Way To Blame The Readers Joe, How Noble Of You.

Marvel Divas cropto see the full Marvel Divas image, go here

I tried to comment on the latest blog posting for “Cup A Joe” that was an interesting and informative feature on Myspace Comics, but alas I was denied.  Could have been just typical “technical difficulties” (which is what it claimed), or I could have been blocked or the comment suppressed…regardless I wasn’t able to get through, so it’s a good thing I have my very own blog with my very own readers and I can make my voice heard despite “technical difficulties”

Below is an excerpt from Joe Quesada’s most recent “Cup A Joe” interview.  The excerpt includes a question from a woman named Ashley asking about our new favorite subject Marvel Divas!  Below Joe’s asinine response is my response to Joe.  You’re gonna wanna read that for sure.

ASHLEY’S (totally valid and deserving to be actually answered) QUESTION: About the “hating” on Marvel Divas, let’s call it what it really is—criticizing how sexist this book appears to be. If Marvel produces comics that are offensive to female readers, why shouldn’t people “hate” on it? Why would I want to support a company that produces offensive, sexist material? Why shouldn’t everyone speak out against it? While the book hasn’t come out yet, what has been released so far is blatantly sexist. But what troubles me the most is that Marvel thinks people want to read this, and this constitutes strong female characterization. Does Marvel actually want to attract female readers or is the whole point that Marvel Comics are only for guys?

Ashley, while I completely respect your opinion as I do every Marvel fan, your calling Marvel Comics and this particular mini series sexist is a bit extreme from where I’m standing.

I’m going to go on a limb here and assume you’re a Marvel reader.  It’s an assumption I’m making based upon the fact that you’re responding to this column.  If you’re Marvel reader and truly feel we’re sexist, then why are you reading our books?  Now, perhaps you’re not a Marvel reader, then if that’s the case, I’m not quite sure what you’re criticizing if you don’t read our books?

Okay, all that aside, I’m going to go with the former assumption. With that in mind, I’m going to be as straight up honest with you as I can possibly be.  That’s what this column is all about.

You haven’t read a lick of this story yet!

Please, I can buy you saying that you’re cautiously pessimistic based upon what you’ve heard so far, but to throw around allegations like that is completely unfair, not just to Marvel or myself, but to the creators and editors who are working on this book.  Have you ever read any of Sacasa’s work?  Have you ever found him to be a sexist writer? Is the cover image provocative, perhaps, but it’s no more or less than any other book we do.

The cold hard reality of publishing and trying to sell our books to as many people as possible, so here’s an example of what happens more often than you may think here at Marvel. From time to time, we’ll be launching a title that doesn’t focus very heavily on the super heroic.  From time to time I’ll get a cover sketch and it doesn’t have a costumed hero or villain on the cover, what we internally refer to as a “quiet cover.”  On those occasions, more often than not, I ask my editors to direct their cover artist to give me at least a first issue cover with the characters in costume.  Why? Because it will help launch a book that will most likely have trouble latching onto a large audience.  We want to give every title the best possible chance to be successful.   Marvel Divas is no different and that’s why you’re seeing our strong female leads in their super hero personas.  Let me try an example outside of comics.  I’m a huge fan of Pink, I really dig her music and love her voice. Love her or hate her, I would say that she’s an amazingly strong and intelligent female performer and song writer in the pop genre.  In many of her songs she even criticizes the over sexualized female pop stars of the day and their over the top videos.  But when you look at Pink’s CD covers, while she’s looking strong and like she’s looking like she’s having fun, she’s also looking really sexy. The reason is simple, she’s trying to grab people’s attention and sell some albums. Comics are no different and as much a part of the entertainment business as any other medium, and the cold hard truth is that if we were to launch Marvel Divas with a “quiet cover,” I guarantee you the book would be canceled before it hits the shelves. That’s it in a nutshell, I could sugar coat it for you and give you a million other reasons that would sound plausible, but that’s not what I do.

So, where does that leave us?  Ultimately, it’s up to you.  If you somehow feel you know what this book is about sight unseen, then by all means just pass it up when it hits the stores.  If you feel like giving it a try, drop me a line and let me know what you think. What I’d like you to avoid however is globally unfair statements like Marvel is sexist.  And if you feel like you’re not being heard or like your opinion doesn’t matter, just look at how much column space I devoted to your question.  Most companies would just duck stuff like this, but you guys are the reason we do what we do and if you have a concern or criticism, I want to try to address them as best I can.  Thanks again for writing and for your question.

MY ANGRY RANTY RESPONSE TO MR. QUESADA: Mr. Quesada you are SO missing the point.  Though I’m not surprised.

