Category Archives: Politics

Don’t Believe the Hyperbole, There’s No Orphan Works Law Before Congress (Updated)

United_States_Capitol_-_west_frontI’ve been seeing scare tactics going around various comic artists over the past couple of days concerning an “update” to US Copyright law as a new act, and the reintroduction of legislation known as the Orphan Works Act. According to the misinformed postings (the original posting has been taken down, I am looking for another example) and on a YouTube video, the legislation would:

  • The Next Great Copyright Act” would replace all existing copyright law.
  • It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.
  • It would “privilege” the public’s right to use our work.
  • It would “pressure” you to register your work with commercial registries.
  • It would “orphan” unregistered work.
  • It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by “good faith” infringers.
  • It would allow others to alter your work and copyright these “derivative works” in their own names.
  • It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign.

Well, I’m here to dump so cold hard truth in front of you. The above? That’s all bullshit, not true at all. Not even close.

The first sign to me that the above was crap was the fact the post references that this is a law before Congress, but has you contact the US Copyright Office, instead of Congress. The video referenced admits there’s actually no legislation before Congress, there’s no text to actually see. The Copyright Office is doing their job, writing a report, and they are asking for input from individuals. There is no legislation, this is akin to a brainstorming project. This happens every day in government, there’s nothing unusual here and also nothing to get whipped up about. Reports go nowhere every day.

Here are the facts.

On June 4, 2015 the United States Copyright Office released a report on orphan works and mass digitization. The report:

…documents the legal and business challenges faced by good faith users who seek to use orphan works and/or engage in mass digitization projects.   It provides a series of legislative recommendations that offer users a way forward out of gridlock, but also take into account the legitimate concerns and exclusive rights of authors and other copyright owners.

The report also:

With respect to orphan works, the Report provides draft legislation that draws upon the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act passed by the Senate seven years ago, albeit with some updates and changes that reflect intervening developments and public discussions.

You can read the full report here. Before getting riled up, actually read the report and see for yourself what it does. The report looks at the 2006 and 2008 Orphan Works proposed legislation (I’ll get to that in a bit). It also discusses Fair Use, Google Books litigation, and various experiences with the issues of copyright around the world. The executive summary sums it all up nicely:

As the Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2012, facilitating the dissemination of creative expression is an important means of fulfilling the constitutional mandate to “promote the Progress of Science” through the copyright system. This Report addresses two circumstances in which the accomplishment of that goal may be hindered under the current law due to practical obstacles preventing good faith actors from securing permission to make productive uses of copyrighted works. First, with respect to orphan works, referred to as “perhaps the single greatest impediment to creating new works,” a user’s ability to seek permission or to negotiate licensing terms is compromised by the fact that, despite his or her diligent efforts, the user cannot identify or locate the copyright owner. Second, in the case of mass digitization – which involves making reproductions of many works, as well as possible efforts to make the works publicly accessible – obtaining permission is essentially impossible, not necessarily because of a lack of identifying information or the inability to contact the copyright owner, but because of the sheer number of individual permissions required.

The short version? Some times it’s hard to get a hold of the copyright holder, and some times there’s a hell of a lot of people that need to be contacted.

The report has SUGGESTIONS for legislation. On page 8 those are:

  • Permit the Register of Copyrights to authorize CMOs meeting specified criteria to issue licenses on behalf of both members and non-members of the organization to allow the use of copyrighted works implicated by the creation or operation of a digital collection;
  • Apply only to the three categories of works noted above, with possible additional limitations based on works’ commercial availability or date of publication;
  • Give copyright owners the right to limit the grant of licenses with respect to their works or to opt out of the system entirely;
  • Permit the licensed works to be used only for nonprofit educational or research purposes and without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage;
  • Establish eligibility requirements for a CMO seeking ECL authorization, including evidence demonstrating its level of representation among authors in the relevant field, the consent of its membership to the ECL proposal, and its adherence to standards of transparency, accountability, and good governance;
  • Provide for the negotiation of license rates and terms between the CMO and a prospective user, subject to a dispute resolution process;
  • Require the parties to negotiate terms obligating the user, as a condition of its license, to implement and maintain reasonable digital security measures controlling access to the relevant works;
  • Require the CMO to collect and distribute royalties to rightsholders within a specified period and to conduct diligent searches for non-members for whom it has collected payments;
  • Provide for the disposition of royalties remaining unclaimed after a specified period;
  • Include a provision expressly preserving the ability of users to assert fair use in connection with mass digitization projects; and
  • Sunset five years after the legislation’s effective date

1024px-Copyright.svgThe three categories of work mention are: 1) literary works; 2) pictorial or graphic works published as illustrations, diagrams, or similar adjuncts to literary works; and 3) photographs. A CMO is a “collective management organization” which would represent copyright holders in those three categories. Copyright holders would be able to opt-out of it as noted in bullet point three.

