On this special episode of Dear Watchers, we have a COMIC SCHOLAR & AUTHOR INTERVIEW! Join in on our conversation with Tim Hanley, author of books on Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Betty & Veronica, and Lois Lane, as well as "Not All Supermen: Sexism, Toxic Masculinity, and the Complex History of Superheroes" to discuss the multiverse as opportunity for better stories, wanting the best for characters, diversity in storytelling, Marvel vs DC, how reboots treat women, using historic data to understand comics, gender, and sexism, and much, much more!
On this special episode of Dear Watchers, we have a COMIC SCHOLAR & AUTHOR INTERVIEW! Join in on our conversation with Tim Hanley, author of books on Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Betty & Veronica, and Lois Lane, as well as "Not All Supermen: Sexism, Toxic Masculinity, and the Complex History of Superheroes" to discuss the multiverse as opportunity for better stories, wanting the best for characters, diversity in storytelling, Marvel vs DC, how reboots treat women, using historic data to understand comics, gender, and sexism, and much, much more!
Follow Tim Hanley on Twitter
Visit Tim Hanley's website
Order "Not All Supermen" wherever you buy books or from the publisher
Creators & Guests
What is Dear Watchers: an omniversal comic book podcast?
Dear Watchers is a weekly comic book podcast through the omniverse where your Watchers Guido and Rob explore a different multiverse each episode, from Marvel’s What If to DC’s Elseworlds and far beyond. Join as we discuss the stories that were inspired by and take inspiration from each week’s alternate universe. Includes special episodes with guest creators, scholars and fellow podcasters to share their favorite trips to the multiverse and help ponder the possibilities of what lies ahead for comics and storytelling. For bonus episodes: www.ko-fi.com/DearWatchers
Rob: Welcome to Dear Watchers, a comic book omniverse podcast where we do a deep dive into the multiverse. You said I was too loud, so this is my PR voice.
Guido: We're traveling through the stories and the world that is fire and make up the alternate universes we all love, usually. But today we're doing something a little different. And your watchers on this journey are.
Rob: Me Kido and Me Rob, and an extra very special guest you will meet in a few moments. This was a lot of fun because we got to speak to an expert who is steeped in comics, both as a fan and as a scholar. With five books and so many essays and studies on comics, this was truly a fun conversation. Guido, I know you've been reading his book all this week, and that guest is Tim Hanley, who you will meet in a moment. Guito, what was one of your biggest takeaways from this conversation?
Guido: Well, I think, like you said, it was fun to talk to someone who has published all these books, studying so much about comics, some of which I've loved for eight years, since he started writing. But what came out of this conversation, there were a lot of things that I really appreciated. One, though, was the way that breaking from continuity so multiverses and alternate universe storytelling creates a lot of opportunity for more diverse stories, for different stories, for new stories. When you have an industry that for the decades that exist, for the nearly 100 years it's existed, that's been primarily created by men, white men, you end up with stories that reflect that. And when you do a reboot, when you do an, uh, alternate universe, when you go into an else worlds, or when you have a what if, it gives you an opportunity to do something different and tell a different story. And that opportunity is often squandered, as we'll hear in the conversation with Tim. But I just like thinking about the opportunity it does create. How about you? What were you thinking about when we finished our conversation with Tim?
Rob: Well, something I think about all the time for my day job, but I didn't really put it into context for comics is how representation on, um, the page can really influence the representation of your audience. So we're going to talk a little bit about a specific time in comics history where we probably regressed in terms of the characters that were actually on the page. And there was not a lot of female representation. There was certainly almost no clear representation. So when you look at the audience of who was reading these books, it was mostly, again, going back to what you just said, white, straight men. And by doing that, you are severely limiting the audience that is reading your books. And as we know, the comics audience is not exactly a growing one. So if you are stifling a huge part of your audience and not really inviting them in. What does that say? How can you grow your fan base from there? So I think it's really interesting to see wow. Who you're representing. Having female representation or people of color or queer representation on the page can really resonate with the fans and the people who are consuming your product.
Guido: And also how you represent them matters because we'll talk about some bad examples. Certainly true.
Rob: That's true. It's not simply just having a female character as your lead. It's how is that female character portrayed? Because just having them out there can actually be the inverse.
Guido: It could be even more exactly. So let's jump into today's conversation.
Rob: Yes. And with that, dear Watchers, welcome to episode 60, and let's check out what's happening in the multiverse with today's conversation. Um, so we are here and joined by our extra special guest member of the Council of Watchers, Tim Hanley. Hi, Tim.
Tim Hanley: Hi. Thanks so much for having me.
Rob: Thank you.
Guido: Thank you for being here.
Rob: Yes, we are very excited to begin, but before we do that, Guito is going to introduce you to our listeners.
Guido: All right. So, Tim, we're excited. You're a scholar of everything that we love. My undergrad was actually in gender studies, so bringing together my love of comics and an interest in gender is a dream come true for me. So let's see if I captured who you are for our listeners. I'm going to go on for a while, but you have such great titles of things that you do, and I want to make sure our listeners hear them all so that they go out and read, because I am going to fan out a little bit, and I think, uh, people should know everything about you. So Tim Hanley has been a comic scholar and author, focusing a lot on gender, women, and masculinity in comics. His master's thesis was on Wonder Woman and feminism. This has been a lifelong journey. He contributed to Wonder Woman and Psychology, a great collection that's out there gender and superhero narratives. Another essay collection that's out there done an intro for Sally, the Sleuth collection recently saw that you were on a panel about unlearning toxic masculinity. So just really putting together all the pieces of you. But you also are a journalist in your historian role. You're also communicating that with us through Comic Journal, the La. Review of books. The Atlantic Polygon all about comics. But then the core of your work, I think, is the books that you've written with great titles like Wonder Woman unbound the Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine, which I've long been a fan of and I frankly think is the definitive History of Wonder Woman investigating Lois Lane, the Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter, the Many Lives of Catwoman, the Felonious History of a Feline Fatale Betty and Veronica, the Leading Ladies of Riverdale, and most recently, a book that I just finished reading. And it was jam packed with stories and facts and data that every comic fan should have. Not all supermen sexism, toxic masculinity, and the complex history of superheroes. It goes into the people making comics, the stories, the characters, the art, the history through to today. It's really amazing. You got a hashtag going, hashtag, not all supermen. You have a great thread with that that people should find. That goes into a lot of the examples from the book on masculinity, on gender, on objectification, on so much in comics. And side note, you use letters to the editor as data, which is, uh, my dream come true. I've mentioned it on previous episodes. One day, I hope to write a history book on them if you don't beat me to it because I am obsessed with letters to the editor, and I love how much you analyze them. So your work is just awesome. Round of applause now.
