Comics are breaking my heart
ETA: I had planned on putting up a follow up post about the conversations I've been having with Gail Simone, but I have to wait for a while. We are having a conversation, and something is happening. I'm still not enthusiastic about how Simone responds to criticism, but she gave me a chance to really change something in comics, and I'd like to follow that as long as I can. I promise full disclosure (hopefully) soon.
In the meantime, this keeps getting attention, so I'd like to clarify a point. When I reread Birds of Prey, I realized that I was wrong--not all villains in Birds of Prey are Asian/Middle Eastern. Its just that all the Asian/Middle Eastern characters are villains, or at the very least, not heroes. Most of the villains in BoP are white, but since white men are heroes in pretty much every other DC comic, that doesn't really mean much for them. However, there are almost no Asians in DC comics that aren't dead, evil, or disappeared, every representation counts.
The shine has officially come off of loving comics for me.
I always wanted to love comics, and for a very long time, I didn't because it wasn't cool, and I was terrified of not being cool. And then I read comics secretly but I didn't have anyone to talk to about them. All the comic-loving people I knew were so over the top that I couldn't break through. I didn't know enough about them, I didn't care enough about them, I was a little scared by how much these people's lives revolved around comics.
This year was the first time that I ever really let myself fall in love with comic books. Meeting falco_conlon was like finding a sister in terms of fandom and comics geekery. Finally I had someone to make jokes with, to analyze comics with, to sqee over awesome things and be mad over infuriating things. And I totally and completely fell in love with comics.
And now I feel like someone just punched me in the gut.
I knew intellectually that being a queer, genderqueer, Indian comic book geek would be difficult in some ways. I knew that I would be angry sometimes. But there's always so much to be angry at. I can usually shake it off. If I couldn't let go of every single thing that mass media did to piss me off, I would just be unhappy all the time. So I let myself being angry when, say, American superheroes acted like it was insane that another country wouldn't want them just waltzing into their country without asking permission, or when anyone in a comic who spoke out against American arrogance and imperialism was portrayed as crazy, or when every single woman's costume was split up to their navel, or when I realized that there were no gay male characters in all of DC, or that Marel never let its gay character kiss.But I learned to let it go. I still loved comics, despite their flaws.
But I can't do that right now. I have never felt so unwelcome in a fandom.
I'd heard so much good about Birds of Prey and Gail Simone that I checked it out immediately. And I did like it, but I could never quite shake the feelig that something was off. There was something I didn't like, but I couldn't put my finger on it. And then a couple of weeks ago, I realized that Gail Simone's stories constantly feature Asian or Middle Eastern bad guys. I couldn't think of a storyline that hadn't featured foreigners as the villians. And for that matter, most of the muscle--that I could remember--was almost always non-white. And they were always going to Asian countries and discovering evil and corruption there. And there were never any women of color heroines in Birds of Prey. (Except for Katana, but they dropped her pretty quickly. And Judomaster, who they dropped almost as quickly.)
But by the time I realized this, the online comic source I was using to read back issues was shut down, and I had no way of double checking if my memories were true. So I tried to shake off my feelings, and picked up the newest Birds of Prey trade when it came out....and sure enough, there was a kung-fu Asian lady being evil and hurting people. But they never showed her face, so maybe I was wrong. Asian ethnicity is hard to tell with comics. So yesterday, I read BoP #2. And saw once again an Asian woman hurting and framing the good white heroines. And I felt so fucking betrayed. And then they had a gay character kill himself because his best friend who he was in love with had been killed, and I felt even more betrayed. Gail Simone is touted as the one comic book writer who does things right. She is like the liberal lifeblood of the comics industry. If there was every going to be someone who wouldn't make me angry, it was going to be Gail Simone, people told me. But obviously the only people that Gail Simone does right by are straight white women. I have no place in Gail Simone's world.
And then this happened. I was cautiously excited about them making a live action Blue Beetle tv show. I mean, I've learned from experience that mostly any remake or adaption of something I love for a larger audience is going to make me upset, but--Blue Beetle was the first comic book I ever loved. And I would love to see Jaime Reyes get more love and attention. I still was hopeful, despite all my misgivings.
But those comments hurt. I didn't hate the old Blue Beetle, but he was nothing special. Jaime's series was one of the best series I've ever read. That people would say they hated Jaime and wanted the old white character back--well, I guess I finally know my place in comics. People like me, people like my family and friends, non-white people--we don't get excitement when we get a tv show. We don't get large fan support, not matter how awesome or well written we are.
It's not the first time I've had real problems with how gays or people of color characters are depicted in media. But for some reason it just breaks my fucking heart. I thought I could finally belong here. I knew that half the the fan base were kind of terrifying, and I guess I know that its that half whose responces I'm reading. But....I don't feel welcome any more. And I hate reading comics and thinking things like "Why are people from my mom's side of the globe always bad guys?" And I hate seeing gay characters constantly killed off or written off. and I hate seeing PoC characters contantly killed off or witten off so that their original white characters can take thier place once again.
I think I'm done with comics for a while. Maybe something will come along to make me change my mind, but...somehow I don't think so. And that's so sad.
DATE ADDED: 2010-07-25 17:46:40
ITEM TYPE: Document
CITATION: smithie_speaks, "Comics are breaking my heart," in HACKGENDER, Item #56, http://www.hackgender.org/items/show/56 (accessed April 24, 2014).
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