Comicsgate resents Marvel's efforts for equal representation
That’s what David Gabriel, vice president of sales at Marvel, told ICv2 last year. While Gabriel later backtracked on his comments — he noted that female and diverse characters like a revamped Muslim-American teenager, Ms. Marvel, and a black Spider-Man, Miles Morales, were still some of the company’s most popular characters — this did not stop those affiliated with the movement #Comicsgate from continuing to harass diverse comic book artists and writers. In fact, Gabriel only made the movement worse.
Earlier this decade, Marvel Comics made some pretty big changes to some of their classic characters. Captain America was no longer the white, All-American boy Steve Rogers, but rather the black, still All-American Sam Wilson, previously known as “Falcon,” inheriting the title from Rogers. Thor is now a woman, with a dying Jane Foster taking over from an unworthy Odinson. In similar genderswaps, Captain Marvel was now female and the mantle of Wolverine was taken over by X-23, a teenage descendant of Logan, who previously held the moniker. Those changes were met with pretty steep division, and those vehemently opposed soon decided to take action and make their voice heard.
Starting in late 2017, #Comicsgate is a movement that’s been rising in power made up of comic book fans who “want quality comics without radical far left propaganda destroying the stories and sales of the books,” according to Urban Dictionary. It’s a horrifying child of the #Gamergate movement from 2014, a harassment campaign targeting women in the video game industry and put the ethics of video game journalism into question while trying to preserve the “gamer” identity. Similar to #Gamergate, #Comicsgate supporters continually troll comic book creators and artists who support increased diverse representation, including those of women, different races, and the LGBTQ+ community. Gabriel’s comment affirmed to these supporters that they were right and that they were carrying out some kind of good, God-sent work by continuing to bully female writers and other comic book creators off of Twitter-like middle school children.
In addition to sending tweets to comic book creators that make playground insults look like Shakespeare, actions taken by #Comicsgate supporters include a blacklist of progressive writers in comics entitled “cancer in comics" and making a meme out of a Mockingbird comic cover in which the heroine wears a shirt saying “Ask me about my feminist agenda." Those with enough power in the comic book industry, such as Green Lantern writer Ethan Van Sciver, to nearly set up a cage match-like discussion on YouTube, despite saying that he wants “to bring peace through conversation.” To make matters worse, supporters claim that they’re the victims, claiming how “social justice warriors,” or SJWs, are equally harassing them on social media, calling them right-wing and Nazis.
It’s a conflict that easily feels like a mirror to November 2016, and it would be stupid to ignore the fact that politics play a huge role in #Comicsgate — and it’s pretty clear which side each group represents. It’s a statement that #Comicsgate supporters easily utilize in their tweetstorms towards comic book creators, and often cite as a reason for their allegiance to the movement. However, what’s incredibly hypocritical in this is that they instead retaliate and call SJWs themselves Nazis, describing #Comicsgate supporters as the Jews in peril. In the meantime, these supporters are further putting the lives of complete strangers, comic book creators, and their families at risk in pointed attacks against who they are and what they believe and stand for. However, in this conflict, there’s no winning authoritative figure, but rather just a whirlwind conflict of people versus people. In fact, the authority on this matter, comic book industry titans Marvel and DC, have stayed mostly silent and dismissive, which may be worse than having a Cheeto leading a country.
But why am I bringing this up now? There are two reasons.
It has been six months since Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations kick-started the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements across the country, calling for an end to and a greater accountability for sexual assault and harassment. It led to a rise of a proposed sixth wave of feminism, and the respect, courage, and bravery of women are all still growing today from it. It is appalling and confusing that a movement like this still somewhat permeates a geek sub-culture. It is alarming how, in a “rock-and-a-hard-place” situation where they are trying to please all possible markets of their audiences, Marvel and DC sit on the sidelines simply enforcing their own policies and not protecting their employees. This sixth wave of feminism that has arisen from the #MeToo movement should have led to the termination of a movement like #Comicsgate, but instead, it has continued to grow in the shadows.
Just this past weekend, a large portion of the world watched Avengers: Infinity War, or as the kids call it, “the most ambitious crossover event in history.” We’re watching ten years’ worth of Marvel Studios films pay off. We’re living in a period where superheroes and comic books are as popular as they ever have been. We’re seeing 27 different heroes duke it out against the most menacing villain they’ve ever faced, and you can’t deny the pretty solid amount of representation and diversity in this movie. On the diversity front, Marvel Studios has made a lot of progress since their days of three white Chrises. Comic books should still maintain that same progress.
I watch and love these superhero movies and comics for many reasons, but the biggest reason is that they give me hope. They’re a form of escapism into a world where good can triumph over evil, amidst all conflict and strife. And seeing someone who looks like me conquer those obstacles and defeat the villains before her gives me that hope that I’m able to do that with the demons of my own personal life as well. It gives me a sense of belonging, comfort, and empowerment in a world where that feeling can be taken away all too easily. #Comicsgate goes against the very purpose of those comic books and superheroes that they’re defending by taking away that hope, belonging, comfort, and empowerment from comic book creators and fans, and supporters are only cementing themselves more in the reality that they’re trying to escape from rather than running away from it.