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"You don't remember anyone named Dick?" "No." "Garth? Dustin? Vic?" "I can't recall." "Lilith? Gar?" "You are boring me."
February 27, 2012 7:16 AM   Subscribe

The 5 Most Ridiculously Sexist Superhero Costumes. The 8 Stupidest Defenses Against Accusations of Sexism stemming from The 5 Most Ridiculously Sexist Superhero Costumes. What If Male Superheroes’ Costumes Were Designed Like Female Superheroes’ Costumes? The Avengers Poster Gets Gender Swapped. "American superhero comics, and the sexual objectification of their heroines, reflect the conditions of their production and consumption: they are made almost exclusively by and for men." On average, women account for less than 10 percent of the production staff credited in the production of the new DC and Marvel superhero comics, and are concentrated in less prestigious roles.
posted by kyrademon (118 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
Similarly, via Scott Wegener of Atomic Robo fame.
posted by fogovonslack at 7:33 AM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


The first time I ever bought an issue of Playboy I went to the variety store in the middle of the night because I didn't want to get caught in the act...but that would have been less embarrassing than being seen buying a copy of that Starfire reboot.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:33 AM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I would have put guns in Black Widow's hands. Other than that there isn't much for her to do in the poster regardless of what pose she's in. She doesn't have any super obvious features of her abilities to show off like Hulk's muscles or CA's shield. She's a mysterious woman with psychic powers so maybe something more shadowy? That might be hard to depict. Anyway, in the gender swapped poster she should have gigantic muscles and a raging athletic game face.
posted by michaelh at 7:36 AM on February 27, 2012


She's a mysterious secret agent with pretty much bad ass fighting skills. No psychic powers. So no more 'isn't much to do' than Captain America or Hawkeye.
posted by FritoKAL at 7:37 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Black Widow has psychic powers? Since when?
posted by MegoSteve at 7:38 AM on February 27, 2012


What I mean is Captain America has a huge shield to show off, Hulk has his enormous size, Hawkeye has the bow, Iron Man the suit. Black Widow has guns but that's about it. So she should have guns.
posted by michaelh at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2012


Other than that there isn't much for her to do in the poster regardless of what pose she's in.

Well, one thing for her to do is not stick her ass out like she's posing in order to show her ass.
posted by OmieWise at 7:42 AM on February 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


In theory, Widow has that dart/pellet wrist shooter thinggy, so that's what she's pointing in the poster, but that's nowhere near as iconic a weapon as a shield, hammer, robot suit, bow, or green pants, so it just kind of leaves her looking like she's punching the air. Her other easily recognizable traits, black suit and red hair, could have been highlighted, but at the cost of diminishing Scarlett Johannson's presence on the poster.

It would have been better if the poster was an action shot - give Widow some stooge to punch or something, but then they would have fucked that up in one of the many ways comics have been fucking up female action scenes for years and years.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:44 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hmm, I might be wrong about the psychic powers. Even less to work with!
posted by michaelh at 7:45 AM on February 27, 2012


Urf! Purple pants! I meant purple pants! Don't SMASH me, bro!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:45 AM on February 27, 2012


To be fair, Black Widow just bit the head off her mate and she's all, you guys go ahead, I'm feeling a little gassy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:47 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


That Superman costume in the third link is hilarious.
posted by mediareport at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


The "8 Stupidest Defenses Against Accusations of Sexism" article has some good points, but it spends too much time being all like "hurr, you sexists don't get laid and comics and internet porn are you only interaction with women". While this position can be satisfying when you're dealing with misogynist jerks, it's problematic because sexist men do get laid more often than this author wishes.

Indeed, sexist men often objectify, degrade, and marginalize their partners as a means to get laid, which is extra fucked-up, and is one of the main things that these comics are reinforcing: that women exist as sexual beings first, and everything else is secondary. No matter what a woman is doing in her public or professional capacity, whether cop, doctor, artist, secretary of state, etc. our culture focuses first on how attractive and available she is.

HULK SMASH PATRIARCHY!
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:53 AM on February 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


That Superman costume in the third link is hilarious.

The spiderman one at the end is also.
posted by cashman at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best thing about the Avengers gender swapped poster is that it uses the ridiculous "people who care about sexism are absolutely humorless folk who are trying to remove all fun from the universe" stereotype and turns it, as well, on its ear. Because it makes a serious point in a fucking hysterical way.

It also, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit, a nice lesson for someone who is more interested in the male than female form how reading comics might be difficult when you're a straight dude coming at it from a more enlightened perspective. Because I get why, to use an example I thought I understood from above, purchasing the Starfire issue might be embarrassing, but it's from a mostly academic perspective. But when I look at that gender swapped poster and my eyes go immediately to Hawkeye's ass, and then I realize that not only is that embarrassing but also that the picture is not actually hot, suddenly I have a bit more understanding where that embarrassment is coming from. It's not just offensive for being sexist; it's offensive for being not sexy.

