- Posted by Johanna on November 19, 2006 at 10:55 am
- Category: Comic News
From the online diary of a former DC Comics assistant editor (link no longer available), an explanation of the decision to base a superhero comic series, Identity Crisis, on Sue Dibny’s rape and murder:
My theoretical comic company, which, for the theoretical purposes of my theoretical memoir, I’ll call Gilgongo! Comix, was tired of being “pushed around” in the sales wars and in the court of fanboy opinion (such as it was). So with all the red-nosed gumption and determination of Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” Gilgongo! Comix decided to go badass.
They needed a rape. Because there’s nothing quite so badass as rape, lets face it. And the victim couldn’t been from the usual suspects: “The Black Raven” (done that already plus ovaries ripped out), “Bondage Queen” (wasn’t she raped like every issue–at least mentally?), “Demon-Girl” (she was already paralyzed from the last pseudo-raping and that provided all sorts of logistical nightmares for the artist).
No, they had to find the most innocent, virginal, good-natured “nice” character they could find and ravage her not once but twice.
Theoretically, this character’s name was Vicki Victim.
A whole groundbreaking limited series would be built around Vicki Victim’s rape and murder. …
Vicki Victim’s fate was sealed in a Gilgongo! Comics confab in which we explored how we could change our comics to be more “badass.” It was decided that the reason we were trailing in sales was because we were “too good-natured and nice.” This would have to stop. Our books needed a grittier edge. We needed a grittier edge.
So our books changed. There was rape, and murder, torture, death, and mutiliation. Superheroes did amoral or outright evil things and the line between good and bad was blurred.
And you know what?
Our sales improved. And this is a fact.
This would be why I don’t bother reading most corporate superhero comics any more. Not because the property owners are so cynical that they think of strategies like that … but because the fans eat it up, and I don’t particularly want to be associated with them.
The length of the quote is because I want it on the record, and the source has already wiped her blog once. Not surprisingly, she’s leaving comics (link no longer available — since Valerie D’Orazio didn’t). After her story, no one should ever ask why, or wonder why corporate American comics are so unfriendly to women, both live and in print.
You put a bunch of immature men, many of whom were very sick as children or had absent fathers or both, and all of whom escaped into over-muscled power fantasies as a result, in charge of a publishing subgroup with no prestige and little money. Several of them have never worked anywhere else, or if they have, it was at one of the few similar companies in the same industry that behave the same way. They’re still geeks, mentally, with low self-esteem and no success with women, few of whom they actually know in person, but they’re power brokers within their little world, and there are thousands like them who desperately want to be them… and you wonder why it all ends up so twisted?
I spent less than a year inside the sausage factory, and I went in knowing I could leave any moment and get a job using the same skills that paid twice as much (which I did). The people I respected there, those who had a sense of the outside world and were considerate and good to work with, have all since left as well; several of them were forced out. Those left, the ones that come to mind when I bother to think of them, I’m mostly contemptuous of. Dealing with them was like dealing with argumentative, impulsive children who had to be constantly reassured of their power and value for fear they’d throw a tantrum.
It leads to a difficult question as a woman: how do you fix the system without engaging with it, but how do you stay in a system that will destroy you?
(My apologies in advance if I’m forgetting a good one still trying to work within that system. There were also people there I didn’t know, never worked with, and can’t comment on. Sadly, it’s the bad ones that stick with you and shape your attitudes.)