Marvel Comics artist Bill Sienkiewicz, known for his work on New Mutants and Moon Knight and more recently his tirade against comic book fans, expressed that he did not like the forced corporate diversity and tokenization in Prime Video’s upcoming The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power show.
Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power executive producer Lindsey Weber explained to Vanity Fair the show altered and race swapped multiple characters because “it felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”
“Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together,” she argued.
ElfQuest creator Wendy Pini took to Facebook to detail a conversation she had with Sienkiewicz regarding the upcoming The Rings of Power series.
She prefaced Sienkiewicz’s comments writing, “Today my friend and colleague the illustrious Bill Sinkiewicz, paid me a dazzling complement in a thread devoted to some interesting debate about the upcoming, new LOTR series.”
She added, “Here is the pertinent excerpt from his comments (note, salty language and all):”
Next, Pini quoted Sienkiewicz who stated, “I understand that so many young women and POC want to see themselves represented in their entertainment – but … I honestly feel that what I would love to see is stories gb written that do that from the ground up – not retrofitting and reimagining something to suit the current political clime – it’s like saying ‘all this pine should really be oak. Fucking pine.'”
Sienkiewicz continued, “Despite strengths and failings, things are what they are. Make something NEW! I think of what creators like Wendy PinI did with Elfquest – she created from whole cloth a world – several worlds full of amazing characters that are entirely hers, entirely sui generis – she didn’t rewrite a pre-existing story from some old white guy – she’s brilliant – and the show runners and young writers of every persuasion should follow her lead.”
Pini then detailed her response, “Bill, thank you so much for a very high complement. What’s interesting is, if (and I emphasize IF) Elfquest does make it to film or TV, someday, in this political climate, it will be assumed that we have dark-skinned elves because we’re following the current trend toward representation and inclusivity. ”
“But back in the mid 70s, you wanna know why I created a tribe of dark-skinned elves? For the BEAUTY!!! Prior to starting my career in the independent comics movement, I had been a semi-professional belly dancer. I saw beauties, male and female, of every exotic hue. And my artist’s eye reveled at how the radiant colors of their dance costumes glowed against golden brown skin,” she explained.
Pini elaborated, “I used to design dance costumes for my own belly dancing teacher who had a distinct Middle Eastern flair. THAT’S why I wanted… needed… elves of color. Because, artistically, I couldn’t do without them!”
He response concluded, “Truly, I wish that was the reason for ‘inclusivity’ now. I wish all humanity could just see the beauty – as I know you do, Bill.”
In the comments section of the post, Pini would provide a follow-up response from Sienkiewicz, “Wendy Pini AMEN- your choices and characters and creative decisions all came from a place of integrity and personal set of beliefs- your work feels – and remains- HONEST and real – and that’s why lovers of Elfquest have been around for the long haul- which only makes me feel more disappointed that so much of how to is being mandated now feels retroactive and shoe-horns and pretzel-ized to fit a corporate dictate.”
He added, “A cynical cash grab that feel shallow and uses fans very real hopes an dreams for meaningful entertainment that can change lives- and dashes those hopes and dreams on the wheels of commerce and politics.”
“No one wins there– not the creators , nor the fans -it’s coldly strip mining and monetizing everything that means anything to people – I fear that’s what is happening with so much of what we love these days and like everything- it’s dividing us when – as I remember it , how it was and still should be:it should unite us,” he concluded.
This is a complete about face for Sienkiewicz, who railed against comic fans for expressing similar beliefs back in 2018.
In a Facebook post that has since been removed by Facebook for violating their “community standards on harassment and bullying,” Sienkiewicz wrote, “To begin. I’m convinced Comics chose ME as a practitioner, emissary, evangelist, what-have-you—rather than the other way around. Perhaps that’s why I tend to view most other creators through a similar lens. Whatever the actual reason people create comics, tell stories, live in this world, it’s still a wonderful calling. Creators are family; every voice is unique and necessary.”
He continued, “That said, Comics sure as hell didn’t choose the so-called Comicsgate contingent to promote hateful, misogynistic and plain-old-ugly dogma. No, these ‘Gaters- you guys- you brought that ugliness all by yourselves.”
“To be honest, I just don’t get your deal. Are you so insecure, so afraid, so fearful of the prospect of bearing the ‘incel’ moniker, or by sharing creative space with someone with more estrogen than you- that you’re all somehow threatened to your very manhood or your livelihood? How super-heroic of you,” he wrote.
“I’d ask you to explain it to me, but frankly what I’ve heard from your quarter already bores me; as well as just plain pisses me off. I f***ing despise bullies. Cowards,” he asserted.
He then opined, “What you’re each promoting individually is not some divine creative dispensation; it’s just you being an asshole. Collectively, you’re a gaggle, a clan,(-potentially with a k unsubtle as that shot may be)- a veritable bag’s worth of douches. Whatever the name you give for your assembly, you’re not the Avengers. You’re still just a bunch of assholes.”
Next, Sienkiewicz wrote, “Comics isn’t a boys club. It’s not ‘NO (insert ethnic group, gender, religion, sexual preference here) ALLOWED.’ It’s a club , a meeting place a forum for creators. Of all stripes. Like a real life Legion of Super Heroes, or a Justice League. Only with pen and ink paper and Cintiqs and laptops and…”
He then made some bold accusations stating, “Stop being the creepy racist misogynist uncles showing up at reunions and pissing in the punchbowl to disprove your beta standing. Stop being the weird cousins the entire world points to as the definition of every ‘comic book nerd’ stereotype.”
“Or do it far away from us. Stop being whiny misunderstood victims bitching bout favoritism, intolerance, and sexism. You’re slinging inky-black aspersions, obliviously crying racism in your Wite-Out™. You’re damned right some corrections need to be made; starting with the guys in the mirror first,” he continued.
He continued his personal attacks, “So stop being awful ambassadors for the worst of our natures. Stop being brownshirts. Stop being goddamned ugly dicks. And to re-jigger an ugly phrase you sling at women, I’m instead going to channel it here in the spirit of my Aussie friends: Stop being such insufferable clueless cunts.”
Finally, he concluded, “The medium didn’t call on you to be the best version of assholes you could be. Neither did we. Knock it off. Either step up. Or step off. We, Comics, and The Audience- will be absolutley fine without you. And you won’t be missed one damned bit.”
What do you make of Sienkiewicz’s criticism of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and its corporate-mandated diversity?