Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Appreciation…A Musing

Before I start I just want to say that everyone who is really into the happenings in the DC Universe should go out and buy The Flash #240 and Birds of Prey #118. I do not know exactly what is going on but it is apt that it begins with the kids of the DCU and with Flash’s kids specifically. I love a legacy.

And now, loyal Second Printers, I have a SPOILER WARNING. That is right, I am doing something I do not usually do and am giving away a key story point. So if you have not read Robin #174 – you might want to STOP READING.


In the last few years I have been to a fair amount of comic conventions: a few Wizard World Philadelphias, all three NYCCs, two or three Baltimores – you know doing my best to run the gamut, to experience the experience as it were. For me, conventions are all about panels and I have gone to my share of talks on DC Nation, Final Crisis, Countdown, 52, etc, each which ran at least an hour. So you have to figure over the last three years I have spent close to a day’s worth of time in DC panels and there has not been one panel – one damn panel – where someone has not brought up Stephanie Brown, her death and her memorial. Not one damn panel. You add to the Blogpshpere going bat crazy over it and I would say that a large portion of my comic experience since 2005 has revolved around Spoiler’s demise. Hell, I half expected to see a freaking candlelight vigil in her honor.

Well now she is back as Spoiler. Not resurrected Jason Todd style, she just never died. What do the pitchfork waving, torch sporting, Stephanie Brown fans have to say about it? Nothing. Not a damn thing. Believe me, I have been scouring the big blogs and news sites for some sort of reaction and have come up wanting. So I am calling bullshit on you all. There needs to be some thanks given.

Let me backtrack, I do not hate Spoiler. I just never cared about her death or what was being done in her memory. Now that she is back, I also do not care. It was not the cause I chose to champion. However, if it was, you can guarantee I would be flipping my shit and you would be seeing a ton of “She’s Back” posts. Here is the thing, like our grandparents, comic companies do not have to dick for us. They do not have to bring back Manhunter or Amazing Spider-Girl. They do not have change Superman back to his normal self from red and blue. They do not have to keep Peter Parker Spider-Man instead of Ben Reilly. They do not have to do any of that. So, when we complain and shout and they choose to listen, to play into our whims and wants, we should be appreciative.

If Dan Didio came out and said, “We don’t care about sales, John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque are going to take Blue Beetle to one hundred issues,” I would kiss him on the mouth. In fact, I would devote the rest of my time here on Second Printing to how I would kiss him on the mouth.

If the big two don’t see our appreciation, don’t see their sales spike and all that, then they will stop listening. That means Kate Spencer rides the sidelines, May Day Parker floats in limbo, and Stephanie Brown stays beaten to death. Come on comic fans prove that we are not just a bunch of PCU Causeheads, who only look for things to bitch about. Show that we can celebrate when our hard fought battles are won. Show that we can say thank you.

23 comments:

SallyP said...

You make a very valid point. A little appreciation would be nice instead of all the kvetching that seems to be so endless.

If we could have 100 issues of John Rogers on Blue Beetle I'd kiss Dan Dideo too.

Rambo said...

Goddamn Spoiler. I never cared for her one way or the other, but you're right; if you're going to bitch and bitch about something like this for this long, don't just clam up when the thing you've complained about is finally given to you. Ungrateful bastards.

Hal Shipman said...

I don't know what your measure of the blogoshere is, but I would be ienterested to see what happens in the panels this summer. That being said, I think there may also be a venue issue going on in the "buzz."

I used to be a very regular participant on the usenet rac* groups until an ISP change last year, though they were very, very noticably dying. So I, and other people like me, aren't being a vocal as in the past.

I never carried a pitchfork, but it did bug me. A lot. As part of an overall darkening of Robin that I didn't like seeing. This change actually got the title back on my pull list.

grebok-sod said...

I don't do my reviews until the following Wednesday, give a brother a minute. I have a Memorial Day special planned too, I swear.

