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an apology to Mark Millar

bad day kitten
It's been brought to my attention that, contrary to what I remembered, in my comments on Sue Storm's departure from her marriage in Marvel's Civil War #4, I DID make some personal remarks about the writer, Mark Millar.

For those I apologize to him and to his fans. I'm a professional; I know better than to casually insult a writer when what I am doing is analyzing the writing. I was outraged, but there are ways to express outrage that don't involve personal remarks. I am sorry.

In case those who have supported me think I'm retiring from my entire position, my answer to that is, No. I still think this writing of Sue Storm is flawed and could have been easily fixed. I will still analyze Millar's and anyone else's writing in terms of how they depict women (or other characters), or even how they plot and whether I feel those things work. I have been a literary critic and editor; I am a writer and a reader. This is how I work and how most of us work; this is how we exchange views and information.

And I am a feminist, one who thinks women and men can find common ground in comics. It's my hope--it's the hope of a lot of feminist comic fans I've been reading--that if we point things out about how people write women, if we explain our own experiences of how women act and how women handle long-term relationships, how they work their lives around particular facts like the presence of children and the fact that we can want to do good without being raped, that male writers will actually start to listen and to write characters who are consistent and who appeal to intelligent women. With the comic industry bleeding readers, surely a way to recruit more female readers is a good thing. If the comics magazines can't get their readerships up, guys, then they'll go under, and you won't have any paper comics to read. Maybe it's time to think about making room for the girls instead of trying to shut them out.

Okay, that paragraph was kind of a general diversion from the main topic. Kind of. But I did want to explain why I will continue to critique any comics that I wish to. I know the same is going to happen to me, and that in fact there are probably some guys out there right now with November 15 circled in red on their calendars, waiting to hack White Tiger up for my presumption in criticizing their god.

I was unprofessional, Mr. Millar. My personal insults were uncalled for, and I apologize.

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
taliabriscoe
Oct. 21st, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
Well said. This female comics fan applauds you.
dragontail
Oct. 21st, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
Tam, as a fellow published writer and someone who's met Mark on a number of occasions (and drank with him until 3am in a hotel room), I can tell you he's just as human as anyone else. He makes the same sort of criticisms of the writing of others, borders on personal attack, and then thinks about it, apologises and backs off. Just as you have... and as I have, far too many times to count *blushes*

Like you said, we should all analyse the work and not the person. But dont beat yourself up too much. This is comics - passions get inflamed easily, and that's part of the biz. Good on you for being a big enough person to admit to it, and move on.
tammy212
Oct. 23rd, 2006 01:08 pm (UTC)
I figured the apology was owed, so I sucked it up and made it. I hate it when I have to do that, but I'd rather just do it and get it over with.

And totally off topic, but--DUDE! You like Mick Foley? He's a household god around our place!
dragontail
Oct. 23rd, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)
Foley is god... uh, I mean, good. Yeah. That's what the hardcore muppet would want me to say. Good. Right :P

Foley, Flair, Hogan and, most of all, Sting... I'm a goob for the wrestling as much as I am the comics and the literature. Nice to know I'm in good company.
defender75
Oct. 22nd, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)
A true case for love/hating the art for the art itself and not the artist. Personally, I'm on the same page with you in regards to the Civil War debacle and the other Big Crossovers which will allegedly Change Things Forever but really only seem to be a collection of shock tactics for their own sake, cheerfully ignoring anything that came before in terms of character to better sell the brand.

I don't mind change in comicbooks, but more and more these 'event' titles seem to smack of a kind of desperation. The blatant pandering to the graying of the comicbook audience is, quite frankly, turning me off more and more. I'm not some pollyanna; I like Ellis' run on The Authority and I like my shades of gray. But when I come to a title like The Fantastic Four or Spider-Man, I want to know that I'm coming home to The World's Greatest Comics Magazine and the adventures of our Friendly Neighborhood Wall-Crawler. I want epic battles of good versus evil played out on a four-color canvas, not sturm und drang for it's own sake.

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps some comics writers secretly hate what they do, the characters they're writing, because the continual revelation of feet of clay on heroic characters is leaving the realm of subtext and getting to the point of absurdity. Yes, it's a good idea to flaw your hero (Robert's Rule of Writing #35) but you kinda want to know that the hero is. . .well. . .-heroic- y'know? That while there may not be a right and a wrong with clear distinction in our universe that here, in this little corner of fiction, that line is clear and the goody guys win with the bad guys losing.

