The Month DC Brought Sexy Back...Sorta.

Posted by HexThis (916 posts) - - Show Bio

I’ve always been a major advocate of female superheroes as well as representation of women which usually prompts a reaction that is not unlike an elderly relative. “Again with these female superheroes! What is with you and those female superheroes?” they ask me with what I imagine to be emphatic gestures of frustration. Yet, as always, I see this recent point of contention as being a great window of opportunity for myself and those of us who are like-minded to be heard to express our opinion in the most articulate, non-argumentative way possible.

The number one argument from most people of an opposing opinion is that comics are mainly bought by a male audience and that women are rendered and written to be appeasing to that specific audience. Fair enough, it’s not as though it isn’t true but there’s a much harsher reality that blows the former right out of the water. Nobody reads comics right now. Man or woman, black or white or anything in between. That’s why DC is doing a relaunch, that’s why we have digital comics to take the place of illegal scans because earlier this year comics sales were at a record low.

We have characters like Bat Wing and the new Ultimate Spiderman who are meant to appeal to an untapped black and latino audience and over the years there has been much more exposure in terms of other minorities as well such as Asians and the homosexual population. With each and every attempt there may or may not be a palpable response but when you target a group as broad as females there is a whole spectrum of different races and orientations of which these comics could appeal to that are not being properly appealed to. If you want to come at this from a marketing standpoint, the numbers don’t lie- something about comics just isn’t doing it for most *people* regardless of what category they fall under. Women make up half, in not more than half, of the population so if you’re churning out a product that’s not doing so well with just a male audience and there are women who feel alienated by it and are outraged then there is a major, major problem. Why someone would stop the dialogue at “Well, women don’t really buy comics anyways” is beyond me.

The second argument that usually follows is the argument that men are equally as objectified as women. To me, this is an outrageous comparison that is completely disproportionate. Speaking of proportions, usually as a supporting point people will say “Well men are depicted as being extremely muscular and are frequently shirtless” which is true to a certain extent. Bruce Wayne works out shirtless, Superman has occasionally been rendered shirtless after the occasional tussle, and Wolverine has gone on quite a few naked rampages. But for every one of those instances there’s a slew of female characters whose costumes, the outfits they wear when they engage in combat, look not unlike FHM models. Exposed legs, exposed waists, ample cleavage, and ass-cheeks with their own zipcode galore and not just in contextual situations like a shower or as an undercover guise but as their normal day wear, as the things they carry out arduous daily activities in.

Furthermore, musculature is something that doesn’t appear to alienate or offend men otherwise how would you account for these action movies predominantly male audiences go out to see that have bulky, ripped men running around and exploding things? It’s par for the course, it makes sense someone who beats people up for a living would need those. But is it necessary for a female assassin to wear to a thread between her butt-cheeks meant to resemble a thong out on the job? No. More importantly, it shows anyone on the outside that characters like Witchblade or Vampirella or Psylocke prioritize looking sexy over looking like a formidable opponent. In order for women to garner or generate any kind of excitement, according to the editors, they need to be scantily clad above all else.

Another harsh reality about comics is that the outsider perspective of them isn’t really a favorable one either. The public perception of people who read comicbooks is that they are usually small, squirmy men who leisurely wear Darth Vader masks and shamelessly turn to puddles of sweat at the mere sight of an attractive woman. They based a successful TV show on that premise called “The Big Bang Theory” as well as many other franchises. It’s not necessarily an accurate portrayal of every comicbook aficionado but having women with spherical breasts and blow-up doll lips extending themselves in conveniently sexual positions doesn’t help this perception- it perpetuates it. So long as that is true there isn’t going to an upsurge of interest in comics, people will just assume it’s a phenomenon with an exclusive, cult following rather than the all inclusive, versatile, and multi-faceted landscape it truly is. Not to mention, it talks down to comicbook readers and men in general alike to say that they can only be engaged in what female character is doing if she’s half-naked.

I think the response to this from most people from an opposing standpoint is that of someone answering to charges and though people have certainly blown the whistle on sexism we’re all still in it for the same thing. Everyone wants comics to be successful and there’s no movement that I can see to ban any sort of sexuality or sexual innuendo for comics, it’s a big part of their inception into modern day pop culture. I wouldn’t brand anyone “sexist” off the cuff because I’m offended but that doesn’t make my plea any less either. For me, it’s about taste, it’s about inclusivity, and it’s about respecting the product that is being marketed to millions of fans. Starfire is a product, Catwoman is a product, Wonder Woman is a product and even moreso they are legacies of other writers, artists, and editors that need to be dealt with in the most careful, thoughtful way possible. These may be fictional characters we’re speaking of but they resonate with millions over generations, people not only look up to these characters but they look to them with certain ideals in mind- they may not all be met but it’s important that the effort is exerted anyways.

By the way, simply because I feel this way it in no way means I’ll turn my back on my dear Selina Kyle. I absolutely love Catwoman and furthermore I felt the scene in which she had sex with Batman was perfectly tantalizing and fantastic because it seemed as though it would be something they would share together. She longs for Bruce, Bruce longs for her, hence the sexual explosion on the final pages…it’s only logical. I actually think Judd Winnick’s characterization of Catwoman was fair and true to her as well as his observations and assessments of her character but if I am to read a comic about her I want to be able to see her face and not her cleavage predominantly in it’s place. One doesn’t have to push the envelope with Catwoman, it’s been long pushed for decades now the sex is there no matter what, it’s not so crucial to emphasize on it above all else.

