On Wednesday, Cain removed herself from Twitter, citing the reaction to the cover of her final issue of “Mockingbird,” a Marvel Comics series that represented her first foray into writing superheroes at a mainstream comic-book publisher.
The cover, illustrated by Joelle Jones and featuring series star Barbara “Bobbie” Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird, became the target of online trolls who didn’t like the shirt Mockingbird was wearing, which read, “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda.”
As soon as the cover hit, Cain began receiving a slew of online harassment.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many of these “gentlemen” who thought they were big macho studs by tweeting their displeasure of the f-word even knew this series existed. Unfortunately, the very well-written “Mockingbird” has been cancelled by Marvel. (The company rolls out new series multiple times a year, and if the sales aren’t there, they usually move on. It’s a good way to see what works and what doesn’t, but at times, great series such as “Mockingbird” are casualties.) The character was most recently portrayed by actress Adrianne Palicki on ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” and was known for fighting alongside Avenger archer Hawkeye in the ’80s. I roam the comic book-loving section of Twitter daily, and up until Wednesday’s release of “Mockingbird” No. 8, I wasn’t seeing tweets to “make comics great again” by getting the book off of shelves.
Certain comics aren’t for certain folks. If you don’t like a comic, or what it represents, or the artwork, or just aren’t a fan of the character featured, you’re more than welcome to not buy it. That doesn’t give you the right to harass an author online to the point that they feel it’s necessary to delete their social-media account because of a new lack of faith in humanity.
The comic-book industry as a whole isn’t completely innocent, either. For a very long time, comic books only catered to and were created by men — mostly middle-aged and white — who gave us tales of female heroines wearing next to nothing with certain exaggerated body parts. To this day, there are artists that remain famous not because of their visual storytelling, but because of their ability to draw sexy women.
There has been change since those “Mad Men” days of comics in the form of more diverse hires. Twitter, for all its faults, has also helped give a voice to women and fans of color, and the industry has responded.
But the trolls are still out there, and apparently an empowering book about a confident female superhero that does things on her own terms — who isn’t Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel — is just too much to bear.
Many within the comic-book industry came to the defense of Cain, including Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, as well as writers Brian Michael Bendis and Gail Simone.
I stand w/ Chelsea Cain, condemn online harassment, and think the MU, and the industry, benefits & grows from diverse creators & characters.— axel alonso (@axelalonsomarv) October 26, 2016
If all those offended by Cain’s “Mockingbird” series would have taken time to actually read the comic instead of just reacting to the cover, they would have found a series that was sexy, packed superhero punch, was beautifully drawn (seven issues were by artist Kate Niemczyk, and one issue by Ibrahim Moustafa), and humorous (at one point, Mockingbird claims to be allergic to Axe body spray, and another story finds her awaiting a S.H.I.E.L.D. physical, sitting near Tony Stark, who is reading a pamphlet entitled “Gonorrhea? Don’t panic!”).
The biggest tragedy in this is that comic books may have lost someone who could have given a lot more. Many will now flock to “Mockingbird” because of the headlines it has made after this Twitter scuffle, read it, and wonder what Cain could have done as the voice behind one of their other favorite female superheroes. We may never know, as it’s hard to see why someone would once again subject themselves to a readership that treats them poorly.
Cain is an established author; she can take her talents to other mediums. Many will hope she returns to comics, but can you blame her if she doesn’t?
Diversity in comics remains an ongoing fight. Battles have been won, but the war will rage on until some folks decide to grow up.