Rape in Comics: Why Millar And Kirkman Must Stop

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The picture above is from the amazing book UNDERSTANDING COMICS by Scott McCloud. This book is the definitive book for anyone who wants to make comics. You can ignore all the others, but this one you cannot ignore because it explains the process by which we can enjoy comics and any other visual medium.

People who have followed my work, from the failed attempt at making comics to my current career as a novelist, will have noticed that there are two particular creators who I firmly dislike and will not hesitate to criticize; Mark Millar and Robert Kirkman. Back when I was making comics, people said I was jealous, after all they are probably the two most successful comic creators of the last decade. The problem I have with them is not their success, however, but their lack of decency in their work. Either they don’t understand how comics work, or they just don’t care about what kind of garbage they put out into the world. Don’t confuse the movies or television show based off their comics with the comics themselves; both men have written some of the most violent and disgusting scenes in comics that will never appear in those other mediums. We’ll get back to that in a second.

The comic industry is a strange thing; you can hate it and love it at the same time. I don’t expect comic stores to last much longer for example, and I’d love to see Diamond Distribution disappear altogether, but there are also a lot of really great retailers who won’t survive the evolution of the comic industry.  So while I am out of it, I am also still in, you can never really get out of a relationship you’ve invested so much time and passion into. And while people say that I should just leave these guys alone, fighting with famous people only hurts your career, I feel that you need to draw a line somewhere. I draw the line at violent depictions of rape and murder.

No, I won’t be showing any pages from their books, sorry. I can make my case without using their own work as evidence.

People might think I am being hypocritical; after all there are books and movies that depict rape and violence that I am not offended by, in fact one of my favorite films is A Clockwork Orange, which is specifically about rape and violence. How can I judge one and not the other? Easy, because an apple is not an orange and comics work in a very different way from movies and novels.

In comics there is a thing called CLOSURE.

Despite the numerous similarities between film and comics, fundamental differences exist among the two mediums. Due to the various affordances and constraints of both mediums – film offers the advantage of sound and the illusion of real motion, while comics rely on static panels and the concept of closure to convey a story – the formats offer profoundly different viewing experiences to their audiences. In film, according to Eisner, “the reader is carried through the telling…the viewer is a spectator of artificial reality,” while in comics, “the reader is expected to participate…[and] must internally provide sound and action in support of the images” 

As Will Eisner said, we create the reality that exists between the panels. When watching a rape scene in a film, you can turn away or you can display horror or outrage or even titillation, but in the end you are not the one doing the act, or acting in the scene. In a novel, how the author describes and sets the scene, the words they use, will influence how you feel about the scene. With a novel, the writers intentions are clear by the way the act is framed; in other words the true intention of the writer will be apparent to the reader and they can decide if the author is someone they want to continue supporting or they can put the book down and walk away forever. So the comic industry HAS to be held to a different standard because the entire process of reading comics and how it affects the reader is different.

Film encourages passive viewing, while comics demand literacy and an acquired ability to synthesize imagery, symbols, and text, as well as the cooperation and participation of the reader through the act of closure. Closure, the act of “mentally construct[ing] a continuous, unified reality” from the space between the panels, is the underlying “grammar” of comics; indeed, McCloud insists that “comics is closure”.

Therein lies the magic of comics. You the reader fill in the sounds, the atmosphere, the emotional context. You the reader decide what happens between the panels and in between the gutters of the page.

Closure in comics is the “phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole” (McCloud, pg. 63). In other words, closure is the act of mentally filling in the gaps of what we observe, thus allowing readers to comprehend the action and meaning between two seemingly unrelated panels. The reader observes two separate panels and mentally pieces together what happens in between them, even though there is no panel containing what actually happened in between. Closure in comics is why comics falls under the category of cool media: Comics requires the reader to be constantly interacting with visual aspects and filling in the gaps between them, whereas in film (a hot medium), two actions are connected visually by the medium itself, rather than mentally by the user, creating a seamless effect.

What I resent about the work of Millar and Kirkman is the fact they force the reader, usually a young or nearly middle aged white male, to become the rapist and the murderer. You can’t passively participate in a comic book, the nature of the sequential images force you to be engaged. It angers me that these two scripters have done this not once, but multiple times, on almost everything they work on. I know there are exceptions but I don’t care about that, what matters most is the work they put out that gets the most attention and most sales. Your career is not defined by the oddities, but by the majority. In other words, you can have a side garden but that doesn’t excuse you from reaping what you’ve sown in the field.

In psychologydesensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. Can you think of anything more horrible than desensitizing a fringe group of white males, month after month, until they no longer are shocked by these depictions of rape and violence? Who do you think, in their minds, are the victims? As Scott McCloud mentions in the panel above, the more cartoony an image is, the more people it could be described. So when a character is raped in a comic, it is not an actress, it is not a act, it is a fable created in the mind of the reader who chooses their own victim in their own minds without even knowing it.

