Sexy Chix Revisited

You may recall my recent entry regarding the upcoming Dark Horse anthology, Sexy Chix. The opinions I expressed there were also sent to Dark Horse Comics, and I received a reply from Diane Schutz, who is editing this collection. Here is her reply:

Dave, I am of course aware of the controversy this title has created, and you are of course entitled to your own opinion. As I am mine! (In fact, this “controversy” has arisen only in comics circles; the bookstore market has been entirely silent. Draw your own conclusions.)

A woman is editing this trade (yours truly); a woman designed the cover mock-up (our art director Lia Ribacchi). We both have taken our work and this book seriously. Some of us like pink, like “Snow White” bluebirds, like curvy fonts. I’m 50 years old and have worked as a professional editor for over 25 years; it was my idea to spell “Chix” as an “immature teenager might spell it.” Sorry that you, as a guy, don’t approve — but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of editing comics, it’s that I will never please everyone all the time!

The cover, by the way, is only a solicitation mock-up and not the final cover. Not all the photos are in yet.

As to the title, here’s what I posted on the subject at Fanboy Rampage:
“If you want to know why I have entitled the book Sexy Chix…well, you’ll just have to buy a copy to find out! I’ve intended all along to explain that in my introduction to the anthology. And to those of you who don’t begin to get it, I politely submit that you have already bought into the boys’ club paradigm.”

Food for thought, perhaps?

Thanks for taking the time, however, to pursue this seriously and at length in an email. I appreciate your concerns, but I also must stand by my own convictions.

I’m not sure how to reply to this, since, as Ms Schutz points out, this is simply two different sets of opinions. There are some points I’d like to address, however.

1) “the bookstore market has been entirely silent” — Unsurprising since, apart from scooping up manga dollars, most bookstores have been silent about comics for years.

2) “A woman is editing this trade…a woman designed the cover mock-up…” — and women are contributing to it. I understand. This doesn’t change my opinion that the title and cover (the mock-up designed to get people interested enough to pre-order the book) give an appearance of frivolity to the enterprise. It doesn’t matter if there were a million women working on it, my reaction is still as it was. And at least three women I’m immediately aware of felt similarly, so appreciating the book may not just be a matter of having ovaries.

3) “Sorry that you, as a guy, don’t approve…” — I’m not sure what the implication here is. Is it that, since women worked on it and I’m not a woman, I don’t have any right to say that I find it objective to women? Is it a “woman thing” that I wouldn’t understand? Is the cover designed in such a way that getting a penis near it somehow warps its appearance? Am I ironically continuing the male oppression of women by not letting them express themselves as they want to? I’m betting the answer is: “yes”.

4) “And to those of you who don’t begin to get it, I politely submit that you have already bought into the boys’ club paradigm.” — and may I politely submit that whenever anyone uses the phrase “you don’t get it,” they should lose any debate? It’s tired and meaningless. As I have tried to point out to others in the past, it’s possible to “get” it without agreeing with it. I “get” the whole “subverting expectations” trip. I get the whole “using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.” I get it; it’s not that complicated. I simply don’t agree with it. I think that using this technique to sell a book that is about four layers deep in niche (female, non-superhero, non-mainstream, comics professionals) is pretty risky. Especially since those book stores, at least the large ones, are going to simply cram it in with all the other superhero trade paperbacks.

5) “I appreciate your concerns, but I also must stand by my own convictions.” — Well naturally. And I hope I’m totally wrong and the book does well; these creators deserve more recognition. I will probably pick it up, mostly because I am already interested in the subject at hand. I imagine many people who are already interested in these creators will do the same. I’m simply concerned that there isn’t anything there to attract people who aren’t already interested. But you’re right, I’ve not been an editor for 25 years, or a woman for any years.

At any rate, it does sound like a good collection, and I certainly believe that the best of intentions are there, so I would encourage people looking to widen their comics experience to check out this collection, which is coming out in December.

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12 Responses to Sexy Chix Revisited

  1. rone says:

    Ah, see, “men just don’t get it” is a classic old-school feminist bromide. She’s probably trotting it out of nostalgia.

  2. R.D says:

    Pack of male superhero-reading comics nerds: “Hey, this anthology of female comics has a flippant title and pictures of the contributors on the cover! That’s really offense and demeaning to women! (Hey, look at me girlies! I’m being really enlightened and non-sexist! I bet you want to shag me now, eh?)”