Tim Hanley: Well, thank you for the lovely introduction and for saying the ridiculously long names of all of my books.
Guido: They're so catchy, though. I know we're not even in the interview, but did you come up with the names or is that like a book editorial thing?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, I came up with most of them. There's always a little back and forth when you sell the book and you're trying to optimize everything. Uh, but yeah, I think by and large, I came up with most of them. The biggest sticking point was the turbulent, uh, history of the daily plants. H Reporter the turbulent we couldn't quite hit. We had a lot of different words in there, back and forth. Uh, so it took a while to land on Turbine.
Guido: Well, they're great, and I'm so excited to dig into them.
Rob: Yes, me too. And if you're listening to us for the first time, we have three sections origins of the Story, exploring, Multiversity, and Pondering Possibilities. And while we normally explore the comic book Omniverse with these, we're thrilled to speak with Tim in these sections. So with that dear watchers, let's head through the Omniverse with special guest Tim Hanley.
Tim Hanley: Right now on this very show, you're.
Rob: Going to get the answer to all your questions.
Tim Hanley: Our amazing story begins a few years ago.
Rob: So for our origins of the Story, we want your origin, Tim. And if Guito's intro didn't tip you off, we have lots of questions for you. But we're just going to start with these ones. So, Guito, why did you take it away?
Guido: Yeah, well, why don't you start with your origin story as a fan, tell us how you first got into comics and whatever you remember about that and where it began.
Tim Hanley: Sure. I always had comics, um, around. My grandmother loved to go to garage sales and yard sales on the weekend, so she gave me stacks of old comics. So as soon as I could read, I was reading like really old archie's, and, like, little lana, little dot ritchie, uh, rich, all that kind of stuff. And some superheroes mixed, uh, in. I was never huge into superhero comics when I was a kid. I was more into archie, but, like, I watched all the shows. So I think batman the animated series started when I was seven. So that was perfect timing for me. It was on every day at 1130. If I was homesick or summer vacation, I'd watch regis and kathy lee for the first half hour, switch over to batman.
Guido: What a mix.
Tim Hanley: Yes. And then, like, the superman show came after that. Justice league. So I really knew superheroes through the cartoons more than the comics. Continued to read, um, archie all through high school because archie is the best. I find them genuinely hilarious. Almost everyone I know finds it odd that I think I use their hilarious. I think they're rude. I got into, um, comics more in high school. I had a friend who collected a lot of stuff, so he introduced me to cool storylines. The first thing that really got me back in, I went to the comic store near my university to get the first issue of a CSI comic they were doing. I think it was IDW. And I was a big CSI fan at the time, so I wanted to pick up the comic book. And they had, uh, jeff lobe and McGinnis, uh, superman, batman, the first couple of issues of that with his McGinnis fantastic art. It really looked a lot like the animated series. So I picked those up and I was like, oh, dang, these are great. And so DC is wise, and they advertise copiously in their comic books. And so once I got into that, I kind of just bought everything the back of the book told me to buy from then on. And yeah, uh, I've been collecting ever since.
Guido: And how were those CSI comics?
Tim Hanley: They were okay. I think I ended up giving those away to someone who likes CSI more than I did.
Guido: I had no idea they even existed, though. I'm not surprised.
Rob: You were an archie reader and then came into DC. So it sounds like your comic book allegiance came in a little later than a lot of people. Were you ever a marvel person as well?
Tim Hanley: I was never a huge marvel person because even the cartoon shows I liked were the DC ones. I watched x men's and spiderman and stuff. In the men evolution I was big into. That was fine. But the DC ones were, uh, more my speed. Um, even like, the batman movies came out when I was a kid. I'd seen the movies once, but I had all the toys, so playing with the toys was more my jam. Mhm.
Guido: Then your journey continues and you become involved in comics as an academic. How did that go?
Tim Hanley: I was doing history at university, and I was very bored because I was focusing on European history, and it's kind of all been written. There's not a lot you can do that's new and interesting about European history these days. So I was taking an American pop culture course to mix up a bit, really enjoying myself. And I thought, well, I got all these comics. I like, let's dig into that a bit. Um, so I think the first thing I ever wrote was an essay on Batman and Robin and, like, the gay panic of the 1950s with and I, uh, had way more fun doing that than I had anything yet in my university career. So when it was time to do I did an honors degree. So when it was time to do my honors thesis, I went back to the 1950s again with Seduction of Innocent, but focused more on the comic, uh, code and kind of how DC rebuilt the comic book industry in the wake of Seduction of the Innocent and the introduction of the comics code, because we look at it as censorship and, oh, no, all these terrible things happen. But it was actually super mercenary on DC's part. Like, they very intentionally crafted the code to put a bunch of other publishers out of business and take their spots on their acts. So that was really interesting and a fun thesis to do. Uh, and then in doing research for that thesis, I kept seeing really weird things about Wonder Woman, like bondage in the kind of super domestic in the then, like, this feminist revolution with glorious dynamic in the 70s. So when I did my master's degree, I thought, well, let's dig into one woman and see what's there, because obviously there's a lot going on with this character, and it'd be interesting at the very least. And then they're doing background research to kind of understand the, uh, character and the feminism behind William Molten Marston and his creation of Wonder Woman. And then later on, kind of the feminism of Steinem, um, herself. I ended up getting super into feminism. I'd read all these classic feminist texts and be like, dang, this makes a lot of sense. These ladies know what they're talking about. That actually there does seem to be a patriarchy and seems to be treated as the other, and maybe this isn't a good system. Yeah, I brought all that into the thesis about Wonder Woman, and then once the university was done, turned the thesis into a book, and then did another book and another book, and now here we are, several years and five books later.
Rob: It feels like you were ahead of the curve, too, in that way, because I think we're all around the same age. And even when I was growing up, comics definitely still seemed to be something that was more juvenile and not thought of with these great you weren't hearing all these kind of theories and thesis. I was being into film and there were books and books I read about film from the even as a teenager, but you never saw that for comics. So in that way, it feels like you were really touching on that before. A lot of other people were. Do you feel that way, or do you see that coming more into a critical theory world? Uh, now, yes.
