At a TCA panel about an upcoming PBS documentary Superheroes: The Never-Ending Battle last night, Todd MacFarlane, Gerry Conway and Len Wein said some disappointing things about the comic industry, involving the sexualization of women in comics and the lack of diversity in terms of the characters that appear in superhero comics and who creates superhero comics.
A full breakdown of the stupidity can be found here, which includes choice quotes about how there's never been a comic with a strong message and how the comic industry follows society, not leads it.
While the whole panel is pretty cringe-worthy and terrible, it's really hard for me to get worked up about this. It's not that I don't think their excuses for industry sexism isn't pathetic and pitiful, it's that these three are hardly indicative of where the industry is heading. You replace any of those three creators with someone who's working on a regular superhero book and you're going to get startingly different answer. Hell, we've even seen publishers who espoused these sort of opinions change their tune in recent years.
One quote by Conway really drove this home for me.
It’s like saying, ‘Why are there no medieval stories about female knights?’
Well, there are. Like Demon Knights.
Or Game of Thrones.
At least Conway noted that there's been at least one actual female knight named Joan of Arc.
What upsets me the most is that the industry, as flawed and imperfect as it is, isn't accurately represented by the likes of Wein or Conway or MacFarlane. Conway hasn't written a comic in nearly five years, Wein's most recent work is Before Watchmen (the pariah of all modern comics) and outside of Jamie Foxx, does anyone care about Spawn? This TCA panel (and the documentary it represents) feels like another excuse to paint the comic industry in a negative light by people who don't get it, a la the "Biff, Bam, Boom" that starts off every newspaper article about comic books or superheroes. I wonder, did PBS bother to speak with someone who's actively employed by a superhero publisher today?
Again, this doesn't excuse these creators' line of thinking. Nor am I stating that there aren't some who are actively working in the industry who share their view. But progress is being made and the belief that superhero comics are just "testosterone driven fantasies for dudes" is gradually heading the way of the dodo. No matter what " Hell, even DC seems cognizant that they need more women creators and better depiction of women in comics. And they're DC.
The comic book industry is far from perfect when it comes to diversity. And I think that there's still plenty of fighting left to be done. But at least we're not hearing the likes of Scott Snyder or Brian Bendis or Jim Lee or Joe Quesada back these clearly outdated opinions. If anything, I think the consensus eye-rolling that comes from reading these comments shows that the comic industry is crawling away from this line of thinking.