RANT: Triple Rant…. Batwomangate, Harley poor Harley, 45? Oh FFS

Published On September 8, 2013 | By Richard Bruton | Comics

You know, sometimes it’s best to let some of the excesses of the comic industry drift past almost unnoticed. Seriously, I’m a little too out of touch with Marvel and DC these days, beyond what I used to be, and frankly even then I was out of the loop. Now the loop is somewhere miles away, a busride or two distant.

But then some things happen and I start feeling the ire rising once more, I jot something down on a piece of paper to write something about this or that, to set myself off in rant mode. But then life takes over again, and the review copies roll in, and I get too stressed out with the ‘to do’ list and that has to come first. So the rants get pushed to one side.

Until they get to some tipping point where there’s just too much….

Oh, and before we get into this, all three mini rant moments here are DC related. Believe me, it’s not just DC, Marvel surely do dumbass things as well, and other comics publishers and comics people certainly aren’t magically immune from being dumb as a box of rocks but DC made me wince with three big ones this time….

OKAY THEN… FIRST UP…. Batwomangate….


Luckily I was busy when news came out this last week about JH Williams III and W. Haden Blackman walking off Batwoman due to editorial interference. Immediately on the news coming out, the jumping up and down started, and yes, if DC were doing this because it was a homophobic reaction to the idea of two very well written female characters getting married, then I’d be jumping up and down with them.

As is pretty usual in these cases, Heidi at the Beat has the most reasoned write up on this (here) proving yet again, that when it comes to the Internet and breaking news, sometimes shouting your ill-informed opinion first, on a tweet, facebook post, or rumour is not really always the best thing.

In this case the problem at DC appears to be ongoing editorial interference not an anti-gay marriage agenda. Interestingly it’s more an anti-marriage thing, along with a reported number of other things.

And I can honestly see DC’s point of view here. Given that superhero comics of the Marvel & DC ilk depend on the timelessness of their characters, marriage is a no-no, as it ages the characters. Having children is pretty much the same. Yep, there are times it sort of works – Reed Richards and Sue Storm come immediately to mind, but their marriage happened so early in the comic that it swiftly became the status quo for their characters. The same can’t be said for Peter Parker, Superman, or anyone else really. Invariably, these characters are young, and need to stay young to keep delivering the same sorts of story. Because superhero comics are all about delivering that same sort of story. Over and over and over and over. Illusion of change, not real change, that’s what keeps those enormous corporations making money from their movie adaptations.

The editorial interference is unfortunate, of course it is. In this case it means two talented creators are no longer doing a quality book. Batwoman was a gorgeous book to look at, pre and post 52. But corporate characters dance to the corporate drum. There’s no end of examples of great creators being kicked out of Marvel, DC et al because they didn’t fit with editorial (or higher still).

I’d much rather Williams and Blackman had a chance to tell the tales they really want to tell. And hopefully we’ll hear news of a book from the two creators coming out from a company that promotes creativity over continuity anytime soon.

NEXT….. Harley, poor Harley….


(Harley Quinn from Batman: Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm)

Harley. Poor, poor Harley. Time and again Harley Quinn comes off worse in her relationship with the Joker. It’s a horrible, abusive relationship, best summed up in my favourite Batman story; Mad Love by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Her madness is very real, our sympathies with her as she tries to prove to her beloved Joker that Batman is the only thing standing in their way and once she gets rid of him, they can truly be happy together. The ending is cruel, abusive, painful. But never exploitative. We understand Harley’s madness, we’re angry that she’s abused this way, and we’re saddened to know she’s not getting better any time soon. Yes, it’s there for our entertainment, but it’s painful, it’s heartbreaking, and it doesn’t feel like we’re delighting in the madness or the abuse.

At least that’s my read on the story.

Harley in the modern DC Universe is a little different. Here her afflictions, her madness, her obsessions aren’t just played for clever laughs as in Mad Love, laughs that always made us wince as we laughed, made us question why we laughed sometimes, made us understand every time just how precarious her sanity and happiness was. No, in this new DC Universe Harley and her madness seems to be just another cruel gag.

Hence this…. “Break into comics with Harley Quinn” from the DC Comics site. Essentially, as part of the new Harley Quinn series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, DC have decided that the zero issue will have one page drawn by the winner of a contest. All you need to do is draw this page….

  • PAGE 15

  • 4 panels

  • PANEL 1 – Harley is on top of a building, holding a large DETACHED cellphone tower in her hands as lightning is striking just about everywhere except her tower. She is looking at us like she cannot believe what she is doing. Beside herself. Not happy.

  • PANEL 2 – Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes like once again, she cannot believe where she has found herself. We see the alligators ignoring her.

  • PANEL 3 – Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever.

  • PANEL 4 – Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.

How nice, four panels where you get to draw Harley waiting to kill herself. Hilarious. Panel 4 gets a double award for the misogynous leeriness of naked Harley in a bathtub.

Oh yes, one last thing. This all just before the annual World Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th September.

