Okay, we’re gonna play one of my favorite games. If you haven’t guessed from the title, it’s called, “Ask Me If I Care.” The premise is simple: you ask me if I care and I tell you whether or not I do. Got it? Good!
Now since this isn’t an interactive article, I’m going to have to make some assumptions on the part of your questions, but I’m pretty sure I can guess what you’ll be asking. And for the sake of making this piece a bit longer, I’m actually going to explain myself along with my answer.
So here’s your question: Sam, do you care about the recent sexist remarks made by Todd McFarlane and Mark Millar?
Here’s my answer: No!
I’m gonna give you a minute…
Now here’s your logical follow-up: But…I don’t understand. Millar basically said that rape, as a storytelling device, was the equivalent of decapitation in terms of shock value and McFarlane devalued not only women in comics, but female and POC readers by playing the oppressed white male card. How does that not piss you off? How can you not care about what they said? Aren’t you some kind of über feminist or something?
And this is where I explain myself.
I’m going to amend my previous answer. It’s not that I don’t care about the statements made by Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane. I don’t care about Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane period. As people, comic book creators, and businessmen, they don’t factor into my life or my way of thinking at all. Their statements, however, are completely offensive and misguided, but they’re also part and parcel of a comic book generation that is going to die out. You can call that incredibly naive, but I firmly believe that men like Millar and McFarlane will eventually be reduced to footnotes in the grander scheme of comic book history. Why? Because no matter what they’ve done in the past, whatever ground they broke in the industry, the beauty of this era in our culture is that their words – their incredibly asinine, sexist, and insensitive words – will be what we remember them for. We will look at those statements, the clear mindset of the Old Guard who will not change no matter what the current culture demands, and we will decide to change because of them. You know what alters the status quo more than anything else? Pissing people off and by God have they pissed off plenty of people.
That’s where the silver lining lies in what McFarlane and Millar said. To quote a much better and far more respected comic book writer and author, Neil Gaiman, in the wake of these statements we will “make good art”. We will tell better stories, create dynamic characters, and incorporate more characters that come from all walks of life. We will make comics reflect our society and we will be all the better for it. Are we going to be angry about men like McFarlane and Millar making such statements? Of course, but we’re also going to rise above it. The dialogue has already started and it isn’t going to go away because as long as people like McFarlane and Millar remain in the industry, we’ll have plenty of reasons to keep creating. Their voices will eventually be drowned out by our voices and the next generation of comic book creators will look at them and shake their heads, wondering how the hell men like them stuck around for so long. We remember fondly those creators who saw what comic books were capable of and pushed the boundaries of what society deemed acceptable in order to strive for an ideal. We’ve seen issues of race, gender, religion, sexuality, and politics addressed over and over again and they will continue to be integral to the industry’s dialogue. It’s inescapable because we’ve gotten to the point where their way of thinking is unacceptable.
My response: I could personally care less if they apologized. It would be a reactionary measure, something to save face. It wouldn’t reflect their actual feelings at all because they’ve already expressed how they feel. A hollow apology is meaningless and will appease no one. What I want is the next wave of comic book writers and artists to kick into gear and force their way into the industry. Will it be at DC or Marvel? Maybe, maybe not. From what I’m seeing, it’s the smaller publishers that are taking greater chances. And with Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns giving us options to back plenty of artistic endeavors, self-published books and webcomics might just be the next step. Innovation and inspiration will drive us forward – that I believe whole heartedly – but I refuse to let men like McFarlane and Millar tell me what I should be reading or that a lazy storytelling device like rape is the only option available to show villainy or progress a character’s story. That’s short-sighted bullshit and I look forward to the day when I can say Todd who? Mark what?
Until that day happens, just remember that it’s now our responsibility to “make good art”.