In a patriarchal culture where women across the globe are almost always at risk at any time of sexual or physical violence, is there anything more vile and disgusting than creating interactive rape scenarios for your white male audience?

Kirkman even had the nerve to speak out against violence in comics, because apparently Marvel and DC aren’t allowed to do what he does in his books; I think this speaks volumes about him. He understands what he does is wrong but ultimately it is incredibly profitable for him. There is always going to be a market for their material and who knows, maybe over time they’ll learn how to use the elements of comics to make people feel something GOOD and POSITIVE one day. Yet it seems that Kirkman at least doesn’t even realize he is doing it. In a recent MTV interview about the rape of his character Invincible he had this to say:

 It’s very unfortunate that rape has become a go-to thing in superhero comics.” 

Dude, your the one who is DOING it! It sounds like he doesn’t have a problem with rape, but with the mainstream superhero comics using his methods to sell issues.

Kirkman also said this which I will leave you with:

You can’t do storylines like this without treating them in the most respectful way possible. It is a very serious thing that’s happened to a character, and to treat it with any kind of ignorance, whether on purpose or completely by accident, is doing a disservice to the character, and the real events that you’re trying to portray.

 

I certainly read up on that a lot.”

I am sure you did, Robert. What you’ve failed to grasp is that your still part of the problem. You read stories about rape survivors? After 100 issues of Walking Dead? So I wonder, are you now exploiting the victims stories, the way you exploiting the violence? Because it seems clear to me you still don’t seem to get it.

 

Raising our game as self published authors

Originally posted on Confessions of a published author:

Thinking a Solution

I published a post on Monday about literary agents and what they think of self-published authors. I’m extremely thankful to the Eve White, Literary Agent, who took part in an interview.   I valued her honesty, and I was keen to know what other authors felt about her answers. There was a mix reaction to the post; some authors understood where Eve was coming from, while others didn’t agree with her.

I’ve come up with a list of promises that I’m going to make, I would love it if other self-published authors would take these up as well. You don’t have to, but I think there is something to be said about all wanting the same thing…and that is, to be as good as we can be. Let’s raise our game together!

Supporting other self published authors

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been thinking a lot about what Eve said regarding never having read a…

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The Minute Men

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THE MINUTE MEN

For those who have been reading the Legion novels, here is a post on the Minute Men.

The Minute Men are very similar to SHIELD, except these guys actually carry shields. While their government clearance is high and they outrank many other public and government departments, they are still a part of Homeland Security which means their boss must answer to the Director of HS.  They also do not have any jurisdiction outside of the U.S., although the Canadian government has made it easy for them to get clearance to operate here. A similar agreement is being made with Mexico. The center bar of their uniform is always a different color to mark their rank.

In Book 1 we met one of their agents, in book 2 there were more as well as a brief glimpse of their leader the King of Clocks. Stay tuned! The Minute Men

This art was done by Freddie Williams, at DC Comics. Still trying to figure out a way to use it after all these years.

The Legion: Book 3 Survey

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I am holding a survey to see who you’d like to have on the cover of the next Legion book. Just click the link below. Anyone from the last two novellas can be selected, or anyone from the old issues of the comic, the choice is yours!

CL0200COVER copy

Amazon and Kindle Controversy

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As Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow put it in a blog post yesterday:

This fine print will always have a clause that says you are a mere tenant farmer of your books, and not their owner, and your right to carry around your “purchases” (which are really conditional licenses, despite misleading buttons labeled with words like “Buy this with one click” — I suppose “Conditionally license this with one click” is deemed too cumbersome for a button) can be revoked without notice or explanation (or, notably, refund) at any time.

Now I love Amazon, but they are wrong here. See, they don’t own the books either. I DO. My readers are using THEIR service to get my work, but we can do this the old fashioned way if we have to; using paper and print. SO, rather than get bogged down with these concerns and getting riled up about a policy I don’t agree with, I’ve instead decided to offer my readers this assurance:

If for any reason you cannot access my books on your Kindle, or even if you lose your computer because you threw it in the ocean, I will replace my books for customers for free. I will send you a new pdf copy of whatever book you lost, had deleted, or threw into the sea.

Yes, I realize people will lie. I am not famous enough that people want to steal from me and frankly, I don’t care if they do. If they want my book bad enough to fabricate a story and send me an e-mail, I think that’s wonderful.

