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The point of my "On -isms" feature here is to point out the racism, sexism, able-ism, etc. that happens in comics. Mostly in the hopes that, once some of this crap is pointed out, people can recognize it and change things for the better.

I don't know how much impact I've actually had here, but I know I've had at least a few people contact me and say that something I wrote here changed how they saw and reacted to some comics. So there's something. But the problem I often run into is that much of what I write about here is in the abstract. I'll provide made-up examples, maybe exaggerated to a farcical degree to hammer a point home, and that leaves room for people to say, "Yeah, that's all well and good in theory, but that doesn't actually happen."

Without concrete, real-world examples, backed with evidence, people are quick to dismiss things like this. I mean, look at the story with Roy Moore in Alabama... there are three women who came out citing sexual assault. Willing to put their names out in the public against the Republican candidate for state senator -- one of them even producing physical evidence of at least severely inappropriate behavior -- and how many people dismissed their claims as lies? Six other women claimed sexual harassment -- many dismissed them as liars too. Nine people. First-hand accounts with names, dates, places... Overlooked by a significant portion of the electorate. So with that level of dismissal when you have real-world examples provided by the actual people involved, how readily do you suppose people would believe in a hypothetical?

The challenge, then, is to bring to the table as many real-world examples as you can. With as much evidence as you can. The reason why that's a challenge is because most people don't want to call those people out by name.

I know women who've been sexually assaulted in the comics industry. Women I've known for a decade or more. I know more lurid and graphic details than I really want to. But what I don't know are the names. They won't tell me who actually did what. So all of it, despite those nasty details I kind of wish I didn't know, remains theoretical. "Some guy" who slid his hand down her back and into her underwear isn't anything anyone can act on; but if you say "Bob Smith" slid his hand down her back and into her underwear, now we can talk to HR and maybe do something.

But many people are willing/able to do that. To name names.

I get it. If you call out "Bob Smith" and he gets fired, that's probably going to make his friends upset. And if his friends hold more power than you in the industry, they can sabotage your work or even your career. And whether they make that threat explicit or not, the threat is still there. So it's easier and safer for your job if you don't call out Bob. Which means he got away with it. And will probably get away with it again. Maybe with someone else. Because he was shown that those actions don't have consequences.

But that's why I generally don't have a bigger impact on this stuff. I can't name names, because I don't have any. So my examples have to be in the abstract. Making it easy for people to dismiss them since "that never happens like that!"
For the past couple weeks in my "On History" spot, I've been posting some comic book scripts that I had found floating around in my archives. This week, I've got Steve Englehart's original script for Fantastic Four: Big Town #1 (cover dated December 2000). The basic plot was: what if Reed Richards' and Tony Stark's inventions were given actual social ramifications? Like, if "unstable molecules" were really a thing, how would that impact society beyond just being stretchy fabric for superheroes.

Readers noticed a problem from the first issue, though. Namely, that just before the issue hit stores, Englehart publicly noted that his script had been changed without his consent or even knowledge! Marvel editorial (and I don't recall who specifically) did own up to the changes, citing timing/production issues and they posted Englehart's original script on their site as a sort of mea culpa. (It's since been lost/removed in one of the site redesigns.)

It turns out, though, that part of Englehart's anger at the time came from before that problem even cropped up! Over at his site, Englehart notes...
An almost total disaster.

Conceived as a gift to Marvel - a new franchise with unlimited possibility - it ended up edited by people who couldn't understand it (and it ain't that hard). It was approved as six issues, plotted as six issues, and then cut to four. The first issue was printed with pages out of order and characters dumbed down. The title was changed to FANTASTIC FOUR: BIG TOWN, even though it featured all the major groups. And then #4 had non-sequiturs edited in for no reason anyone's ever been able to explain. (My favorite is a caption, "The very core of the earth," as the Silver Surfer soars into New York.)
The finished product wasn't bad, I didn't think, but certainly not as good as it could have been. Possibly explaining why it's never been collected or reprinted.

In any event, here's Englehart's original script to issue #1 with red highlights noting the portions that were changed.

