A Strider92 Rant: Women In Comics

Well i've seen a lot of posts made about this very topic. Here's an example:

http://www.comicvine.com/forums/off-topic/5/feministrights-nomenclature-cont/747294/#28

So I thought i'd throw in my two cents on the matter.

So here goes:

The one that seems to crop up a lot is:

  • "All the women look like supermodels"
Kaine (Scarlet Spider #1)
Black Canary

True they do I won't try to defend this but this is also the case with male characters. Take a look at characters like Captain America, Gambit, Nightwing and many many others. All of these are on model level of fitness/physique in realistic terms. The point in comic heros is they are supposed to represent the best of us not just mentally but physically as well and the stereotypical view of this is the kind of things you see in comics (supermodel style men and women). Whether this is right or not is not what i'm arguing about i'm just pointing out that women are not the only ones to fall prey this trend. Its just a woman's physique is more pronounced thus a lot more visible and obvious. This tread does happen to both sexes and is not unique to just female characters. The most notable male comparison to this that has happened recently was in Scarlet Spider #1. Everyone's favorite Spider-man clone went swinging round Houston topless for 4 whole pages. I'm not arguing that this sort of thing isn't more common in female characters but i'm just trying to point out it is not unique to them.

Another example of the whole model physique in men is Captain America. He went to the army as a normal guy and they turned him down because he wasn't fit enough so what happened next? He took an experimental procedure to make him uber-fit and give him model style looks in the process. Then it was fine for him to be in the army. What kind of message does that send? Steve obviously wasn't stupid but because he wasn't physically imposing they basically said no and yet we all know that in the real world you don't have to be supermodel level of physique to get into the army you just need to be disciplined, intelligent and reasonably fit but not peak human sort of level.

So yes while women are a victim of this supermodel look so are men this is not unique to women and is seen in both male and female characters and yet in men this is complained about FAR less.

  • "Female superheroes wear revealing clothing"
Yes! (Mockingbird)
NO! (Witchblade)

This is a point I will completely agree with. Female costumes are often very revealing (especially street level characters for some reason). The biggest culprits are classic Witchblade (that was so revealing it was hilarious), Red Sonja (Witchblade levels of hilarity), Lady Death (lol that's all i'll say) and few others. The ones I just mentioned are blatantly obvious and quite obviously sexist and I have no problem saying that something should be done to make them more practical and less sexual. However I have seen people complain about women in spandex which I will address.

I do not see the need to pull up women in spandex as revealing. Again quite a few male characters wear spandex. Nightwing, Spider-man and Batman for example. It is essentially meant to be a second skin and for some characters like Spider-man who thrive on agility this is essential for him to move around. The same goes for Nightwing. This is the case for a lot of women characters as well and yet it seems to be instantly seen as revealing because it's skin tight. Why can't it be seen for the practical use for which it has been chosen? We don't get all iffy when we seen Nightwing's or Batman's abs through their costume and yet we seem to when we see anything with female characters. That to me tells me that we the readers are putting to much work into objectifying the person in question than the actual portrayal itself. The phrase never judge a book by its cover never rang so true (however this doesn't excuse Witchblade or any of the blatantly sexist ones).

Why this happens:

Sara's Pichelli's Ultimates
DeConnick's Captain Marvel

Now this is just my opinion. Comics are only based on realism to a certain extent. The point in your stereotypical comic heroes is that they are supposed to represent the best of us. There in lies the problem as the comicbook world is dominated by men. You ask me to name 5 female artists or 5 female writers i'll have a lot of trouble. I can name a few such as Kelly Sue Deconnick (she would write an awesome Spider-man imo! As soon as Slott's run is over I want her as the ongoing writer) or Sara Pichelli (who is a fricking awesome artist) but for every 1 female member of the comic industry I can name about 4 male ones (i'm only talking about Marvel here as my knowledge on DC talent is very bad) and due to the number difference it means that men are more likely to get the bigger mainstream titles such as The Avengers etc... Its not that they are better its just law of averages.

