As I mentioned in an earlier column, I wasn't able to attend New York Comic Con this year. San Diego Comic Con was fun, but it was not cheap, and the combination of plane ticket, hotel room and registration for NYCC was beyond my means. It was therefore only second-hand that I read about DC's exclusion of Amy Reeder from their All Access: Batman panel. I really wish I could have been there, because I have a question I would have asked. It's a pretty simple question, just three words.
"Are you high?"
Imagine you're DC Comics. After San Diego Comic Con, you weathered some criticism both for your lack of female creators and your unsatisfactory responses to fan questions about it. Maybe it's pressure from above, maybe it's concern that your campaign to get people into the New 52 is getting drowned out by negative internet commentary, maybe it's a genuine recognition on your part that there is a real imbalance in your core creative staff, but whatever the reason, you decide to post a public statement that you value the female creators on your staff and that you'll be making an effort to include more of them in the future.
Still with me? Good. The next big convention coming up is New York Comic Con. You catch a little flak because the only female panelist you announce in advance is artist Amy Reeder, who's working on the second arc of Batwoman. But hey, these things are planned and announced months in advance. Maybe you can't change the schedule to invite Gail Simone, too, or maybe she's busy that weekend. Regardless, at least you have one woman on one of your panels, right?
One of Reeder's four variant covers for Batwoman that DC decided not to use.
Fast forward a few months to New York Comic Con. At the last minute you're told by convention center staff that there's simply not enough room for all the panelists you invited to be on your Batman panel. Maybe there aren't enough microphones, and two people can't possibly share. Maybe you can't fit another chair on the stage without it being a fire hazard. Whatever the reason, now you have a choice. You have to cut one of your headliners from your first and probably most popular panel of the weekend, "DC All-Access: Batman".
Keep in mind that "Batman" doesn't just mean Bruce Wayne. DC has a whole branch of its New 52 devoted to Bat titles. In fact, it's the only branch which has anything approaching an equal number of female and male-led comics, and includes such diverse titles as Batwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, Nightwing, and Birds of Prey. (Maybe this is why the audience at San Diego Comic Con was far more balanced, in terms of gender, at the Batman panel than at the Superman or Justice League panels.)
The pitch for your panel in the program starts off like this: "Find out everything you need to know about the Dark Knight Detective and his cohorts in the new DC universe—from Batwoman to Batgirl to Robin, the Boy Wonder!"
So, now you have a choice. Do you cut:
- Scott Snyder, writer on Batman, which stars Bruce Wayne?
- Greg Capullo, artist on Batman, which still stars Bruce Wayne?
- Tony Daniel, writer on Detective Comics, which stars Bruce Wayne?
- David Finch, writer/artist on Batman: The Dark Knight, which stars Bruce Wayne?
- Lee Bermejo, writer/artist on Batman: Noel, a one-shot Christmas special starring, you guessed it, Bruce Wayne?
- Peter Tomasi, writer on Batman and Robin, starring Bruce and Damian Wayne?
- Chris Burnham, artist on Batman, Inc., which stars…wait for it…Bruce Wayne?
- Kyle Higgins, writer on Nightwing, which stars Dick Grayson?
- Or Amy Reeder, artist on the second arc of Batwoman, which stars Kate Kane?
Of these books, Batman, Detective Comics, Batman: The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin, Nightwing, and Batwoman are part of the New 52, DC's new core of ongoing titles, which they're working very hard to promote. Batman: Inc. and Batman: Noel are both side projects, limited in scope and length. So maybe you ask either Chris Burnham or Lee Bermejo to sit this panel out.
On the other hand, there are two people there to promote Batman, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. If you want to promote as many different books as possible, perhaps you ask one of them to bow out for this panel.
There are also an awful lot of books starring Bruce Wayne. If you want to promote your one-shots and side series, Tony Daniel or David Finch might be gracious enough to step aside to give books starring other characters a chance to be discussed.
The two people I absolutely would not cut from the panel are Kyle Higgins and Amy Reeder. Why? Because they are the only two people there representing books that don't star Bruce Wayne. Amy Reeder is particularly important because, while Nightwing is a long-established character, Batwoman is fairly new, so people are likely to have a lot of questions about her. Also, Batwoman is one of only six solo female character titles of the New 52 (compared to over twenty solo male character titles). This is DC's chance to show that they're sincere in their support of both female creators and female characters. This an opportunity to demonstrate their much-touted "commitment to diversity" in the New 52.
So, of course, DC made the logical choice…and told Amy Reeder that there was no room for her on the panel. When asked afterward by DC Women Kicking Ass why they chose to cut Reeder, David Hyde of DC PR responded: "The panelist line-up was adjusted last week. We wanted to really focus on talking about the second and third issues of the series, with writers and artists talking through slides of the second and third issues."
Okay, that's fair. Except, if that's the case, why was Lee Bermejo, author of one-shot Batman: Noel included? Well, his book is a Christmas special due to release in November. Perhaps it makes sense to promote it now. Batman, Inc., on the other hand, isn't scheduled to start coming out again until 2012. So why wasn't Chris Burnham dropped instead?
I'm not saying that Amy Reeder should have been included because she's a woman. I'm saying she should have been included because she's a woman AND because she was the right choice. She was the only female creator DC promoted as being part of their panels after they'd received widespread criticism regarding their ratio of female to male creators. She was the only panelist at the Batman panel working on a popular, female-led book in a time when DC's been repeatedly panned for their treatment of female characters. She's working on one of the New 52, which DC have been promoting heavily, and she was the only representative for that title available.
Do I think DC chose to drop Amy Reeder because she's a woman? Not exactly. I suspect the people in charge were pressed for time, skimmed over the list of panelists, and picked one who had less seniority and wasn't working on the current arc of her title and sent her an email saying that there was no room on the panel for her. That sort of gender-blindness might be admirable, if it didn't always seem to skew in one direction, and if Reeder really was the most logical person to drop. But it does, and she wasn't.
Whatever the reason, whatever the justification, Amy Reeder was sidelined, her voice wasn't heard at the panel, and as a result, Batwoman wasn't discussed at the panel.
But hey, at least they got to talk about Bruce Wayne.
The Final Squeak
Now would seem to be a good time to re-visit a comic that came out shortly after DC's 'We Hear You' blog post. This is Gutters #171, written by Ryan Sohmer and with art by Doug Ladd and Ed Ryzowski(used with permission).
Kyrax2, in her secret identity, is:
A. A part-time model.
B. An ace World War I pilot.
C. A mild-mannered office manager.
She has a bachelor's degree in:
A. Was sent to Earth by her real parents to escape the destruction of their home planet.
B. Is secretly a robot who can remove her own head.
C. Loves comics and reads any she can get her hands on. (I know, this one's pretty farfetched!)
A. Races ultralights for fun and profit.
B. Used to have a crush on Kitty Pryde.
C. Was born during a total eclipse of the sun.
In her spare time she enjoys:
A. Reading (books and comics), writing (fiction and non), gaming (everything from tabletop wargames and RPGs to Cardcaptor Sakura, Tetris, Rock Band, and DCUO) and watching TV (mainly anime, animated superhero cartoons, and Rifftrax).
B. Building emissions-free vehicles out of recycled materials.
C. Alligator wrestling.