Chelsea Cain, former columnist for The Oregonian and best-selling novel writer, has been trying her hand at the comics industry for the past eight months, penning the scripts for a new series based around the SHIELD spy Mockingbird. Unfortunately it only lived eight issues, and the eighth and final one was just released. Critics loved the series, but it failed to get much attention — until now.
This week the last issue hit the stands sporting this cover, and Cain was immediately harassed by neanderthals on social media for it. “You guys have some serious problems with your industry and the way that people think they have the right to talk to another human being,” she yelled in response. “My ranting wasn’t a plea for affirmation. Truly. I’m just done here. I’m amazed at the cruelty comics brings out in people. Now I am going to watch Black Mirror with my husband and if I don’t like it, I will not be tweeting bile at the people who made it.”
Because of this we may never get a comic book written by Cain again. She made comments about quitting before she deleted her entire account after the post above. Two things: one, the cover isn’t serious, and two, it is really really really easy to set the MRA crowd off.
What has them sore is part of a larger phenomenon (that they’re currently taking out on poor Cain): the comics industry is finally opening up after being innately hostile to everyone but a narrow market for 20 years. Throughout the 90’s and much of the 2000’s, comic books were primarily (and sometimes explicitly) aimed at the stereotypical lonely male perv. Though a lot of titles centered on women, they were usually almost naked with Jessica Rabbit proportions and violent, erotic personalities. There were plenty of females who wanted to read comics, as there have always been, but they were ignored or sometimes even chased away.
Now this way of business is finally dying off. The increased popularity and acceptance of comics in modern society means a more diverse audience is flooding in, changing the look of the rack with their dollars. The biggest example I can think of is Valiant’s Faith, about a superhero that is clearly plus-size. Ten years ago the only women in the entire comics multiverse without an hourglass figure were Etta Candy and Francine Peters. Maybe also Aunt May depending on the artist.
The fact that Valiant spun off Faith into her own book as an experiment isn’t surprising given the current climate. But the fact that it did well enough to go beyond its limited series and be relaunched as an ongoing comic? THAT is HUGE — and in the 90’s would have been unheard of. It’s a changing market all right.
And the “old guard” is feeling the heat. J. Scott Campbell, a veteran comics artist who draws nothing but pin-up girls, is suddenly finding his life’s work controversial. He was hurled heaps of scorn for his most recent cover, a sexy depiction of Riri Williams (who is the new Iron Man, and a 15-year-old girl). As for his response, uh, this came from him and not me: “Ha! Nope, nope. Sitting this SJW whine-fest out. Not taking their bait this round.” Then he chugged a beer, belched and headed down to the strip club.
But the kind of executive thinking that employed people like Campbell and Cho is dying out. Not only was the locker room mentality of comic books in the Dark Age narrow and sexist, it was sleazy and condescending. The fact that publishers felt their customers wouldn’t buy their work unless it tickled them downstairs showed what a low opinion they had of their audience to begin with. It’s welcome news that the comics industry is finally climbing out of the gutter (and the anime industry could learn a thing or two).
Let me wrap up by pointing out this: you can now buy this controversial cover as a shirt. Not the specific shirt on the cover, but the cover itself that contains the shirt, so you can wear a shirt of somebody wearing a shirt. Limited time only!