By cosmo111687 8 Comments
Sexy Batman Part II: A Retrospective on Depictions of Sex on the Covers of Detective Comics (Full Title)
The question has arisen recently over whither or not women are overly sexualized in comics, and in an effort to amass data to lend some insight into the matter, I decided I would do a series of blogs in which I analyze the last 25 years of comic book covers from a dozen of the most popular comics in the industry.
The way I approached this was by a point system. Whenever I would see an instance of one of the following elements within a comic book cover, I would mark a point under either male or female and then tally up the points. I would only mark points for major characters and I would not mark them if they appeared in the ledgers.
If the points fell in the range of 0-6, it was “Non-Sexual”. If it fell within the range of 7-13, it was “Sexual”. And if it fell within 14+ it was “Hyper-Sexual”.
The elements being tallied were as follows:
Skin-Tight Costume (Uncovered)
Overly Muscular/Overly Curvy (Beyond normal human anatomy)
Arched Back/Tilted Hip
Pouty/Parted Lips (Not smiling, Grinning, Yelling, etc.)
Touching Lips/Body Seductively
Touching Other Seductively
Cute Surprised Look/Orgasmic Look
Sexual Weaponry/Whips/Giant Guns/BDSM Gear
Needless to say, when applied literally, these qualifications yielded unusual and startling results.
You can't judge a book by it's cover. Although a cover may only show Batman, for example, the pages within could show a dozen more sexualized representations of women than of men or vice versa. However, due to time and financial restraints, I decided just to focus on the covers.
I would also just like to say that sexiness isn't intrinsically a bad thing. It's only an issue when it's exploitative or teaches harmful ideas to impressionable readers. And that is why I feel it's important to write on it at such length.
Also I try to impart a little humor into the captions. They are meant to be taken lightly, so I ask you to try not to take offense.
And every picture used below, unless specified otherwise, was an example of either a Sexual or Hyper-Sexual comic cover.
During this period, most of the art referenced the campy 1960s series and, although Catwoman's costume was clearly intended to have some sex appeal, it was generally very tame and quite sweet by today's standards. Most other instances of sexiness were unintentional and were typically of slightly sexy poses from Batman and Robin that at the time wouldn't have carried those connotations (and barely do now).
This period marked a very sudden and drastic change in tone from the previous few years. I'm rather hesitant to call any of these covers sexy because, in my view, only somebody with an incredibly sick imagination would think these covers to be remotely sexy. This era has what were probably some of the most bizarre and grotesque comic covers in the last 25 years of Detective Comics.
This year didn't have any instances in which a comic cover was labeled as Sexy. It's “sexiest” cover was issue 638, which was only because of Batman's skin-tight costume, rather prominent package, and arching back.
The later part of the 1992 brought with it two covers featuring The Huntress in an earlier, far more revealing outfit (that seemingly had an invisible force field that allowed her to withstand the force of bullets and leap through windows unscathed).
Perhaps driven to emulate the BDSM themes within Batman Returns, artist Kelley Jones rose to prominence on both Batman and Detective Comics during this period and with it brought his similarly BDSM-inspired style that emphasized exaggerations of human anatomy, (mostly homoerotic) dominance themes, strangulation, and tight leather costumes. Not just one but several covers featured a male figure straddling atop another male, seemingly all done in a series:
This period had very few instances of sexual covers, but it also had two out of the three Hyper-Sexual covers in the last 25 years of DC Comics, both of which featured women:
Like 1991, this year didn't have any sexual covers.
This period had very few sexual covers, and the ones that were labeled Sexual had a very subtle and hardly noticeable sexual elements to them. I think this can largely be attributed to the influence that Greg Rucka had on Batman during the majority of that time.
In fact, most of the covers that did feature women in a sexual manner were done quite tastefully and were rarely, truly exploitative (Issue 743 is an excellent example of that, in my opinion).
Just as in the period before, this span of 8 years rarely featured Sexual covers, with only two Sexual covers (Issues 780 and 794) and one Hyper-Sexual cover (Issue 823).
And one can not stress enough how incredible a feat that is, especially when one considers how frequently women were depicted in Detective Comics during this time, especially Batwoman and Renee Montoya.
I feel as though little can be added to this analysis that wasn't already said in Sexy Batman: Part 1. Early instances of sexual covers in Detective Comics were largely unintentional and quite grotesque in nature and over time the focus moved from an emphasis on male sexuality to female sexuality. But, it's important to note that more often than female sexuality, Detective Comics featured a lot of covers that emphasized female strength and female diversity.
Full List of Comics Labeled Hyper-Sexual:
Full List of Comics Labeled Sexual: