Chelsea Cain is no newcomer to publishing — she has two series of novels under her belt, plenty of accolades, and just wrapped up a stint writing Mockingbird at Marvel. But it’s that last gig that led to an acclaimed, talented and lovely writer receiving a slew of harassment on Twitter.
The final cover of the series she had been scripting, featured below, got the awareness of fake geek boys and lead to a rallying call that has, if not driven her out of comics, led her to at least consider it. This is not an isolated incident ether. Many, many women have been driven out of comics, out of comics criticism, out of our treasured geek spaces by the horde of antisocial injustice necromancers. Comics can fight back—let’s talk (some more) about how.
Before we begin I think it’s worth saying two things. Mockingbird isn’t a high profile character in comics, and Cain (or even cover penciller Joelle Jones) didn’t do anything that could even be considered insulting to her. Often character “changes” are met with screams about ruined childhoods and tweets remembering when comics were “just comics.” With Mockingbird not being a marquee character, a new spin on her can’t ruin that many people’s childhoods (as if you were still living it — but I digress); and being a minor character means it’s so easy to ignore this comic! Just go on and read the latest Spider-Man issue. If the “changes” had been negative, or happened to a flagship character, that wouldn’t change the fact that harassment is bad. But I want to make it clear, heroes for the most part are social justice warriors. They fight for social justice, it happens all the time, since nearly the dawn of comics. Marvel women are feminists — these women might be cis/het and white, they could have problematic views — but the women of Marvel are feminists no doubt. Mockingbird is a feminist super hero. She is a woman who, in the face of super powers, fights for people with nothing more than training.
Uh, hi. So some of you may
have noticed that I recently deactivated my Twitter account.
(Apparently that’s a news story?) I wanted to clarify what happened. I
write (wrote) an 8-issue comic series for Marvel, called MOCKINGBIRD.
During the life of that series, the tenor on my Twitter feed changed.
Comics readers are 99% the best people you’d ever want to meet. The
other 1% can be really mean. Perhaps that statistic holds up across
humans, in general, but in my experience, this is a different kind of
mean. It’s misogynist and dismissive and obsessive and it thrives off
taking down other people. I’ve blocked 8 people in my many years on
Twitter; 7 were on Wednesday. The first person I blocked, several
months ago, had this to say:
“Thanks, @chelseacain for ruining my favorite character with your feminist crap.”
I engage with a lot of people
on Twitter, even those with criticism. But that tweet is not looking
for a discussion. It’s not brutal or sexually threatening. It’s just a
quick elbow to the gut.
While I agree that the tweet in question is a plain “you suck”*, if that’s her example of a mean tweet, I congratulate her for pretty mild internet experience.
But know that I did not leave
Twitter because of rape threats or because someone had posted my
address, or any of the truly vile tactics you hear about. I left
Twitter because of the ordinary daily abuse that I decided I didn’t want
to live with anymore. The base level of casual crassness and sexism.
The only given example of casual crassness and sexism doesn’t really fire up my imagination. But it is worth to note that media written about harassment of Chelsea Cain without contacting her in the first place about what happened. I guess they didn’t know how to do it without her twitter.
Sure, by the time I
deactivated my account on Thursday morning, the whole thing had
imploded. And I bet that some of the thousands of posts on my feed were
really really vicious. But I don’t know. Because you know what? I
didn’t read them. That’s the power we have, right? If a stranger yells
at you on the street? You walk away.
Let me be clear: I did not leave Twitter because I was trolled; I was trolled because I said I was going to leave Twitter.
I left Twitter because, in the end, all the good stuff about Twitter didn’t make up for all the bad stuff.
Kudos to you for clearing things up and having rational mindset while dealing with the internet. Numerously situations like those were used as a pr ploy, regardless of how little there was anything vile in mentions of people claiming victimhood. I saw it myself couple of times. Glad that you are honest about how you experienced what happened.
