Posts Tagged ‘Women In Comics’

I’ve been incognito lately, but I have tons and tons of things to share, but sadly, no time to do it at the moment.  So instead, I’ll share visuals that (hopefully) will send you spring-boarding in to your own basement-of-the-interwebz link chain and treasure hunts.
I hit pay dirt when I found dcwomenkickingass via my random tumblr site, and as expected, found links to other amazing sites and work– Like this rendering of the Disney princesses as Superheroes by Kreugan on DeviantArt:

Disney heroes

Disney heroes

 

And pretty much everything you ever wanted on the Women of DC over at dcwomenkickingass (also on Twitter @dcwomenkickingass).  And don’t forget to check there for cool projects folks are doing! For example, I just fell in love with these birthday cakes, for example from a blog I found through them, Between the Pages

 

WW Cake

WW Cake

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With all the controversy surrounding the launch of Marvel Divas, I was hesitant to pick up Gotham City Sirens.  Both books launched this month, and I already have Marvel Divas en route to my mailbox (I’ll review it fully in light of my previous post once I get it).  Considering my response to the Marvel Divas hype, you might expect me to hate Gotham City Sirens out of principle and cover art alone:

 

Gotham City Sirens #1 (Cover Art)

Gotham City Sirens #1 (Cover Art)

 
It wasn’t the art alone that caused such an uproar with Marvel Divas.  Most female characters have historically been drawn in highly fetishized ways with body suits and outrageous proportions, so even that wasn’t too much of a shock.  But taking characters who weren’t introduced to their respective universes as sex symbols and re-crafting them to be such under the guise of “Sex and the City” flavored stories was a little too much to swallow, even for the most forgiving women in comics apologists.  DC didn’t do that with Gotham City Sirens (GCS).  In fact, the promotional description was remarkably bland in terms of attempts to use buzz words to attract readers:

This all-new series features the bad girls of Gotham City! Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are tired of playing by other people’s rules regardless of which side of the law they’re on. These tough ladies have a new agenda that’s all their own, and they’ll use any means necessary to pursue it. But can they get along and work as a team? And who will get hurt along the way?
There’re no “sudsy” descriptions here, folks.  “Bad girls?” Uhm… yeah.  They’re villains.  “Tired of playing by other people’s rules?” They sound pretty independent to me.  “Tough ladies?”  Thank you for giving them credit… Catwoman was recently stabbed through the heart and brought back, and Harley … well, she’s had it rough being the Joker’s moll.

 

So when Jack handed me Gotham City Sirens #1 in the store I hesitated.  He raised a point that made perfect sense:  If I think Marvel is doing such a dismal job of portraying women, why not compare it to the way DC handles theirs?  There was Birds of Prey, but that ship has since sailed, and now GCS is running alongside Marvel Divas, both are ensemble female casts of protagonists, so why not use them as a comparison?  And he was right.  I decided that reading both all female team comics would be a good comparison and exercise in patience.  Wow, am I glad he handed me that book!

 

The plot seems pretty dry and basic at first, and the “new” upstart villain “Bone Crusher” is painful to read.  His use of the slang “beyoches” to refer to the Sirens is … well, it’s just a moment that makes you wince.  Really? Nothing better to say? Then again, he proves himself to be a rather inept, though strong, newcomer to the Gotham City underworld, so the corny dialogue from him actually fits rather well.  Considering the upheaval in Gotham with Batman dead and Jason Todd running amok, and a new Batman on the scene, I’m sure we can expect any and every petty criminal with a gimmick to come out of the woodwork to try and make his or her name.  As long as they aren’t all as cliche and corny as Bone Crusher, it could prove to be an ideal situation for the more experienced, proven villains of Gotham to stand their ground to hold their places at the top.

 

The art was elongated and exaggerated (there are fight scenes where our “Sirens” are contorted in movements that just aren’t physically possible, but dramatic to look at), and the long lines make the female characters that much more alluring and fluid.  The Gotham City Sirens are a combination of walking stereotypical  sex fantasies, what else can you expect?

 

What struck me as I was reading Gotham City Sirens was the possibility of this book to be amazing.  While the first issue seemed rather flat, it did something that I could very much appreciate– It called out the points in each of the three female characters that feminists cringe over:

 

Catwoman:  She’s a smart, polished vixen who runs around in a black leather catsuit (literally) and carries a whip.  She’s strong enough in character history and plot to carry her own title, but she has a perceived aura in the Gotham world that she only gets away with her schemes because of her “relationship” with Batman.   It’s the old “female can’t be successful in her own right without a male to make it easier for her” issue.  But right off the bat, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn call her on it, implying that possibly the only reason she’s interested in teaming up is because the Batman she had “wrapped around her paw” was gone, and then so was her protection. 
 
