Panel Of The Week – 2/9/11

I love it when comics make me chuckle.  Batgirl #18 was full of good chuckles this week.  And one of them (I think) translates well enough in a single panel to work for panel of the week.  Despite really liking a few comics this week, and really hating a few others, I had trouble sussing out a single exceptional panel…but fun chuckles win the day.

Batgirl #18 was excellent this week.  It was by far the best single issue in the 18 month run – the art by Dustin Nguyen was superb, the colors by by Guy Major (and Nguyen – because I’m guessing the watercolors were his…?) are exceptional and the writing by Bryan Q. Miller was hilarious.  All of which makes my decision to drop all current Bat-books (Batman Inc, Batman & Robin, Red Robin, Batgirl, Batman: Streets of Gotham, and Batman) from my pull list in protest of the continued mis-handling (and lately seemingly joyful mis-handling) of the Cass Cain issue pretty sad.  For the uninitiated the “Cass Cain issue” is essentially that the character continues to be horribly mis-treated and ignored.  It’s a particularly grievous offence considering that the Bat family and brand is – and has been for months – in a process of massive re-expansion and reunion as Bruce has returned from the dead while his daughter remains painfully, obviously, ridiculously and stupidly absent from all of it.

It’s often said in comics that there’s only one way to protest things you don’t like and that way is to vote with your dollars.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any hard evidence of such a thing actively working…and as someone that writes about comics and comics related things that is often hard for me to do, as I feel compelled to be in the loop and know what’s going on…but I feel it’s important here – and despite Batman being my favorite character of all time – to finally make a stand on this issue beyond railing about it on blogs, signing petitions, writing letters, and rambling about it on podcasts – so I did it.

With regret I picked up my last Bat-books this week and updated my pull list at the comic shop.  I’ve kept Batwoman on the list as it’s one of the only forthcoming superhero books I’ve been excited about for…well…more than a year now…and because I find that with effort I can rationalize that book as it seems to be rather removed from the issue of Cass and perhaps a bit from the Bat-books in general, but it’s with disappointment (after this issue especially) that I find I can’t do the same for Batgirl.

But I must say it’s a huge compliment to Mr. Miller that I tried so hard to rationalize keeping Batgirl on…I never thought in a million years I’d be sad to drop a book starring Stephanie Brown, so I genuinely offer you congrats on some damn fine work over the last year and a half sir.  And thank for this last great Panel Of The Week!

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  1. Brendan T’s avatar

    Batwoman’s important to keep on, due to representing both strong female characters and strong gay superheroes. Similarly, I’d say Batgirl is important to keep on for being a book with a strong, smart female protagonist which is all ages friendly and just outright fun. Don’t know if you’re counting Birds of Prey (DC does, so…) but it’s another one that aside from being very good, is both detached from the issue and well written and featuring kickass women.

    The rest of the Bat-books, go for it (though keep an eye out for if/when Cass shows up in Red Robin again as promised…voting with dollars, after all…) It’s a bold and tough move, especially with your position as a standout voice for the fanbase online (especially the feminist portion, which I include myself in) but I’m begging you to keep fighting for the underdogs of the line, and in petitioning for the return of Cass not undercutting other well written books with strong female protagonists.

    Now, if you just outright aren’t fussed on Batgirl, that’s a different issue obviously. I just think it’d be a tragic casualty to cut out a book that encourages diversity purely for the sake of another.

    That was long and rambly and hopefully came across the right way. I love your column and support your protest of the Batbooks. I just want to push for a title I love that I feel adds some diversity to the DCU.

    Brendan T

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @Brendan T: Hey Brendan. Thanks for the well-thought out (and respectful) comment. I will think some more about whether Batgirl should stay on the list. In truth I have not been wild about the book (despite loving this last issue) but I have been supporting it with my dollars etc., because I DO believe it’s an important book that fills an important demographic.

    I think if not for the really offensive absence of Cass in the otherwise adorable intro to Batgirl (15?) I could say Batgirl gets a pass…but I planned to drop the book back then because of it…and am now wondering if I was right back then and shouldn’t have reconsidered. We’ll see…I’ll think about it some more.

    BoP feels pretty separate from the Bat-books to me, so I’m planning to keep in on, though in truth I have not liked it so far – mostly due to really terrible frequently offensive art – I am excited about Saiz coming on board and hope that will turn things around.

    I will keep an eye out for Cass’ return in Red Robin – agreed that it’s important to vote with my dollars there if she shows up – however I’ll admit that I didn’t love her brief appearance in RR earlier…mostly because it didn’t make much sense. :(

  3. Brendan T’s avatar

    Cass’ return in Red Robin felt like a token gesture screaming “LOOK! HERE IS CASS CAIN! SHE IS HERE! YOU CAN STOP CALLING FOR HER NOW!” That she was in a non-identity with an awful costume and for reasons that made little to no sense and didn’t really say or do anything of note just made that all the more obvious. And I mean, Cass is my favourite Batgirl (I prefer Babs as Oracle, something that may get me tarred and feathered, but hey) and one of my favourite characters period, so it’s frustrating to see just how badly they’ve handled her since her solo series ended.

    I just wish DC would get behind her. Even as much as they’ve been behind Steph post-return. I’m not asking for her to be the central Bat-Character. Any regular, respectful role would do.


