Two depressing pieces of news have come down the pipeline for those interested in a comics industry that’s more broadly responsive to and invested in women’s perspectives.
First, Patty Jenkins is out as director of Thor 2, with the reason for the split being “creative differences.” Now that I’ve seen Monster, I’m even more disappointed by this news than I would have been otherwise. Jenkins is pretty extraordinary at getting actors to go to some insanely dark places. The rise of Loki might not have needed something as intense as Charlize Theron keening like an animal in the woods after committing her first murder. But it would have been nice to see a superhero movie with some emotional firepower from someone other than Michael Fassbender and that runs deeper than James Franco’s determined squinting. And second, there was a lot of squandered potential in Thor for the female characters: Darcy Lewis was the sum of her wisecracks, Sif didn’t get to do very much, and Jane Foster spent as much time being googly-eyed as scientifically brilliant. I trust that Jenkins would have bent the arc on that, at least a little bit.
Second, Marvel’s VP for publishing, Tom Brevoort, let all of us know that in the chicken-and-egg conversation about how to get more women reading comics that if women don’t pony up, despite the problems with the products we’re being asked to buy now, the industry isn’t really that interested in us. He said in response to a Formspring question:
I feel like we’ve got a social responsibility to feature characters of all kinds, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those characters can or have to be headliners. That tends to be defined by the audience and the marketplace. If all of the fans crying for more series with female leads from all of the companies had supported all the ones that were done in the past, this circumstance wouldn’t exist. That said, that doesn’t change the responsibility, but ti[sic] may impact on the manner in which that responsibility plays itself out.
What drives me insane about these kinds of arguments is two things. First, the idea that fans should have to come the entire distance seems like both a social responsibility and capitalism fail. If you’re failing to attract an audience that you would like to have, even if you think that audience is missing the point, means you’re not actually putting out a product that meets their needs. If you’re a company or an industry with a record of particular hostility towards a group of consumers you would like to attract, it seems fairly elementary that you might have to try particularly hard to bring those consumers in the door. Just saying. And second, the idea that “social responsibility” is just about attracting minority consumers is a million kinds of stupid. If you care about getting the most creative possible product to your readers, it’s entirely possible that the way to do that might not be with another super-even that pits one of your established teams against another, but by writing comics from new perspectives and about new issues. Just saying.