Two Panels, No Jokes

As I tend to do on Wednesdays, this morning I was clicking through the previews Comixology provides of newly-releasing comics. I like to check out books with my favorite characters, whose stories I’m sort of broadly following, even if I’m not buying each issue monthly (for whatever reason).

This morning I saw these two panels, in the preview for Spider-Woman #6, which is continuing the multiverse-hopping adventures of Jessica Drew, Cindy Moon, and Spider-Gwen:

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The context here is that Jess has to go find her Earth-65 counterpart to find Gwen’s multiverse-hopping teleport device (oh, comics). I didn’t like seeing these panels. I tweeted about it. I was asked to consolidate my thoughts, so I’m doing that here.

First off, as I said, I’m not currently reading Spider-Woman. I dropped it when Jessica got pregnant. That was not a story I was interested in reading, particularly as written by a man. But I know what’s going on with her. I am also not reading Spider-Women, because it doesn’t include Anya Corazon and does include Spider-Gwen, and also, oh yeah, all the writers are men. Sensing a pattern?

Anyway, I bring this up again because there has been a lot of talk recently about who’s making comics, and whose stories their telling. And why diverse voices improve your work; not just the broad stories you tell but the jokes you make, the dialogue, everything.

So here’s why I don’t like these two panels. In the context of a comic industry that fires Shelly Bond but keeps Eddie Berganza around, an industry where books with queer leads are cancelled and seven iterations of the same white men (and to a lesser extent, white women) prevail, an industry that brushes up against one that casts Scarlett Johannson or Tilda Swinton as Asian characters, what we have here is lip service.

In the first panel, there’s acknowledgement that the multiverse contains infinite possibilities. Jess could be a black woman! Jess could have a girlfriend! But no worries, because when there are infinite possibilities the one we get to see is a straight white man (later, Ellen tells Jess that she and Jesse could be twins so, even though I’m not paying to see the actual result, I’ll assume he’s white also). Joke over, moving on.

This is what I mean by lip service. We all know, we all know that Earth-616 Jessica Drew is never getting a girlfriend. We know she’s always going to be a white woman. But here Hopeless, and Marvel editorial, hold up a flag that says “hey, we acknowledge you exist, go us!” while simultaneously rarely letting us see ourselves anywhere outside a speech bubble.

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