The Real Comic Book Community

Yesterday was a little nuts. An op-ed piece I wrote for CBR, independent of In Your Face Jam, has blown up online, proving to be one of the more popular artifacts I've contributed to the internet (way more popular than the "Star Wars" prequel I made in my backyard as a freshman in high school; dig that one up on YouTube). The piece was quoted on other websites. I had numerous people thank me via Twitter for writing it, including comic book writer Jim McCann who, as a gay man in the comic book industry, is definitely a role model of mine. The response has been overwhelming. I'm going to just assume that, for the most part, it's been overwhelmingly positive.

This whole Orson Scott Card debate has really highlighted what I consider to be the real comic book community. The real comic book community is caring. They let you know when you've done a good job and they're sincere in their praise. As I've learned as an op-ed writer, there's no more anxious time than right after a new article goes up. Will I be vilified? Did I leave out an important perspective? Did I misspell a word? I'm not saying that I believe the real comic book community agrees with everything I write; I'm saying that the real comic book community knows that if there's no positive comment to leave, then they don't leave a comment.

The real comic book community takes a stand for what they believe in. I've had the pleasure of knowing Michael Hartney, who's been at the center of this whole Orson Scott Card thing, for the last few years. In addition to being one of the most brilliantly funny actors and writers to come out of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, he's also the biggest Superman fan I've ever met. Like, however much I love the X-Men, he loves Superman ten times that much. He wrote a next-level-hilarious one-man show about his love for the character that had one of the longest runs of any show at the UCB Theatre. The guy's the real deal when it comes to comedy and comics, and it turns out he's the real deal when it comes to fighting injustice...just like Superman.

It was >Hartney's Tumblr post that alerted me to the whole "DC hires a bigot to write the greatest superhero of all time and we're all supposed to be cool with it" debacle. He alerted me to the legit petition with traction to get Card dropped from the project. It was his impassioned plea to DC Comics that went incredibly viral. I just wrote an op-ed piece and kinda called it a day. Hartney is fighting the fight, and he's my friend. And he's a comic book fan. And when backed into a corner, when threatened, he's fighting back. He's fighting for justice on the level of Superman (when deflated for the real world; we don't really get alien invasions here).

As an aside, I feel like those who don't understand why people are so up in arms about Orson Scott Card have to be straight or, if they have gay friends, have not taken the time to ask them what this is all about. They've never had their right to love questioned and turned into a divisive talking point. They've never been told they're going to hell, and members of their own family have definitely never told them that. They don't know what it's like to read about the insane acts of physical violence committed against the LGBT community and to think, "Am I next?" They don't know what it's like to be forced to question every religious belief they've ever had, once they've had the condemnation-y bits of it thrown in their face. They don't know what it's like to want representation, because seemingly every character in everything looks and loves just like them.

On the other hand, they'll never know the power of reading something like Greg Rucka's "Go" or "Half A Life" storyarcs starring Batwoman and Renee Montoya, respectively. They'll never experience the relief and excitement of those stories, where the collective LGBT community finally said, "He gets it, someone gets it, they're paying attention to us, they care." But back on the other, less-good hand, they can't comprehend what it means for the same company who published those stories to hire someone like Orson Scott Card. We're angry because DC Comics has been an incredible ally to the LGBT community, and this proves that they still don't really get it. Just like our family members, who love us but still vote to put lawmakers in power that will do everything they can to keep us unequal. Just like families who claim to accept us, but then ask us to call our significant others "our friend" at family functions. You can't only be an ally when it's convenient. By hiring Orson Scott Card, DC Comics is saying that they're only going to be an ally of the LGBT community when a big-budget blockbuster by a notorious, vile homophobe isn't on the release schedule.

So yes, Michael Hartney is part of the real comic book community because he is fighting this. And all of the creators and fans and comic book shops that have rallied together are the real comic book community as well. I call them that because they aren't letting themselves be defined by hatred. I cannot believe that any human being who reads a single X-Men comic monthly (or weekly, am I right? Ya got ZINGED, Marvel NOW!) would support Card. The superheroes that we love fight for equality, and I believe that the real comic book community feels similarly.

Truthfully, this old way of thinking is dying out. It's dying out in politics, as evidenced by us finally having a President that will fight for that whole "created equal" thing that's in the Declaration of Independence. Comics could get away with hiring Card as recently as four years ago, when he wrote the "Ultimate Iron Man" series for Marvel. I had no idea he had those beliefs, the Internet wasn't built for the massive and instantaneous spreading of thought that Twitter now provides, and our country was not on board for equality. But we've grown and changed, as a country and as a comic book community. Artists can continue to draw women with malfunctioning zippers and contortionist poses, but they're going to get called out on it. Teams can be as white as the cast of "Friends," and they're going to get called out on it. And companies that have a trophy case full of GLAAD Awards can hire a bigot, and they're going to get called out on it.

The comic book community is no longer an exclusive club, and it is a fact that this is for the best. A fact. More people of different sexes, genders, races, ethnicities, backgrounds, orientations, everything are paying money to read comics and then giving valuable insight into what makes them work. And the more inclusive the comic book community is, the more people will buy comics. The more people that buy comics means more comics made, and more risks taken with new series.

This Orson Scott Card outrage, and every other outrage for that matter, is not about stifling the straight white male demo. I love that demo. I was in that demo for the first two misguided decades of my life, and I've had way too many crushes on members of your demo to hate you. This controversy is about pulling up the other demos to your level. We've heard from the straight white male demographic nonstop for the last seventy years, and it's time to hear from other people. This isn't a bad thing. In fact, it'll give you a little time to rest your voice. In the real comic book community, people listen. So listen to what others have to say while you're resting your voice, and then keep what you heard in mind when you speak again. There's room for everyone in the real comic book community.

Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre show Left Handed Radio: The Sequel Machine. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).

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