2017 In Entertainment: #ComicsGate
I normally do a single year-in-review column of entertainment news, but so much took place in 2017 – and so late in the year that it’ll likely spill over to 2018 – that a single column won’t be enough. To this end, I’m giving this story its own column so I have room to explain everything.
As background, an explanation. Over the last few years, the writers and artists at various comic book companies have been taking criticism from fans and media critics because of the perception that their output has declined in quality, due both to a perceived decline in artistic quality and due to the perception that too many creative talents are pushing too much in the way of their own personal politics, primarily so-called “progressive” politics. A handful of reviewers, such as YouTube’s Capn Cummings and Diversity & Comics, came to stand out among these critics.
Things came to a head back on September 11th. One controversial figure in the comic book industry is writer Aubrey Sitterson, who IDW assigned to work on one of their G. I. Joe titles. Sitterson not only allowed his personal politics to influence his decision-making but also made it a point to visit two of the larger fan forums in order to personally antagonize those users who were critical of him and his comics. One point of controversy? His decision to redo pre-existing character “Salvo”, changing him from a muscular white male to an overweight Polynesian female, seemingly in response to a brief to-do over a fan club-exclusive toy of the character that had him as somewhat less muscular than previous fiction depicted him.
Well, Sitterson took things too far as far as folks were concerned when he made a social media post questioning the legitimacy of any 9/11 observance taking place outside of New York City. In response, people took his post, combined it with his forum posts antagonizing people, and sent everything right straight to IDW. IDW later issued a statement on the matter implying that they’d had a chat with Sitterson. All well and done, right?
Nope. Diversity & Comics was one of the outlets that covered the flap, and as such ended up being mistakenly credited with breaking the news. Given all of the feathers the channel had already ruffled, this was it for some people; when a rumor came out that the guy behind the channel was going to appear at a particular convention, the knives came out. Three comic professionals plotted to have him arrested, thinking that since he was a military veteran he likely had post-traumatic stress disorder and so most likely had latent issues with violence they could exploit. A fourth pro, meanwhile, told people via social media that if the guy did show up, folks were to come get him for a showdown.
When word of this got out, another dam burst and a number of comic fans assembled what they called #ComicsGate as a consumer revolt. Just when it seemed like a tempest in a teapot, however, Sitterson… shot his mouth off again. He changed Salvo because he felt the character had an “alt-right vibe” and needed to be “recontextualized”. Cue the cancellation of Sitterson’s title, ostensibly due to low sales.
Around this same time, there was upheaval at Marvel Comics. Their top editor? Gone. A trio of titles criticized for their politics? Cancelled. An unpopular writer? Removed from a high-profile title. Even if not related to #ComicsGate, they were still counted as “wins”.
So yeah – expect to see even *more* upheaval of the comics industry in the upcoming year…