Fantastic Four: Big Town #1 by Steve Englehart
One of the bigger news items in comics from the tail end of last week was that Comic-Con International in San Diego had won a trademark suit against Salt Lake City Comic Con over the name "Comic Con." The ruling is expected to be appealed, but at the moment, it appears the law of the land is that San Diego has the one and only Comic Con. I didn't follow the proceedings at all, and only just scanned some of the documentation after the fact, so I don't know the specific arguments they used. However, I can say anecdotally at least that CCI seemed seriously in danger of seeing "Comic Con" as useless a brand as "Kleenex" or "Xerox."

Kleenex and Xerox are prime cases for what happens when you don't monitor (and enforce) your brand very closely. Both of those are, of course, brand names, but the names themselves became so over-used and misapplied so often without correction that the companies have all but lost those brands. How many people, after all, ask for "Kleenex" after they sneeze instead of a "facial tissue"? I'm pretty sure almost no one cares what brand of tissue they're given to keep from having to wipe their nose on their sleeve, but they say "Kleenex" anyway. As far as they're concerned, "Kleenex" is the generic (and shorter) term for "facial tissue."

Likewise, few people ask for a photocopy of a document; instead they ask for a Xerox. They've only got about 15-16% of the market share when it comes to photocopiers, but people continue to use "Xerox" as a shortened form of "photocopy" because the company did a poor job of policing the name's usage. I suspect they thought it was cool, in fact, that they were so dominant in the market that their name literally became a synonym for the product. Of course, the down side to that is that people o longer thought of "Xerox" as a specific brand -- the company lost brand loyalty. People saw any photocopy as coming from a Xerox, regardless of how good or bad the quality was. And that's not a good place to be as a brand, when low-tier competitors can bring your name down just by putting out their crappy alternative.

"Comic Con" was well on its way to that direction, as far as I could see. While comics and pop culture fans generally seemed to understand that "Comic Con" means a specific show at a specific location at a specific time, everyone I talked to outside of comics would use "Comic Con" for every convention. They would talk of "Chicago Comic Con" or "Cleveland Comic Con" or "Peoria Comic Con" regardless of what the name of the show actually was.

Further, they seemed to have no mental distinction between them. As if they were all part of one big event, and the only difference between one and the next was location. The Arlington Heights Library FanCon is seen in the same light at SPX which is seen in the same light as any of the Wizard shows. Obviously, they're all run by different groups with different agendas but, as far as most people are concerned, they're all the same.

I'm sure some of that stems from ignorance. Most people haven't been to CCI to compare it to show put on by their local library. They probably haven't even been to one of the larger "local" shows to make any comparisons there either. All they know is that it's a convention with comics and comic-related stuff, so it must be Comic Con. Without CCI putting their foot down here, I think there would continue to be legitimate confusion over how these shows relate to one another (or don't) and I can easily imagine witness testimony from someone expecting to see some version of the San Diego show that they saw about on the news, only to discover it's a considerably smaller show in one of the County Fairgrounds buildings and the biggest media guest is some guy who was an extra on one episode of Happy Days.

Whether or not the attorneys actually argued that point, I don't know, but I can't imagine it would've been difficult to approach it from that direction.
Here are this week's links to what I've had published recently...

Kleefeld on Comics: On Business: Korean IPs?

FreakSugar: Fanthropology: An Anti-Fan’s Perception

Kleefeld on Comics: On History: FF #35 & #50 Scripts

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld On Webcomics #51: Kicking The Habit
Kleefeld on Comics: Weekly Comics Links

FreakSugar: Webcomics Wednesday: Repercussions?

Patreon: MTV Geek Classic: Kleefeld On Webcomics #52: Henry Art Gallery's Morning Serial

Kleefeld on Comics: On Strips: A Cartoonist's Memoriam

Cartoonist Michael Cavna lost his father earlier this week. He noted, "I haven't been able to quite put my feelings into pure words. So instead, I created this short "animated" eulogy -- my small tribute to Dad, and newspapers, and the gift of handing down the art of storytelling."

My condolences, of course, to Cavna and his family. It's never fun to lose a parent, but I like that some people are able to take those feelings of sorrow and that sense of loss and turn it into something beautiful.

Go watch: For Art's Sake: The Newspaper My Father Gave Me...