Thursday, October 27, 2016

marvel, please stop fanning the flames of your troll problem

Wherever there's a woman to complain about the toxic fandom surrounding superhero comics, there is a man associated with Marvel who tries to come to the rescue with a bunch of condescending, paternalistic tweets. As a human with some capacity for logic, I find this deeply annoying. But as a woman on Twitter, I can't just write it off as bullshit. Men of Marvel, listen up: it's not just that you're not helping. You are also actively making things worse.

Whether you're a member of the Marvel leadership team or one of their freelance artists, you need to carefully consider how you choose to frame the discussion of whatever corner of toxic fandom it is that you're talking about today. Yesterday I saw a lot of bad tweets about Chelsea Cain. Let's set aside for the moment how dumb they were and talk about how they feed the trolls.

1. Framing the Chelsea Cain conversation in terms of sales

Two unrelated things happened around the same time: Mockingbird got cancelled and Chelsea Cain quit Twitter because of harassment. Many people have conflated these two issues, or prefer to focus on one instead of the other, and one result was a lot of Marvel men tweeting about how people should buy Cain's comics (or promote diversity by buying comics in general). But here's the thing: I didn't see Chelsea Cain complain about people not buying her comic. I saw her complain about getting harassed on Twitter.

Let's set aside the fact that the dudes who like to fling around the word "capitalism" in these discussions tend to leave a lot of factors out of their analysis (problems with the direct market, particularly with regard to attracting new comics readers; relative lack of institutional promotion for new titles or titles with lesser-known characters, etc.). When you respond to a concern about harassment with an observation about low sales, you're adding fuel to fire by (a) flattering trolls who consider themselves your True Readership and (b) giving their abuse a veneer of respectability by pretending they're talking about big important man business (i.e., money).  Just for example, here's an image I noticed in the feed of a literal nazi who dragged me for saying the word "Marvel" on Twitter yesterday.

What a cute little pun, right? Let me break this down for you: my nazi troll wasn't really talking about sales, and neither was Chelsea Cain.

Here is the only germane point with regard to the intersection of sales and harassment: When female creators can't use Twitter, they can't promote their comics. And they really need to be using Twitter to promote their comics because Marvel doesn't seem to have a whole lot of patience for letting new books find their audience.

2.  Framing critics of Marvel as unreasonable adversaries in a civil war

Listen, I get it. You've built your whole world around melodramatic men in tights who are always picking fights with melodramatic men in other tights, and that maybe colors the way you see things. But you need to lay off the histrionics. Please give all your "if you're not with us, you're against the very idea of diversity" histrionic bullshit a fucking rest and especially stop using metaphors of violence when you describe how polite critics are interacting with you on twitter. I understand this seems like semantics to you, but I promise you that it matters.

Trolls routinely threaten women and people of color with actual violence. When you use language like this, it encourages them on multiple levels. For one thing, you're drawing a false equivalence between words of polite disagreement and threats of physical harm. Remember that trolls are often very sick, very stupid, and/or very confused. Perhaps you understand that criticizing Brian Michael Bendis is not literally starting a war, but trolls don't necessarily grasp that. And when they perceive people they already conceptualize as their enemy to be "attacking" their heroes, they are provoked.

The last thing to consider is the possibility that when people are constantly telling you that your actions cause them unhappiness or harm, you are not in fact on their side, no matter how much you wish to be. You know how in your make-believe stories the guy in the other tights doesn't always realize that he's bad? You know how sometimes those bad guys aren't really evil, just misguided? Maybe that's you.


  1. it's amazing they want to talk about the 'capitalism' angle at all because they seem to have close to zero fucking clue about what that discussion would even look like. The direct market approach Marvel (and DC) have been using is so outdated it appalling. Any casual reader can go on wikipedia and look at how events get more and more common over the years as a desperate way to drive more sales; more variant covers, more #1 issues, all sorts of tried and true gimmicks – but never is there any reckoning with that maybe people don't want to buy floppies? maybe the idea that three-month pre-orders are weighed so heavily in what series are considered 'healthy' is a wildly useless and actively harmful idea? Maybe people don't think paying $4 for 22 pages or whatever a good deal? "that's just the way the comics market is now" they say, "sales are up!" they say. As if it's acceptable to believe the market is just inherently unstable, to the point of needing all this gimmick shit AND this is good business...

    When Manga became popular and all the comic pros rolled their eyes, yet that market is not flailing about, pulling out all the stops to keep afloat. Japanese writers can publish sports stories, romance stories,detective stories, all sorts of things! Even in America manga is well supported. What is Marvel learning from this? Absolutely nothing. Look at Crunchyroll and compare it to ComiXology, which is the better deal? Again there is willful ignorance at play, and zero 'capitalism'.

    "vote with your wallet" – for what? breadcrumbs of 'representation', stories that invariably get canceled or eaten by the obnoxious gimmick Event of the season? No, the wallet-voting audience have decided that they should take their business elsewhere, which is what happens in a market economy under 'capitalism'. Manga and webcomics are much more geared towards what people want – and people get that.

    This isn't even getting into the hypocrisy of the 'traditional' heroes not being held to this same sales metric...

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