The short version. There’d be one group you could go to so that one can figure out who owns what copyright, get permission, and pay whatever fees. Anyone can opt-out of it. It would also be a pilot program, not some permanent thing.

Unlike what the video says, and has been claimed, there is no forcing anyone to participate in some program, and there’s no loss of your copyright unless you register everything and anything. Things remain the same, you can control your own copyright, or you can opt-in to the CMO, under the suggestions made in this report. Keep in mind. THERE IS NO LEGISLATION CURRENTLY BEFORE CONGRESS.

I work in advocacy, and it makes an organization/individuals look foolish when they rail against something, when that something hasn’t been laid out. There is a “notice of inquiry” where the Copyright Office wants to hear from you about their report and suggestions, not some legislation that does not exist, and especially not about a misunderstanding of what those suggestions are.

What is the 2008 Shawn Bently Act S.2913, aka the Orphan Works Act? The legislation was last introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (a staunch supporter of the MPAA and Hollywood) and died when it moved to the House. This is the summary:

Limits the remedies in a civil action brought for infringement of copyright in an orphan work, notwithstanding specified provisions and subject to exceptions, if the infringer meets certain requirements, including proving that: (1) the infringer performed and documented a reasonably diligent search in good faith to locate and identify the copyright owner before using the work, but was unable to locate and identify the owner; and (2) the infringing use of the work provided attribution to the owner of the copyright, if known. Requires a search to include methods that are reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances, including in some circumstances: (1) Copyright Office records that are not available through the Internet; and (2) resources for which a charge or subscription is imposed.

Limits monetary compensation to reasonable compensation for the use of the infringed work. Prohibits such compensation if the infringer is a nonprofit educational institution, museum, library, or archive, or a public broadcasting entity and if the infringer proves that: (1) the infringement is performed without any purpose of commercial advantage and is primarily educational, religious, or charitable in nature;and (2) the infringer ceases the infringement expeditiously after receiving notice of the claim for infringement. Allows injunctive relief to prevent or restrain infringement, subject to exception and limitation.

Directs the Register of Copyrights to: (1) undertake a process to certify that databases are available that facilitate searching for pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works protected by copyright; (2) report to the House and Senate judiciary committees on the implementation and effects of certain amendments made by this Act, including any recommendations for legislative changes; and (3) report to those committees on remedies for copyright infringement claims by an individual copyright owner or a related group of copyright owners seeking small amounts of monetary relief.

The legislation was opposed by groups on both sides of copyright. Some felt it made infringing easier, others felt that “reasonably diligent search” wasn’t defined well enough. What it didn’t do was rewrite copyright law as we know it. While flawed, the legislation was an attempt to make it easier to contact copyright holders to get permission or pay for permission. You can read the full legislation yourself.

Really in the end. The initial video and posts that started this response are hyperbolic and dangerous in the lack of facts and misrepresentation of the truth. The fact they have been shared thousands of times and the video watched almost 40,000 times is sad in that it uses scare tactics devoid of reality, and misrepresents how government works. The lack of the basic understanding about the legislative process by many is apparent, and appalling.

Below is a refresher of the basics, but the lesson here is, before you get worked up about legislation, do some research and come up with your own conclusion. Don’t take others at their word. Knowledge is power.

Update: For those interested in the issue and want to learn more about the actual problems with the Copyright Office’s proposal, TechDirt has a nice breakdown that shows the general issues. It also reiterates what I wrote above that this does not actually change copyright law as stated by others, and it is not legislation before Congress, etc.

Update 2: Surviving Creativity has a great podcast on the subject that includes folks who work in the comic industry and one is a lawyer.