Tim Hanley: When I was in university, comic studies were just starting out. There, like, some articles and a few books and stuff. But most everything was about Watchmen because everybody loves Watchmen. No one was, like, digging into Lowest Lane in any real depth. They'd covered the basics there. You can find articles on Batman Superman. There's definitely a few things on Wonder Woman, but in terms of the breadth of depth, um, there is now not even close. It's really in the past 20 years now, it's picked up considerably. It's a whole, uh, field, though.
Guido: Yeah. Even the gender lens, though. Your Wonder Woman book is 2014, so it predates. Sadly, as a culture, we're still trying to dismantle, uh, the patriarchy. I don't know in any of our lifetimes if that will happen. But at least issues are more visibly discussed. But that's really in the last four years. And you wrote this eight years ago. How did you end up going from Wonder Woman then to go into Lois to Betty and Veronica? Make more sense with what you are saying. But how did you end up deciding on that? And then Catwoman? How did you get through that trajectory of strong women?
Tim Hanley: Yes, as part of the one woman book, I did, uh, in each era of the characters, like Golden Age, so Rach, Bronze Age, I compared her to other female characters just to see how she related. And like, Lois was, um, a constant throughout. And I really enjoyed looking into Lois and all the interesting things she got up to. So when the Wonder Woman book was done, lois seemed the next logical place, uh, to go because, I mean, there's so much Lois Lane material. She's been there from Action Comics number one, every Superman adaptation, every Superman comic book. So there's a lot to work with. So we went to Lois next. I, uh, know I definitely wanted to continue with, um, female characters. I wanted to do characters who hadn't really been spotlighted yet. And those are the female characters, as well as obviously promote these amazing female characters and contextualize their history so people can appreciate them more. So after Lois, I knew I, um, kind of wanted to go to the Batman universe. And so it was either going to be, uh, Catwoman or Bat Girl. I actually did eventually, um, pitch a back girl book that didn't get picked up spammers. That would have been fun to, uh, write.
Guido: Yes. And there's great stuff in not all Superman about backgirl.
Tim Hanley: Yeah. That is repurposed.
Rob: People are just canceling Batgirl left and right. Your book, the movie.
Tim Hanley: It's the whole thing. But yeah. So Catwoman provided like a cool ends into the Batman universe. But also we've gone from like hero to love interest, sidekick to billing sometimes. So it was a new angle to come at it. Uh, and again, great adaptations. Mhm. I did have to watch the Halle Berry movie. That was my sacrifice for all of you. But I got to watch Batman Returns a lot. So it all evens up. Yeah, so that's super cool. After that, I kind um, of done my trifecta of female comic book characters I really wanted to hit. I knew most anything going forward was going to be like kind of like a group book. Like a combination of things. There weren't a lot of characters left that I thought could really sustain a solo book. But then I realized, wait a second, betty and Veronica could they've been around like since the early 40s. Fewer adaptations. But um, Riverdale is just kicking off. So that definitely caught my attention. And I've always loved them. So that seemed like a fun place. And again, something different. Uh, yet again. So we go hero, love interest, fill in funny kids characters and mix it up one more time. That one was a blast. I, uh, just got to read old Archie's and have a good time with those kind of pull out all the Betty and Veronica stuff from there's been histories of Archie and Archie has always been the focus. Just kind of turned the lens a little bit. That was really enjoyable. It was a really fun project and not as dark as some of the other projects. To go from Betty Veronica to this book was a real shifted tone to Not All Superman.
Guido: Yeah. So tell us about not all superman. How did that come about?
Tim Hanley: It came about because, um, when I was nearing finishing Benny's Veronica book, I was going to sleep one night and I thought to myself, you know, it would be a funny title. Not All Superman. Someone should write a book called that. And then I was like, well that's probably going to have to be me, isn't it? And like, the subtitle came to my mind pretty quick. Uh, like I knew it was going to be sexism and toxic masculinity and superhero books. I was like, yeah, I could do that. That's basically an extension of everything I've done so far. So yeah, I wanted to look at the whole, uh, superhero industry from sort of a macro perspective. Like, uh, all my other books are deep dives into specific characters. This is kind of a broad overview where we dive into specific moments but don't spend too much time anywhere. We're kind of looking at the industry as a whole. So the real core of the idea for me is obviously, uh, there's obvious sexism in comic books. It's a nostalgia heavy industry that started, uh, in the 1940s. So all of these old values kind of got baked in and carried on for decades. And you can kind of point to, um, the obvious moments of sexism, like the way female characters were drawn throughout the comics gate movement recently. Um, all the sexual harassment we've seen from creators, uh, over the past decade or so. Like, there's these obvious bad guys. But I also wanted to tackle the more subtle sort of insidious sexism that we all kind of accept as normal because it's so baked into the genre. So beyond the obvious kind of bad actors to dig into, what are the fundamentals here that we're kind of accepting as normal, that we need to kind of take a look back, understand where it comes from, and then try to steer away from moving forward?
Guido: And what's an example of that when you're talking about that?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, it's like one of the silliest things that I always come back to is Superman gets to have sleeves and pants, uh, in a cake. And one to one woman wears a bathing suit. It's just what it's always been. So we accept it without thinking of it. I remember one time for Christmas, I got a Wonder Woman T shirt. That was Jim Lee art. I think it was from one, uh, of those Trinity covers, I think. But just the Wonder Woman pulled out. I was like, this is great. Because Jim Lee is one of my favorite artists. I thought, this is a really cool, great shirt. And I wore it to my family party that day. And my aunt saw the shirt. She was like, what is up with that shirt? Yeah, it's great, right? Jim Lee's Wonder Woman fantastic shirt. She's like, yeah, she's pretty busy. This is mild. There's so much worse. I've seen so much worse.
Rob: I think you didn't wear, like, a vampirella shirt then.
Tim Hanley: Not allowed in. But because I'm so used to comics and how they depict women, this art to me, seems like, yeah, this is pretty good. It covered up fairly well. Not too bad. But, like, to any outside viewer, it's like, no, this is ridiculous. So it's kind of bringing that sort of perspective. Not an outside eye, because there's no way I can bring an outside eye to comics. It's just two in it. But I tried to bring an outside eye and give a broader look at what we kind of take for granted as normal.