Gratitous sexual exploitation like Marvel’s flimsy attempt at capitalizing on the X-women with Milo Manara and Chris Claremont doesn’t entice me and I think the world could do without, same with tentacle porn wherein captive women in fear for their life and in fear of being violated is sexualized. If you get your rocks off the X-women or Wonder Woman or even Granny Gooddness without having to pop a viagara you have my stamp of approval but not when it conflicts with the mainstream comics and the unmet needs of people who don’t share your particular fetish. I’d like to see Batman in the buff but do I expect it when I read his comics? Does it compel me to read his comics? No. Theoretically I could just whether the gore storm of American Psycho if it was something I really wanted. This proposed theory that men will only be engaged if constantly aroused is utterly ridiculous as I’m sure most have sought refuge in internet porn.

All that I would personally ask is that women are afforded the same comfort with their sexuality that men are. You don’t see a lot of male superheroes who are exhibitionist, who try to lean in a way that perfectly accentuates their arse, who are put into conveniently overtly sexual positions on a routine basis. That is comfort with one’s sexuality, the ability to insert it into situations cleverly and believably not dressed as a Scores employee fighting crime on a cigarette break. Nudity, sexuality, discussion of sex…it all has a place but when it begins to define a character or diminish a character it just devalues their worth to something far more superficial and I don’t believe banking on that is a long term solution for comics in the state they’re in.

#1 Posted by No_Name_ (12593 posts) - - Show Bio

Great blog post!

#2 Posted by KRYPTON (1868 posts) - - Show Bio

Good job HexThis, also congrats on getting featured

#3 Posted by JonesDeini (3501 posts) - - Show Bio

Very nice blog

#4 Posted by The Velvet Rabbit (254 posts) - - Show Bio

excellent blog! and I know based on my tastes it's like the pot calling the kettle black, but I'm glad you pointed out the whole X-Women thing - I'm not really a fan of Milo Manara's art, and I found it to be a bit of a low point for Claremont. as I've stated on several occasions, people like Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell and Bruce Timm are (I believe, anyway - the people over at the John Byrne forum might disagree, however) talented artists, and there should always be a market for their art. unfortunately, I always see these T&A pictures of Psylocke, and I can't help but feel that this isn't the image female superheroes need to be portraying to the audiences they're trying to attract. I like to think of this as She-Hulk disease - an occasional dose of fanservice is acceptable to a degree (if not a bit unnecessary at times), but when you begin circulating a character's entire existence around pandering, it becomes one-dimensional way too fast. sorry for the rant - just wanted to say I enjoyed this blog very much :)

#5 Posted by HexThis (916 posts) - - Show Bio

@Babs said:

Great blog post!

Gosh, thanks Babs!

@The Velvet Rabbit said:

excellent blog! and I know based on my tastes it's like the pot calling the kettle black, but I'm glad you pointed out the whole X-Women thing - I'm not really a fan of Milo Manara's art, and I found it to be a bit of a low point for Claremont. as I've stated on several occasions, people like Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell and Bruce Timm are (I believe, anyway - the people over at the John Byrne forum might disagree, however) talented artists, and there should always be a market for their art. unfortunately, I always see these T&A pictures of Psylocke, and I can't help but feel that this isn't the image female superheroes need to be portraying to the audiences they're trying to attract. I like to think of this as She-Hulk disease - an occasional dose of fanservice is acceptable to a degree (if not a bit unnecessary at times), but when you begin circulating a character's entire existence around pandering, it becomes one-dimensional way too fast. sorry for the rant - just wanted to say I enjoyed this blog very much :)

A good thing about the X-woman comic was that it sold horribly and ultimately the rest of the series was never released outside of Europe. But this was something that Marvel decided to publish after announcing it would be "the year of women!"....what a ringing endorsement, huh?

#6 Posted by HexThis (916 posts) - - Show Bio

@JonesDeini @KRYPTON

Double thanks!

#7 Posted by NightFang (10254 posts) - - Show Bio

@Babs said:

Great blog post!

#8 Posted by jubilee042 (1345 posts) - - Show Bio

really great blog post loved it and i agree with u 100%

#9 Posted by Topher5151992 (136 posts) - - Show Bio

Very well written and thought out. Great job! I definitely agree with you.

#10 Posted by crusader8463 (214 posts) - - Show Bio

If it fits with the character then I'm all for them flaunting it around and using their sexuality to get what they want. I have never meet an attractive woman in real life that didn't try to use her T&A to manipulate guys into getting her way from time to time, so I'm not surprised when super powered super models do it in comics.

#11 Posted by RainEffect (3240 posts) - - Show Bio
@HexThis: I just have to say, HexThis, I absolutely adore your blog posts. They are so contemplative, passionate and well-constructed.
#12 Posted by gothicshieldagent (47 posts) - - Show Bio

Hmmm,notice you only mentioned mostly DC characters and what does Ultimate Spidey's race have to do with sexuality?

#13 Posted by HexThis (916 posts) - - Show Bio

@gothicshieldagent said:

Hmmm,notice you only mentioned mostly DC characters and what does Ultimate Spidey's race have to do with sexuality?

I didn't only use DC characters as examples actually- all my pictures are Marvel women. And I was saying that titles always seem to be willing to appeal other races but when it comes to women (who can be any number of races, religions, or orientations) they frequently say only men read comics anyways. It's contradictory.

#14 Posted by Lonestar88 (170 posts) - - Show Bio

This a great blog post, I definitely agree. I thought the best point was that the "Target audience" argument is silly since comics aren't selling well. With sales as bad as they are, maybe comics should find some new target audiences. 
 
I thought that's what the purpose of the new 52 was, at least that's what would make sense. If they weren't targeting new audiences, then what was the point.

#15 Posted by fodigg (6136 posts) - - Show Bio

Well said. You see these arguments over and over and I never really find them compelling.

#16 Posted by Superguy0009e (2265 posts) - - Show Bio

Finally someone who gets that people want strong attractive characters...not tough slutty ones. i want to be able to read a comic without seeing butt floss every panel.

