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September 22, 2011 3:35 PM   Subscribe

The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their 'Liberated Sexuality'
posted by desjardins (231 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
The super hero getting all hot and sweaty and excited and the first hug kills their partner?
posted by sammyo at 3:41 PM on September 22, 2011


That wasn't big or sexy; it was just depressing. And reminds me that I'm really not missing out on much by not reading mainstream superhero comics.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:45 PM on September 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, this can't be pointed out often enough. The 'comic books are only for juvenile losers' cliche might not be entirely deserved, but it's hard to shake the feeling that it's at least somewhat true.

(Ditto for the video game community, which needs to hurry up and redefine 'mature' so that it no longer means 'gratuitous violence and tits all over the screen'.)
posted by anaximander at 3:50 PM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Kate Beaton addresses the issue.
posted by curious nu at 3:51 PM on September 22, 2011 [30 favorites]


They're how dudes want to imagine those women would be -- what Wire creator David Simon called writing "chicks with d*cks".

This is not about these women wanting things; it's about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering -- the idea that women can own their sexuality -- and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their "sexual liberation" into just another way for dudes to get off.


this! Don't act like you're doing women a favor by drawing that crap. Get off your high horse and admit what your target audience is.
posted by Neekee at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2011 [24 favorites]


It's a really good read. A lot of what Hudson has to say isn't unfamiliar if you've been paying attention to comics criticism in general, but it's really on-point here especially considering it's coming from someone who otherwise has such an active involvement in and affection for comics.

The good news is this stuff isn't universally pervasive even in mainstream superhero stuff (see e.g. the new Animal Man #1 for a really nice kickoff with an actual family rather than Superhero And Hottie Wife Accessory); the bad news is it's really, really easy to find. I'm not sure how you excise a whole basic aesthetic instinct from a big swath of the major publishers' art stables, but man it'd be nice to see them make an effort.
posted by cortex at 3:52 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I guess DC is taking a page from Marvel's book in the whole "controversy sells comics" thing, but these changes on the part of the Distinguished Competition are just so... tired. They don't make me look forward to the next issue, they make me wonder what shoe will drop and what people will be mad about Thursday morning.

Are there any changes that actually improved female characters in the NuDC? I can't think of a net plus.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:53 PM on September 22, 2011


Let's leave aside the issue of this being sexist and stupid and pathetic for a moment. In the age of the internet, is shit like what's pictured in that Starfire comic really going to boost sales?

No, wait, don't answer that...
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:00 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have long maintained that to bring in more female readers, superhero comics don't even need to specifically target women as much as they need to not actively offend them.

A million times this, and it's true for minorities as well!

Seriously, can we please print this out on a banner and give it to all video game, comic book, and sci-fi/fantasy creators to hang in their creative spaces? Pretty please?
posted by lord_wolf at 4:01 PM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure how you excise a whole basic aesthetic instinct from a big swath of the major publishers' art stables

I'm not sure it's right to try. Clearly a large audience enjoys the existing 2D sexuality; There's no reason they have to lose that in order for better books to be published.

If the better books sell then I'm sure you can look forward to a whole generation of me-too clones.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:04 PM on September 22, 2011


.

It is utterly heartbreaking to see the mainstream publishers continually produce crap like Red Hood and the Outlaws. DC is putting a lot of money into the "New 52", and completely missing the mark. I have been somewhat out of the loop with mainstream comics, but wasn't this supposed to be a relaunch, not a retread of the same tired writing and juvenile designs? When DC introduced the New 52, they talked about attracting new readers; readers who had never picked up a comic before. What new audience is this supposed to be attracting?
posted by isnotchicago at 4:05 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


material that appeals to them

Really? That image of Batman and Catwoman having sex is appealing to anyone? ;)

Also, that is circular logic. Why do comic book producers include this stuff? Because their main demographic is men aged 13 to 22. Why is "men aged 13 to 22" the main demographic of comic books? Because comic producers include this stuff.
posted by muddgirl at 4:06 PM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Are there any changes that actually improved female characters in the NuDC? I can't think of a net plus.

Someone I know was surprised to find out that he actually liked the Wonder Woman issue. That's... as much as I got. I'm still too bitter about the Oracle/Batgirl issue to even go near the relaunch.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:08 PM on September 22, 2011


There was some discussion for a while about whether it would see DC trying to embrace younger readers, shifting the DCU closer to the DC Animated version of itself if not quite all the way into being Batman: The Brave and the Bold or Tiny Titans. That would have been better and braver, I think. The main market they seem to be pitching themselves at with some of these books is "people who post to videogames forums".
posted by Artw at 4:10 PM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Meh, publishers target their main demographic

Target away, but don't go claiming that you're doing for women's rights' sake.
posted by Neekee at 4:10 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure it's right to try. Clearly a large audience enjoys the existing 2D sexuality; There's no reason they have to lose that in order for better books to be published.

Hudson rightly addresses this, though: there is, and should well be, room for Sexy Superhero Time, and stuff like Empowered is kind of great specifically because it knows that that's what it's doing and it does it with verve and wit.

The difference is that Catwoman, for example, isn't at least in principle a pinup calendar; the character is totally willing to exploit her own sexuality when situationally useful, but that's not the same thing as bouncing around Gotham all tits akimbo for no apparent reason.

There's room for sexy in books, and there's room for books all about the sexy, but the current situation is a whole lot of rote porn-tracing "sexy" getting in the way of the stories a lot of these folks claim to be trying to make: stories about characters readers care about even while not retiring to their bunks.
posted by cortex at 4:12 PM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, I know that there are so many other issues at stake, but what the hell are Batman's ab muscles doing in that Batman/Catwoman picture?
posted by dinty_moore at 4:12 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


As before, the staff has condensed its feelings about this into their truest and most expressive form: the animated GIF.
posted by homunculus at 4:13 PM on September 22, 2011 [31 favorites]


The new Wonder Woman is excellent IMO. The Red Hood comic is way out on the extreme -- it makes me think of Maxim magazine. I would have been shocked to see it last beyond a few issues even without the controversy.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 4:16 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify: I'm not asking why batman's abs are there, I'm asking whether there's a reason why they look like they're tessellating.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:17 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, she even mentions Empowered which I'm not so sure is... ahhh... hhhmmm... I don't know. It's a book based on fanservice and I don't quite think it upholds to it's namesake. It's kinda like saying Bomb Queen is all about royalty.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:17 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That Starfire panel is atrocious though.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:17 PM on September 22, 2011


Metafilter: bouncing around Gotham all tits akimbo for no apparent reason.
posted by localroger at 4:18 PM on September 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


Neekee: "Target away, but don't go claiming that you're doing for women's rights' sake."

This SLOE posted here doesn't exactly make it clear that that was the intent. Is there some statement from DC that says that these were about female empowerment? I didn't see one, excuse me if I missed it.
posted by mullingitover at 4:19 PM on September 22, 2011


The only comics I've ever read are Buffy related, but just going into a comic store and casually browsing I saw this a lot. I was always kind of embarrassed just going into the store because the windows were covered with posters like this. It was like being seen going into a strip club. When the owner made a sexist comment about my choice of material, I finally decided to just buy them on-line.
posted by williampratt at 4:20 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since pointing out my issues with Starfire yesterday, I have received numerous e-mails -- from men -- accusing me of slut-shaming ... I would like to say first and in the strongest possible terms that I absolutely support the right of women to embrace and act upon their sexual desires in whatever way seems right to them, within consensual boundaries.

...
Or worse, they read like the straight girls who make out with each other clubs, not because they enjoy making out with women but because they desperately want guys to pay attention to them.
Hmm.

I mean obviously these comics sound terrible, and the batman/catwoman having sex on a rooftop seems completely ridiculous. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing batman would even do.
posted by delmoi at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind this is also the reboot that decided it would be a perfect opportunity to put a "new spin" on Amanda Waller, and by new spin we of course mean making her thin, lightening her skin and straightening her hair. Test audiences apparently couldn't go more than three pages without having something to masturbate to.

I wish I could say good riddance to this with the futilely-delaying-the-inevitable demise of the print comics industry but at the same time the guy who draws the webcomic Least I Could Do just got $100,000 in reader donations so, yeah we're in the cesspool forever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:25 PM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm still too bitter about the Oracle/Batgirl issue to even go near the relaunch.

Batgirl literally features a scene in which Barbara Gordon, who apparently *was* shot in the spine by the joke in this universe but got better, encounters a bad guy who aims a gun at here and she FREEZES because she doesn't want to get shot in the spine again, which IMHO is all kinds of crap.
posted by Artw at 4:28 PM on September 22, 2011


FWIW Action, Frankenstein, Demon Knights and Animal Man have all been excellent. I think those are the ones where the writers and artsist have been allowed to wander off in their own directions away from the aparent editorial mandate to make everything as 90s EXTREME as possible.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Superhero comics are aimed at 10-15 year old boys, which this juvenile crap reflects. You're supposed to outgrow them.
posted by zipadee at 4:34 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Super-heroine costumes are clearly designed by the same guys who design female armor for fantasy films.

Though that's probably like saying "air is something you breath."
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:37 PM on September 22, 2011


Looking forward to reading this article (don't have a chance right now), but let me second that despite pretty lousy stuff like Red Hood & The Outlaws, the DC relaunch has actually had a lot of good stuff in it. Action Comics, Demon Knights, Batman, Batman & Robin, & Animal Man have been pretty good, Batwing has promise...a lot of the rest of it has been unnecessary/exploitative but there's a lot to look forward to as well. I expect Justice League Dark to be a lot of fun, especially if you like John Constantine.

It's pretty sad to see this stuff when just last week we had Ultimate Spider-Man #1, which introduced Miles Morales and was probably one of the best superhero comics I read this year. It had a social conscience, well-defined characters with organic struggles, and even if it handles some issues rather simplistically it nonetheless handles them.

Not to derail, but if you're looking for a socially relevant superhero comic, that's probably a good choice. That and Action Comics #1 in particular helped make me get excited for the possibilities that these revamped superhero properties could provide (and probably squander but let's be optimistic for now, shall we?).
posted by HostBryan at 4:42 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My favorite part was the artist's conception of a male superhero given a costume that's as revealing as the typical female superhero's costume. As a man, I found it remarkably good at illustrating the point in a way I have never quite gotten before. Also, hilarious.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:44 PM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now, if we address the fact that many superheros wear capes and underwear over the clothes, it may be possible to take DC and Marvel comics seriously.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not really into comics, but I share her hope that mainstream fantasy comics about costume-clad superheroes will incorporate more mature and sophisticated portrayals of gender and sexuality.

Its good to be optimistic, right?
posted by memebake at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2011


Superhero comics are aimed at 10-15 year old boys, which this juvenile crap reflects. You're supposed to outgrow them.