9 Essential Horror Novels for Writers

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Interested in writing horror but don’t know where to begin? Here is a list of the 9 essential horror novels you need to read to get you started. In no particular order. No one can tell you what the greatest horror novels ever written are, nor would I tell a new writer to read the best of the best, it can only make your job harder knowing what you are up against. What you need to do is build the skills to tell your own stories by evaluating how others have done it, regardless of whether the book is critically acclaimed or not. I used to read novel adaptations of the movies I liked and I learned a lot about the relationship between words, pictures and moving images, so a lot of my picks here were made into films.

Read, learn, write. And maybe watch the movies when you’re all finished.

 

#9: Interview with a Vampire (Anne Rice)

There is a beauty and poetry to Anne’s work that no one else can match. She makes you feel scared and attracted at the same time, which is what vampires were supposed to be about. Her locations breathe with a life of their own and the creatures in her world all share a tragic beauty.

#8: The Damnation Game (Clive Barker)

This is one of Clive Barker’s early novels and it is not as beautifully written as some of his later work, but I think it is that lack of magic that makes it more raw and real. Every character is so vivid and the way Clive blends horror and magic with the real world makes this a disturbing love story that you have to read.

#7: Ghoul (Michael Slade)

There is something creepy about GHOUL that never leaves you once you’ve read it. Being set in London and Vancouver, the book describes places I know all too well, with killers that make even me feel uncomfortable. Add to that some strange Canadian history with the RCMP and you have a unique, one of a kind book written by lawyers who seem to have a twisted sense of storytelling.

 

#6: Dracula (Bram Stoker)

I am a huge fan of this book, even though I don’t think it is very well written. I find the idea of the journal entries original and inspiring, but that very format holds Dracula back from being a better paced book. Still it is essential reading, especially if you want to be a writer.

#5: Vampires (John Steakley)

Everything that Dracula isn’t, this book is. A strange, modern twist on vampires filled with a cast of doomed hunters. Remember, the point of these horror books are to teach you how horror is written and there is no better way than comparing genres and styles and Steakley is as different from Anne Rice and Stoker as you can get.

#4: Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris)

What makes Thomas Harris’s book so amazing is the way he positions a young, inexperienced FBI agent between two maniacal killers on either end of the social spectrum; the rich upper class Dr. Lecter and the poor, tasteless Buffalo Bill. One thing book designers love is a good, catchy image that can be used in various ways and Harris’s books always have a symbol that represent that book that carries over through every edition of that book; from the red dragon to the death’s head moth. It is sometimes a simple little flourish that will propel your book into public consciousness.

#3: Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

Frankenstein is not an easy book to read, Shelley is not as verbose as say, Cooper, but the book can still be very daunting to get into. That being said, it is essential that you do, as you couldn’t ask for a better teacher of Victorian English.

“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
― Mary ShelleyFrankenstein

#2:

Watchers (Dean Koontz)

Koontz is a strange writer. I can’t describe his work, or say what it is that is weird about it, other than that sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it, sometimes I love and hate it at the same time. I recommend this book for the same reason I recommended Silence of the Lambs, as much as Harris is high brow, this book is white trash. Instead of Lecter, you get a genetically modified dog. Anyone can write a book about a man fighting a monster, but the common thread between the books I recommend here is that there are no clear cut solutions to the monsters or threats people face. It’s all about finding new ways to tell the same old scary stories. . .

#1:

The Coma (Alex Garland)

Without a doubt, the scariest book I’ve ever read. I won’t spoil anything, but this tiny novel is as close to dying as you can through reading. A modern masterpiece, to use a marketing term. Instant classic, to use another.

What’s Next For The Legion?

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Book 1 and 2 are done and I am pretty proud of them. I think I did a good job laying down the foundation of a superhero world and introducing a unique cast of heroes and villains. The next one or two books will continue the series through the summer and will wrap up the RED OCTOBER story by fall. After that, things get really weird; space travel, time travel, new races of humanity and maybe even Atlantis!

For now, here is the villain introduced in Book 2: Death Machines, who did not make the cover, The Proletarian and his partner Octobriana.

SYNERGY

When: Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Where: 587A College St., Toronto, Ontario M6G 1B2

SYNergy is a small, intimate event for writers, artists and craftsmen from all walks of life to come together and promote their work in an atmosphere that accepts any and all artists. If you would like to sell or promote your work, please contact me. Price for a table is only $50 and the space is right next to the wonderful Comic Lounge and Gallery!

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The Legion Book 2: Death Machines

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To celebrate the release of Book 2, the digital version of Book 1: Magic  will be FREE on April 1st to 2nd.

The Legion is split and their enemies are powerful .

The Black Flag and Snowfall head to Detroit to stop a rock and roll murder weapon while The rest of the Legion defend themselves from a secret Soviet weapon.

To make matters worse, something is wrong with Snowfall.

Winter is over and the heat has already started for our heroes.

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