The logic of pandering to the graying of the audience with these tactics baffles me. Yes, I've heard the arguement that Kids Aren't Reading Comics Anymore, but they -could be- if you'd try harder. You mean to tell me with the money made from the first Spider-Man movies Marvel couldn't mount an aggressive campaign to get comics into Wal-Marts or in corner drugstores again? That DC--backed by Time Frickin' Warner no less--couldn't get kids reading comics, couldn't have more monthlies and trades in your local convenience stores again? I'm not saying there aren't any now, but there could be so much more than just the obligatory Marvel Adventures series or Johnny DC titles. You hook 'em while they're young and you'll have a loyal following.

But understand and respect that when you make a commitment like that, to having more 'Mature' and 'Relevant' stories in one box and have the traditional stuff in another, that you stick to the deal. I don't come to superhero comics wanting to see thinly-veiled political commentary, moral lassitude, and senseless death. I don't want malt liquor in my frosted flakes. Does that make me an immature troglodyte of a fanboy, living in my parents basement and bitching endlessly about the way things used to be? No, it makes me the guy who's a paying customer who doesn't like the product being given him, and it'll be one less consumer who quickly sees that these serialized adventures he so loved as a child, these characters who were fixed points in a changing age and a source of joy are no little more than placeholders for the brand names they've now become, their lines and titles little more than an appendix to the corporate megagiants who want you to buy t-shirts and video games and watch their films and, oh yeah, didn't we used to make comicbooks once?

Bendis and Millar and Quesada may want to hand me a steaming pile of guano, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or take it. I bear these gentlemen no malice; I love Powers and Superman: Red Son and Quesada's work on Daredevil. But these moves on their part, this hubris that their way is the only way not only turns me off to their work, it frustrates and alienates me. Me, the 30-plus male with the disposable income they're trying to pander to.

Ah, but what do I know. I'm just a fanboy right? Keep your Civil War, I'll be over in the corner reading Spider-Girl, Avengers Next, and She-Hulk. Not only great reads in the classic Marvel manner, but all featuring strong and intelligent women kickin' butt.

Whew, I do go on don't I? Oh, and hi Tamora. I'm Stacy. Heh. . .sorry if I spilled my angst all over your livejournal. . .~.^
tammy212
Oct. 23rd, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC)
Stacy, hullo! I didn't think you were spilling angst at all. I only wish I had more time to talk about everything you had to say (reason why in my next post), but I did want to respond to what really struck me hard here:

>>Yes, it's a good idea to flaw your hero (Robert's Rule of Writing #35) but you kinda want to know that the hero is. . .well. . .-heroic- y'know?<<

Yes! The whole point of heroes, their place in myths and in our hearts, is that we're able to look up to them! It's important to me that we know they're human, so we know we can emulate them, and do heroic things of all different orders ourselves, but particularly in a mythic format like comics, we want to see our heroes, even when they briefly stumble and fall, keep mostly to a course of wanting to do great things. Heroes are supposed to give us hope, not despair.

>>Yes, I've heard the arguement that Kids Aren't Reading Comics Anymore, but they -could be- if you'd try harder.<<

It would help if the characters were younger, written with younger stories, and marketed more aggressively to younger audiences. Why else are manga running away with the kid market? And now kids' publishers are breaking out with more and more kids' comic books, because they see the market is there. Those superhero comics that are supposed to be written for teenagers are so plugged into the adult universe it's hard to just pick them up; they're so complex and loaded with adult plot lines it's hard to get into them, and they're not being put where teenagers can get at them easily. They're being put where adult buyers can get them, and that's not the market they're aimed at.

And surprise--that's not teenagers. That's middle school kids. They're the ones who buy the stuff with teen characters, and they're the ones who would go for teen comics, but they're being overlooked completely. Teens, if they're buying comics, are buying adult heroes. They're trying to distance themselves from teenagers, while middle schoolers want to be teens, and read teens, so badly it hurts.

