Just along for the ride


Much has been made recently of the lack of female writers and artists (or editors for that matter) at DC Comics with its highly anticipated reboot.  The reaction of those voices behind DC Comics is sometimes comical.  One of the creators answered the lack of female creators with a touch of humour, stating that he might look ok in a dress.  This is in itself a sort of abstract concept, trying to defer the conversation by resorting to a fairly standard sub genre of comedic fiction (cross dressing).  I personally do not feel that wearing a dress is really what defines me by my gender, and anyway numerous men around the world wear clothes which would be describes as dress like if they were not on a man’s body.   Perhaps in this case they could write for comic companies?

I digress though on the issue really at hand here and that’s that the comic industry looks at women and claims to have an understanding of them without truly portraying them accurately.   A corollary to this might be war themed comics.   War comics first started out as a jingoistic part of propaganda, to displaying a more realistic side of war (Nick Fury or Sgt. Rock), to finally descending into war stories with a sort of more fantastical bent (Creatures Commandoes or the Haunted Tank).  It was only with the start of the Vietnam War that comics once again took on a new and grim reality (most specifically with Doug ’s the ‘).  What happened here were artists who came back from the battlefields and the front writing stories based on their experiences and not on the assumption of what life was like.  Erich Maria Remarque wrote perhaps the greatest war time novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front, which is simplistic in its narrative but hard hitting in its depiction of life and death.  If one were to try and best this story now they would have a hard time.  Erich was a veteran of the Western front (being a German soldier) and his experience was earned not assumed.   That his later novels on different subjects never attained the same stature is an indication of what this experience was worth.  

So without the proper experience in the field what happens are just opinions as opposed to facts.   In the movie As Good as it Gets, Jack Nicholson is asked the question “How do you write women so well?” to which he replies “I think of a man and take away reason and accountability.”  This is played up for its comedy in the movie, as a sort of archaic way of thinking, but inherently this is the main drawback in the depiction of women, in that they are mostly written as men and then feminized.  Power Girl is drawn in a most ridiculous manner, but she is sort of the end state of what every guy would do if he was a woman (get bigger breasts.)  This same line of reasoning applies to a majority of the female characters, they are simply written as men and then have female characteristics added to them.  Some writers of course do not do this, some are actually adept at portraying what women would think or how they would act, but even then it seems for every heroic action there is a subsequent moment of girl talk or gushing into a diary (this happened often enough in the mostly excellent Perez run on Wonder Woman).  What is lacking here is that women are indeed different and are complex, but are marginalized in terms of comic books depictions.  The experience of what it means to be a woman is lost and most of the popular female characters are reduced to being female representations of “what is cool about women” without actually having much factual basis in this fact.  Is it conceivable that there be a female character that is proud of her body who doesn’t mind wearing so little of a costume that she looks like she is wearing lingerie?  Probably.   Once it gets to either Starfire or Emma Frost type of levels though it becomes a caricature and not a fact.  

The comic industry has gone through different periods in its own development, from being aimed primarily at children to being aimed at a more mature (though mostly white and male audience) to being wider and wider still.   The big companies aim to reach out to new fans, but they are doing so with old methods.   There is a fitting quote from Max Planck “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”   Take away the word scientific and this applies to essentially everything.   There will always be those that resist change but for those that embrace it they get to a place where they should be anyway.   There will be women in the industry in the future, all the female voices at the moment bemoaning how comics are presented will make sure of that.   It is one of the most compelling media in the world for its ability to represent anything the creators envision, as long as the writer can think it and the artist can draw it.   This has resulted in journeys to pretty much everywhere conceivably in existence, but as long as the female creators are missing, this will always be a journey for the male readers where the females are just along for the ride.    

24 Comments
24 Comments
Posted by SC

Great blog Razzy! 

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Edited by azza04

Do you think us men are portrayed accurately in comics? Because the common man rarely puts on a costume and fights crime, travels into space, makes life or death decision everyday, and are always aspiring to be the absolute best we can be all the time. Nope, that's left up to the few exceptional and brave individuals that have received proper training. We are reading fantasy fiction and the guys are along for the ride as well, after all we have zero input into what gets printed in the comics we read. And the male characters are also written in a way that shows "what is cool about male characters".