#17 Posted by B'Town (2336 posts) - - Show Bio

@RainEffect said:

@HexThis: I just have to say, HexThis, I absolutely adore your blog posts. They are so contemplative, passionate and well-constructed.

Yes, this. =) Well done.

#18 Edited by Cervantes (601 posts) - - Show Bio

@HexThis: I'm going to surprise everyone and say I think most of the fault (maybe 37%, with 33% avid male gawkers, and 30% being editors) is the MALE ARTISTS!

Check out this illo... Campbell can draw anything, but covers and splash pages of gorgeous chicas can become posters, calendars -- $$$

My response was turning into a textplosion, so I'm putting it in a blog -- that you inspired, woot, woot! Good work...

Sexist Comic Art the Fault of... ARTISTS?

BTW: the strongest proof that artists rather than fans or the bosses are at fault for oversexualization is this clip from a Superman: The Animated Series "The Main Man: Part Two" 3:26 in -- don't tell me the kiddies wanted this, especially again at 6:53!!

#19 Posted by Darkmount1 (1266 posts) - - Show Bio
@HexThis
Your blog post is pretty insightful. Outside the context of it, I'd just say that there'd only be one way to make all parties happy--someone take over both of the big two, iron out a set of rules to decrease fanservice (among other things), and then institute a prominent ratings system for each book. This may sound like the Comics Code, but it's not--it'd be the Ten Commandments of comics. 
 
Otherwise, convince them to just shut down the comics publishing sector, and have them focus on other media. 
 
Pick your poison. Which would you choose?
#20 Edited by DMC (1551 posts) - - Show Bio

Well done....I agree with most of your points.

Except for that sex scene at the end of Catwoman #1 (among other things). There's too many things I just don't like about it.

#22 Posted by NightwalkerRevan (123 posts) - - Show Bio

I always liked Pyslocke's old costume with it's armoured and cloaked look, though that was before she became the Asian assassin with the psionic knife, as much as I appreciate the appeal of the look she has now, I think I still prefer that old one.

I enjoyed reading this, and having read it it, I admit it doesn't always do the perception of comic book fans (at least us male ones) any favours sometimes with how those outside comics might look at us.

#23 Posted by lightfright12 (95 posts) - - Show Bio

@HexThis: Great post, but as for your comment about the costumes, I'll admit the sexualize women, but you have to remember two things. One that many women like to look good, even when fighting evil. The greatest example being wasp, who designed I don't know how many costumes for herself and others one of which is Ms. Marvel, you example above. The other is that more than looks costumes must afford freedom of movement. The reason many superheroes wear skin tight clothing is that if affords freedom of movement, like wearing a second skin, (or in starfires case as little skin as possible). I assume (in comic reality) many women wearing those costumes wear them due to the freedom of movement they offer. The way I understand it, "thongs" despite looking uncomfortable actually offer freedom and ease of movement (if you get over the as bearing aspect) and women wear their costumes the same reason they would wear bathing suits.

#24 Posted by HexThis (916 posts) - - Show Bio

@lightfright12 said:

@HexThis: Great post, but as for your comment about the costumes, I'll admit the sexualize women, but you have to remember two things. One that many women like to look good, even when fighting evil. The greatest example being wasp, who designed I don't know how many costumes for herself and others one of which is Ms. Marvel, you example above. The other is that more than looks costumes must afford freedom of movement. The reason many superheroes wear skin tight clothing is that if affords freedom of movement, like wearing a second skin, (or in starfires case as little skin as possible). I assume (in comic reality) many women wearing those costumes wear them due to the freedom of movement they offer. The way I understand it, "thongs" despite looking uncomfortable actually offer freedom and ease of movement (if you get over the as bearing aspect) and women wear their costumes the same reason they would wear bathing suits.

Fair enough but I see Wasp as a more positive example in a sense. Looking good is by no measure an offense to me, particularly in her case because Janet made her own costumes and they were reflective of her fashion-savvy and classic femininity, everything felt as though it were on her terms. If anything the Wasp was unfortunately subject to poor characterization (particularly recently) but never really visually exploited to be a living wet dream.

I understand the need for form-fitting costumes as well and I understand that aspect but mobility in the leg area doesn't require that one wear a thong with a strap that disappears between butt cheeks. I can't imagine very many girls want to look like that, as a matter in fact, most women seem to dread things like bikinis all together and they're not even going into combat while wearing them.

Anyways, Daredevil, Spiderman, Batman, the Black Panther and many others have accomplished feats of agility without resorting to thongs or even exposed skin really.

#25 Posted by xsuit (6 posts) - - Show Bio

I must say I disagree. To quantify what I mean by that, well it sounds mostly as if you're taking shots across Marvel's bow for one. I came to this article because the titled caught my attention but all I've received was generally attacks at Marvel.

Its been said often and in uproar about costume choices of heroines but aside from a few cases I can't say they're really that surprising. As one of the commentators mentioned earlier about model-esque women flaunting their sexuality. It's true. I've personally witness on numerous occasion, while in college, women who wore clothes that lacked any sort of practicality given their surroundings. I.e. stiletto heels and short skirts in the middle of December in Buffalo, NY. Being New York, you can imagine there was indeed iced pavement and snow on the ground. I honestly thought to myself how ridiculous it was but because such was a common event, there was little left to explore. Jumping back to the original point, women can and have sexualized themselves just as much as men do. Now in the context of nigh-invulnerable characters, choices of attire become moot. Supergirl can rock a skirt or in the new 52 what is essentially a one piece bathing suit. Bullets don't phase her. In the cases with assassin's, sex appeal can easily be attributed to being as dangerous/distracting as any other ploy to garner a loss of focus of one's adversary.

