I’ve never had the slightest inclination to read one of these fetish comics before, and to be honest I really didn’t feel like wasting my money on one in my attempts at doing reviews and writing about comics here on this blog. However I’ve been having a rough time making it to the comic shop as of late. A mixture of bad economy and too much work have made my purchasing habits a bit few and far between. That being said I didn’t want to let a week go by without a review, so I made the decision to find a site online that I could download this week’s books from. I then had to decide which books I could download in good conscience; for example, I wasn’t going to download the new issue of Invincible, because that’s a book I actually like. I want to pay for that book, and support both the book’s creators, and my local comic shop. For similar reasons I wouldn’t download the Action Comics annual because of my respect for Greg Rucka. Likewise, Captain America 600. And I’m definitely holding out for when I can put money down for Air #10.
Then, as I scanned the website for something I knew I would never support financially, never buy on my own terms, I came across this. This– ridiculous, inane, offensive piece of fucking trash. This is the kind of book that makes me depressed; depressed to be a comics fan, depressed to be a human being. ALRIGHT PAL, I’M GLAD YOU’RE WORKING OUT YOUR ISSUES WITH WOMEN IN A CONSTRUCTIVE MANNER BUT THIS SEEMS LIKE THE KIND OF THING YOUR THERAPIST WOULD RATHER YOU KEPT PRIVATE, MMKAY?
Let’s ignore the gratuitous tits-n’-ass that run rampant throughout the book– and there are a plethora– because on some level I get it, you know? On some level i understand that there’s an audience for this, just like there’s an audience for Playboy or Playgirl, and Maxim, and slasher flicks, and even those trashy romance novels. I understand that they all serve a purpose, and sex sells. But it’s the sheer amount of graphic violence against women that’s so disturbing. This is a story set at a college that’s presumably coed (there’s a sex scene with a guy who seems to go to this school that’s otherwise populated with female pornstars) and yet the only graphic violence we see, the only real punishment, disembowelment, is all toward women. Sure, said male ends up dying, but he goes in a car crash; quick, easy, and with an explosion. No body, no mess. Wanna see one page of female deaths?
And so, yeah, I understand that there’s a purpose for this type of thing. But even in those slasher films, it just– it feels different, you know? It feels like silly fun. This is mean. This feels personal. This feels like stereotypical “comic geek” in high school, socially inept, turned down by all the popular girls, who all of a sudden gains control of his own universe, and what he does with this universe is make all those girls pay, and when he does it he says “this is for you guys, this is for the rest of you who were abused and felt worthless at the hands of Billy and his gang who called themselves the Bad Boyz.” But what the people who published this book need to realize is two things: first, high school ends and you grow up and you stop pretending like someone calling you “gay” when you were 17 years old is the most traumatizing thing that could possibly happen to you, and second, that maybe, just maybe, perpetuating this kind of attitude, and these kinds of ideas, is dangerous. Glorifying violence towards women serves no purpose in this story, and what’s worse it’s irresponsible and sets a poor example to its audience, saying it’s ok to think of women this way, it’s ok to think of them as sex objects, and so when you brutally murder them it doesn’t matter, because hey, that’s what objectifying’s all about, right? It makes it so you don’t feel bad about being a misogynist and a sadist.
See, that’s why mainstream comics are fucked up. It’s so much easier than “women in refrigerators”, and strong female protagonists, and all that. Let’s start at the basics: when you objectify women, when you do an Ed Benes hack job and make the majority of your fanbase see women as cum-dumpsters and submissives, or when you pull a Bendis and turn a scene with Tigra into a weird S&M fantasy projection, you are not hurting comics, you are hurting society. As an editor, by turning to complaints about your Divas book and saying “hey, if you don’t like it don’t buy it”, you’re dismissing people’s legitimate concerns, and for those people out there who are alienated by it, for those out there who are downright offended, you’re saying “go fuck yourself, because there’s thousands of teen to middle-aged men who don’t give a shit about you and I’m one of them”.
So, yeah, Cheshire Cat… it’s about the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland who gets a boner by killing women. It’s fucking stupid.
Welcome to HASBTHPITTIRTW (I really mean it, this name will never change). Each Thursday I’ll be reviewing some comics I bought the day before from my local comic shop, Bergen Street Comics.
Side note: I’ve been posting much less frequently lately, and I truly apologize but there’s been a lot of personal shit going on lately which is finally done with. Thanks for the patience, all.
