Dear Internet,

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I quit Twitter and it was a big story.  But (with the exception of the first story, on Comics Beat) I did not read any of the coverage until yesterday.  It was Halloween, so I was looking for scares.  Wow.  That was interesting.  I want to take a minute here to correct some inaccuracies I saw reported again and again.

The ASK ME ABOUT MY FEMINIST AGENDA cover was not an alternate cover.  It was the primary cover.

Issue 8 did not come out last Wednesday.  It came out the week before.

I had not just posted the cover image.  That image has been floating around for months.  

I had not just announced that Mockingbird had been cancelled.  That’s been public knowledge for awhile.  

I did not get blowback for asking people to buy the comic to send a message to Marvel to make more comics books with women super heroes.  That tweet was over a week old, and met with a lot of support, at least to my knowledge. 

One of the remarkable things about reading the coverage was seeing how it twisted the information in the Comics Beat story, which - despite a hysterical headline - was fairly accurate.  I guess this is what happens when stories get reported without talking to anyone involved and rely on other stories for facts.  

Here are the facts, from my perspective.

I quit Twitter.  I deactivated my account Thursday, after receiving several misogynist and/or jerky comments the night before.  SEVERAL.  Not dozens.  Not a deluge.  One is too many.  I was tired of wasting energy dealing with the constant low-level misogyny and meanness that pollutes a certain kind of comic fandom. I posted some comments reflecting my frustration.  The next morning, when I logged on to deactivate, I saw that I had lost approx 1500 followers overnight.  I also saw that my notifications were filling up with new followers.  I saw that comments were flooding my feed.  I had no idea what was happening.  I had never seen that kind of activity on my account.  But I figured it wasn’t good.  I went through with the deactivation. I assumed I had been trolled in some kind of organized sense, but I didn’t know.  (Still don’t.)  Frankly, I didn’t care.  It was moot.  I was done.    

I felt…relieved.  Like I had backed out of a burning house. 

Then I started getting texts and emails from people expressing sympathy and outrage.  “Are you okay?” they all wanted to know.  “What’s happening on Twitter?”

“I’m fine,” I kept saying, baffled.  

I figured by the way the story was blowing up and by the DefCon 5 outrage that there was some really horrible stuff happening on Twitter, and that I was somehow at the center of it.  But as I said in my previous post about this, I didn’t see any of this.  I was gone.  

It is a strange thing to become a hashtag.  The #StandWithChelseaCain movement (or whatever) had nothing to do with me.  I couldn't see any of those missives of support.  I’m not on Twitter.  I was incredulous at how widespread it apparently was and how everyone in my entire life seemed to know about it.  I think it’s an important statement if it means “Let’s Be Less Jerky on Twitter and Stop Normalizing Sexist Blather.”  

Yesterday as I was sitting here still reeling from the bizarre coverage I had just read with its made-up facts, pictures culled from my Instagram account, and comment sections filled with New People Who Hate Me, I saw someone post a question on my Facebook feed. (I’m paraphrasing.) 

“Is the whole Chelsea Cain thing really about the feminist tee-shirt on the cover?” 

I wanted to respond.  But I didn’t know the answer.  What “whole Chelsea Cain thing” was he referring to?  Everyone I ever talked to loves that cover.  (Well, there was one guy who suggested it be changed to ASK ME ABOUT MY MISOGYNIST AGENDA.) But maybe people had lashed out against it once I had left Twitter?  See, I don’t know.  Then I saw that someone was typing a response.  I waited, hoping to gain some clarity. But the person who responded just referenced the coverage.  

I also saw, yesterday in the comments under a made-up story I read about myself, some people accusing me of making this whole thing up. 

ME?

HA!

I have not given a single interview about this.  I’m probably the worst person to ask about the “whole Chelsea Cain thing” because I’m so out of the loop.  

Clearly this story touched a cultural nerve.  It’s an important conversation to have.  But it also revealed, to me, how misinformation and hysteria can spread so swiftly and convincingly as the media chases after whatever is trending and tries to find something to say as click bait.  

I thought long and hard about posting this.  Because I really don’t want to feed this story any more oxygen.  But I also wanted some truth to be somewhere on the Internet.