But that just be me -- who was never embarrassed by his porn collection, just those that were purchased because they were on sale.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, kinda annoyed about how the first bunch of this thread has been focused on trying to rationalize the blatantly sexist Avengers poster.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:56 AM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I always thought Power Girl was supposed to be some sort of meta-commentary on the whole genre.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:58 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sacha Baron Cohen, this is your next movie.
posted by Xere at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Jon, feel free to jump in. Don't you think it's the fault of the character creators if she doesn't have anything cool to do in the poster? And aren't they men? What's to be annoyed about?
posted by michaelh at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2012


Also, I had to quickly close the first link because it's so ridiculously about sex it's not safe for work.
posted by OmieWise at 8:00 AM on February 27, 2012


Among the many awesome things about the Justice League cartoon that was on a few years ago was how they turned this on its head in the Justice Lords episode.

Usually, the evil version of a female superhero is, some crazy how, even sluttier and more ridiculously proportioned and dressed (Supergirl in Superman/Batman Apocalypse/ any evil version of Susan Storm/Richards, for example) than the good version.

But they didn't do that with Justice Lord Wonder Woman. In fact, my wife, who was watching the episode with me, said that she wished they'd make League Wonder Woman's outfit more like Lord Wonder Woman's since it actually looked far more like something a woman would wear while doing all that superhero stuff.

Man, I miss that show and the late Dwayne McDuffie. Sigh.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, except for the goatse Hulk and the boys' obviously padded buns on the swapped Avengers, I have no objection to that poster.

Black Widow does look kind of embarrassed for them, though.

My husband is into comics - 'scuse me, graphic novels. But usually the kind that have, you know, plots and character development. Watchmen, Green Lantern, some others involving some dystopia with Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman running the world (Wonder Woman having Supes' baby?!). The men and women are relatively sexy, but not usually physically impossible. There's dialog and relatively deep thoughts as well.

So they're out there, just apparently not as popular as this stuff.
posted by lysdexic at 8:11 AM on February 27, 2012


> Gets Gender Swapped

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
posted by egor83 at 8:14 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can I get you some Women Fighters in Reasonable Armour as an antidote?
posted by Harald74 at 8:19 AM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


usually the kind that have, you know, plots and character development . . . Green Lantern, some others involving some dystopia with Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman running the world (Wonder Woman having Supes' baby?!) . . . So they're out there, just apparently not as popular as this stuff.

Yes, but uhm . . . those are the ones people are talking about. I don't dispute that there are strong female characters in comics (Sundra Peale), but getting them into indie comics has never been the challenge.
posted by yerfatma at 8:22 AM on February 27, 2012


My husband loves the Justice League cartoon, too. I can actually watch a few of the first series. Hawk Girl kicks a lot of ass and is unapologetic for it. And Wonder Woman seems to be a pretty strong character, too.

But Justice League Unlimited? The scene brought to mind involves the Atom guy and Wonder Woman. Atom guy flies around with the super heroes and is small enough that he rides on their ear. Except with Wonder Woman. He rides on her breasts. After seeing that episode, I refused to watch any more.
posted by jillithd at 8:23 AM on February 27, 2012


I think a lot of the problems comics have in portraying women have to do with how artists learn to draw them.

During one semester, I took two drawing classes; a Drawing 1 class aimed at beginner art students, and a Concept Art class aimed at the game-developer students. In Drawing 1 we learned how to draw humans like one normally does; by doing gesture sketches and having models come in for us to draw.

In the concept art class, it was completely different. We were given a "how to draw comics" book and taught to block out different body parts such as the torso, arms, pelvis, and then adding in detail (like, huge muscles) Accompanying this, the book illustrated what an "average" man and woman should look like. Using this formula, you could pretty easily crank out comic book characters with ease, but they were very unrealistic and had the same "Rob Liefield" look to them.

I tried it the comic-book way for a while, and ended up abandoning it because my figures always looked like they were made of pieces instead of looking like an actual human. Additionally, the method of blocking out the figure with shapes led to very contorted and physically impossible poses.

So the whole joke of "They're drawing women that way because they've never seen an actual woman" is actually kind of true.
posted by hellojed at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

That comic is a good example of what the Namor entry in the first link talks about: "Near-naked superhorny women is a male fantasy. Being a hulking Adonis who can punch through tanks is also a male fantasy."

There aren't a lot of women who drool over Zangief, but there are plenty of men who wouldn't mind looking like him, and indeed quite a few men spend hours in the gym every week trying their hardest to actually look like that.
posted by jedicus at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


Absolutely disgusting. The worst part is that it goes much deeper than any of these articles suggest. It is not even limited toi western art.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh man, ridiculously sexist comics! Great timing, MetaFilter, I just started reading 1940s-era Wonder Woman. While it's awesome that she's going around doing things like fighting the Nazis, a choice line recently made me laugh out loud. Context - she's bound hand and foot with her own magic lasso, and her eyes and mouth have been taped shut. She "contracts her powerful facial muscles" to free her mouth and eyes ...