Guido: Well, another example for me when reading it was you talk about how if a woman was wearing a spandex, it would actually compress her breasts. And instead the catwoman 90s purple jumpsuit being a perfect example, where it's like, the only way that that would work as it works in the drawing is if there was some sort of pocket for her breast to come through. And that was really powerful for me because I'm actually a health teacher in a girl's school. I spend a lot of time on girls anatomy and looking at it and thinking about it. And that had not occurred to me because I'm so also steeped in comics. And I'm so used to seeing depictions where someone's wearing spandex and yet the breast is fully illustrated. And it was like, oh, wait, hold on. Of course. So I loved that example you gave too.
Tim Hanley: Yeah. And it's so common. Like, there's even a word for it. Like, people call it boobs socks. It's, like, fit in the costume. So you'd have to have the extra fabric so it fits. And it's just not how spandex goes. But yeah, it's a thing you don't notice until you think about it. Like, oh, yeah, the way they draw catwoman is it's not how fabric works.
Guido: Oh, go ahead, Rob.
Rob: And I would imagine a lot of that comes back to the representation of the people creating the comics. Because you often have an artist who is a man who may not even be taking some of that into account, because there's some scary stats, I think, that you present in the book as well about women representation in comic.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, in the book. I went back to Night season 2020. I did two months every year, writers and artists for every comic, um, book DC and Marvel put out. And it's zeroish, uh, for a long time. And then kind of the past decade, we've started to see an increase upward. So speaking about Catwoman in the 90s, uh, it was drawn almost exclusively by Jim Ballet fellow, obviously. Uh, and he would just draw Catwoman naked. Like, uh, the editors would have to come in and erase the nipples and make it look like a costume. Yeah, that painted on look you see in the 90s is because it was not even really drawn to be a costume.
Guido: Right. It wasn't even clothing. Is there anything that surprised you in the research you were doing for not all Superman?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, there were cool moments, like getting, um, to dig into characters a long way. Like, I knew the broad, uh, strokes of the book kind of from the beginning. I'm in the history of enough to know, okay, we're going to go from here here. That's all that makes sense. But when you look closer at certain things, there's always, um, odd moments that pop up. I especially enjoyed writing about Marvel in the finding out that in most of the major stories so, like Fantastic Four, Avengers, X Men, there was, uh, an older man who falls in love with, like, a very young woman. And it's in all of them. So it's Reid Richardson, sue, it's Antman and the Wasp. It's Professor esques. Uh, and Gene Gray, because guess what? He's got a big crush on here too.
Rob: Nymor and sue, as we've talked about on this podcast before, everyone fell in love with South Storm at some point, then grabbed ongoing.
Tim Hanley: But seeing it play out like these middle aged men falling for these girls, like barely, if not in their teens. Some of them were like in their early 20s. But these are all written and drawn by middle aged men. So you're like, yeah, that kind of checks out. It really put the whole decade of Marvel comics in a certain like for me. I also really enjoyed is the wrong word. I became very interested in The Punisher because I talk about like the rise of violence and heroes going from like sock and a jaw to shoot them dead. So Punisher of course, plays a big role in this. He was huge in the late eighty s. And I read some issues of Punisher, um, magazine. It was like a black and white, uh, reprint of older Punisher stories. I think the first issue had an introduction and uh, like a forward and uh, afterward sort of thing. And at the start it was one of the editors, I think it was Archie Cookin. But I'm not sure he was talking about Punishers like this metaphor for the complex morality of our time and kind of tackles these issues of darkness in ways that are so innovative and creative. And then the right up at the back was by the guy who uh, was writing Punisher at the time. He's like, yeah, no, Punisher is like a walking death penalty. Which is what we need because these PC, uh, liberals are ruining everything for us. Okay, so this is what they're really going for.
Guido: It's disturbing.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, but like excellent segue to how the Punisher logo became associated with blue lines matter and all of that terribleness. But just to see it laid so bare like in 1990, this is exactly what we're going for. We want a guy who will kill people because the liberals are making wusses of us all.
Guido: We just watched the documentary, uh, on Milestone last week, which I don't know if you're familiar with, but it's a great piece. And to see in that, that they got in a huge war with Dwayne McDuffie because his closing editorial talked about standing up for what you think. Because um, it was the fight over a condom being on the cover. But he doesn't even name that issue right, but it's what causes the whole schism. And meanwhile, a few years earlier, you have Marvel publishing this really alarming disturbing editorial. I mean, Rob didn't read the book. I read the book, but I read that passage to Rob that you printed because it's shocking. That was okay.
Rob: And now you would have our authors or whoever saying that like that or worse on Twitter or something else. So it makes that Dwayne McDuffy piece even stand out more in how passive it actually was at the time.
Guido: It obvious the role race played into the decision making of who could speak whatever, who could say whatever they wanted to say and who couldn't. But that Punisher stuff was really disturbing that you um, Got in there.
Tim Hanley: Yeah. And I think in the book, it's like a few lines from what is a two page editorial statement that is all of that just over and over and over. Like, it is not subtle. It's extremely blatant. And it's one of those things, as a historian, I expected I should have known that existed. Like, that should have been a thing that we've talked about before. It's like this crazy moment in history, and it's not. It's this weird thing I dug up in the back of an issue that would have sold like hotcakes in 1090 because Publisher had about five books and they sold like crazy well.
Rob: And as we go into our talking a little bit about multiversity, you can just see how all of these all the themes that you've brought up in your work have been present for all time in a way. And they're kind of coming up bubbling up now as we've seen a lot with the furniture logo and with me, too, on the women empowerment side. But all of these issues have been around since the dawn of this medium or whatever medium you might be working with.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, it's just playing the same things over and over. This is why I'm kind of hoping the stuff we've seen recently is starting to push us beyond doing the same things repeatedly, but we'll see how that goes. The, uh, creators, I think, now are more well intentioned than they've ever been, which is wonderful. But it's the corporations. Mhm. I don't like trust.
Guido: Yeah, absolutely.
Rob: In another universe, Catwoman does not have to worry about wearing boobs socks. She's got a very lovely outfit. So let us explore some multiversity together.