140 characters, plus a few thousand more, on the Twitter hubbub

Uh, hi.  So some of you may have noticed that I recently deactivated my Twitter account.  (Apparently that’s a news story?)  I wanted to clarify what happened.  I write (wrote) an 8-issue comic series for Marvel, called MOCKINGBIRD.  During the life of that series, the tenor on my Twitter feed changed.  Comics readers are 99% the best people you’d ever want to meet.  The other 1% can be really mean.  Perhaps that statistic holds up across humans, in general, but in my experience, this is a different kind of mean.  It’s misogynist and dismissive and obsessive and it thrives off taking down other people.  I’ve blocked 8 people in my many years on Twitter; 7 were on Wednesday.  The first person I blocked, several months ago, had this to say:

“Thanks, @chelseacain for ruining my favorite character with your feminist crap.”

I engage with a lot of people on Twitter, even those with criticism.  But that tweet is not looking for a discussion.  It’s not brutal or sexually threatening.  It’s just a quick elbow to the gut.  

I got used to a certain level of take-down tweets after that.  Every time an issue came out.  I’d get lots of love and support.  And a handful of people who seem to thrive off making sure strangers feel hated. I guess it’s a way of being seen.  It’s not different than what most comic book writers deal with, especially female ones.  The tweets that bothered me were never the ones concerned with content; they were the ones that questioned my right to write comics at all, and were disgusted by the idea of a female hero having her own series. 

Wednesday, I had a bubble of these types of tweets.  Mockingbird had been cancelled, and they were really celebrating. Understand that this is not me looking for mentions.  These are tweets in my feed, people who tag me.  It is not trolling.  I was not being targeted.  It was just a lot of people being jerks, per usual, but in greater numbers.

My husband and our 11-year-old daughter were downstairs watching an episode of Buffy, and I was sitting up here in my home office, blocking some of these people, responding to some of them.  Strangers, yelling at me because I wrote a comic book that they didn’t like, and because I was a woman.  And I got a text from my 11-year-old daughter. “I love you,” she wrote.  

And I just thought, what am I doing?  Why am I up here engaging with mean strangers, who couldn’t care less about me, when the two people I love most in the world are downstairs?

I posted a comment about how I was done with Twitter.  And I went downstairs.

I exchanged a few more tweets with friends later Wednesday night.  

The next morning, yesterday, I woke up to find that my Twitter feed had exploded.  This was before a Comics Beat story ran later that morning, which REALLY got people interested.  Overnight, I had lost thousands of followers.  (I’d gone to bed with about 8500.)  I had gained a thousand new followers.  I had been tagged thousands of times.  Comments were coming in, fast and furious, every second.  I’d never seen anything like it.  I saw a few of them - a lot of support, a lot of people yelling at one another - a lot of people mad at me for being too quick on the block button or too critical of comic book readers or being too feminist.  A lot of them just seemed mad at women in general.    

I deactivated my account.  I got up.  I walked my dogs.  

I did not read the thousands of posts on my page, past the one page I could see without scrolling down.  So I do not know who sent them. Getting 5 or 6 tweets overnight is a big night for me.  Maybe 90% of those thousands of posts were from one person who sat up all night tweeting me over and over again.  Maybe it was bots.  I do not know why so many of my followers unfollowed me.  Maybe their feeds were being cluttered with all the posts.  Maybe they blocked me to protest the 8 people I’d blocked?  

I did know that it was no longer my Twitter account.  It had been hijacked.  These were no longer my Twitter friends.  

I think the larger cultural story is important.  People are trolled.  People are ruined.  And trolls get away with it, because they can take down anyone, if their ire is raised.  There is still a vocal segment of the comic book readership that is dominated by sexist jerks with Twitter accounts. Twitter is still a highly flawed platform that nurtures a culture of bullying.  

I loved Twitter.  I made friends.  I maintained friendships.  I was delighted when I got to exchange texts with my favorite podcaster or a TV actor or writer I love.  And I had a huge network of other comic book industry professionals who offered me daily support and invaluable advice.  I mentored teenagers and exchanged tweets with readers and tried to be funny sometimes.

But know that I did not leave Twitter because of rape threats or because someone had posted my address, or any of the truly vile tactics you hear about.  I left Twitter because of the ordinary daily abuse that I decided I didn’t want to live with anymore. The base level of casual crassness and sexism.  