I'm not going to sugar coat it men are men and we unfortunately are creatures that are biologically programed to look for certain things so what we see as best is likely very different from a woman's perspective so whats happening is that process is being placed into the comic art industry. Artists have the opportunity to create a character that is supposed to look how they envision he or she should look and 99% of the time with male ones that is always going to be some sort of drop-dead gorgeous model because that is how they have built them up.

If we put a woman in the same position there is no kind of sexual agenda thus they are more likely to build something realistic based on how they think there character should act and look. I'm not trying to defend what the male artists do sometimes i'm just trying to point out how and why it happens. Maybe if you put an all female creative team on a male character the same thing would happen except the other way around? I can't say because I honestly can't think of an all female creative on a male character which speaks volumes for itself really.

The main problem is simply that there isn't enough women in the comic industry thus its like having a double headed coin. There simply isn't enough variety. Women think about things differently to men and see things differently to what we do (much to our dismay most of the time :p) but that is the sort of thing that is essential in an industry that thrives on both male and female characters. Sometimes you need that female input as it gives the characters more depth.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Honestly in my opinion the main problem female characters have to deal with is not how they look or what they wear but how they presented as characters. In real life women are less physically imposing than men. However this isn't real life this is a place where a giant runs around eating planets for "tuh lolz" and yet we still find that women are in general treated as physically inferior. A prime example is that at one point Spider-man was actually denied a female villain because they didn't think she would be threatening enough. That there speaks volumes. How many villains can you think of that are women who have actually gone into a slug-fest with a male hero opponent? I can hardly think of any. With the women as the hero and the man as the villain yes that happens quite a bit. With two women one villain and one hero yes that also happens a lot but the woman as the villain and the man as the hero? Nope that hardly ever happens. Women seem to be given powers that allow them to take the battle without having to get down and dirty (i'm generalizing here). Telepathy is a prime example. Telepathy is almost becoming a stereotypical female power.

The reason they don't seem to get into vast physical confrontations with a male opponent when the woman is the villain seems to be the chivalrous concept that men shouldn't hit women (which I agree with) however if this women is evil, psychotic and downright disturbing beyond all reason I do not see the problem and yet it hardly happens. Women especially as villains in comics are fighting a battle to be equal with their male counterparts but its not mainly because of how they are dressed or how they look its how they are treated in comparison to men.

Every now and then someone comes out who breaks the mold. JMS for example did what had been denied to Spider-man previously gave us not just my favorite female Villain but my favorite overall villain EVER. Shathra. She was everything you need from a good female villain. No female sexual undertone (like villains such as Poison Ivy have), able to match the male hero in physical ability, smart and deadly. Not only did she outsmart Spider-man but hunted him like a dog, emotionally hurt him and even when Spider-man's morals went of and he hit her with everything he had he couldn't scratch her. Heck he dropped a building on her and Shathra didn't budge:

Round 1:

Round 2:

But the best thing about her was that even though she was a woman she physically went toe on toe with the male hero and throughout all of her battles you never felt that Spider-man shouldn't be hitting her because she's a woman because she was physically tough enough to take anything he could dish out and evil enough that the whole "shouldn't hit a woman" didn't come into play. This to me is one of the few occasions i've seen women treated equally to men even though in this case the woman was the villain. As all you saw was how her character played with Spider-man and nothing else.

Conclusion:

To conclude while women do seem to suffer from revealing costumes and stereotypical supermodel physiques this overshadows the true problem. The fact that in physical ability women are still treated as inferior even in a made-up universe. Because people are busy obsessing over how the character looks they forget to look at the deeper problem. Don't get me wrong i'm not saying that the costumes shouldn't be dealt with. What i'm saying is that this is not the main problem. We are instantly judging the character on how she looks and not seeing the rest. There's your problem!

58 Comments
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Posted by BumpyBoo

@Strider92: I agree, the appearance of these characters is only indicative of a much deeper problem. Very well said :) I mean, as a woman if I could have the big two either cover their female characters up a little more, or enhance things like their powers, their independence, attributes like intelligence and strength...well, it seems like a no-brainer.

Posted by Markus_Langbourn

I'm more concerned about the fact Marvel and DC just treat women as Walking Vaginas whose sole purpose is to satiate the sexual needs of men and provide talking points for male posturing.