NEXT…. 45? Oh, FFS….

1375813770 kamandi-pope

(L: Paul Pope and Gene Yang (pic courtesy CBR), R: Kamandi by Paul Pope)

This is way old… a month ago. See what I mean about these things percolating around my too busy brain?

Here’s a quote from Robot 6…..

“We don’t publish comics for kids. We publish comics for 45-year-olds.”

That’s a quote attributed to the head of DC Comics, according to Paul Pope in an interview he gave to Comic Book Resources here. I have no idea exactly who he’s referring to. Here’s the quote in its wider context from the interview….

“Asked by Yang if he had tried to do an all-ages book with a franchise character, Pope said he did test the waters, only to be knocked back. “Batman did pretty well, so I sat down with the head of DC Comics. I really wanted to do ‘Kamandi [The Last Boy on Earth]’, this Jack Kirby character. I had this great pitch… and he said ‘You think this is gonna be for kids? Stop, stop. We don’t publish comics for kids. We publish comics for 45-year olds. If you want to do comics for kids, you can do ‘Scooby-Doo.’ And I thought, ‘I guess we just broke up.'”” 

I read this nearly a month ago and was gobsmacked. Just taken aback by the sheer ignorance of the statement. I have no further clarification of the quote than Pope, sure, it’s possible he’s exaggerating it for effect, or to push the promotion of the forthcoming Battling Boy. But somehow I doubt it. It just feels right that people high up in DC (or Marvel) would genuinely think this. Well, maybe with Marvel it would be “we publish comics for 45 year olds AND/OR as movie adaptations“. But the whole 45 year old thing just incensed me. You could probably assume at this point they actually meant 45 year old men. And frankly, if I need to point out the idiocy of this, you’re a lost cause anyway. But just for kicks, I’m going to….

Comics are for everyone, absolutely. I’ve always believed this. And if you don’t believe this, then I honestly think you’re a moron.

Within this, Superhero comics are just a GENRE of the comics MEDIUM and by their very nature, superhero tales tend to be adolescent power fantasies. No, really, they are. No matter how you choose to dress it all up as mature, or comics growing up, they’re rather limited. This isn’t a fault necessarily. Westerns are limited as well, as are Crime works, as are Rom-Coms…. every genre has its limitations. It’s not a fault. The fault is refusing to see it.

But more than this limitation, common sense says it’s far easier to hook consumers in as children than as adults. And comics are simply perfect for children to read… they love them.

I know I did when I was a kid, reading Marvel UK reprints of US Marvel Hulk, Captain America et al before graduating to proper US Marvel in Preedys and then Nostalgia & Comics. Similarly the kids at my current school love the comics and graphic novels in the school library. The problem is that the current generation don’t really have many comics from Marvel or DC they can read, because Marvel and DC seem to be content to completely ignore the potentially huge market that they always used to appeal to.

It’s so bloody obvious. Isn’t it? Sell more comics good. Sell comics to men, women and children good. Sell comics to men over the age of 45 only bad.

Or is that just me?

Anyway, Paul Pope’s Kamandi idea may not have taken off at DC, but his Battling Boy character is thriving at First Second, where they’re not afraid of producing work for a younger demographic, in fact they love making comics for all ages. Personally, DC rejecting Paul Pope feels like a great thing, not for DC, but for Paul Pope, for me, for my teenage daughter, for future generations of young readers.

Okay, that’s it, ranting over.

This was fun. Took a bloody long time though. I may do this more regularly. If you have a rant you’d like to bring to my attention feel free to get in touch.

I’d just like to make it clear that, as always, the thoughts of those of us writing on the FPI Blog do not reflect the views of Forbidden Planet International. Dear DC, this is merely Richard mouthing off. FPI is a wonderful company for promoting free speech and allowing this sort of thing.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

One Response to RANT: Triple Rant…. Batwomangate, Harley poor Harley, 45? Oh FFS

  1. I’m not acquainted with DC comics at all, I’ve only read one (and I really enjoyed it) but it was only one, the same has to go for Marvel. I have to say though, the reason I’ve never really got into DC is because of this whole ‘isolating audience’ thing you mentioned (it should be said that I got into comics only 11 or 12 years ago when I was 13, so I never got a taste of what DC or Marvel was like before this).
    Something I’ve always found interesting, is that in spite of being deterred by Marvel and DC comics, I always adored the various cartoons made by these guys- the 1992 Batman animated series was AMAZING! I only became aware of Marvel through X-men evolution when I was 12- I’ve heard a lot of people disregard this series, but like a lot of the marvel/dc cartoons, it seemed more focused on character development and drama/relationships, and how super heroes revolve around that, then I found any of the comics to- as a 12 year old girl this really appealed to me. So yeah, the tv series seem to be less niche to me..I suppose this is because they are aiming them ‘at kids’? Maybe with a new audience stereotype, the people at the top feel more at ease with letting writers try ideas that bring in a wider audience? I havent read very much Marvel/DC though, so I feel like I cant comment on it all that much.