Power Girl is drawn ridiculous, know argument there, but so is Superman, very few men are so heavily built. It's the same with Batman, when the hell would he have time to work out to a degree that would give him such a muscular body or learn the incredible skill sets he possesses.

I can definitely understand why women want to see more female writers working on comics which are centred on a female protagonist. It would be cool to see a women writing some big titles, but then will they be able to portray the male characters realistically? I'm not sure, would be interesting to see though. What would be best is to have both a male and female writer working TOGETHER on a title sharing the duties and helping each other out, that's something I want to see and would read.

Posted by MrUnknown
@azza04 said:

Do you think us men are portrayed accurately in comics? Because the common man rarely puts on a costume and fights crime, travels into space, makes life or death decision everyday, and are always aspiring to be the absolute best we can be all the time. Nope, that's left up to the few exceptional and brave individuals that have received proper training. We are reading fantasy fiction and the guys are along for the ride as well, after all we have zero input into what gets printed in the comics we read. And the male characters are also written in a way that shows "what is cool about male characters".

Power Girl is drawn ridiculous, know argument there, but so is Superman, very few men are so heavily built. It's the same with Batman, when the hell would he have time to work out to a degree that would give him such a muscular body or learn the incredible skill sets he possesses.

I can definitely understand why women want to see more female writers working on comics which are centred on a female protagonist. It would be cool to see a women writing some big titles, but then will they be able to portray the male characters realistically? I'm not sure, would be interesting to see though. What would be best is to have both a male and female writer working TOGETHER on a title sharing the duties and helping each other out, that's something I want to see and would read.

Agree with this 100%. No man has enough time to have rock hard abs, be super smart, manage their own job while also being a superhero on a daily basis, have a social life etc. and yet every superhero male fits these traits very well. Men aren't portrayed accurately in comics either. Guys haven't found their Emma Frost or Power Girl but have girls found their Superman or Batman in real life? The only reason that there are so few women working in comics is simply because there are too few women working in the comics industry itself and probably comprise a very small minority in readership as well.
Posted by cosmo111687
@azza04 said:

Do you think us men are portrayed accurately in comics? Because the common man rarely puts on a costume and fights crime, travels into space, makes life or death decision everyday, and are always aspiring to be the absolute best we can be all the time. Nope, that's left up to the few exceptional and brave individuals that have received proper training. We are reading fantasy fiction and the guys are along for the ride as well, after all we have zero input into what gets printed in the comics we read. And the male characters are also written in a way that shows "what is cool about male characters".

Power Girl is drawn ridiculous, know argument there, but so is Superman, very few men are so heavily built. It's the same with Batman, when the hell would he have time to work out to a degree that would give him such a muscular body or learn the incredible skill sets he possesses.

I can definitely understand why women want to see more female writers working on comics which are centred on a female protagonist. It would be cool to see a women writing some big titles, but then will they be able to portray the male characters realistically? I'm not sure, would be interesting to see though. What would be best is to have both a male and female writer working TOGETHER on a title sharing the duties and helping each other out, that's something I want to see and would read.

That isn't reflective of a typical man's life, but it does, in a way, reflect the values society places upon men. Men are often-times perceived to be the more assertive, extroverted, "action first, questions later" type while women are often perceived to be more demure, introverted, nurturing, and open to discussion type.  Just take a look at the types of toys that are frequently advertised to boys and the types that are advertised to girls. Boys are given transformers, teenage mutant turtles, plastic pirate swords and guns, monster trucks, etc. While girls are given Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie dolls, easy-bake ovens, my little ponies, etc. What I'm trying to say is that the social scripts that we are given about what we, as a culture, consider to be masculine or feminine activities effect the way women are depicted and that if a male writer or artists was to depict a woman, they are more likely to depict that woman in a more stereotypical way (based upon the social scripts he learned). Just take (early) Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Woman as examples. As the name suggests, Mr. Fantastic is dynamic, exciting, a leader and great intellect with an answer for every problem while Invisible Woman is passive, a supporting cast member, whose powers revolve around protecting other team members and staying out of sight. Certainly these characters weren't written by a woman. A woman, who understands how varied and complex women can be from one another from personal experience, is more likely to write varied and complex female parts. That being said, there are plenty of male characters who have the capacity for writing complex and interesting female characters, who are more reflective of reality. And there are also some female writers and creators who aren't all that great. For instance, I felt that Greg Rucka understood Wonder Woman better than Jodie Picoult. But for every Joss Whedon or Greg Rucka, there are ten Joe Quesadas. 
Posted by azza04