Except that a lot of them aren't operating on that level all or even most of the time. They're written and drawn and edited by adults, even if not all of those adults seem to have entirely gotten away from the juvenalia that surrounded their own budding interest in comics themselves. There are very smart, very good character and narrative writers working even for the big mainstream shops, and totally solid non-porny artists doing art for them.

The problem with juvenile stuff in superhero comics is not inherent to comics or to superhero comics as a medium. Dismissing the entire genre because some of the work being done in it is frustrating or lousy doesn't make sense, and dismissing everybody who likes the genre despite its warts as suffering from arrested development is no less foolish. People criticize this stuff not because they don't know better but because they know that it can be better and they want a popular medium they like to be the best it can be.
posted by cortex at 4:50 PM on September 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Also, that is circular logic. Why do comic book producers include this stuff? Because their main demographic is men aged 13 to 22. Why is "men aged 13 to 22" the main demographic of comic books? Because comic producers include this stuff.
Is that actually true, though? I would think that the main demographics of comic books -- at least superhero comic books, which these are -- would have been young males long before they started including this stuff (at least to anything remotely like this degree).

Didn't there used to be other types of comic books, back in the 40s or whatever, that were meant to appeal primarily to young females? "True romance stories" or whatever? While (I assume) superhero comics primarily were targeted at young males, even way back when when they were as wholesome as baseball hot dogs apple pie and Chevrolet.
posted by Flunkie at 4:54 PM on September 22, 2011


Can't you show us the playful or confident look in her eye as she puts on her sexy costume? Because without that it's impossible to connect with the character on any other level than a boner, and I'm afraid I don't have one of those.

Don't lesbians exist anymore?
posted by layceepee at 4:58 PM on September 22, 2011


Leaving aside the main point of the article for a moment: how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.
posted by asnider at 4:59 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The sad thing is that some really good stuff has come out of the DC relaunch, including the single best issue of Wonder Woman in years. But it doesn't count for much against this garbage.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:59 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My comicbookreadership has lapsed for quite a few years and I've recently been trying to fix that. I'm slowly catching up with DMZ and enjoying Sweet Tooth more than I thought I would.

I'm still confused as to why superhero comics have such a death grip on the medium and I'm still sad that I have no one to talk to about comic books that actually interest me.
posted by byanyothername at 5:01 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aaaaaaand that is why I keep my comic fandom secret from the outside world. I wish I didn't have to, but I refuse to be associated with bullshit like this. I already "vote with my dollars" against such loathsome crap, but who in the normal world would believe me?
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 5:02 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, I know that there are so many other issues at stake, but what the hell are Batman's ab muscles doing in that Batman/Catwoman picture?

It took me a good three minutes to figure out that wasn't some sort of hideous fleshy amoeboid between them. The fact that his shoulders are apparently narrower than his ribcage really threw me off.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:03 PM on September 22, 2011


how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.

Thinking about that touches my brain in a bad way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:06 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few weeks back, I was at the local comicbook shop and what do you know, there were five college females in the store buying stuff to outfit their dorm with - hanging manga banners, plush Mario characters, and a lifesize Flash stand-up.

There's your future, DC. Please don't scare them off.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I would think that the main demographics of comic books -- at least superhero comic books, which these are -- would have been young males long before they started including this stuff

Sure, but in today's day and age, when women watch and enjoy Mad Men (a superhero story if I've ever seen one), why do we automatically assume that women won't or don't buy superhero comics? "They haven't in the past" isn't a good excuse, because clearly (a) they have, and (b) people tend to avoid things that are explicitly marketed as "Not For You."
posted by muddgirl at 5:11 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Low-hanging fruit?

For this article to be anything but a strangely hurt-seeming pointing out of the OMG-obvious, the author would need to make the case that in this genre, from these publishers, it was ever different. She's been into superhero comics for ten years -- what changed?

I'm hardly an expert on superhero comics, but I was under the impression that near-naked ladies in sexy poses was pretty common in this genre.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:11 PM on September 22, 2011


Too Busy Thinking About My Comics tears into Bendis' comic about a superheroine being tortured while naked
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:12 PM on September 22, 2011


Also, that is circular logic. Why do comic book producers include this stuff? Because their main demographic is men aged 13 to 22. Why is "men aged 13 to 22" the main demographic of comic books? Because comic producers include this stuff.

There is (and has been for 20+ years) a thriving market for comic books with more nuanced views of sexuality. It's not like non 13-22 males have been excluded from the comic book market or haven't had a chance to make their economic stamp on it.

There's room for sexy in books, and there's room for books all about the sexy, but the current situation is a whole lot of rote porn-tracing "sexy" getting in the way of the stories a lot of these folks claim to be trying to make: stories about characters readers care about even while not retiring to their bunks.

Hmm, good point. The hypocrisy on the part of the writers is definitely annoying.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:13 PM on September 22, 2011


Leaving aside the main point of the article for a moment: how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.
posted by asnider at 4:59 PM on September 22 [+] [!]


I actually could not parse what was happening in that panel at all. In general, I am terrible at figuring out what is happening in any given panel of any given comic book, but that panel took me even longer than usual. Anyway, if my apparent total inability to actually comprehend your average comic book art wasn't enough, this kind of male gaze-y bullshit would be.
posted by yasaman at 5:16 PM on September 22, 2011


Leaving aside the main point of the article for a moment: how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.

Utility belt.

Plus he's Batman. I'm sure he spent a year studying under (or on top of) the 5 Ancient Sex Masters in case he needed to seduce a villian or two.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


She's been into superhero comics for ten years -- what changed?

I believe the reboot triggered this particular article. Everyone had high hopes.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:18 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not like non 13-22 males have been excluded from the comic book market or haven't had a chance to make their economic stamp on it.

Totally. I mean look at all the women writers DC hired with their re-launch. There's Gail Simone, and... well, there's got to be plenty of them -- it's not like they've been excluded.
posted by Zed at 5:19 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


She's been into superhero comics for ten years -- what changed?

I don't think she's making an argument that anything's changed. She's pretty clear about what she's addressing: the idea that all depictions of female sexual aggression are empowering, which was an argument presented to her by some of her readers.

Of course we need to ask: Why do we have to wait for a degradation in the situation to make a complaint? Isn't it worthwhile to point out that it's situation normal: all fucked up? Especially since this is part of a reboot allegedly intended to attract new readers?

There is (and has been for 20+ years) a thriving market for comic books with more nuanced views of sexuality.

We're talking about superhero comics. I wrote (and deleted, I guess) a comment about how "comic books" is a medium, while "superhero comics" is a genre. We can't point to the entire medium to excuse one genre. IMO, there's nothing inherently gendered about superhero comics anymore.

Now, if we want to have a genre called "superhero softcore porn for straight males" which contained, well, what it says on the tin, I don't think we'd have a problem.
posted by muddgirl at 5:19 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, sure, muddgirl, it's entirely possible that they'd be able to change their demographics by changing their behavior, and it might even be financially wise for them to do so. I'm not taking issue with that. I'm just taking issue with the claim of circular logic:

Whether or not they could change their demographics by changing their behavior, or whether they should, are different issues than whether or not their demographics are what they are because of their current behavior. Their demographics are what (I assume) they have been historically, dating back long before their current behavior started.

So "they do this because their targets are young males" makes sense to me. And so does "they could do other things to target a broader audience". But "their targets are young males because they do this" doesn't.
posted by Flunkie at 5:20 PM on September 22, 2011


The preceding column the author linked to, which consisted mainly of a panel of Starfire followed by a series of animated facepalm GIFs, pretty much summed it up for me.
posted by Gelatin at 5:22 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, if we want to have a genre called "superhero softcore porn for straight males" which contained, well, what it says on the tin, I don't think we'd have a problem.

:-)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:25 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone (I really forget who) made the point that DC wasn't trying to get new readers with this relaunch. They were trying to get the readers from the '90s back.

And as someone who kind of stopped reading comics in the late '90s because of stuff like this, well ...

My reaction was mostly "It's nice to see some things don't change." This is gross stuff, but it's sadly not shocking to me anymore.

I'm basically done with superhero comics at this point. I don't like that, but that's how it is. I may pick up a stray title here and there but DC has pretty much said "We don't really care about you as a reader." (Marvel does a bit better sometimes, but they can definitely still be problematic.) I know there are some good people working at DC (some of them women!) who believe in what they're doing and want to make a good product. I'm not trying to condemn all of it. But I guess I'm just tired of banging on the clubhouse door asking to be let in and putting up with what I have to put up with if and when they do.

It's been more fun to go form my own club. There's an entire generation of women making comics now who've probably only read superhero stuff in passing. I've heard from a good number of teachers of sequential art that their classes are at least 50 percent women, if not quite a bit more. That's the future of comics and I absolutely welcome it.
posted by darksong at 5:26 PM on September 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I find main continuities of both DC and Marvel to be terrible and unreadable. Superhero comics are inherently juvenile wish-fulfillment fantasies. They're stories about putting on a mask and being SO special that no one can stop you from doing what you want to do but that's okay because you're a good guy. These stories are only very rarely high drama.

What do you expect from the sex in a story like this? This is like attacking a children's novel for using short words. If you're not a young man who wants to believe in a world populated by scantily clad women who are shaped like barbie dolls and are completely sexually available.. these stories properly aren't for you. They can't even include you. It's not the fantasy of the readers of these books to be in your fantasies.

The majority of superhero stories have always been porn for (mostly male) children. We might need more female-targeted juvenile sexual wish-fulfillment fantasy comics; I am actually REALLY curious to know what this would look like and to find out how important masks, tights, and morally-sanctioned violence would be to these stories.
posted by TheKM at 5:45 PM on September 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ugh.

I've given up on DC.

I'm too tired to even be an internet feminist about it. I'm just going to read something else, like the multitude of comics being independently produced by feminist writers and artists and queer writers and artists and oh, I don't know - good writers and artists with passion for their characters and storylines and women that fight evil in comfortable shoes.
posted by sawdustbear at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


women that fight evil in comfortable shoes

Unless it's Buffy I don't think I'd be very interested in that.

Of course, I'd rather read Buffy all day than any DC crap.
posted by Malice at 6:23 PM on September 22, 2011


All I have to say is that I read today the new #1 start of Wonder Woman, and I still have no effing idea how to frame it. That was wayyy unexpected. Still not sure if that's good or bad, the issue made me feel like one of those in Sandman where you see whole mythologies rebuilt in flabbergasting ways, and you still lack a clear feeling on if the guy writing this is going to pull something amazing off (as Gaiman did) or whether the whole thing is going to collapse in one of those pretentious posmo drecks Vertigo used to cough up regularly. Hurry up, issue #2!
posted by Iosephus at 6:48 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this article. I love comics and am sick of all this shit. I'm not just sick of it in comics, I'm sick of it in our wider culture--where "sexual liberation" has now been conflated with "self-objectification" and apparently women are not exercising their freedoms unless they're half-naked in a bar making out with their best friend for a bunch of drunken frat boys.