I never agitated but I have been vocal about wanting Stephanie back and exactly how we got her. I will be just as vocal about how thankful I am.

The worst offenders of Girl-Wonder are mostly gazing at their own navels wondering if they have to rename their site; waiting for someone to tell them how to feel; or congratulating themself for what I believe has more to do with Chuck Dixon than a few poorly organized letter-writing campaigns.

If anything this has only enlivened their entitlement. This is why you don't negotiate with terrorists. Beware.

I'll be at Wizard World Philly on Saturday, I plan on showing my gratitude in person.

boztopia said...

The death of Spoiler was rather stupid and misogynistic, but it didn't strike me as so incredibly over the top as to become a rallying point--as it did for a number of female readers, apparently. Perhaps I've become inured to the continual degradation and waste of good characters (male AND female) for cheap thrills from both companies, which is a problem in and of itself.

That said, I thought Dixon bringing her back (and validating both Leslie Thompkins AND Bruce in the process) was smooth as a baby's bum. Kudos to Dixon for a rare touch of sensitivity. And I'm equally impressed by how even a small group of fan wankers are having problems with the return:

http://blog.newsarama.com/2008/05/24/variations-on-a-theme-40/#more-8289

There's just no pleasing some folks, ya know?

Jon said...

Face it, too many blogs are there purely to moan, or carry an agenda (you can spot those, they throw around words like "misogyny" as if they were candy). Saying "thankyou" would never occurr to those people, it's simply something to cross off the list of things to whine about.

I'm in the boat with people that simply don't care- I'd never even heard of Spoiler until I got her card in the DC VS game. It's very cool that DC brought her back though, for those that do care.

JYD said...

I'm firmly in the "shouting from the rooftops that she's back" camp, and was surprised by the lack of rejoicing over at Girl Wonder.

Steph's back people! So're Tora and Ted! We should all send Didio our love. And we should perform the physical act of love with him should he announce 100 issues of Rogers' Blue Beetle.

Rob S. said...

I agree.. where's the shoo-rah?

I've seen a couple of very happy posts about it, and a handful of posts that said, essentially, "but I wanted it with ice cream."

I really expected a general happiness wave to sweep the blogosphere, and it hasn't happened.

boztopia said...

I loved the pompous, self-important "press release"-style response from the "curator" of Girl Wonder on Stephanie's return: http://girl-wonder.org/2008/03/on-stephanie-browns-return/

I think the lack of enthusiasm is due to a similar phenomenon I've seen among top-shelf progressive liberal bloggers relating to Obama. Basically, Obama has built his machine and success without dealing with them at all--he sidestepped them and did his own fundraising and outreach. So many of the bigtime netroots bloggers are either lukewarm on Obama or outright oppose him, solely because he didn't stop to kiss their rings.

And it's the same here. Because Didio and Dixon didn't immediately kowtow to fandom and bring Spoiler back right when they demanded it be done, her actual return is met with similar lukewarm enthusiasm.

Welcome to fandom, where anything less than instant, total gratification equals dissatisfaction.

chris said...

BRAVO.

Thacher said...

There was one post on the Newarama blog, in one of the regular columns, but it was more of a "this is what some LJers said, good, bad and okay" (ah hell, it's here in the Variations on a Theme column

I was beyond happy about it, as were most of my customers. It's a two for one redemption. Leslie Thompkins apparently doesn't let teenagers die!

Hmmmm...I wonder if this means she'll be in the movie and they realized they needed her around in a non-teenager killing capacity...

Kansasjin said...

Sorry for the wall of text, but I feel some clarifications might be in order. Some theories and explanations of the state of fans ahead:

Basically, I have no idea what you guys are talking about. I was never particularly a Spoiler activist (I guess you could call Cassandra Cain Batgirl my "cause" of choice), but pretty much all of the major Steph Brown fans I know on message boards and blogs have expressed not only their happiness but more importantly their willingness to fork out $3 bucks a month for the "Robin" book again. I don't visit Girl Wonder, though, so that might be a different story.