 
Poison Ivy:  She’s a red haired seductress who wears flora and fauna in provocatively placed positions.  She is the quintessential gold-digger and maneuvers through money and power by using her feminine “wiles” and her methods of seduction.  Sure, she has pretty useful and (at times) powerful abilities, but rather than use her intelligence in a masculine way, she manipulates the men around her, and the men she wants something from, with the hint and promise of affection.  She is the ultimate Femme Fatale.  But as Catwoman enters Poison Ivy’s apartment and sees the Riddler drugged with plant toxins, she calls out Poison Ivy for giving away all of her money and preying on men in her same old ways. 
 
 
Harley Quinn: Let’s face it, the seemingly air headed blonde with a penchant for pig tails, school girl outfits, and violence is just begging for you to hate her with every feminist bone in your body.  But time and again Harley has moments of shocking clarity and intelligence that makes you wonder whether her typical demeanor is just an act she prefers to play, or whether it really is her.  Couple that with her abusive relationship with the Joker–in every sense of the term–and you almost feel sorry for her.  She packs a mean punch of her own, but when faced with the possibility of the Joker returning, both Catwoman and Poison Ivy point out the insanity of her attraction to him, and neither encourages her love for the man. 

Combined, they bolster each other in those aspects that make us love them as characters, and call out the problems that everyone else sees in their characterization.  Together, they seem to balance each other out and play off of those strengths and weaknesses in a way that is far more complex and satisfying than putting them around a coffee table with tea, discussing the problems with their love life.  These women aren’t patsies, and they aren’t afterthoughts.  They have their own long, ingrained histories that are three dimensional and complex.  Putting them together for whatever reason (money, power, defending their own criminal territory, reputations, and place in the underworld hierarchy, etc.) was a stroke of genius.

 

I’m looking forward to reading Marvel Divas.  Maybe they’ll surprise me and be actual competition for GCS.  Be sure to watch for a GCS vs. MD post soon!

 

Grade: B/B+

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If you’re a woman following the comic book world, you’ve likely heard the  angry explosions and venom laced vitriol from the readers, and the condescending, misogynistic (not to mention dismissive, logically fallacious, and flat out avoidance of the actual question) responses from Marvel (as in the Editor, Jo Quesada on his blog MyCup ’O Joe on … yeah… Myspace  ~*twitch*~) flying back and forth since the announcement of the series in April.  The pitch itself is enough to make my blood boil, but to add the not-at-all-derogatory-or-objectifying first cover image, and I was ready to never pick up another Marvel comic again.  Excessive? Take a look for yourself.

Mr. Quesada laid out the pitch for Marvel Divas  in a response to this question from a reader: “What’s going on with female Marvel characters? Jean Grey’s been dead for several years now, Shadowcat’s basically dead, Ms. Marvel & Wasp are dead, Scarlet Witch and Songbird have been written out, She Hulk’s been replaced, Storm’s usage is limited… Any comments? Just trying out some fresh faces?”

The reader points out some very important issues.  Marvel has always seemed to have more female characters than DC, and the stronger of the bunch seem to have been written out, killed, or disappeared.  He lays out a laundry list of minor characters that very few people–unless they were avid Marvel readers–would recognize with the single exception of Emma Frost.  What he’s missing here is that the characters that he is point out are, well, not interesting.  Not only are they boring, but few of them (with the exception of Ms. Marvel) have the weight or mass interest to stand alone in a book of their own.  They aren’t interesting.  They aren’t strong.  They’re fodder. 

Then to make matters worse, he re-posts the “pitch” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, as though it will sate the reader’s interest in strong, heroic female characters that can stand on their own along with the first cover image:

 

Marvel Divas Cover Issue #1

Marvel Divas Cover Issue #1

 

“This also seems like the perfect time to announce our Marvel Divas limited series, beginning in July, from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Tonci Zonjic, featuring some of the Marvel Universe’s greatest female heroes in a way you haven’t seem them before. I’ll let Roberto explain:

“The idea behind the series was to have some sudsy fun and lift the curtain a bit and take a peep at some of our most fabulous super heroines. In the series, they’re an unlikely foursome of friends–Black Cat, Hell Cat, Firestar, and Photon–with TWO things in common: They’re all leading double-lives and they’re all having romantic trouble. The pitch started as “Sex and the City” in the Marvel Universe, and there’s definitely that “naughty” element to it, but I also think the series is doing to a deeper place, asking question about what it means…truly means…to be a woman in an industry dominated by testosterone and guns. (And I mean both the super hero industry and the comic book industry.) But mostly it’s just a lot of hot fun.”

