Comics and Cowardice, an epic essay about not-so-epic comics

Originally published at:


Hail Human Resources…


When Chris Claremont was writing Uncanny X-Men way back…his work was some of the very best comic writing commentary on social injustice and racial divides. I know there has been plenty of great stuff, but his really was the best IMO.


Illustrating #1, for example, is a video game featuring robotic slaves called “Augs”…

Your quote certainly encourages skepticism about whether or not the devs, as they claimed, arrived at the slogan “aug lives matter” independently. So I agree about it being “on the nose”. But you didn’t include any of resulting the criticism. Are they being criticized for using the phrase in a particular context, or simply for having used it at all?

I have read lots of SF, for instance, where events have obvious parallels with black slavery in the US, antisemitism, the civil rights struggle, etc. and have not encountered much complaint about it. In fact people seem to expect thinly-veiled social commentary. Is this example significantly different because of the expectations of games and comics as mediums? And/or because BLM is a so much more recent phenomenon?


Neither! They’re being criticized for claiming that the phrase is just there without meaning anything, just a coincidence, no politics intended.

If they’d have admitted using it with the intention of referring to current events, they’d be fine … or at least criticized for the content of their work rather than the stupid insistence their work has no content.


At risk of sounding like an Internet Tough Guy®, how does Bitey the Clown have any teeth left?


As a life-long geek, I’m sad to say that there is lots of “missing stair” and other toxic behaviours in lots of fandoms and industries where we tend to congregate (for example).

As much as we might want to place the blame on the corporatisation of some geek culture or the Internet, the fact is that many fandoms have been infected by sexism and bigotry and demonstrations of clueless privilege for a long time – your friendly neighbourhood games store or comic shop has never been a welcoming place for more than half of the population, and policies like “cosplay != consent” have only arrived at SF/fantasy conventions in the last 5 years.

I have theories about why this is, mostly revolving around the Geek Social Fallacies and the martial wish-fulfillment fantasies present in all geek media, but there’s another level where we see (mostly white, male, cisgender) geeks who were marginalised and abused by privileged arseholes as adolescents and teenagers turning into privileged arseholes themselves the moment they’re given power and a voice (and over the past 20 years the “triumph of the geeks” in the general culture has given them both).

The common exception seems to be fandoms that were specifically designed to appeal to women as well as men. I’m sure predators and other arseholes slime their way into fandoms like My Little Pony, Buffy, Firefly, Harry Potter, Furries, mainstream anime, etc. but they seem to be expelled pretty quickly.


Let’s not be so oblique about something apparently self admitted - along with crotch grabbing.


Well, I’m not going to go out of my way to condemn someone at a time when they are apparently attempting to become a better person and make up for past misdeeds. I don’t know the people involved so I can’t judge their sincerity.

But I’m also not going to condemn anyone who responds to being groped with a loud slap, or responds to being bitten by knocking the miscreant’s teeth out. :grimacing:


I remember this very well, and i was very disappointed that the developer backed away when confronted with the politics and social commentary in the Deus Ex game. I think that the commentary in the game would have been fine but it certainly felt exploitative and gratuitous, especially if the developer is not willing to stand up for the damn central theme of their game then what is even the point? Why even make the game at all?


Concerning the “Augs”: it doesn’t matter much substantively because past a certain point you just have to face the real implications, coincidence or not - but even if BLM originated in mid 2013, that doesn’t exactly match the point at which it fully entered public consciousness. If the team begun working on the game by fall (when the basic background story could have already been laid down), it’s not entirely clear-cut that “Andre Vu is a liar, or he’s an ignorant fool.”

I think that’s true of almost anyone who’s ever been victimized; it’s the vicious cycle of abuse, hard at work.

There’s also a huge problem when reality is so unpleasant so much of the time, that the masses become so overly immersed in their chosen forms of escapism that they care more about what happens within their respective fandoms than they do about the actual, 3D world…


Holy hell! I did not realize things were that bad.


I got clued in about two years ago when the kids expressed interest in going to some cons. Conventions were starting to get really explicit about the rules, stating that they will indeed toss people out for groping, harassment, etc. It has been a common and pervasive problem. People’s usual bad manners probably get multiplied by the perception that you are appearing as some specifically fetishized commodity character. “They never complained when I pawed at them and drooled on them in the game!”, etc.


Cosplayers and con girls hired to front booths by companies see a ton of harassment from what i’ve heard from friends, and from what i’ve read online. I do not know how i would react were someone to grope me, a friend, or a significant other; i can only hope that it would not happen. I hate confrontation but i would love to put one of those pervy shitheads in their place.


It’s very creepy to read this on the day another comic artist is accused of torturing, killing and skinning his girlfriend as their newborn watched.

People who host booths have always had a tough time, because they are paid to be hospitable. It’s like the usual service industry problem of “smile and put up with people’s shit”, but worse.

But I find the issue of cosplay harassment to be different and in some ways worse. At a comic, fantasy, or sci-fi con - most of the people dressed up are other attendees. There to enjoy the event, and not even being paid to put up with such nonsense.

I am at home with confrontation, like a cat. Some attention I can abide, but if not I shut it down with some ferocity. But I am sensitive that many are not as comfortable handling such matters as I can be.


I think you’re right: somebody who tried to bite my face would be on the mat, so to speak, pretty quick.

I’m kind of attached to my face, you see.


I wish i had the ability to call people out on their bullshit. Especially if someone was harassing a friend of mine, but then again i’ve only been to a convention once and i’ve never cosplayed. Some day perhaps on the cosplay, and hopefully i will be ready to shut down some trolls by then.

Also i dunno about booth girls having it any easier. If anything them being paid forces them to endure harassment that they should not be receiving, a cosplayer can tell some rando to fuck off.


Definitely not easier. They probably on average see more bullshit, but it is emotional labor they are hopefully paid for, at least. By analogy, waiting tables can be hard work, but it is a lot harder if it’s not your job and you went into a restaurant thinking you could just eat.