But as a Batgirl fan, I also understand the apprehension behind any "official" celebration. DC seems to like using certain characters as a carrot and stick for overhyped controversy sales more than good comics, and more than once Batgirl fans have had premature hype turn into ashes in our mouths. You can be sure Spoiler fans are aware of this state of affairs. But the Dixon love from Spoiler fans and general goodwill towards DC is definitely there, you just have to dig a little to find the communities.

As far as DiDio love? I've heard some of that, but fans have heard everything from Spoiler being one of his favorite characters to jokes at her and her fans' expense at cons that I'm not sure they know quite what to make of that front yet. You can bet they're expressing their thanks with their wallets, though.

Most of the criticism I've seen about the Spoiler return has come from people who frequent Spoiler communities but aren't actually Spoiler fans. The biggest complaint is probably that Dixon seemed to have copy and pasted the manner of Steph's "return" from a lot of message board pipe dreams without actually writing a creative comic.

So, in a nutshell, the issue is complicated, and so are the feelings in reaction to it.

chris said...

Today marks one week since Robin#174. No mention of this event on either http://girl-wonder.org/index.php or on http://girl-wonder.org/robin/.

I wrote and expressed my displeasure, and the response was that they did say something on their forums (which is false as well, unless you can find the BIG HEADLINE about Spoiler's return amongst these threads from March: http://girl-wonder.org/forums/viewforum.php?f=1), and that they all "happened" to be on vacation at the same time tis past week.

Amazing.

James Meeley said...

Face it, too many blogs are there purely to moan, or carry an agenda (you can spot those, they throw around words like "misogyny" as if they were candy). Saying "thankyou" would never occurr to those people, it's simply something to cross off the list of things to whine about.

>snip<

Welcome to fandom, where anything less than instant, total gratification equals dissatisfaction.

I think the above comments pretty much reflects my own feeling to a "t" on this. So, I just thought I'd copy and repost them for that effect. To say that I'm not the least bit surprised that Spoiler's return has been given almost nothing in the form of an exclamation of joy from these people, would be to merely state the blindingly obvious. :)

Npwoehlke said...

I've already written the letter to DC thanking them for bringing Stephanie back.

To be honest, though, the Girl Wonder thing was about more then just fans of a particular character wanting that character to get more respect. While Stephanie Brown's death was pointless and stupid, but it was still just one example of the poor representation of women in mainstream comics on the whole, and that's what all the complaining was really about.

The people in the movement have mixed feelings about this, of course. The Stephanie fans are happy she's back, but we're all nervous about what that return is going to entail. If it means just another poorly written female teen background character in the DCU, then frankly the DC editors missed the larger point altogether. So most of us are kind of waiting to see how she's treated in coming issues.

Likewise, while there are other positive things going on when it comes to the portrayal of women in DC (Huntress: Year One springs to mind), there's still a heck of a lot going on out there that is pretty lousy, and a lot of us just don't really trust mainstream comics at all anymore.

Basically, we don't want to send the message that the whole movement can be bought off with a single issue retcon, since, again, it was about more then just the suck of War Games & its fall out. It's also about the whole mentality that led to the situation in the first place.


So give us some time. Most of us are still too busy happily hugging our issues of Robin and writing nice snail mail letters to DC to blog for you at the moment. Don't worry, you'll get an earfull soon enough. Heck, I've only begun to complain about OMD.



But the short summary: I can't speak for everybody else, but I sure am happy Steph's back, and seeing a female robin costume case in this months issue of Batman was just icing on a cake. My head's spinning. I look forward to using Stephanie as a champion of how things can change for the better, rather then as a martyr of how terrible the present can be.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go daydream about that 'Batgirl & Robin' Cass/Steph crossover that I can once again pretend is a possibility.

Edgewood said...