Sure, by the time I deactivated my account on Thursday morning, the whole thing had imploded.  And I bet that some of the thousands of posts on my feed were really really vicious.  But I don’t know.  Because you know what?  I didn’t read them.  That’s the power we have, right?  If a stranger yells at you on the street?  You walk away. 

Let me be clear: I did not leave Twitter because I was trolled; I was trolled because I said I was going to leave Twitter.  

I left Twitter because, in the end, all the good stuff about Twitter didn’t make up for all the bad stuff. 

Thanks for reading.

c. 

 

Would you like to go on a cruise with me?

I get this question a lot.  (I have never, ever been asked that question.) Now I am finally able to say, yes, YES I WOULD LIKE TO GO ON A CRUISE WITH YOU.  I will be a guest on the nerd cruise!  And you're invited.  It's March 4-7th.  The cruise will depart from San Diego and swing around Baha.  It is chockful of cool guests including Wil Wheaton, Paul and Storm, Peter Sagal, John Roderick, Jonathan Coulton, Aimee Mann, Gail Simone, Matthew Weiner (maybe you've heard of a little show called MAD MEN?) and many, many more.  Comedy.  Music.  Gaming.  Workshops.  And drinks with little umbrellas.  Come and hang out with us.  I have many friends who've gone on this cruise, and I have always hated them a little because I am a jealous asshole.  But no more!  Now we can all be superior together!  Won't you be superior with us?  And anyone reading the Mockingbird series I write for Marvel, yes this is THAT cruise, and yes, all those people will be on it.  Here's a link to learn more: https://jococruise.com

 

 

 

 

 

Where can I buy KICK BACK?

That is a frequently asked question (FAQ) here at Chelsea Cain, Inc.  And here's the sad truth.  You can't buy it anywhere.  That's confusing, isn't it?  Because you can find it online, along with a lovely picture of the book jacket.  Here's the thing.  Simon and Schuster published ONE KICK.  Then, about the time I was supposed to turn in KICK BACK (and after S&S had posted the cover of KICK BACK and started taking pre-orders), my editor left S&S to go to Putnam.  And I went with her.  These things happen.  But lo the Internet.  It is, ironically, slow to catch up.  S&S will not be publishing KICK BACK.  Ever.  The book jacket - which is fantastic, by the way, right? - that will never be a thing in the world.  I hope - fingers crossed! - that Putnam will publish KICK BACK one day.  And my next Archie/Gretchen book!  (YES, I want to write one.)  But neither will be the NEXT book.  Putnam wants their own series.  Which is fair.  And it's going to be great!  I have a terrific idea, and I am hard at work on it.  If you love Archie, Gretchen, and/or Kick, you will like the new thing.  Thank you for your patience.  I am so sorry for all the confusion.  I'm especially sorry for not clearing it up sooner.  Weirdly, moving from one global corporation to another has been a bit of a legal headache.  And while I am not techincally cleared to talk about any of this yet, I also feel like you're all owed an explanation. Have I mentioned how nice you look?  REALLY nice.   

Hello, Person.

Mockingbird #3 is available in comic book stores (along with #1 and #2).  Issue #4 comes out June 29th.  Comic book stores are great.  Do not be afraid.  You can find out where your local comic book store is here: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/58221/mockingbird_2016_3.  And YES, I know.  And YES, I'm working on another thriller.  And NO, I can't tell you anything about it yet...because publishing is a shadowy, covert busines.  No, it's not.  They just like to surprise you.  It is silly of them. 

You look terrific, by the way.

 

 

Geeking out with CBR

 

Comic Book Resources (CBR) recently interviewed me about my upcoming Mockingbird comic book.  I did a little name dropping.   

CBR News:  It's easy for the bad guys of the Marvel Universe to underestimate Mockingbird since she has no super powers, but they do so at their own peril, because Bobbi Morse is a highly trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. And as both an Avenger and a spy she's used her physical prowess -- and devastating wit -- to help save the world on multiple occasions.

As an Avenger, Mockingbird fought alongside her now ex-husband Hawkeye for many years. Fans of Marvel television know Bobbi Morse as a spy, thanks to her role on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." where she's portrayed by actress Adrianne Palicki and often fights along side a different ex-husband, mercenary Lance Hunter.