I want my heroes to be people I can look up to, not people who will turn on their best friends just because a government that will be gone in 2-6 years says they must. And I want teen heroes to be shown to act like teenagers, and to be placed where kids will actually get a chance to buy them.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 26th, 2006 04:44 am (UTC)
Do you know there is a podcast with you and Tim on the Web? I guess you know that. DUH *smacks head*

http://www.marvel.com/rss/podcasts/Tamora_Pierce_talks_White_Tiger.mp3
timeliebe
Oct. 27th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC)
WHITE TIGER podcast
Actually, we didn't know until this morning when I picked up my e-mail in NYC! I hastily updated Tammy's site from the road to include it, and put it on my own blog (http://spousecreature.blogspot.com/ ). Tammy's been busy today (interview, business lunch, signing) and hasn't been able to get on.

Best,
Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
- and co-writer of Marvel's upcoming White Tiger comic
goldjadeocean
Oct. 22nd, 2006 04:55 am (UTC)
Taking your deviation and running with it:

the fact that we can want to do good without being raped

Wait, what? This is still a valid trope? I read very few comics (a few X-Men runs and Sandman, currently) but I can't believe that being a rape victim is a totally fabulous motivation for somebody to become a superhero. I was thirteen when I heard "The 'rape and revenge' story is old. Stop writing it."

It's kind of odd that still, with a lot of kickbutt females in all kinds of media, women are assumed to fight because they are hiding from their past, trying to avenge something horrible that happened to them, or just plain flawed. It's like female fighters aren't allowed to fight because that's what they're good at and it's what they get their job satisfaction from. It's why I like touches like Keladry wearing dresses from time to time: not every woman in a masculine area is there because she's a deficient female!

I've friended you but a friendsback isn't necessary. I found this journal through some discreet googling, but I get the feeling you're about to get utterly swamped by people dropping by.
timeliebe
Oct. 22nd, 2006 06:20 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah - they still use it
Dawn, on her My Other Comic book Blog site, mentioned she'd been following the NEW AVENGERS' Hawkeye, a young woman who wants to be a superhero but has no superpowers - just a lot of grit and determination. That was fine, until the writer dropped in a subplot of her being attacked as a teenager in her bedroom - so suddenly, we have a girl becoming a vigilante to "get back" at her attacker...again.

Dawn's also got postings on Wonder Woman, homeschooling as it relates to superhero comics, whether Sue would leave Reed with the kids or not, how females are drawn in comics (she's an illustrator) - oh, yeah, and a couple about WHITE TIGER.... :)

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce - and co-author of Marvel's upcoming WHITE TIGER comic!


goldjadeocean
Oct. 22nd, 2006 06:30 am (UTC)
Re: Oh, yeah - they still use it
*facepalm* I'm watching in slow horror as my favourite show is doing the same thing to my favourite character, who was originally established as a completely competent, deadly, assertive, aggressive female fighter. A friend maintains they removed the real Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica halfway through season one, and we have been seeing some strange pod-person ever since.

It makes me so glad my introduction to fantasy was largely through Tammy, really. It set my standards high, so now I don't see a shero and go, "Oh, wow, finally!", I see the reverse and sneer at how pathetic it is.
dewline
Oct. 23rd, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Oh, yeah - they still use it
I think there is an unwritten rule: half of all superhero origin stories are required to have some sort of severe, career-formative trauma. As noted elsewhere in this thread, in fact...
msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
I don't like the trope, but wanted to toss in an oar here -- not to defend it, but maybe to explain it.

Most of the superheroes of days gone past had something happen in the past -- like Batman -- which was dark, unhappy, and spurred them to make the choice to become, well, Batman. I think that the resultant "origin story" for female characters comes from a not very clued-in sense of women-in-the-world, because the Batman origin could work equally well for someone of either gender.
spiralsheep
Oct. 22nd, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)
::admires your grace::
msagara
Oct. 22nd, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC)
I was unprofessional, Mr. Millar. My personal insults were uncalled for, and I apologize.

Well, that seals it; I definitely want to be you when I grow up.
tammy212
Oct. 23rd, 2006 12:09 am (UTC)
You're already grown up--we've met, and I remember!
msagara
Oct. 23rd, 2006 12:19 am (UTC)
Yes, I remember meeting you -- and I remember me, and I remember Wen Spencer moving out of they way when she was sitting between us as I responded to something you'd said, and I also remember apologizing for the way I'd said it, so I was kind of hoping that maybe you wouldn't.

