Censorious New Mexican Gaiman-Hating Assholes Lie in the Smoldering Rubble of Defeat!

UPDATE TIME: The New Mexico school in Alamagordo that had removed Neil Gaiman’s book Neverwhere from its reading list due to the censorious protestations of one First Amendment-hating mom has overridden her objections and returned the book to its proper place among students, where they can CHOOSE to read it. Many thanks go out to the CBLDF for their support in this fiasco. You can read the summary of the school board’s decision here.

It’s extremely heartening to me that the school board chose to side with the First Amendment on this issue. An important fact in this case is that Nancy Wilmott, the laughably-yet-dangerously-outraged mom in question, seems to have conveniently glossed over is that Neverwhere was NEVER mandatory reading. The book could be swapped out at any time for any other book on the school’s reading list. Wilmott claimed she was never given the option for her daughter to swap the book out; reading between the lines, I get the feeling this woman was so focused on the material that was offending her that she put blinders on to every other facet of the situation.

So, good on you, Alamagordo, N.M. High school board. It’s all too easy–and unfortunately common–for pressure groups or individuals who believe they have the authority to push their beliefs onto others to sway opinion in their favor, despite the law and common sense, just because they, in their outrage, yell louder than the voices of reason. Parents like Nancy Wilmott, who was so offended that a book her sixteen-year-old daughter was reading contained–GASP!– a sex scene, are completely out of touch with reality, living in their own world as defined by Reagan-era puritanical conservatism and censorship. People like this, though certainly welcome to their own opinion, are dangerous because they think EVERYONE ELSE has a right to their opinion as well. Beware the moral majority, because the only thing they represent is their own self-interests.

Fortunately, one school board in New Mexico saw through their bullshit and lies. Let’s hope other such authority figures can see that light as well.

~ILL DIABLO~

To the Bat-poles! NEIL GAIMAN’S BEEN BANNED!!

It’s come to my attention that, last week, a New Mexico high school was bullied into removing Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere novel from its mandatory reading list by a close-minded, mean-spirited, censorious mom who was apparently shocked that her daughter might read something that has the word “fuck” in it. (Cue Helen Lovejoy’s and Maude Flanders’ shrill cry, “Won’t SOMEbody think of the CHILDREN?!”)

The passage in question that made her so irate reads thus:

A late-night couple, who had been slowly walking along the Embankment toward them, holding hands, sat down in the middle of the bench, between Richard and Anaesthesia, and commenced to kiss each other, passionately. “Excuse me,” said Richard to them. The man had his hand inside the woman’s sweater and was moving it around enthusiastically, a lone traveler discovering an unexplored continent. “I want my life back,” Richard told the couple.

“I love you,” said the man to the woman.

“But your wife–” she said, licking the side of his face.

“Fuck her,” said the man.

“Don’ wanna fuck her,” said the woman, and she giggled, drunkenly. “Wanna fuck you….” She put a hand on his crotch and giggled some more.

Oh, man. That’s some pretty fucked up fucking shit. Holy fuck, this fucking woman’s fucking daughter is going to be scarred for fucking life! All be-fucking-cause she read the word “FUCK!” Fuck me running, that’s some harsh fucking shit.

The mom in question, one Nancy Wilmott, actually succeeded in getting Alamagordo High School to remove the book. The cowardly school board acceded to her forceful, unconstitutional request and is currently “reviewing” the book for content. Wilmott’s other bone to pick with the book was the sexually-charged nature of the above passage, which she contends is R-rated… to which I call BULLSHIT. If you call THAT sexually charged, it’s extremely evident to me that you’ve never turned on your TV or watched a movie or read a book. Aside from the use of the word “fuck,” there is absolutely nothing going on there that her 15-year-old daughter can’t see anytime she wants on basic cable. And as for the word “fuck,” let’s be real: the girl is FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. If she hasn’t heard the word “fuck” by this point in her life, then her overbearing mother needs to get her off the tit and out into the real world NOW. Can’t protect ’em forever, lady, nor should you try.

But unfortunately, it seems the school board is going to back down to this sanctimonious, self-righteous bitch. The school superintendent said,

I reviewed the language personally. I can see where it could be considered offensive. The F-word is used. There is a description of a sexual encounter that is pretty descriptive, and it’s between a married man and a single woman. Although kids can probably see that on TV anytime they want, we are a public school using taxpayer dollars. On that basis, we have decided to temporarily remove the book until we can review it with our panels and make a decision.