Anyway, here’s what you should or should not have bought this week:
This was just a solid, fun, filler issue by Gail Simone. The first part of this story has the Secret Six take a little R&R, with two members of the team going out on a double date. The second part deals with a dreaming Rag Doll, drawn by the Tiny Titans team, which adds a little more levity to the already funny tale.
Fill-in artist Carlos Rodriguez’ art keeps up with the series, and thus far, with Simone’s writing, Secret Six has been the sexiest series going. Maybe that’s weird to say about a book featuring two characters in a weirdly erotic father/daughter type relationship, a character with a strange S&M fetish, and a storyline featuring a disgusting, sadistic killer who whips out her saggy breasts after beating the crap out of the guy who crippled Batman, but it is what it is. And kudos to Simone for writing a gay character correctly; Scandal Savage is portrayed as neither butch nor a “lipstick lesbian”. Her sexuality isn’t wedged into the story with that sort of heavy handed, cavalier, “LOL SHE’S A LESBIAN GET IT” plot device that is so common, either. She’s just a character that happens to be a lesbian. Of course, you probably take issue with this if you follow DC’s slogan of “comics are for men, and protagonists should be men, because really women aren’t as strong or smart as men anyway and I want realism (!!!) in my comics, so forget about promotion for Manhunter or Birds of Prey, we only promote one female character and that’s Wonder Woman (except ha ha not really!) and I want more penis in my comics!” It’s not as catchy as Make Mine Marvel but they seem to be doing alright with it.
Green Lantern is my absolutely, do-no-wrong, favorite comic book character. I think I’ve mentioned this here before. I don’t like being one of those guys who says something like that, but I mean I bought the Final Night trade paperback because it contains Hal Jordan’s official “death”, so come on let’s call a spade a spade. I’ve been pretty lucky over the past couple of years, too, because GL and GL Corps have been some of the best superhero storytelling around.
But here’s the thing: I’m getting a little tired of this red hearts, yellow stars, green clovers lantern thing. It was really fun when it was a new, fresh idea during the “SinestroWar”, and I was excited at the idea of the “War of Light”, but in practice it comes off as lazy storytelling. Maybe it would be more compelling if it wasn’t so rushed– but in the past few months we’ve had Raging Red Lanterns, Hindu Elephant Blue Lanterns, Star Sapphire Lanterns, and now Agent Orange: the Orange Lantern. I understand that “Blackest Night” is going to be DC’s giant load, but god damn usually the girl likes it when you take a little time before blowing it all over her stomach.
Warren Ellis brings us his latest Avatar miniseries, and it blows the rest of them out of the water. Ellis has been an Avatar superstar the last few years with Black Summer, Doktor Sleepless, and Anna Mercury all being big sellers for the independent publisher, and all of them falling short of a certain quality we’ve come to expect from Ellis. As a matter of fact until I started reading his web comic FreakAngels I had given up all hope on Ellis, and honestly thought he’d gotten a little boring. It was because of FrakAngels that I decided to give his Avatar work another chance, and Ignition City did not disappoint.
The story takes place in an alternate history 1950′s, where aliens have already unsuccessfully tried to take over the planet, and steam powered airplanes roam the skies. Right off the bat Ellis and artist Pagliarani, whom he reunites with after last working on Aetheric Mechanics, set the tone with stunning, detailed visuals reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic settings of FreakAngels, if not more breathtaking. Ellis’ fifties are a new wild west; one with rayguns and spaceships instead of six-shooters and stallions. The characters, after one sitting, are so memorable they almost come alive and walk off the page.
If Warren Ellis is anything he’s original, whether you like him or not, and the first issue of Ignition City is something that can only come from a mind like his. I saw some archived blog entry of his where he compared the story to a futuristic Deadwood; an ensemble Western, except with Buck Rodgers screaming, “FUCK!”. If anything, this is a series to follow on that explanation alone. I’ve never given a grade before but this is A+ stuff.
033 The Representation of Women in Comics panel: Chelsea thought it was dumb and then I agreed with her.
The following entry was written by non-comic book fan and friend of the blog Chelsea Bahr.