@cosmo111687: I agree with you.

The comic industry is an evolving medium, and to an extent they are still stuck in the old ways of male writers working on the books with little female input, but things are improving. I think the reason comics are still stuck a little bit behind the rest of the world is because they have been catering to a largely male audience for so long that they have become stuck in their ways, but as I said things are improving despite the lack of women on the DC panel.

I really think the best way forward is to have a male and female working together on a title, especially on the team books where both gender characters are present. But the comic industry isn't doing great at the minute so they wouldn't been to keen on paying for two writers working on one book until the industry picks up again.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@azza04: I am not saying that men are accurately portrayed, I am saying that the industry panders towards men and not towards women.  All portrayals are of course unrealistic but they are made unrealistic to be pleasing to a male audience.  
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Posted by azza04

@RazzaTazz: It's been said before, but they try to make their books appeal more to the male audience because that's who the majority of their readers are. They won't risk alienating a large group for the sake of a small group because their business would collapse. I don't think DC does it because they are sexist or anything like that, you can bet that if 70% of their readers suddenly became female their books would be catering towards them in the blink of an eye. They write for whoever is buying their books. Until more women start reading comics that won't change, but then again, why would women start reading comics if they are geared towards men? It's a tricky problem.

Posted by RazzaTazz
@azza04: You don't have to sacrifice female readership for male readership is my point.  Look at Starfire or Emma Frost or Power Girl.  those characters are overwhelmingly liked not because of how they appear but because of how they are written.  Hundreds of stories involving them have made them beloved characters, not that their breasts fall out of their clothes.  But some creators try to appeal to the 12 year old boy in the male readership and get somewhat overblown examples of what a heroine might look like.   
 
Women are reading more comic books, and really comics won't be what they are in 20 years when more female fans turn into creators. Just don'e be surprised thatyou like them better then than now.  
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Posted by azza04

@RazzaTazz: What makes you think I will like them better in 20 years? (I hope I do, if I am still reading comics then) but are you saying I will like them better because more women will be writing them?

Posted by SC
@azza04 said: 

Do you think us men are portrayed accurately in comics? 

 
Us men are written in a multitude of diverse ways, which means we are the strongest, fastest, most powerful, most badass, smartest, most strategic, the best leaders, the best healers, the idealized male form is legion and we also have a lot of wish fulfillment and power projection going on, as well as the usual, relatable and identifiable traits, and we also get our gritty realism type characters too. Its all considered, its all very point of view type stuff. So its the default, its not entirely accurate either, one can argue its realism (men are faster in real life than women) (but then again, most of those faster me are dark skinned, and comics doesn't reflect this) (then again, one can argue its fantasy, and a subversion of reality) (thus the product can be tailored)  
 
@azza04 said: 

I can definitely understand why women want to see more female writers working on comics which are centred on a female protagonist. 

Hey lol... some men want to see this too if it means more diversity and greater expansion of characters, because ultimately that creates better character interaction, the same way a good Superman and a good Batman writer would probably write a good Batman and Superman scene than a good Superman writer that is a bad Batman writer, writing the scene. Except swap Superman and Batman for male and female characters. As ideal as it is to say, all good writers should write a good Batman and a good Superman, we know in practice this is not the case. Its similar with gender.  
 
@azza04 said: 

It would be cool to see a women writing some big titles, but then will they be able to portray the male characters realistically?

