Domestic violence does not make your comic “edgy,” Remender.

This likely isn’t news to any of you, but I am a comic book fan. Unless you’re new here, then it is likely news. So, there you have it! I won’t bore you with the history of my love for comic books and comic book characters, that is perhaps another post for another day. All you need to know for the moment is that I love comics, and I have a lot of feelings about them and some of the characters contained within those pages.

I don’t profess to know everything, nor have I read all of the comics featuring one of my favourite characters – Captain America (he is outranked only by Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier on my personal favourites list). Though I’ve not read all of the Captain America comics, and I suspect that there are few who actually have, I’ve learned as much as I can about his past, his story, and continue to do so. It never comes as a shock to me when I discover something new about Steve Rogers. This is a character who has been in print for seventy years – there is always going to be something new to discover!

I was a huge fan of Ed Brubaker’s run of Captain America. The man was by no means perfect, and his treatment of female characters was at times extremely flawed in my opinion, but overall, for eight years, I was absolutely thrilled to pick up the latest issue or trade of the Captain America title, excited to see what Brubaker had in store for us and Steve Rogers.  You can imagine my heartbreak, when earlier this year Brubaker announced that he was stepping down from writing Captain America (and Winter Soldier). Who would wield the shield? – so to speak.

When Marvel announced Marvel NOW! (the relaunching of several of their ongoing titles) I was hesitant to be excited. I could see what they were doing from a marketing standpoint, wanting to capture the new fans that they had acquired through the Marvel Studios’ release of The Avengers, and other titles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s difficult to first get into comics, you’re not really sure where to start, and Marvel was creating an easy way for new fans to jump into purchasing and reading titles that they may not have before.

Along with the announcement of Ed Brubaker leaving the Captain America title, and Marvel NOW!, came the announcement that Rick Remender would take over the writing of Captain America for the MARVEL NOW! relaunch.

I was less than pleased. Remender has not been one of my favourite comic book writers. I personally find his style of writing too reliant on tired, old tropes that we have seen before. I also find his treatment of women in his comics to be extremely misogynistic, which I take more issue with than tropes. However, I wanted to give Remender a chance – he’d been given creative licence with one of my favourites. And because Captain America is a favourite of mine, I felt I owed it to the character, and all those who had written him before, to at least pick up the first couple of issues and support the character and the writer.

Suffice to say, I truly wish that I hadn’t.

In the first couple of pages, we are transported back to Steve Rogers’ past, and we watch as Joseph Rogers, his father, slaps and beats his mother, Sarah Rogers.

I found this appalling. In the seventy years of the Captain America story, many people have tried something new with Steve’s past, however this was the first instance I had ever encountered of his father being abusive. Steve has often recalled his father with fondness, though Joseph died when Steve was very young, during WWI. There have been mentions of alcoholism in the past, but alcoholism is not synonymous with abuse. Tumblr user, Wondy Girl, compiled a fantastic post of mentions of Joseph Rogers here – I strongly recommend that you check it out!

A couple of people, myself included, took to social networking to inquire about the sudden change in Joseph Rogers. Though Steve’s parents died when he was young (how young depends on the writer), he seems to have happy memories of them. Surely there was a reason for this change in character!

Hold up, we’ve got a bad ass over here.

First off, my apologies that the Tweets look kind of wonky. I had to screen cap each one individually, as it appears that after our little exchange that I was blocked from Remender’s account.

Rick Remender, professional comic book writer for one of the most recognizable comic book publishers in the world, exercises an extreme amount of unwarranted sarcasm when I merely question him about canon (or as he refers to it, “cannon”). My knowledge of canon, as stated earlier, has Joseph being referred to as an alcoholic a handful of times, but never abusive. However, Remender states to another user on Twitter that it is in fact canon.

When all I did was basically call that into question, Remender gets defensive and says in what I can only assume is the most sarcastic tone he can pull from his butt hurt asshole, that he’ll only write established canon – nothing new! – from now on. And you can see my retaliation to this comment. So, which is it, Remender? Is it canon or something new? Pick one.

An adult may have informed me that they were trying something new, or that perhaps I was wrong and it was done in the past, as you can see in Issue X of Volume Y, at which point I would have tipped my cap and said thank you! But, no. Not Rick Remender. Sarcasm, ahoy! Yes, because that’s how to treat people who are purchasing your comics. Oops, slipped on some of my own sarcasm. My bad.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with exploring new things for a character that you’re excited to write about. But when your original defense is that something is canon, when you damn well know that it’s not, or you can’t be an adult about it and tell me that it has in fact been explored before, I’m afraid I have to call shenanigans. Especially when it’s a character I adore, such as Steve Rogers.

Furthermore, Remender’s treatment of people messaging him who basically aren’t fawning over his awesomeness with this latest issue of Captain America is deplorable. As a writer, one needs to recognize that not everyone is going to be on board with what you’re doing, especially when you take the helm of writing a title for one of the most adored characters under the Marvel banner. And as a good writer, being open to criticism and accepting that not everyone will be kissing your ass is what makes you an even better writer. All Remender appears to be doing is taking tired old tropes, and using the abuse of Steve Rogers’ mother as one the reasons he learns to “stand up to evil.” And heaven forbid that people aren’t cool with that!