Edited by Lvenger

I really love your observation at the end about the true problem facing women in comics, the fact they're still regarded as physically inferior in comics. Another example I can think of is Zatanna. Not only does she suffer from the exposure problem via the fishnets, she's also a magician which keeps her from getting her hands dirty. Actually Zee's a pretty cool character so that balances things out but I totally get what you mean. It's always the men who are physically superior even in terms of powers and abilities whilst the women stay out of range. We need more Wonder Womans, Captain Marvels, Patriots (the female one from Young Avengers) and Sifs in comic books to balance this out. A well written blog mate! :)

Edited by Strider92

@Markus_Langbourn: This is less of a problem than it was in the past but I see what you're getting at.

@Lvenger: Problem is that Captain Marvel is still inferior to Thor and WW is still inferior to Supes. What we actually need is a top tier female hero than can beat the living crap out of someone like Thor or Superman without breaking a sweat lol! Just like Shathra did to Spider-man. Less telepaths and powers that keep them out of the fight more physical action!

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Posted by Lvenger

@Strider92: Agreed on the last sentence though someone like that would be incredibly OP you have to admit. Superman and Thor are powerful enough. But I get the obserbation. Even universe threatening cosmic entities are mostly male rather than female.

Posted by Markus_Langbourn
@Strider92 said:

@Markus_Langbourn: This is less of a problem than it was in the past but I see what you're getting at.

@Lvenger: Problem is that Captain Marvel is still inferior to Thor and WW is still inferior to Supes. What we actually need is a top tier female hero than can beat the living crap out of someone like Thor or Superman without breaking a sweat lol! Just like Shathra did to Spider-man. Less telepaths and powers that keep them out of the fight more physical action!

I'm sorry, but that doesn't accomplish anything. The X-Men franchise has long been proof of that. Female characters are far and beyond more powerful than their male counterparts, but that doesn't mean the stories aren't still misogynistic. Emma Frost is an incredibly powerful telepath and physical combatant, but she's been more defined by which guys she's had sex with in the past few years than anything. 
 
Making a tough physical threat does nothing if you're still defining the woman by the male counterparts. If you set out to make "Incredible Woman" who beats the crap out of Superman, you're still defining her by Superman.
Posted by X35

Barely even want to acknowledge this because I'm sure some idiot will be praising that trash Ms. Marvel stuff.

Posted by Strider92

@Markus_Langbourn: That was the example used in a previous reply so I continued with it. I could have brought up what you said but it would have bore no relevance on the topic at hand.

I never said Emma wasn't powerful what I said was that is becoming a typical powerset for women to have an ability that means they can stand back while male counterparts deal with the more demanding stuff. Ie: Zatanna as Lvenger keenly stated has magic thus has no need for confrontation, Emma also has no need for confrontation due to her telepathy etc...

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Posted by Strider92

@X35 said:

Barely even want to acknowledge this because I'm sure some idiot will be praising that trash Ms. Marvel stuff.

Just out of pure curiosity what is it you dislike about it? I haven't followed the series since issue 2 or 3 but i've noticed its has really really started to hack people off recently with no explanation as to why.

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Posted by X35

Nah, it's always been grossly pathetic pandering to a stupid clichéd liberated feminist.

Posted by rogue_mar1e

Yes, women are not the only ones who are sexually objectified in comics but by no means are both genders are even near equally treated in terms of such portrayals. The difference is that men are not drawn in the same sexy, seductive poses women are so often shown in. Even the pictures you used to illustrate your point show that Black Canary is posing sexily whereas Kaine is just sitting down, no sexually suggestive pose whatsoever.

Posted by V_Scarlotte_Rose

@X35 said:

Nah, it's always been grossly pathetic pandering to a stupid clichéd liberated feminist.

Is this the current Captain Marvel series you're talking about? If so, could you be more specific about what's wrong with it.

I'm not trying to start an argument by the way. I'd just like to be able to see if I can see what you mean when I re-read it at some point. I've liked it so far, but the new artist doesn't work so well with it.

