Remember how much fun it was when Tim Marchman exposed DC's paranoid interview process that involves having DC publicists staying on the phone to monitor conversations and make sure creative talent don't say anything out of line during an interview with Len Wein about Before Watchmen? No? Well, let's take a trip down memory lane, way back to 2012:
Having no idea how this could happen, I ended up on the phone with Len Wein, who edited Watchmen, and as a writer helped create iconic superheroes Wolverine for Marvel and Swamp Thing for DC. Wein is writing two of the new Watchmen comics, including Ozymandias, which debuts tomorrow. I wouldn’t say he was yelling at me, but he was speaking with exclamation marks, which because he seems like a nice guy, I’d ascribe at least in part to occupational hazards.
“These are not shady business dealings!” he said. I had just told him that I thought an argument he was dismissing was really about shady business dealings.
They certainly strike the outside world as incredibly shady, I said.
“I’m sure Pam’s going to jump in here,” he said, “but I completely disagree with you!”
“And it’s not his place,” said Pam, “to talk about the business.”
Pam, who had arranged and was monitoring the call, works in some capacity for either DC Comics or its parent, DC Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. whose mission, according to a press release from a few years ago, is “to fully realize the power and value of the DC Comics brand and characters across all media and platforms.” Warner Bros. is itself one of the many subsidiaries of Time Warner, which has annual revenues larger than the gross domestic product of about half of U.N. member states, which I mention because it suggests the scale of the vast unyielding drive for profit that has led to, among many more obviously horrible things, Before Watchmen. (I should also mention that I have happily cashed Time Warner checks.)
“Pardon?” I said.
“It’s not Len’s place to talk about the business!” said Pam. “He can really only talk about what he’s writing and what he’s doing with these characters now.” Which, fair enough.
Okay, well, Before Watchmen was pretty controversial in that DC was taking one of the most beloved and respected works in comics history and turning it into a cheap cash grab complete with Watchmen-themed kitchen appliance merchandise. But it seems this isn't such an odd practice, as DC has just employed it again.
Meredith and David Finch did an interview with CBR, conducted at San Diego Comic Con but published today, about their upcoming Wonder Woman run, and of course, the conversation eventually turned toward David Finch's comments last month about how he didn't want to call Wonder Woman a feminist. Despite the CBR interviewer, Casey Gilly, purposely wording the question and follow-up as inoffensively as possible, a DC publicity person felt the need to "interject" and explain to the couple how to answer the question (specifically, to talk about how Wonder Woman doesn't need big muscles, because as we all know, feminism and big muscles are basically interchangeable terms). Here's the excerpt:
David -- there were some previous comments you'd made about your version of Wonder Woman not necessarily being a feminist character, and being more grounded in beauty and strength. I'm wondering how that point of view has changed as the series progresses? What are you thinking about when you're defining Wonder Woman for this new arc and how are you bringing in Meredith's point of view for this loving, grounded, humanitarian character?
David: It was really Meredith's take on the character that made me feel like it was the right thing for us to do. I thought she had a really great grasp on her, and I love it when a character has an easily definable core. That seems to be the most true. So, talking to Meredith and her saying who she thought Wonder Woman was -- it was like, that's a great approach.
Wonder Woman is a feminist icon, and its something that has been important to me from the beginning. In drawing it, I wanted to make sure that I approach, in a respectful, inclusive way -- [David trails off]
My question is not coming from a defensive point of view. I know that the word "feminist" can mean different things to different people, depending on the context. I don't think you meant anything negative by that comment, and I was hoping to hear more about what was important to you, as an artist working on the series, and how you're defining the character.
[At this point in the interview, a DC publicist interjected, saying, "I think part of it is what you were talking about earlier is her body type and how she doesn't have to have these big, huge muscles and you're putting her into everyday situations and actions. You can talk about that."]
Meredith: That's what I'd said earlier -- you look at Kacy Catanzaro right now, who was the first woman to make it into the "American Ninja Warrior" finals. She is 5 feet tall, 100 pounds, and she did things that, for me, are superhuman, and for a lot guys are superhuman. I look at that, and when people get hung up on Wonder Woman having a specific body type -- go tell that to Kacy. Women are strong, whether they have big or small muscles. It's not the size of your muscles, but obviously [it's] the size of your heart that really is what's important. That, for us, is going to be central. Its what I want people to get out of the book. It's about heart.
Ok, so what can we learn from this?
First, obviously both Finch and DC have learned something from last month's feminist comments. They're clearly terrified of addressing this subject again, judging by Finch's rambling and the unnamed (Pam?? Is that you??) PR person's interjection.
Second, DC recognizes that they have a publicity problem, and they're apparently trying to keep it under control, which brings us to..
Third, though we knew this one already, even when DC is trying their best not to look stupid in public, they're still comically bad at it. The only thing worse for publicity than having your talent say something dumb and offensive in an interview is making it obvious that you need handlers to make sure your talent doesn't say something dumb and offensive in an interview.
And finally, that it's not the size of your muscles, but the size of your heart, that's important, whatever the fuck that means.
Bravo, DC. Seriously, well done. You always find a way to brighten our day. Just probably not in the way you intended.