I'm pretty much in the same camp as Npwoehlke, who said most of what I intended to say. And as a longtime follower of Girl-Wonder.org, let me make something clear (my own feelings at least, if not those of the GW bloggers)

THIS WAS NEVER ABOUT BRINGING SPOILER BACK.

If you'd read the site and the blogs in any detail, you'd know that Spoiler was just a flashpoint for the large issue - women in refrigerators, pornface artists, and the overall objectification of women in artists, as devices for the male super heroes to f*ck or angst over. Bringing Spoiler back does not address this unless it's the start of an overall trend where the status quo is made better.

In point of fact, GW itself was never asking for Spoiler to be ressurected - just a memorial case. The fact that she was brought back can likely be more or less attributed to Dixon's love of the character, and not necessarily due to any pressure from the fans.

We'll just have to wait and see.

James Meeley said...

Amazing how people can miss the point of something, isn't it?

It doesn't matter if Girl-Wonder is about more than just Spoiler's former status. It doesn't matter what could happen in the future to the character, which makes some nervous.

The point is, DC did right by those who trotted Spoiler out as a banner for whatever cause they held (which Girl-Wonder certainly did). And it would be nice to see them THANKED for that, since, not only didn't they have to do a damn thing with the character, but because folks certainly had no amount of restrain in setting forth condemnation on DC when they were unhappy about Spoiler's lot in life (or death, as the case may be). It'd be nice to see the positive flow that much, as they seem to enjoy doing with the negative.

The fact all those who were very quick to rally to the causes, with Spoiler as the poster child for all they hate to see done, are now the very same people who can't seem to open those same big mouths to say "Thank you, DC, for fixing/resolving this issue to a somewhat satisfactory degree.", is just further proof, in my mind (as well as others) of why all those who shouted about this for so long are completely underserving of getting anything they claim they want.

If all you can do is whine, complain and insult when things aren't as you like, but you are completely unwilling to offer up even a small bit of appreciation when things are put more as you would want, then frankly, you don't deserve to be heard, IMO. As all ingrates usually aren't.

As all this bull$#!+ about "well, we don't want to get too happy or appreciative, because we don't know what the future holds for the character" makes me want to puke. If you are that without hope and the ability to see better possibilities, then what in the F@#% are you doing here?! If all you can see, and create, is negativity, fear and hopelessness, then why are you wasting your time here? Move on to something else that doesn't just bring the doom and gloom out of you. Because, this is one comics fan who tired to DEATH of all that crapola from supposed "fans!" If you'd put as much effort into saying "thank you," as you have in all the time you've spent whining about this, or offering up petty excuses for the lack of appreciation, I bet we'd have seen some real doozies of positive appreciation, wouldn't we?

Jesus F@#%ing H. Tapdancing Christ! You'd think asking the people who've whined and moaned about this for YEARS to show even the smallest amount of appreciation and hope, was like asking them to raise the Titanic from the bottom of the sea with only a pair of tweezers. Is it any wonder comic fans are seem as mouth-breathing, socially-inept jackasses by the public at large?

Npwoehlke said...

Um, chill? I already sent my thank you letter to DC. You're acting as though I should be thanking you personaly. Did you actualy have anything to do with Steph's return?

If so, thanks! If not, relax, because you're the only one whining and arguing for the sake of it here.

Project girl-wonder, the part of the site that actualy was about getting recognition for Steph has been retired, and the final update happily thanks DC for bringing the character back. What more do you want?

James Meeley said...

Um, chill?

Considering who this original post was directed towards, I'd have to say this is certainly a textbook case of irony.

I already sent my thank you letter to DC. You're acting as though I should be thanking you personaly.

Yes, how convenient. A letter sent that was not made public and on only your word, is there proof it even exists. Tell me, were the condemnations that you slung at DC over what happened to Spoiler also confined to silent written letters, of which none were made public? Or did you, as so many others did, get very loud publicly with your negativity towards DC and the creators involved?

