(UPDATE: the blog ‘Everything’s a Problem’ is in fact satire, and as such is not a relevant example. A mistake that I hope to avoid in future when hunting for sources. Apologies for this misinformation. anyway.)
Frank Cho vs the Outraged
In the age of social media, a news story can break faster than ever before, and with the internet being such a vast place, this has given rise of outrage culture; which can be an article specifically designed to generate clicks or force a reaction. In many cases this kind of media pressure has led to the pulling of covers, limericks, and more because someone, somewhere deemed the content offensive . This pervasive form of journalism is called clickbait or sensational/yellow journalism. Clickbait is usually done in a manner aimed at evoking a response, and sensational journalism can result in the exposure of an individual or group. The Liberal Media has also made a habit out of regurgitating each other’s articles for clicks. Certain, Conservatives outlets do the same but the Liberal Media has a louder voice, and uses that voice to beat others over the head with a stick. These articles have increasingly pushed for more political correctness and arguably the suppression of creativity deemed problematic.
One of the most well known examples of outrage being used to police content is the response to the Spider-Gwen artwork by Milo Manara and the later parody by Frank Cho. This crusade against creative freedom was done by many outlets, such as the feminist site the Mary Sue who ran with the title ‘Marvel, This Is When You Send An Artist Back To the Drawn Board’. The title itself speaks for the article, the Mary Sue regularly conveys its point of view to be nothing but the truth and that its readers should just listen and believe what they are being told. The Mary Sue claims that this variant cover is telling women to ‘run away and don’t ever come back.’ They then add that this variant cover could offend paying or potential paying customers, and that Milo was not the best choice to promote this comic. Of course despite this outrage, Mary Sue parodied this image in their own way. The observation however by those defending the art is that Gwen’s pose is actually no different from most depictions of Spiderman. Inevitably Marvel, would pull Milo’s cover claiming that, ‘it didn’t reflect the sensibility or tone of the series’ . This as such led to cries of censorship and the Mary Sue going on the defensive claiming their only issue was with Marvel’s choice of artist, either way, pressure from the political correct police got a cover pulled simply based on it apparently being offensive.
However, this wouldn’t be the end as artist Frank Cho parodied the cover, and like a case of déjà vu this did not go down well with the Mary Sue, whose title of choice clearly conveyed disapproval ‘Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should’. Their reasoning being ‘but by taking a shot at this particular cover, one that caused so much discomfort among lots of comic book readers, it shows a clear disregard for the perfectly valid outrage over Manara’s original Spider-Woman Variant’. They add this parody is misogynistic, and that it obviously poked fun at the easily outraged feminists. They also believe that even though it’s a joke, it can cause real harm to marginalised communities. I think the Mary Sue should learn the definition of critique, a critique of work aims at improving it or reviewing its features. It does not imply, call for removal or suggest it never be made .
The Mary Sue weren’t only ones offended by Cho’s art, Comics Alliance also took the bait despite the writer stating ‘they didn’t really care but the cover was pretty gross’. The underlying issue that Jannelle Asslin takes is that with both the batgirl cover controversy and Cho’s parody, ‘a publisher choosing to publish an objectifying image on the cover of a book meant to appeal to a new and/or diverse audience is a mistake’. I think it’s a mistake to assume that you think you can be the voice of all comic consumers. The writer then references a tweet by user Robbie Rodriguez (another person who thinks they speak for minorities or women).
Here’s my take on the frank cho sketch cover. Your drawing dirty pics of one of my kids. Be lucky your never around me. #spidergwen
— RobbiRodriguez (@RobbiRodriguez)
The cover in question is of a fictional character, so for Robbie to say that it’s a drawing of one of his kids is absurd and crazy. He later backpedals and states, what he actually meant was that the gratuitous cover is tasteless because it objectives women. Robbie assumes that his country isn’t mature enough for this kind of art. I hate to break this to Robbie but just as before with the writer of this article, you alone don’t decide whether your country can handle something in a mature manner. Especially when the art in question is a parody done as a joke. I also note this is a similar argument to the Mary Sue in that they want art to change in a way that suits them and is for their benefit. Robbi makes a damning statement below;
If you, as pro, want this medium and industry to be taken seriously, like we have a chance to now, then start fucking acting like it and change with the times. The definition of body image has changed in of all entertainment in the last decade. And it’s not a matter of changing the style of your work – it’s a matter of thinking about your work outside of your bubble.
An extract from Robbi Rodriquez’s facebook post
In other words Robbi wants to control what you can and can’t create, because apparently fiction has only now become serious business. The whole point of being a creator is being allowed the freedom to express yourself either in a serious or satirical tone. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean everyone else shares that same sentiment.