Wow, dude. Way to have a spine. It’s great to know that our educators, whose primary function is supposed to be to open students’ minds to the world around them, buckle like a belt when it comes to pressure brought about by ONE busy-body PMRC-wannabe mom. Especially since the school has a waiver system in which the students can opt out of reading a particular book in lieu of others on the list, although of course Nancy Wilmott denies her daughter was ever given the chance to utilize her waiver.

There is, however, one silver lining to this story, and that’s the high school’s English teacher, Pam Thorp, is vigorously and publicly fighting the censorship. She had this to say:

I cannot and will not condone the censorship this parent is promoting. The implication that we are careless or irresponsible simply is not true. Presenting challenging material of merit that may contain some foul language or mature situations, in a sensitive and academic manner, is part of our responsibility to our students in order to engage them in evaluating the human condition. I take that responsibility very seriously and strive every day to encourage my students to think … about the world, about their community, about their friends and about themselves. Censorship is the opposite of that.

Bravo to Mrs. Thorp. I certainly wish her the best of luck in this terrible situation, although, given New Mexico’s freakishly pervasive conservative culture, I fear she’s on the losing side of this battle. Sure, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is on the case, but this is, unfortunately, just another instance of a Moral Majority-type parent thinking she has the right to dictate for EVERYONE what SHE personally finds offensive. Bottom line: just because Nancy Wilmott finds page 86 of Neverwhere offensive–nothing else with the book, mind you–it does NOT mean she has the right to dictate to anyone else what is and isn’t appropriate for them to read. Reading is meant to open minds, not close them (unless you’re reading a Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter book). Anyone who believes otherwise is fooling themselves, and needs to get a life otherwise, instead of imposing themselves on somebody else’s.

DC’s Big Gay Batwoman Faux Pas Continues to Suck Dick

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I have some pretty strong feelings regarding DC’s recent ejection of writers/artist J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman from their Batwoman title. (Technically, yes, they quit–but considering the near-constant harassment the duo suffered at the hands of editorial, their quitting was a pretty clear-cut sign that this was the end result DC was hoping for, they just didn’t have the balls to outright fire the creative team of their most gay-friendly book.) Hell, if you read the internet, you know MOST comics fans have strong feelings on this. But, based on the writers’ own words in the fallout of the debacle, I was willing to give DC the benefit of the doubt, as according to them, their termination was based not on homophobic sentiment but rather “eleventh-hour editorial decisions.”

Recent events have caused me to rethink my position.

Dan DiDio recently announced at the Baltimore Comic-Con that the outgoing writers were to be replaced by one Marc Andreyko. On the one hand, Andreyko is a decent enough writer whose style is reminiscent of the neo-noir currently working its mojo in Batwoman; his Manhunter series could actually be said to have all the DNA of the current Batwoman book except for the art itself; and he drew Brian Michael Bendis’s stellar Torso true-crime series back in 2000. But on the other hand…

MARC ANDREYKO IS OPENLY GAY. Holy “trying to cover up our boneheaded blunder by committing another boneheaded blunder,” Batman!

Hiring an openly-gay writer when the majority of comicdom is heaving accusation bricks of homophobia through your window is nothing more than a shallow, callous PR stunt. Andreyko didn’t get hired for his talent; he got hired for his sexuality. “Hey look, kids, we’re not homophobic! Here’s a brand-new GAY writer for ya, to prove we aren’t anti-gay marriage!” Mr. Andreyko should be utterly appalled at this transparent misuse of, well, him. He’s being used as a commodity and nothing more. Something to put a bright, shiny, gay-friendly face on the fact that DC put so much concentrated editorial pressure on two writers that they ultimately felt forced to quit rather than continue to battle to uphold the integrity of their lesbian characters getting married. And the fact that the new writer was announced by Dan DiDio himself makes me feel more certain than ever that the genesis of this homophobia can be found in his office.

“Gasp! My secret’s been revealed!” the villainous DiDio (probably) thought. “But if I can just…. lift…. a gay man to… the writers’ chair…. the world will… NOT think I’m… a raging homophobe! Aunt May… Mary… Jane…”

Okay, I made that last part up. Dan DiDio probably hates the elderly and redheads too, and thus would never think of Aunt May and Mary Jane in a time of life-and-death struggle beneath the crushing weight of accusations.

I’m more than a little shocked that Mr. Andreyko doesn’t see how callously he’s being used and has accepted the writing assignment. So either he’s the most bug-fuckingly naive man on the planet, or he’s being paid a fortune not to give a fuck. Either way, he’s a puppet who’s willing to stand on the still-smoldering creative corpses of the men who came before him on Batwoman. Someone had to to it; luckily DC had this monkey in the Rolodex who just happened to be an openly gay man. Cha-ching! Having a gay writer write a book about two gay women who for some as-yet-revealed reason will decide NOT to have a gay wedding is TOTALLY COOL, right?! Even professional moron Sarah Palin would have a problem saying, “You betcha!” to THAT scenario!