See, to me, I've always been a believer in "fair is fair." So, in this case, since the outrage against DC was very loud and public, I think it's only right that the appreciation of a "wrong made right" be equally so. Unfortunely, that's not what has happened. And that's why I find the whole matter extremely distastful.

Oh, for the record, I don't think I played any part in Spoiler's return>. So, I certainly don't expect any thanks brought my way. But I'm sure the people at DC, who endured years of seeing their names dragged through the mud over this, would sure like some made just as loud and publicly as the umbrage of fans that called for their jobs (if not their heads) was.

Project girl-wonder, the part of the site that actualy was about getting recognition for Steph has been retired, and the final update happily thanks DC for bringing the character back. What more do you want?

And again, something that was done quietly and with no fanfare (and not even so much as a link to this supposed thanking, either). Not exactly the same way they went about exclaming the outrage they held for what came before, huh?

So, what more would I want? How about all the people who made the fuss over Spoiler on their blogs, make an equally big fuss over her return and so DC that the "fans" just aren't all about finding fault and assigning blame, but that they can also be gracious and grateful, when they do try to do things more as they would like. That would would be good enough for me.

You know, I always thought people who made such claims like "creator X only phoned in this work for the money" were always out of line, because I felt that they certainly had to have more of a reason for doing this than a paycheck. Not only because very few, if any of them, get rich by doing this, but also because that there had to be something more to the creative process they do, besides looking at dollar signs to motivate them.

However, have seen who this whole affair with Spoiler has gone down, with fans all too eager to berate a perceived "wrong" with everything they have, yet equally as unwilling to give just as much praise for something done "right," I can start to believe creators only do this for the money. But not due to them being greedy. Simply because the tactless and compassionless ingrates that compose mondern-day fandom, really give them nothing else to look forward to, from all the efforts they put forth. I mean, imagine a job where you get reamed for every possible mistake you make, but get no consideration for problems you fix. How many of us would stay at a job like that, unless we were getting paid a very sweet penny?

If not, relax, because you're the only one whining and arguing for the sake of it here.

Once again, irony strikes. Doubly so in this case, because it strikes me funny that all of you have only suffered one "tounge lashing" from one person, on one blog entry on a single blog here. Imagine how DC and those creators must have felt getting that same treatment, only many times over and innumerous blogs. Strange how when the shoe is on the other foot, you don't seem to like it very much. Perhaps there's a lesson in that for everyone.

Perhaps we could all put away the anger, hostility and vendettas, hmmm? Maybe give people reasons to want to read comics, rather then run the other way screaming? We might even help generate a little more hope of all of us in doing so. Wouldn't that be nice, you know, for a change?

Benhatt said...

Alright, here is the deal, I want the level of anger in the replies to just be taken down a notch. Hell, I would like ten notches. I want Second Printing to be a place to sound ideas not a place to yell and bitch at one another. While I might get riled up and get frustrated, ultimately my hope is for a dialogue on the subject not screaming faces. I wanted to bring up the idea of appreciation as a whole and the return of Stephanie Brown was an excellent opportunity. If Barry Allen’s return had been met with limited fanfare, I would have done the same thing. I wasn’t aiming the post at any particular person or blog.

The idea is appreciation and the lack thereof that I see from the comic community as a whole. When Grebok-Sod said, “I don't do my reviews until the following Wednesday, give a brother a minute.” I realized that perhaps I was bit a hasty in my post, not in its sentiment, maybe just in when I put it up. Not every blogger out there has his fingers poised over the keyboard when Wednesday hits. If Grebok-Sod and Npwoehlke (I feel silly about not having real names to say) have done their thanking in person or by snail mail, then I have no beef.

Now for a couple responses.

Npwoehlke and Edgewood:

My post was not intended to say Stephanie Brown’s return stops all the problems when it comes to the representation and treatment of women in comics. Nor was I trying to attack Girl-Wonder.org as an entity. In fact, I don’t think I did. I understand that there has been a history of shitty handling of females in the medium. As long as you can go back and see Ms. Marvel being mind controlled by her own child into a sexual relationship, a comic reader can tell that things weren’t, and still aren’t, o.k. Treatment of women in comics wasn’t what the post was about though.