Marvel Announces Hip-Hop Inspired Variants. Misses Irony of No Black Creators. (Updated)

Sites gushed yesterday as Marvel announced a slate of hip-hop inspired variant covers that riff off some of the greatest rap albums of the last 30 years. With over 50 upcoming variants, the October covers take on classic album art like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders.

In the announcement, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso said:

For years, Marvel Comics and hip-hop culture have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue. Beginning this October, we will shine a spotlight on the seamless relationship between those two unique forces. Indeed, Marvel has already featured hip-hop artists prominently in its pages, most recently with the Run the Jewels variant covers it released for Howard the Duck and Deadpool. Eminem even teamed up with the Punisher back in 2009.

Some noticed that while Marvel is more than happy to make money off of hip-hop, a form of music that grew out of African-American culture (check out Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree for an amazing recounting of history), they lack any African-American creators in their initially announced All-New, All-Different Marvel line-up.

When asked about the notable absence and irony, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort responded:

brevoort_hip_hop

Well, to answer Mr. Brevoort’s question, I have only two words “cultural appropriation.” For those unaware of the term, here’s a simple explanation:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.

In this instance, the “white” creative of Marvel are appropriating a style made popular by African-Americans, from which they will not benefit at all. What’s important to keep in mind is that appropriation is a perfect description when the minority culture is subordinated in social, political, economic, or other status, or there’s been a history of conflict. In this case, both descriptions are appropriate. By using this images too, Marvel misses and muddies their deeper meaning, and yes these covers often have deeper meaning than just “looking cool.”

Cultural appropriation also has the air of colonialism about it. A mutual exchange is not present, instead it’s one-sided with the original art being taken out of context and diluted in some ways.

The comic industry is still dealing with race, and the ability of African-American creators of being able to break into the industry. Just this past week Women Write About Comics explored the issues of a white creative team tackling the racist South in BOOM!’s Strange Fruit. San Diego Comic-Con saw a very personal and raw panel focusing on the struggle of black creators in the industry. That was captured in this impressive Storify by Arturo R. Garcia. Again, out of the 45 newly announced series by Marvel for their post Secret Wars initiative, it doesn’t look like one creator is black or African-American. In the series since announced, Blade and Spider-Man/Deadpool, that continues. Maybe further announcements will change that, but even so, the optics aren’t good. This does look like “colonialism” of culture.

Joseph Illidgedolla-dolla-bills-yall-o describes the increased profile of minority characters as a “half-measure” and lays out the issues of raising characters of color without writers of color. As he notes there’s only one person of color as a writer in those 45 comics. By releasing these covers, Marvel proves and reinforces Illidge’s point, that the goal is the perception of diversity and inclusion, without truly fulfilling it.

There’s a gap of African-Americans in comicdom, more than just characters and creators. According to my Facebook demographic research Asian Americans that “like” comics account for 6.84% of the population, in the United States as a whole it’s 5.6%. Hispanics who “like” comics are 17.87%, while the US population is 17%. Both are over represented according to this data. African-Americans who “like” comics is just 11.49%, while the US population is 13.2%. They’re below the general population, there’s clearly a need for outreach and focus.

Judging Alonso’s “ongoing dialogue,” and Brevoort’s response, Marvel’s dialogue is one sided. That dialogue? Dolla, dolla, bill ya’ll.

Update: A few minutes after we posted Brevoort clarified his remarks in a post that reads like it was run through both PR staff and lawyers.

brevoort_clarification

Update 2: Remember, most of the people reposting Brevoort’s original dismissive response don’t even read comics! Seriously Tom, just stop before intelligent PR staff take your mic away.

brevoort_not_comic_book_readers

Bernie Sanders Supporters Descend on San Diego Comic-Con

SDCC15-Bernie-SandersEach year I head to numerous conventions all around the country and I wonder where are the political parties. With tens of thousands of individuals in one area, it’s a perfect opportunity to whip up support, get the word out, and sign up some voters. Well, it seems like at least one set of supporters of a candidate had the same idea and headed to San Diego Comic-Con to do just that.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders 2016 were on hand at the convention to show their support for the Presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination. The group brought along a cardboard cut-out of the candidate, and made a poster of Sanders made up to look like Doc Brown from Back to the Future (though they left it at home). Instead they created a poster with a Mad Max theme that pitted the candidate against the Koch brothers which you can see to the left.