The writer of article then moves onto another parody done by Frank Cho featuring Harley Quinn, and the Joker mocking the outrage aimed at the original piece. The writer goes onto state that ‘here’s where things get really messy’, and also quotes from Cho’s blog;
Wow. What a crazy couple of days it has been. My parody cover sketch of Spider-Gwen aping the infamous Manara Spider-Woman pose sent some of the hypersensitive people in a tizzy.
To be honest, I was amused and surprised by the uproar since it was, in my opinion, over nothing. It’s essentially a small group of angry and humorless people ranting against my DRAWING of a pretty woman. It’s utter nonsense. This world would be a better and a happier place if some people just grow a sense of humor and relax.
Now, I’m getting bombarded by various bloggers asking for an interview addressing this “scandal”. Instead of me wasting my breath and precious time over this non-issue replying to all the interviewers, I’ve drawn another cover sketch in response which will, hopefully, answer all the questions.
The writer adds the word’s ‘hypersensitive’ and ‘humourless’ are examples of how the same language is used to defend jokes that dehumanise women even though there are plenty of comedians out there who will joke about just about everything including themselves. It has a name: Comedy.
Fortunately many came to Cho’s defence, such as Liefield who on facebook came to the defence of Cho and a similar artist by the name of Campbell. The author refers to Campbell and Liefield’s conversation.
I just finished reading a disturbing rant by a fellow who took, in my humble opinion, uncalled for shots at two stellar talents in my industry, in our industry, Frank Cho and J J Scott Campbell. Let’s establish here at the outset that these two are a pair of comic book wizards, visual stylists that have been at the top of the comic book mountain top, and have entertained the masses for nearly two decades. Both men are famous for their renderings of the female physique, an art form once referred to as “cheesecake” by possibly the best illustrator comic books ever saw, Dave Stevens.
And its following this conversation where the author gets angry in their prose because god forbid that art could depict sexuality or even have a sense of humour. However, (NSFW) throughout history men, women, and it seems even beasts have been drawn in an very sexual way by many painters/sculptors throughout history but suddenly in modern times, people are incredibly thin skinned and get quite angry at the sight of ass or boobs. The writer however deflects and claims only the government is capable of censorship. Yet the definition of censorship is this;
They also have the audacious claim that this is unrelated to free expression, when it is everything to do with freedom of expression. The writer claims these men are merely shifting goal posts, but then adds a critical detail – ‘it’s not censorship if these new readers don’t care for the exploitative ways women are sometimes drawn. This is how trends work. Styles change. Complacency means death of our industry.’ How are you the voice of an entire audience, what if new readers see these pieces of art and appreciates them. What happens then?
Of course the author is right, there is no call for these men to leave the industry but the overall message is that this style of art is unwelcome because it is ‘harmful’ to the readers of comics.
The Batgirl Controversy
Furthermore, Frank Cho is not the only artist to receive this kind of criticism. Another artist by the name of Rafael Albuquerque was also criticised for his reference to the Killing Joke in his comic variant featuring the Joker and Batgirl. The controversy began on Tumblr when the blog, ‘Dc Women Kicking Ass‘ posted about the cover stating, ‘DC Comics got the last laugh again with more of their disturbing covers that reeks of, get your comments read, misogyny’. This complaint relates to the Killing Joke by Alan Moore, a classic but also widely despised comic by Social Justice commentators. In advance , if you haven’t read the Killing Joke, you can either buy it or find a version of it online as the following words will spoil a significant part of the comic. The part in question has the Joker shooting Batgirl (Barbara Gordon) in the spine and proceeding to take pictures of her semi naked body. The response to this one scene was accusations of fridging despite Batgirl going onto be incredibly successful as the Oracle and still managing to kick the Joker’s ass in later comics. There were also presumptions that the Joker raped her despite there being little evidence of this, and there is also the fact that Moore would go on to deny these claims. Even so, this is fiction, and Moore can write what he wants, it was after all a graphic novel.
Despite the Killing Joke depicting the psychological torment endured by both the Joker in the form of flashbacks and Gordon having to go through the process of witnessing the images of his exposed daughter. The Fiction Police focused fully on Batgirl. So it comes as no surprise that the Batgirl variant caused outrage. In the wake of this two tags appeared on Twitter #ChangetheCover and #SavetheCover that came later. The argument for suppressing the cover was that the target audience was mostly young teenagers. However, not one of these critics suggested alternative uses, instead focusing on scrapping the cover entirely.
The cover may have been censored by DC but the aftermath led to parody after parody after parody by those fans who had appreciation for Rafael’s art.
Hot on the heels of Batgirl’s variant cover outrage came outcry directed at Lion Head Industries for posting artwork from their game Fable 2 in the #NationalCleavageDay tag on twitter. The artwork was an old asset of a barmaid with two foaming jugs of ale referencing an in game tavern called the ‘Foaming Jugs’. Like moths to a flame, the Social Justice Mob descended and cried the usual claims of sexism and misogyny. At first Lionhead doubled down and posted a picture of a male character depicted in a sexual way.
