The world of comics has become a polarized arena in the last few years. No, I won’t be talking about Black Panther today; I’ll save that for the review. This is about the actual comic book industry. Last year, I wrote a short editorial about the war within the industry between comic book writers and their fans. Conservative Youtuber Richard Meyer, commonly known as his YouTube name Diversity & Comics rose to fame last year on the back of his videos that criticized the work of various comic book creators (Mainly those under the umbrella of Marvel Comics). The bread and butter of his channel (outside of poor sound quality) was criticizing writers and artists for their social justice storylines as well as displaying their hostile reactions against the online fan community who criticized their work. A significant part of the comic book professional community rebelled against Diversity & Comics claiming he was leading a racist and sexist attack against them. As his popularity rose, many comic book pros decided to block all 11,000+ of his Twitter followers, myself included.
The war between creators and fans blew up recently when a Youtuber by the name of Yellow Flash created and posted a list of creators to boycott and not buy their work. This led to Inverse Entertainment writing a scathing article condemning the supporters of the #Comicsgate movement as bigots. #Comicsgate is an online following of fans that have grown dissatisfied with the current direction of the comic industry and uses the hashtag to voice their displeasure. The people against Comicsgate claims that the group is simply vile bigots who don’t want to see diversity or women in their comics while the people supporting Comicsgate claim to just want better stories removed of far-left propaganda.
With the war between the two sides at an all-time high, a new online movement pushed by the Comicsgate community known as #MoveTheNeedle has gained traction. After feeling that the Blacklist of Yellow Flash wasn’t the direction that the supporters of Comicsgate should take, Diversity & Comics started the #MoveTheNeedle campaign, an attempt show the comic book industry that his 58,000+ subscribers and other supporters can have a positive effect. The hashtag is full of fans recommending books of artists and writers that they like and showing that they actually will support them with their hard-earned money (Hooray For Capitalism). Now critics of this community have not hesitated to call these members bigots, racists, sexists, transphobic, and alt-right. However, many members of this community are quite diverse themselves (myself included) and are taking Richard’s lead to show off the comics that they support.
Can #MoveTheNeedle change comics for the better? It’s no secret that the comic industry is on a downward path. Sales were down 10%, many notable titles from the big 3 publishers were canceled last year, and over 50 comic book stores went out of business including a local favorite of mines in the San Diego area. For the fans who believe the recent push of social justice comics is to blame, this is their opportunity to make a difference. If #MoveTheNeedle creates a buzz and shows an uptick in sales that the fans have recommended, we could see the changing of the guard. But that begs a more important question, does the Comicsgate crowd have the reach and power they think they have? Comicsgaters boast about how SJWs do not buy the comics they fight for online. While that may be true, it is now time to put up or shut down when it comes to the battle of sales.
Personally, I support the #MoveTheNeedle movement because it finally gives the fans an opportunity to show the comics that they like while giving them an avenue to support and promote them. Not only that, but it gives them an opportunity to combat the smear campaign by those who want to discredit them. I’m very skeptical of the success of #MoveTheNeedle. The jury will be out for a while to see if there is any positive change in numbers. But ultimately any movement that creates an atmosphere where people support comics financially is a good one. With a clear culture war going on now, the victor will be the group who uses the power of their dollar. Let’s see if the Comicsgate crowd actually has some bark to their bite.