This September, acclaimed thriller writer Chelsea Cain will make her comics debut with "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary," a story that features art by Joëlle Jones and is sure to please fans of both incarnations of the title character. We spoke with Cain about the book which sends Bobbi after the murderer of a loved one and introduces her ties to the Lance Hunter of the Marvel Universe, a spy who worked for several British espionage agencies. We also touch on the fateful dinner party she and her husband hosted that lead to both her writing for Marvel, and writer Chuck Palahniuk penning "Fight Club 2" for Dark Horse.

CBR News: What made Bobbi Morse an interesting protagonist for you? Which aspects of her character are you especially interested in exploring in this story?

 


Artist Paul Renaud's cover for "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary"

 

Chelsea Cain: I felt like I could give her a point of view. Because despite her questionable taste in men (Ka-Zar anyone?) and the fact that her reality often turns out to be a lie, she is obviously cool and smart and badass and she knows how to deliver a good zinger at her ex-husband's expense. Basically, I have a feminist agenda.

Also, I have no shame. This is important. It has gotten me far. I got this gig through sheer gall. I emailed [Brian Michael] Bendis and was like, "I want to write Mockingbird!" and he wrote back and was like, "Yeahhh, we need to talk." And he came over and sat me down and explained very patiently and gently that Marvel doesn't generally hire people with zero experience. And I was like, "I want to write Mockingbird!" And he sighed and put his head in his hands. But in a strange fit of kismet (or as my husband calls it, The Law of Everything Working Out for Chelsea), Marvel happened to be planning this Mockingbird one-off. And there I was jumping up and down with my hand in the air.

As an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a member of the Avengers Mockingbird regularly finds herself dealing with such fantastic threats as world conquering super villains and high tech terrorists, but the solicits for your story make it sound like it's more of a gritty revenge tale. So what can you tell us about the situation Mockingbird becomes embroiled in in your one-shot? How would you describe the tone?

It's a psychological thriller. Someone important to Bobbi is killed, and she goes after the killer. She doesn't even wear the costume. It's a personal mission. She saves the world all the time; that's just Tuesdays. I think the stakes can feel higher sometimes with a smaller story. Or possibly I've just really screwed up. Conquering super villains, you say?

What sort of hints can you offer up about the adversaries the title character is up against in your "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" special?

He wear argyle socks. So he's obviously a psychopath.

[Laughs] Who are some of the supporting players Bobbi will encounter in your story? Will we see some of her more famous associates, like her ex-husband Hawkeye, or her former Secret Avengers teammate, Black Widow?

I would love to write that book. I think the three of them should go on a cruise together. Those ladies could teach Clint a thing or two about shuffleboard. I am a big fan of the Clint-Bobbi relationship. They have great chemistry. You know who else I love? Lance Hunter. He's Bobbi's ex-husband on the TV show, because I guess Clint was busy. Hunter is a smart-ass romantic who works for a shadowy government organization. Sound familiar? I know! Bobbi sure has a type.

Anyway "the studio" wanted Hunter in the anniversary issue, so as not to confuse things (more). They never call "the studio" by name -- it's just always "the studio." I kind of thought it was funny -- the fact that Bobbi has these two almost interchangeable ex-husbands, both of whom are in no way over her, so I tried to have fun with that in the one-off. It's murder-y, yes, but not without laughs.

Bringing your characters to life is Joëlle Jones,a versatile artist who does everything from the viking horror of "Helheim" to the suburban crime/comedy "Lady Killer." She also has experience working with prose writers making their comic debut, having worked with Janet and Alex Evanovich on their graphic novel "Troublemaker."

She worked on "Troublemaker?!" I did not know that. If that's true, then I'm sure she did her very best. I am a huge fan of "Lady Killer." It's got such an amazing look -- that cool, mid-century aesthetic, plus very excellent blood spatter.

I wanted this book to have a '70s vibe -- it doesn't take place in the '70s, but I wanted the visual reference. Think, "Klute," or "The Eiger Sanction." Back when people shot each other while wearing leather jackets in front of dramatically-patterned wallpaper. Also, Joëlle draws beautiful women. She's really good at that. But she doesn't draw them through the male gaze. Let me paraphrase: Their tits and ass aren't raised like they're ready to be mounted. I considered that a plus.