But of course, this being DC, it actually gets worse. December’s #26 was originally announced as Williams III’s and Blackman’s final issue, allowing them to wrap their current storyarc. WELL GUESS WHAT, SPORTS FANS?! DC’S SCREWING  THEM OVER ON THAT, TOO!!

That’s right. November’s #25 will be Andreyko’s first issue, meaning DC has completely scrapped whatever ending the previous writers had in mind with something completely new, completely in line with the company standards of homophobia, and in all likelihood, a complete reversal of what was originally intended. Will Batwoman’s fiance Maggie die, thus negating the wedding issue entirely? Will Batwoman suddenly realize she’s straight, and just to prove it to both herself and readers, suck thirty-seven dicks (in a row?) on a street corner? Or will the issue of her sexuality be completely written out of the book, or backburnered to the point of irrelevance? Or, will the entire issue of her sexuality be handled in a completely inept and “safe” way, making it PC and as kiddie-friendly as the Disney Channel? Frankly, this being DC, I can see any of the above happening. In a fucking heartbeat.

There is nothing about this entire sordid story that doesn’t piss me off. Frankly, if you’re not pissed off, you’re probably the type of backwards-ass redneck dinosaur who thinks gay marriage ought to be illegal, and in which case, fuck you very sincerely. Someone at DC needs to be held accountable. Someone needs to be fired. And DC needs to do the right thing and rehire Williams III and Blackman. They’ve done it before with Gail Simone and Batgirl; they can do it here too. Oh, and someone needs to beat the living shit out of Dan DiDio with baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire until he agrees to quit DC altogether.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.

~ILL DIABLO~

DC’s Crisis of Infinite Micromanagement: The Batwoman Fiasco

Today it was announced that DC’s most prominent gay character, Batwoman, A.K.A. Kate Kane, would NOT be getting married to her fiance, despite much long-term planning on the part of writers J.H. Williams III and Haden Blackman. This, of course, brought out the wrath of comicdom near and far, decrying DC as homophobic and anti-gay marriage. It’s a seemingly logical assumption to make; I myself even arrived at this same conclusion when I first heard the news.

But then, Williams III and Blackman both stepped up to the plate and asserted that their decision to quit the Batwoman book over this was NOT due to DC being anti-gay marriage, but rather over massive and ongoing editorial interference that forced them to change their story–plotted out for over a year now, with full DC approval–that caused them to quit.

In a joint letter on Blackman’s website, he and Williams III had this to say:

Unfortunately, in recent months, DC has asked us to alter or completely discard many long-standing storylines in ways we feel compromise the character and the series. We were told to ditch plans for Killer Croc’s origins; forced to drastically alter the ending of our current arc, which would have defined Batwoman’s heroic future in bold new ways; and, most crushingly, prohibited from ever showing Kate and Maggie actually getting married. All of these editorial decisions always came at the last minute, and always after a year or more of planning and plotting on our end.

J.H. Williams III took to Twitter to add this:

Not wanting to be inflammatory, only factual- We fought to get them engaged but were told emphatically no marriage can result. But must clarify- was never put to us as being anti-gay marriage.

So that seems to put a damper on any assertions that DC is homophobic. Of course, the possibility DOES exist that homophobia was in fact the motivation behind DC’s decision, but it simply wasn’t vocalized. I’ll let the conspiracy theorists kick THAT one around a bit. In reality,if you look at DC’s track record over the last decade or so, they have been very progressive and exemplary when it comes to LGBT issues: Renee Montoya came out in Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker’s Gotham Central; Rucka’s Batwoman was introduced as a lesbian from the start; the New 52 version of Alan Scott is an openly gay man. The only exception seems to be their boneheaded hiring of noted homophobe Orson Scott Card to write part of a Superman anthology they had planned, and their knuckle-dragging response to the outcry over it indicates that they were in fact too STUPID to realize the controversy hiring that man would bring. But in fact, Batwoman has been the recipient of a GLAAD Media Award and a leading light when it comes to portraying a gay character in an open, honest, and realistic way that doesn’t stoop to crass stereotyping.

So the problem, then, is that DC isn’t anti-GAY marriage, but rather… anti-MARRIAGE?

Strange as it sounds, that might actually be the case. In a Newsarama article reporting on the issue, it was pointed out that, in the wake of the New 52, most of DC’s high-profile marriages have been nullified: Superman and Lois Lane are no longer hitched, the Flash and Iris Allen are only acquiantances, and the non-existent Wally West’s marriage is null and void by default since DC seems to have abandoned the character entirely. DC’s position seems to be that marriage automatically ages a character by locking them into a “set”  older/adult role, as opposed to keeping their status as unaging and essentially nebulous.

