(If you’re not familiar with the term, “Comicsgate”, don’t bother. It’s a waste of any regular person’s attention. Just another side show in the culture war.)
But for those of you who ARE familiar.., (my job description requires that I pay some attention, so that’s why I’m here offering notes), it took a while for me to work out what was actually going on, but I finally did! I’m really proud of this, so check it out:
It’s like any relationship.
Once upon a time, there was a single guy doing his single guy things. In his case, he loved comics and sci-fi/fantasy and D&D. And one day, he met a girl! It was love! He invited her to visit his bachelor apartment and smiled nervously as she took her first pensive steps into his life. After a brief inspection and a few dates.., gosh! She realizes that, yes, this works! She loves him, too! Except.., he’s a fixer-upper, that’s for sure.
On the third or fourth visit she might ask politely, “Why are the brake shoes from your car in the sink, sweetie?”
Undaunted, this lady tiger rolls up her sleeves and starts to gussy up her boyfriend’s bachelor pad into something she can show her Mom and not feel ashamed of. A nice place where you can start a family!
In this story, the guy is Comics, and the girl is, well, All Girls.
Over the last thirty years, comic book conventions have evolved. They started out as collections of dusty card tables and long boxes in hockey rinks and slowly transformed into be-sparkled costume balls! Dazed neck beard guys found themselves stuffed into their good shirts and schooled in proper social etiquette. “Yes, Dear! The Last Jedi was a Very Good Film!”. (-Ha ha ha! No it wasn’t! But far be it from me to contradict a desperate man in front of his lady. But I’ve seen the shifty eyes, the wincing hope that nobody detects the courageous lie. You know who you are. I certainly do, but don’t worry! Your secrets are safe with me.)
Because, by golly, the girls have arrived! And they transformed though force of will and unabashed enthusiasm, the typically all-male events into red carpet co-ed geek parties! They made themselves comfy in their new territory, fluffing nests and, well, being all girly. As also happens, certain among the feminine element immediately set about identifying the social power structures and working out who sits where. -And the more borderline personalities conquered and set up Queen Bee pecking orders to control the flow of that magical substance, popular attention -and who got the sweet jobs, etc. Sociopathy comes in Male and Female, sadly. (And even more sadly, it can’t write. But that’s a whole other issue).
Negatives aside, all of this activity is quite normal and healthy. Seriously! It’s the natural way of things and it’s how humans have worked their magic since forever. When you get married, everything changes and your cool workshop geek stuff has to move out to the garage. Sorry bud! Toddlers and power tools don’t belong in the same room.
The problem in the particular case of Comics is one of the Adjustment Gradient. -Said simply, Comics were always about 95% workshop geek stuff to begin with. The clean up needed to prepare for Mother In Law’s inspection resulted in a near total wrecking ball solution, leaving little behind but the sweeping and the weeping. Literally! Think about it: “Honey, your bat comics cannot stay on the coffee table, and can’t we put the Wookie and his friend somewhere other than the mantle?” -That’s not just a cute argument overheard in anytown suburbia. It’s the entirety of the comics industry, top to bottom. It’s all Bats and Wookies! It all has to go!
And the problem with that is.., shoot, it’s taking the customer base with it. Nobody wants doilies and Mother In Law approved media, (and Mother In Law guilt trips. Have you read some of that stuff?) It’s unrecognizable from what it was before! It’s ALL Last Jedi and no amount of Good Husband nodding can gloss over the fact that it’s like eating spinach from a tin. So that which is left of a comic book industry already on life support includes now plummeting sales and literally hundreds of store closures. When you have to throw out everything pre-marriage from the house of comics, you end up with a hole in the ground, and the fledgling union, bourne of genuine love, is put under tragic strain!
Out in the real world, one expression of this drama has been that many of the particularly masculine elements in the industry, artists and writers, being swept and harassed out of jobs. In part, I think, because geek femininity, much like like geek masculinity, tends to be socially awkward (Sorry, it’s true), and so efforts at relationship navigation were always going to be clumsy and prone to outbursts, -and divorce-level fallout, it would appear.
Hopefully, they can work it all out. Hopefully the kids won’t be traumatized!
Industry grandpas like me, (well, I’m not that old or wise, but these generations came up so fast.., I have to make the effort!), we’re still scratching out comics in our log cabins, just hoping those crazy kids can work it all out. They’re so earnest and bright-eyed after all, and we love them so much!
Wolfville, Nova Scotia,
Feb 24th, 2019