Tim Hanley: I am your guide through these vast new realities. Follow me and ponder the question.
Rob: What is for our exploration of multiversity? We want to get more into, tim, your favorite comics in your time spent in the multiverse.
Guido: So I have sort of two prongs here. I want to know a bit about your experience with the alternate universe comics and in storytelling, I don't know much about Archie. I know it's been done more recently with Archie, but I'd be curious, but any of your experience and favorites you have. But then I'm also curious what you noticed in your research about alternate universes. So we can start wherever you want.
Tim Hanley: Sure. Well, in terms of alternate universes, I like a lot. Uh, I'm game for any alternate universe. I think it's always super fun to take the characters and put them in the new environment. I was really into Star Trek when I was a kid, so, like, any episode of Next Generation where dad is wearing a red sweater instead of yellow sweater, I'm like, exciting has happened here. We're in a different, uh, universe. This is so cool. His badge is a little different. This is so much fun. I get a great joy out of seeing these characters in slightly different environments. One of my old school favorites is Red Sun Superman and Communist Russia. Miller, uh, is kind of Mark Miller's hit or miss for me, but Red Sun just works for me. I really like it. Um, it's a rough time for Wonder Woman. Yeah. But, like, anarchist Batman is a good time. Lex Luther is still Lex Luther, even though he's, um, kind of the good guy I enjoy very much. I think it's a fun, uh, different take on Superman that works well and kind of returns to what makes Superman great in the end, which is all I really want. It's not like a story where Superman is going to go kill half the universe and he's a bad guy. He's got a bit of redemption by the time it's all done. So that's like a classic favorite for me. More recently. I absolutely love DC Comics. Um, Bombshells. I thought that was an amazing series. I remember when they started with the variant covers like, come on, guys, we don't need to, uh, be doing pin up stuff. Like, we're already sexualizing these characters enough. Then they took the pin ups and handed the Margaret Bennett and she turned it into this amazing comic book with DC's female superheroes kind of taking over for the male superheroes in World War II. And it's super great adventures. So many great artists, like Mercantulfos on it. Marguerite Sovage, Laura Braga.
Guido: Uh, I think Carmen caro got her start in there.
Tim Hanley: Yeah. There's some Elsa Charadia too, I think.
Guido: Oh, yeah, you mentioned that in the book. I didn't even know that.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, yeah. Great art. And it's surprisingly powerful at times to see, like, these female characters in places. We're so used to seeing male characters and to explore them in such new ways. I remember what she did with Mary Marvel making her Jewish. And, like, the Shazam being women from the history of Judaism in the middle of World War II just floored me when I read that. I was like, this is amazing stuff, this alone, uh, justifies the entire existence of the book. And I was like, 30 issues in that I'd already been enjoying. It's a really, really good series and, uh, a fantastic tour through an alternate universe. I wish, uh, we would get to see more because I really love it.
Guido: Yeah, I'm surprised we haven't done a recent revisit of it.
Rob: Do you think that these kind of multiversal stories can benefit diversity like the Bombshell story did? Diversity in comics?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, definitely. Because we had heroes in the 1940s fighting the war. And really the only woman on the front lines was Wonder Woman. Like, you'd get kind of all star comics and the Flash would be in there and Green Lantern and Hawk Man and a bunch of other guys. Batman and Superman weirdly stayed out of the war a lot. Their covers were, like, pretty pro war. But their actual stories didn't jump into it much, but, like Captain America, obviously, and other heroes like that, we have these stories already. So to look back at it and just flip the script entirely, not just in terms of gender, but, um, in terms of race as well. I think Bombshell does a really nice job bringing, uh, in people of color into the book, especially female characters that were kind of created decades later. But to put them back into situations where they would have been in the, uh, 19th flies, they just weren't depicted because the comments of the 19 Fouries were almost uniformly white. So, yeah, I think a multiverseal approach lets us kind of mix things up in ways, uh, that not necessarily rights the wrongs of history, but kind of looks at where we missed things originally and kind of could be more accurate. Most Bombshells has Cuban Lois Lane, which I always like to see whenever Margaret, uh, Bennett race Louis, she never fails to mention that Lois is half Cuban, which I very much enjoy.
Guido: There you go.
Rob: You're basically Lowest Lane.
Guido: And so what have you noticed? A lot of your books cover the way the characters showed up in alternate universes or the way they were treated at different reboots. So what have you noticed? Are there any trends or what can you tell us about, uh, Lois or Selina or Diana or Betty and Veronica and sort of how reboots, uh, and alternate universes work for them?
Tim Hanley: They generally work badly. Wonder Woman doesn't get a lot of her own alternate universes. I find, like, there's Bombshells and there's, like, Earth One and a few other things. She usually ends up in someone else's. So, like, in Dark Knight's universe, she has a baby with Superman. In kingdom come, I think she marries Superman. So she always ends up doing romantic stuff or warrior stuff. She doesn't die usually, which is good. Um, Lowest dies almost every time. Uh, so if you go to, say, um, the injustice universe that's entirely predicated on the death of Lowest Lane. Anytime a villain wants, um, to mess with Superman, even in regular continuity and put him in, like, an alternate universe momentarily, the first thing they do is kill Lois Lane and send him down that dark path. So Lois tends to have a very bad time in alternate universes. Catwoman, um, she kind of does okay. Like, she'll maybe have some fun village adventures, but then there's, like, the entire Earth. Two things from the where we get the, um, Helena Wayne Hunters, which is cool, but her entire origin story is her mother dies. Uh, who is Catwoman's lady? Kyle so we get this cool new character in Halloween, Wayne, but we lose the earth to Catwoman in the process. They're all good at Bombshells, which is why I love Bombshells. Bombshells Lois is great. Bombshells. Wonder Woman is great. Bombshell's. Cat Woman also great. So I enjoy that quite a bit. Generally speaking, alternate universes are going to be led by the male characters more often than not. And when that happens, female characters usually become fodder for the male character stories. Usually we get a women refrigerators sort of situation in which we dispatch of the female characters to further the male stories. And because alternate universes tend to be self contained and things can have ramifications in ways regular continuity doesn't, bad things tend to happen to these female characters. Um, like, you can kill off Lois and adjustice because injustice is its own thing, but you can't really kill off Lois and the main pages of Superman because we have to put out Superman for the next 50 years and Lois is kind of important.