"Wonder Woman's eyelid muscles loosen the tape - but also her eyelashes! 'Un-unh! My feminine vanity won't let me pull out my eyelashes! I'll have to escape blindfolded!'"
posted by Devika at 8:26 AM on February 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


At one point, Power Girl may have been a meta-commentary but she's been trucked out so often just for her breasts that any commentary has been muted. She's all meta now. The embodiment of a smile and wink towards the viewer.

The great majority of Big Two superhero comics are smiles and winks these days. This is what happens when the market you have is dwindling and you are determined to keep what you do have. Marvel and DC are just distilling their worst habits.
posted by cheap paper at 8:27 AM on February 27, 2012


I always thought Power Girl was supposed to be some sort of meta-commentary on the whole genre.

Especially the Amanda Conner run i feel. I don't have the link handy, but there was a blogger who broke down how Amanda Conner did a great job at drawing her expressions. Not the same face over and over, but appropriate to the situation and emotion.

I think a lot of the problems comics have in portraying women have to do with how artists learn to draw them.

I also feel it's partly editorial, with them deciding on who to hire on books. I noticed this a lot with the new DC 52, using many of the same artists drawing in their same style. I don't work in the industry, so i don't know for sure.
posted by usagizero at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2012


She's a mysterious woman with psychic powers so maybe something more shadowy?

The Golden Age Black Widow has psychic powers, as currently and creepily demonstrated in The Twelve.

I'm still disappointed at DC for putting Wonder Woman back into the swimsuit and don't even get me started on superheroines wearing high heels and/or fishnets.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2012




Related: the DC creative staff is about 1% women, 99% men.
posted by whir at 8:39 AM on February 27, 2012


The Card Cheat: The first time I ever bought an issue of Playboy I went to the variety store in the middle of the night because I didn't want to get caught in the act...but that would have been less embarrassing than being seen buying a copy of that Starfire reboot.

I actually feel less embarrassed browsing in a porn store now than I do in a comics shop, at least most comics shops.

Ad hominem:
Absolutely disgusting. The worst part is that it goes much deeper than any of these articles suggest.


Dude, really?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:44 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is always a frustrating conversation for me. I'm glad people are having it but I'm not glad we still have to have it.

Since I've started hanging out in comic book stores more lately (a couple of good friends are retailers), I've picked up more superhero stuff than I probably would have otherwise. There is some good stuff buried in there, but I also understand that this is what a lot of people see and it's an automatic turnoff.

But I know there's people fighting the good fight. Princeless (which has been mentioned on Metafilter before) is an indie comic, but the writer was inspired to create it because he was having trouble finding comics to share with his daughter. And I just spent a good part of my weekend being entirely too excited about Brian Wood and Ming Doyle's upcoming MARA miniseries. Now some of that is because I think Ming Doyle should draw all the comics all the time, but that it's a direct reaction to some of this New 52 stuff is just awesome to me.
posted by darksong at 8:46 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone have a link to the offending Avengers poster? Anyway, the movie looks like it's going to be a big mess.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 AM on February 27, 2012


Anyone have a link to the offending Avengers poster?

It's the link in the FPP that says "The Avengers Poster."
posted by griphus at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn you people and your coded language!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:03 AM on February 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd have Black Widow hold a clipboard, albeit in a menacing way
posted by Renoroc at 9:05 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unrealistically drawn bodies are bad, but it's perfectly cool that these people can fly, etc.
posted by jonmc at 9:05 AM on February 27, 2012


I just want to know what Tony Stark whispers in her ear in the last scene.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Comics have always been whacking material for guys too young or ashamed to buy actual whacking material.

[Those guys at Cracked just have no idea how much a girl's supergigantic superbreasts can superheat when she's superflying at supersonic superspeeds.]
posted by pracowity at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2012


The Embarrassment Factor of mainstream comics and comic shops is a big hurdle to overcome. I won't buy a comic with boobies all hanging out on the cover as I tend to only buy comics when I have a few hours to kill, sitting and reading them in a bar or cafe. So I completely missed Amanda Conner's run on Power Girl - despite the positive things I read about the book online, I just couldn't bring myself to be seen reading it in public. When the title was released on the iPad, I did pick up a few issues, but that was far too late to help contribute series-saving sales.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:07 AM on February 27, 2012


Comics have always been whacking material for guys too young or ashamed to buy actual whacking material.

Even DuckTales?
posted by jonmc at 9:08 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No - that's quacking material.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:09 AM on February 27, 2012 [23 favorites]


Especially DuckTails.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:09 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


David Willis's take on the rebooted Starfire. (This link's also in the middle of the first article.)
posted by Katrel at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2012


I should have realized when they added the fourth nephew-Gooey.
posted by jonmc at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2012


Even DuckTales?

I have bad news for you. (NSFW! Don't click that link!)
posted by modernserf at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2012


The Watchmen deconstructed this nicely : The original Silk Spectre was actually flaunting as an ego boost. Dr. Manhattan. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:16 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: "Absolutely disgusting. The worst part is that it goes much deeper than any of these articles suggest. It is not even limited toi western art."