But I've been reading what you've been writing in a bunch of different LJ's, and would love be be able to state so clearly, and passionately, and also logically, what you've stated. That, and I've been thinking about feminism, and how politics and fiction collide recently.
consummated
Oct. 23rd, 2006 01:45 am (UTC)
Somewhere, Rich Johnston is shaking his fists, saying through clenched and unruly British teeth: must...instigate...comic...industry...fight...somehow!
timeliebe
Oct. 23rd, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC)
Don't Know Why Rich Johnson Should Have a Problem w/That....
::Somewhere, Rich Johnston is shaking his fists, saying through clenched and unruly British teeth: must...instigate...comic...industry...fight...somehow!::

Cracks about Mr. Johnson and the state of British dentistry aside, I shouldn't think that would be hard, really. TwoMorrows Publishing's COMIC BOOK NERD did a pretty hilarious spoof of some of the more combative characters in comicdom. (I laughed my ass off at their lampoon of the seemingly-everlasting COMICS JOURNAL/Fantagraphics feud with Harlan Ellison - especially since we read COMICS JOURNAL as well as LOCUS and SF CHRONICLE, and have come across plenty of Ellison's legit screeds!)

It should be an easy thing to (in the words of my Mom's Far-Right, Faux Nuwz-believing husband) "wind somebody up" for a juicy story or three.... :D

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
- and co-writer of Marvel's upcoming White Tiger comic
morchades
Oct. 24th, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
No, he's more likely sitting speechless, as I was, struck by the rarity of an apology.
timeliebe
Nov. 3rd, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
Look - Up in the Sky! Is it a Unicorn? Is it a Hippogriff? No - it's...AN APOLOGY!
::No, he's more likely sitting speechless, as I was, struck by the rarity of an apology.::

Not that it mattered, apparently, as the 12 pages of fanboy invective responding to Dawn's posting on NEWSARAMA show! Okay, it's not ALL "fanboy invective" - but there's so much of it that any constructive comments, including constructive criticism, got buried.

I guess comicdom's like the Republicans - apologies are so rare nobody knows what do with one,

Best,
Tim Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
- and co-writer of Marvel's upcoming White Tiger comic
(Anonymous)
Nov. 24th, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC)
No need
No need. Everyone seems to do it for me.

RJ
(Anonymous)
Oct. 24th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC)
You Show Professionalism
I want to say that I admire you doing this, even though personally I think the Civil War writing is lacking.

Yes, many are probably lying in wait to attack, but that shows their crass and little minds. When in another life I was a reviewer of comics, I many times scrapped a review because I had let feelings become attacks. When you are trying to be considerate and professional it can sometimes feel restraining. Again, you are showing class and making this action & I hope you suffer no ill repercusions from freedom of speech.

I am planning on buying the book just to see what you are doing with an obscur mantle of the Marvel U. and looking forward to it.

Palladin. http://comicbookchristian.blogspot.com/
(Anonymous)
Oct. 28th, 2006 05:44 am (UTC)
A point of disagreement
I read with interest your comments on Sue Storm's departure from her marriage in Marvel's Civil War #4, as well as your apology to Mark Millar and your justifications for your comments. While I don't disagree with your general point that Sue Richards could have been written a little better, I think there are some factual/life experience-related points with which I would counter.

You asserted that it was unrealistic for Sue as a mother to have appealed to Reed -- someone you claimed she reagarded as a murderer -- to fix things on both sides and to look after their two kids. Reading Civil War and all related titles, not once have I found a depiction in which Sue obviously looked upon her husband as a murderer. True, she took issue with the fact that he often buried himself in his work, ignored his wife and children, and ultimately championed a cause to which she could not agree. Going beyond Civil War, looking back on the entire history of the FF, I think it's wholly consistent with Sue's character to appeal to Reed's good nature. She knows, perhaps more than anyone else in the Marvel Universe, that beneath Reed's intellect, his workaholism, and his misguided choice in taking sides in the Civil War lies the heart of a good man/decent person. Seeing the situation spiral out of control, she obviously reached out to the part of Reed that everyone, including himself, had been ignoring in the entire feud between the pro-Registration heroes and the anti-Registration heroes.