Perhaps the most irritating thing about the gender argument is the fact that the people that always seem to be doing the arguing are either a) extremely irritating b) misinformed c) extreme and entirely unwilling to even consider anything outside their argument (Editor’s Note: Wednesday’s Child feels that he is none of these things.) Unlucky for me, the Representation of Women in Comics panelists were all of the above. Moderated by Abby Denson, Chris Butzer of Rabid Rabbit, cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki of Skim fame, Robin Furth, who adapted Stephen King’s Dark Tower for Marvel, and a couple others not only decided to use the hour for their own self-promotion, but danced around the already vague and predictable questions Denson posed. Sorry guys, but the fact that some women find a 36-24-36 blonde bombshell in skin tight latex offensive is nothing new.
As Denson asked questions like, “What comes to mind when you think of ‘the representation of women in comics’?” and “Do you think the portrayal of women has progressed?” I watched as audience members became (if they weren’t already) totally uninterested. I couldn’t help but feel like these shallow, unaffecting questions had been scrawled out onto a napkin on the hike over from the food court. Not only did they fail to establish any sort of dialogue from the panelists, but they also didn’t allow any room for audience members to open up a discussion of their own.
Most irritating about the panel (aside from the complete lethargy) was the hypocrisy found therein. The driving point reiterated over and over throughout the hour by each of the panelists was that females have progressed in comics because of the shift in their positions of power. ORLY? Denson mentioned- several times- her current project centered around Aunt May stealing Peter Parker’s Spidey Suit to go fight crime, unbeknownst to him. She emphasized how she felt the character of Aunt May has always been so “dated”, wearing “unfashionable clothes” and “staying at home all day twiddling her thumbs”. Denson said she felt compelled to transform Aunt May’s character into a strong, modern woman. This really made me raise my eyebrows. So the only way Aunt May is able to be “strong” is by putting on a male character’s suit and going out to “fight crime”- the traditional male “action role”? So older women who “sit at home” and exhibit any sort of femininity can’t be strong, since strength is apparently still being equated with stereotypical masculinity? So not only are you perpetuating gender stereotypes, but you are recreating gender boundaries? Well that’s great. Thanks so much Denson! I’ll be sure to wipe off my nailpolish the next time I decide to shotgun a beer.
A response, by Paul DeBenedetto:
While I did not attend this panel I agree with Chelsea here, insofar as a lot of argument regarding strong women protagonists is that it’s important to prove that women can do what men can do; the problem with this is that you’re making men the barometer. By saying “I’m just as tough as that guy; see?”, you’re basically setting yourself up to fail, because essentially saying this perpetuates the idea that, overall, men are “better” than women- that is, if there’s such a struggle for women to prove themselves to men the implication is that men are something women should aspire to be like.
Ultimately, rather than try to “masculize” women in comics, why not accentuate their inherent femininity? It’s like my friend Thimali once said to me; she’s a woman, and she knows there are clear differences between her and a man. Not weaknesses or strengths, just differences.If she were in Aunt May’s shoes, for example, she wouldn’t need to dress in that Spider Suit to prove she can “hang with the boys”. Yes, generally men are hopped up on testosterone, but aren’t women more emotional animals? Paraphrasing her (probably butchering her real comments, actually): “once a month my emotions are thrown for a loop. I am happy, I am sad, I am angry, I am moody. And thus by definition I am more in touch with my emotions than a man is.” And this is true. Men and women experience different things, are built differently, and thus act differently.
This is not to say that female characters CAN’T be traditionally strong or tough. Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Powergirl, Batgirl, Batwoman, Echo, Ms. Marvel, Elektra; all of these characters are physically strong, and it’s in character. Aunt May? Not so much. Incidentally, you know who else is “dated” and wears “unfashionable clothes”? My grandmother.
Yes, throughout history masculinity and the “Alpha Male” have been dominant, whether it be on television, in literature, or even in the workplace. But isn’t the answer to rebel against and reject THAT idea, rather than to ostensibly play into it?
Just a quick thought for today.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about creators, specifically how and to what extent their views and personal opinions shape their creations. Recently a friend and I were discussing the recent controversy and subsequent blogosphere coverage (including right here) of Bill Willingham’s mission statement against “superhero decadence”. It was essentially a conservative creator’s manifesto, and while discussing it, my friend Matt had mentioned that, while not having any specific references or examples, he did get an overall neo-con, “hawkish” feel from Fables.