James Meeley:

While I understand the frustration of listening to people complain and complain, and how it can be taxing on a person, Second Printing is not a place for disrespect. Our blog ain’t about nastiness. I would prefer that comments stay away from personal attacks. I am a curmudgeon at heart but sometimes the adage, “If you can’t say something nice…” is the way to go.

Npwoehlke said...

I apologize if I was confrontational. I didn't mean it.

I am frusterated, though. When I sent letters to DC, and posted on message boards, and harrassed people at conventions about Stephanie Brown, it was because her portrayal was just another eggregious example of the portrayal of women in comics. I wanted respect for the character, and for those fans for whome a female character in one of the iconic male roles in comics was significant.

As a fan, the return of Stephanie Brown is great! I've said so here, I've said so on the G-W message board, and the next time I'm at a comic convention I certainly won't be shy about expressing my pleasure.

As an advocat, though, her return is not all that significant, at least not yet. It doesn't change the sexualized portrayal of her on panal torture. It doesn't change the general trends in comics. In fact, the greater impact of her return is on the character of Leslie Thompkins - which, by the way, is a very positive thing that I'm very happy about.

So no, I'm not making as much noise about it as I did about her death. It's about the portrayal of women in comics, and the impact of Steph's return on that portrayal won't be manifest until we've seen her around for a while.

I'm not a terribly active person online, my online experience of this matter has mostly been filtered through the G-W website, hence my reference to that site in particular. On that site, there is just one section dedicated to the case of Stephanie Brown, and that section has been retired with a final update that, among other things, thanks DC for her return. Considering that Steph hasn't been mentioned on the front page for some time, I feel this is a completely appropriate and satisfactory responce.

As for the blogs, the only one that regularly updates that G-W links to is that of Karen Healey, who has been on vacation, and hasn't updated since before Steph's return. I don't know if she'll mention the return in her blog or not - She hasn't mentioned Steph specifically in her blog for some time, so I'm not sure if it's that significant to it. I'd like to hear her comment on it further, but I hardly think she's obligated to.


I'm still confused about what further might be expected. If there's a blog out there that's been harping specifically on the case of Stephanie Brown ll this time, then I would expect some comment. In fact, if you know of such blogs, please post a few links, I'd like to read them!

But if people are expecting a big, loud, public thank you movement over the return of Stephanie Brown, then I just don't think you're expecting something reasonable.


I'm not trying to argue here, I'm just trying to explain why the responce to her return is not equal to the responce to her death.


There is one place where Mr. Meeley and I don't completely disagree though, and that's in the mention of positives in comics. That's why I specifically called out Huntress: Year One in my original reply. That also happens to be why the Girl-Wonder webpage has reccomendations front and center. Not complaints and bitterness, but reccomendations of good books that people can purchase and enjoy.


Anyway, thank you for the discussion, and the chance to air my opinions on the matter again.

Npwoehlke said...

New note: I'm hearing good things about the Robin/Spoiler special, and about an upcoming Spoiler Mini. If this conversation is still going when I can finally get to the local store, I'll try to say something nice about them.

One other thing: In the end, the only 'thank you' that matters on DC's end is written in dolar signs. If these issues sell well, that's all the expression that matters. I'm buying books from DC for the first time since OYL, I know a couple other people who say the same thing.

cursed-unicorn said...

I wondered where the discussion on her return was as well. I get links from WFA (I gave up on Girl-Wonder a long time ago, when it was clear they were only concerned with certain populations and not equal rights in general), and WFA didn't even see enough mention or get enough links to make a subsection about it. I don't have ready access to a comic book shop and I wanted to learn more, but most of the sources that would be expected to discuss it were curiously quiet.