Am I missing your point? You linked to two anatomically realistic representations of women. We're talking about how the women in superhero comics are anatomically impossible and are only allowed to wear lingerie/fetish clothing.
posted by danny the boy at 9:19 AM on February 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


Comics Alliance sexy comics 2012 - featuring The Sensual Side of Jack Kirby and a neat peice on "sexy" art kills the story.
posted by Artw at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Comics have always been whacking material for guys too young or ashamed to buy actual whacking material.

I don't care what your excuse is. I'm not buying a longbox full of comics with the pages stuck together.
posted by griphus at 9:20 AM on February 27, 2012


You can't really mount a good argument from ignorance. Oh it's sexist because Black Widow is useless except for her ass.
Well, no, she's got wrist blasters. She blasts stuff with her wrists. She is being heroic as far as the whole comic thing. Perfectly fair.

Spider man has wrist shooters too. Most of his poses they've got his knees up in the air with his crotch pushed up in your face in some goofy contortion.

Sexist for myriad other reasons? Yea.

And on the marvel site she's waaaay underrated by "official" count vs. fan votes.

"Well, you should have seen the cover they wanted to do! It wasn't a glove, believe me."
posted by Smedleyman at 9:21 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unrealistically drawn bodies are bad, but it's perfectly cool that these people can fly, etc.
posted by jonmc
I don't think that's the main issue. Did you ever read The Preacher comics? Tulip is very much an unrealistically drawn body, but she has a personality. She has a story. She is a person. She wears clothes but still gets naked for good reasons. She's not just there for "whacking" material. You can have your big tits and I can have my interesting female character. Win-win.

What bothers me is where the interesting part of the female character is cut out (or never included in the first place) and all that's left is the big tits. Just a piece of meat. And then it's exacerbated by the ridiculous "outfits" and poses.
posted by jillithd at 9:23 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Comics have always been whacking material for guys too young or ashamed to buy actual whacking material.

The problem is that such an approach limits your audience, for one (as dudes grow up and get lives and/or real porn) and doesn't even provide much variety as whacking material. If you're not into broken spined women with balloon breasts and constant O-face, or you're not straight, or not a dude, then there's nothing there for you.

Is whacking material all comics should be? Do stories not really matter? Because if they did, wouldn't women have more interesting characters and roles? If they don't, why not just have it be cartoon centerfolds and nothing else? Why bother to argue about Batman's motivations when all anyone really cares about is naked Catwoman?

If comics wants to stay in a tiny dark whackhole, then this is the way to do it. If it wants to actually create cool stories and do something creative, it's time to come out into the bigger world.
posted by emjaybee at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would really love it if people would stop saying "comics" when they actually mean "superhero comics." Or even "mainstream comics."

I understand that, for many folks who aren't as deep into the comics world as I am, superheroes may as well be the entire medium. But from where I stand, superhero comics are rapidly fading into irrelevance, important only as tie-ins to mainstream movie franchises; most of what's interesting and exciting and worthwhile in the comics world is going on elsewhere.

I have an entire shelf full of fantastic comics written by, for and about women. "Comics" aren't the problem. DC & Marvel (and parts of their readership) are the problem.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:24 AM on February 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


Dude, really?


Yeah, that might have been too easy.It is just strange to me that we have partially nude statues as representation of justice in public buildings, but we keep focusing on comics, a small corner of art and human expression. Really, why the hell is a representation of justice topless? We need to examine the objectification of women in the totality of art, everything from the movies that always had exposed breasts but never showed half naked men, to classical painting , to modern comics. Comics are just calling on the tradition of art, perhaps it is time to re-examine that tradition.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:26 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


jonmc: "Unrealistically drawn bodies are bad, but it's perfectly cool that these people can fly, etc."

Someone else will probably have the link to the article that explains this in patient detail, but suspension of disbelief doesn't cover the entire world you're building, just the one or two concepts that contrast that universe with ours. Good narratives aren't made of calvinball.

You can ask me to believe that some people can have powers beyond mortal men, or you can ask me to believe that her top doesn't fall off as soon as she does anything more physically challenging than some light reading--not both.
posted by danny the boy at 9:26 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


>"Absolutely disgusting. The worst part is that it goes much deeper than any of these articles suggest. It is not even limited toi western art."

Am I missing your point? You linked to two anatomically realistic representations of women. We're talking about how the women in superhero comics are anatomically impossible and are only allowed to wear lingerie/fetish clothing.


I think the point is that women's naked bodies have traditionally been used as a canvas.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:31 AM on February 27, 2012


Unrealistically drawn bodies are bad, but it's perfectly cool that these people can fly, etc.