  4. georgethecat’s avatar

    Hey Kelly,

    I was one of the creators of the Cass Cain Counts petition. I’ve even sent off a letter to DC about Cass and Jason (and Mia Dearden, a favourite of mine as well). I understand why you’re dropping the Batbooks. I was so incredibly frustrated that Cass continues to be overlooked. I mean, I get when Bruce might say something like my family and he doesn’t include his son who has become an outsider (even though that doesn’t negate the adoption).
    But to continuously do it to Cass over and over and over again after fans ask and ask and ask and ask about her is just… infuriating. Myself and my fellow creator of the petition are going to post it to a few more places and then send it off to DC. Maybe at some point they will finally get the message.
    I can’t give up on Steph because I love this book, it made me happy this past week when a lot of comics made me annoyed, but I feel like I still can’t give up on Cass.

    Fabian Nicieza is answering questions on the Robin thread of the DC message boards. I personally hate going to that board because of the *isms I face (ie. I’ve brought up Mia and have been told she’s a “goner” or that Talia al Ghul is a slut, etc. UGH) BUT I encourage you to go to the thread to specifically question him about what’s going on with Cass.

    I’ve asked him and he’s said he’s got plans in place for her. He answers people regularly (and usually not just a non-answer like when I asked JT Krul about Mia’s reappearance) and he’s at least an advocate for her *right now* and as a supporting role. Here’s the link to the thread:

  5. Billy’s avatar

    “Voting with your dollar” is a horribly flawed method of reader feedback, but is unfortunately almost the only general feedback method that DC or Marvel use.

    The problem with not buying Batgirl is that you are only telling DC that you aren’t buying Batgirl. It is up to DC in how they interpret that data, as to whether you just don’t like something of the current series (not true by your own words above), don’t like Stephanie as Batgirl (not entirely true by your words above), or just don’t like a Batgirl book as a concept (presumably not true either.) The idea that someone isn’t buying Batgirl because they don’t like how a former Batgirl is being treated elsewhere will probably never even cross their minds.

    The only things you are hurting are yourself (by not getting a book that you like), the current Batgirl series (which you apparently like), and the chances of any continued Batgirl book (which is a book concept that you apparently want to see continued.) One thing you aren’t particularly helping is Cass Cain’s fate, other than perhaps the chance that DC will get upset with Steph’s performance and return the title to Cass, which won’t necessarily actually help how they treat Cass even if it does happen.

    Even if DC heard your reasons, that you exclude Batwoman from a blanket Bat-ban undermines any statement your ban makes about the line-wide treatment of Cass. It undermines any resolve, because it shows you will make exceptions for titles that you really like. I cannot help but think that if you liked Steph, that you might rationalize keeping that title as well (like “we need to support any good/fun titles with a female lead”).

  6. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @Georgethecat and Brendan T – will come back to respond to you directly soon.

    @Billy: How do you like this rationalization then?

    I am dropping Batman Inc. because it is the perfect place in the expansion of the brand for Cass to show up, but instead she is being summarily ignored.

    I am dropping Batman & Robin because of the “great to have the WHOLE family together” remark in the latest issue that sparked my “last straw” here.

    I am dropping Batgirl because of the offensive scrubbing of Cass from the Batgirl history in Batgirl #15’s otherwise pretty adorable opening.

    I am dropping Red Robin, because though I appreciate that Nicieza is an advocate of Cass and a fan, and will maybe someday do something good with her, this was not it. That was not a Cass I recognized or appreciated and while I believe HIS intent was likely good, it felt a bit like a “here she is, now shut up already” to the fans.

    I am dropping Batman because it sucks.

    I am dropping Batman Streets of Gotham because it has not been very good…and is now canceled, so what’s the point.

    I am KEEPING Batwoman, because thus far I haven’t seen any connection between Cass Cain and the book or character. Certainly nothing offensive has happened yet…which is easy since other than what we saw in Detective there’s only been one issue. It’s not a book it makes sense for her to be in (unless it does suddenly make sense and she shows up – at which point I’ll be delighted). If there’s an offensive Cass related storyline/omission etc., then I’ll have to revisit the question of whether Batwoman can stay on the pull list.

    That reasoning more to your personal liking?

    As a side note, it’s really fucking annoying for someone to come around and try to pick apart an argument that I ADMIT UP FRONT is at least partially flawed and rationalizing. Also, while we’re here, I don’t really say I like the Batgirl series (which I don’t). I say I liked this ISSUE very much. The rest of the series has not been much to my taste, in part because I don’t care much about the character, although I do think Miller has done a hell of a job with it. But you know, go ahead, keep assuming things outside of what I actually say…knock yourself out.

  7. Billy’s avatar

    A detailed explanation for each book works better to express your point. It certainly lets me know just why you don’t like each book. For one thing, I don’t even try to follow Red Robin, so I didn’t know what it did to upset you. (The others I now recall from stuff like previous podcasts.)

    My issue wasn’t that you decided to keep Batwoman, but rather that you described it (both here and I believe in the podcast) as dropping all the Bat-books but deciding to keep Batwoman anyway. I see the two as different, even if the results are the same.

    Okay, part of my issue was that “voting with your dollars” just doesn’t work. Actually, it happens to be a pretty big issue with me in general, whether it comes from someone suggesting a boycott or from someone on the company side who tries to defend it as a legitimate and informative (and often the only) method of feedback. Voting with your dollar can do as much harm as good simply because it is up to the company as to how they want to interpret sales. I will apologize for at least some of my tone for that reason, as I probably would have come off a bit less preachy otherwise.

    As for the current Batgirl series, you have been sounding increasingly positive about it, and above you said that you did try hard to rationalize keeping it as well. That’s why I assumed you don’t hate the current series. I apologize for calling it “a book that you like” in my third paragraph. I should have included a more cautionary word or phrase in there. Hrm, that sentence is kind of messed up anyway. It certainly didn’t need the bit in the second set of parenthesis, which was redundant to the first, and combined it probably came off like repeated blows of a hammer, me telling you that you like something.

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