The group handed out 1,500 Bernie stickers and posters as well as a flyer going over Sanders’ 12-point plan. The impact is unknown as most con-goers will grab just about anything handed to them (my luggage back from the convention is a perfect example of this).

While the impact of such activity is unknown, it’s good to see a candidate’s supporters getting out there and trying to raise awareness. Engaging the geek community instead of just using them to score pop culture hits is a nice change of pace. Hopefully others will get a clue and engage.

(via The Daily Beast and Roll Call)

 

Sen. Leahy’s Batman v. Superman Role Revealed

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is a huge Batman fan. So much so that he’s appeared in numerous Batman films, and voiced characters. We got word the Senator would be appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it was unknown as to what he’d be doing.

The latest trailer that has been released has provided some hints. The Senator is present in what looks like a Senate hearing. So looks like the Senator is sticking to a role he’s quite familiar with.

You can check out a screen shot of the scene below. That’s him in the gray suit standing behind the podium towards the middle.

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Photos of Congressman John Lewis’ March at Comic-Con

We were one of the first to break the news that not only was Congressman John Lewis cosplaying as himself during Selma 50 years ago, but he also lead a march at San Diego Comic-Con.

Below are more photos courtesy of Mike Bocchini.

SDCC 2015: Rep. John Lewis Cosplays as Himself, at Selma 50 Years Ago

Congressman John Lewis is a legend. Not only is he one of the most respected Congressmen, but also a civil rights leader. His amazing history has led to two graphic novels, March Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, with the third probably coming out some time in 2016.

His graphic novels have taken him to numerous comic conventions, including two San Diego Comic-Cons. The Congressman held a panel today, and did a little cosplay himself wearing his trench coat and backpack from Selma 50 years ago.

He also led his panel for a march at Comic-Con too.

Maybe it’s time we see what he could do in front of Hall H?

Robinson Apologized for Airboy Issue 2 Because We United and Took Action

“If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will”. – Frederick Douglass*

Airboy02_CoverActivism gets results. Graphic Policy and The Rainbow Hub were criticized by people in the comics community when we took action against the extremely transphobic second issue of Airboy. But because we raised hell we made progress. That’s the lesson people should be taking away from this.

On June 30th Graphic Policy and The Rainbow Hub‘s Emma Houxbois published stories calling attention to the rampant transphobia in the second issue of the Airboy comic. I’d lavished praise over the comic’s first issue. We knew the context the story took place in and it was the story itself that was transphobic, not just words that characters said while “behaving badly”. Our sites’ explained how the comic’s narrative repeats the dangerous myth that trans women are out there trying to “trick” men into sex with them. We explained that this myth endangers trans people and in a world in which “trans panic” still gets used as an excuse to murder trans people we need to react as strongly as possible when it is repeated.

And we heard crickets in response.

On July 2nd I emailed GLAAD, the most powerful media watchdog for LGBTQ people. We know that when GLAAD speaks out they can’t be ignored and the comics world knows it too– since GLAAD’s known for giving awards to comics that have positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters. GLAAD sprung into action. They issued a statement. And between their clout and the outcry we organized, we forced the comics community to pay attention to the problems in the comic.

And then James Robinson apologized. Robinson heard what we said, and he listened and explained that he now realizes that he “fucked-up” (his words) . I’m not trans but his apology seemed earnest and thoughtful to me. Some trans people were not impressed but others have responded favorably to his apology.

Only July 6, artist Greg Hinkle went so far as to THANK people who spoke up on Twitter and offer to continue the conversation at Comic-Con.

Meanwhile, what about all those defenders of Airboy #2? They continue to promote bigotry. Robinson acknowledged the problems with his comic. He wants to do better. When the artists who created the comic are saying that they now see the problem in what they made, their defenders should probably take a minute and use their hearts and their heads to listen. More importantly, they need to stop and listen to transwomen like Emma Houxbois who’s written powerfully about the problems in this comic and in comics at large.