 

“Sudsy fun?!” “take a peep?!” and for the love of all that is holy… “Sex and the City in the Marvel Universe” and “Naughty?”  Oh, but don’t forget that it’s “just a lot of hot fun.”

~*headdeskheaddeskheaddeskheaddesk*~

1.  First of all, the only TWO references that can be pulled in this situation when using the word “sudsy” are scantily clad girls lathering each other up (think bikini car wash, like most porn directors, or go for bonus points for group showers), or it can be taken as a Soap Opera reference.  And you think women who are reading your comic books want to read this…. why?!

2.  “Peep?!”  The man is a writer.  He writes for a living. This word is not an accident. Who is this supposed to entice? Pubescent boys stealing glimpses of hot girls through a knothole in the locker room?! That word alone objectifies those female characters, but hey… that’s just my feminist theorist side coming out, I suppose.  How silly of me…

3.  SEX AND THE CITY IN THE MARVEL UNIVERSE?!?!  This, alone, is enough to make me never want to buy another Marvel comic… EVER.  What rationale makes Marvel think this is what women comic book readers want?!  Are they preening for NEW readership?  So… what you plan to do, Mr. Quesada, is to alienate any intelligent, existing fans who put up with your misogyny in small doses (sometimes not so small) already?  So what poll did you take that implied that women want to read comic books based on slumber parties and drinks and non-committal sex?  This has to be pandering to the population of women who just want to see Hugh Jackman naked, right?  So rather than build on the strong characters you have, with legitimate story lines, with legitimate dangers, you plan on turning these potential heroes into women who are defined not by their deeds, but by the men they are (or aren’t) with?  HOW IS THAT EMPOWERING LITTLE GIRLS?! Hortence over at Jezebel makes a very good, as of yet unanswered, point:

Can we just stop for a minute and call shenanigans on this, please? Do you think there’s a series in development that features Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker just chillin’ at the Applebee’s, shooting the shit about a Mets game and calling each other bro? No. And do you know why? Because it would be BORING. Just like a bunch of superheroines bitching about their love lives and waiting around for Mr. Big. The only people who are going to get excited about this series are those who want to see the “hot sudsy fun.”

 

4. Of course it’s going to have that “naughty” element to it because it’s “just a lot of hot fun!”  Are you trying to sell D-list, sub-par hentai, or are you trying to capture a new audience of women readers who will want to try out the rest of your books?  NEWSFLASH!!  If this is your plan, you’re marketing to the wrong country and crowd, my friend.  Those kinds of books have their place, but they aren’t next to Cosmo on the sales rack.

5.  If there was a pitfall in your attempt to market this book, you fell in it.  All of them, in fact, even down to the name.  Divas.  Really.  Did you choose it because it’s a buzz word among teens and college students? Did you even research what the implications are of labeling someone a Diva??  Did you?  I really don’t think so.  Go do some pop culture research and then come back and tell me why you think titling your book Marvel Divas was a good idea that would appeal to strong women.  Because Divas are strong women? If that’s the definition you’re going by, I think you’re going to be awfully surprised when you do your research.

To make things even worse, Joe Quesada attacked a female reader who was questioning Marvel Divas on his blog:

About the “hating” on Marvel Divas, let’s call it what it really is—criticizing how sexist this book appears to be. If Marvel produces comics that are offensive to female readers, why shouldn’t people “hate” on it? Why would I want to support a company that produces offensive, sexist material? Why shouldn’t everyone speak out against it? While the book hasn’t come out yet, what has been released so far is blatantly sexist. But what troubles me the most is that Marvel thinks people want to read this, and this constitutes strong female characterization. Does Marvel actually want to attract female readers or is the whole point that Marvel Comics are only for guys?

Not only does he NOT ANSWER her question, he thinks that misdirection will somehow shame the reader for even asking the question! 

Ashley, while I completely respect your opinion as I do every Marvel fan, your calling Marvel Comics and this particular mini series sexist is a bit extreme from where I’m standing.

I’m going to go on a limb here and assume you’re a Marvel reader.  It’s an assumption I’m making based upon the fact that you’re responding to this column.  If you’re Marvel reader and truly feel we’re sexist, then why are you reading our books?  Now, perhaps you’re not a Marvel reader, then if that’s the case, I’m not quite sure what you’re criticizing if you don’t read our books?

You haven’t read a lick of this story yet!

Oh, so if you feel we’re sexist but still read our books, it’s your fault.  And if you aren’t reading our books then you have no right to criticize the blatant misogyny in Marvel.  Got it Joe.

