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.


  • “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.

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


    • 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.

      • 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.”

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.”

  • 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

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

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

  • Hey look! It’s Spidercoon!

  • 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?!?!

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

  • Lighten up, Francis.

  • 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?

    • 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.