James Robinson is set to be the next Wonder Woman writer.
I have thoughts.
They are less than enthusiastic and a good number of them feature words my autocorrect continues to insist are “duck,” and “ducking.” It really should know me better by now.
It isn’t that Robinson is generally considered to be… authorially inconsistent (though I do have concerns about DC putting Diana in the hands of a writer with a hit-or-miss reputation) nor that he’s neither Greg Rucka nor Shea Fontana (though I wish he was).
What concerns me most about Robinson being assigned to Diana’s creative team is DC putting a writer who is insensitive to marginalized groups at best, and transphobic at worst, on any book but especially Wonder Woman which, while as dated as any other seventy-five year old series in its origins, has evolved over the decades into one of DC’s most inclusive books. And remember, even in the way back, Diana left her home and family to fight Nazis, the ultimate haters.
As recently as two years ago, Robinson came under fire for what many have perceived as transphobic dialogue in his meta-comic, Airboy. In his apology letter, Robinson explained Airboy is intended to be an, “ugly version of me and my world… a self-destructive and unhappy time in my life…” And I might believe that, considering Robinson had previously been nominated for two GLAAD Media Awards (Starman and Earth 2) but for the fact Robinson’s comic analogue makes a comment about having been “tricked” by a trans woman, laments the effect of the experience on him, and then moves on without ever considering the fallacy of his own statement or being confronted with regards to his nasty insult.
No matter how meta Airboy is intended to be, no matter how self-reflective, the fact remains these panels would have been the perfect place to address stereotypes leveled against trans individuals and to point out that, no matter how ugly your own situation may be, no matter how deeply you may be drowning in your own issues, there is always room for empathy or, at the very least, education and enlightenment. Being mired in one’s own schadenfreude isn’t an excuse for cruelty and, in fact, should help one to be more empathetic to other folks on the margins, not less.
If Robinson is attempting to portray his former self, his poorer self, I can accept and appreciate, even praise, him for having learned from the low days and come out the other side enlightened. In allowing his avatar to grumble about being “tricked,” however, and in writing the remainder of the scene without addressing the cruel fallacy of that statement, whether consciously or in genuine ignorance, condones it to the uninformed.
Is educating readers Robinson’s job? Perhaps not in a primary sense but as a writer, and a reader, I can’t help but feel it is every writer’s duty to be cognizant of the power of both the words they put into their worlds and the words they opt not to share. In choosing to forgo the opportunity to have another character respond with a “hold up,” or a “woah, dude,” or a, “let’s talk about why you feel that way,” Robinson, both missed an opportunity to correct a common and brutal stereotype and enforced the sentiment of trans as an “other,” worthy only of contempt.
This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about the fundamental right every person has to feel comfortable in his/her/their own skin, to live a full life without facing spurious accusations about their natures and characters and needs.
Robinson deprived his trans character of that right.
That is not okay.
There are plenty of writers who have been, and would be, brilliant on Wonder Woman, no matter what DC editorial has cooked up for direction and plotline (really? The lost twin brother nonsense again?). Marjorie Liu (Monstress, Han Solo), Mariko Tamaki (Hulk), David Walker (Power Man and Iron Fist, Occupy Avengers), Saladin Ahmed (Black Bolt), or, if one of the them was to make the jump to comics, Daniel Jose Older (Bone Street Rumba, Shadowshaper), Claudia Gray (Bloodline, Lost Stars), or Beth Revis (Rebel Rising) would all be equal to the task of continuing Diana’s accepting, empathetic univere, as would countless others. They are all fearless, in their own unique way, in tackling stereotypes and hate, of raising and addressing issues of inclusivity, and educating through fiction and art. Robinson has proven himself incapable of doing so; it’s not too late to hand the opportunity to someone who can.