*Though the only thing required to make it a legit complaint was to
point out that Mockingbird wasn’t “I AM A FEEEEEEEEEMINIST RAAAARRRRR”
mouthpiece before Chelsea Cain decided to turn her into one. Sorry, but
if you use established character to push your politics and push your tweeter friends,
you are going to face some backlash. Pop culture entertainment is about
entertaining the most of people, regardless of politics. Politics, by
nature, alienate people with different opinions. If you want to make
your work political, you better be so good at it that it will convince
others to your politics. Otherwise it will be unconvincing, and those who remain unconvinced will tell you that your work is crap.
Regarding quality of your Mockingbird, was there any followup to the plotline of a mutant girl that
killed like three people in, I think, issue #3? What was one of her
victim’s name, Dick Profit? Did his death lead to any ramifications for
the girl, or was he just a one-dimensional character to kill and forgot -
a giveaway for a hack writer that should better stay at a simple
entertainment, instead of making political crap? The issue in question ended in a really confusing way, without telling readers what happened to the mutant girl. I thought that Mockingbird got caught in the bobble and was put in her dream world, but I didn’t bother with the series further.
I wrote an article that you can read here talking about how industry leads to the harassment of marginalized people. Nick Spencer when defending Chelsea seems to prove everything I was saying. Spencer is a master of double talk, make some fair points but in what seems to be marvel’s progressives™ classic manner then spits in the face of everything they preach. I am going to go over each tweet in this thread, in order. Some images will be displayed in reverse order due to the nature of twitter threads when you don’t thread them. I will also cover a few threads he made after responses to display more issues. This isn’t to jump on Nick Spencer, I block him because I don’t want him to see what I say nor interact with me ever. This is a thread using him as an example even writers I respect like Kate Leth have echo some things I have issues with in this thread.
Nick Spencer starts rant 2 here (rant 1 not featured because it’s more or less on point) already guarded. The cis/het white man’s impression of these trolls is that they are wednesday warriors. He claims they are people who go buy books but what does that say about the highest selling comics then? Is Spider-man bait for bigots cuz that’s the only Marvel title to consistently stay in the top 10 lately? Is it saying that Harely Quinn a bisexual women who outsold all of Marvel in August by nearly 200K at retailers (bet it outperformed Marvel digitally too)? Even if that didn’t happen the fact is that these people’s dollars are apparently more valued than the dollars of progressive people, that are you are insulting us by saying we don’t read comics.
Oh look another insult at “bloggers” (featured this on my blog instead of my site intellectually) pretending that real journalists who critic issues are somehow lesser and again also don’t buy comics. Marvel isn’t a non profit but you don’t start selling diversity by sprinkling it in. As I wrote in my other piece where you can go look and see lots of sources comics creators harass fans. How can you tell a person the reason they aren’t getting products is cuz they aren’t coming after you told them not to come? Like ya know degrading fans by associating them as bloggers and bloggers as lower class. Also to keep the metaphors going Marvel’s approach to diversity is randomly throwing a chocolate raisin into a box of raisins and saying “Well if people keep buying boxes with the one chocolate, maybe we’ll produce a full one!”
There is public funding of comics, Kickstarter and Patreon. This year alone we’ve seen the public funding of over 10 diverse anthologies (and that’s just anthologies) all of whom feature trans creators, most loads if not all queer people etc. Webcomics almost always get funded for their print runs by their fans on kickstarter. Webcomics get funding via pateron. Perhaps consumers have decided they shouldn’t trust a bunch of cis/het men who insult them and instead go support people who reflect them.
Marvel creators apparently get paid so shitty that many have to go on Pateron. When we are expected to pay your marginalized creators bills personally then buy all your comics to give you a cut of it…ehhh. Maybe if Marvel was covering health care for all their writers, artists etc I could buy into this hyper capitalist ideal of dealing with diversity. There is plenty of marketing and sales things you can do to sell books. Maybe keeping 90% the same old cis/het white men working at a company doesn’t attract new people, maybe a lot of things but pretending like the factor is as simple as fans aren’t buying is bullshit.
