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The #comicmarket problem

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Yesterday, things came to a head on the #comicmarket discussion on Twitter.  #comicmarket was started by Larry’s Comics and a few others to foster discussion among retailers, fans, publishers, artists and writers in how to improve the comic book industry.  In doing so, it has become a public resource, growing each week.  It has become a public relations tool, showing off what the comic book industry has to offer.  Unfortunately, that came to a screeching halt, as the same Larry’s Comics who helped start the forum for discussion also belittled it and those who participate by posting what can only be described as racist comments.

The discussion began over the rumor of the next “ultimate” Spider-Man being black.  Larry thought it was a publicity attempt and then proceeded to post the following:

There’s no excuse for those comments.  They are unwelcoming to new participants, combative and racist.  Unfortunately the comments didn’t end there.  Some other “open minded” individuals piped in when a few of us called out the comments.

Just like race jokes, comments about AIDS also crosses a line.

There’s so many issues with this incident.  The first is the clear tone deaf reaction by Larry’s Comics.  He deleted the offending tweets not because they were wrong, but because he didn’t want to deal with responding to them.  But, that’s what he’s been doing all day today.

No it wasn’t a “good natured joke.”  It’s something you might say to your friends in the privacy of your home or store (if you choose), but in a public forum that represents us all it’s uncalled for.  Today Larry agreed it was “unprofessional and tacky.”

If that’s the case, why post it to begin with?  But Larry has decided to dig himself further into the ditch he created by posting this to numerous spots:

I think the old saying goes, “if your friends jump off a bridge, would you?”  Larry has in the past made inflammatory comments, it’s “who he is.”  But that doesn’t excuse them or his behavior.  When this same retailer wonders why he doesn’t have a lot of female customers he refers to the women as “chicks” in his attempt to discuss the issue. In the past he’s posted a photo of a topless woman, covering her breasts wearing Lantern rings to promote things.  That might have something to do with your “woman issue.”  Both are uninviting.  But, there’s also the use of “gay” to refer to “lame” things among other offenses.  Another retailer has referred to his staff member as a “pussy” on Twitter for various reasons I can’t remember.  That behavior is unprofessional.

The greater issue is, it’s a black eye for the #comicmarket.  As a whole the discussion has been positive, and a lot of great things have come out of it, but a few people can ruin something easily.  The discussion at times, beyond this incident, has been combative, negative and participants are dismissed due to their status of not being retailers.  Threats towards artists, writers and publishers that mimic George Bush’s “you’re with us or against us” pepper the discussion as if those tweeting are a La Costra Nerdstra.

We need open forums to foster discussion of a form of entertainment that’s barely surviving.  For as many steps forward we make there’s days like yesterday and today that take us back quite a few pegs.  As a whole we need to grow up and put the face forward we want the public to see, one of an industry an entertainment form that deserves to be around.

Bleeding Cool has further discussion on the topic as well as some more of the history surrounding past antics.

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Categories: Commentary

Author:Brett Schenker

Brett is a political consultant who resides in Arlington, VA. He grew up in Cleveland, OH and Buffalo, NY and attended the University at Buffalo, majoring in Political Science. Since then Brett has made his mark on politics working in various positions such as a Legislative Staffer for the Erie County Legislature, Special Assistant for Senator John Kerry, as the Database Administrator for Forward Together PAC, Deputy Internet Director for Chris Dodd for President, and Internet/Database Director for Virginians for Brian Moran, and Email Deliverability Czar for Salsa Labs. In 2007 Brett formed 5B Consulting providing his expertise on database solutions, new media and email strategy. He's a long time geek, reading comics since he was a child and learning to spell his name on an Atari 800. When he's not working, he's reading comics, playing video games and relaxing with a nice cup of tea. You can follow him on Twitter @bhschenker

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53 Comments on “The #comicmarket problem”

  1. August 1, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    “I can’t sell assembly line dreck and get away with bigoted behavior like I did in 1991. The world must be wrong, not me.”

    And it is just ‘behavior’ not ‘humor’ when you don’t market yourself as a comedian, the same way I’m sure he’d say having comics in your garage sale wouldn’t make you a ‘retailer.’

    This guy is an easy target, though. What about all the talented artists who frankly give away too much without courting advertisers? The well meaning do a lot more macro damage than high profile but isolated incidents of people making comics people look bad.

  2. P. Angel
    August 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    “My new England panties do not get bunched up when the english use fag for ciggarette [sic]”

    …what?

    • August 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

      In the UK the phrase “I’m just nipping out for a fag” translates to popping outside for a cigarette, not going outside for a quickie with a gay gentleman.

      • Mark
        August 1, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

        And it comes from “fag end,” meaning a useless bit of something (aka – the cigarette butt), and has nothing to do with gays at all. So it’s not like Larry suggests, that those in the UK took the offensive term “fag” and made it into something that means “cigarette.”

        • August 1, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

          I didn’t know where the term came from. You learn something new every day.

