attitude was particularly counter-productive. These are your fans DiDio. Are you actively suggesting that they switch to Marvel? Maybe they don't particularly care about Marvel's stance on these matters because they aren't Marvel readers. But if Stan Lee et al. can give more satisfactory answers and actually treat their readers with respect, maybe that's where we should all be headed.

Most importantly, he should have maintained his composure, as the public face of a company, and afforded Kyrax2 a little respect. If not because she's a fan who cares enough about DC to come to a panel in costume, or because she's a mother with a young child in tow (who may possibly be a future fan who'll no doubt be affected by this experience) then, for the love of Christ, at least as a fellow human being! Shame on you DiDio. Equally at fault are the fellow fans who booed her. Yes, they may have been fed up with hearing the same issues raised, but they should have realised that this woman had yet to get an answer. It is very easy to be brave when you're shouting things from the midst of a crowd but braver still to directly address people intelligently. The panel members should have put a stop to the abusive behaviour from the crowd when aimed at another fan, but let's face it, it meant that the room was against her and with them so they let it happen.

Which brings me to my last point. Internet commentators have claimed that female fans (with some going so far as to pinpoint Oracle fans) who feel strongly about gender issues in the DCnU were nowhere to be found at the panels and that when push comes to shove, they are all hypocritical cowards hiding behind their keyboards. Setting aside the fact that not everyone can afford to go to SDCC, I think it's clear to all that when people are treated as Kyrax2 was, not only by panel members but also by fans, who can blame other fans for not speaking up? It may be a generalisation that comic fans are not traditionally the most confident or outspoken members of society, but few would willingly subject themselves to such baseless abuse.

And briefly, in defence of Grant Morrison. Morrison is not on the editorial team at DC. He is one of their star writers, sure, but he hasn't submitted anything to DC in the traditional way since 1982. I believe his 'I look pretty good in a dress joke' and his suggestion that women creators send their stuff in was an attempt to ease the tension in the room and end the conversation, and that he wasn't deliberately misleading anybody. Just a typical Scottish sense of humour that was taken the wrong way - after all, Scottish men do wear 'dresses' (well kilts, but you get my meaning.) I doubt he realised that DC doesn't accept unsolicited submissions. So don't tar him with the same brush as the others.

The whole affair has left a really bad taste in my mouth, and DC has gone down considerably in my estimation. I will continue to read DC comics that I enjoy and I won't be boycotting the company as a result of this weekend's events, but I think in the future I will more careful about which titles I spend my money on.

Superman would be disgusted.

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