September 26th, 2009

RatTyping

Heroine Addiction

DC Comics has long held a reputation for being more experimental than Marvel.  IIRC, they put the names of their creative teams on the covers of their books long before Marvel did.  They not only developed Sandman, completely redefining comics and introducing a whole new generation to the talent of a man named Neil Gaiman, but created the Vertigo line, giving us original and imaginitive books (and helping spawn the emo/fake goth movement, but I digress).  They have the only two long running comics starring female superheroes, Wonder Woman and Supergirl (Marvel couldn't catch that lightning in a bottle until Mayday Parker in Spider-Girl, a series they literally couldn't cancel), and ran with Birds Of Prey (which was praised for depicting the women in it as friends, brave, and capable) for years.  They started comics starring Batwoman, who is both Jewish and a lesbian.  They were able to leverage their titles against their Warner Bros. connections to create a string of animated series that Marvel is only now starting to catch up with, and not with the kind of resonance that DC enjoys.  The Vertigo line has the reputation of being the most female-friendly editorial board in the biz.

And yet, DC seems to be getting this creeping chauvanism that makes me wonder about them.

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about depicting female heroes as sexy.  The difference can be descibed by comparing Playboy to, say, HustlerPlayboy is about beauty in the female form.  The woman are doing fun things or artistic things.  There is respect in the composition of the shot.  Hustler has no such thing.  Women are photographed doing whatever they think will get the guys off.  Playboy, I can enjoy looking at.  Hustler makes me want to take a long bath afterwards.

Within the past, oh, year, the following events have happened in DC Comics:

1)  The cover of the Batgirl collection went from an image of her in a heroic pose to her getting prettied up before going out to fight crime.

2)  A comic depicted mostly nude Batgirl and mostly nude Catwoman getting in a catfight in the middle of an orgy.

3)  Hal Jordan admitted having a three-way with two of the Birds Of Prey (I believe it was Lady Blackhawk and Huntress)

4)  The launch of a series set in Gotham following the female characters with very...interesting portrayals of the women and how they interact.

5)  The current issue of Detective Comics, on page 12, depicts Batwoman diving off a building, and her camel toe is clearly visible.

No doubt, some of my readers are shaking their heads and saying, "That's terrible", while making a note to hit the comic shop sometime today.  ;-)

Say what you will about Marvel Divas, a miniseries starring four of Marvel's second teir female characters, the series is telling a story.  And telling it well, I might add.  I checked out part of it, and it moves at a good clip and actually has stuff happening.  But DC?  I frankly expect better of the house that gave us Sandman, Swamp Thing, and such than material that isn't any better than your average slashfic on the Internet (not only that, but I don't have to pay $4 for slash) or DeviantART post.  You can depict women as being strong and sexy.  But depicting them as whores at heart undermines the whole strong and sexy vibe.
Epic Fail

Oh, Dabel Dabel Dabel, With Feet Made Out Of Claaaaaaaaaaay....

When you want to be a freelancer in any industry, one of the first lessons you learn is to PAY ATTENTION!  People bitch about rumors all the time, but the fact is, you learn more about what's going on from those little whispers than you ever could from official press releases.

Which brings us to Dabel Brothers.  Dabel Brothers was originally a group doing the self-publishing thing (I have their first series, The Rift, in my library).  Then, somehow, they started making the jump to being a full-fledged studio with Marvel handling the distro duties.  Then they broke away under terms I don't fully understand and won't speculate on here.  They decided to start publishing their own stuff, and licensed several big titles.  They got the rights to make comics based on George R. R. Martin's Wild Cards, Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, and Jim Butcher's Dresden Files.  They also started leveraging their successes with those into licensing more titles like a comic based on the movie The Warriors and hatched a deal with Del Ray publishing to handle their graphic novel stuff.  They also were targeting fans with variant covers of their books.

I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to try pitching to Dabel since they were publishing licensed titles.  See, I knew right away, as soon as I heard it, that Jim Butcher would be writing the Dresden Files comic (one of the novels, Dresden mentions a stack of comic books in his lab next to his magic books).  The others?  I haven't read a Wild Cards book in decades, and I figured high profile titles like these would be going to established talent, not some shmuck who, at the time, didn't have any official credits to his name.  So I put Dabel in the "don't bother" file.

Later on, I was talking with a guy I know who is a professional penciler.  The guy has worked for the majors, so he's not some "I HAZ DRAW!!!1!" dipshit from DeviantART.  He went to Dabel to try for a penciling position.  He went through a few different concept sketches before they told him they really weren't looking for any talent at that moment.  They couldn't have told him that upfront?  That set off the warning bells in my head, as it's a pattern I've seen repeatedly with publishers that ultimately consume themselves.

Since then, Dabel has had a lot of problems.  In the middle of the first Dresden Files mini, an original story called "Welcome To The Jungle", delays happened after issue #2, just as the story really got cooking.  After a while, things cleared up and the story finished.  The next Dresden files series was an adaptation of Storm Front, the first novel.  Fine with me, I already read the novel.  If things go south in the middle of that, I don't care.  Since then, the Wild Cards calendar was supposed to ship for this year.  IIRC, it was April before George R. R. Martin got the calendars to autograph, and he ended his deal with Dabels (the calendars, unless I'm mistaken, still haven't shipped out yet, and the year is nearly over).  There has been a LOT of grumbling about the Dabels not communicating with the talent, even as they sign deals like the one with Del Ray.  Diamond dropped them from their catalog.

Now comes word that Dabels are up to their ears in bills.  A month ago, Lynx Studios went public, saying that Dabel Brothers owed them $27,000 for work they've done on the books.  Now, another studio, Cadence Studios, has gone public, saying Dabel Brothers owes them $11,000.  Their word was on Frankenstein and The Warriors, both of which have been suspended since the studio is refusing to turn over the artwork until they get their cash.  Dabel Brothers is still moving forward with the follow-up series, The Warriors:  Daybreak, as it's by a different creative team.

I'm thinking my friend dodged a bullet by not getting mixed up with them.  And my not bothering to try may have been one of the smartest things I ever did....