Image by Elijah O’Donell
For every controversy since June 17 1972, add the suffix “gate” to the end and voila, you have a brilliant title for said scandal sure to last the ages. Not only is there Watergate, but also Pizzagate, Shirtgate, Driv3rgate, Driv3rgate’s successor Gamergate and now we have Gamergate’s successor Comicgate. We get it, people, you like gates.
In order to understand Comicgate, you have to understand its technical precursor, Gamergate. Its meaning has been blurred in the past three years to mean everything imaginable, but Gamergate started out as a result of two events in 2014: The Zoe Post/Quinnspiracy, where indie interactive novelist Zoe Quinn allegedly solicited positive reviews from game journalists in exchange for sex; as well as a series of Gamers Are Dead articles, partially in response to Quinn’s detractors, alleging video gamers were a dying breed. Combine both, and you have Gamergate. One side, the anti-Gamergaters, were claiming the video game industry was hostile towards women like Quinn, and there was a rampant misogyny problem. The other side, Gamergaters, claimed they were for ethics in games journalism, and were trying to stop what they perceived as (much like predecessor Driv3rgate) games journalists and game developers unethically colluding with each other to a create false feminist narrative of harassment.
Regardless of what you believe, the same thing that happened in the video game industry is now occurring in the comic book industry. Comicgate is basically Gamergate 2.0. Comic book giants like Marvel and, to a lesser extent, DC, are placing more of an emphasis on replacing many of their popular comic characters with more diverse interpretations. Comic fans believe this is just catering to feminists who don’t even make up any real percentage of comic book readership. Comic book giants responded much the same way as the video game journalists: these comic fans are hostile against women [and minorities], and there is a rampant misogyny problem.
The problem is neither of these issues—Gamergate and Comicgate—have anything to do with women or minorities, and many of these comic book creators are just using this as an excuse to deflect from the real problem, the same probably previously faced in Gamergate and Driv3rgate.
For many years, AAA game developers had a cozy relationship with the game reviewers, who they often paid for positive reviews. If the developer didn’t pay well enough, the game didn’t get an excellent review. If they didn’t pay, the game barely got a review. Before the internet reached peak popularity, it was hard to reach these journalists, other than the tedious method of Letters to the Editor, and maybe struggling for a word at Comic Con. The same happened with comic creators: they were separated by a veil from their audience.
With the rising popularity of the internet, these video game journalists and comic book creators were suddenly visible—and easily contactable—by the wider public. And now, instead of these creators shielding themselves from criticism behind ten layers of bureaucracy and HR managers; now, with sites like Twitter, fans can message them straight-up.
Combine this with Marvel and DC’s obligatory diversity hires in recent years—hiring talent just so they can say Look, I have a WOC on my team! instead of caring about said “WOC”‘s actual creative talent—and these creators/journalists are not used to hearing differing views. Remember: echo chambers are real, people.
These comic book creators are producing comics for their feminist friends and allies, instead of the actual comic book readers, and now sales are slumping. The creators are blaming this on misogyny and racism, instead of looking at themselves.
Sure, some of these comic book creators have received harassment from comic book readers. No creator is free from receiving harassment and criticism. The problem is they are pretending largely innocent critics like Diversity and Comics are evil misogynists hell-bent on throwing women and minorities out of the industry. They are also attempting to blacklist anyone who has the audacity to claim they are in a feminist echo chamber. Read: Nobody even has the chance to remotely “harass” them because you’ll never get the chance to speak to them. They’re trying to return to the past era of having to contact them through twenty layers of bureaucracy, instead of using Twitter as a platform to communicate with the people responsible for keeping their jobs afloat.
Comic book readers are disappointed giants like Marvel are putting an alleged feminist agenda ahead of catering to readers, and they’re trying to point this out. Some amidst this crowd are just angry and troll-like because they don’t want wimminz and nonwhite people in comic books, but they’re certainly the minority. Misogyny definitely exists in the tech industry, but these comic creators are using it as an excuse to ignore their bad behavior. They’re trashing their fans and think it’s acceptable behavior.
These comic book creators are claiming the industry is hostile to women, mimicking the actions of Zoe Quinn in the video games three years earlier. Just like Zoe Quinn and Co ignored the strong women in games in the past, these comic book creators are ignoring the strong women and minorities who have existed in the comic book industry long before they even cared about comic books. Female superheroes like Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Black Widow, Zatanna Zatara, Black Canary, as well as villains like Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Catwoman have been widely accepted in the industry. Nonwhite superheroes have also been around for generations; namely, the Martian Manhunter, Cyborg, Storm and Gamora, who are all pretty damn awesome.
The main message to comic book creators: Excellent diverse roles do not need to be created just to make social justice types happy. It is also incredibly insulting that the only way for these “diverse” characters to be acceptable in your eyes is to replace an originally white male superhero with them, like you’ve done with Iron Man, Spider Man and The Hulk.
If, in order to create more diversity, you are just being more racist and sexist, perhaps the comic book fans aren’t the problem—maybe you are.