Posted by X35

Carol Danvers with her great new haircut, militarized NO-SEX costume and unisex name travel back in time to World War II and conveniently stumble up an entire squadron of all women because THIS IS AN ALL FEMALE ALL EMPOWERING BOOK..

Posted by Decoy Elite

@X35 said:

Carol Danvers with her great new haircut, militarized NO-SEX costume and unisex name travel back in time to World War II and conveniently stumble up an entire squadron of all women because THIS IS AN ALL FEMALE ALL EMPOWERING BOOK..

It got better about that after the first arc.

Posted by X35

I'm sure being repeatedly stabbed in the gut with a dagger gets better after a while.

Posted by V_Scarlotte_Rose

@X35 said:

Carol Danvers with her great new haircut, militarized NO-SEX costume and unisex name travel back in time to World War II and conveniently stumble up an entire squadron of all women because THIS IS AN ALL FEMALE ALL EMPOWERING BOOK..

Oh. I'm alright with all of that. Even if it is a little over the top sometimes, I like it. I suppose we all like different things though. :)

It doesn't seem to be very popular though. It's not selling too well, less than 20,000 copies last month.

Posted by X35

@V_Scarlotte_Rose said:

It's not selling too well, less than 20,000 copies last month.

Thank you. That's genuinely the best news I've heard all week.

Posted by catfightfan

I have read numerous internet discussions regarding this subject and many of them dealt with how Sue Storm was so often a hostage back in the early days of the Fantastic Four. I can tell you that things have changed quite a bit for women in comics in the last few decades.

Edited by Jorgevy

can't we just have one week without one of these? or just reuse the old threads? everyone's got their side and opinion on this we all know...

although i dont see that much of that whole physical inferiority thing, but maybe it just passes me by

what did tick me off a bit was @X35 said:

Carol Danvers with her great new haircut, militarized NO-SEX costume and unisex name travel back in time to World War II and conveniently stumble up an entire squadron of all women because THIS IS AN ALL FEMALE ALL EMPOWERING BOOK..

THIS WHOLE thing. the comic's theme is kind of nhack

although Im excited for the Furies series with an all female cast! I think that's something the companies should invest more

EDIT:

I agree there are evil enough villainesses to over rule the whole "dont hit a woman" thing (because it's against violence, any violence, but in comics to handle villains you have to be violent sometimes so it puts it in equal ground, if it's okay to hit evil men then it's okay to hit evil women) ,though if i was a super I wouldnt do it. I just dont think I would be capable of doing it

Posted by X35

I don't care what you think.

Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt

@Jorgevy said:

can't we just have one week without one of these? or just reuse the old threads? everyone's got their side and opinion on this we all know...

although i dont see that much of that whole physical inferiority thing, but maybe it just passes me by

what did tick me off a bit was @X35 said:

Carol Danvers with her great new haircut, militarized NO-SEX costume and unisex name travel back in time to World War II and conveniently stumble up an entire squadron of all women because THIS IS AN ALL FEMALE ALL EMPOWERING BOOK..

THIS WHOLE thing. the comic's theme is kind of nhack

although Im excited for the Furies series with an all female cast! I think that's something the companies should invest more

EDIT:

I agree there are evil enough villainesses to over rule the whole "don't hit a woman" thing (because it's against violence, any violence, but in comics to handle villains you have to be violent sometimes so it puts it in equal ground, if it's okay to hit evil men then it's okay to hit evil women) ,though if i was a super I wouldn't do it. I just don't think I would be capable of doing it

Its funny how many people will agree with this and still repeatedly demonize a powerless Hal Jordan for beating a full powered Star Sapphire *sigh*

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Edited by Jorgevy

@Avenging-X-Bolt: issue?

@X35: was that for me? i was agreeing with you

Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt

@Jorgevy said:

@Avenging-X-Bolt: issue?

Action Comics Weekly #603

This is right after Carol killed Katma Tui

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Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt

@Jorgevy said:

@Avenging-X-Bolt: issue?