Moving to the illicit poses, therein I give leeway only to the fact that it's simply not a two way street. Reality is clear in that department. Men just don't move like women do. There's almost a art to the way a woman can move and I'm not idolizing, it's clearly visible if you just stop and look around for a moment. be it in part to difference in centers of gravity or etc. there just tends to be a gracefulness/fluid quality that is generally lost in male movement. Drawing this back to costume design then it's clear that of course designs between male and female counterparts would be sharply contrasted.

Returning back to costume choices. Can it really be said that it's not a male dominated industry. Attacking Marvel seems a little premature as I recall a large debacle at the mention of their "Marvel Diva" miniseries. People were up in arms over the cover of the issue. Just the cover. The issue was at least a month from release. I remember this clearly since around the same time, DC was releasing it's own female team series, "Gotham Citty Sirens." Alot of boards were going crazy over the former but it seemed that latter was largely being overlooked. As one who has read them both I can say that I'm amazed that they seemed to so quietly disappear from people's minds. Marvel Divas didn't see well. I personally enjoyed it immensely. It was not oversexualized and simply followed the lives of four heroines as they lived. The art was great. The writing engaging. So many people couldn't get past the cover to be bothered however. Though with DC's counterpart I genuinely felt a little like dirt after reading some of the issues. The gratuitous shots of stiletto acrobatics and low angle shots of them just talking to a set of panels where the three protagonists' home is set ablaze and SPOILERS: Posion Ivy uses the fluids from a giant cactus to doze the flames effectively covering all three ladies and in a white-ish substance END SPOILERS. Really made me question how I wasn't seeing flat out riots at how poorly these well-known, at least by my perspective, were being so mistreated. I've never seen Maria Hill, Pepper Potts, or Daisy Johnson, Marvel Heroines with respectable fighting attire, given such treatment but then again books featuring them don't seem to do as well as any other books anyway.

Clearly I've rambled enough. I don't wholeheartedly disagree with this article but I cannot sit here after all I've read (comic book-wise and other) and sit blindly by as if there's no counterargument. Thanks for taking the time to read this if you have.

#26 Posted by HexThis (916 posts) - - Show Bio

@xsuit said:

I must say I disagree. To quantify what I mean by that, well it sounds mostly as if you're taking shots across Marvel's bow for one. I came to this article because the titled caught my attention but all I've received was generally attacks at Marvel.

I also happen to have written at length about many of Marvel's characters with the utmost enthusiasm and appreciation. This is a criticism, the basic message of what I've intended to express is that both Marvel and DC have some incredible female characters that they're simply not investing in nearly enough nor are they taking them as seriously as they should. "Batman and Robin" displayed closeups on backends and nipples on the chestplates of Batman and the boy wonder and it had every fanboy up in a tizzy, completely outraged along with the generally goofy nature of that whole tangential take on the Batman franchise. This is not very different. DC misused their own material and lent it off to someone who didn't have the nuances to portray it in a way that people enjoy. It's a similar sentiment when it comes to women leaning every which way to strike a pose, barely dressed, and tossing around innuendo more than the word "the".

Its been said often and in uproar about costume choices of heroines but aside from a few cases I can't say they're really that surprising. As one of the commentators mentioned earlier about model-esque women flaunting their sexuality. It's true. I've personally witness on numerous occasion, while in college, women who wore clothes that lacked any sort of practicality given their surroundings. I.e. stiletto heels and short skirts in the middle of December in Buffalo, NY. Being New York, you can imagine there was indeed iced pavement and snow on the ground. I honestly thought to myself how ridiculous it was but because such was a common event, there was little left to explore.

I've also seen men in shorts and t-shirts in that sort of weather as a somewhat macho-infused opposition to the cold but none of them are going out to fight Skrulls or the Joker's henchmen. Yes, not everyone dresses for practicality or functionality 100% of the time and there is some leniency in the suspension of disbelief. But the efficiency of Batman wearing a cape as well as the disadvantages of it aren't offensive to as say Storm wearing a low-cut top with a thong and an o-face as her sole expression is. It's not a natural instinct of women to wear things that could cause discomfort, it's societal, it's a long-existing aesthetic but the situation you describe is entirely different.

Moving to the illicit poses, therein I give leeway only to the fact that it's simply not a two way street. Reality is clear in that department. Men just don't move like women do. There's almost a art to the way a woman can move and I'm not idolizing, it's clearly visible if you just stop and look around for a moment. be it in part to difference in centers of gravity or etc. there just tends to be a gracefulness/fluid quality that is generally lost in male movement. Drawing this back to costume design then it's clear that of course designs between male and female counterparts would be sharply contrasted.

That's true, a woman's body language is significantly different in the way she relates to her environment. Men and women have different assets to flaunt however, the emphasis with most male characters is strength. You see male characters taking positions where they are standing up straight and looking authoritative with barrel-shaped chests, crossed arms, tensed shoulders and perhaps not every woman necessarily has to mirror that but there's a difference between a woman who looks confident and sexy vs a woman who's doing an outrageously salacious pose.

Returning back to costume choices. Can it really be said that it's not a male dominated industry. Attacking Marvel seems a little premature as I recall a large debacle at the mention of their "Marvel Diva" miniseries. People were up in arms over the cover of the issue. Just the cover. The issue was at least a month from release. I remember this clearly since around the same time, DC was releasing it's own female team series, "Gotham Citty Sirens." Alot of boards were going crazy over the former but it seemed that latter was largely being overlooked. As one who has read them both I can say that I'm amazed that they seemed to so quietly disappear from people's minds. Marvel Divas didn't see well.