More importantly, you asserted that the content of the letter and Sue's final acts (the dinner, the wine, the nookie, leaving the kids with Reed) were inconsistent with those of a real mother. I disagree. Although I am male (and probably destroyed any semblance of credibility in your mind), I think your criteria for writing a credible female/mother character is one-sided and perhaps excessively reflect your own individual values, as opposed to what is real and existent in our society. I personally know a mother who, despite the fact that the father of her children repeatedly assaulted his daughters sexually through their college years, kept things quiet for the sake of holding the family together and maintaining peace. Rational people would look upon this and criticize the mother for not having walked out on the guy with her girls in tow. The point I am making is that there are so many women out there who would do exactly what Sue did , given the same conditions, that Millar's depiction of Sue is not necessarily unrealistic. I think how you obviously WANT Sue written is a matter of your PERSONAL preference, rather than a realistic portrayal of women/mothers in fiction. If Sue were written in a way that would please feminists, she would not be the FF's matriarch, nor a wife to anybody. Let's be real.

I have been married for 30 years, with two daughters who married and gave birth to four grandchildren. While I can't say I profess to know what's going on in their heads, my life experiences do point out what I consider realistic depictions of how women/mothers behave in certain situations. With all due respect, not everybody chooses to take extreme actions. Sue's actions appear, rather, to be a series of choices -- painful choices -- of a real woman who wants to do the right thing in the midst of a difficult and unclear situation. She obviously had to make some compromises. Were they realistic compromises? Absolutely! If you accept the premise that:

- she still loved Reed
- she still believed he was good inside
- she believed that he loved his children, his blindness to the cause notwithstanding
- she believed he was smart enough to find a solution (as he had time and time again in the decades-long history of the FF)
- and she couldn't live with herself, let alone Reed, by taking the side of a cause she didn't believe in.

raffaella
Oct. 28th, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
I found this via a link. I don't know how closely you've been following Civil War, but there are actually two versions of Sue leaving Reed: the one in the Civil War issue written by Mark Millar and the one in the Fantastic Four #540 tie-in, written by J.M. Straczynski, and boy, they couldn't be more different. It goes like this: they're in the Baxter Building, transfering one of the prisoners to the negative zone. She wakes up, tries to escape, the soldiers are going to trap her when she suddenly disappears. Reed obviously realises that Sue made her invisible, and once the soldiers are gone, they have this huge fight. Sue is pissed off, says she doesn't recognise him anymore, and that's when Reed is stupid/dishonest enough to say: "I'm doing all this to protect you." Aaaaand she just expands her force field upwards and downwards at the same time (it's rather phallic, now that I think of it), smashes through several levels of the building, and says: "Protect me? Do I look like I need protecting, Reed? Do I? Don't use me to try and justify the fact that you're afraid to go against your own government.", basically tells him that he's a coward and he's wrong, and she won't stand by his side. To which he answers: "I think you should leave.", hoping that she'll back down or come back an hour later, and she just up and leaves on her force field of destruction. Cut to Reeves, counting the 700 000 or so dollars of repair estimates after the damage she caused. And he still hopes that she'll see that she's wrong and will come back. He's rather pathetic in the whole issue, and the final word belongs to Ben Grimm, who also comes to say that he's leaving for France, realises that it wasn't just a fight, and says" Oh. You two didn't just argue, did you? She left, didn't she?", looks at the damage around him and adds: "You gotta give her this...The woman knows how to slam a door on her way out of a room."

I just found it interesting to have these two versions. Just like in Civil War #4, Sue helped a prisoner escape, and she's disgusted with Reed's behaviour, but she isn't apologetic at all. No cooking dinner, hoping he'll forgive her, asking him to fix him, hoping that he won't think of her as a bad mother (by the way, the way she just leaves without packing her bags makes it easier to understand why she left the children behind -- and it's clear that Ben is still here when she does it, she has no idea that he's about to leave too.) It wasn't perfect, but I prefered this version by far. She thinks he's wrong, she can't follow him anymore, and she has no reason to apologise about what she's doing. JMS for the win.

Oh, and if you're interesting, here's a link to scan of the "Do I look like I need protecting?" smash scene: http://community.livejournal.com/scans_daily/2472525.html#cutid1
raffaella
Oct. 28th, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
er, I meant "interested", obviously.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 29th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)
go make me a pie
timeliebe
Oct. 31st, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)
Sorry, Tammy Can't Come Out and Play With Trolls Right Now
She's on a six-week whirlwind tour of the United States and Canada in support of her latest novel, TERRIER.

Please come back once you get a life, and we can continue this conversation,

Sincerely,
Timothy Liebe
Dreaded Spouse-Creature of Tamora Pierce
- and co-writer of Marvel's upcoming White Tiger comic

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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