I do suspect you'd take issue with a Die Hard movie where where gravity selectively only affected some people, ducks controlled the world with mind beams and halfway through, the narrative degenerated into an acausal whirling barrage of colours and shapes BECAUSE BRUCE WILLIS COULDN'T SURVIVE ALL THAT WHY ARE YOU LOOKING FOR REALISM HERE. It's a ridiculous argument.
posted by emmtee at 9:38 AM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Similarly, via Scott Wegener of Atomic Robo fame.

Talking of whom...

Everyone should totally be reading Atomic Robo, BTW.

In fact, my basic stance on the sort of thing this FPP is about is this: If you're reading comics and upset about crappy greg-landy scheesecake crap, stop buying it and buy something good instead. And If you're not reading comics, well, looking at that crap I'm not surprised, but believe it or not there is other stuff.
posted by Artw at 9:40 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


See also: Strong Female Characters by Kate Beaton
posted by hellojed at 9:47 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I suspect at least half* the Escher Girls problem is bad artists copying other bad artists. If your only reference for the human form is a bunch of Liefeld copyists then of course everything you draw will be twisted double jointed nonsense. Seriously guys, if you can't take some life classes at least study some art that isn't comics**.

* the other half is trying to great butt in every panel. Seriously, stop it. Savor the moments when a butt in the panel is appropriate and concentrate on storytelling the rest of the time.

** Well, Greg Land sort of does...

posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're reading comics and upset about crappy greg-landy scheesecake crap, stop buying it and buy something good instead.

Remember, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the exothermic enthalpy of solution.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:49 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I have an entire shelf full of fantastic comics written by, for and about women. "Comics" aren't the problem. DC & Marvel (and parts of their readership) are the problem."

And that's a really important point. Should there be more women writing and drawing for DC and Marvel? Maybe, but who says they want to? (As one of my friends -- also one of the retailers mentioned above -- says "You mean there's not a ton of women lining up to create male-power fantasies?")

I absolutely get that it's frustrating and troubling to be interested in superhero comics and constantly feel disappointed by them. But comics are absolutely more than just Marvel or DC. And I'm happy that they are.
posted by darksong at 9:52 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


We need to examine the objectification of women in the totality of art

Not really; the situation in comics is especially egregious. (When I saw that your first example was Botticelli's Venus, I immediately thought of Michelangelo's David as a counter-example.)


If you're reading comics and upset about crappy greg-landy scheesecake crap, stop buying it and buy something good instead.

Done and done! There are still a few good comics being put out. Speaking of which:

If your only reference for the human form is a bunch of Liefeld copyists then of course everything you draw will be twisted double jointed nonsense.

Funny you should mention Liefeld. See some reviews and previews of the severely rebooted and retconned versions of his characters Glory and Prophet.

Also, WRT ridonkulous superheroine poses: the incomparable Randy Milholland, ladies and joims.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:00 AM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


darksong: "I absolutely get that it's frustrating and troubling to be interested in superhero comics and constantly feel disappointed by them. But comics are absolutely more than just Marvel or DC. And I'm happy that they are."

I don't think you can say, well it's just DC and Marvel that are the problem with comics today, because they ARE comics today. I don't think 67% of the market just between the two of them is quite "rapidly fading into irrelevance" just yet.

I think it's great that other stuff exists, but it's possible to care about sexism in comics in the same way I care about sexism anywhere else--I'm concerned about sexism in the media even though non-sexist options exist.
posted by danny the boy at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Funny you should mention Liefeld. See some reviews and previews of the severely rebooted and retconned versions of his characters Glory and Prophet.

I am FASCINATED by those. Prophet in particular feels like some kind of weird intrusion from another universe - who would have predicted that one of my favourite "new" comics of 2012 would be a forgotten Liefeld property remade as some kind of weird eurocomic style sci-fi Conan?

Yeah, I think I feel an Image comics based post coming on, what with the expo and all...
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that might have been too easy.It is just strange to me that we have partially nude statues as representation of justice in public buildings, but we keep focusing on comics, a small corner of art and human expression. Really, why the hell is a representation of justice topless? We need to examine the objectification of women in the totality of art, everything from the movies that always had exposed breasts but never showed half naked men, to classical painting , to modern comics. Comics are just calling on the tradition of art, perhaps it is time to re-examine that tradition.

Here's the thing about Justice, though: she has an awesome role! She's the balance and force of justice itself. Justice is blind, but she's not really sexy, despite what John Ashcroft believed. And the classical tradition that produced Justice also produced a heck of a lot of totally naked dude statues, some of which are known as "heroic nudes" because it was a sign of their honor or great deeds or heroism. Botticelli's Venus is an incredible creation, and it's from a long line of Sexy Aphrodite poses, which makes sense, because she actually is the goddess of love. Athena is never naked. Diana is never naked. And while ladies often get the shaft in Greek myths, there are some pretty incredible women and goddess in there as well.

I don't really care that much about cleavage in comic books. I care about insanely unrealistic cleavage, impossible contortions, and worst of all, terrible story lines to match. I would like to be able to watch my partner play Arkham City without wincing at Catwoman's Boob-Limbo move or her little weird arm stretches. She's not even a great fighter!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:06 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would like to be able to watch my partner play Arkham City without wincing at Catwoman's Boob-Limbo move or her little weird arm stretches. She's not even a great fighter!