Aww, is this no fun for NIck, poor nick spencer I guess you can go on enjoy having more or less every privilege possible and benefiting in it. We are to take everything Marvel serves and say “Well gee thanks for trying, also thanks for making a Nazi a main character in your universe and someone we are expected to follow.” What Marvel needs to do is do too much, because there is no too much. You can never diverse too hard but seriously just ya know do what critics are saying, they know what they are saying. Don’t like people complaining about white boy Bendis and Spencer writing Marvel’s most highlighted black men outside of Black Panther maybe stop having them write them. Seriously, these problems are easy fixes, stop doing the shit we tell you time and time again isn’t on. Also harassing fans as Nick Spencer, Axel Alonso, Tom Brevoort, and Dan Slott have clearly done isn’t proof they are working for us marginalized folks benefits.
Oh gee, online “debates” don’t do anything. Dust ups is such lovely sexist coded language. Dust-ups like an angry women brooming or something. Oh gee thanks Mr. Man we don’t get that sales matter but after spencer’s grade A tweet, we will suddenly start buying comics. I assure you no one would stick around this shit industry or at least not around Spencer’s twitter if they didn’t fucking love the shit out of comics.
Oh wow, like Harley Quinn last month, I guess Marvel is going to launch 10 queer lead female written and drawn books to see what ones can land like Quinn did. Oh wait, no they are going to eventually tell us who is working on America, won’t yet commit to saying they are hiring diverse, and as you’ll see soon apparently it’s a life bread of queer rep. Imagine of comics worked this way in reality cuz this is a load of lies. A-force was cancelled but it sold better than cis/het white man created and driven and still ongoing Kingpin, Spider-man 2099 (Written by a racist), Carnage (written by a man who attacked women in comics and trans people in comics), X-men 92 (writen by a man who harassed women out of comics), Thunderbolts (with a Nazi, I mean hydra little girl in it), Squadron Supreme (who got like a whole line dedicated to it for a bit), Spider-women (That isn’t male lead but male writer), Astonishing Ant-Man (Written by spencer but maybe that is canned), Rocket Raccoon and Groot (well Rocket’s getting another new ongoing), Spidey, Venom Space Knight (A comic that is going to get it’s 3rd relaunch under the same creator), and All New Inhumans (a franchise Marvel insists on pushing so hard they are getting 3 events). Sure jan, it’s really the sales that matter here with diverse books.
As illustrated earlier, these books will unless writen by a cis/het white man golden boy they have at the company have to prove that they can’t just sell ok but BETTER, than the golden boys books to really be safe. Again, the books I listed above including A-force and Mockingbird all straight driven books so when are we ending all straight books? If you gave queer people as many books as you gave straight people maybe we would see books do as well as Harley Quinn did and books do as bad as All New Inhumans. Queer books could be just any other book but that takes real freaking commitment.
Why is it our job to do marvel’s marketing, why is it our job to a billion dollar companies marketing, why is it our job to do the work acclaimed writers say they want to see, why is it our job to work for Marvel for free? How we we know that sales of a queer lead book, of a female lead book, etc isn’t going to be shrugged off as just the character or a one trick audience. Marvel is chopping down the legs of queer books by saying they won’t label them but then expects us to just know they exist?
Oh gee, if we just really put all our rightful anger into marketing campaigns for marvel there would be no problem! Except if Marvel just acts on capitalism they will never get rid of these bigoted fans. They will always have to walk the line between not pissing off the Antisocial Injustice Necromancers and creating real honest diversity. When your editor and chief says they are the furthest thing from a social justice warrior I don’t have a lost of trust that the company can walk this balance. There has to be a choice, do I want the dollars of bigots or do I want to support progress and expand my audience? That is the question that has to be posed, there is not a towing the line here, because it does just mean that everyone is going to leave.
Lastly we have this crowned jem, I write a black person so I can’t be racist. I mean do I need to see more? K doll, see ya later.
Bonus, furthest thing from a social justice warrior doesn’t use the support hashtag but does say all the bad stuff is bad. This sure doesn’t seem like the furthest thing from a social justice warrior. Oh he mentions characters because ya know he has to make sure to cover his ass for all the cis/het white men he hires to write the majority of the “diverse” books he publishes.