Guido: Well, the other thing I noticed, which was not a trend I'd really thought about, but again, I'm not surprised by, is like, The New 52 was a great example to me of you talking about I could not believe that there were one and a half women credited on those books as writer artist, and they were both Gales and mine. That blew my mind. And I was a huge New 52 fan. I prefer my DC universe not rebooted. And I like what they're doing now with sort of telling lots of multiverseal stories and keeping it connected, but not worrying about a core continuity. But I was fully on board with the New 52. I was very open minded. I liked the creators. And my gosh, reading your book made me question everything about it. Yeah, tell us more about that.
Tim Hanley: Yeah. Um, so The New 52 was complete reboot of the DC line in 2011. It was 52, uh, brand new number ones. Yeah. Gel. Simone wrote that girl. She co wrote, um, it was called The Fury of Firestorm or something like that. And that was it for female creators writing and drawing the books. Jenny Friezon did covers, I think, for one of the books. So if you extend it to covers, there's one more, but that is it entirely. And the stories kind of reflected it. The first issue, uh, of Catwoman opens up with her in a state of undress, um, putting on her costume. The first few panels are all on her chest. Voodoo starts with Voodoo in a strip club. Retweet and the Outlaws, um, is starfire in a tiny bikini on the beach. Uh, Harley Quinn get that brand new outfit with, like, the halter top thing instead of her, uh, jester outfit. Like the Nineties came back across these 52 new titles in terms of how we depict female characters. And yes, I think the massive presence of male writers, artists, and editors behind the scenes is largely why we got that.
Rob: Do you think at least one of the reasons I hope it didn't succeed was because of this kind of representation shown? Because if you're depicting women characters in this way, you are ostracizing half of your potential audience. And as we know the comic book audience has not gotten a lot bigger. They need to add that new fresh blood in there, which I would imagine are women. Do you think that kind of connection in women saying, hey, I'm not seeing myself in this book, is resulting in that not being a success?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, definitely. Like, by 2011, you're starting to see a bit of audience diversification, certainly way more than decades past. Like, we've kind of come out of the, uh, manga boom. We've had, like, X Men movies are crossover hits. Smallville is a huge hit on TV. Like, more people are in the comics. And that's brought, uh, in a lot of female fans, nonbinary fans. We've broken outside of like, the 18 to 35 white male mold that kind of comics had been stuck in for a long time. And then with this New 52 reboot, you kind of get this throwback to what comics used to be. Before 2011, DC had made some interesting steps. Like, they had a lot of female characters that were finally being written by female writers for a change. Uh, instead of the usual male writers that were allowed to write them. That was the prowess. No, uh, female characters. Female characters written by men, then. Oh, female characters written by women. What a novel concept. But we'd seen a little bit of that before the New 52. And then when it came, all we got really is Batgirl and Gail Simone. And a lot of it was heartening back to like, the darkness of the 1980s. Every book was so grim and gritty. The New 52 was like an opportunity, just speaking on background, specifically start fresh and maybe move back. Ron, uh, from The Killing Joke, which is the graphic novel that paralyzed Barbara Gordon and ended her career as background. Uh, we later get Oracle out of it, who was a wonderful character, but it was not done with the intention of there being an Oracle, it was done with the intention of telling a Batman story and brushing Barbara Gordon aside as collateral damage. And so there was an opportunity to just take that out of continuity, just do a whole new barber garden. And editorial was like, no killing Joke still in continuity. Just make it work. And Yosimon ended up quitting the book for a couple of issues, I think a year in, because, uh, they wanted her to go so dark with it, they ended up hiring her back because the ocry was considerable. But yeah, from just the way female characters were depicted from the darkness of the stories, it was really a throwback thing that didn't reflect the change in audience that they'd seen over the past few years. And then by, uh, 2015, with like, the Rebirth titles, you see the course correction they needed to make to actually engage with who their audience was.
Guido: Yeah, and I'm hopeful now that some of the ways that especially again, DC is treating the multiverse and just having these miniseries, having Black Label and stuff, it feels like it's actually the opportunity that View 52 could have been but wasn't, where now they can just tell these stories. They can just tell stories and not feel bound up. There's multiple Wonder Woman titles for the first time ever on the stand. Ongoing titles, iconic stories. There's multiple catwoman titles if you have miniseries that are coming out. So it feels like finally there's an opportunity. You read comics now still, right? So are you noticing any trends I know this is moving us, Rob, into our third section, but I'll ask it now anyway. Are you noticing any trends with storytelling, especially multiverseal storytelling or anything you've noticed recently?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, I think you're definitely right that the multiverseal approach is allowing for more explorations of diversity in the books itself, just from creators to characters, things have definitely improved as of late, just across the board. So, like, at DC, like, said multiple winter loan books. That's wild. It hasn't happened since the 1940s. And, like, one of them is Nubia, which is great because Nubia is such a cool character that they just, um, let sit on the shelf for so long. For so long. At DC, there could only be one Batgirl. Um, and it had to be Barbara Gordon. And now you got three Batgirls, and it's Barbara, and it's Cassandra Stefan. It's all these great different characters coming together in fun ways. So, yeah, that's really encouraging. And like, um, I said, we have different cat ones right now. So we have the main series. We have the amazing Cliff Chang.
Guido: Oh, my God.
Tim Hanley: He said he's doing well.
Guido: They said he's so good.
Tim Hanley: It's, uh, gorgeous. I love Cliff Chang. Yeah, I stuck through New 52 Wonder Woman because writing on that book was rough, but the art was gorgeous. Yeah. Back to Wonder Woman. We've got Historia coming out now, which is just this amazing, boldly feminist history of the Amazons before Wonder Woman. That is maybe the best comic I've read in a decade. It's spectacular. So there's all this cool, different stuff. Marvel as well. They're not as multiversal as DC is currently. Um, but they've stuck with their female characters fairly well lately. The Captain Marvel book right now is great. I really like the Black Widow book that's, um, out right now. The Xmen, since the House of X, Powers of X, kind of cricola, um, relaunch thing, all the teams have been really diverse in various ways, with a lot of diverse creators behind the scenes. That's been really great to see. And, uh, then even outside of comics, like Marvel's adaptations, we finally have female characters, which is awesome. Funny movies to get Captain Marvel, we did. And now we have more ladies, which is good. We've got queer characters that are not the director in a five second cameo in any way, which is nice. DC's adaptations are a bit of a mess. They just canceled Legends of Tomorrow. Um and Batwoman. And background movie situation is just Batwoman. I do not understand.