My 67,000-point round 4 on the Fun House Extreme challenge map says otherwise.

carry on
posted by King Bee at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


My 67,000-point round 4 on the Fun House Extreme challenge map says otherwise.

Haha, fair point, I'll tell him the sexy claw-glove gauntlet has been tossed down :)

(BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS WITH ALL THE BOOB-LIMBO SLIDES.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:16 AM on February 27, 2012


I've stopped being outraged by this. In part because I never cared for cape comics anyway - when I go into the comic store, I leave with a tiny selection of sf/fantasy stuff.

To all the people complaining about the state of female characters in cape comics because they LIKE cape comics, especially the ladies who like cape comics and want to share in those fantasies, I say this: be the change you want to see in the world. There's been a lot of analysis lately of how cape comics fail women. Make some cape comics that celebrate women. Make some of the comics you WANT to read. I've been spending the past year doing that - I'm a good ways through a sci-fi series about a female robot who is never presented as an object. And I'm starting the process of pulling together some of my friends to do an anthology.

So draw some comics. If you can't draw then start learning; in the meantime, hook up with an artist friend who has trouble writing and help them on that. If you want DC and Marvel to change then pitch your work to THEM at the next con and the next and the next until you are so damn good they'd be crazy not to hire you.

And in the meantime, find stuff that DOES present women as amazing, capable, not-objectified power fantasies you're happy to identify with, and talk about how awesome it is as loudly as you are talking about how much sex-doll Starfire stinks.
posted by egypturnash at 10:17 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


> I immediately thought of Michelangelo's David as a counter-example.

The way-unrealistically fit David needs to be re-done as more of a real-world human too.
posted by jfuller at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2012


BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS WITH ALL THE BOOB-LIMBO SLIDES.

I'm thinking that your partner is doing that more than is necessary, I don't remember having to boob-limbo slide all that much at all.
posted by King Bee at 10:18 AM on February 27, 2012


Good narratives aren't made of calvinball.
some are!
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:22 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think I feel an Image comics based post coming on, what with the expo and all...

And lo, I have.
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on February 27, 2012


danny the boy, I absolutely care about sexism in comics, and I know that the indie comics scene isn't necessarily immune to it either. But while there are some superhero comics I do read (like Wonder Woman and Wolverine & The X-Men, to cite two examples), that's not all I read.

So yes, I think it's great that people call this out. It needs to be. But superhero comics aren't all comics. They are the popular genre in comics.

I go to a lot of indie comic shows, interact with plenty of creators, online and off. There's an entire generation of young women who are filling up sequential art classes (the majority of students in these classes in some cases) who don't care about superhero comics overall (and if they do, they're going to go make really amazing ones). They want to do their own thing. And I think that's where the future of the comic industry is going.
posted by darksong at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


a female robot who is never presented as an object

No disrespect intended, because I'm sure you've thought of and addressed this thoroughly (maybe that's even the point you start from), but nevertheless, that phrase made me laugh out loud. Because a "female robot" is pretty much the definition of an objectified woman.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't see how Power Girl could ever be a mere #5 in a list of "The 5 Most Ridiculously Sexist Superhero Costumes."
posted by grouse at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2012


So, um, that last image in the 8 Stupidest Defenses link? Maidman? [nsfw] Apparently he has adventures, and they involve the male gaze. Digging around, you can preview a few pages here.
posted by mediareport at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Humans have mass, dude. We have increasingly-replaceable parts and we need fuel. The fact that we are objects doesn't mean we need to be objectified. That'd be redundant. So if you're objectifying people anyway, I'm guessing it's an alternative to personifying them.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:37 AM on February 27, 2012


Coelasquid of Manly Men Doing Manly Things did a nice piece on male superheroes posing like Wonder Woman on the rebooted Justice League #1's cover in equivalent costumes. 4chan of all places added onto it in a respectful way.
posted by dragoon at 10:37 AM on February 27, 2012


Awesome (and mostly non-super) heroines not dressed in thongs:

Agent 355 from Y: the last man (DC Comics) - named after an actual Agent 355.

Rose Walker from Sandman (DC). (We could also probably add Death, Despair and Delirium as great female characters - also Eve, the three Fates...)

Molly from Books of Magic - again DC, so DC isn't doing too bad, though all three of those titles are Vertigo titles, which are headed by Karen Berger. Does that count as mainstream?

And if we add in less mainstream comics like the brilliant Plain Janes (now with a sequel!), there are some great (and well dressed) female characters in comics.

But yeah, that doesn't excuse the complete and utter in your face stupid sexism of most super-hero titles.
posted by jb at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


our culture focuses first on how attractive and available she is.

