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Beyond Outrage

❝ Comics has an outrage problem.

I don’t mean people getting up in arms over things, either. That’s an issue unto itself, and like anything else, it could be better than it currently is in several different ways, but that’s not today’s conversation.

What I’m talking about is how we—the comics community—describe, talk about, and address the concerns of people who are upset about one thing or another. The way we talk about outrage fatigue, outrage-of-the-week, faux outrage, outrage-o-matic, misplaced outrage, another outrage, this outrage, that outrage, and why it’s gross and short-sighted. How we use “tumblr” as a pejorative but ignore the poison in our own forums and followers.

The way we use the word outrage suggests that the outrage in question is fake and irrational, on account of being poorly thought-out and overly emotional. It happens every time someone brings up a point to do with equality, sexism, racism, or justice. It’s the same tactic the music media uses to devalue Kanye’s rants. They’re invalid, an inconvenience, annoying, or fake because you can see the emotions driving it, and emotional reactions aren’t valid.

We use the presence of passion to first diminish and then dismiss arguments. The offended must play by the rules of the unoffended, or even worse, the offenders, in order to be heard. You have to tamp down that pain if you want to get help or fix it. You can see it when people say things like “Thank you for being civil” when arguing something heated with someone they disagree with. Civility is great, sure, but we’re forcing people who feel like they’re under attack to meet us on our own terms. In reality, passion shouldn’t be dismissed. Passion has a purpose. ❞

Read the rest of David Brothers’ Beyond Outrage on his blog.

On one hand, I’m excited that we’re getting a new Bucky solo title in October.  I was sad when Jason Latour’s Winter Soldier title was cancelled.  For reasons I’m sure are clear to anyone who’s looked at this blog, I was less than thrilled back with Bitter March was announced and declined to buy it (from what I’ve heard, I’m not missing out on much).  So, yes, I’m happy to see my favourite character get his own title again, especially in the wake of Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s success.

On the other hand, Bucky Barnes: space explorer?  Not really my jam.  There’s a reason I don’t read the space adventure sorts of comics (like Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy).  I’m not really in love with Ales Kot’s work on Secret Avengers, either, though that could very well be more my lack of interest in the title’s current line-up than any defect in Kot’s writing.  I’m also more than a little bummed that Latour won’t be returning to Bucky’s story.  I think there are better ways to develop Bucky than by turning him into Buck Rogers.

Oh well.  I’ll give it a chance because I love Bucky Barnes and Marco Rudy’s illustrating.  I’m going to try to reserve forming any thoughts until the comic’s out.  For the time being, I’ll keep my expectations low (all the better for pleasant surprises, right?).  I’m just glad Bucky’s getting another shot at his own title.

Feminist Dragons

What is it with dudes and their never-ending cry of “Diversity! Diversity! Diversity!” ? Ugh, it doesn’t MATTER what the characters are like! Only the story matters! And we all know that those fanboys love to complain about how there’s no representation of LGBT (or are they calling it GLBT now? IT’S SO HARD TO KEEP TRACK OF LETTERS) or not-white people.

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❝ I’d like to clear the air.

The past 96 hours have been some of the most stressful, anxious, and rewarding of my life.

Wednesday evening, following my first read of Rick Remender’s Captain America #22, I posted a series of entries to my blog reiterating my distaste for his work, and my renewed (and long-held) belief that he should no longer be writing it.

In my haste and anger, I asked other people who shared my opinion to tweet Marvel Comics, Rick Remender, and Captain America editor Tom Brevoort with their concerns, using the hashtag #FireRickRemender.

And I’m sorry.

I understand that the hashtag, and the arguments held under its banner, could have been (and were) seen as personal attacks. And for that, I apologize. I was coming from a place of upset, discomfort, disgust, and outrage, and I acted solely from that place.

I am genuinely sorry for any personal affront my actions may have caused.

What I am not sorry for is everything that came afterward. 

Read Jackie’s story on Tumblr.

❝ In the days following the Rick Remender Captain America controversy, comic book fans and even industry professionals are coming out of the wood-work with everything from legitimate attempts to defend Remender’s writing to flat out derogatory word-vomit. The more comments and tweets that flood in, the more justified fans are for feeling unsafe in the comics community.

All of this started because fans of Captain America and Marvel Comics brought it to public attention that they were unhappy with the systemically oppressive tactics employed in Rick Remender’s writing: namely his run on Captain America, volume 7 and Captain America #22 where many fans felt pushed over the edge by the events that took place between Falcon and Jet Black. ❞

Read Gloria Miller’s full story at Examiner.

❝ For those who don’t know (because there are quite a few…let’s be honest, not everyone reads comic books) Captain America #22 came out last week, and there was a bit of an uproar on social media that resulted in calls to fire the author, Rick Remender.

At the heart of the argument was that Remender wrote Sam Wilson (beloved by many after Captain America: the Winter Soldier, where he’s played by Anthony Mackie) having drunk sexwith a woman that many readers understood to be 14 years old. That specific claim is not the case (the character is in fact 23) but even after that clarification, people were upset. ❞

 Read croguesberg’s full story at Jezebel’s Powder Room.

There has been a lot of talk re: Rick Remender recently on social media.  It isn’t the first time his writing has sent readers to the internet to voice greivances.  It is, however, the first time readers have rallied behind a single hashtag to have their voices heard.  The tag, #FireRickRemender, blew up almost a week ago with the release of Captain America #22, an issue featuring a drunken sex scene between Sam Wilson and Jet Black.  What seemed to spark the initial outrage was ambiguity over Jet Black’s age.

