Why #PositivityInComics is the Hashtag We Need Right Now

The past few weeks have seen a spike in right wing backlash to the comics community. Since the push to remove Aubrey Sitterson from the G.I. Joe title he's writing at IDW, we've seen an expanding number of personal attacks in the forms of tweets and videos, a Kek flag wielding attendee at Baltimore Comic Con, targeted attacks against comics journalists, and people like Milo Yiannopoulos weighing in to add fuel to the #comicsgate fire. Publishers like Vault Comics have already released a statement on this issue, which begins:

Mistreatment of comics creators, both online and in other public forums, has reached a fever pitch. Creators have been subject to relentless online harassment, doxing, phone calls to their homes, public ridicule, verbal assault, and even death threats. These behaviors frequently rise to the level of criminal misconduct. More often than not, the perpetrators target creators who identify with one or more minorities.

This has to stop. We must do everything we can to stop it.

At this point, some of the right wing comics pundits have expanded beyond that of Geeks OUT and more and more of them are targeting our favorite creators including Gabby Rivera and Mags Visaggio. It's past time that this issue be discussed in the queer geek community.

While thoughts, opinions, and civil discourse is always encouraged, outright hateful attacks, threats, and calls to actions against specific comics professionals are not and must always be thoroughly condemned without question. The language used on social media and public videos attacking creators using their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or religion as a reason they are not qualified or are given special treatment in comics is not acceptable. We stand with marginalized creators of all backgrounds and experiences and encourage everyone else to do the same.

The frustration some people have with comics today is understandable. Many of us, on all sides of the political spectrum, have mused if replacing legacy heroes with more marginalized people is a positive and productive approach because we all know those swap-outs are always temporary and often feel pandering. We've had discussions about whether it's best to retcon a character's sexual orientation or if it's better to just create new characters. Many comics fans have also been concerned with the way higher ups at major comics publishers seem to treat diversity as if it's a fad and a marketing tool without investing the proper resources into those comics to cultivate an audience. In the past, we've seen groups like Milestone Media, which was distributed by DC Comics create new characters for more diverse audiences nearly 25 years ago, and even then it wasn't without threats from comics readers and backlash from comics retailers who didn't support the line because of the lack of white protagonists in their books. So none of what's happening today is new.

But the actions taken by some readers and retailers go far beyond what is appropriate, and in some cases may go beyond what is legal. Creating a tense, hostile environment in comics, and environment in which creators are being harassed, threatened even doxxed while trying to put out quality work doesn't help anyone and severely damages our community. Mixing some humor and an upbeat attitude into a tweet or a video that's personally attacking marginalized creators doesn't make it any better or any more appropriate. If the endgame is to create better comics than this approach is at the very least counterproductive.

That's not to say that comics created for or by conservatives have no place in the world; they do. Just because this writer and much of the readership of Geeks OUT might not be the target audience for a book does not mean that it does not deserve to exist or garner wide audience appeal. Conservative comics creators like Mike Baron and Chuck Dixon have written many excellent comics over the years that have earned the respect and admiration of comics fans on regardless of their political leanings. I'm not asking for the end of conservative or conservative leaning comics; I'm asking for an end to scapegoating marginalized comics creators to serve an agenda.

So please, if you see any targeted harassment on social media, speak out if you can, or report the exchange. If you see videos on YouTube being shared that are personal attacks against comics journalists or marginalized creators please report them. Some platforms are discouragingly slow to do anything to protect marginalized people (particularly trans people) from harassment, it's an anonymous way to do the right thing.

If you feel safe enough to speak out, that's great too. Another way to combat all this is to talk about positivity in comics. Use the hashtag #PositivityInComics on Twitter and other social media to share what you love about comics to help balance out the hate and vitriol. We need to foster a safe and creative environment in comics for the medium to thrive. Please help add to both the positivity as well as to a constructive dialogue on how to make comics better.