DC Shakeup and What’s Wrong with Comics?

By: Frank Hyden

Jim Lee gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter talking about the layoffs at DC. He said he’s still the publisher and they have two interim editor-in-chiefs in Marie Javins and Michelle Wells. I don’t know enough about either one to definitively say one way or the other if this is good news or not, but I’d wager to say it’s probably not good news. I imagine they’ll just continue down the path that DC has been going down for a while.

There’s arguments to be made that a SJW agenda has ruined comics. I think there’s an element of truth to that but not in the sense the mainstream media would fight against. The problem isn’t having more PoC or women in comics, it’s the lowering of standards of who makes the comics.

Let’s talk about the one reason most readily apparent, the art. The art standards in comics have fallen off a cliff. Let’s look at the most recent example I know, the Wonder Woman 1984 #1 variant cover by Robin Eisenberg, link here.

That’s bad art. I know art is subjective, but this is just bad. The proportions are wrong. For one, each of Wonder Woman’s thighs are bigger than her waist. Yeah, there’s women out there like that, but would they be fighting supervillains like that? I doubt it. Two, her breasts are so tiny, they’re not in proportion with the rest of her body. Normally, someone of that size is going to have big breasts. Three, Wonder Woman has blue eyes, not green. Four, why is Wonder Woman wearing Mom jeans? I could go on, but you get the point.

I grew up reading comics with Jim Lee, Marc Silverstri, J. Scott Campbell, Michael Turner, John Byrne, Art Adams, Todd McFarlane, Greg Capullo, Pat Lee, Joe Madureira and so on. The stuff you see in comics these days pales in comparison. It’s no wonder sales have gone in the toilet. Art is the biggest reason why a book succeeds or fails, and I say that as someone who always wanted to write comics when I was a kid. I would love to say the writing is the most important thing on a comic but it’s not, the art is more important. Comics are a visual medium.

Writing in comics has gotten worse over the years, but only by a little. And that’s only because of the larger problem, standards have fallen. Things are supposed to get better over time. Guys in the NFL are better than they were 20 years ago. And those guys are better than the ones 20 years before them. Same with the NBA. Same with MMA. Visual effects in movies have come a long way. But yet, comics have gotten…worse? Again, standards have fallen.

Now, a large part of the problem is the absolute nepotism that you see in comics, a niche industry which thinks of itself as a huge goliath. It’s been this way as long as I can remember but you combine that with lower standards and you have major issues. Comics have always been a very insular club, reluctant to let outsiders in. A recent exception would be the way the industry falls all over itself to try to bring in woke writers who know nothing about comics. They’ll bring in someone who wrote a woke children’s book rather than actually try to find someone whose only agenda is to write best story possible. They’ll do the same with artists. It used to be that you could go to any comic con, especially the big ones, and line up ten of the prospective artists who are there to show their work and four or five of them were good enough to be in comics. Yes, even back then there were bad artists who should have been replaced.

Now, though, the internet has changed things and you can find artists much easier. So, why has the art gotten worse? Now, instead of a comic con, all you have to do is go to Deviantart or Pinterest or something and you can find dozens of quality artists. And that’s probably underselling the number you’d find. Now, if you line up ten prospective artists from DA or Pinterest or wherever, the number is probably eight or nine who are good enough to be in comics. That’s from a much larger pool to choose from, which should dilute (lower) the number of people who should be in comics. But still, you should end up with more prospective artists because of the vast numbers you could look at. Instead, they’d rather go with somebody from Tumblr who mimics the art style from a Cartoon Network show. That might work for some quirky indie comic but not for a mainstay, serious title.

Ok, so this is where the SJW stuff comes in, and is the real issue. They’ve lowered the standards for writers and artists in the name of diversity. They look around and say there’s too many white people here, too many men. We need PoC, we need women. So they bypass more qualified candidates in favor of those who fill the quota. Combine that with laziness and that’s a big problem. Believe me, there are tons of very talented PoC and female writers and artists out there, but you might have to look around a bit. They’re not going to do that, they go with the first minority candidate they come across, or a white guy who says what they like to hear. They’ve lowered the standards. Hell, all you got to do is search “talented PoC comic artists” and you can find lots of people they should go after. They may not all be great but trust me, there’s some real gems in there.

Of course, doing things like making Bruce Wayne a spineless Asian high schooler or wanting Clark Kent to be turned black or turning this character into a woman or making this one gay or trans doesn’t help. Those are terrible ideas. Instead of race or gender-swapping existing characters, create new ones. Are they that devoid of creativity? With the lowering of standards, it sure seems like it.

I’m all for strong and powerful PoC and women in comics, or any medium for that matter. That’s cool. But we shouldn’t lower standards in order to do so, we should do the work and find talented people who just so happen to fit that description.

Comments and suggestions can be sent to me at hydenfrank@gmail.com and you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank

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