Narration within the title describes the two children of long-time Captain America villain Armin Zola as infants.  We are shown an infant Ian Zola and an older Jet Black.  Given that the adjective “infant” is used to describe her, many readers took Mr. Remender at his word and presumed her to be around three years old at introduction, pushing the limit of infancy.  A total of 12 years pass.  While her brother Ian is still rendered like a child, Jet is drawn more like the typical T&A female.  This would seem to indicate she is either much older than Ian or that the creators simply wanted to draw a sexy teenage female.  Either could be true.  Let’s be real, comics haven’t always done a stellar job of drawing teenage girls looking like teenage girls.

This sets the stage for the flashpoint.  For 21 issues enough of the readers believed Jet Black to be a teenager that her sudden declaration of being well into her 20s came as a surprise.  To these fans, it felt like one of two equally troublesome things:

  1. Mr. Remender self-retconning his own character to enable her to have sex, or
  2. Jet Black is simply lying (which has very unfortunate complications when it happens in reality as adults are still held responsible if a minor lies to them about their age and they engage in sexual activity)

In truth, the issue of Jet’s age has been a muddy one given what we’ve read to describe her, given how she’s been rendered on the page, and given the amount of time Mr. Remender has told readers passed.  Tumblr user Khat has laid out a detailed and convincing analysis of Jet’s age.  In spite of that, I cannot find fault in those who believed her younger than her stated 23 years.  Her age, due to writing, has been an ambiguous thing and I would argue that it isn’t uncommon to draw a pre-pubescent child as a child and a child who has already reached puberty as an adult (Ie – boys with height and muscle, girls with T&A).  I can easily see how it would be easy to think there’s only two, maybe three years age difference between Ian Zola (aged 12 at the time of his apparent death) and Jet Black.  For this reason, I cannot dismiss the concerns of those fans who believed a statutory rape took place.

I personally have been denied the opportunity with fans and creators alike to discuss my issues further because I won’t concede that this interpretation of the character is patently false and that these outraged fans are rallying around a biased lie.  Supporters of Mr. Remender, Marvel editors, and creators are dismissing all other concerns re: Captain America #22 and Mr. Remender’s history of playing light with serious, real-world topics.

There are very real and problematic issues with Sam and Jet sleeping together.  The first being the muddy issue of her age.  More than a few fans believed her a teen and I won’t belittle their interpretation and their reaction to the thought of a beloved and important character like Sam Wilson committing statutory rape.  Nor will I use this misunderstanding to ignore past and future greivances these fans have with Mr. Remender (which many of his supporters are now doing).

The remaining two issues I see with this scene involve issues of consent, which by Marvel editor Tom Brevoort’s own admission should never be taken lightly.  First, concent cannot be given when a person is under the influence of drugs of alcohol, period.  Regardless of if Jet and Sam both eagerly and drunkenly hopped in bed together, Sam’s reaction the next morning was anything but enthusiastic, implying that the alcohol prompted him to do something he normally would not.  I cannot say it emphatically enough: no one can consent when they are under the influence.  This segues into my second point: another, possibly more problematic reading of the scene.  Jet Black pushes Sam to continue drinking after he says he’s had enough.  Sam wakes the next morning with an echoing “Oh no, oh man, no no no.”  This sends a clear message that Sam would not have gone to bed with Jet had he not been under the influence.  Jet, however, is glib, saying that’s not the response she expected, that she had fun, and they should do that again.  This paints a very disturbing, very rapey picture of Jet (though I highly doubt we will ever see any indication of Sam as a victim of sexual assault since male rape in media is rarely acknowledged as such).

This is the real issue that sparked the controversy surrounding Captain America #22.  This is the issue being dismissed, ignored, or belittled because some fans (myself included) were initially caught up in the ambiguity of Jet’s age.  It’s unfortunate that this is happening to a beloved character like Sam on the heels of his introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and while he’s poised to take over the mantle of Captain America.

What’s more unfortunate is that this minsunderstanding / misinterpretation of Jet’s age is being used to ignore any and all criticism leveled against Mr. Remender.  Eve at The Rainbow Hub more eloquently details a myriad of problematic issues (whitewashing diverse casts, glorification of violence, death and gore for shock value, repeated use of negative racial stereotypes, etc.) with Mr. Remender’s runs on Captain America and Uncanny Avengers.  Mark of Eat Geek Play posted a recap of the controversial topics featured in Mr. Remender’s Captain America (for those trying to ignore the history and focus only on Captain America #22).  Others have (some years ago) noticed the ease with which Mr. Remender discards characters.  His ham-handed attempt at profundity with regards to identity politics (via making Alex Summers and Wanda Maximoff his mouthpieces) has been thoroughly analyzed and criticized.

And yet all of these choices have been defended, or worse, ignored by Mr. Remender’s supporters.  Marvel editors and creators as well as readers are happy to trivialize the outrage of fans in the #FireRickRemender hashtag as being willful untruth to denigrate Mr. Remender.  These critics are accused of being liars, they are told their complaints don’t matter because of the recent ambiguity which helped to spark this newest controversy (I would call it shoddy writing, but I’ll be told that’s mean-spirited since I am not a fan of Mr. Remender’s work).  I have personally been told that my list of complaints won’t be heard because they are “bullshit” from one fan and denied a chance to even discuss my greivances with one creator because I would not belittle and dismiss a specific interpretation of an ambiguous point.

It would be easy to shut up and stew quietly, but I am reminded of a lesson Steve Rogers taught me:

❝  we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — “No, you move.”