Perhaps the best real-world example of this comic book fantasy is in the strength-training world. As more and more women get involved in serious athletic training and lifting weights and awareness of women in this stuff becomes more public, the presentation of women who do these things has become very, well, specific.

Women are encouraged to lift--but only if they're half-naked, look sexy, and part of groups like "Pretty Strong"* where women are lifting but still fitting inside that box of femininity that straight guys like. There is a movement called "Strong is the New Skinny"--but it's quite telling that all of the women who are highlighted by this movement happen to be very lean and very naked. You won't see any heavyweight female lifters there, even though their heavyweight male counterparts are very celebrated in the lifting community. It's not a celebration of athleticism, it's just cheesecake for the gym.

It's all presented under the veneer that women should be proud of their strong bodies. But apparently pride is expressed through push-up sports bras and lots of photos of your ass during workouts on your workout log.

*No, there is seriously a group called "Pretty Strong"
posted by schroedinger at 6:58 PM on September 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


Guys you have to admire the progress DC has made here.

52 comics, and not a single female secondary character raped, given AIDS and/or or brutally murdered. That's improvement, right?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:00 PM on September 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Does it count if Catwoman is the one committing the rape?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:11 PM on September 22, 2011


Seeing as how this topic of how women are depicted in the comic books comes up often on Mefi, I was thinking about this issue and I came upon a realization.

There's no reason why characters can't have multiple interpretations. Catwoman can be both empowering and sexualized. It can happen in different universes or in different issues or whatever. It's a comic book, continuity is flexible.

I mean, we already have a Batman that can range from campy to fascist. We have a Spider-man that is white and another Spider-man that is half black and half hispanic. We have Colossus that is straight and another that is gay.

I don't see how one depiction has to exclude another. Which is why I don't agree that we have to stop sexualization of anything in comics, just that we have to be open to different visions and interpretations of characters.
posted by FJT at 7:12 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read a lot of superhero comics, mostly DC. As a gay guy, I mostly tune out the 'sexy' aspects of female characters but there is a line where it becomes uncomfortable, and ultimately a turnoff. These two comics are way over that line -- but generally speaking I would say that DC has had lots of kickass women in their lineup that have been written well. At the same time I can recognize that even the better-written female characters are written and drawn from a straight male perspective far too often.

Frankly, the Red Hood/Starfire one doesn't bother me that much. I'll never read it, but this is a really marginal book, featuring pretty marginal characters. Starfire has really only ever existed to serve as eye candy for straight boys -- this particular issue is just putting it out there more plainly than usual (not that it isn't gross and problematic; it's just not anything really new as far as this character is concerned IMO).

I'm far mor bothered that they've turned Catwoman into soft core straight porn, and made what had been one of their strongest female characters into nothing more than a sex object. I probably would have bought this book, but I won't now, and I hope DC doesn't start writing the rest of their books for a frat boy audience.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:29 PM on September 22, 2011


Wait, when did Colossus become gay?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2011


Wait, when did Colossus become gay?

Colossus is openly gay in the Ultimates universe.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:34 PM on September 22, 2011


Someone (I really forget who) made the point that DC wasn't trying to get new readers with this relaunch. They were trying to get the readers from the '90s back.

And as someone who kind of stopped reading comics in the late '90s because of stuff like this, well ...
Uh... I'm pretty sure I stopped reading comics in the 1990s because I stopped being a Child in the 1990s.

If they want a new generation of teenage boys to start reading comics, they are just going to need to lower their prices, or else make them longer. That was one of the main reasons I stopped reading them, they just seemed too expensive in terms of the entertainment time per dollar.
posted by delmoi at 7:35 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The main reason I stopped reading comic books was because Marvel seemed intent on destroying everything I liked - I'm thinking of the Mutant Massacre (which is the last time I purchased a super hero comic), but the bastards regularly "re-boot", which is a total shame.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:40 PM on September 22, 2011


Colossus is openly gay in the Ultimates universe.

who is he dating (please let it be multiple man)?

Don't knock the Mutant Massacre, it was great. They should have stopped there.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh hey let's link to Kate Beaton as much as we can in this thread, like how she just talked about this issue in an interview with Salon today: (emphasis mine)
Depictions of women does seem to be a theme that attracts you.

I became more aware of that because I'm a lady in the comics industry, and whether you like it or not, your name will pop-up in a lot of articles about women in comics. You kind of get this education constantly anyway, about depictions of women and women writers. You become more aware of characters who suffered badly.

Lois Lane is one of them. She's a lot like Nancy in a way. The early Lois was very elbows-out, knocking people out of the way to get the story. Then editors came in, and said, "Make Lois prettier. Lois isn't hot enough. Make sure she's the type of lady that Superman would really want to save, you know what I mean?" So, after that Lois starts to suck. She starts to be boring and whiny, saying, "Superman, why don't you marry me?" And he says [deep, exasperated voice], "I'm busy, Lois!"

But I don't have an agenda with any of the comics I do, really. I just go for being funny. When I did one about strong female characters, it was because we're all so used to these tropes of women: "She's so tough!" But she's in her underwear while shooting guns. And people say [huffily], "Well, what's wrong with being sexy?" Well, what's wrong with wearing clothes? Or proper protective gear? All these attitudes are fun to make fun of because everybody really knows better. Even the people who are defending it are secretly saying "... yeah."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:46 PM on September 22, 2011 [26 favorites]


Contrary to what I vowed here in an earlier thread, I've ended up reading all of the new DC books that have been released, and while some of what I've read is pretty terrific, the sexual politics of a few of these books is really regressive.

And I mean that in a very specific sense: the books are riddled with shallow interpretations of female characters who had marvelously well-rounded identities in earlier interpretations. The problems with Starfire and Catwoman are mentioned in the article on the basis of having actually engaged in sex "on-screen". But Amanda Waller, one of superhero comic's few women more notable for extreme competence than having a centerfold's build, has been made thin and beautiful. And the less said about Harley Quinn's new look, the better. I really really want to pretend I haven't seen any of this. Wonder Woman, supposedly to be depicted in the new universe as a mythic warrior, makes her debut in bed, nude.

I just got done working all the way through the animated "Batman", "Superman", and "Justice League" series with my 7 year old daughter, and she loved them. I'd love to give her some of these comics to read, featuring THOSE versions of Amanda Waller, Harley, or Wonder Woman. But I can't.
posted by Ipsifendus at 7:49 PM on September 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Heh. I'd point to Mutant Massacre as a rare example of a comics event that actually worked as well.
posted by Artw at 7:50 PM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Guys you have to admire the progress DC has made here.

52 comics, and not a single female secondary character raped, given AIDS and/or or brutally murdered. That's improvement, right?


Give them a month or two.
posted by Tknophobia at 7:53 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also: give Superman back his pervert pants, dammit.

Seriously, the quicker DC can cycle out of any given editorially mandated costume change the better, but these Jim Lee ones especially suck.
posted by Artw at 7:54 PM on September 22, 2011



Also, I know that there are so many other issues at stake, but what the hell are Batman's ab muscles doing in that Batman/Catwoman picture?

It took me a good three minutes to figure out that wasn't some sort of hideous fleshy amoeboid between them. The fact that his shoulders are apparently narrower than his ribcage really threw me off.


Nope. Not buying it. "Fleshy amoeboid" is the only interpretation of that lumpy peach-colored patch that makes sense to me. A fleshy amoeboid with a single, bare, supinated human foot jutting out.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 8:03 PM on September 22, 2011


The new Wonder Woman series has me genuinely excited. All the others of the reboot issues I've read, even the ones being critically lauded, are just your standard genre comic, but Wonder Woman is something else entirely. Azzarello is a fantastic writer. And I thought no one would be able to touch robocop is bleeding's WW reboot....
posted by painquale at 8:09 PM on September 22, 2011


But what I see instead are women who give me the same impression as creepy dead-eyed porn stars mechanically mouthing "oh yeah, I want it." And that feeling of coerced sexual enthusiasm is the creepiest, saddest, most unerotic thing I can imagine.

Yup. It reads very much like mainstream porn to me. Not only is it all so unsexy to me, it's all unsexy in the same way.

And It looks to me like Catwoman & Batman are kneading a big wad of whole wheat dough between their abdomens.
posted by pointystick at 8:11 PM on September 22, 2011


Also: Batman appears to be wearing sock garters under his union suit.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:20 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


What do you expect from the sex in a story like this? This is like attacking a children's novel for using short words. If you're not a young man who wants to believe in a world populated by scantily clad women who are shaped like barbie dolls and are completely sexually available.. these stories properly aren't for you. They can't even include you. It's not the fantasy of the readers of these books to be in your fantasies.

Ok, see, this isn't an excuse. 13-year-old boys don't benefit from hypersexual, 2-D female characters either, at least not in the long term. And I think they're capable of dealing with something a tad less pandering. When I was 13 (all the way back in the halcyon days of 1993) boys my age seemed just fine with crushing on non-naked, capable characters like '93 Jean Grey and Dana Scully--they were beautiful, but they had other attributes beside their hotness, and they didn't only exist to pornify the main, male-driven action.

The Catwoman and Batman panel is just dreadful in so many ways. I guess I never asked myself if I wanted to see Batman fuckin', but it turns out the answer is all kinds of no.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 8:25 PM on September 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


Although the reboot comics are regressive and all sorts of big name creators are overtly sexist, I'm pretty impressed with the the all the feminist perspectives and arguments that have been making waves in the comic books fan world lately. It's probably due to the audience getting older and more mature (the average reader is in his or her 30s).
posted by painquale at 8:27 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gahk. The DCnU just can't stop fucking up. I was expecting it to take about a year for the "New Fiftytwo" to collapse into the "Old Thirty or So." Now I'm thinking more like six months.
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:36 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't knock the Mutant Massacre, it was great. They should have stopped there.

It was heartbreaking to me as a 15-year-old that they basically killed off or radically changed the core X-Men group just as I was getting up to speed with the universe. Then again, fans of the original X-Men lineup (ie, X-Factor) would have said the same thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:36 PM on September 22, 2011


Superhero comics are aimed at 10-15 year old boys, which this juvenile crap reflects. You're supposed to outgrow them.

I think you are underestimating the prison market.
posted by shothotbot at 8:42 PM on September 22, 2011


It's all presented under the veneer that women should be proud of their strong bodies. But apparently pride is expressed through push-up sports bras and lots of photos of your ass during workouts on your workout log.

I had someone complain to me the other day that their underwire was killing them while they were doing lat flys. I was like 'Buh? Why are you not just wearing a sports bra? They don't have underwires, and they'll keep your business in place.'

She sniffed and said 'Oh, I wear a sports bra, but I have to wear an underwire underneath because the sports bra compresses my breasts so my breasts aren't as pretty.'