In the end, the defenders of Airboy want to marginalize comics as an medium because they want to perpetuate a comics industry that excludes people who aren’t like them. They are bringing comics down. Also, to all of the “serious comics journalists” who were willing to acknowledge that there  “may be problems with Airboy 2″ but criticized Graphic Policy and Emma for demanding the book be pulled? Guess what. We got results. If we had played it quiet and POLITE we wouldn’t have brought the attention we brought to the problem.

Remember, we started out by just writing reviews that explained the comic’s transphobia and no one was talking. As soon as we demanded the book be pulled the conversation exploded. This chart Brett made illustrates the silence around Airboy until we made our demands. GLAAD has made it very clear: activism is key to creating change. They said:

“GLAAD is very grateful that the Rainbow Hub and Graphic Policy brought ‘Airboy’ #2 to our attention, and used their social media reach to spark an online discussion about the transphobia in the issue. GLAAD was happy to use our platform to boost their signal, and then to work with James Robinson to distribute his response.” – Nick Adams, Director of Programs for Transgender Media at GLAAD.

If you value politeness over creating change then you don’t really care about making change.  

As Katie Schenkel aka ‏@JustPlainTweets tweeted “People who care more about the idea and purity of ART than about marginalized people’s humanity being chipped away bum me the hell out.”

And From @sarahnmoon: ” If your gentleness is tone-policing and silencing anger, it’s not truly gentle because it doesn’t care about what others are hurt by”

Oh, and what of Image comics – who had their twitter icon wrapped in the rainbow flag while publishing a transphobic comic? Image is still silent. But they took down the flag….

To everyone who tried to change the conversation into a debate over censorship, I recommend Brett’s blog post that explains the difference between our demands and actual censorship (which we oppose). Meanwhile, you can buy two Image Comics that are trans positive right away: The Wicked + The Divine and the new Arclight. You should also buy Sophie Campbell and Kelly Thompson’s hilarious, youth-friendly and suspenseful Jem and the Holograms which has a trans character and is by a trans artist.

But using your comics buying dollars to support positive portrayals of trans people isn’t enough. We can’t just leave it at that. Not when comics are repeating dangerous tropes that their audience can’t even identify as a problem. Not when people are making money off of transphobia.

So yes, we took action. 

And no we don’t apologize. 

* Note on that Frederick Douglas quote: I’m not comparing what we’re doing to the scale of Frederick Douglas’s work. I use his quote to illustrate the point we are making and to show the theory behind activism.

For more on this story and comics media activism listen to our podcast from July 6th.

Banning vs. Censorship vs. Pulling, There’s a Big Difference

CensorshipWhile many agreed with our statement that Image ComicsAirboy #2 written by James Robinson contained material that was transphobic, some also did not support our call to pull the comic from shelves (virtual or physical). They decried censorship, hid behind free speech and artistic expression, and some trotted out the 1st Amendment. In doing so, they played into the hands of individuals defending the status-quo, and conflating the concepts of banning, censorship, and pulling an item. These are three concepts that are all very different.

When it comes to banning or censorship, banning is the easiest of the two to debunk as an argument. The act of banning is usually an act determined by a law, official decree, or some official. Last I checked we at no time addressed the situation to government officials, asked for governmental interference, or a law to be passed, so in that essence it’s absolutely not the correct term at all to be used.

There’s also the other definitions of the term such as prohibiting an action or forbidding the use of something, or refusal of allowing someone to go somewhere, do something, or participate in something. Can’t say we called for any of that either. The comic was already out in the public, and at no time did we say folks should never have access to the comic.

So, to everyone that used the word “ban,” you are factually incorrect in your hyperbolic statement(s).

Censorship is a more interesting one to discuss and debate. The ACLU defines censorship this way:

…the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

I think we can all agree on the above definition. Immediately we can get rid of the part of this being “censorship by the government.” As much as I’d like to run for office, I am not the government, so no matter what, hiding behind this as unconstitutional is again factually incorrect. Anyone claiming so shows a lack of understanding about the 1st Amendment and what it actually protects.

Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_ACThe 1st Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” We’re not the government, case closed on that part of the debate.

Censoring is actual deletion or prevention of an idea or feeling. We never asked for the deletion of the comic at all. But we asked for was something much broader, and actually a form of free speech. That gets us to our actual “ask,” for Image Comics to pull the comic.