Generally I think yes. This applies to most creators that aren't male, white and good looking. The reason this occurs is because if they live in a country with a TV, comics, movies, music videos, ads etc, a lot of the imagery they are exposed to, fiction, stories, ideas, your going to have a lot of examples of characters, some good, and some bad, and generally the more diverse your selection, the better your chances are of finding quality and or valuable and or popularity. So writers that immerse themselves in a medium that they want to write, and or topics they want to write about (Warren Ellis loves his science and so his stories are usually more scientifically accurate and valuable than say... well other writers generally) (this can apply to gender as well) (this is also how we get male writers who can write females well too, its not a coincidence that Joss Whedon was a huge fan of Chris Claremont and that Buffy is based on Kitty, that both writers are considered female friendly writers), will generally be more successful or have some quality that shines though in their work, just like life generally.  
 
(your post was great by the way, *smile* I hope I did not come across as too confrontational, I don't disagree with you, I just think some of your points can be expanded upon) 
 
 
 
 
 
HATE STUPID COMIC VINE for logging me out lololol
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Posted by SC

(I wrote above like an hour ago BTW, so sorry if seemed like I ignore some of your following comments)

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Posted by azza04

@SC: You're not to confrontational SC, you are one of the most respectful and thought provoking posters on on CV =D

I know what I wrote is by know means fact, I always try to look at any topic or real life situation from other peoples perspectives but it can be hard to put ourselves in other peoples shoes sometimes. What confuses me is, what do women want to happen in books with female protagonists? what do they dislike about them at the minute? I see all this cause for change but there are very few comments which detail what they actually want to see change. What would a female writer do differently in the story?

Posted by RazzaTazz
@azza04 said:

 What confuses me is, what do women want to happen in books with female protagonists? what do they dislike about them at the minute? I see all this cause for change but there are very few comments which detail what they actually want to see change. What would a female writer do differently in the story?

I sort of touched on that didn't I?  Male writers sometimes write in the weirdest things like one time when Black Canary said she was PMSing.  I personally would never use that term, nor do I think the writers really had an appreciation of what that feels like.  Also as I noted often female characters have a diary of some sort which is a bit of a cliche.  I would just like to see female characters written like females.  
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Edited by azza04

@RazzaTazz: But what traits would you want to see female characters written with?

And as I understand it, PMS is just that time of the month where a women can become overly emotional, I can assure you that guys can go through similar feelings, with the stresses of life and all the things that come with it. So the writer could probably understand (although of course I could be very wrong, I have a few lady friends and have seen them get very angry or upset around their time of the month, but then again I have seen them get very angry when it's not their time of the month as well)

Posted by cosmo111687
@RazzaTazz said:
@azza04 said:

 What confuses me is, what do women want to happen in books with female protagonists? what do they dislike about them at the minute? I see all this cause for change but there are very few comments which detail what they actually want to see change. What would a female writer do differently in the story?

I sort of touched on that didn't I?  Male writers sometimes write in the weirdest things like one time when Black Canary said she was PMSing.  I personally would never use that term, nor do I think the writers really had an appreciation of what that feels like.  Also as I noted often female characters have a diary of some sort which is a bit of a cliche.  I would just like to see female characters written like females.  
I completely agree, Razz. Whenever female characters wonder into Sex And The City territory (especially with the "Dear Diary" internal-monologue...), I start to think that the writer has no idea who these characters are or what women are really like.
Posted by SC
@azza04 said:

@SC: You're not to confrontational SC, you are one of the most respectful and thought provoking posters on on CV =D

I know what I wrote is by know means fact, I always try to look at any topic or real life situation from other peoples perspectives but it can be hard to put ourselves in other peoples shoes sometimes. What confuses me is, what do women want to happen in books with female protagonists? what do they dislike about them at the minute? I see all this cause for change but there are very few comments which detail what they actually want to see change. What would a female writer do differently in the story?