I'm saddened to discover that this is apparently a trend.
posted by winna at 10:01 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Catwoman and Batman panel is just dreadful in so many ways. I guess I never asked myself if I wanted to see Batman fuckin', but it turns out the answer is all kinds of no.

I just don't understand how it's even possible to contemplate staging a scene like that after having it notionally deconstructed a generation ago in Watchmen. Two different ways, in fact.
posted by dhartung at 10:36 PM on September 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


fans of the original X-Men lineup (ie, X-Factor) would have said the same thing.

Probably not so much. The original X-Men never really caught on and it had been a reprint book from issues 67-93 and dead entirely for a while before Giant Size X-Men brought them back in 1975. So the new X-Men weren't replacing anything that was a going concern.
posted by Zed at 10:40 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


asnider: Leaving aside the main point of the article for a moment: how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.

Crotchless.
posted by troll at 10:45 PM on September 22, 2011


Superhero comics are aimed at 10-15 year old boys, which this juvenile crap reflects. You're supposed to outgrow them.

That was once said about the entire comics genre. Things change.

I still don't think it's zero sum though. There's room for superhero titles that cater to a different crowd.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:52 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you folks indicating that comics are targeted at youth are way wrong. My understanding is that the majority demographic is males aged 18 to 39.

Also, Empowered is awesome, but clearly satiric and very much a "good girl art" title. I think it's probably too inside baseball though for a non comics fan to find funny.

One of the more interesting things I've noticed is a large number of young female fans of the mainstream comics companies, particularly iconic female characters though. Browse for fan art on DeviantArt and Tumblr ... It feels like this current generation will be creating some really interesting comic art.
posted by artlung at 11:00 PM on September 22, 2011


Any good counter-examples people could point out as positive female characters in comics? I always thought that Deunan Knute and Motoko Kusanagi, from Masamune Shirow's Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell respectively, were great tough, in-charge, competent female characters who were still unfortunately sexualised in the comics. Both are protagonists as well, rather than supporting characters.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:12 PM on September 22, 2011


> There's no reason why characters can't have multiple interpretations. Catwoman can be both empowering and sexualized. It can happen in different universes or in different issues or whatever. It's a comic book, continuity is flexible.

but it should embellish and complicate the overall narrative, encouraging alternative readership, which I don't think the direct reversal of Starfire's ethos of intimacy can do. It's one thing to make substantial changes that seem narratively untenable or crazy-progressive (x-man is dead, x-man is gay) and it's another to puppeteer longstanding characters into regressive postures. There's nothing objectively wrong with imagining a world of supers where Catwoman is spotlighted in her intro as a horny feminine body and little more, but it's impossible for me not to read it as reactionary pandering.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:07 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


slimepuppy - I've not read every story she's appeared in, but I think Rene Montoya / the Question has had a pretty great character arc from GCPD to legacy character. She's made mistakes, worked to atone for them and eventually been pulled into enough bizarre metahuman malarky that she wound up a superhero herself. When written well, she's a strong, complex character who works through compelling internal struggles while whipping ass up and down the block. I can't recall ever seeing her drawn in a hypersexualized way (certainly never to the embarrassing degree DCnU has rebooted Starfire). She wears a slick stylish costume with a cheesecake factor that is positively chaste by present standards and stars in some of the greatest crime pulp comics of the last few years.

And somehow, she's not headlining a one of the New 52. We've got juggalette Harley Quinn and no Question. But given how women are being treated in this doomed reboot, maybe it'd be better if DC waited til after they wise up and fire Bob Harras to do any more Montoya stories. It'll save them the trouble of retconning them out of the way as well when this all grinds to a halt.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:11 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, Empowered is awesome, but clearly satiric and very much a "good girl art" title. I think it's probably too inside baseball though for a non comics fan to find funny.

Well, I've read comics off and on since before I was a teenager. I generally don't buy Marvel or DC titles anymore, but hey I like new ideas, good presentation, and comics in general. So I picked up the first couple of volumes (500 pages worth) and I honestly couldn't keep buying them in good conscious.
Let's really look at this because I seriously doubt people should be holding this book up as great representation of what people are talking about. I said before the basis for it is fanservice and that is true in all sorts of ways, including the inside jokey stuff. Hell, he has chapter breaks to let Emp break the fourth wall and talk about how "meta" the book is. The writer/artist initially created the character because someone had commissioned some sketches of a damsel in distress in bondage. Yeah, not really the most uplifting conception or vehicle for a superhero woman, but let's set that aside.
The premise is a curvy young inexperienced woman with skin tight supersuit fights crime and generally loses. The ongoing joke being that she tends to lose her fights and ends up being caught and tied up sans most of her costume. Somehow always including a ball gag. But that's not even the kicker though, I could've even gotten past all that because the brilliant part being is that her suit supplies her with powers that are in check with her self-confidence. Which is a great idea for a character arc, but that arc basically never happens. I mean I don't need to read the new volumes because they all have ripped suits on the cover. Self doubt creeps in, Venom type suit loses power, rips off until it's a string bikini, she gets caught, she gets saved, and repeat. Sprinkle in some stuff with the boyfriend, some sex, bloat up the plot a little, and that's it.
Now if you want to play the "it's satire" card be my guest (because tbh it wasn't all bad writing like I said), but if someone wants to clue me in on the drastic changes that were made so the plotting wasn't specifically centered around showing the main character's ass then I would like to hear it. Because that's the part that we're discussing as not being great.

Speaking of satire, Vietch did it with a much more brilliant storyline in Bratpack.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:14 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


slimepuppy - Also, I'm generally onboard with how Marvel's Domino has been written in the comics about her that I've read. She's been drawn problematically pretty often, being a nineties creation. Generally speaking though, she's presented as someone who dresses appropriately for dangerous situations. As a character, she's among that strange Deadpool/Cable class of Rob Liefeld creations that somehow went on to be interesting characters in spite of their inauspicious beginnings. Not sure how "positive" exactly to call her given that she's a hired gun that's mowed down many a man and mutant, but she's plenty independent and out to get paid for doing what she's good at when not caught up in a summer crossover or some such.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:32 AM on September 23, 2011


The Starfire issue could be redeemed if she has an ovipositor under the bikini.
posted by benzenedream at 1:02 AM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ok, see, this isn't an excuse. 13-year-old boys don't benefit from hypersexual, 2-D female characters either, at least not in the long term.

I'm not making an excuse. I don't read this crap, but apparently a lot of people do. It's being sold, people are buying it. Maybe 13 year old boys only think they want to see hypersexual 2-D female characters.

There's other kinds of comics out there though! There's a whole world outside of DC and Marvel's main continuituous, neverending story, crappy media mill.

My point was that I don't think there's much maturity of any sort to be found in superhero comics, let alone sexual maturity. It damn near is what its says on the tin! Once the social norms surrounding how people can be depicted in mainstream media relaxed, this was inevitable. Look at what movies and TV have turned into. Did you really think this narcissistic fantasy "We wear masks, live above the law, and dispense justice because we're so special that no one can stop us" story was going to turn into anything else? Superhero comics are all about the individual standing above society. The individual that does whatever it wants and gets whatever it can take.

Don't get me wrong I think it's a damned shame that this stuff is what people think of when they think of comic books, but I think it really does come from the same place the rest of the superhero fantasy appeal does.

There are superhero titles that portray women this way or that lampshade it but all the good ones I can think of are also engaged in exploring something deeper than the usual vacuous superhero stories. The less compelling ones are regular superhero fantasy fair, but avoid sexuality entirely.


I have no idea what it takes for people to stop buying this shit; If they don't, the studios will never stop making it. Maybe a certain group of people will never stop buying this shit and it's not for lack of options.

Billionaire Bruce Wayne, crazed vigilante, member of the one percent of society that controls all the wealth, who gets away with whatever he wants is having skeevy porno sex on top of a building with an international thief turned sometimes vigilante? I'm so not surprised. The situation his former protege is involved in isn't surprising either.

These stories are often inherently ethically bankrupt.
posted by TheKM at 1:57 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I thought no one would be able to touch robocop is bleeding's WW reboot....

Have I got a treat for you...
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:56 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


13 year old boys who want to get off are watching PornTube and downloading torrents. Comics, not really.

So I am thinking it is dreamworld misogyny (all the girls are hot and wet and not too particular in Metropolis) directed at the sad chumps they imagine their core audience to be.

Pathetic.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:57 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't read this crap, but apparently a lot of people do.

See, there's the thing - they don't. Comics readership is in the toilet. Fewer people buy the things than voted for Ralph Nader. In 2004. DC and Marvel have reacted to this crash by doubling down on what their "hardcore" readership supposedly wants, which is boobs, on-panel fucking and people getting ripped in half. And it's gotten so ingrained that even in DC's big push to make their books more "accessible" to people who didn't read comics 30 days ago, you get crap like this.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:22 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Not really a comics fan but let me wade in here with a half-formed idea and see if it makes any sense to you:

Probably the last comic I read regularly was the Transformers one in the 80s. I was about 11. Thinking back, at the time I instinctively saw comics as 'things that want to be films'. As in, the people making that comic, if they had the budget, would have loved to make a film. But the one huge advantage that comics have over film is that they are very cheap to produce.

So we have a medium that is less wordy than literature and less visual than film, but is much much cheaper than film, and so lends itself well to all kinds of independent, small scale, experimental publications. Doesn't that suggest, pretty much by definition, that mass-producted mainstream comics like DC and Marvel are always going to suck? Isn't the good stuff in comics always going to be at the fringes?
posted by memebake at 4:34 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Leaving aside the main point of the article for a moment: how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.

Handily-placed trapdoors. Even superheroes in skintight latex need to pee sometimes, y'know.
posted by ZsigE at 5:01 AM on September 23, 2011


The bizarre thing is that there are discarded clothes on the floor, but none missing from their bodies.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:04 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The Big Sexy Problem ..." made me assume this was going to be a Dinosaur Comic.

And unsurprisingly, here is today's comic.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:25 AM on September 23, 2011


Doesn't that suggest, pretty much by definition, that mass-producted mainstream comics like DC and Marvel are always going to suck? Isn't the good stuff in comics always going to be at the fringes?

No, and that sort of dichotomy is damaging and shortsighted.

There is plenty of good, engaging, smart superhero comics work published by Marvel and DC. From the grandiose All-Star Superman to the under-the-radar, but engaging Parker/Hardman run on Hulk, the last decade has seen a staggering amount of readable, intelligent superhero comics while there have been innumerable piles of black and white indie filth you couldn't pay me to read. In either case, it's about good creators making good comics.