It isn’t just Marvel Diva’s J.Scott Campbell sensationalistic cover that Ashley is referring to…she’s also referencing the ridiculous “statement” that went out about the book. The statement/quote has been attributed to you and also to Sacasa – I think it actually belongs to Sacasa – regardless, it was a cluster$#@% of horror.  To say “we’re going to have some sudsy fun” and then in the next sentence say they’re going to try to “ask questions about what it really means to be a woman in male dominated world of testosterone and guns” and then to say in literally the next sentence “but mostly it’s just a lot of hot fun”…is hands down the most sexist handful of sentences strung together in comics that I’ve seen in years…maybe ever.

The reality is that Sacasa is a pretty good writer and I haven’t read anything blatantly sexist of his and Zonjic’s work is interesting and not nearly as sexist as every single thing ever drawn by Campbell, but it speaks to Marvel (and more specifically YOUR) choices that you let this horrible quote go out and pair it with Campbell’s cover art.  Why didn’t you have Zonjic draw and amazing popping superhero costumed cover?  No, you went with a guy whose name is practically synonymous with misogynistic cheesecake.  You don’t want us to judge the book before we read it – well, personally, I’m not and I’ll check it out (though I won’t buy it after the mess you’ve made) – but I AM judging Marvel and they’re failing huge.  The quote, the cover image.  That is ULTIMATE FAIL, and it’s on Marvel, not on me and the many other women and men that are pretty outraged about this ridiculousness.

This dodging answer of yours to a legitimate question just lost you even more respect in my book Mr. Quesada. I understand you’re in a tough position and you have PR people and money people to answer to – it’s a hard job to be “the guy” but I assume rewards come with the horror too and so I expect more from you.

You are absolutely right to say that as a consumer it’s my prerogative to not read your books if I think they’re sexist, but then you undo that by telling me that it’s not my place to complain about it if I’m not a Marvel reader.  Hell yes it is.  Let me say that again.  HELL YES IT IS.  It’s my job as a comic reader (especially a female reader) to both not buy this and to speak out against it, in hopes that it will happen less and comics will make progressive moves forward, regardless of how you deem my (and others) status.

Just the fact that you went on a strange (really long) rant about putting the women in their costumes on the cover – so that you don’t have a “quiet cover” which won’t sell books proves that you have no idea what’s going on, or are hoping we’re stupid enough to fall for your innocent act.  Nobody, and I mean nobody is complaining about the women being pictured in their costumes – we know they’re superheroes – we’re happy to see them in costume – we love superheroes and we love to see them in costume – male or female – if you really think this is the problem with the Marvel Divas cover you’re even more out of touch with reality than I thought.

Way to blame your readers Joe.  It’s so noble of you to push us on your sword like that.  Bravo.


  1. k’s avatar

    I think the first problem is the name of the series…Marvel Divas – DIVAS – why? Whoever coined the phrase DIVA should be punched in the face. It’s conotations are more negative than positive. It eludes to bitchiness and cattiness. There women are super heroes – HEROES. It’s just one more step backwards by using the word Diva. Maybe that’s just me. I’m not a comic book reader but as a women and also a women in a male dominated industry (music) it just makes me angry and sad. The whole comparison to Pink was ridiculous. Intellegent people will see all of this for what it is and Marvel will make a cheap buck and then move onto a different project.

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Uh, TOTALLY. They started on the wrong foot like immediately.

  3. Chai Latte’s avatar

    Why are people “OMG UR BEING SO UNFAIR!” because we have the unmitigated gall to judge a book by its cover?

    I’m just….wow….

    The entire PURPOSE of promotional art is for judging. If you judge that you like some aspect of it, then you’ll buy it. If not, you don’t. That’s why we have book covers, posters and movie trailers. They exist to be judged, so why is this douchenozzle getting his knickers in a twist about it?

    His rant on sexism just highlights the fact that he doesn’t get it. Probably not even if it came in a large bag marked ‘IT’.

    If you can’t be bothered to promote your product well, why should I expend the effort to look beyond your piss-poor ad campaign?

  4. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Chai Latte: Well said. I totally agree. I wish I’d added some aspect of that in my original post, because you’re completely right. Promotional art (like movie posters and trailers and book jacket blurbs etc.) are all there to be judged. Now that you’ve said it though, I don’t have to edit the post – thanks for reading!

  5. Maura’s avatar

    here via WFA

    There is a difference between sexy and sexist

    The “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” contradicts what he says about trying to reach a big audience.

    This is why I have a “NO MARVEL EVER” clause on my comic sub!