As a single man currently looking for a mate, that is my focus, too. Whoda Thunkit?
posted by Ardiril at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2012


I might say i'm more concerned by the fascist ideals embodied by most superheroes, but really, the sexual objectification fit right in with that
posted by dunkadunc at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Beaton, Willis, Milholland, Coela, "Obsidian Abnormal"and even the usually-unrepentantly-sexist Sohmer (in his own NSFW way).

It's so appropriate that webcomics artists (most of them male) have been at the forefront in calling out this ongoing insult to women (and, by extension, men).

It's worth noting that with that 67% market share, Comics' Big Two are in a similar position to where The Big Three TV Networks were 20 years ago. Digital distribution is going to muddy up the specific 'sales figures' for a while, but the writing is on the wall (in Comic Sans).
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2012


*fits right in with that.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:49 AM on February 27, 2012


There aren't a lot of women who drool over Zangief, but there are plenty of men who wouldn't mind looking like him, and indeed quite a few men spend hours in the gym every week trying their hardest to actually look like that.

I actually kind of disagree here. I live in a neighbourhood where dudes with giant arms and tight shirts are all over the place and they seem to have no problem finding women who love it. I mean the point that a lot of superhero comics are male fantasy is true, but big musclebound steroid guys have plenty of female fans.
posted by Hoopo at 10:50 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I might say i'm more concerned by the fascist ideals embodied by most superheroes, but really, the sexual objectification fits right in with that

Yes, yes, YES!
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


oh - I just found out that the Minx line was discontinued in 2008. Maybe a few years later, they could have picked up on the Manga craze, since they were a similar size and audience.
posted by jb at 10:57 AM on February 27, 2012


I might say i'm more concerned by the fascist ideals embodied by most superheroes, but really, the sexual objectification fits right in with that

Are we even allowed to say this?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2012


oh - I just found out that the Minx line was discontinued in 2008. Maybe a few years later, they could have picked up on the Manga craze, since they were a similar size and audience.

It was pretty much a reaction to Manga. Basically it sat on the shelf and did nothing, despite an impressive line-up.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on February 27, 2012


It's Raining Florence Henderson > Because a "female robot" is pretty much the definition of an objectified woman.

I haven't really thought of it that way, but you're right! It's unintentional. Although on the other hand the fact that the story in no way concerns the struggle of AIs and uploads to be accepted as "human" is a deliberate choice - that's an issue I think we'll be struggling with soon, and I'm trying to show a vision of what it could be like if we're nice to machines. Because that's one of the changes I want to see in the world.
posted by egypturnash at 11:27 AM on February 27, 2012


Personally, it's the fault of those women. Have you seen the bodies on them?

...but big musclebound steroid guys have plenty of female fans.

*gets out fitness club card to check expiration date*
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2012


emmtee: "gravity selectively only affected some people, ducks controlled the world with mind beams and halfway through, the narrative degenerated into an acausal whirling barrage of colours and shapes"

I would pay the full $14 to watch that in a first run theater.
posted by idiopath at 11:53 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


It'd be either Takashi Miike or the Crank guys, obviously.
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was pretty much a reaction to Manga. Basically it sat on the shelf and did nothing, despite an impressive line-up.
posted by Artw 26 minutes ago [+]


I have to wonder if there were marketing problems - perhaps at the store level. I know that I went into a specialty DVD store the other day, and they had Japanese animation in an "Anime" section, western children's animation over in "Family" - and no section for western non-children's animation (which is what I was looking to browse). They were scattered throughout the comedy/action/drama whatever, if they had any, but I'm not sure that's the best way to sell non-kids animation (I was thinking of stuff like the Triplets of Belleville, Waltz with Bashir, and $9.99, another stop-animation film I'd read about). Whereas I would probably have had an "Animation" section with all animated titles (adults and kids) for adult animation buffs, and a repeat of the kid-friendly stuff over in Family. But that's because I'm an animation fan.

Anyways, those Minx titles look awesome - maybe I should see what's cheap on Amazon.
posted by jb at 11:55 AM on February 27, 2012


emmtee: "gravity selectively only affected some people, ducks controlled the world with mind beams and halfway through, the narrative degenerated into an acausal whirling barrage of colours and shapes"

I would pay the full $14 to watch that in a first run theater


It came out on August 1st, 1986. For $14, you could have seen it twice and still had enough money left over to buy the drugs you'd need to wipe it from your brain forever. Fucking Lucasfilm! I didn't have $14. All I have are the flashbacks.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:01 PM on February 27, 2012


The reason superwomen characters are so fabulous is that they never get goosebumps. Can you imagine those costumes with bumpy skin? Not pretty.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2012


I live in a neighbourhood where dudes with giant arms and tight shirts are all over the place and they seem to have no problem finding women who love it.

Correlation <> Causation. How many of those dudes have girlfriends because they have giant arms? And what's the denominator? Whole lot of dudes without giant arms also have girlfriends.
posted by straight at 12:51 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Unrealistically drawn bodies are bad, but it's perfectly cool that these people can fly, etc.

Because flying is cool and women without large intestines is stupid?
posted by straight at 12:53 PM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Comics" aren't the problem. DC & Marvel (and parts of their readership) are the problem.