Nolan and Soderbergh can make blockbusters that are intelligent and a cut above the rest, just like Warren Ellis can make me read something called Secret Avengers.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:41 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Incidentally, not to diminish the importance of these issues but I am kind of bummed that this ComicsAnger! post got so much more attention than my ComicsFun! post the other day.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:44 AM on September 23, 2011


Sorry sevenyearlurk, but to modify Brevoort some, "When fans are angry, they're posting comments."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:46 AM on September 23, 2011


I am a comics reading feminist geek. I have a masculine body. (I'm intersex and ID often outside of the workplace as transgender when it matters.)

Anyway, DC's reboot really didn't appeal to me. It appeals less so now that I've read these reactions to some of the reboots. This seems clearly targeted at not my demographic, so I'm going to take my demographic and go read interesting stuff I like and enjoy and leave the soft core porn to the 13 - 22 year old guys and chuckle at myself about what good stories they're missing as they look at T&A.

Stan Lee has a lot to answer for.

I do like Miller's take on the sexism in his The Dark Knight with the SuperChix, even though I know that book is considered nowhere near canon now. And I am by no means calling Miller feminist, but at least he's got some thought patterns less T&A related than Lee.
posted by kalessin at 5:53 AM on September 23, 2011


Also, not that it makes any difference but Bats and Catwoman are clearly having sexytimes in a room with a picture window, not on a rooftop.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:15 AM on September 23, 2011


We might need more female-targeted juvenile sexual wish-fulfillment fantasy comics; I am actually REALLY curious to know what this would look like and to find out how important masks, tights, and morally-sanctioned violence would be to these stories.

I imagine it would look something like True Blood.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:45 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's really look at this because I seriously doubt people should be holding this book [Empowered] up as great representation of what people are talking about.

Yeah. I'm a big Adam Warren fan, especially of his Gen13. Even there I wasn't really thrilled with the "yes I'm presenting Fairchild as a teenage geekboy fantasy girl, but I'm also satirizing how that's what she was created to be and how the comics industry does that" thing. But the good way outweighed the bad.

Empowered just made me feel dirty. There was actually some OK stuff late in the book -- I assume the percentage of pages created as bondage-on-commission was dropping by then, and Warren's too good a writer for some actual story to creep in.

But I promptly got rid of it, and wasn't tempted to go back, and I regret that this is what Warren's career has become (as opposed to making more stuff I might read, i.e., my regret is chiefly selfish.)

Hey, anyone got a zillion dollars to found a comics company with? Someone's eventually going to make money doing what the DC reboot was supposed to have been -- creating a line of comics representing lots of genres with something for everyone but without something to drive most of everyone away. We'll call it Mammal Comics 'cause it'll eventually dance on the dinosaurs' graves. Make Mine Mammal!
posted by Zed at 6:45 AM on September 23, 2011


I imagine it would look something like True Blood.

Or Twilight or Harry Potter, or marginally more racy versions thereof.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:36 AM on September 23, 2011


It would be interesting if someone with a good grasp of the francophone (French/Belgian) market commented because IME comics there are more mature and mainstream at once. muddgirl's point about differentiating between comics as a medium and superhero comics as a genre is good; furthermore it might be worthwhile asking why superhero comics still are the most commercially-successful genre in U.S. comics (they still are, right?).

On the other hand new media like comics and video games are judged on different criteria than older ones. Your Ludlums and Michael Bays are major sellers, but no one concludes that all books and films must suck.
posted by ersatz at 8:46 AM on September 23, 2011


What worries me in all of this is that my six year old is expressing a bit of an interest in superheros right now. He has some hand me down T-shirts with various folks like Spider Man, Iron Man, Batman, whoever on them. And he's asking about them, who they are, what they do, etc.

I was thinking the other day that maybe buying some comics for him might not be a bad idea - he's on the cusp of reading, and it would give us something different to look at and talk about. But I don't want him seeing pictures like this, nor storylines that are this distorted about men and women, their roles and relationships. And that's before the incredibly graphic violence comes in.

Are there no superhero comics left that a young kid could read?
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:27 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's always Atomic Robo.

Wherein what Marvel would show on-panel is resolved with sound effects and extras staring in horror, then a flash to the guy that did the Terrible Violence telling people to get going.

Where the writer admits that he needs to work on getting more female characters in and promises to try harder.

Where the main character is a intelligent robot whose favorite curse is "Cheese and crackers!".

Where the main character complains about mad scientists not following OSHA regulations.

This is why I read Atomic Robo and... pretty much very little else comicwise.

(well, okay, there's also the love of Tesla.)
posted by mephron at 9:38 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


You want the Marvel Adventures line. They might be complex for a six-year-old (I bought an issue of Spider-Man for my nephew, who's the same age but can read on his own - he loved it, but I had to read it with him), but they're remarkably free of the stripperiffic baggage and gore of the main-line titles.

Atomic Robo is great too, but you will be sorely tempted to steal the books from him and never give them back.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:39 AM on September 23, 2011


Ok, see, this isn't an excuse. 13-year-old boys don't benefit from hypersexual, 2-D female characters either, at least not in the long term.
Broccoli and spinach would be helpful for 13-year old in the long term, but good luck getting them to buy it with their meager disposable income.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was under the impression that the vast majority of comic book readers are above 18.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:04 AM on September 23, 2011


Leaving aside the main point of the article for a moment: how, exactly, are Batman and Catwoman having sex in that final panel? It sure looks to me like Catwoman is still wearing pants.

Cat flap.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:35 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't remember the comics I read as a kid back in the Sixties being particularly salacious. You can still buy them. Only a very few issues are particularly expensive. Pick a year and start from there.

Although I do recall a story in which Lois Lane was spanked by a Superman robot...
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2011


Sticherbeast, me too. This is a great detailed post featuring 15 year old stats saying some interesting things:
Customers buy an average of nearly 50 comic books a month.

DC’s single-issue audience was more than 5.2 million. (I believe this incorporated a significant pass-along multiplier of at least three people assumed to read each comic.)

92% of DC readers were male.

80% of them were ages 18-39, with a median age of almost 29.

Just over 70% attended college.

Just over 60% were single (never married).

37% spent $100 or more on comics in a month.

The average time spent reading one typical comic was 45 minutes. That’s the one that gets me — I knew I was a fast reader, but four times as fast?

There was also a comparison to the previous studies, which shows that male readers were always over 90% of the audience, that the audience was getting older, and as they aged, they were less likely to live with their parents and more likely to live with a spouse or partner.
Sure, 15 year old stats, but this is particularly DC data. I would be interested to hear more current DC demographic data if anyone has it.

Also, I'll have to re-read Empowered. It's possible it's sexist and privileged in ways I didn't see. My memory of it is that it's quite a melange of styles and intents, not one-dimensional. I imagine the complexity and self-awareness may have diverted my attention from the sexism. But you have to love a comic where the super powered heroine goes to the super hospital and the staff (female) are decked out in fanservice nurse costumes, which is remarked on, and then a male staff member comes in wearing the same ridiculous skimpy outfit.
posted by artlung at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't see anyone sepnding 45 minutes reading Justice League #1. I think I was done with it in under 3 minutes. Probably as it stands the words best-selling, most widely read terrible comic.
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have more up-to-date data, but I do have several friends at the two big comic book companies and they talk freely about their jobs (without violating their NDAs, o'course). Bringing in young readers is still a huge issue for both companies. I would be astonished to learn that the below-18 readership is much higher than it was in 1995.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:01 AM on September 23, 2011


Are there no superhero comics left that a young kid could read?

The DC Kids stuff is actually pretty excellent - Batman: Brave and Bold being pretty much like the show, and Tiny Titans being it's own kind of awesome thing.

I wish they did more like B:B&B to be honest.
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


It took me a good three minutes to figure out that wasn't some sort of hideous fleshy amoeboid between them. The fact that his shoulders are apparently narrower than his ribcage really threw me off.

I just figured out what Batman's abs are doing in that Catwoman panel. They're Liefielding.
posted by JHarris at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Thanks mephron and Holy Zarquon!
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:33 AM on September 23, 2011


never used baby shoes - I'm not sure if it's been collected in a TPB or anything yet, but Thor: The Mighty Avenger is all ages in the truest sense of the term. Plenty of great moments to delight parent and child alike, lots of wonderful action - it's the Princess Bride of comics.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2011


Yeah, If I was really going to give something to a young kid to start with I would probably look through what either Marvel or DC had to offer and try to pick a couple that weren't all that "bad". Of course I would try to hedge them towards stuff like; Atomic Robo, Hellboy, and Astro City, but in the end it's probably more important that they are aware of what they're reading. Even the Tom Strong and Terrific Tales stuff Alan Moore did "for the kids" is still kind of an edge case.

and then a male staff member comes in wearing the same ridiculous skimpy outfit.

Which is the part that gets me because there was plenty of good stuff in there, but the constant "wink wink, nudge nudge" T&A fanfare is what pushed it over the edge for me.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:43 AM on September 23, 2011


I think I was done with it in under 3 minutes.

Yeah, most superhero titles can be read in 5 minutes, how did they ever come up with a 45 minute reading time? The price/time ratio for individual comics is just terrible compared to almost any other media form.
posted by benzenedream at 11:46 AM on September 23, 2011


Now that I think about it, I wonder what the ramifications of Disney's purchase of Marvel are? Will Marvel lose their independence end up getting pushed into a more PG/G type of story because Disney wants a more family-friendly image?

I kinda wonder if DC is pushing themselves to cater to the more adult crowd because they expect this to happen and want to appeal to those with an appetite for racier content.
posted by mullingitover at 11:53 AM on September 23, 2011


it's the Princess Bride of comics

You mean there's only one female character, who acts as a sort of MacGuffin or object of desire to spur the other characters into action, but has no motivation or character of her own?

(The Princess Bride is a great movie, with lovely performances and cherishable lines, but apropos this particular conversation...)
posted by Grangousier at 12:16 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Buttercup did get a bit more depth in the book, to be fair.
posted by cortex at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2011


Yeah, most superhero titles can be read in 5 minutes, how did they ever come up with a 45 minute reading time?

Maybe it's like how car buyers surveyed are always satisfied because they don't want to admit they spent thousands on a lemon. People spending $75 on 50 comics a month ('96 was the transition from $1.50 to $2) didn't want to admit they were spending that much for reading material that lasted as long as one thick prose book.
posted by Zed at 12:21 PM on September 23, 2011


Assides from other things, the density of comicbooks text and panels is marching relentlessly down over time.
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd like to take a moment to recommend PS238 as a good comic for youngish readers. It's definitely aimed more at parents than at actual small children, but the protagonists are young and I can't recall anything objectionable that's come out of it. There's a time travel plotline that gets a little hard to follow, but otherwise...
posted by Scattercat at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Assides from other things, the density of comicbooks text and panels is marching relentlessly down over time.

