I'm a Fantasy writer, essayist, and overall nerd with big dreams.
A Voice Of Reason.
(continued from part seven: http://hub.me/amKW1)
The man I spoke with, a Discord user calling himself ‘Gwaltzilla’8, had been reading comics since he was a child and they helped him get into reading things outside of comics. He later joined the US Navy and earned a degree in science. While I didn’t agree with everything he said, he did give me a better perspective on Comicsgate beyond what the media has reported.
Sidenote 8: Just so we're clear, I do have Gwaltzilla's permission to name him. And he said that he would be ok with talking with people (regardless of your position on Comicsgate or on politics) on Discord if they so choose. I only ask that, if you do reach out to him, please be nice to the guy. He really did help out a lot. Thank you.
Questions of Command.
One of the things I asked him about was the movement’s command structure (for lack of a better term). He told me that there really isn’t one. According to him, Comicsgate isn’t one giant organization as the media often portrays it. It’s actually more akin to independent city-states that are, as he put it, “infinite” in number. What unites them is the desire for better quality comics (however they may define such).
However, each of these factions has their own ideas of how to achieve this goal and mostly work independently of each other. In short, although Richard Meyer and Ethan are credited as the "leaders" of Comicsgate, they in actuality don’t “lead” anybody, save for their own followers.
This does make a lot of sense. Any movement, online or off, is bound to be ideologically nebulous, as it would be impossible for everyone to be on the same page 100% of the time, that’s just human nature. What’s more, when a movement has as many internal factions as Comicsgate and there’s no organized central command structure to oversee them, policing them becomes impractical, to say the very least.
Nonetheless, I asked Gwaltzilla if there was ever an attempt to truly unify the movement, and he said that, insofar as he was personally aware, Meyer* had tried to do so at least once around the beginning. He did this by sending out his followers to police and manipulate the other factions and get everyone on the same ideological page. This attempt failed spectacularly. Although the majority of Comicsgate’s members are Republicans/conservative and strongly believe in the broad strokes of the movement, 90% of them are politically moderate and aren’t nearly on the same scale of radical as Ethan or Meyer. Beyond politics, the attempt at unification failed simply because the majority of the moderate factions don’t actually like Meyer or Ethan all that much anymore.
The reason for that is because, so far as Gwaltzilla has observed, Meyer's (and later Ethan) methods of achieving Comicsgate’s goals is to fight fire with fire and go full blown right-wing SJW gatekeeper, forcing liberals & progressives out the industry. By contrast, the majority of the moderate factions wish to achieve the movement’s goals through more productive means such as honest debate and constructive criticism.
As you might imagine, these two methods are not compatible. Sadly, I was not able to corroborate Gwaltzilla’s story, as the unification attempt he’s referring to was (so far as I could find) never reported to the press. At the same time, however, I don’t have any reason to not trust his information, as what he said about both men's egos and manipulative personalities match up with my own sources. Even so, I advise you all to approach this story with a healthy dose of skepticism.
*Correction: Originally, I stated that it had been Ethan Van Sciver who had tried to unite Comicsgate's various factions. This was a mistake on my part, as Ethan had not joined that movement at that time. The essay has been corrected to reflect this.
Dragging Them All With You.
Despite all that, however, Gwaltzilla informed me that he and many others personally believe that both Ethan's and Meyer's Comicsgate-related activates have, on the whole, helped the movement. If for no other reason than they helped shined a light on the perceived political bias within the industry. I asked him if he, or any other prominent Comicsgater that he personally knew, were alarmed at all that Ethan, Meyer, and other Comicsgater’s bad behavior was making all of them look bad. He replied that he doesn’t believe so because everyone is responsible for themselves and their actions shouldn’t reflect on anyone else.
I actually agree with this statement in principle, but the problem is that’s not really how the internet (or the world) works. Comicsgate isn’t one person, it’s a group. A loosely connected group, but a group nonetheless. You can talk about how each individual is responsible for themselves and doesn’t reflect the whole all you like, but that’s not how the public will see it.
The fact is when people search for information on Comicsgate, what comes back aren’t the moderate voices, it’s the staggering number of stories of bigotry and harassment carried out by the movement's most visible members and their followers. Make no mistake, anyone and everyone who reads that will automatically assume that everyone involved is like that. Meanwhile, the moderate voices, so far as I’ve been able to find, just sit quietly and let their reputation be dragged over the coals by bad actors. It’s made even worse by the fact that the only positive press coverage that the movement gets, as I've said, are fluff pieces defending said bad behavior or are so obviously propaganda that you can’t take it seriously.
That is not to say that the moderates condone this bad behavior, nor does it mean that they don’t see what their silence has brought them. Gwaltzilla himself said that he has privately called out the movement’s behavior in the past, and a friend of mine who is close to a number of moderate Comicsgate supporters informed me that they are not happy with being lumped together with the disgusting elements of the movement.