  6. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Hey Maura: WFA has all the greatest links on this stuff lately – so many smart bloggers (men and women) have been writing about these issues lately – it’s been really inspiring I think.

    What’s your comic sub? I recently had a friend that offered to maybe hook me up with someone that works/worked for Marvel for a comic submission I was working on, but it all happened right as this all happened and ended up having to tell her that I appreciated the offer immensely but that I didn’t think Marvel and I are going to be a good fit anytime soon. I’m sure Marvel feels the same way!

  7. Ben Cohen’s avatar

    Knowing Kelly from SCAD’s Sequential Art Department I am glad and not surprised she took up a defense of Ashley’s position. From my (male, and in general supporter of Joe {because of the positive run-ins I have had with his pal Jimmy}) perspective on point I back up Kelly’s response. I was introduced to J. Scott Campbell’s work by another friend from Sequential, Zak. Who was a fan due to the sex and whimsy of his work (sorry to drag you in Zak, but you are my reference point here {on balance you are known for loving honestly romantic comics and Love and Rockets which is praised by some feminist}). I would underscore that Joe has put himself in a indefensible position (in part because he has been put in charge of a company that still despite efforts around the fringes caters to pre-pubescent-pubescent boys, and to no fault of his own he has likely been immersed in this world his whole life, thus skewing his perspective and effort to diversify {I say most of this not knowing the man at all}). But the idea of the book was to attract female readership and it has colossally failed in promoting this idea. His dismissive misreading of Ashley’s perspective is disappointing. Based on the review of Marvel’s Diva’s (a terrible name) on CBR I am left with the impression that while improving on the promotion, the book leaves much to be desired as a serious effort to appeal to female readership {and yes I have no intentions of reading it}. This tradition of having talented and perhaps in this case less talented artist do cover art in comics they have nothing else to do with has always driven me nuts. I am constantly pick up books of the rack, flipping through the pages and then finding I can’t conceive of enjoying the read because aesthetically it looks horrible. This is the reverse case, not that Campbell’s drawing is bad, but it certainly misrepresents the defended intent. This does speak to a broader and deeper issue in superhero comics, one that Kelly, I and others have been working to change from the sidelines. In Sequential we had many talented female cartoonists (Robyn Chapman, Renee Alexander (who in vain did a lecture on how to draw breasts), Kristin A. Hogan, Trisha Toms) that tried to help change the male culture we were learning in. But the intransient problem is that superhero comics consistently present a female form that is so consistent it only changes with the decade and the artist (same can and should be said for the male form, which has other issues only in the scope of the broader cultural problem we face). Campbell’s cover depicts four identical female forms with different color and stance. This is unrealistic, say what you will about Love & Rockets female forms, but in these books at least variety rules. It should be clear to all of us wow much of a failure this was when you add in the copy that went with the promotion. The elephant in the room is what this is doing to young male’s perspective of female sexuality and how it affecting their personal perspectives both in objectifying women and internally being honest with what attracts them. There is a social pressure on them to expect this unrealistic form. In my experience what attracts men in female form is as varied as it is in the forms they embody. I can think of one well made comic series that somewhat discussed this issue (Sensational She-Hulk by John Byrne…which also was one of the sexiest books I read as a pre-teen), it played with the notion that superheroes never seem to age and if they did how would it affect their figure. I would love to know Jimmy’s wonderful partner Amanda’s perspective on this.

  8. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Hey Ben

    Thanks for stopping by and for commenting (and also – “hello – and long time no see – and how the hell are you” and all that).

    In regards to CBR’s actual review of Marvel Divas #1…they punked out as far as I’m concerned. For other (I feel more accurate) reviews check out mine (posted 7/2/09) or any of the reviews that are going to show up on WFA (When Fangirls Attack) over the next few days/weeks.

    In fairness to Quesada, who I have been tearing apart on this blog and to anyone that will listen to me for more than five minutes at a time, I agree that he’s in a very tough position. And until this “answer” he gave to Ashley, though I was still angry with him, I could at least feel for the guy.

    It’s one thing to be a blogger or independent artist or any number of things where you can have some critical thoughts and throw stones at the glass house…it’s a whole other thing when you’re a part of the machine and you have a lot of people to answer to and sales to meet and people pay and all of it. So I was willing to give him a little bit the benefit of the doubt.

    Until he insulted Ashley and thinking Marvel Fans everywhere (male and female alike) with his asinine response. And I no longer have any pity for the man. I hope we don’t run into each other in the New York City streets as I will happily be kicking him the balls on behalf of fans everywhere…it’s the least he deserves.

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