Pulling is a completely different thing. It is asking the petitioned to engage in speech themselves through a specific action. Like a sit in, chaining yourself to an item, the act of pulling an item is actual speech through action. We most recently saw this as Bree Newsome acted through civil disobedience to pull the Confederate flag down from a pole on the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol. Our ask wasn’t to that level, or the other examples I gave, but such actions are similar in nature. So for those denouncing our ask, I guess you can call them hypocritical on the subject.

People need to remember that free speech does not equal freedom from criticism, nor does it mean freedom from consequences. Free speech does not guarantee one a platform to engage in that speech. The platform in this case is digital shelf space, physical shelf space, and promotional plans. We critiqued the work for over 36 hours without response. We engaged in free speech spinning out of that criticism. When it was clear we were being ignored, we asked others to engage in free speech through action. That action, for a publisher to exercise their own free speech in whether to support a comic or not. But not giving the comic a platform, Image would themselves be expressing free speech.

This act would also not prevent the comic from being able to be obtained elsewhere. The creators would be free to sell the comic themselves, submit it to other platforms, and use the many other distribution methods they have access to. This is not a case of a comic never being able to be obtained again. Stores would still be able to make their own decisions as to what to do with it. Digital platforms too would be able to make their own decisions as well.

I think Laura Sneddon says it best in her take on the situation:

A comic that is sexist, misogynist and transphobic has every right to exist. But it does not have every right to be bought or supported. And when a publisher produces such comics my opinion of them is severely lowered. And of the creators too. And any shop that carries the title knowing the contents therein? Yup, you as well.

The thing about free speech is that everyone is free to utilise it. Go ahead and publish your own comic full of whatever you want! But if that comic contributes to harmful ideas that have real life counterparts and results they help bolster, you are also completely free to receive the criticism coming your way. And if you’re a publisher putting out such content? Don’t be surprised if people start to question the other titles they buy from you.

I also want to remind folks we were the site that rallied creators, other blogs, and some publishers against internet censorship during the SOPA/PIPA fight in 2012. This was an actual fight against government censorship, and the power of corporations to censor what they don’t like. Many sites and creators who are wrapping themselves in the 1st Amendment and free speech were silent then. Some others said they supported that action, but couldn’t speak publicly as their publisher didn’t. Some also repeated similar statements in private emails showing support over this.

We as a society live under a social contract as to norms and behaviors. Every single day we self censor as individuals, holding back what we might think, or wording things in a particular way as to not hurt, offend, or worse, those around us. WE ALL CENSOR OURSELVES. In our thought. In our actions. The idea of free speech is a myth we tell ourselves to make us feel good about society. In our bringing up this topic, we asked Mr. Robinson to think about and reflect on that social contract, and how the material he produced fit into that puzzle. The troubling scene in particular, and discussions and actions within by characters, brought no special value to the art. There are many other scenarios that would have gotten the same points across and done so without treading into dangerous myths and tropes that are used in the real world to justify violence against transgender individuals. And no, I’m not saying Robinson advocated for such violence. The social contract I’ve mentioned has a primary goal being the desire of protection of those around us. That protection does come with the surrendering of some personal liberties, and results in the self censorship we all do. Every action we partake in has some of that sacrifice.

As far as the specific ask, and those who felt it went too far. I hope one day I get to negotiate against you in some way, because going in with your specific goal/want is exactly what you shouldn’t do. You need to leave room for negotiation. “Pulling” was the extreme ask to leave wiggle room for that exact negotiation. I’ve never gone into a negotiation with exactly what I’ve wanted, I’ve always asked for more to leave room to get what I really want. I think that was lost on a lot of folks. It’s also not exactly something you can say publicly.

Overall, for those focused on the ideas of banning, and censorship, you’re falling for the talking points of those against progressiveness, openess, and a welcoming attitude within the comics community. You’re being distracted from discussing the material itself and engaging in debate on THEIR terms, not OURS.

But, when it really comes down to it, it’s also not factually correct at all.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
 

-Frederic Douglass

Diversity In Comics: We’ve Come A Long Way, But We’re Not There Yet

THOR 001_coverThe comic book industry has been making great strides when it comes to introducing more cultural, and ethnic, diversity in the last decade. Superheroes are no longer just straight white men with the odd woman around, but depending on who you talk to about diversity in comics, you could easily  be mistaken for thinking that there really isn’t any. There is diversity, but not as much as perhaps there should be.