But whatever their actual editorial stance on marriage is, homophobic or just plain stupid, DC has a larger crisis on its hands, and Williams III and Blackman’s hasty and high-profile departure, with all of the negative fallout it entails(whether it’s earned or not), is but a symptom of a larger cultural problem at DC.

Because, quite simply, this is only the latest quick departure from a book made by a writer or artist due to massive editorial interference. The trend most notably began when Greg Rucka departed DC after years of service just prior to the inception of the New 52. But in the months that followed, such noteworthy creators as Andy Diggle, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Gail Simone, and yes, even Rob Liefeld either quit or got the boot in the midst of monstrous, last-minute editorial edicts which forced them to make eleventh-hour changes to their stories.

This, obviously, is a problem. Anyone who’s been keeping up with DC over the last couple of years knows that many of their books–particularly in the New 52’s first year of existence–have been on a merry-go-round of creators, with many last-minute changes being made seemingly without any thought or concern for the creators involved. This indicates a culture similar to the heyday of Jim Shooter at Marvel in the ’80s: editoral uber alles. The key difference between then and now, though: back during Shooter’s reign of terror, the edicts and controls were all coming from one man. Today at DC, they seem to be coming from all over the place, to the point that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing in ANY instance, which is a very serious root cause of all of the continuity problems DC’s exhibited in the last two years alone.

Now, in their joint letter discussing their departure from Batwoman, Williams III and Blackman go out of their way to thank every single editor who’s worked on the book, up to and including Batman group editor Mike Marts, which either indicates that these guys are overly courteous even when being fucked in the ass, or that the directives came from someone with more seniority than Marts. The smart money’s on Bob Harras, since he’s the editorial overlord anyway (and has a history as the EiC at Marvel in the ’90s of making very, very bad decisions). But even if it’s not an edict coming directly from his office, the buck DOES stop with him. And Geoff Johns. And Jim Lee. And Dan DiDio. Shit rolls uphill too.

This is indicative of an editorial culture where writers and artists are treated as commodities, rather than living, breathing, thinking creators. The current DC editors clearly have no regard for the creative process, as indicated by how flagrantly they believe they can just swap out writers willy-nilly at a moment’s notice, or how, in Batwoman‘s case, tell two writers at the last minute they must chuck their plans–which, to reiterate, had been planned out for at least a year in advance with DC’s full knowledge–without a care in the world to the creative process that these two men have put into this character, her world, and her book. Batwoman may not have been setting the world on fire in terms of sales, but it IS one of the most important books DC’s publishing right now for its open and mature attitude about a lesbian character. Unfortunately, DC’s staunch editorial opposition to married characters took priority over that.

And yes, yes, the argument can (and should) be made that Batwoman is DC’s property, not Williams III and Blackman’s. But what these two writers were building has been special and unique, and had DC the aptitude to realize this, rather than sticking to an outmoded and confining notion about the “wrongness” of allowing characters to marry, they might have allowed these two creators to carve out their own place in comics history, which DC could, in later years, take full credit for allowing. Too bad their culture of micromanagment put an end to two creators’ vision before it could be fully formed. As it stands, we’ll never know what might have happened after Kate and Maggie got married. As a no-name company stooge takes over their book and takes it in a direction more consistent with DC’s mass-conformity ideals, the readers will no doubt drop the book en masse in protest, leaving the book canceled in no more than a year, relegated to the quarter bins for has-beens.

It’s a sad ending to the story of J.H. Williams III, Haden Blackman, and Batwoman. But perhaps it was inevitable. After all, DC is all about towing the company line now, taking no risks, venturing no gains, forging no new ground. And a book as “radical” as having two women who love each other get married is about as far from that as it gets.

South Carolina Can’t Stop Sucking… Even Where Comics Are Concerned

There are many, many reasons to despise South Carolina. They seem to represent every single thing wrong with America: they’re anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-gun control, anti-common sense, overtly racist, and their politicians seem to be in a near-constant state of some sort of scandal or another. So it should come as no surprise that a South Carolinian group called the Palmetto Family has decided that South Carolina should be the face of religious intolerance in comic books, as well.

And just who is the Palmetto Family? They’re nothing more than yet another collection of small-minded conservative fuckwads hellbent on crushing anyone and anything that offends their idiotically conservative views. According to their website, they are on a mission to “persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication, and networking.” And their core values are stated thusly: “Our vision is to transform the culture in South Carolina by reclaiming the values and virtues of marriage, the traditional family model, and sexual purity.”