        • Reba
          August 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

          Actually, there is a direct relationship between the UK use of “fag” and the term as used for gay people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-55wC5dEnc

          So yes, it still is offensive. “Use it, get your laughs, but know what it means.”

          • Not an etymologist either
            August 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

            Louis CK is not an etymologist, and that story is considered to be unlikely (at best) by those who are.

  3. August 1, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    While it might qualify as high profile, this is by no means an isolated incident. Just in the past few months there was a slew of commentary, much of it hateful and racist, relating to Nightrunner; just recently the same kind of comments have once again cropped up in relation to Batwing. Then there was the vitriol that was spilled when DC made its commitment to diversity press release in response to the brouhaha at SDCC.

    There’s a rather vocal segment of the comic community who frequently engages in hateful, disgusting language and antics, and tries to justify it as being upset with “another publicity stunt,” because of course there can’t be any more to the decision than that, right?

    The only thing that’s different in this case is that it was a retailer that got caught out voicing his bigotry. The face that comics have been showing lately is a rather ugly one.

    • August 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      Absolutely correct Josh. I can chalk up to the tweets being bad jokes if it ended there, but you also have comments from the same individual about how Batwing is going to be bad and not sell.

      At that point you have to scratch your head.

      When it comes to the recent issues, especially the inclusion of Muslim characters, I’ve made sure to be out front combating the hate and calling it out for what it is.

    • August 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      Absolutely right, Josh. As the readership ages, and we’re left with a demographic that looks more and more like Larry, the average reader is a bit less “enlightened” and some nasty stuff happens more or less every time the topic of diversity comes up–and sometimes even when it doesn’t, but a character is nonwhite and non-male. It’s depressing.

  4. August 1, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    Agreed. Between this and the Heavy Liquid debacle, one has to wonder what outsiders (read: potential new readers) think of the comics direct market. My guess? The same way I feel about the Tea Party. They, too, are a small group of mostly decent people who are represented in the press by the worst, most hateful and insipid of their number.

    • August 1, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      “one has to wonder what outsiders (read: potential new readers) think of the comics direct market”

      one has only to read the comment after yours on my blog post–a friend of mine who isn’t a reader but goes into comics shops with her gamer hubby. generally people there are so rude she doesn’t want to give them money.

      so there’s one potential female customer who is totally turned off by the entire industry. I think it’s a very real problem and bullshit like this is the opposite of helpful.

    • Allen
      August 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

      @Russell Burlingame – I’m a huge Paul Pope fan but I’m a bit out of the loop on the “Heavy Liquid debacle.” What happened?

  5. August 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    *sigh*, this is the kind of stuff I feel like I have to apologize for when people find out I read comics.

  6. August 1, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    This is the 21st century. Homophobia and racism are so 20th century it isn’t funny (REALLY, it isn’t funny!) It’s a pity the comic world hasn’t quite kept up with the times, although my impression of the online comic world is that it’s considerably more liberal than the mainstream, at least in the US.

    The few times I’ve encountered explicit homophobia online (particularly the use of :”gay” as an insult in matters entirely unrelated to sexual orientation) I’ve found it useful to politely reply with, “I get the sense you’re trying to insult me, but I don’t really get it: why is ‘gay’ supposed to be an insult? It sounds like you think there’s something wrong with homosexuality, but that would just be weird.”

  7. August 2, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    I’ll echo the sentiment that these types of things make being a comics fan harder. I love Ultimate Peter Parker, and I’ll genuinely miss him, but there’s no need to throw hate and ignorance around in a public place. Even if the new Spidey was a gay black man converted to Islam (now there’s a story for you) I don’t think people have any right to put that kind of “humour” about.

    Bendis himself perfectly described this facet of the internet in an issue of Powers with an open-mic setting. One man rages that he listens all day and doesn’t hear people saying the things you read online, but behind their keyboards these cowards think it’s acceptable to post their bigotry and hate. Well it’s not ok.

    I love comics, and I wish everyone treated others with more respect

  8. August 2, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    I wouldnt read too much into a guy with the spelling of a five year old and an aol email address he uses for business.

    • August 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

      I’d tend to agree Jeff, but the issue is he’s a well known retailer and did it in a public forum which has a goal to move the industry and hobby forward. Unfortunately he has an audience and needed to be called out.

  9. joeyjojo
    August 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    Is the Judd Winnick joke a joke against AIDS? My read on it was that it was a joke about Judd Winnick writing comics about AIDS. But I don’t know the person who wrote it, if they have a history of gay-bashing, obviously that’s different.

    • August 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

      Winnick rose to fame as a cast member of the San Francisco Real World which featured a person who had AIDS. Winnick chronicled Pedro’s eventually succumbing to the disease and he’s done a lot to raise awareness.

      The idiot who posted that said Winnick should write the X-Men, which also raised awareness about the issue. As a whole I took it as bashing of Winnick and those who suffer and have been affected by the disease.

  10. Spidercoon
    August 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    Hey look! It’s Spidercoon!

    • August 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

      I’m leaving this to show that jackasses are out there. At least Larry said it with his name attached, and not hidden behind an alias.