Guido: It was remarkable to me. Week after week, we would watch it and the game. We watch a good amount of TV. It was the queerest show on TV and the most racially diverse show. I mean, it was majority nonwhite characters, protagonists, villains, everyone.
Rob: The music you look up, the artist who was playing at the bar, there would be a queer artist. It was like they're filling every corner of this with diversity.
Guido: Yeah, it was amazing.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, Batman was a queer show on TV when it started, and gay or every week, somehow it just kept further. I was really sad about that. And I felt like that last season was really they really hit their stride. I was excited to see what would happen.
Rob: Yes, us too. Agreed. Well, we've already kind of started to talk about the future, but now let's jump, uh, fully into a world where there's a million Wonder Womans and a million bad girls, as hence us pondering possibilities.
Tim Hanley: Will the future you describe be averted?
Rob: And as we ponder possibilities, we want to talk about the future of comics, storytelling, and what you think Tim, could lie ahead.
Guido: So, yeah, we're wondering what examples, some of which you've already shared, are, where you see us as comic fans, or you see comic creators moving in a better direction for inclusion and diversity, uh, or any trends you've, uh, noticed as you've examined it through so many important lenses.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, the trends I'm seeing now is that the creators actually care. Like, diversity seems to be important for a lot of the people that are working at DC and Marvel. Not just writers and artists, but even into editorial as well, which is really nice to see. For a long time, over the past two decades, there would be a few people really pushing for it, but you could tell editorial wasn't on board, and it was a real fight to get representation of any kind. And, um, that's definitely improved. Like, we have a gay Robin or a bisexual Robin, I suppose, which is a huge change. Like John Kent is by too, which is awesome. It's not Batman and Superman, but it's like flagship character adjacent.
Tim Hanley: Which is something we would never have had before. So that's fantastic to see. We've acknowledged that Wonder Woman is queer. We haven't really dug into it too much and, um, main continuity, but it's a known thing. And Philippus and Napolita got together for the events of the last Big Wonder Woman, which I won't spoil.
Guido: Uh and newbie is queer.
Tim Hanley: All the Amazon is a queer.
Guido: Leaned into it, which is great.
Tim Hanley: Everyone on the Scare is just going for it, living it up with all the other guys there. I guess mhm a trans Amazon is the way to say it, right?
Tim Hanley: She was a trans woman who died and then, uh, her soul becomes an Amazon. I'm not entirely sure how that works in terms of the person she is now, but that's her backstory, which is really cool and fascinating just in terms of opening up more to even more people. Trans Amazons were, like, in the Wonder Woman community, is always like an issue of debate. And kind of the people I know who loved one were the best were like, yeah, of course, mhm, they would be welcome on. Not going to be a problem. So now it's canonically not a problem, which is excellent to see.
Tim Hanley: So, yeah, the creators really care and they're telling great, diverse stories. And we've got great diverse creators. Still mostly men, still mostly white. But like, compared to where we were ten years ago, leaps and bounds better. And then, like, even five years ago, we're definitely seeing a lot of progress at the same time. DC is owned by Discovery now, I guess Marvel is owned by Disney. And my concern is as soon as this stuff stops selling or we start to see a cultural backlash, we're going to lose a lot of it because it's not, at the end of the day, up to their creators or even the editors. It's up to the corporate interests who own it. And they will go with whatever they think is going to cause the least amount of trouble for them.
Rob: Do you not think, Tim, that we have moved past over a point where the audience has changed so significantly that there won't be that kind of backlash with a newer, clearer, more diverse, younger generation coming in?
Tim Hanley: I certainly hope so. That's what I would like to see is that kind of we're over the hump now. Everything's moving forward. We're not going to go back to what it used to be. But I'm a Canadian, so I look at America and I see a lot of things going back to the way that you are, which is troubling.
Guido: We'd like you to sponsor us, actually. That was why we invited you on here.
Tim Hanley: Uh, so I try to remain optimistic both about the nation and your comic book industry, and hopefully all of that will move forward in a positive way. But if you do end up in a handmaid tail ask situation down there, the comments will follow suit because corporate interests are not they're not going to ever challenge the status quo. Things are the way they are now because the status quo has shifted. So it will depend on if we can maintain this new status quo moving forward or if we don't. So hopefully we do. Hopefully things continue to progress, but it's outside of the control of the people who actually know how to do comedy.
Rob: Yes. Scary when you look at some of the back. The biggest shareholder of Warner Discovery was a Trump supporter. The chairman of Marvel is still a trump supporter, which never seems to get too much press, I feel like. So, yes, unfortunately, the people there, I do think where you see the changes a lot in the fans, and I'm thinking when I was a kid, or I think when any of us were a kid, we would have certainly not been encouraged to dress as a female superhero. Probably discouraged. We have a friend who's kid for Halloween, I think was Carol Danvers. A boy child was Carol. You go to Comic Con, you see people, all different kinds of people dressing up as other characters. You see great diversity in the fandom as well. And I've seen a greater change at, say, New York Comic Con or smaller Cons, just really, um, in the last five to ten years being there. So I'm hoping that that shift is happening on the fandom level, and that they will be. There's a lot of problems, mostly problems with capitalism. But I think the one good thing is if the people who are buying it have changed, that the powers that B will have to respond accordingly.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, like, on the one hand, you look at, say, the backgirl movie cancellation, and you're like, man, that would have been, first off, woman of colors background. That would have been great. I think would have been the first trans character, uh, in a superhero movie with Alicia Yao. Um, that would have been cool. So, like, to lose all that sucks. But then at the, uh, same time, you look at Phantom itself, and the way people are kind of embracing characters and making them their own in certain ways, I think that ties into this whole multiversity thing we're used to with so many different incarnations of these characters in so many different places. It doesn't matter who you are, you can like this character and adapt them to you. And that could be your cosplay, that could be however you want to make it work. People are identifying with characters that traditionally, societally, they would have been encouraged to, but even just in terms of what's available, they wouldn't have had it. It was only white dudes for so long that were superheroes and like, also Wonder Woman. There's so many options and so many different amazing characters for people to find and fall in love with and kind of look up to and embrace. And you can really see that in the fandom and the way it's people have so many different people to love and, uh, to express that love in so many different ways now. It's really great.