I didn't have any problem with Marvel Divas (except for the goofy title), I actually love Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. However, not long after Marvel released that they released "X-women" which was the Milo Manara comic that depicted Psylocke, Shadowcat, Storm, and Rachel Summers bound and gagged in cloth bikinis with o-faces in thongs and almost ridiculously suggestive porno-inspired poses on nearly every page - not a strong vote of confidence for female readers. Then before that there was the "Heroes for Hire" tentacle rape cover controversy as well as that statue released of MJ washing Spiderman's uniform with a thong on, a pearl necklace, and wayyyy lowcut jeans. Joe Quesada always defends these things too which I don't understand in the slightest but even as recently as a few months ago someone asked about sexism in comics for one of his "Cup of Joe" features and he told them just not to even buy them if they seemed sexist. I don't buy comics that offend me but I've had to let a few go that have and would be willing to buy them again if they reflected something positive and apparently there are many like-minded people of a similar opinion.

Marvel seems to think women will only read comics if it's similar to a "Sex and the City" premise (like with Marvel Divas) or about fashion (like with Models Inc.) or of some Notebook-caliber love story. Meanwhile, many girls watch shows like Buffy or True Blood or read books like Hunger Game that feature about the same amount of action, adventure, and romance that most superhero franchises do. I like Marvel's effort but they try to appeal to women in the most stereotypical way possible and still permit quite a bit that will offend them. That's why I take umbrage with them, I love the characters, I love the mythology but if you read any of their books not only are the examples I mentioned above within them but women don't even really get all that much feature. The X-men lately is all about Wolverine and Scott yet when Uncanny sold the most comics was when Storm was in charge.

And clearly, given this was all prompted by DC titles Marvel isn't the only one. In essence, I don't want to "attack" either one of them, I'm a customer and potentially a customer who would shell out more money for a better product.

#27 Posted by lykopis (10746 posts) - - Show Bio

@HexThis said:

In essence, I don't want to "attack" either one of them, I'm a customer and potentially a customer who would shell out more money for a better product.

This.

#28 Posted by xsuit (6 posts) - - Show Bio

@HexThis:

@HexThis said:

I also happen to have written at length about many of Marvel's characters with the utmost enthusiasm and appreciation. This is a criticism, the basic message of what I've intended to express is that both Marvel and DC have some incredible female characters that they're simply not investing in nearly enough nor are they taking them as seriously as they should. "Batman and Robin" displayed closeups on backends and nipples on the chestplates of Batman and the boy wonder and it had every fanboy up in a tizzy, completely outraged along with the generally goofy nature of that whole tangential take on the Batman franchise. This is not very different. DC misused their own material and lent it off to someone who didn't have the nuances to portray it in a way that people enjoy. It's a similar sentiment when it comes to women leaning every which way to strike a pose, barely dressed, and tossing around innuendo more than the word "the".

I don't believe it applies in this instance since where that is concerned we're looking at two different mediums. I found a great deal of things to not appreciate about that movie, least of which being the costume change/addition. That being said one thing I can't fault it for would be having very few gratuitous shots of the female protagonist. At least I don't recall very many of them if any at all. Thinking back to film as a medium, I can't really recall too many movies from large properties that grossly objectified women. Of course my experience with that form are limited to a majority of the largest "hits."

I've also seen men in shorts and t-shirts in that sort of weather as a somewhat macho-infused opposition to the cold but none of them are going out to fight Skrulls or the Joker's henchmen. Yes, not everyone dresses for practicality or functionality 100% of the time and there is some leniency in the suspension of disbelief. But the efficiency of Batman wearing a cape as well as the disadvantages of it aren't offensive to as say Storm wearing a low-cut top with a thong and an o-face as her sole expression is. It's not a natural instinct of women to wear things that could cause discomfort, it's societal, it's a long-existing aesthetic but the situation you describe is entirely different.

I guess I just didn't come across the point as completely as I had hoped to. I by no means meant to imply that it was a majority of women with such feelings as far as attire goes but just that it wasn't uncommon to see groupings of like minded individuals in outfits that defy practicality. In many ways they could be easily have been identified as a minority that given factors of age, experience, circumstance, and etc. just have such a mentality but then I dare posit that the same could very well apply to heroines. Them being a minority as well in the super heroics department. Though that isn't to say I don't applaud a costume change, e.g. the Huntress' armor, or the refitting of many heroines with boots as opposed to the standard stiletto, and frown when a new art team will return them to the impractical all over again. It's just as I stated earlier, I just have a hard time trying to question why there's outcry about Ms. Marvel in heels when she can fly. It just seems like points about impracticality in discomfort become moot when faced with rationale like that coupled with the nigh invulnerability.

I've seen women wear things that absolutely blow my mind. I've even been privy to comedy routines that accurately express my inability to grasp the need or better yet desire for some of the fashion choices that have been made. From my limited perspective I can't imagine who a female is dressing for sometimes when she leaves for the "club scene" wearing practically nothing. I personally don't find it appealing and I imagine for those few depraved individuals out there that'd dare attempt to take advantage of them it's a look they can admire. That being said it really baffles me but I can't contribute that to anything else as it was and still is their choice and that's how I look at comics. Some artists I believe can go too far i.e. "Gotham City Sirens" but, I also don't see how it fits an overall picture of misogyny that some claim.

That's true, a woman's body language is significantly different in the way she relates to her environment. Men and women have different assets to flaunt however, the emphasis with most male characters is strength. You see male characters taking positions where they are standing up straight and looking authoritative with barrel-shaped chests, crossed arms, tensed shoulders and perhaps not every woman necessarily has to mirror that but there's a difference between a woman who looks confident and sexy vs a woman who's doing an outrageously salacious pose.