 
Awwh thanks!! You too! *smile*  

Facts are boring, opinions and viewpoints is where its at *grin* What do women want? I am not sure, I am sure want they want is as diverse and varied as what men want. Which is broad. What they will dislike, will be pretty much the same as what men dislike, except as with men, its going to be differ just a little bit each time. Men, like women want characters that they can identify with, that aren't potentially insulting or cliche, or lacking in some way. They want a lot more than that though of course. The main general differences I see that that a female writer will have an advantage over a male writer (and you can swap female for any type of writer that is a minority or difference about that, which means by virtue of breathing they have experienced life a way that is a tiny bit different to comics biggest generalized target market) is noticing instances from personal experience they may mean a disconnect or break in aesthetic distance. They don't have to be female (or any of the aforementioned potential traits) to notice, I mean I notice, and I am a male, but then again, a lot of my favorite characters are female.  
 
It can be hard for writers to put themselves in the shoes of others, but professional writers that get paid to do this for a living? They should be some of the best people at doing this considering the sheer numbers of characters they are working with and, doing this well has financial rewards. The biggest selling single issue comic ever was built of steam generated by a at the time, very female friendly writer and was a team of strong female characters and Wolverine. (variant covers helped too lol)  
 
If you wish for actual examples in comics? I can list many, but most of them will be subjective, as in it won't automatically mean all females would agree with me, and it doesn't mean that males can't agree with me either, since there will be and usually is overlap. Some females hate Emma Frost, some absolutely adore her. Most I tend to notice, prefer when Emma is acting intelligent, witty, sardonic and independent. Not bitchy for the sake of being bitchy, being bitchy because she is smart, confident, capable and impatient and blunt. Some writers, gender not withstanding however seem to think, or at least write her as if her appeal is XXX, being bitchy for bitchy's sake, and obsessing over lingerie from France. That writer was not female... then again, some of Emma's best writers were male. No surprises that those writers also write other females pretty well as well. The ratio however of female writers that I know that write males and females well compared to males who write males and females well is significant though. At least to me. Might be even more significant to some females. (or less as well)
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Posted by SC

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr CV!!!!!!!!!!!! *kicks CV*

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Posted by RazzaTazz
@SC said:
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr CV!!!!!!!!!!!! *kicks CV*
Why did you kick it, its broken now ... ?
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Posted by SC
@RazzaTazz said:
@SC said:
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr CV!!!!!!!!!!!! *kicks CV*
Why did you kick it, its broken now ... ?
 
Oh you are on early! *smile* No, my replies weren't posting, well not in a way that was visible to anyone really.  Erm.. plus i fixed it right after I kicked it *red*
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Posted by Mercy_

Freaking awesome blog, as usual.

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Edited by thehummingbird
@azza04 said:

@RazzaTazz: But what traits would you want to see female characters written with?

And as I understand it, PMS is just that time of the month where a women can become overly emotional, I can assure you that guys can go through similar feelings, with the stresses of life and all the things that come with it. So the writer could probably understand (although of course I could be very wrong, I have a few lady friends and have seen them get very angry or upset around their time of the month, but then again I have seen them get very angry when it's not their time of the month as well)

I am not trying to be rude here more just help you get your facts a little right. PMS, is Pre menstrual syndrome. This is different from what is more commonly referred to as "that time of the month" which is towards the end of or is the end of the menstrual cycle, also known as a period. A period is when the egg falls out, while PMS takes place at the same time as ovulation, when a female has a high chance of pregnancy. So these things are very different and the hormones involved as well, Periods deal with a drop in estrogen and more dominated by testosterone than normal, one of the main reasons more acne can occurs  because testosterone is a more leading hormone for this. While PMS focusses more on estrogen hormones. I can go on, but I would certainly say you have no idea what is going on. 
Posted by azza04

@thehummingbird: Ok thank you.

Posted by gravitypress

I think what women are looking for is to relate to situations in more of an emotional way. Where as men relate more toward visual cues and women relate to the way it makes them feel. This would have to be the writers responsibility as it would be very hard to draw. Feelings of inadequacy and emotion would definitely be welcome as they would add volumes of depth into a character.

Posted by SC

All Quiet on the Western Front? Lies, its clearly Catch-22. 

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