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Wednesday, August 31, 2005 

I'm boycotting Bill Willingham's books

Not that I've ever read any of Willingham's books, though I'm sure that in all due fairness, he's got some good stuff. But after learning of the story turnout in the latest Batman issue that he scripted, I'd say that any chances of my supporting his writing are now officially terminal. And let me make this clear, that I don't have any restrictions on spoilers when examining a bad story like this, which is why, as this entry on Spoilt! reveals, this is exactly why I have no faith from here onwards in Mr. Willingham as a writer:
Batman arrives in Africa, at a "Doctors Without Borders" medical camp, and enters the tent of Leslie Thompkins. Batman asks Thompkins why she withheld treatment from Stephanie Brown, letting her die. She explains that she intended it to act as a warning to others tempted to live the superhero life. She says that she's ready to die but too cowardly to do it herself, handing Batman a gun, who refuses to shoot. He tells her that he's provided all the pertinent evidence to the authorities, who will be looking for her. He warns he never to practice medicine, or return to America, or to contact him again.
What's most facinating about the abominable reveal here is that it gives us yet another case of a woman murdering another woman, as was the case seen in Identity Crisis. That is, in simple detail, a form of misogyny, ditto the way that she offers Batman the possibility of shooting her, which is chillingly reminicient of the part in IC #7 where Jean Loring invited Ray Palmer to hit her.

And the part about Thompkins willing to die but being too cowardly to commit suicide is just plain silly.

Willingham even tries to argue in defense of this insult reveal on this topic here from Fabletown, and what a shameful display we seem to have here:
Yes, deliberately withholding treatment, except in the context of a legitimate triage decision, is quite the unequivocal violation of the Hippocratic oath. In a court of law one could reasonably expect to be found guilty of murder.

Seems like Leslie snapped. Seems like Batman doesn't like her much anymore (though he still couldn't bring himself to be the one who brought her in).

After this issue came out, I took a rare tour of other message boards to try to gauge what the general reaction might be. As expected, it was overwhelmingly negative, with lots of "how dare Willingham do this!" What I didn't expect is how much message traffic this book would generate. Message boards that might have one or two regulars post every few days, or so, suddenly exploded with five and six pages of new messages per day.

Here's something you readers need to realize: Though we generally hope readers will like our stories, hating them is almost as good. Hating them so much that yours is the one book everyone is talking about now -- well that's golden. One can't hate without passion and involvement. The one reaction we most fear is indifference.

Yes, I'm a little put out by the (at least three and counting) reputedly male readers who posted testimony that they wept after reading this issue (one claiming it was for the loss of innocence). Not that I believe they actually did. But I'm still from an early enough American generation to find men claiming to act like overly dramatic little girls just a little bit cringe-making.

And of course there were scores of those claiming that this incident was the last straw and they're giving up my books, or the Bat books, or all comic books, forever. Here's a splash of water for everyone who ever has or ever will make such an hysterical claim on a message board: We never believe you. If you're the type to indulge in "how dare they do that!" we know you'll always be back for further outrages. Those addicted to indignation need constant indignation feeding.

But, that aside, all is good. Feel free to blame me for ruining Batman. I could claim that editorial mandates were in force here and thereby split the blame a bit, but I think this time I won't. I willingly took the job, and I'm too greedy to want to share the credit this time.

How do you like them apples?
Ahem. Kindly cut the crap about the apples please; it's not funny. Nor is insulting the audience no matter what they decide in regards to keeping on with the books/writers in question or not. And while editorial madates were probably in force there, that doesn't mean he couldn't have avoided being as tasteless as he was when putting together this horrorfest, or couldn't turn down the assignment altogether.

I haven't read any of Willingham's books, if at all, and this certainly doesn't - and won't - whet my appetite for any more that he does. Anyone who just goes along and mindlessly resorts to insulting the audience as Mr. Willingham does so blatantly here is not someone whom I find worthy of plunking my hard-earned money down for.

Update: here's an older item I thought would be important to note here as well: On the ultra-knee-jerk Newsarama, Bill Willingham is interviewed for the Day of Vengeance miniseries, and yikes - this is truly distasteful to have to see, that Jean Loring is being turned into a new, female version of Eclipso, the character first created by Bob Haney in 1963, a man possessed by an evil entity and forced to commit evil himself.

Seeing the panels shown here, and how Jean is characterized, was truly distasteful, and it became pretty obvious that, aside from the fact that Day of Vengeance is an editorially mandated book, one of the reasons for her being villified in Identity Crisis was so that she could be turned into some evil entity like Eclipso. And I suppose even Dan DiDio must think he's being very clever to put a woman in the role of such a character, whom I personally have never found interesting, doesn't he?

If there's any Countdown-connected miniseries I for one would avoid, it'd be this one, and it looks like others so far will be too.

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