Comicsgate, Clickbait and Makin’ People Irate

Animal Farm

I’ve been trying to stay out of the latest iteration of the Comicsgate malarkey. I watched a couple of the Diversity and Comics videos months back, was unimpressed, and moved on. (I suspect that, had industry pros done the same instead of rising to the bait, the whole thing might have died down by now.) But I’ve just seen something that’s prompted me to write about a few matters that have been on my mind for a while now.

Bounding into Comics, a pro-Comicsgate website founded by John F. Trent, recently ran a news article with the headline “DC Comics and Marvel Comics Colorist Calls Customers and Fans ‘Trash'”.

The colourist in question is Tamra Bonvillain. What, exactly, was it that she said? Well, here is her contentious tweet, as quoted in the article: “C0mics Gate is trash, and you’re trash if you support it in any way.”

So she wasn’t referring to all fans or customers, only to a very specific, very controversial segment of fans and customers. “DC Comics and Marvel Comics Colorist Calls Comicsgate Trash” would have been a rather more accurate headline, not to mention shorter and punchier. But what is accuracy compared to clicks? Manufacturing outrage is a great way to pull in a readership, even if it involves printing a few deliberately misleading headlines.

Mr. Trent and his followers would likely tell me that progressive outlets have long utilised the exact same kind of outrage-mongering clickbait. And yeah, they’d be right. But “the other side behaves just as badly” is rarely a compelling argument if you want to make yourself look like the good guy.

Comicsgate and its overlapping movements portray themselves as heroic freedom fighters battling to overthrow SJW-dominated media bodies. But even if we were to accept (for the sake of argument) that those SJW-dominated media bodies are as bad as they’re painted, I’m not seeing how Comicsgate is the hero of the story. It looks to me more like Napoleon – the pig, not the Corsican bloke. Having set up media outlets of their own, the Comicsgaters waste little time in indulging the kind of behaviour they set out to condemn.

Welcome to Our New Era

On a related note, I’ve been thinking about how we’re seeing a new era for comics. You know, first there was the Golden Age, then the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Dark/Modern/Aluminium/Has-Anyone-Agreed-On-What-Came-Next Age. Well, we’re now living in the Social Media Slapfight Age.

Back in the 1960s, Smilin’ Stan Lee carefully cultivated the image of Marvel’s creators as the reader’s buddies. Thanks to social media, we now have a grotesque parody of this concept: readers can, in theory, become buddies with comic creators, but they can also start extremely bitter arguments with them. Behind the left-versus-right posturing, the Comicsgate dispute has raised a number of valid questions about etiquette in communications between fans and creators; I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that, somewhere down the line, it’ll be common to divide the twenty-first century entertainment industry into “before people started arguing with creators online” and “after people started arguing with creators online”.

And then we factor in the culture war, and the opportunities for marketing that it offers. No doubt those pop culture scholars of the future will have plenty to discuss about an era where Zoe Quinn and Vox Day each had their own comics out. Interesting times, indeed…


(Although I have my doubts over this person’s prediction.)

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