This year’s show, unfortunately, wasn’t terribly successful from a financial perspective. Sales were below last year’s, for both me and my tablemate J.M. Aucoin, but I got to participate in four panels over the weekend, and those were a lot of fun — and educational, for the attendees and for me. I picked up a few new techniques and learned some new approaches to writing, which I’ll never complain about.
Nor will I complain about the fact my last sale of the weekend was to a young girl who walked away hugging her new copy of Action Figures. That made an otherwise slow day totally worth it.
Speaking of Action Figures…
Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play and Action Figures – Live Free or Die: Edited, formatted, awaiting cover art. Speaking of which, check out this color rough of the back cover art, which features Megawatt Quantum, who plays a prominent role in book six. I thought it’d be fun to portray her in the style of a WWII-era pin-up girl, a nod to her penchant for retro fashion. Tricia has some fine details to add but this is basically what you’ll be seeing on the back of book six.
Remember, folks, I am making a small number of advanced reader copies available, so if you’re interested, drop me a line and let me know. I can give you full details then, but I’m looking for people who have read the entire series to date (book six pulls heavily from other events in the series, especially book one), can read book six before it’s released to the public in late February/early March, and will post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or their own personal websites, so serious inquiries only, please. ARC readers will get a finished copy of the book when it’s released in their preferred format.
Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War: First draft finished.
Action Figures – Issue Eight: Crawling from the Wreckage: First draft in progress. Arisia took up my weekend so nothing got done on this or anything, but I hope to get back to it soon.
Action Figures – Issue Nine: Rough plotting in progress.
The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Blades of Glory: Rough plotting in progress.
Last year, I took a look at the cast of my books to see how well I was doing in representing women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. I did this because I’d been reading a lot of articles and essays about how the entertainment media, in particular TV and movies, have been falling down on the job in giving audiences something other than stories featuring straight white male protagonists. If you Google “representation in media” or “diversity in media” you’ll find a treasure trove of data confirming that visual entertainment needs to seriously step up its game when it comes to giving audiences diverse characters.
The issue has been on my mind again recently, but for a different and even more distasteful reason: reactions from what I’ll call “audiences of privilege” to efforts by some media companies to increase diversity. Specifically, some of the reactions to recent pushes by DC and Marvel to attract what can be rightfully called “non-traditional readers” — meaning women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community.
This should be cause for celebration. Attracting new readers, people who might not have shown much interest before in comics because they found none of the current titles appealing, strengthens the industry with an infusion of new blood (and, not at all coincidentally, cash).
Yet there’s been no small amount of push-back from the old boy community. They’re accused DC and Marvel of “pandering” to diverse audiences…because when you give, say, women more female characters and update their costumes to be less sexualized, that’s pandering to women, but keeping her in the same skintight leotard is, somehow, not pandering to men.
(FYI, “pandering” means “to do or provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good, or reasonable.” If someone wants to step up and explain to me why it’s unreasonable to give non-straight white male readers characters they can identify with, go right ahead. I’ll enjoy watching you dig your own grave with great amusement.)
I received a little bit of push-back myself on Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer, which explicitly establishes certain characters as openly homo- or bisexual. A reviewer on Amazon said I was getting “too politically correct.” Hardly a scathing rebuke, but what does it say about any reader when adding diverse characters is succumbing to political correctness rather than endeavoring not to be mindful of the fact not everyone in the world is straight, white, and/or male?
I admit, it took me a while to adjust my own thinking on this issue. I began the series open to creating diverse characters, but did so with the attitude that their diversity had to mean something. It had to matter to the character and the story. I didn’t want to simply throw in a bunch of diverse characters for the sake of it.
Then I read a few things on Tumblr (which, for once, provided me with civil, sane discussion points rather than a profanity-laden, anger-driven rant) that opened my eyes. I can’t find the original post to quote it verbatim, but the argument was, essentially: why do diverse characters have to have a deeper reason to exist? Real people are different for no reason other than that’s how they are. Do you walk up to an African-American and demand they explain why they’re African-American, and challenge their right to exist if they can’t provide a satisfactory argument?
The other post that made me rethink the way I approach storytelling stated that sometimes, simply seeing a diverse character in a story is enough. Giving the character depth and meaning is great, making their diversity meaningful is a lofty goal, but for some audience members, it is very gratifying and encouraging to see a character who is fleshed out, fully realized, isn’t a lazy stereotype, and matters to the story, and just happens to be someone of color, or just happens to be gay.
I understand some of you might be rolling your eyes at all this because it none of this matters to you. Well, guess what? As William Shatner said, you’re not the only one living on this planet. It might not matter to you, but to someone else, it matters a lot, and frankly, I’d rather piss off someone who complains about diversity than someone who complains about the lack of it — because those in that latter category are right.
I’d like to think I took some positive steps toward a more diverse cast with book four, and I’ll give you a head’s up now that the following updated cast list contains a few SPOILERS (capitalized to grab your attention!), so if you haven’t read book four yet, you might want to stop reading now.
Carrie Hauser/Lightstorm: straight white female
Matt Steiger/Captain Trenchcoat: straight white male
Dr. Gwendolyn Quentin/Doc Quantum: straight white female
Joe Quentin/Rockjaw Quantum: straight white male
Megan Quentin/Megawatt Quantum: lesbian white female
Kilroy Quentin/Kilowatt Quantum: straight white male
Farley Quentin/Final Boss: white male (sexuality TBD because he’s only six. Give him time)
Tisha Greene/TranzSister: African-American transgender female (heterosexual by virtue of her current gender)
I dare say I have the LGBTQ spectrum well covered, and I readily admit I am more comfortable presenting these kinds of characters because it’s what I’m familiar with. I know a lot of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, at least one asexual individual, and one transgender person (that I am aware of, at least) through the renaissance faire community, and I encounter these people frequently at the pop culture conventions I work with my wife.
Obviously, my failing continues to be in presenting people of color in prominent roles. There are many minor supporting characters of color, but few in any major spotlight role. Let’s see if I can correct that as I move forward with the series.