However, further pressure led by game developer, Brianna Wu led to the image being deleted and LionHead issuing an apology. It should also be noted that only a couple of hours earlier Wu posted a far more revealing image of the Sorceress, and in doing so shows her blatant hypocrisy by attacking Lionhead.
The game Fable has always be known for its satirical mockery of British culture with characters like Swift donning the handlebar moustache. The setting of Fable 2 also parodies England’s Industrial Revolution. As with the Batgirl cover, the Streisand Effect led to further distribution of the image. This was also reported on by the games media with Nardmode stating that it was a publicity blunder and that the tag itself was ‘ludicrously sexist’. The writer then makes this statement;
Once again, another male thinks he can speak for all women, and completely misunderstands just what goes into the Fable universe, in regards to satire of British culture. He also uses his wife as confirmation bias despite just as many women coming out in support of Lionhead. However, this incident perhaps shows how out of touch gaming media is becoming in regards to its own audience.
The Firedorn Limerick
In Pillars of Eternity, backers were given the chance to inject their own creativity into the game with custom gravestones. One gravestone in particular had a limerick that describes a man named Firedorn who happened to bed a women that turned out man. This led to him running off a cliff in shame. In a game that has a hanging tree, it’s hardly anything to get worked up over. But then there’s always someone, and in this case it’s Ice Queen Erika who complains in a tweet that this limerick was ‘transmisogynistic’. This led an entire discussion on Obsidian forums and the original writer claiming it was their decision not Obsidian’s to remove the ‘offensive content’. Furthermore, another cultural critic jumped in to the fray, known as Jonathan McIntosh, he claimed;
“Transphobic jokes aren’t a problem because they might be personally “offensive” they’re a problem because they’re culturally oppressive.”
– The Twitter Post
I think someone should notify McIntosh that this was a limerick, in a video game. It has no sentience, therefore it cannot be oppressive. The following below is Ice Queen’s rant using the tag #killallmen;
In the end, the limerick was changed to mock the entire incident. Despite this sites like One Angry Gamer, The Ralph Retort, and Reaxxion came out in defence of the limerick and how it was ‘self censored’. This incident showed that not even something as obscure as a limerick in a video game can escape the eyes of the Political Correct Police who by being offended can get something that someone put $500 towards changed to cater to their precious feelings.
In 2014, the Rosetta Mission aimed to land a spacecraft on a comet, the first in human history. During the livestream, of the event. A scientist named Matt Taylor was interviewed wearing a colourful bowling shirt featuring scantily clad clothed female cartoon characters. Whilst everyone marvelled at the success at what some would consider an impossible feat, some on twitter reacted differently. A user by the name of Rose Eveleth tweeted are sarcastic remark next to the image that gained over 1000 retweets. This would lead to Chris Plante and Arielle Duhaime-Ross writing an article titled ‘I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing’. Even though the shirt was actually produced by Elly Prizeman a friend of Matt Taylor.
The outrage at his decision to wear Elly’s creation led to a tearful apology during a time the man and his team should have been celebrating. The Verge writers go onto say that ‘Taylor’s personal apology doesn’t make up for the fact that no one at ESA saw fit to stop him from representing the Space Community with clothing that demeans 50% of the world’s population.’ Firstly, citations please, 50% is a very specific number and secondly, yet another man is trying to tell women how to feel, this is quite a trend when it comes to these kinds of controversies. They then make the audacious claim that this sort of ‘casual misogyny’ is stopping women from entering certain fields.
News Just in: Scientist’s shirt has become self aware! and is now physically stopping women enter stem.
To conclude these controversies spawn from a collective group of social justice advocates picking offense with everything and anything. They claim to be critical yet their wording implies otherwise, that they would rather censor the creativity of others, if it meant protecting the sensibilities of the few. These are a few examples of the media and individuals getting together and attempting to be the gatekeepers of creativity, this trend also effected the game ‘Hatred‘ that was banned from Twitch after they coincidentally changed their policy to ban adult only games and there was also a campaign to ban it permanently from steam and other outlets. Another game that has been under fire in the press includes HuniePop for its sexual themes, and it’s developers blamed SJWs for negative reviews. In addition, a romance novel came under fire from Jezebel for having the audacity to depict a Nazi and Jew falling in love. Bustle quoted a review by Smart Bitches, Trashy Books that claimed it was ‘problematic’ and hoped this lead to a change in the romance industry. When Jack Thompson, attempted to ban violent video games in the early 2000s, gamers and games journalists of the time defended their hobby. However, the new face of censorship has changed to that of the Authoritarian Far Left. We now live in an era where even the freedom of expression is rallied against, and the ability to draw, write and, animate is policed by those who delude themselves into thinking they represent you, me, and the general consumer.