I agree to an extent only because with highly agile characters I've noticed a different standard. I recall back in Nightwing's stand alone series with his adventures in Bludhaven where the issues would be littered with shots of him going from rooftop to rooftop, swinging and zip lining solely with internal monologue his only companion. It was just him, skin tight suit, essentially just posing in the air. Did I have a problem with it? To be honest, just like when there's random "fan service" of the female variety, I don't take much note of it unless it's excessive. Even now I only recall it because he like Spider-man have had moments like that being characters specifically known for their agility. Moving forward though I don't know how else to say it but mean are built so differently. They don't really have hips which emphasis the rear and were artists to emphasis a male's genitalia the book would most certainly be met with an upgrade to "Adult Magazine" treatment if not criticized for being a danger to children[s health and mental well being. Such a double standard gets on my nerves but I've seen it all too often to believe society has evolved far enough to the point where major companies could easily get away with it. I guess though my only question to you in all this regard would be then is the issue more because of the poses or the costumes themselves?

I didn't have any problem with Marvel Divas (except for the goofy title), I actually love Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. However, not long after Marvel released that they released "X-women" which was the Milo Manara comic that depicted Psylocke, Shadowcat, Storm, and Rachel Summers bound and gagged in cloth bikinis with o-faces in thongs and almost ridiculously suggestive porno-inspired poses on nearly every page - not a strong vote of confidence for female readers. Then before that there was the "Heroes for Hire" tentacle rape cover controversy as well as that statue released of MJ washing Spiderman's uniform with a thong on, a pearl necklace, and wayyyy lowcut jeans. Joe Quesada always defends these things too which I don't understand in the slightest but even as recently as a few months ago someone asked about sexism in comics for one of his "Cup of Joe" features and he told them just not to even buy them if they seemed sexist. I don't buy comics that offend me but I've had to let a few go that have and would be willing to buy them again if they reflected something positive and apparently there are many like-minded people of a similar opinion.

Marvel seems to think women will only read comics if it's similar to a "Sex and the City" premise (like with Marvel Divas) or about fashion (like with Models Inc.) or of some Notebook-caliber love story. Meanwhile, many girls watch shows like Buffy or True Blood or read books like Hunger Game that feature about the same amount of action, adventure, and romance that most superhero franchises do. I like Marvel's effort but they try to appeal to women in the most stereotypical way possible and still permit quite a bit that will offend them. That's why I take umbrage with them, I love the characters, I love the mythology but if you read any of their books not only are the examples I mentioned above within them but women don't even really get all that much feature. The X-men lately is all about Wolverine and Scott yet when Uncanny sold the most comics was when Storm was in charge.

And clearly, given this was all prompted by DC titles Marvel isn't the only one. In essence, I don't want to "attack" either one of them, I'm a customer and potentially a customer who would shell out more money for a better product.

I have not read "X-Women," I cannot begin to dissect something I have no experience in whatsoever. I have read some of "Girl Comics," I have read stories about strong Marvel females i.e. Pepper Potts, Daisy Johnson, Maria Hill, and have expressed my appreciation for those characters both on Marvel boards and standard forums alike and have unfortunately found that I was one of such a small minority that seems to be doing so. I can't being to tackle Storm's role in the X-men since there were pre-Schism already roughly five running x-books not to mention Wolverine's one-shots and etc. But from the "House of M" saga and on I've been keeping mostly in the loop and have found Storm to be fairly absent. I've seen her in the Black Panther books but not so much in the X-men proper. Now I've seen strong females stand up like X-23, Dani Moonstar, Rogue, and even Emma Frost as of late but haven't seen nearly as much publicity. I'm not afraid to admit I wasn't into comics when the "epic" battle that brought Storm to leading the team debuted but I did read the fight and must say I don't see how that one accomplishment seems to dwarf to the point of blocking out completely the development of all these other strong females in the mutant community. I buy books based on story foremost and art secondary. In my opinion, storytelling has only continued to improve from the 80s to now. That being said, also in my opinion, there are more prominent heroines than there were back then. I guess what I mean to say then is that perhaps there more to the drop in sales than the team leader.

Joe Quesada gets a lot of flak for many of his decisions. I know that even though it's years later, people are still flaming him for OMD/BND. I personally defend it when I get the chance to because I got back into "Amazing Spider-Man" as a regular reader because of it. The stories that came about from that event blew my mind with their unique nature and intricacy. Moving back to Marvel and sexualized merchandise, well I can see why the easiest answer for him would be to say to just not buy it. Busts and statues and splash pages depicting things of that nature seem to sell even if the books that contain them don't. And when at conventions there's the free publicity of cosplayers dawning those same impractical costumes or version modified to be even more scandalous, I imagine it's an odd pulse to try to read. I don't understand why it's such a difficult task separating that excess from what you're there for. From my experience with the Teen Titans (v3) pre-New 52, when Wonder Girl lead the team, I lost interest. But it wasn't the dynamic change more than it was the writing. That is to say that then don't solid stories rectify such situations of poor product?

#29 Posted by They Killed Cap! (2235 posts) - - Show Bio

I totally agree with this article and it has been a pet peeve of mine for some time.

#30 Posted by talladegamatt (23 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm not sure I agree with your take on Catwoman or any of the others for that matter. I think the new Catwoman is "Purrfect" to exploit a pun. I think they did just enough with her to make you absolutely buy the next issue and probably commit to the entire future series. Now if they tried to take her to something like Hentai status, i'd agree that it had been taken to far. Right now though, I think Catwoman is exactly who she is supposed to be and I don't think any less of her. I actually am a bit more impressed with the artists ability to draw her in such an appealing light. I'd also point out that the male figures in a lot of these books are drawn just as over the top and sexually appealing to a feminine viewpoint as well. People see what they want to see unless you make sure they see what you want them to see. I agree, it's too bad that often times writers and artists stoop to a level to grab attention or sell a few extra comics but what business doesn't have it's seedy side. It's a part of life as I see it. You can either enjoy it or don't but in the case of Catwoman, i believe they got it right.

#31 Posted by Venoval (13 posts) - - Show Bio

Totally agree with this.

As an heterosexual young man, I didn't like the Starfire beach scene in Red Hood.

It felt so wrong and plastic....