Guido: Have you ever extended your research into publishers past the big two, or is that something you've thought about doing in the future?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, there's a little bit in not All Superman, um, about image, kind of as indicative of the early 90s Archie, obviously, for the Archie book. Yeah. Um, beyond that, not a lot with not a Superman specifically, there, um, are definitely places I could have gone. Um, but I already had to cut a lot out of this book to hit word length in the first place. This book could have been so much longer. I try to keep to Marvel and DC, because that's the ones everyone's familiar with, kind of.
Guido: I'd imagine there's the most data about them, too. Of course, you wouldn't have the same amount of data about even who's working at some of the smaller publishers.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, it seems easier. Uh, it would have been fun, like, to go back to the look at more of the original superheroes. There are so many publishers doing so many superheroes back in the day. So that would be fun to explore at some point. I think I'd like to do that more than, like, the modern companies are fine. A lot of them kind of dabble in superheroes. But I am fascinated with the 1940s, when every publisher had their own line of superheroes and kind of where they've all gone. DC has bought most of them, but there are a few that are just out there in the ether.
Guido: Yeah, even public domain, I think, that's available to use.
Tim Hanley: That era really fascinates me.
Guido: Maybe that's a preview of future work to come from you. Is there something you're working on right now that you can tell us about, or are you still just wrapped up in not all Superman press right now?
Tim Hanley: I've been doing some more specific non book research. I recently did, um, as part of a museum exhibit in Brooklyn at the city, um, Reliquary Museum, it's called.
Rob: I used to live right down the block from it, so I know what it is.
Tim Hanley: Yes, it's an exhibit of kind of the women who are involved in the history of Wonder Woman and their connections to New York City. So, uh, that was super cool to do. And in doing that, we wanted to spotlight kind of the 1950s and seduction, uh, of the innocent. And to do that, we looked at Hilda, um, Massey, who worked alongside Frederic Border and was kind of a big player in his interpretation of Wonder Woman. So I spotlighted her, and in doing so, uh, met some of her family who is still alive today. Hilda died, I think, in, uh, the family, uh, contracted me to do some research into Hilda and her work in Harlem. Wareham and Mason headed the Lafar Clinic mental health clinic, uh, in Harlem. They were both psychiatrists that was open from 19, uh, 46 to 1958. A lot of their stuff about comic books and the way kids read them comes from the kids they saw at the clinic there. So that's been super fascinating, because the stuff infection of the innocent is wild and over the top and really inflammatory. And, like, the stuff about Wonder Woman specifically as a morbid ideal and a cruel lesbian and all that sort of stuff. So very homophobic like, even in. Ways that feel aggressive for the 1950s. And yet these two very interesting Jewish people who both came to America were interested in helping the black community. Harlem had no mental health services at the Fire clinic open, so they're like they're actively antiracist and yet actively homophobic at the same time. So it's kind of wrap your head around who this person is and how it all worked out has been a really fascinating line of research for me.
Guido: I only just discovered I think it was through reading one of the issues of Comic Book Creator magazine. They referenced Carol Tilley's work in the last few years, looking at the way that he actually fused together multiple kids, what they said to create this narrative about, like, Batman and Robin being gay. And really fascinating, uh, the way he basically manipulated the research, which I'm sure is not too unheard, uh, of. But, yeah, I think he's definitely an interesting person for all those reasons you described both the contradictions and then the just cultural change he created.
Tim Hanley: Yeah, the contradictions, too, uh, like that kind of fudging of research to create your own interpretation of it, where, like, a few years previous at the Lafar Clinic, they were part of Beltonv Gabhart, one of the segregation, uh, cases in Delaware, and they did research on kids from Delaware. Uh, it was really well done research. Like, they went into detail. They understood both black and white kids, like, bust down to the clinic. They talked to them in group sessions individually, and did a really thorough scientific study to see the effects of segregation on these cases and why it was harmful, where they presented on the trial. Belton was one of the five cases that combined into, um, Brown v. Board of Education, which ultimately ended segregation in the states. Belton was the only one that the NAACP won, and the judge decided to wear them specifically in that judgment. And then Earl Warren, in the Brown decision cited, uh, the judge citing were them. So it's like they played a huge role in this important moment in American history for progress with this impeccable research. And then they do this book where it's like, yeah, let's just jam these kids things together to make it sound like they're hot for Batman when they really it's so bizarre. It's just absolutely fascinating.
Guido: And so where are you in your research with Hilton? Is that underway? Did you wrap it up or you're just starting?
Tim Hanley: Yeah, we're in the latter stages of that. So once that's wrapped up, I have to decide where to go next. I'm not quite sure at this stage.
Guido: But I hope whatever it is, it's something we can all consume, because it sounds fascinating.
Tim Hanley: Uh, yes.
Guido: So I think that's a wrap for us. But why don't you tell people how they can find you, support you and, uh, all that?
Tim Hanley: I am timhandley one on Twitter. That's usually where I am. In terms of social media. I have a Facebook page, but it's just, like, repost, so I followed. If you'd like. Thaily wordpresscom is my website. You can go buy all of my books. There's five of them. Um, they're very fun.
Guido: Yes, they are.
Tim Hanley: Anywhere, uh, find books are sold on my side. I have links to wherever you like to buy it. If you want to buy it at an indie book store, great. I have a link for you. If you want to go to Amazon, have at it there, too. They're available everywhere.
Rob: Yes. We're going to link to your Twitter and link to your website in our show Notes. If people want to check out Tim's amazing books, just check out our show Notes.
Guido: Yes. And thank you for listening to your watchers.
Rob: I have been Guido and I have been cruel lesbian. Rob my new band name.
Guido: I don't understand that because Wonder Woman.
Rob: Was a cruel lesbian in The Seduction of the Innocent.
Guido: Right? I just don't know why we're applying it to you.
Rob: And our biggest thanks to our special guest, Tim Hanley. So thank you so much, Tim. We really enjoyed this conversation.
Tim Hanley: Thanks for having it's. Been a lot of fun.
Guido: So we'll be back with you soon for another trip through the multiverse.
Rob: And in the meantime, in the words of Owatu, keep pondering the possibilities.