 


Christian Ward's variant covers for every "S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" one-shot

 

You're best known as a thriller writer, but comics have been a big part of your life. You co-wrote a parody self help book for super heroes with your husband, Marc Mohan, titled "Does this Cape Make Me Look Fat?" and you're friends with a number of comic creators. How long have you been interested in comics? And what made you want to try your hand at the format?

Marc and I hang out with a lot of comics people. They are like pigeons here in Portland. If you stop and pay attention to one the next thing you know there are thirty-five of them standing around you with their heads cocked. If the first pigeon likes you, you're in. You know what comics people like to talk about? Comics. I have never met people more interested in discussing their work, with the possible exception of PhD candidates. I started asking questions just to get a word in edgewise. I'm a casual comics fan compared to my husband (he bags and boards and enters each issue in his database). But I'm a fan.

I remember buying the first issue of Bendis' "Alias" when it came out, and it really re-lit my appreciation of the form. Much the same way that Matt Fraction's "Hawkeye" did, or Kelly Sue DeConnick's "Captain Marvel." There was just this sense of reinvention and smarts. I can't talk about comics the way my husband can, but I can talk about story. I am endlessly interested in narrative, and pretty soon I found myself at parties full of comics people, having these conversations with Matt Fraction. He'd be going on about shape and time and the page turn, and I had no fucking idea what he was talking about. He thinks about story in this whole different way. Which, out of professional jealousy, made me want to crack it.

That said, "Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary" is your first comics work. Aside form emailing Bendis, how did it come about? Were the seeds for this project planted at the same dinner party where Chuck Palahniuk was convinced to do "Fight Club 2" as a comic project?

Marc and I hosted that dinner party with the singular goal of convincing Chuck to write a comic. Marc was the one who came up with the idea. It was just an aside, "You know who should write a comic? Chuck!" Then I went with it with the tenacity of a terrier. It just made so much sense to me. Bendis, his wife Alisa, Matt, Kelly Sue, and Marc and I had spent the whole evening plying Chuck with wine and explaining why this comic book needed to happen. We were making great headway, too. Then Matt looked up at me and said, "You should write a comic book, too." (I had clearly been dazzling him with my insights into shape and time and the page turn.) I practically choked, because I found the idea of writing a comic book thrilling and terrifying and intimidating, and also because Chuck was looking right at me and I didn't want him to think that I was trying to talk him into doing something that I was too chicken to try myself.

That was like two years ago. So obviously I was a little chicken. Probably because -- despite what we all told Chuck that evening -- I read enough comic books to know that prose writers should not write them, because they almost always suck.

Mockingbird and other comic book news

Yes, I have somehow convinced Marvel to let me write a comic book.  Those of you who know me will understand what a huge moment this is for those of us over at the Cain-Mohan house.  Mama made good.  This is a one-shot issue.  Listen to me, using the comics lingo.  That means that it's a single issue, one and done.  Available Sept. 2nd.  So for all that is sacred in the world order your copy now from your local comic book shop.  You don't want to miss this.  Some of you may know Mockingbird as Bobbi Morse from the TV show Marvel: Agents of SHIELD.  Some of you may know Mockingbird from the comics (she is a biochemist and a New Avenger, but she is mostly known for being Hawkeye's "cool ex-wife").  She is also tough and beautiful and interesting and waaaaayyyy complicated.  So she's super pissed when someone from her past is murdered.  Yes, I wrote a super hero comic book without any costumes.  Just some crime and psychological warfare.  You know.  How I like it.  Joelle Jones is doing the art, which I will post some of once someone tells me I can if not a few seconds sooner.  The comic looks amazing.  Bonus points if you can identify all Mockingbird's tattoos.  

 

In other comic book news a friend of mine continues to slay the industry with his comic book series.  It's called Fight Club 2, have you heard of it?  This kid Chuck Palahniuk really has potential - keep your eye on him.  And keep your eye out for me too, as I will be appearing, with the rest of our writing group, in an upcoming FC2 issue. Meta, right?  He better hope it's a flattering likeness.

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