I'm giving Red Hood another chance, but if it makes me feel like that again, basta.

#32 Posted by kartron (400 posts) - - Show Bio

Very good point. I agree with you: Sexy hot comics with no substance is worthless. Making a character sexy is good addition (male/ female) provided there is right script to carry it through. 
 Also I agree with  Cervantes  above that it is the male artists to blame for having the female superheroes to look a little over sexy! I will be honest and say whenever I sketch one, I can't resist making her look hot! :)

#33 Posted by lady_toyano (166 posts) - - Show Bio

@Hex: At the end of the day, you summarized my thoughts on sexism in comics pretty darned well in this one sentence.

For me, it’s about taste, it’s about inclusivity, and it’s about respecting the product that is being marketed to millions of fans.

I have no problem with sex appeal and fan service in my comics. As primal as it may seem after analyzing it, these are things that most people with any kind of hormonal drive will find pleasure in viewing. Titillation is something that is all around us and it has definitely been a part of comic’s allure for a very long time and to be honest I wouldn’t want it to disappear either. Without the inclusion of sensuality thrown in to the concoction of creating comics, they would be incredibly rigid and one dimensional for me as an adult with a wider range of what I now find appealing as opposed to when I was pre-pubescence. As I grew I matured and began to take more adult fancies, and I appreciate that mainstream comics have grown as well with the inclusions of themes that are more adult oriented in tone and theme then I remember 10 years ago. The downside of this inclusion of adult tastes is that it has for a very long time been an incredibly uneven portrayal of appeal when it comes to targeting its market based on the sexes. Anyone who likes looking at Victoria’s Secret has come out on top with epic amounts of appeal to drool over, while those of us looking at sexiest men alive have had our desires pushed to the background by the re-don-cu-lous amounts lady bits being objectified in the hordes.

I see a lot of fierce, and even some nonchalant, but bedroom ready, hrm...

Please don't even get me started on the idolized male forms portrayed in comics as equal objectification either. It's something that sounds like a great rebutted in theory (and in truth should be), but when put into context of the objectification of women to men in comics, it's quite shallow. Sure he's ripped and in spandex, but where he is standing forward and exuding valor, she's off to the side bending over or turned around going come hither. Last time I checked dudes ready for a fight, so why in the hey-hey is she ready to make an AV in the face of danger? I mean, if we're going to go this route and throw our opponents of guard with sex appeal, why isn't everybody doing their part and turning on some sexy?

Why yes, I'd love a sip!

Now I must say that within the last 5 or 6 years, I have definitely seen some improvement. It looks like somebody had been paying attention to the fact that there are more than hetero dudes that read comics and like action as well who deserve to be serviced in the fan ways as well. Characters like Jason Todd and Daken are two of my favorite examples that come to mind. Two dudes that are totally kick butt and know how to work their body language to excite a crowd. It’s really not Rocket science here. Daken can go from handsome to flippn Fug in a matter of seconds, but what helps his appeal is his body language. Jason on the other hand just exudes some kind of psycho crazy sex appeal(maybe it was the Lazerous pit?). Whatever it was, it sure has bought some sexy to this guy. Anything from him being a creeper to getting arrested has a way of being erotic without much effort on his part, but excellent body language.

Yeah, I noticed to.

It is an amazing thing that we can all communicate with whether male or female. Some angelage there and an illusion here and don’t forget to smolder for your close up and BAM! You can’t tell me that’s not sexy. What’s also great about them is that both characters also have a wide range characterization that allows for them to pull of sexy and kick booty without having the reader completely disregard the fact that they can back up that appeal with some killer action.

I also love how you pointed out that a large demographic of popular shows like True Blood have a large female fanbase and have every bit as much action, allure, sex, and general appeal as any comic these days has. This is true, but what makes it different is that the show knows how to cater to more than one audience. For every beautiful country girl having wild sex and being a tease, you had a handsome fellow (be human or some kind of fantasy lure) being just as alluring and suggestive playing up his sex appeal in a ways that made the ladies and dudes who like dudes want to jump their bones. All I’m saying is If one can go out of their way to turn a lady into a contortionist and bend the laws of physics for a t&a shot for a fictional story, I don’t see why it’s so hard to get some eye contact and a tantalizing torso shot leading to that beautiful apex where taught torso meets the pelvis running down to the *ahem* with dudes more often. It’s all about the tease and the fantasy. No one group wants to stand by as they are being tastelessly objectified, but all sides can at least be noted by an equal attempt of stimulation for their team as well.The challenging part is drawing the line between a good tease that keeps the reader grasped while flowing through a page to when it turns into that moment when it’s crossed that line and you have to stop out of sheer *da-Funk* because it is so obvious and forced that one can’t do anything but look at it and go “Why?!” (usually followed by rage rant).

I know a lot of people who talk about the state of comics these days “selling out” or doing things for the sake of shock value, but comics whether speaking through an allegory or being blunt and literal have been and continue to include social commentary on the times around them (usually shown in an incredibly amplified light, but still…); my only hope is that this new generation of comic creators will continue to learn from and explore the variety that different groups of people have to offer in creating well rounded comics that attract all sorts of demographics.

#34 Posted by goldenninja (1 posts) - - Show Bio

@lightfright12 said:

@HexThis: Great post, but as for your comment about the costumes, I'll admit the sexualize women, but you have to remember two things. One that many women like to look good, even when fighting evil. The greatest example being wasp, who designed I don't know how many costumes for herself and others one of which is Ms. Marvel, you example above. The other is that more than looks costumes must afford freedom of movement. The reason many superheroes wear skin tight clothing is that if affords freedom of movement, like wearing a second skin, (or in starfires case as little skin as possible). I assume (in comic reality) many women wearing those costumes wear them due to the freedom of movement they offer. The way I understand it, "thongs" despite looking uncomfortable actually offer freedom and ease of movement (if you get over the as bearing aspect) and women wear their costumes the same reason they would wear bathing suits.

