Mockingbird, harassment, and changing times

Last week the final issue of Mockingbird hit the stores, and with it another excellent comic that flew under the radar and didn’t get enough support bit the dust.  Now comic books get cancelled all the time so this one coming to an end isn’t Earth shattering news on its own.  But what makes it a big deal are some surrounding issues and how they reflect on the comic book industry as a whole.

Mockingbird was an unabashedly feminist book, and writer Chelsea Cain was totally unapologetic about it. The cover of the final issue has the title character wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘Ask me about my feminist agenda’.  

Throughout the run of eight issues a lot of the usual tropes of secret agent stories were turned on their heads – fully clothed men fighting alongside and rescuing scantily clad women, the women being uuttely helpless when the rubber meets the road, the man being the more emotionally distant member of the duo, etc.  And that probably had a lot to do with why it bombed.

The sad reality is that there is still a section of comic book fandom that is not here for comics that feature women in stories that don’t: a) revolve around some man in some aspect or another, b) constantly portray them as cheescake, or both.  And the deride books like Mockingbird as PC, Social Justice Warrior stuff.  And the final kicker was that in the last issue the only memorable event of the character’s  backstory was retconned from possession by a demon to an extramairtal affair.  Feel the burn, bros.  A female character was changed from being controlled to making a choice that put her man’s needs in time out and some dudes couldn’t handle it.

But that’s not where this ends, unfortunately. The news of the book’s demise brought out the He-man woman haters who celebrated and harassed Cain to the point where she said screw it and deleted her twitter account.  Yeah that’s right some dudes  were so upset about a comic book for a C/D-level character that didn’t center their wants that they gloated about it being canceled and attacked the author on Twitter to the point where she felt the need to leave for her own sanity.  

That is nothing but pathetic, and while harassment is an issue in every industry comics has its own unique disgusting strain.  Cain said herself before deleting her account that she’d never been attacked like this before she got into comics.  And sadly she’s not the only one.  Comic bros can be found at every level from mere fans all the way up to the executive level and by bros I mean men who get in women’s physical space, online trolls, and the men who stand idly by and allow it. Follow a few women in comics on twitter and you’ll eventually see some accounts of the crap they’ve had to deal with.

Here’s the reality: it’s not all about you. The vast majority if not all of the most historically iconic characters are white men. That is entirely because of when they were created and who created them.  Well it’s 2016 and the world is a different place now.  The customer base has changed so the needs of the base are also changing.  The medium you love is getting more dependent on people who don’t look like you to survive so you’re going to have to learn how to be happy with controlling 75 percent of it instead of 100.  You can run individuals away by being douchebags but you won’t get rid of all of us. You will deal or the medium as you know it will vanish and we’ll go on creating our own version of it. If that’s what ultimately happens that’s your fault not ours.  

The idea that you can’t have any stories with main characters who aren’t like you or that any other characters who don’t look like you have to be centered around your desires as a reader is absurd. The idea that people who aren’t like you be they women, minorities, or LGBT, can’t write, draw, or edit these stories is equally absurd.  And maybe you haven’t had to face the reality that sometimes they’re more concerned with their own needs than yours, but now you do. So suck it up, face it, and get over it.

They’re not ruining the stories or the characters. If you can live with Cap Wolf you can live with Sam Wilson.  If Beta Ray Bill can wield the hammer so can Jane Foster.  And if you get 30 books a week written by and/or featuring men, then getting 5 to 10 written by or featuring women shouldn’t be a dealbreaker. If it is then that says more about you than it does the people who just want a piece of what could be a big enough pie for all of us to eat and be satisfied.  

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