Wednesday Whittling: The Ugly Side of Comics

A main reason I write these posts is to express the ways comics are a wonderful world where all sorts of strides are made to break the
usual gait. And most of the time, they are.

Sometimes, though, the effort falls short even if the intention is
earnest. Sometimes, that vertically challenged attempt stops everyone else from
being able to enjoy the ride. And it’s awful.

I watched Batman: The
Killing Joke
. I’m disappointed. A friend – a comic podcast havin’,
Man-Thing lovin’, old roommate friend, actually – posted a Gizmodo link about
the movie and its ComiCon panel. (He and his partner will have a one-shot on the Killing Joke debacle…look out for it.) When I was away last week, I posted it here in
lieu of a full Wednesday Whittling. The piece explores how Barbara Gordon is cheaply watered
down to a character of convenience, as well as how writer Brian
Azzarello reamed on an audience member during the Q&A. He called the
questioner a “pussy” in the most chest pounding, stereotypical meathead way ever.

Azzarello’s actions bother me most for two reasons. One, because they
magnify his work on Killing Joke as a glim blight in Batman lure. Two, because they reinforce the absolute worst of comics…that if you don’t like it, then you can get the hell out. 

When this nonsense happens, a writer
who’s made a career and a life off of comics acting defensive and goading a
fan, it’s like we’re back in Maycomb County. It’s an old man
sitting on his porch begrudging difference from what he knows or has done or
believed in without thinking that maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t see the whole
picture all on his own because he can only ever be part of the picture.

We’ve got a black, female Iron Man. We’ve got a recent feature title for Poison Ivy and a coming book
on the women of Wakanda, both written by women. And that’s just DC and Marvel.
Blink and you’ll miss Doctor Mirage and Bitch Planet and other indy books that
distinctly show the best of comics through gender. And if you’ve been into comics for a little
while, you might already know those titles. Azzarello’s actions offer a death grip on the
past, on white knuckling work you’ve already done simply because it exists. 

But
like the Joker says, the past will always offer us a “worrying, anxious place.” Comments like Azzarello’s put us there. We don’t have to stay when
made irascible though. While it’s startling when something out of touch grabs us so gruffly, the story stops there if we don’t keep moving.  

And now, your free, original comic! 

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