Over at the Cerebus Diablog, where Laura Hudson and Leigh Walton are revisiting the story of Cerebus issue by issue, a conversation about the misogyny of the perpetually controversial Dave Sim broke out after just two issues! Sim, a man who has had plenty to say about women through the years, chooses as Cerebus’ foe a succubus; a creature which takes the form of a beautiful woman in order to suck the soul and energy from a poor, unsuspecting male. Subtle.
Now, I happen to think that Fables is one of the better comics of the past twenty years and that Cerebus is a work of staggering genius. I love both works and could care less about the writers’ personal beliefs. But at the same time I sometimes wonder why I would openly criticize these men and yet support the work they do. All over the internet there are swarms of people boycotting the books and dropping Fables completely from their pull list. So how much are the creations shaped by the creator? Am I a hypocrite?
I think it’s pretty safe to say that comics have, traditionally, been a “boy’s club”. From the characters all the way up to the creators and editors, high ranking females are hard to come by. Sure there’s your exceptions: Wonder Woman is one of DC’s “holy trinity” along with Superman and Batman. Gail Simone is one of the best writers in mainstream comics, and Karen Berger is executive editor at Vertigo, DC’s mature reader imprint. But while it’s nice to have exceptions I think this is a pretty clear case of those exceptions proving the rule.
Heidi McDonald, on her blog entry last month about this very topic, made an interesting observation which I think illustrates the point perfectly:
While indie and manga scenes have given rise to dozens of notable women creators on all levels, there are still only a tiny handful of mainstream female “superstars.” For instance, the New York Comic-Con has announced dozens of featured guests – including the tech writer for Newsweek, the marketing director for Bandai, and the guy who covers video games for MTV News — and only two women, Barbara Canepa and Colleen Doran.
As it stands the list has grown, and the percentage of women involved is even smaller. This is not to blame the NYCC itself; on the contrary, it’s not their fault at all that there’s not enough women in the industry for them to make a bigger impact at the convention. But the question remains: who is to blame?
Who’s to blame for the cancellation of female superhero books like Manhunter, a book about a female character not created to further a male character’s popularity, nor whom becomes a costumed vigilante because she was a victim who wanted to get back at her oppressor. She’s a lawyer who’s tired of the guilty getting off, so she puts on a costume and kicks their asses. Perfect example of a positive female portrayal in comics. So again, who’s to blame? The fans? Do comic book fans really not want to see a popular female character? I doubt that’s the case, as there was a pretty solid, albeit small, fan base for the book. I would moreso think it’s a case of the publisher ASSUMING fans don’t want female characters, and thus not promoting her correctly. Manhunter could have been one of their biggest books in my opinion, and they seriously dropped the ball.
Or how about Birds of Prey, Simone’s very popular all-female book which was both critically and financially successful, which was just canceled and replaced with an Oracle mini-series. Dan Didio was quoted in a Newsarama interview as saying:
Like I said, Birds of Prey goes away, but there’s an Oracle miniseries coming which places a prominent female character front and center.
which is sort of like saying “I’m not racist, I know a black guy!”His logic is of course ridiculous, since BoP was an ongoing series, while Oracle is a six-issue limited series that will probably get little to no attention. So who is to blame for that? Clearly this is not the case of fans not caring, so why kill the book?
As far as women having jobs as editors, writers, artists, and other positions in the industry, well, that one seems a little easier to answer. Women in the workplace have traditionally been held back (hell, I work at a company with not one minority or female high-ranking executive) so it’s no surprise it would happen in comics, especially with the stigma comics have as being “for the boys”, which is not helped by posts such as this.
And so I guess another question we need to answer is as to why this is happening. I think to dismiss it as “girls don’t like comics as much as boys” is irresponsible, and doesn’t really help solve the actual problem at hand. If you don’t know anything about Women in Refridgerator syndrome read up on it, it’s pretty interesting stuff, but it’s basically a theory hyptohesized by Gail Simone regarding the use of female characters as a way to make male characters more popular. Her final conclusion is that if you kill, maim, or depower the strong female characters that girls can relate to then girls will stop reading comics. And to me it’s a strong case: what girl is going to want to read comics if there’s no one to identify with?
Side note – going back to that ComicCon list, apparently Anthony Forrest is billed as a “celebrity guest”. I had no idea who he was so I read the description: he was the stormtrooper that gets hypnotized by Obi-Wan at Mos Eisley in the original Star Wars movie. And I assure you, his booth will be packed. Sigh…. nerds will get excited by anything.