There's a difference between looking fashionably good and looking like a slut and most female characters look like sluts in comics.

#35 Posted by bladewolf (870 posts) - - Show Bio

Great points! I'm a bit late to the party reading this post, but I really enjoyed it.

#36 Edited by COBRAMORPH (1637 posts) - - Show Bio

I dont think its no one is buying them, is that no can afford to "waste" money on comics. Thats what the internet does, allow you to get things for free.

I look at the female heros & their overly sexual costumes being like how all of the attractive actresses, athletes, musicians, they all do Maxim photo shots. Some even do playboy. Witchblade, Vampirella & ESPECIALLY Psylocke,a model, does prioritize looking sexy, & they do look like FHM models because in-universe, they WANT to be in FHM. No, the female outfits are not that far removed from how women actually do dress.

#37 Posted by lykopis (10746 posts) - - Show Bio

@COBRAMORPH said:

I dont think its no one is buying them, is that no can afford to "waste" money on comics. Thats what the internet does, allow you to get things for free.

I look at the female heros & their overly sexual costumes being like how all of the attractive actresses, athletes, musicians, they all do Maxim photo shots. Some even do playboy. Witchblade, Vampirella & ESPECIALLY Psylocke,a model, does prioritize looking sexy, & they do look like FHM models because in-universe, they WANT to be in FHM. No, the female outfits are not that far removed from how women actually do dress.

But because its prevalent in popular media, does it mean is should be acceptable? And, it isn't possible to actually get the female character's take on how they are dressed, lol -- but I do get what you are saying. It's a visual medium so the portrayal of women will be similar to other mediums. It reminds me of that poster that was released for the Avengers movie where everyone was facing the forward, but yet Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) was positioned in such a way that her backside was towards the camera as well.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

#38 Posted by SupahForeigner (227 posts) - - Show Bio

Great blog post with some excellent points. Well done :)

#39 Edited by KingofMadCows (345 posts) - - Show Bio

@HexThis said:

The second argument that usually follows is the argument that men are equally as objectified as women. To me, this is an outrageous comparison that is completely disproportionate. Speaking of proportions, usually as a supporting point people will say “Well men are depicted as being extremely muscular and are frequently shirtless” which is true to a certain extent. Bruce Wayne works out shirtless, Superman has occasionally been rendered shirtless after the occasional tussle, and Wolverine has gone on quite a few naked rampages. But for every one of those instances there’s a slew of female characters whose costumes, the outfits they wear when they engage in combat, look not unlike FHM models. Exposed legs, exposed waists, ample cleavage, and ass-cheeks with their own zipcode galore and not just in contextual situations like a shower or as an undercover guise but as their normal day wear, as the things they carry out arduous daily activities in.

I actually question the basic premise of this argument. Do women actually find the body types of male superheroes attractive? They're mostly drawn like bodybuilders. I think Bruce Wayne weighs 220 pounds, that's like what Arnold Schwarzenegger weighed back when he was a bodybuilding champion. I'm not an expert on this but as far as I know, men who are considered sexy by women are guys like Sean Connery, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, etc., not a lot of 200+ pounds super buff bodybuilders with incredibly defined muscles.

On the other hand with female superheroes, many of them look athletic (although unlike most professional athletes, they have really big breasts) but many of them also have the body shapes of women like Marilyn Monroe or Angelina Jolie, who are considered sexy by most men, and only a very small number of them have muscles like female bodybuilders.

#40 Posted by knighthood (1742 posts) - - Show Bio

Great post. I appreciate your insight.

Concerning the attractiveness of male body types, I'd be surprised to see a lady state a preference for less muscular men when I see everyone go gaga over Nightwing.

Concerning Psylocke, I really do prefer the old school Betsy over ninja booty blast. Bring her back Marvel.

Psylocke by Gene Gonzales
#41 Posted by thespideyguy (2650 posts) - - Show Bio

Isn't this the artist choice.

#42 Posted by CloudWolf (1 posts) - - Show Bio

@hexthis: On one hand I think if it bothers you that badly don't read it and I mean they're not forcing you to read their comics so you dont have to complain about it.

However I agree that women don't need to be in scantily clad costumes to be interesting, I much prefer Gamora in armour then in hardly anything as I think she's a badass. Although I can't tell if you're saying guys being attracted to women is wrong or something? I do think it is stupid that 48% of people who read comics are women & girls and yet there aren't many female characters that are that amazing imo, I mean I only like Gamora, Ms Marvel, Stature, Black Cat & Scarlet Witch; Marvel should definitely have a female lead Avengers team or something. Me and my brother have talked about this countless times womens boobs need to be smaller if they were really superheroes and were muscular then they would be small, just watch tennis and you know that fit women dont have huge boobs like comics depict; its stupid because small boobs are awesome. As for them depicting them flaunting their stuff I do think it is a bit ridiculous at times but nothing I have really read has done that, I'm currently reading 2012 Avengers by Jonathan Hickman and I dont think I have noticed anything like that. I do think they're trying better with costumes as Captain Marvels costume is a lot better than Ms Marvels and they seem to be doing a lot of full body costumes which dont expose much skin which I actually prefer because it would offer more protection if you were fighting and superheroes are role models and making young girls think that you have to be in hardly anything to be strong or appealing to guys or others girls if you go that way is total nonsense. Which is why I love Batgirls new look, her costume isn't showing much and her boobs are small and I dont think she was made to look like a model which imo makes her cute and more appealing; I definitely would like to see more realistic female characters! I do think there is a lot of variety in male characters but female are somewhat lacking, I guess it feels like some of them still seem like a damsel in distress which is why its nice to have characters like She Hulk and Gamora who can really hold their own :)

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