Thank god.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:27 PM on September 23, 2011


Tweets from Gail Simone tonight: one two three.
Just accept that the audience is changing. It's not the same gender mix as twenty years ago. It's impossible to go to cons and not see that. At Calgary con, every creator in the aisle I was in had females in line, and I had MOSTLY females. And a guy told my hubby, right in the middle of all these women, "Women don't read comics." I mean, wtf?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also she told me to read Batwoman, Swamp Thing and Animal Man, so tomorrow I'ma do that!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:32 PM on September 23, 2011


She has not sent you wrong.
posted by Artw at 2:36 PM on September 23, 2011


the density of comicbooks text and panels is marching relentlessly down over time.

Approaching zero.
posted by benzenedream at 2:47 PM on September 23, 2011


That depends on which version you read.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:11 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had skipped those threee, but if Gail Simone says read it, I'd gladly change my reading list. Is she in charge of any of the bazillion new titles or not? I'm going to miss her Secret Six, damn. The last issue was memorable. "I was concerned about breakage." LOL indeed.
posted by Iosephus at 4:13 PM on September 23, 2011


She's writing Batgirl, which I'm not terribly keen on so-far.
posted by Artw at 4:25 PM on September 23, 2011


Artw: I wish they did more like B:B&B to be honest.

I agree. That television show has the spirit of the DC Comics I would pick up when I was a kid and before I was a teenager (I was age 6-10, so, 1976-1980). I can't speak to how well it serves the needs of a female audience, however, it gets me in touch with my inner 7 year old boy perfectly though.
posted by artlung at 4:33 PM on September 23, 2011


Just to make the point, Marvel's nowhere near as bad as the DC reboot. Thinking Jessica Jones, Spiderwoman, Maria Hill, etc. Posting from my phone, but I'll do a longer one later.
posted by MattWPBS at 4:34 PM on September 23, 2011


My almost-5yr old girl LOVES The Brave & Bold comics. I'm not allowed to show her the cartoons though - too much punching.
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on September 23, 2011


Laura Hudon on Twitter today:

Hey, so. It was a weird week. But yesterday? Was one of the most amazing days of my life. And I want to thank, basically, everyone.

I cannot explain the outpouring of love and support I've gotten from all over comics - writers, artists, editors , readers across the board

And it has left me feeling more convinced than ever that comics -- esp. superhero comics -- can be so much better, if it wants to be.

A lot of you have written to me to say that superhero books can never be anything but juvenile trash. I understand your despair.

But then I watched @ruckawriter get up last night at a comics event and narrate his Captain America story "Post Mortem" panel by panel.

It was so good I almost cried. Comics can be so very, very good. People can be so very, very good.

For whatever faults comics has, it is an industry full of amazing, talented, smart people. People who care, people who want it to be better.

My friend @BrandonSeifert wrote this about what he realized as a comics writer and the changes he wants to make now: http://bit.ly/qHU9Nb

And that's it. It's not about being perfect. It's about being willing to listen and willing to change. And we can. We can if we want to.

posted by Artw at 5:02 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ersatz: It would be interesting if someone with a good grasp of the francophone (French/Belgian) market commented because IME comics there are more mature and mainstream at once.

Continental European comics are as diverse as non-graphic literature, with no dominating genre like the superhero one in US comics. Here's a sample of the best-selling "bandes dessinées" in France for 6-12 June 2011 (links go to pages in French with samples of the artwork).
- La Quatrième Dimension et Demi (The Fourth dimension and a half), about kids trying to survive in a world without adults
- La rose écarlate (The scarlet rose), historical series with a red-clad swashbuckler heroine
- Le chat du rabbin (The rabbi's cat), about Judaism in early 20th century North Africa (also a movie)
- Julia & Roem, post-apolcalyptic Romeo and Juliet

Note that it's not difficult to find European comic books as sexist as those shown in the FPP. There's a lot of not-so-subtle erotica and some fantasy/SF/action comics do feature women with gravity-defying breasts squeezed in impractical armor, but those are just sub-sub-subgenres among many others.
posted by elgilito at 5:04 PM on September 23, 2011


Note that it's not difficult to find European comic books as sexist as those shown in the FPP.

Heh. Yes. Understatement.
posted by Artw at 5:10 PM on September 23, 2011


I don't think the superhero genre is all trash. You just have to look around a little bit before you blindly grab something off the shelf.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:39 PM on September 23, 2011


Related: If Male Superheroes Posed Like Wonder Woman
posted by Lobster Garden at 7:34 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kinky .. Super heros remind me of Underoos ..lol
posted by RickStar at 4:41 AM on September 24, 2011


Mary Staggs: In Defense Of… Catwoman #1 and Sexy Female Comic Characters
posted by Artw at 12:31 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article linked to above: In my experience, it has always been women who have devalued other women based upon the number of people they’ve slept with. Surprisingly enough, men don’t care.

Really? Because as long as we're referencing vague and insupportable anecdotal evidence, I've had the opposite experience.

That is what’s happening here. Catwoman and Starfire are being labled as “sluts” because they’re women who go after what they want.

This author has completely misunderstood, perhaps willfully, the argument being made in the original article. It isn't about whether or not the female comic characters are "sluts". It's about the total disregard of female sexuality and how all images in the referenced comics are targeted specifically to appeal to male sexuality at the expense of female readers.

I’m shocked at how women want more female characters in their mainstream comics, and yet when we get what we asked for, there’s a huge, angry outcry. How are the creators over at DC Comics supposed to react to this? Women are holding back women in comics.

This is so offensive and so stupid I don't even know how to begin to respond to it. Women want more female characters in comics, yes--but do they have to be perpetually scantily clad and highly sexualized in a way that the male characters never are? This is the point that's being made in the original article, and the point that is being summarily ignored in this response.
posted by Lobster Garden at 6:54 PM on September 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


How Darwyn Cooke does Selina Kyle
posted by Artw at 10:55 PM on September 24, 2011


2 from Comics Alliance:
Anne Hathaway's 'The Dark Knight Rises' Catwoman Costume Revealed
Catwoman Goes Noir in Pin-Up by Jim Steranko
posted by Artw at 11:10 PM on September 24, 2011


The world would be so much better off with about sixty more Darwyn Cookes.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:46 AM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Agreed. I'd go so far as to say that no one but no one has had a better take on Catwoman than Darwyn Cooke in the character's entire history.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2011


Ed Brubaker has done some good writing on Catwoman. And neither can really have been said to have made her an un-sexual character -I think the big difference here is they didn't turn in something childish and inept.
posted by Artw at 10:18 AM on September 25, 2011


Anne Hathaway's 'The Dark Knight Rises' Catwoman Costume Revealed

...hm.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:28 AM on September 25, 2011


Anne Hathaway's 'The Dark Knight Rises' Catwoman Costume Revealed

Those boots are fucking ridiculous. Doesn't she climb walls and shit? Puh-lease.
posted by desjardins at 12:32 PM on September 25, 2011


Given Nolan's attention to at least semi-practicality in the design choices of the first couple films (look at how Bruce and Alfred and later Lucius approach suit and hardware, so that we actually see the suit being constructed in the first film and even iterated, with explicit pros and cons, in the second, vs. the previous batch of films having the batsuit just Be There and grow nipples and codpiece between films), there's the possibility that ridiculousness in Catwoman's boot design is something dealt with diegetically—Catwoman as inspired-by-Batman but coming from a different context than Bruce's scrapper-with-a-billion-dollars-and-a-military-R&D-retainer and so not making the same kind of design decisions when she tries to get her costumed adventuring on, coming up as a point of criticism if Batman's reaction to her existence is partly a Get Real, Lady sort of thing.

Or it might just be silly fucking heels. Nolan did manage to cast Katie Holmes in the first film, he's clearly not incapable of bad decisions.
posted by cortex at 1:02 PM on September 25, 2011


SPOILER FOR DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: Catwoman is a stripper in TDKR. Not joking. Does that explain those boots?
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:05 PM on September 25, 2011


That'd be a parallel move from her prostitute/dominatrix origin in at least the Miller version of the character, and, yeah, that might go part of the way to explaining it. There have been a few different takes on that.
posted by cortex at 1:09 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


cortex: "Or it might just be silly fucking heels. Nolan did manage to cast Katie Holmes in the first film, he's clearly not incapable of bad decisions."

I don't really understand how anyone could look at the Catwoman costume that's current (or at least reasonably current; no idea how Brand New You is going to turn out) with its big stompy boots and yellow goggles and think, nah, actually she needs to look like a total prat in service of the all-seeing and ever-mysterious Bloke Sex Gaze. Gah.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:13 PM on September 25, 2011


I kind of preferred the cyber-goggles look we saw earlier. Hey, could the kitty-ear headband actually be the goggles in some way?
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on September 25, 2011


Different boots there too.
posted by Artw at 1:15 PM on September 25, 2011


Hey, could the kitty-ear headband actually be the goggles in some way?

Maybe, yeah. Looking back at the promo shot with the cybergoggles on, they're clearly over the domino we can see in the new fuzzy candids.
posted by cortex at 1:20 PM on September 25, 2011


I feel like I'd need to see Catwoman in action to really judge her costume. Thus far not digging the look, but on-set photos tend to look pretty blah.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:23 PM on September 25, 2011


Last two screen incarnations do not really give a high bar to beat, practicality wise, I'll take Emma Peel + Kitty Ears over either of them.
posted by Artw at 1:37 PM on September 25, 2011


Emma Peel + Kitty Ears

Of course you would. Catwoman had to make her own costume, without Wayne Industries or even a lot of money to help. Emma Peel's custom fitted leather jumpsuit would have cost thousands of dollars and fit in with the Avengers' well-heeled overall lifestyle.
posted by localroger at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2011


Hm, the boots in Artw's link seem fine to me; I'm certainly not opposed to wardrobe changes. I own a pair of boots almost exactly like those in the first link, which is how I know they're ridiculous for ... doing anything but sitting on a bar stool.
posted by desjardins at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2011


IIRC The current Batwoman had stilettos when she first appeared and J.H. Williams III rather wisely swapped them out for big chunky biker boots when he started doing art on that.
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Catwoman is a stripper in TDKR.

her prostitute/dominatrix origin

I don't understand this at all.

My first exposure to Catwoman was Adam West's show and Batman: The Animated Series. So, my headcanon is that Catwoman is thief because stealing is fun. She wears leather because she likes the way it looks. And she dresses like a cat because she likes cats. That's it. No abusive fathers, no she used to be a prostitute, none of that. Why can't she just be a fun loving thief?

Anyway, I think I'll be skipping the TDKR.
posted by nooneyouknow at 5:52 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, hey, Wonder Woman #1 is really good.
posted by Artw at 6:06 PM on September 25, 2011


So, hey, Wonder Woman #1 is really good.

