Wednesday, 1 January 2020

The Start Of A New Decade: My Plans For 2020

Today is the first day of a new year and also the start of a new decade. With the start of a new decade comes a new beginning, and of course, a lot of self-reflecting to decide what I want to do differently for the next ten years of my life. (Well, apart from the fact that I'll be turning 40 in six years time and I clearly need to start asking myself what I'm doing with my life.)

Having reflected on the last decade—which I described as polarising—I have to say I am quite displeased with the way I've been running this website, and I'm especially not happy about the way I've been conducting myself in the past 10 years. Having looked back on where I've made mistakes and where I need to make improvements, I've mapped out what I am going to do differently in this decade to improve the quality of my content and other people's experience starting with 2020.



1. Engage fans, do not participate in toxic fandom.

This was my biggest failure of last decade, and one I definitely should've been better about considering I am not new to fandom and how extremely polarising and downright toxic it can get. I've been active in various fandoms since the days of LiveJournal in the 2000s, so this definitely wasn't my first rodeo.

In the case of Huntress fandom, it's a unique case of polarising because DC's position on the character is a highly controversial one. While DC fans consider Helena Wayne and Helena Bertinelli to be two separate characters, the problem is DC Comics does not. Per DC's own take, Helena Wayne and Helena Bertinelli are simply two different interpretations of the same character that is the Huntress. This means that the Huntress is not two characters but one character with two distinct identities and histories.

This is a problematic position that is always bound to frustrate Huntress fans, but moreso Helena Wayne fans than Bertinelli fans because the latter has been the 'default' version of the Huntress since 1989, which is highly convenient for DC. Unlike Helena Wayne whose existence requires a major status quo change for Batman and Catwoman, Helena Bertinelli exists independently of those two characters which is the reason DC publishes her the most. Bertinelli is DC's way of keeping the Huntress active without having to change their most highly profitable intellectual property.

Given the reality for what it is, Bertinelli fans unquestionably have plenty of opportunities to invest in this version of the character across various comics and other media such as film, television, and video games, whereas Helena Wayne fans are always left out in the cold. I would argue the frustration experienced by Helena Wayne fans is not experienced by other DC fans because Robin fans still get to invest in all their favourite Robins, Green Lantern fans for the most part still get to read about their favourite Green Lanterns, and the same is mostly true of Flash fans with the Flash family. They may not always agree with the different ways their favourite characters get reinterpreted, but they still get to read about those characters. Helena Wayne fans rarely get crumbs.

So how does this status quo affect the Huntress fanbase? For the most part, Huntress fans (both Wayne and Bertinelli) acknowledge that DC's position on the Huntress is a highly problematic one, and it's one we've been asking them to change for years. It's especially not fair to Helena Wayne fans to never get to be able to invest in this version of the character because she inconveniences Batman's status quo, and Bertinelli fans do not want to keep seeing Bertinelli erased and/or changed in the times DC does decide to use Wayne as the Huntress.

For the most part, Huntress fans on both sides are highly understanding of the situation and tend to be supportive of each other, but that doesn't mean that there aren't fans who will try to rock the boat because one group happens to like something they don't like. While I get along fine with Bertinelli fans, I've had my fair share of run-ins with trolls who tried to rub in the fact that Bertinelli gets published more by DC and equate that with 'high popularity' or will even outright say that Helena Wayne should 'stay forgotten' because not enough people are familiar with her.

While it is true Helena Bertinelli is the more well known version of the Huntress amongst my generation in particular, high interest in Helena Wayne's Huntress has always been there since the pre-Crisis era she was originally published in. In fact, it was Wayne's popularity in the 1980s that led DC to reboot the character as Helena Bertinelli in 1989 to keep her active, but fan interest in Helena Wayne never went away. Even now there are new generations of fans who want to invest in the character, the latter of which I want to encourage in this decade. To do that, however, means changing the way I engage with fans. So what will I do differently this decade?

For one, I'm going to spend less time on Twitter and will start using my Twitter account in a more promotional capacity, which is what I should've always been doing. This means I will no longer be doing opinion-driven threads or make any comments that could be construed as 'pitting Bertinelli against Wayne', which I've had that happen before even when I was just stating the facts. So that will be one thing that will go away for good in 2020 and in the years to come in order to maintain a positive, welcoming space without making anyone feel alienated.

I will still engage with fans on Twitter and I will still answer any questions they have about the Huntress, or which comics to check out with the character. But I will no longer actively participate in the fandom—more specifically toxic fandom. There is nothing that ruins a person's experience with something new they enjoy than toxic fans gatekeeping or fighting with other fans over differences of opinions, what they think the facts are, or worse yet, outright abusing people on social media, complete with rape and death threats.

While I have done my fair share of toxic behaviour online, I have not participated in the more severe forms of toxic behaviour such as death and rape threats, which makes a person dangerous, in my opinion. Still, I will work on not being a part of the problem of toxic fan culture by steering clear of people who have a history of attacking people online, or losing self-control every time they don't get what they want. This also means no longer responding to trolls looking to rock the boat and to report abusive behaviour rather than engage the abuser.

