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Comic books have a special place for controversies. As an industry, it generates such a low amount of headline-grabbing news that when something does pop up, everyone jumps on it. Admit it, even if you didn’t agree with some of this year’s controversies, you still talked about them. They still grabbed you.
So as the year draws to a close, I’ve assembled some of the three very best — or worst, depending on how you feel — controversies of 2014. Lets take a stroll down this shady, mostly avoided alley of memory lane.
In the Nu52, the Batgirl title had both strong sales as well as a vocal fanbase. When Gail Simone left the title and Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Tarr took over, it continued its trend of appealing to younger female audiences. Batgirl’s new costume was functional and hip. Barbara Gordon was now peppier, cooler, more mainstream. It was a Batgirl for a new age. Perhaps that why it was met with such a wave of criticism in Batgirl #37.
You see, the issue was something of a revelation for the new arc — the first of which under the new creative team — wherein Barbara Gordon is investigating an impostor Batgirl making trouble in her new town of Burnside. When Batgirl finally unmasks the villain, it’s revealed to be Dagger Type, a local performance artist.
The debate raged across the Internet as the cries of transphobia poured in. Some pointed out that Dagger Type identified as a male twice in the issue and thus wasn’t a transwoman, but a kind of drag queen character. Others said that the issue’s issue stemmed from the “but you’re a–” line of dialog, calling out the shocked horror of finding out someone you had thought a woman was, in fact, a man as transphobic.
Whatever your stance on it, its controversy raged across fan boards and twitter. It got so bad, in fact, that Batgirl‘s creators issued an official apology saying that they were wrong and that they’d do better in the future.
Spider-Woman has always been drawn in the typical comic book heroine way (until recently, that is). No one really made too much noise about it, it was a larger issue at work. A symptom, not the disease. Then Marvel hired Milo Manara, an erotic artist, to do a special variant covers of Spider-Woman #1, Avengers And X-Men: AXIS #1, and Thor #2.
The first was Spider-Woman #1, a painting that showed her climbing over the top of a building. Well… I think it’s best to show you if you haven’t seen it already:
The Internet exploded when news of the cover hit. Salon called it “more like a colonoscopy than a costume”. People on Twitter and Tumblr railed against the artwork. A lot of Marvel execs replied, saying things like “Milo Manara has been working as a cartoonist since 1969, and what he does hasn’t materially changed in all that time. So when we say “Manara cover”, his body of work indicates what sort of thing he’s going to do.” Still others have just pointed out that this kind of art is what Manara does and that’s why he was hired.
Regardless, Manara’s other two covers were canceled before Spider-Woman #1 even hit shelves. The cover itself is still propped up as an example of the long road the industry still has to travel down in relating to younger female audiences.
Yes, DC had a hand in nearly killing a bunch of people. Like war crime levels. Now, yes, it’s bit of an exaggeration, but remember that water crisis in Toledo, Ohio? A bunch of chemicals spilled into a municipal water supply that fed water to eleven million people? Well DC was one of the few paying for those chemicals.
They were planning on 3D and shiny covers to try and boost sales. This involved using chemicals made at that plant. The whole thing was called off when the water crisis went down, and luckily it didn’t result in huge swaths of death. Still, could it be that Dan Dido and The Joker are one in the same? I’ve never seen them in the same room together?
Weirdly enough, this wasn’t reported on nearly as much as the other two…