Comic book companies: Value your fans, not their gender

In my inbox, among the more “serious” of my newsletter subscriptions such as Vox Sentences or AdWeek’s BrandWeek Report, you’ll also find the daily digest from Comic Book Resources.

That’s because in addition to trying to stay smart for my day job, I’m also a huge fan of pop culture and comics.

So when I opened the newsletter last week to find an article about the new DC Comics cartoon Justice League Action, I clicked on it immediately. The original DC Animated Universe, after all, is what ignited my love for comics to begin with.

However, this excitement quickly turned to frustration as I came across the following quote in the interview:

“We wanted to do a show for kids, to appeal to boys in particular,” [Producer Alan] Burnett added.

This quote made my heart sink to my stomach. Why? Because it reminded me of the very reason Young Justice, another great DC animated series, was cancelled: Because executives on these networks don’t want young female audiences.

Is it pure sexism? Not exactly. They didn’t want a female audience because girls don’t buy toys. This is what Young Justice creator Paul Dini said in an interview citing the network’s reason for cancellation.

That logic seems a little silly in retrospect, given the backlash Disney has faced for excluding Rey from Star Wars sets, Black Widow from Avengerssets and Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy sets.

Evidently, girls are buying toys. Or, at least trying to.

But evidently networks airing cartoons are still using the same old logic when it comes to young female audiences.

What’s worse to me is not just the gender issue. It’s the fact that the show’s creators are saying they’re not dedicated to making the best show possible, regardless of what gender audience that would bring. Ideally a great show, I should think, would get the attention of boys and girls.

Going back to the DC Animated Universe example of Justice League andJustice League Unlimited, those were great shows that have stood the test of time.

And they weren’t great shows despite the fact they had story lines that featured strong, interesting women. No, they were great shows because of it.

Because they were dedicated to telling the best stories possible

Hell, they even have an episode where Vixen and Hawkgirl worked together to defeat an enemy despite both being in love with the same guy. Wow, women can work together instead of tearing each other down. What a novel idea.

I could cite more recent examples like the fact that Jessica Jones won a Peabody Award or that The Force Awakens had a female protagonist and was a massive box office success.

But I shouldn’t have to.

I get that companies want to make money. I too, after all, have a job.

But my job in public relations also had taught me that consumers value brands that are transparent and authentic, not just money-grubbers who don’t believe in what they’re selling.

Comic book companies: Commit yourselves to making the best product despite what the networks or marketing department might say. Regardless of whether that product is a comic, TV show or film.

Make the best products, and they will attract the right audience. Because the right audience is an audience of loyal fans who appreciate your work, not just an audience made up of a specific gender.

This post originally appeared on Medium

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My First Comic Convention

Originally published on Medium at https://medium.com/@BreezeRiley/my-first-comic-convention-6e3ea0ff2158#.5yamjzddp. Resharing now since SDCC is so soon!

 

Anyone who knows me, or has at least seen my Twitter feed, knows that I am a pop culture nerd.

More specifically, I’ve loved science-fiction and fantasy (including the superhero genre) my whole life.

So it’s probably less surprising that earlier this month I went to my first comic convention, Awesome Con in Washington, D.C.

One of the smaller regional conventions, this was the 4th year of Awesome Con. Despite its smaller size, however, I was still thoroughly impressed.

The convention had a great mix of celebrity and comic guests, panels and vendors. I was able to pick up comics from a local comic shop that had a booth on the floor as well as peruse all the awesome fan art. It was like Etsy IRL.

Most impressive to a convention newbie like myself was the cosplay. Of course there was a lot of the expected (Suicide Squad Harley Quinns, Deadpools), but also some welcome surprises that filled my geeky heart with excitement (Static Shock, Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, tons of Agent Carters).

Parenting done right.

I attended panels for Matthew Lewis (Neville from the Harry Potter films), John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Arrow) and Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who). One of the negatives of this convention, and any convention, is that there is bound to be overlap and you’ll miss some of the panels. One good thing is that Awesome Con clears the main hall between panels so you don’t feel pressured to camp out all day like at San Diego Comic-Con.

For the most part, the panels were extremely entertaining. I’ve done screenings and talks before at festivals and in college, but these panels felt a lot more casual and had a large segment of fan Q&A instead of depending on the moderators. Most pleasantly, all the actors seemed genuinely happy to be there and answer questions for their fans. Of course, coming to these conventions is a job for them, but they’re also grateful to their fans and the opportunities the dedication of fans can lead to.

To quote John Barrowman, “When the fans speak up that’s when they listen.”

John Barrowman’s entrance

The one major incident that happened during the convention to put a damper on the experience was the hot mess of the Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi photo opps. Apparently the convention oversold them, causing the scheduled panel to start two hours late and to be shortened by 15 minutes. Since I didn’t have a VIP pass, I had joined the general admission line two hours early which means I ended up waiting a very long time for a 30 minute panel. I can only imagine how much more frustrating this was for the people who actually bought the photo opps.

Despite all the chaos, Peter and Jenna were absolutely lovely at their panel. To me it was still worth it to see them together since Jenna has left the show and this might be one of my last chances for a while. Their playful banter in real life is not unlike their relationship on screen. They told some great behind the scenes stories, and the sweetest moments were when they were answering questions from young fans who addressed them as their characters.

Now I can also say I’ve seen David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi all in person which is quite special for a Whovian like myself.

I still can’t get over how lovely they are in person

I do trust that next year Awesome Con will plan better for having such popular guests.