As for what else I'll be doing differently to better engage fans? This gets us to point #2:

2. Update the website, do more podcasting, start a Patreon page

Last year I started working on a more detailed 'History of the Huntress' page which will detail the three different eras of the Huntress (pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, post-Flashpoint) as well as the upcoming Earth-5G this year. I plan to have this page go live on this website later this year as it will take some time to complete. My goal with this new page will be to better streamline the Huntress's history and make it resourceful for fans who want to find 'easy entry' points to Helena Wayne in particular.

Right now, I have the pre-Crisis era mostly completed, but I want to start giving fans early access to the content I have so far. Today I posted the first section of my 'History of the Huntress' page to my Patreon and will release a new section every week. Since this project is work-in-progress, it is only accessible to my patrons for now, but the posts will be made public once the project is complete and the page is live on this website.

If you want to support the project on my Patreon and get early access to the content, you can do so for only $1 a month, or at any level you feel comfortable. My Patreon can be found at https://www.patreon.com/dianedarcy.

I want to stress that supporting me on Patreon is entirely voluntary and the projects I am working on for this website will eventually be made public upon completion. News, reviews, critiques, analyses, and opinion pieces on comics featuring the Huntress—including newer comics—will always be made available on this website entirely for free, and there will never be a waiting period for this content.

In addition to getting early access to the projects I am working on for the website, I also plan on using my Patreon to review, critique, and analyse other DC comics that are not related to the Huntress, and this will be Patreon-exclusive content. Patrons will also get to vote on which DC comics they would like for me to cover.

Apart from Huntress and other comic-book related content, I also want to use the funds from my Patreon to upgrade the hardware and software I use to produce media. While my 2010 MacBook Pro is still perfectly functional, it is also now 10 years old and no longer supports Apple upgrades. While my current version of Adobe Creative Suite still gets the job done, it is also not the latest version of the software, which means I can't take advantage of any of the newer and updated features.

As you may recall, I started a video blog with my friend Mark back in 2018, but was unable to continue the project with him because we ran into hardware issues that was affecting the sound quality. We managed to locate which computer was causing the issue, but have not been able to replace the computer causing the issue.

The good news is I will continue to cover Helena Wayne's stories with my friends over at The Huntress Podcast in addition to Helena Bertinelli's stories. We already recorded the first five episodes last year, the first of which will go live soon on The Huntress Podcast website. For Helena Wayne, we recorded All-Star Comics #69-71 in one sitting, we also revisited Helena Wayne's origin story in DC Super-Stars #17 in another episode, and we recorded Batman Family #17 in another episode. For Helena Bertinelli, we covered Detective Comics #652-653 in two separate episodes. There is more to come for both ladies!

I did get permission from Ashford to repost the Helena Wayne episodes to my YouTube channel, but you can catch every single episode of the Huntress Podcast by visiting https://www.thehuntresspodcast.com/.

You can also, of course, subscribe to the show on iTunes.

If you want to support Ashford who does the bulk of the work on the Huntress podcast (I only assist with editing), you can also support him on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/wrightonnetwork.

I will also be guesting on other people's podcasts this year, so look forward to that as well!

In addition to updating the website and podcasting, the last thing I'll do differently this decade to improve fan experience is:

3. Promote and invest in comics I'll enjoy from creators I trust

I did better on this front in the last two years, but I'm definitely going to enforce it in full this decade. For the most part, this won't be hard to do as I'm pretty good at avoiding comics I won't enjoy and I steer clear of problematic creators. Last year, I mostly bought comics that I enjoyed and especially bought a lot of reprints of older comics—something I'll continue doing well into this decade, as well as promote reprints of Helena Wayne's older stories.

The only time that I can see this being a challenge this year is if Tom King ends up writing Helena Wayne in any of his projects like he's been teasing. While I personally do not dislike Tom King as a person, as a creator I find him too polarising for my liking and I definitely do not want to get caught in any controversies he gets involved in.

If he does end up using Helena Wayne in any of his stories like the upcoming Batman/Catwoman maxiseries, I will keep my coverage of his work at a minimum. If he does make decisions with the character that I feel diminishes or regresses the character, I will address those issues in a constructive criticism piece. Lets hope, however, that will not be the case.

On the subject of the Batman/Catwoman maxiseries, I'm still very much on the fence about this one. On the one hand, a Batman and Catwoman book is something I would buy in a heartbeat because I love the characters. On the other hand, this book also has the potential to be highly controversial with Tom King as the writer. At best, I'll hope for a more 'Grayson Tom King' in that the book will be a fun, adventure-type book, and we don't get the 'Heroes in Crisis Tom King' who made a book that was ripe with harmful depictions of mental health, suicide, and therapy.

I guess I'll know closer to the book's release date whether this will be a buy or pass, but beyond that, I'll stick to my goal steering clear of controversial comics and polarising creators.

As I've been reinforcing throughout this post, I want to be better about making this website and my Twitter account a welcoming space for both new and older fans. My goal this decade and in decades to come is to promote Helena Wayne as the Huntress, her relationships, teams, and narrative. I feel like I'll be able to better achieve this by engaging fans instead of participating in fandom and by continuing to create content that will continue to spark interest in the character via writing and podcasting. I'll also be promoting The Huntress Podcast a lot for Helena Bertinelli content.

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