It wouldn't be a problem if it were as simplistic as being all power fantasy big boobed chicks.
If you pick up a Russ Meyer film you know what you're getting.
This is more like picking up...well, not a Bergman film or anything highbrow, just a popcorn movie "Real Steel" or something except, no, it's soft core porn.

I don't know the economics though. Do they have to make the cheesecake in order to support sales? If so, I doubt that's supporting well written and well drawn work because they treat their artists like chattel.

Maybe there's your catch-22 right there.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:12 PM on February 27, 2012


Correlation <> Causation. How many of those dudes have girlfriends because they have giant arms? And what's the denominator? Whole lot of dudes without giant arms also have girlfriends.

It is not exactly a controversial idea that people are physically attracted to their partners. What a weird point you're trying to make.
posted by Hoopo at 1:19 PM on February 27, 2012


I have a scar on my nose and my wife says she finds me attractive. But I wouldn't try to claim she finds me attractive because of the scar on my nose.

The fact that giant arms don't entirely repel women doesn't at all mean that every woman whose boyfriend has giant arms finds those arms particularly attractive.
posted by straight at 1:38 PM on February 27, 2012


Oh god. Looking like that is a huge investment of time and effort that requires pretty major commitments in terms of lifestyle and diet. Do you spend hours a day working on bulking up your nose scar? Do you eat nose scar supplements and follow a special diet so you can build more nose scar mass? Do you worry about your nose's scarred skin index and feel a need to increase your nose scar tone? I'm not saying every woman who dates a muscle man necessarily finds giant muscles attractive. But I am saying yes, there are plenty of women who are into the cartoonish hyper-masculine hulk body type, and specifically in response to a comment that said not a lot of women are attracted to it. Seriously, turn on Jersey Shore sometime. Actually don't, I'm not that mad at you--but it's a perfect example because a few of the women on that show say they are looking for "gorillas" and "juiceheads", i.e. big steroid-using muscle monster men. Or maybe they, and some women that I know that say they like big muscles and make "rowr" noises at topless muscle dudes on TV, are not into that at all and are instead looking at their eyes and cheekbones and assuming they have a good sense of humour. It is not unheard of or even all that uncommon for women to find a big muscly physique attractive. Others don't. Fuck. Worst. derail. ever.
posted by Hoopo at 2:27 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I've no idea what those nasal scarring magazines were doing under my bed!"
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


"I've had dreams like this, too, but I don't draw and sell them in public." Nice.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:39 PM on February 27, 2012


emmtee: "gravity selectively only affected some people, ducks controlled the world with mind beams and halfway through, the narrative degenerated into an acausal whirling barrage of colours and shapes"

I would pay the full $14 to watch that in a first run theater.
posted by idiopath at 2:53 PM on February 27 [3 favorites +] [!]

It'd be either Takashi Miike or the Crank guys, obviously.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on February 27 [1 favorite +] [!]


Guys, did you SEE the Crank movies? Die Hard with cartoon physics and a gradual descent into madness describes them perfectly.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 3:46 PM on February 27, 2012


I love these sorts of critiques, but I think they tend to be flawed in that the reworked men are not actually that sexy. So the argument drifts from sexist women superheroes are dumb to just flatly saying many heterosexual male visual fantasies are dumb. This is true, but you're not going to build a great counteroffensive from it.

Straightforwardly erotic male figures really only seem to get done well in work produced by/for gay men. You want a good counterpart, you have to Tom of Finland it up, folks.
posted by mobunited at 4:07 PM on February 27, 2012


Guys, did you SEE the Crank movies? Die Hard with cartoon physics and a gradual descent into madness describes them perfectly.

Huh, I wonder if that scene is an homage to Electric Dragon 80.000V
posted by griphus at 5:06 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


They have that one guy in the armor, right, that knight? Why can't they have another ancient historical figure for women like, lets say, Judith?
posted by Slackermagee at 5:24 PM on February 27, 2012


Looking like that is a huge investment of time and effort that requires pretty major commitments in terms of lifestyle and diet.

And you do realize that dudes commonly invest huge amounts of time and effort on stuff that's not necessarily attractive to women, that's--at best--tolerated by their wives and girlfriends?

It is not unheard of or even all that uncommon for women to find a big muscly physique attractive ... Worst. derail. ever.

I don't think it's a derail at all because I maintain that looking like a buff superhero and wanting a mate who looks like a superhero is mostly a guy fantasy, even if there are some women who are into big huge muscle dudes. It's just not true that anywhere near as many girls want to look like Power Girl and date the Incredible Hulk as boys want to look like the Hulk and date Power Girl.
posted by straight at 5:29 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Power Girl cover from TCJ
posted by bq at 7:22 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


New Avengers movie poster out and Widow's got her guns.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:40 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice of them to pose Tony so we can see both his boobs and his butt. (Hulk too!)
posted by straight at 1:33 PM on February 28, 2012


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