This year I was lucky enough to win passes from the local CW affiliate,DCW50. However, at $80 for a weekend pass, the convention would have still been a great deal (children under 10 go for free, which means lots of cute kids in cosplay). If they manage to keep the level of quality for the same price, I definitely plan to go again next year.

Unfortunately I didn’t also win this car.

Before going to Awesome Con I loved the idea of going to a convention, but wasn’t quite sure if the experience would be worth it. Now I know it’s even more fun than I could have imagined.

While I won’t be heading to any of the bigger conventions this summer, this experience has made me even more excited to attend in the future.

See you next summer, San Diego Comic-Con?…

“Is it possible for the world to look this way forever?”–10 Years in Transit

The first time I finally saw Jack’s Mannequin perform live, it was 2009 at Rams Head Live and I was a few months shy of 16. I was wearing the same worn-down olive green canvas jacket I wore to every show as a teenager, a water main had flooded part of Baltimore and I was feeling particularly stressed about a paper I had due in American Lit.

I’ve since misplaced the jacket and now have more adult worries contributing to my perpetual anxieties. But, in many ways I felt like the same confused-yet-hopeful adolescent I was then when walking into the 9:30 Club this past Wednesday night. The occasion was a sold-out stop of a 10-year anniversary tour celebrating Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, “Everything in Transit.”

At 22 years of age, ten years feels like an awful long time. But that’s how long the words from “Everything in Transit” have been running through my head.

EiT

I’ve loved so much music in my life, but only a handful of albums have truly stayed with me. “Everything in Transit” tops that list. Unlike the songs I listen to in nostalgia trying to recapture a feeling, there’s something about EiT that makes it feel like the songs have grown up with me.

Maybe it’s because I’m finally the same age as Andrew McMahon when he wrote the album that the songs especially resonate with me today. Or, more likely, it’s a testament to his power as a storyteller that the songs only seem to grow in meaning instead of fading into the background

Ten years later, and Andrew McMahon is still chasing his dreams, sharing his music with the world.  And ten years later, I’m still singing along to every word.

Moments in my life like this give me a thing that tends to get lost amongst the chaos of everyday struggle. That thing is hope. 

“Is it possible for the world to look this way forever?” is a question posed in one of my favorite songs of the album. To answer: I hope it is.

 

JacksMannequin930club

How Agent Carter taught me to “know my value”

 

“I know my value”

The end of 2015 felt like a giant win in regards to female representation in fantasy and science fiction. Just in the past three months we’ve gotten Jessica Jones (of the eponymous show) and Rey from Star Wars.

But the woman who really kicked off 2015 wasn’t in a record-breaking blockbuster or a critically-acclaimed Netflix show.

Instead she showed up in your local listings on ABC, the same channel you tune into for your Shondaland fix.

I’m talking about Peggy Carter, who after first appearing in Captain America, was given her own miniseries four years later in the aptly-named Agent Carter.

That’s right. Agent.

Read the rest of the post over on Medium.

agent carter

Review: “Dear Evan Hansen” at Arena Stage

I just finished my first week living in D.C., and I’m writing about theatre not politics. I originally planned to write about neither, but I can’t stop thinking about the musical I saw last night.

show-page-DEH_07

“Dear Evan Hansen,” is a new musical about an anxious outcast named Evan Hansen (Ben Platt, of Pitch Perfect fame) who after years of feeling out of place gets everything he wants.

That is, of course, with one big catch. He has to keep up the lie that a letter he wrote to himself for a therapy exercise was actually written by someone else as a suicide note.

As often happens with little white lies, this single act sends Evan on a tight-rope act of telling bigger and bigger lies in hopes of keeping the life – and the girl – he always dreamed of.

What could easily be a cliche plot of “teenager becomes cool, realizes it’s not that great,” breaks genre norms by incorporating modern themes. It’s not just a love story, but an exploration of grief in the internet age and how technology both helps and hinders our ability to connect to one another.

Ben Platt’s performance is both heartbreaking and relatable, as Evan Hansen reminds us all too well that the thing keeping us on the outside is sometimes only what exists inside our own heads. And his powerful musical performances answer any questions about why at 21 he’s already becoming a familiar name in theatre.

Catering to an audience where dark humor has become the norm, “Dear Evan Hansen” balances out a storyline anchored by tragedy with the self-effacing humor of the protagonist as well as cringeworthy encounters with classmates that will make you wince as you remember your own high school days.

With music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Broadway’s “A Christmas Story” and NBC’s “Smash”), the songs teeter between mainstream pop and traditional showtune. Pasek and Paul craft tunes that will stick in your head for days (“Waving Through A WIndow,” “For Forever”), but more serious numbers tend to drag (“Requiem”).

The story itself, with a book by Steve Levenson, seems a shade unbelievable and requires a due amount of suspension of disbelief. That said, there is no lack of heart or appeal in the story. Ben Platt, who mastered the role of the socially awkward but lovable sidekick in “Pitch Perfect,” brings extra depth in his performance to make that character a leading role.

If you’re looking for a feel-good musical where the plot ends wrapped up in nice little bow, look elsewhere. Instead “Dear Evan Hansen” ends like real life: somewhere in-between.

If you get the chance to see “Dear Evan Hansen” before it ends its run at Arena Stage, I highly recommend it. And if you don’t? With Michael Greif (“Next to Normal,” which also ran at Center Stage) at the helm, a Broadway transfer seems likely.

At Arena Stage until August 23.