Is it? I've heard conflicting opinions about it. Some people really love it, others absolutely hate it. I should probably download it and check it out myself.
posted by nooneyouknow at 6:45 PM on September 25, 2011


It's one of the ones that has the weirdly pre-Vertigo vibe to it, as opposed to the ones that scream "90s EXTREME TO THE MAX!!!", and the Vertigoesque ones all seem to be the best so far. I am, however, prejudiced as I didn't really dig that Image Comics/Heroes Reborn/Marvel Swimsuit Special shit the first time round but loved Swam Thing, Animal Man, Shade, Doom Patrol etc...

The other thing I really dig about it is that Wonder Woman is BIG. Not boobs all over the place big, just big, like when she's standing next to someone she looks like she could snap them like a twig. Or when she lobs a sword through a centaur's arm it really looks like, yeah, she should be able to do that.

Oh yeah, this is a comic with centaur limb cleaving as well. Make of that what you will.
posted by Artw at 6:51 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why can't she just be a fun loving thief?

Because after Watchmen and the Dark Knight everyone wanted to dump as much grimngritty as possible into everything and we still haven't gotten past it.
posted by Zed at 7:07 PM on September 25, 2011


Oh yeah, this is a comic with centaur limb cleaving as well

I am all over centaur limb cleaving.
*off to acquire Wonder Woman #1.*
posted by nooneyouknow at 7:56 PM on September 25, 2011


Welcome to violence! :-)
posted by Artw at 8:00 PM on September 25, 2011


Shit, the centaur arm cleaving isn't even the best holy shit moment in the book involving centaurs and cleaving. I am legitimately on board with this book as someone who has read probably zero actual issues of WW previously and always thought the old TV show was kind of shitty.
posted by cortex at 8:35 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wonder Woman had an American Gods-ish "guys, mythology is fucked up" vibe to it, and I mean that in the best possible way. The first centaur scene is just amazingly done. Atmospheric and creepy and elegant and otherworldly.

And after Catwoman and Red Hood, it's pretty cool to see a comic that introduces its female lead stark naked where that only emphasizes how much of a powerhouse she is.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:42 PM on September 25, 2011


I too loved the WW, and while I heard the complaints about her being introduced naked I didn't find the way they presented it offensive at all. It was more like "Holy fuck she is a big badass bitch who gives no fucks" rather than "TEE HEE BOYS". Which, more than any other character, is exactly what Wonder Woman should be.

She's a character where I feel most writers don't really get her right, because as an icon she's not meant to be a sexy-type, or anybody's girlfriend, or anybody's female counterpart, she's a fucking child of the gods and clearly her own damn thing. Like Superman, but less good-boy and more warrior. And I think a lot of (male) comic book writers have no idea how to portray a woman who's strong and beautiful but not meant to be a pin-up or flirt.
posted by schroedinger at 8:47 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hell, I'd say that anybody who's writing a scene where Wonder Woman wakes up almost has to have her nude because, really, she's a perfect warrior, forged from the very earth by the gods themselves. And you'd draw her in PJs?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:54 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


DCnU has had some good issues (Wonder Woman, Demon Knights, Action, Superboy) some decent issues (Supergirl was decent although pretty decompressed, Stormwatch has horrible art but has potential, JL is pretty) and some stinkers (Outlaws, Batgirl).

I'm mixed on Catwoman, it's clearly a pin-up title and I don't think Winick gets the characters well at all and I don't like Selina not knowing Bruce's identity but the Selina/Bruce thing has been pretty much a canon 'ship for ages and ages so I'm not really seeing her as being horribly out of character in this book.

I think the desire to reboot some titles while leaving Green Lantern and Batman titles with no reboot or soft retcons as well as maintaining multiple chronologies is going to doom the reboot even if initial sales are good.

It's pretty clear that a good percentage of the new books will get canceled quickly because 52 is too many titles and many of them completely suck. I think they are just throwing spitballs and seeing what sticks.

My fear is that the sexy, edgy titles will continue to do well because they have some of the better known artists and some of the more experimental titles will get abandoned.
posted by vuron at 8:58 PM on September 25, 2011


I'm hoping the dark mythology aspects of Wonder Woman's reboot stick for a while. Writer after writer have really struggled with her character in recent years and despite DC throwing A-list creative teams at her book they just can't seem to get a good formula.

I think part of the problem is that her Rogue's gallery is pretty pathetic outside of the mythology related villains (Circe, Ares, Herakles), Cheetah and Giganta haven't really been upgraded as threats and thus you have a hero that is almost superman class and as good hand-to-hand as Batman tangling with mediocre threats.

They also want to throw a female sidekick for her to mentor despite Diana working better as a solo hero.

As such I'm pretty positive towards the new direction even if i wasn't blown away by the art. Of course we've seen a ton of Wonder Woman relaunches in the past couple of decades and invariably they don't stick very long or they lose steam.
posted by vuron at 9:07 PM on September 25, 2011


I'm pretty sure WW is the only new DC book I'll be picking up weekly on Comixology. I only have three books I buy regularly, one of which is 100 Bullets (which DC is digitizing at the rate of an issue per week), so Azzarello makes up a full two thirds of my regular comics consumption. Such a great writer. (Morning Glories is the third. What a great book.)

As such I'm pretty positive towards the new direction even if i wasn't blown away by the art.

I was pretty blown away by it. Chiang turns out to be really, really good at facial expressions. Come to think of it, all three books I mention above are ones in which the artists draw excellent facial expressions. I guess it's an artistic trait I value.
posted by painquale at 9:11 PM on September 25, 2011


I read Wonder Woman last night and it's pretty cool.

I liked the art. I still wish they hadn't ditched the pants, but otherwise the uniform is okay. I didn't have any problems with her being naked, it didn't seem male gazey at all. I like that they are exploring the mythology aspect of Wonder Woman, but I'm a bit leery about the plot. I think the Greeks' themselves did pretty much everything you can do with "Zeus sleeps around and Hera gets homicidally jealous" plots. The centaur arm cleavage was great, and I liked when she was fighting the first centaur and was all "I have legs, moron." All in all, I like it.

They also want to throw a female sidekick for her to mentor despite Diana working better as a solo hero.

This sounds interesting. I don't if Diana has ever had a proper sidekick, aside from possibly Etta Candy. It would be cool to see that explored.
posted by nooneyouknow at 8:06 AM on September 26, 2011


I was pretty blown away by it. Chiang turns out to be really, really good at facial expressions.

Have you read Azzarello & Chiang's Dr. 13: Mortality & Architecture? I run hot and cold on Azzarello, but it is one fun read.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:47 AM on September 26, 2011


No! I'll give it a look. Thanks.
posted by painquale at 3:16 PM on September 26, 2011


This pretty much sums up why the Starfire thing was a bad idea.
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on September 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


So after all this, I took last night to dive into the most recent Darkwing Duck trade paperback, and the character sketches at the back included detail of a female character's high-heeled boots - pretty much the same heels that Darwyn Cooke took the time to single out for the "NO F-ME PUMPS" line on his design sheet. They were labelled "Catwoman boots".
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:07 AM on September 27, 2011


Michelle Lee shows her Starfire-loving daughter Red Hood and the Outsiders, canvasses response.

Well she is on the beach in her bikini. But…”

“But?”

“But, she’s not relaxing or swimming. She’s just posing a lot.” *my daughter appears uncomfortable*

posted by running order squabble fest at 8:11 AM on September 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ouch. Now that's just cruel.
posted by Artw at 8:26 AM on September 27, 2011


DC Comics’ Reponse to Starfire Controversy: Don’t let your kids read our comics
posted by homunculus at 4:47 PM on September 28, 2011


This was linked in the comments on that post and pretty well sums up my thinking regarding DC's claimed target of 18-34 men. From a comment:
Except that, if DC's decisions were actually based on consulting a marketing expert, then as seriousfic already pointed out, the front-and-center versions of Green Lantern and the Atom would be John Stewart and Ryan Choi, since that's who most 18-34 males know from the Justice League and Brave and the Bold cartoons, which means that the whole "18-34 males" thing is (just as it is in advertising and movies and TV shows) nothing more than a cop-out which allows the middle-aged males running the show to continue making media that appeals to their own tastes exclusively. Most 18-34 males actually have much broader tastes than the old white guys making this shit, and in cases where they don't support female-centric media, it's often because that female-centric media is such condescending bullshit that even many women consider it unforgivably misogynistic (Twilight, Sex in the City, etc.). By contrast, My Little Pony (of all things) has cultivated such a crossover fandom that even the virulent homophobes of 4chan have become "bronies." Quite seriously, if you can't manage to make superheroes cater equally to both genders, without alienating one or the other, when fucking MY LITTLE PONY can do it, you're too goddamned dumb to deserve to even a fraction of the big bucks that the people in charge of these franchises are earning to premise over their ever-shrinking audiences.
I don't know if it's accurate to say that "most" 18-34 males saw the (very good) Justice League and the (I don't know I haven't really seen it) Brave and the Bold cartoons, I've certainly found it weird that DC editorial seem to want to get rid of or sideline characters in favour of their mentors and predecessors. I'm a recent-ish comic fan (31, started reading about five years ago because of scans_daily) and I liked Wally West, Stephanie Brown, Cass whosits from Batgirl, and Kyle Raynor. Casting in their place some old dead dude, no-one, Oracle, and Holy Fucking Best Green Lantern Ever Hal Jordan is completely meh to me, and I know I'm not the only one. The sum total of my knowledge of the current Flash is that he died heroically in Crisis on Infinite Earths, now he's back somehow, and most recently he fucked up the entire universe because (I skimmed the last Flashpoint book) he missed his mum? That's not a character I care about.

And that's without even touching the perplexing decision to run the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle book as an origin story when said story was told just a couple of years ago; and told better, by the look of it.

Finally, DC's statement that they're going to be aggressive about cutting books with low sales seems to me like a recipe for short-circuiting word of mouth for the small-name books in the New 52, pretty much guaranteeing we're going to end up with an entire comics line dedicated to decompressed fight scenes and nipple slips.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:53 PM on September 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Could we hope this is a "New Coke" kind of deal where in a couple years they'll roll back to the classics.... I guess if no one buys this shit they'll have to.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:01 AM on September 29, 2011


Heh. Mark Millar chimes in.
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aww... I was imagining something really aggressively over-the-top stupidly misogynistic and offensive with maybe some creative swearing. That was merely stupid.
posted by Zed at 10:45 AM on September 29, 2011


Zed: "Aww... I was imagining something really aggressively over-the-top stupidly misogynistic and offensive with maybe some creative swearing. That was merely stupid."