@X35: was that for me? i was agreeing with you

le scans

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Posted by Jorgevy

@Avenging-X-Bolt: thank you ;D

Posted by Jorgevy

@Avenging-X-Bolt: that shouldnt have hurt even, because of the whole lantern armor durability

Posted by Avenging-X-Bolt

@Jorgevy said:

@Avenging-X-Bolt: that shouldnt have hurt even, because of the whole lantern armor durability

technically Carol wasnt a Lantern. this was back when she was possessed by the gem

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Posted by Jorgevy

@Avenging-X-Bolt: ah! so no lantern durability then

Posted by consolemaster001

I COMPLETELY AGREE

There was an article about how to draw superheroe and it said that men have to look buff and heroic while women have to look sultry and hot.

THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG HERE!

Oh and everyone's favourite spiderman clone is kain ? Dude he's no Ben Reilly

Posted by Owie

My basic feeling on this topic, which seems to be fairly similar to what you're saying in the OP, is that while both men and women characters have idealized physiques, it's more the way they are idealized that is a problem.  There are far more men than women creators and readers, and so the characters tend to be idealized in a way that men desire, rather than a more "equally stereotyped" way that you'd find if both men and women were equal as creators and readers.  Right now, men are idealized, but as what men want to be, while women are idealized as what men desire, as objects of viewing.  Not always, but often.  This is actually best seen in how the women act and pose rather than just their clothes or bodies.  Men and women are both idealized and barely clothed, but women are usually posed for maximal butt and boob shots, and often end up with strategically ripped clothes, etc.  Men aren't usually put into beefcake poses.  When you see good women artists and writers, the difference is often clear: the women are still athletic and sexy, they're just sexy in a more individualistic, strong way (the way they want to be) instead of a more passive, male-defined way.

Posted by akbogert

This blog popped up in the community spotlight (congrats, btw). Just wanted to say I appreciated how straightforward everything you said was. You don't seem to have stepped on nearly as many toes as I am prone to stepping on ^_^

The main problem is simply that there isn't enough women in the comic industry thus its like having a double headed coin. There simply isn't enough variety. Women think about things differently to men and see things differently to what we do (much to our dismay most of the time :p) but that is the sort of thing that is essential in an industry that thrives on both male and female characters. Sometimes you need that female input as it gives the characters more depth.

I think this, right here, is the most important thing you said, and frankly I think if the gender imbalance within the industry's creative force were fixed, all the other things would disappear as a matter of course.

Posted by xxxddd

@Strider92: Well thought out and informative.

Thank you for your perspective.

Posted by AustinHasten

Cry about it.

The human race isn't going down the toilet because I (and basically everyone else) enjoy comics where the ladies show a little too much skin.

It's awesome, and I still treat ladies in my life with the respect they deserve.

Posted by Chaos Prime

Epic post Strider92 & imo there arnt enough female artists/writers in the business..

Posted by dondave

Good post

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Posted by Batnandez

people are judges on there looks big deal, your looks are part of you and mean more than you think in life,

Posted by skooks

@AustinHasten said:

Cry about it.

The human race isn't going down the toilet because I (and basically everyone else) enjoy comics where the ladies show a little too much skin.

It's awesome, and I still treat ladies in my life with the respect they deserve.

Good for you. Doesn't exactly mean others treat women with respect though does it?

Posted by AustinHasten

@skooks said:

@AustinHasten said:

Cry about it.

The human race isn't going down the toilet because I (and basically everyone else) enjoy comics where the ladies show a little too much skin.

It's awesome, and I still treat ladies in my life with the respect they deserve.

Good for you. Doesn't exactly mean others treat women with respect though does it?

Even if they don't, it'd be absurd to attribute that to comic book characters with revealing clothing.

Posted by skooks

@AustinHasten said:

@skooks said:

@AustinHasten said:

Cry about it.

The human race isn't going down the toilet because I (and basically everyone else) enjoy comics where the ladies show a little too much skin.

It's awesome, and I still treat ladies in my life with the respect they deserve.

Good for you. Doesn't exactly mean others treat women with respect though does it?

Even if they don't, it'd be absurd to attribute that to comic book characters with revealing clothing.

It'd be absurd to attribute that to comic books and only comic books, yes, but look at the bigger picture. Women are objectified in all forms of media, comic books being a part of the problem. Maybe if one area stopped, others would follow suit. Media can and does fuel the overall beliefs and behaviours of wider society.