Translation: we hate fags, and we’re more than willing to use our Bibles to beat them over the head.

Oh, and they’re affiliated with professional assholes Focus on the Family and the odious Family Research Council. Yup. They’re THOSE kind of assholes.

So today I stumbled onto a blog by Robot 6 over at comicbookresources.com. It concerns an autobiographical graphic novel called Fun House, by Alison Bechdel. The graphic novel is about the author’s childhood with her closeted gay father, his suicide, and her coming to terms with her own lesbianism. I haven’t read it, but it’s supposedly quite good, and is featured on the College of Charleston’s annual “The College Reads!” program, which is a compilation of free books given to faculty and incoming freshmen each year if they are interested. Let me rephrase, and reiterate: THIS BOOK IS NOT REQUIRED READING BY THE COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON.

However….

To hear the Palmetto Family tell it, Fun House is in fact pornographic, and is being FORCED on students. (This belief is also supported by the dumbshits posting on their website, blasting “liberal parents” who defended the GN and generally making themselves out to be total victims. Cry me a fucking river.) So what, then, is so pornographic about Fun House? Again, I haven’t read it myself, so according to the Charleston City Paper, who took it upon themselves to see what the fuss was all about, we have:

1. “A few panels of nudity, including a male lying nude on a morgue table, and a woman performing oral sex on another woman.” Oh, no! Not…. human anatomy and people having sex! What’s our society coming to!?

2. “There is also a section that describes Bechdel’s first period and first experience with masturbation.” Oh, no! Not…. normal bodily functions and totally normal teenage curiosity and exploration! What’s our society coming to!?

The Charleston City Paper’s final assessment? “An initial scan of the book and a read of the first chapter make Fun Home seem more like a smartly written, deeply affecting memoir than a steamy porno.”

The local ABC affiliate got in on the action, too, to see what all the fuss was about, and came up with the following conclusion: “Actually the fact that it was controversial has put me onto reading it because I do like reading things like that and I know that some people especially have a really closed mind and they need to read stuff like that to really expand their thought about what is going on in the world and real situations in life.” (Okay, so that extreme run-on sentence doesn’t necessarily reflect well of that particular reporter’s grasp on English grammar, but his point still stands.)

Whoa! So, at least the local media in one city in South Carolina doesn’t totally suck. Good for them, because it’s hard to not suck in South Carolina. Naturally, though, that hasn’t stopped the Palmetto Family. Their main bone of contention, other than the fact that they’re the type of blood-curdling conservative who would gladly ban anything in society that doesn’t conform to their narrow viewpoint of what’s “good,” is that taxpayer money is being used for the solicitation of this book in “The College Reads!” program, but also that it’s being used to pay for a visit from Bechdel in October. Oh sure, they tried to backpedal by saying that they didn’t want the book outright banned and/or burned, but let’s be serious: these are EXACTLY the type of people who are always down for a good old fashioned book-burning. And the fact that they want it banned from a state-funded college is a direct violation of the First Amendment.

Again, though, I say unto thee, Palmetto Family: THE BOOK IS COMPLETELY OPTIONAL TO ANY STUDENT WHO WANTS TO READ IT. NO ONE IS FORCING THEM TO DO SO. SO SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTHS, MIND YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS, AND QUIT STOMPING ALL OVER THE RIGHTS OF ALISON BECHDEL TO TELL HER STORY AS SHE SEES FIT AND OF THE COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON TO GIVE FREELY OF WHATEVER LITERATURE THEY CHOOSE TO WHOMSOEVER CHOOSES TO READ IT. Because I’m pretty sure there’s more than a few incoming college students with questions about their sexuality, and this graphic novel could help give them answers. Too bad none of this mattes to the Palmetto Family, who of course believe that being gay is some sort of immoral crime against humanity.

This is the kind of nonsense that groups like the Palmetto Family love to propagate: that somehow, exposure to LGBT lifestyles and issues will “corrupt the traditional family dynamic.” These closed-minded fucknuts are the type of assholes who absolutely believe, with no proof whatsoever, that a gay couple has no business raising a child and that their legal union will somehow destroy every straight couples’ lives. This is of course horseshit, but try telling that to the people who honestly believe it. You won’t get very far. There will always be groups like this stirring up shit in one way or another, and the best way to fight back against them is to spread honesty, truth, and facts in the face of their paranoid, bigoted worldview.

FIGHT WITH FACTS!

~ILL DIABLO~

(Hey! If you want to read the College of Charleston’s provost’s explanation for their reasons for including Fun Home on The College Reads! list, click here.)