Yeah, it was very much, these are my prepared thoughts on the subject of sexism in comics. Yes, I realise people have said a lot on the subject recently; no, I have not read much of it, and what I have read I have not taken in; no, this is not a problem because I have applied my mighty Mark Millar brain to the problem and identified that there really is no problem at all.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:01 AM on September 29, 2011


The funny thing is, though Millar loves throwing in "offensive" "shock" moments into his stuff it's generally where he's writing for an audience that's explicitly up for that kind of thing - he pretty much does none of that when writing, say, The Flash or Superman. So I really don't think he'd actually write something like the Starfire scene or the crap Bat/Cat sex scene.
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on September 29, 2011


Frank Miller, on the other hand... Let's just say from what I hear of Holy Terror that DC really dodged a bullet there.
posted by Artw at 1:01 PM on September 29, 2011


Heh. so, in the new 52 aparently Two-Face is given to Homophobic slurs in dancehall-style Jamaican patois.
posted by Artw at 11:40 PM on September 29, 2011


Do you think if we clubbed together we could buy DC a staff netbook so they could google stuff before it goes in the comics?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:18 AM on September 30, 2011


Eh. I think DiDio could google Othering 101 all day and just end up wondering why his netbook had no sense of humor.
posted by Zed at 3:10 AM on September 30, 2011


That one I'll gladly give them a pass on. "Batty" as an adjective is an actual word that ties into Bruce's whole motif - there's no reason to google it unless you also google literally every other word you use in your books just in case some slang somewhere has co-opted them while you weren't using.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:11 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


While you weren't looking, that is.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:30 AM on September 30, 2011


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "That one I'll gladly give them a pass on. "Batty" as an adjective is an actual word that ties into Bruce's whole motif - there's no reason to google it unless you also google literally every other word you use in your books just in case some slang somewhere has co-opted them while you weren't using."

I suppose, but I've heard of "batty boy" and my knowledge of Jamaican patois extends no further than the floppy rainbow hat and reefer stereotype. I'm astonished that the script and then the finished comic could pass through as many hands as a comic presumably must and no-one noticed.

In the end, this whole relaunch has reduced my interest in DC, and thus my monetary input, to almost zero. Not because I'm offended at stuff or I think it perpetuates damaging stereotypes or anything (apart from anything else, given the paltry sales not even the high fliers of their line-up will have as much cultural impact as a single episode of Buffy or Who or BSG, to pluck three popular genre shows out of my arse) but because they've ditched most of the stuff I liked.

I thought this was funny, though:
Her name is Casse Sandsmark. She's seventeen years old. Brilliant. Gorgeous. A free spirit. And no, that's not her car. It would be polite to say the girl has boundary issues.
ALERT ALERT STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER APPROACHING
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:22 AM on September 30, 2011


I'm wondering (based on very little data, yes) if "batty boy" has different visibility in American vs. UK English. I can't remember ever encountering the phrase.

But, yeah, if that's the case and the writers involved in that issue (what is that, Dark Knight #1? Haven't read it yet, but I've been planning to give most of the Bat books a shake out of curiosity) are from the US, that might contribute to it not getting a closer look. Especially since Batman villains calling Bats by any variety of mocking cutesy transfiguration of his name is a long-running thing in the books.

Or they want Harvey to seem like a homophobic anglophile, I dunno.
posted by cortex at 6:43 AM on September 30, 2011


I can't find "batty boy" in any of the searchable US English corpora, but I can't find it in any corpora so I honestly have no idea where I came across it if it wasn't indexed. A US/UK mutually assured misunderstanding situation seems likely.

I still don't know why they don't google every colloquialism and coinage as a matter of course, though. Given their international, if rather diminished, audience, and the fact that today's decompressed superhero comics aren't exactly text-heavy I don't think it's a hard job or a silly request.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:03 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think taking offense at the "batty boy" comment is seriously overthinking things. The writer may have just used "batty boy" as a play on "buddy boy" or something like that. 99.9% sure the vast majority of DC writers are not familiar with Jamaican patois.
posted by schroedinger at 8:22 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, there's "taking offense" and there's saying, "DC, this is the kind of thing you might want to avoid if you want to draw in new readers".
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2011


Heh. so, in the new 52 aparently Two-Face is given to Homophobic slurs in dancehall-style Jamaican patois.

Despite the Ali G lingo, it's good to see that they've gotten to the core of what makes Two-Face a unique villain - giant rippling muscles and knocking holes in walls.
posted by benzenedream at 9:44 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


So Far, Sales for New DC Comics Are Super
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on September 30, 2011


Renee Montoya in the old DCU was one of the toughest, most independent, least sexualized characters out there, especially given she was a lesbian and writers could totally have milked her for cheesecake. Last I heard she'd become The Question.

Renee Montoya of the NEW DCU is married to a dude, has three children, and is sobbing in the police station begging other people to get them back.

what the fuck.
posted by schroedinger at 7:26 PM on September 30, 2011


Hahaha, man, scratch that. I'm not a careful reader. Renee Montoya is in a picture on the wall of downed officers, not a crying mother.

But that does mean she's dead, which fucking sucks.
posted by schroedinger at 7:29 PM on September 30, 2011


Williams said he meant for that to be a commendation board, not a wall of fallen officers. She's fine.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:41 PM on September 30, 2011


Artw: "So Far, Sales for New DC Comics Are Super"

I'm pleased Gail Simone's book is selling well. That the best-seller is the high-octane nonsense of JLA I'm less happy about, but I'll be very interested to see how those numbers hold up for issue 2.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:55 AM on October 1, 2011


>I think taking offense at the "batty boy" comment is seriously overthinking things. The writer may have just used "batty boy" as a play on "buddy boy" or something like that. 99.9% sure the vast majority of DC writers are not familiar with Jamaican patois.

However, this is from The Dark Knight, which is written by Paul Jenkins, who is British and is therefore almost certainly familiar with what is a common term in Britain, and has been for nearly 20 years (since the controversy over Buju Banton's "Boom Bye Bye", which brought the term out of the Jamaican community). He may well not have expected editorial or the readers to pick up on it, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't familiar with the terminology. I'd guess it was somewhere between a largely invisible character note on the new (hypermuscular, hypermasculine) Two-Face and an inside joke.

Which is to say, schroedinger, that I think you've provided a very useful example of underthinking things, which serves as a lesson in the dangers of assuming that people who don't think as you do are overthinking things.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:14 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fixed link

Yeah, I think whatever they put in the slot Justice League was in was going to sell by the bucketload, and they chose to give it to an utterly boring comic with next to no story content in which it is established that DCnuU characters all have the same gritty personality and spend their time GRARing at each other. It was not an auspicous start, and as a declaratio of intent it was vaguely appauling.
posted by Artw at 7:17 AM on October 1, 2011


Brian Clevinger: Comics Should Be For Everyone
posted by Artw at 11:00 AM on October 1, 2011


It occurs to me that I can remember roughly the plots of every single New 52 comic I've read, and even some I've skimmed, but not JLA. I even remember Supergirl, and nothing at all happened in that one!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:17 PM on October 1, 2011


running order squabble fest: Jenkins is British by birth, but (if Wikipedia is accurate) he's lived in the United States since 1988, four years before "Boom Bye Bye" was released.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:39 PM on October 1, 2011


running order squabble fest: Jenkins is British by birth, but (if Wikipedia is accurate) he's lived in the United States since 1988, four years before "Boom Bye Bye" was released.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:39 PM on October 1 [+] [!]


No but you don't understand he STILL LISTENED TO THE SONG AND HE KNOWS

running order, if you prefer to believe Paul Jenkins has a secret vendetta against gay people you can go ahead and do it. Like, there is a lot that's openly offensive about the new 52 run without trying to delve into other culture's slang in search of a way a writer is being anti-LGBT.
posted by schroedinger at 4:56 PM on October 1, 2011


.running order, if you prefer to believe Paul Jenkins has a secret vendetta against gay people you can go ahead and do it.

You'd have to be incredibly inattentive, or maybe just not very good at reading, to think I believe anything of the sort. What I actually wrote was: I'd guess it was somewhere between a largely invisible character note on the new (hypermuscular, hypermasculine) Two-Face and an inside joke.

Don't get me wrong. It's awesome that you've found the caps lock key, and I'm sure you'll have a lot of fun with it, but maybe try reading the simple English next time?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:17 PM on October 1, 2011


Also, of course, if one wishes to live and die by Wikipedia, "Boom Bye Bye" was recorded and released in 1988. It was re-recorded and re-released in 1992.

However, this has little relevance. It's perfectly possible that the writer, despite being a Crystal Palace fan and therefore, I assume, a South Londoner, had never encountered the term during his time in Britain. It's equally possible that he stopped talking to people in Britain after leaving. And that when he wrote Hellblazer for four years in the 90s, setting the action of the story in Britain in general and South London in particular, he did so entirely from memory - with what looked like riffs on the British politics of the day being remarkable coincidences.

This is all perfectly possible. Compared with the possibility of a scene being written in which a bad guy - and a bad guy pumped up on evil steroids - is maybe making a somewhat insensitive pun to and about a person dressed in a skintight bat-themed suit whom he is about to try to kill because he is a bad guy pumped up on evil steroids1, it feels like it could go either way. But hey. A text supports multiple readings, right? I think one can enjoy the comic book either way.

1 It actually put me in mind of the bit in Arkham Asylum where the Joker asks Batman if Robin has started shaving yet. Sometimes, murderous psychopaths make hurtfui innuendoes to Batman. It's just a thing that happens.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:29 PM on October 1, 2011


Laura Hudson on Voodoo: I would feel a lot better about it if this was separated out as some sort of MAX title that was specifically categorized as T&A, because the problem is that when you constantly mix up your sexploitation and your superhero storytelling, they bleed into each other in weird ways. This is why a lot of people feel like superhero comics are nothing but spandex softcore for guys, and frankly why I feel that way sometimes too.

I'm not joking: I would totally support DC launching a cheesecake imprint to serve that audience, especially if it meant the regular DC Universe books would get more normal.

posted by Artw at 11:27 AM on October 3, 2011


(unborked link.)
posted by Zed at 11:59 AM on October 3, 2011


I may be being hideously unfair, but it felt like WildStorm kind of was that, de facto if notde iure - although WildStorm, or bits of it, have now been folded into the NewU. It was a place where the Wonder Woman equivalent could be a psychotic murderess in a thong with the alien sexual communitarianism of... well, of New Universe Starfire, actually.

The problem with the idea of an editorial bright line between Straightlaced Superhero and Spandex Spankathon, I think, is that those lines get porous - once you have someone introducing something in a Max title or equivalent, it finds its way into the mainstream because editors, writers and artists want to have those tools. Like Identity Crisis: that was mature-audiences, on account of all the sexual assault, the threats of sexual assault and the hints of even more sexual assault, but its plot and characterization bled rapidly into the all-ages/T-for-Teen DC Universe.

I mean, what do you do when editorial come to you, writer of the Terrific Teens, and say "By the way, events in this other comic mean that your recurring villain, Captain Spectrum, is no longer a bumbling comic foil. He's a highly effective psychopath who's really super into sexually assaulting women. Like, repeatedly. So, you know, have him maybe make some salacious comments to the teenaged female superheroes? To keep the characterization straight? OK! Have a good one!"
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2011


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