      • Comicsnut
        June 2, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

        Larry is one of comics greatest retailers. His generosity knows no bounds.

        It’s a joke.

        Stop being a victim.

        • June 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

          Generosity doesn’t excuse someone from being a jackass.

  11. andy
    August 9, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Wait until they hear about black spidey getting all friendly with Mary Jane and luring her over to… the dark side! An interracial relationship? What’s this world coming to?!?!

  12. August 15, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I say change the hash tag and leave Larry out in the cold.

  13. June 2, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Lighten up, Francis.

  14. Comicsnut
    June 2, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

    I thought Obama ushered in a new era of post-racial tolerance? He even jokes about his blackness and fried chicken.

    Can people please, for the love of christ, stop being offended little victims?

    • June 2, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

      When someone claims to be an “ambassador” and “leader” of the comics community, this behavior is uncalled for. The fact you don’t get that speaks wonders. The fact he’s done stupid shit since then shows he hasn’t learned.

  15. August 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    Warren Ellis tweeted this and posted about it on his site. So freaking cool.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. on asshattery and #comicmarket | gracetopia - August 1, 2011

    [...] reason I stopped reading it. Aside from the reasons mentioned earlier concerning his attitude, this (very good) post from Graphic Policy sums it up well: As a whole the discussion has been positive, and a lot of great things have come [...]

  2. How Donald Glover finally secured the role of Spider-Man | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment - August 2, 2011

    [...] hero will be considered something absolutely normal,” drew criticism. And then there are the patently offensive comments made even before the official announcement by a frequently criticized comics retailer who, [...]

  3. Warren Ellis - August 2, 2011

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  4. Jim C. Hines » My Bigot-Sense is Tingling - August 3, 2011

    [...] can see more of Larry’s Tweets and comments at http://graphicpolicy.com/2011/08/01/the-comicmarket-problem/ if you’re feeling masochistic. But don’t worry. Despite his “nigga” Tweet [...]

  5. Twitted by pandasez - August 3, 2011

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  6. Ultimate Spider-Man: Black by Popular Demand | Comics! The Blog - August 3, 2011

    [...] it.  I just can’t come close to repeating those things here.  If you want to read about it, read away.  Frankly, I’ve spent far too much time resenting the hateful bile the man puts out in [...]

  7. Why a Spider-Man of Color is a Good Thing « The Feminine Miss Geek - August 3, 2011

    [...] Spider-Man is Miles Morales, a kid who is half black, half Latino. Naturally, the backlash has been disgusting. Where are the people who were supporting Donald Glover as Spidey in the new [...]

  8. The Case for #comicmarket and #comicretail « Graphic Policy - August 3, 2011

    [...] book retailers, artists, writers, fans and the industry as a whole received a black eye on Sunday over comments made by a prominent retailer regarding speculation the new Ultimate version of Spider-Man would be [...]

  9. New Marvel Comics Spider-Man is Black-Latino | The Hartford Guardian - August 7, 2011

    [...] So how’s Marvel’s constituency handling Morales’ debut? Some, like Adam Serwer, love it and point out that Spidey’s essential nature has always been working-class urbanness, not whiteness. On the other hand, at the politics-and-comics blog Graphic Policy, Brett Schenker introduces us to New England retailer Larry’s Comics, who decided to mark the new Spidey with racist jokes about fried chicken and big lips. [...]

  10. Newscast for August 7th, 2011 | The Webcast Beacon Network - August 8, 2011

    [...] when the creator made a number of racist jokes about the new character: Original Source: Graphic Policy ref #1, ref #2 – via Women in [...]

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  12. Long Box Bound » Random Drop - September 17, 2011

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  18. Larry Doherty and Larry’s Comics at it Again. This Time Hate Speech Towards Transgenders. « Graphic Policy - October 18, 2012

    [...] terms belittling Christian. But, this isn’t the first time this behavior has come from Larry. In 2011, he also made insensitive racist jokes about the new Ultimate Spider-Man before the character was introduced and just rumored to be [...]

  19. Stand Up to the #ComicMarket Bully | Joey Esposito - October 20, 2012

    [...] “I’m ALWAYS offensive”/”It was a JOKE” defense. Not settling for the racist jokes that spewed out of his mouth  around the debut of Miles Morales, he took up transphobia instead, [...]

  20. Why I Stood Up to a Bully « Graphic Policy - October 20, 2012

    [...] take a leadership role in the comic book industry, he needs to act the part. Between this incident, and an earlier one, it seems lessons are not [...]

  21. Retailers Behaving Badly | Graphic Policy - April 5, 2013

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  22. Amber Unmasked » A new comics retailer alliance is coming & guess who’s on it. - March 4, 2014

    […] character of minority ethnicity that was the new Spider-Man in the Ultimate universe. Again, GraphicPolicy did well to preserve the tweets where Doherty “jokes” about a non-white Spider-Man with Uncle […]

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