Saturday, April 11, 2015

MY THOUGHTS ON SPIDER-GWEN ALA CHO

I probably shouldn't do this - but I'm gonna...
I am by no means a top creator in comics, don't claim to be. I am by no means the end all - be all authority on any aspect, but I am part of it, and this is an issue that I feel important.

The internet's been ablaze over the Frank Cho Spider-Gwen ala Milo Manara Spider-Woman piece, and the reaction from series artist Robby Rodriguez, who went off after seeing it. I've seen a lot of professional creators rush to Frank's defense, and a number who got a little full of themselves piling up on the guy.

Yes, making even implied threats toward a creator over a piece of art is uncalled for and unprofessional, but the anger and frustration behind it was valid, and its important to note that the implied threats weren't the first shot fired, as the piece itself was a pretty unprofessional low blow to begin with.

See, here's the thing...
Robby does get to take some credit for this character - yeah, she's Gwen Stacy, yeah, she's a Spider character, but the element that really caught fire was the costume design, so yeah, saying he's not a 'creator' or his 'creator' chops aren't enough on this character to be invested in this character is really just a manhood measurement contest and pretty much as juvenile as the rest of this whole scenario, so it doesn't help.

What's more, the character was created as part of an effort to get more positive, non-sexualized female heroines in the mix, aimed at bringing in female readers, creating more positive role-models that younger girls can identify with, feel safe with, and find a heroine that teaches and guides, much as Spider-Man has done for so many of us over the years. That is a significant part of the character and the drive and passion from the creators involved. That deserves respect.

You can choose to be part of that, support it or not. As a creator, you can choose to add your voice by doing something similar or not. As a creator, you can also choose to build your rep off 'cheesecake' and draw all the scantily clad, overly sexualized female heroines you want, plenty of room in the industry for both.

But for an artist who does choose the latter, to take a character intended for a very different purpose, very different audience, and very different intent, and place her in what is clearly a suggestive sexualized pose and to do so as a direct copy of a similar image that caused a lot of uproar already and obviously was taken as such, is a pretty cheap shot. Not only at the creators behind that character, but the fans of that character, and the potential fans of that character. There's no way around that, intentions and motivations aside, what it ends up being is taking a younger female heroine, and putting her in a position and image that emphasizes her sexuality in a way that would be uncomfortable for many of the intended fans of that character.

If there is one younger teen or pre-teen girl who loves Spider-Gwen, sees that image, and now feels kind of weird about her, or uncomfortable? Was a throwaway, off the cuff sketch worth that?

This was the same thing behind the Batgirl cover controversy earlier. When a book has been re-invented to become more positive, more 'girl centric' for female fans, and shaped more as a positive, upbeat, strong character, to then reduce her to a whimpering victim in the hands of an abuser, is violating that course, and undermining the whole intent of the current book.

It's not a comment about the quality of the art, the quality of the artist, or the option of having that 'stuff' elsewhere, its saying, this isn't the place. And that's fair and it needs to be seen that way and respected.

When we create characters, we all have hopes for them, and I think one of the greatest feelings we as a creator can have is when a character we've created touches someone's life, especially in a way we had dreamed and hoped it might. So, when someone invests in creating that kind of character, to be a role model, to speak to an under served audience, and then goes online to find it turned into the very anti-thesis behind it's purpose? The anger is justified.

Ultimately, the fact that this is a "thing" is itself a sad statement, but the fact it happened at all is a bit of a sadder one. I think everyone involved should step up, own their own behavior, apologize to the others involved for spears and slings hurled, and move on. I think everyone involved is big enough, and professional enough that they should be able to see that.

The rest of us, especially the ones being the most vocal in calling Robby out? Probably need to think about the fact that neither creator showed much respect for the other, and instead of us polarizing and shouting at one, we nudge both and say, hey, straighten up, we're better than this.