    Highly experienced and intelligent female editor: “Actually, I and another woman came up with the title and cover, and we think it’s fine, and so do the contributors.”

    Pack of male superhero-reading comics nerds: “Tuh, bloody feminists! Bunch of hairy-legged bra-burning lezzers, the lot of them!”

  3. Dave says:

    Well, R.D. has seen through my cunning plan.

  4. Shawn Fumo says:

    Heh.. so far both comments to this post are out of line, so let’s see if I can be reasonable. With that clarification, I can see where they are coming from, but I think I’m still with Dave on this. Mostly, I’m just tired of everything having to be super-ironic these days. I think I’ll go re-read Yotsuba..

  5. Greg Burgas says:

    Well, I can’t remember who it was or where I read it, but apparently at least one contributor (Gail Simone, maybe?) didn’t like the cover either. Or maybe she took the picture of the woman contributor on the cover. Anyway, she was involved. They took her picture off the cover. I’m with you, Dave, although I have respected Diana for years. It just seems with the proliferation of awareness of independent comics these days, you don’t need sex to sell it. But then, I’m an unenlightened male.

  6. Dave says:

    This isn’t really a “who’s right or wrong” thing. It’s just that there are at least two ways to interpret the cover, and one of them doesn’t flatter the contents, that’s all.

  7. Anarkey says:

    I’m not really in it for the comics, and I’ve never heard of this anthology and don’t intend to buy it and etc. etc. general disclaimers, but as someone who has ovaries, I thought I’d throw in my two cents, since that seems to be what the internet is for. The overriding vibe I get off her return reply (which I’m assuming you didn’t edit or abbreviate in any way) is the EXACT SAME vibe I get when I go to the vast majority of comic shops. And by that I mean that if I were standing in a comic shop asking after Strangers in Paradise or Neil Gaiman’s latest comic I’d expect all that ‘you don’t understand how good this stuff really is, don’t prejudge it without buying it’ to come out of the guy’s mouth trying to sell me some manga or superhero comic or other thing not what I asked after. It also has the distinct superiority flavoring of ‘I know what I’m about because I work here and you are a mere consumer’ which I get in comic book shops, and the additional dash of ‘your values and opinions are commonplace and burgeois, and you have no appreciation for the zany postmodern feel of comic art’ which I’m subjected to when I say I’m not interested in what’s being pimped. This gives me a revelation, which is that an attitude I always assumed was based on the gender of the person speaking to me in the shop(s) in fact goes way deeper and is more endemic to the comics industry. It’s too bad. For everyone.

    P.S. I think in the sentence “Is it that, since women worked on it and I’m not a woman, I don’t have any right to say that I find it objective to women?” you mean “objectifying” not “objective” as that means something else.

  8. Nathan says:

    See, here’s the problem. She’s forgotten that she’s selling a product; instead, she’s Making A Statement.

    Funny, but those don’t usually sell so well.

  9. David Thiel says:

    To some extent, I can appreciate her response. You really can’t please everyone, and you never know quite what will set off someone else. And while condescension should be avoided in correspondance with end users, it’s sometimes difficult not to think “Look, bub, I’ve been doing this for X years, I think my own perspective might be just a bit more valid.”

    Still, that message carried the unmistakable stink of “You’re a guy, so your viewpoint is meaningless.” Never mind that you were hardly approaching the topic from anything remotely approaching a “boy’s club paradigm.”

  10. JSW says:

    I am woman, hear me bore.

  11. Sylv says:

    >Highly experienced and intelligent female editor: “Actually, I and another woman came up with the title and cover, and we think it’s fine, and so do the contributors.?

    Female Comic Buyer*: It’s still a lame cover and title. REALLY lame.

    Highly experienced and intelligent female editor: Also, you can’t criticize our book because you’re a BOY!

    Female Comic Buyer: What? Did she really just use that argument? That’s ridiculous. Screw this, I’m spendig my money on Grant Morrison trades instead.

    *=This part will be played by me.

  12. Lea Hernandez says:

    Gail’s picture was removed from the cover (which was only a solicitation mock-up), because that particular photograph is owned by me, I didn’t give my permission for it to be used on the cover, and it was removed at my request.

    As for the “boy’s club paradigm” remark: there -is- a boy’s club paradigm in comics, but objecting to a book’s title and marketing doesn’t mean you’ve bought into it. Maybe it’s just not appealing.