That's all well and good, but if no one sees you publicly calling that behavior out then it might as well not have happened. That's neither right, nor fair, but it is how the internet (and again, the world) works. And it’s that lack of outcry that's destroyed any chance that Comicsgate might have had of getting their grievances addressed by the industry.
It’s also the top reason why the majority of professional comic creators won’t engage with Comicsgaters, and won’t believe when they say that Comicsgate isn’t a hate group because the hateful side is all they experience. You have to remember that pro comic book creators get thousands of messages every day, but when they see someone from Comicsgate pop up in their Twitter feed, they don’t see a rational person wanting an honest debate, they see someone about to verbally attack them and will likely block the person outright rather than deal with it. I talked to Gwaltzilla about this somewhat during our conversation, and he politely reminded me that a lot of comic book creators, particularly the SJWs, aren’t innocent in the harassment department, and as I explained in the previous section, he’s not entirely wrong about that either.
Question of Politics.
In any case, when I asked Gwaltzilla about the political aspect of the comics that prompted the movement’s creation and what was so offensive about them? He explained that, at least in his opinion (an opinion shared by the one in the video by the way), politics in of itself wasn’t the problem. The problem was the presentation, which he described as blatant propaganda that served no real point to the larger story being told.
As an example, he pointed to an oft-cited scene from the fifth issue of the Jane Foster Thor comic; in which right in the middle of a fight, Jane Foster Thor, and a supervillain start arguing about feminism out of nowhere. I actually have a copy of this comic via a paperback book that collects the first five issues and...he isn’t wrong.
The Moment in Question.
As you can see, The scene in question is blunt in its defense of feminism and is so inept in its execution that it even leaves Lady Thor scratching her head in utter confusion by the end. The scene’s horrendously hammy dialogue reads like two uber nerdy comic book fans arguing about how dumb feminism in comics is, not like a hero and villian fighting to the death. As if that wasn’t stupid enough, the supervillain’s super-powered wife knocks her husband out and surrenders to Lady Thor because she respects her…you can’t make this kind of crap up.
Personally, I found the whole scene hilarious rather than distracting, at least in the sense that I actually know people who talk like this, but is it propaganda? Okay, you could make that argument with that particular issue, but what about the other four? Are they propaganda? No, I don’t think so. They certainly have their problems, the characterization really isn’t that great, the logic is questionable (even for comic book logic, I.e: "Thor" is not a title) and the writing barely reaches above internet fanfiction levels at times. That being said, it’s also entertaining as hell and, outside of the fifth issue, it’s just standard comic book superhero stuff, nothing more than you would expect. Obviously, I can’t speak for what the rest of the Jane Foster Thor series or any other of Marvel’s so-called SJW comics are like, as I have not read them, but I do see the point that Gwaltzilla was making. This is the fault of poor writing and not politics, At least for the moderates.
He also gave me an example of how critics and editors aren’t qualified to work on or talk about comics by pointing to a minor controversy involving the cover of an issue of Spider-Woman. He told me that critics took objection to Spider-Woman's pose, calling it sexist, which he said wasn’t the case, as it's really not any different from the normal poses that Spider-Man takes when crawling on walls. He even provided a side by side comparison picture featuring of the cover’s artwork and a picture of wall-crawling Spider-Man. Here is the picture he showed me:
Now, I must admit, I’m kind of two minds here. On the one hand, I can see what Gwaltzilla was talking about, as Spider-Woman’s pose is reminiscent of those that Spider-Man often takes while crawling up walls. On the other hand, I look at the way Spider-Woman’s body is position and I can’t help but ask, why does she look like a bored porn star getting ready to give some bloke a blow job? I’m not even trying to be lewd, that’s honestly what it looks like. I know she’s climbing up onto a building rooftop, but why did the artist feel the need to show us the space between her rear end like she’s trying to show off how perfect her butt is? Good god, anyone looking up is going to have a great view of her crotch (which I know I wouldn't appreciate were I her). You don't draw something like this on accident. Is this image traced from somewhere? Is that what’s happening here? Did Greg Land draw this cover? I don't know. Anyway, I think both sides have valid points here.
A Word To The Moderates.
Little things like this, so Gwaltzilla told me, is what drew many of the moderate members to Comicsgate in the first place, not because they want to harass Gail Simone or whoever, but because, as I said in the first part, they felt like they aren't being listened to. And thanks to the extreme bigotry of Meyer, Ethan, and the rest of Comicsgate leaders and the other zealots, they're still not. I can't stress this enough, if you stay with the movement then you have to be willing to call out your own side (this applies to both anti and pro-comicsgate). You moderates are the ones who can and should be reigning these people in.
I'm not trying to tell you all what to do, but as I see it if you want to be taken seriously, this needs to happen. Though in light of recent events, I don't think it will at this point. We'll get into that in the next part.
(Concluded in Part Nine: http://hub.me/amL4d )
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Will English