Posted by AustinHasten

@skooks said:

@AustinHasten said:

@skooks said:

@AustinHasten said:

Cry about it.

The human race isn't going down the toilet because I (and basically everyone else) enjoy comics where the ladies show a little too much skin.

It's awesome, and I still treat ladies in my life with the respect they deserve.

Good for you. Doesn't exactly mean others treat women with respect though does it?

Even if they don't, it'd be absurd to attribute that to comic book characters with revealing clothing.

It'd be absurd to attribute that to comic books and only comic books, yes, but look at the bigger picture. Women are objectified in all forms of media, comic books being a part of the problem. Maybe if one area stopped, others would follow suit. Media can and does fuel the overall beliefs and behaviours of wider society.

I hardly agree that women are objectified in comic books, or any other medium. I don't know that people understand what objectification is. I've never been reading Supergirl and thought, "Wow, look at how strong that thing (Supergirl) is." Objectification means that you view them as an object, and not a person, and consistently I'm thinking, "Wow, look at how strong she is!" No one truly views women as objects, and certainly not due to revealing clothing.

Posted by skooks

@AustinHasten said:

@skooks said:

@AustinHasten said:

@skooks said:

@AustinHasten said:

Cry about it.

The human race isn't going down the toilet because I (and basically everyone else) enjoy comics where the ladies show a little too much skin.

It's awesome, and I still treat ladies in my life with the respect they deserve.

Good for you. Doesn't exactly mean others treat women with respect though does it?

Even if they don't, it'd be absurd to attribute that to comic book characters with revealing clothing.

It'd be absurd to attribute that to comic books and only comic books, yes, but look at the bigger picture. Women are objectified in all forms of media, comic books being a part of the problem. Maybe if one area stopped, others would follow suit. Media can and does fuel the overall beliefs and behaviours of wider society.

I hardly agree that women are objectified in comic books, or any other medium. I don't know that people understand what objectification is. I've never been reading Supergirl and thought, "Wow, look at how strong that thing (Supergirl) is." Objectification means that you view them as an object, and not a person, and consistently I'm thinking, "Wow, look at how strong she is!" No one truly views women as objects, and certainly not due to revealing clothing.

What are you going on about? NO ONE views women as objects? Really? I'm not sure we live on the same planet.

Posted by akbogert

@skooks: Yeah. Not sure if trolling or actually crazy.

Posted by callsignneptune

@AustinHasten: You sir, are crazy.

Posted by Catsnlynne

I honestly don't care how women are treated in comic books or what they wear.

Posted by akbogert

@Catsnlynne said:

I honestly don't care how women are treated in comic books or what they wear.

While I find this deeply horrifying, I admire your willingness to admit it (unless you're trolling in which case I admire nothing about you at all).

Posted by blackwolf0925

To me the works of fiction has always been about fantasy and what one wanted to become. I admit I enjoy things that will make a lot of people in these forums want to not befriend me, or run away from me. But I look at it this way it is a work of fiction and not real, So I know where to draw the line on what is acceptable to some and what isn't to others. Now women in comics, the way I see it is I read the story first, then I analyze the book. Who wrote the story, and who was the story intended for. If it was a story full of nothing but women trying to arouse the male reader than I take it with a grain of salt. But even then the story could be something I have never read and woefully enjoy.

More often than not it is the story that makes me come back to these works of fiction not the eye candy.

Posted by Catsnlynne
@akbogert
No I'm not trolling. I've said in other threads that it's the male heros and villains that I'm interested in and like to read about.
Posted by TheHulk

Hulk witness some these first hand. Hulk aware of this trend going on the Metroid video game fanbase. They treat Samus (the main heroine) like some sex symbol instead of an awesome bounty hunter in power armor.

Posted by akbogert

@Catsnlynne: Well, like I said: at least you admit it. Though not caring about female characters and not caring about sexism aren't necessarily the same thing.

Posted by knighthood

Maybe they can start stuffing all the men's undies with socks to make them comparable to the ladies. Just sayin'.

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