Actually, it is extremely gross and misogynistic, whether you seem to think so or not. Responding to someone’s comment that what you’re doing is not sexist does not absolve you of sexism. Sarah Rogers has always been a hero to Steve, but she never needed to suffer abuse in order for that to be true. You’re using violence as a crutch for your story, and it is in fact extremely lazy writing and piss poor storytelling. There is absolutely no denying that children have found strength in parents who stand up to abuse, who never back down, but it was never necessary for Steve. His mother taught him well, raised a good boy who turned into a good man. Is there something so wrong with that? No. I assume it was merely too “boring,” and instead Remender decided to take a more “edgy” approach.

Mr. Remender, I was willing to give you a shot, despite you letting me down in the past. However, I’m afraid that after this current arc that I will not be purchasing any more of the Captain America title written under your name (I’m a bit OCD about my comics – once I start an arc I have to see it through. Trust me when I say I wish I could drop this now). You’re acting like a petulant child who isn’t getting your way when fans of Captain America are calling you out on your bullshit, and not kissing your ass because of how lucky we are to have you write for us. The fact that I will not be supporting one of my favourite character’s titles is disheartening, but only serves to reaffirm what I thought upon hearing the announcement of Marvel NOW! – it’s going to be a disaster.

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4 thoughts on “Domestic violence does not make your comic “edgy,” Remender.

  1. Wow. Wow! I must admit I was waiting to start reading the new Cap until I had finished the last arc (I’m so behind) but I won’t even bother now I know this is the kind of shit Remender is going to pull.

    I can’t believe that he felt the need to write that Sarah was abused. I mean… she must be weak in all other ways, right? Can only gain strength from being brave against her abusive husband etc. Heavens forbid a woman can be strong and decent role model for her son without having to get beaten to shit for it to happen. Ugh it’s a trope that I’ve seen far too often to be honest. It isn’t needed.

    Also I can’t believe how much of an asshole Remender seems. Ugh.

    No

    1. Remender’s behaviour has been disgusting. A simple glance at his Twitter feed shows that he responds to people who question anything he’s done, or aren’t singing his praises with sarcasm or by being snide. It’s extremely unprofessional. Not that I expected much from him, but not behaving like a child is a good place to start.

  2. Oh, my god, this post is everything that’s wrong with the Feminist Blogsphere. Mostly in the way that it completely erases the real women who are victims of domestic violence. What happened to Sarah and her son in Cap #1 happens ALL THE GODDAMN TIME, and YES, we need a woman in comics who represents that in a positive way, because she took that situation and still formed the very best hero in the universe.

    Yes, she DOES need to be a domestic abuse survivor (“suffer” no. Get out.) Sarah Rogers is a goddamn hero, and you want to take that away from her because it makes you uncomfortable. I’m glad people like you will never write comics, because you are not interested in representing all of us. Just the white middleclass women who are live picture perfect lives.

    Also, Joe Rogers being abusive has been hinted at before. Go back and read Demon in a Bottle and DeMatteis’ run. It’s there. It’s in the lines and you have to read between them to see it, but it’s there. Remender isn’t making up anything new.

    Remender’s behavior isn’t disgusting. But yours is.

    1. I think you’ve misinterpreted my post here. Nowhere am I trying to take anything away from survivors of abuse, nor did I say that it never happens.

      But, let me get this straight.

      You’re saying that Sarah Rogers NEEDS to be a survivor of abuse in order to be a strong woman?

      No.

      There are multitudes of other ways to be a strong woman, to be a hero to one’s child. Basically what you’re telling me is that unless you’ve come out of an abusive relationship as a survivor that you’re not a strong woman. I will keep that in mind, and be sure to ask all of my idols, role models, and influences who I consider strong lady types if they’re abuse survivors, and if they’re not, well, they clearly aren’t strong enough.

      Yes, her abuse makes me uncomfortable. It should make everyone uncomfortable. The day that people are comfortable with seeing a woman, fictional or not, getting slapped around is not what I would consider a good day. The fact that you take some manner of happiness from seeing Sarah beaten by her husband concerns me. No one, certainly not me, is saying the stories of abuse survivors don’t need to be told. Of course they need to be! But this was unnecessary, and a crutch for bad writing, used to prop up Steve’s character and arc, and he certainly didn’t need it. Your comment basically says that Sarah Rogers was not a strong character until Remender came along, which I’ll be honest, kind of boggles my mind.

      Remender didn’t do any service to Sarah’s character by devoting two pages to her being struck multiple times and bloodied. There is a big difference to telling a character’s story and using them as a plot tool to make another character’s story “better” or “edgy.” No one is trying to strip away Sarah’s agency; of course she’s a strong and wonderful woman for coming out of what happened to her with her head held high, wanting to teach her son right from wrong, wanting him to “always stand up.” But, there are ways to do that without using domestic abuse as a plot device and demonizing another character.

      Joseph has always been recalled fondly by Steve, and I seriously doubt that would be the case if he witnessed his mother being abused by him. I’ve read the arc you’re referring to, and after reading it nowhere did I take away that Joseph was abusive. An alcoholic, yes, but not abusive. Also, if you have to “read between the lines” of something, that’s not canon, it’s head canon. It’s hypothesizing.

      I will close this comment by saying that I agree with you – there needs to be better representation of women, all women, in comics, that goes without saying. But if the only reason we’re representing them is to prop up another character’s storyline, then it’s being done incorrectly, and really not representing anyone or doing any justice at all.

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