Beginning with Luke Cage, the Black Panther, and Shang Chi in the 60’s and 70’s, Marvel Comics did begin to slowly introduce ethnically diverse characters to their roster, but in a medium traditionally dominated by straight white superheroes, diversification had been a comparatively slow process. Not because publishers were against diversifying their lines (although that may have been a part of it for some) but because the publishers wanted to make money, and because the existing popular characters they had were primarily white, and it was those that were selling the comics. In roads have been made over the years, however, with the previously mentioned characters, and also characters such as Marvel’s Northstar, who famously came out in a 1992 story, finally married his long term boyfriend a few years ago; and the hugely popular Kamala Khan, the current Ms Marvel, is a Muslim American teenager.

Stan Lee has been quoted as saying in an interview with Newsarama about the casting of a white Peter Parker as the latest on screen Spider-Man;

I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to,” he also added “it has nothing to do with being anti-gay, or anti-black, or anti-Latino, or anything like that. Latino characters should stay Latino. The Black Panther should certainly not be Swiss. I just see no reason to change that which has already been established when it’s so easy to add new characters. I say create new characters the way you want to. Hell, I’ll do it myself.

While he certainly has a point, it can be difficult to launch a new superhero into the public consciousness, but by casting a person of colour into a previously white character it can be an immediate show of support.

The same is also true for replacing existing characters in story for various reasons; most recently Steve Rogers retired as Captain America and so The Falcon stepped up to the plate. Thor Odinson became unworthy of his hammer, and then gave his name (Thor) over to the woman who was worthy. Likewise for reinventing existing characters; when DC rebooted their universe with the New 52, the Green Lantern Alan Scott was a gay man.

Progress is being made, but we’re not quite there yet.

Just in the last month there have been some controversies; during a recent Batgirl story objections were raised over the portrayal of a male character impersonating the lead character (however in the collected edition, the creators revised their original script).

More recently, Image Comics has long been championing diversity and inclusion for all with many of the comics they publish. Up until, that is, Airboy #2 came out this week. Whether it was the creators’ intent to show the cultural differences between the modern day and the Golden Age (from which Airboy both literally and figuratively comes from), and how far we’ve come as a society from the 1940’s in accepting transgender individuals, (or not – I may be giving too much credit here to a misguided depiction of support for the LGBTQ community) the message that many have received loud and clear from Airboy #2 isn’t one of support and acceptance, and as such, it isn’t resonating very well – if at all.

As an industry this is obviously not the message we want to give.

Regardless of the intentions behind that scene in Airboy #2, this kind of portrayal of transgender individuals not only harms the progress the industry has made in the past, and continues to make, but it can also potentially harm real life individuals.  Admirably, the writer of the comic recognized the outcry and responded.

Comics have come a long way when it comes to inclusion and acceptance for all, but we, as an industry and as a community, still have a long we to go. We need to ensure that comics are inclusive to everybody, and when they’re not then we should follow the examples that the very comics we love have shown us so many times, and speak out in favour of those who are being treated unfairly.

It was Stan Lee who said “with great power, there must also come great responsibility,” and we’ve all got the power to speak up when we see something that isn’t right.

Also published on Ramblings Of A Comics Fan.

Graphic Policy Radio Discusses Activism in a Comic World

GP Radio pic MondayGraphic Policy Radio returns this Monday! This is the show that mixes comics and politics, and this episode we lift the curtain to show off the scenes behind political activism. The show airs LIVE this Monday at 10pm ET.

This past week controversy struck the comic industry (again) over the transphobic nature in part of the comic series Airboy. Graphic Policy, along with The Rainbow Hub, spearheaded the movement to decry the comic, and pull support of the comic by Image Comics, timed to coincide with Image Expo. You can read more about the issue here, and the action here.

But why did we go this route?

We talk about the issue, and dive into political activism including why this particular “ask” was made, and the timing of it all.

But, that’s not all!

We’re also going to talk about comics we recommend, that you should be checking out!

So, learn a bit about political activism and organizing as we apply it to the comic industry this Monday at 10pm ET.

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