You know, I was going to boycott this book.  I was going to rant and rave and say that this was the breaking point for me with Marvel.  But he did go on to make a valid point– The book hasn’t dropped yet.  So here’s the plan, fans…

I’m going to buy this book, much as the cover disgusts me, and I’m going to read the story.  I’m going to follow it all the way through to the end and I’ll be filling you in along the way.  I have criticized friends and colleagues in the past for basing a judgment on a text or film on the first 10 minutes of reading or watching.  How can you criticize something you haven’t read/listened to/seen?  In this case, the pitch and image itself is enough fodder for criticism, but what about the story? 

It’s possible that the story will surprise me.  Hell, if this had been marketed differently I would be the first in line to chant and cheer the release on!  The concept can be done, but it doesn’t have to be devalued by turning both the characters and the readers into vapid, emotional heat sinks.  If the story is good, and has merit and worth, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it and praise it, the writers, and artist.  If it’s bad, you’ll most certainly hear about it here, and I’ll follow it through to the end either way. 

So… time to put your pen where your mouth is, Joe.  We’re waiting….

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21
Apr

I want to be an Amazon Princess…

   Posted by: Dawn    in Comic Books, Feminism, Film, Lit issues

Wonder Woman 2009 Animated movie
Wonder Woman 2009 Animated movie

 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love comic books.  While growing up, my Dad would bring home big stacks of comic books on weekends for my brothers and I to read–Thor, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, The Flash, and my personal favorite X-MenI remember wondering why we weren’t reading comics like Superman or Spiderman or even Batman, and I’m sure I asked at some point, but the answer was either sufficient to my mind’s logic at the time, or it became irrelevant because I had fallen in love with reading any and every kind of comic book I could get my hands on.  Even when I would go to church with my grandmother on the weekends (yeah, I know… that’s a topic for another post all together kids…) we would walk to church, then to get milkshakes at the local penny candy store and I would get to choose a comic.  Well… not exactly choose.  See, I always ended up getting Betty and Veronica comics because any time I picked up a traditional comic book she would recoil in horror and pronounce that “Girls don’t read that kind of thing!”  (This is also the same woman who stated in the same breath that “You don’t need a man to take care of you!” but that “Boys are better than girls…” Nothing like confusing a young girl, right?) And so I ended up being captured by the cut throat manipulations of the dark-haired, insanely jealous vixen Veronica Lodge and the ever-forgiving blonde haired, girl-next-door Betty Cooper as they vied for Archie’s attention. 

Betty and Veronica

Betty and Veronica

Instantly I became Veronica’s biggest fan and insisted that I die my hair the soul-sucking black that she had!  Betty was a push over who rarely did anything that was improper or for revenge.  She got hurt a lot, and got walked all over, and Archie consistently ditched her for Veronica.  What little girl wanted to be the door-mat?  Be like Betty just because she always took the high road and it would eventually  pay off?  I had already taken issue with Disney for their illusions of happiness that women receive only after abuse, cruelty, and attempted murder by this point, and I certainly did not believe that a Prince Charming was the only one who could save me from my situation.  So why wouldn’t I favor Veronica?  I didn’t see any stand out female heroes with their own comic book to be a fan girl of (remember, my reach into the comic world was limited to what my father brought home), and as far as I could tell, only the female mutants in X-Men were strong and independent role models.  In all of the major comic book titles I had been reading, women were the ones who always needed saving.  They were damsels in distress or they were villains… and cheesy villains at that.  I was always craving that strong female presence, and I think that craving drove me to write fiction.

So then, why did I hate Wonder Woman?  I was bored with the Live-Action TV show.  I accepted the campiness of the Batman show, but somehow found the campiness of Wonder Woman unacceptable.  I never read any of the Wonder Woman comics regularly, and I recall being distinctly upset by the deviations from the Greek Mythos that the writers took.  I was obsessed with Greek Mythology, and all I knew was that what little bit I did encounter in the WW comics, was wrong.  I hadn’t yet accepted that fictional worlds could incorporate and toy with history and myth as it saw fit.  I just knew that they were putting some woman with a magic lasso and an invisible jet (…seriously? I still hate that jet…) in the same story as ancient Greek Gods.  Nope.  Not okay!!  So I decided to turn my back on Princess Diana of the Amazons and never look back.** 

…Besides, she was just the token female superhero that DC had to create even though her character and her story arcs were completely unbelievable, right?!  And the villains she faced… I mean, come ON!!  Batman had the Joker, Superman had Lex Luthor… Wonder Woman had….. Sharkeeta?!  (The leader of a humanoid pack of sharks….yeah) and Giganta–you guessed it… a woman who could grow to incredible sizes!  For the record, I still hate Giganta, even though she is one of WW’s classic villains and still makes appearances.  The writers at DC clearly didn’t like girl superheros as much as the folks at Marvel, so why bother?  Superman is annoying anyway…

How did I go most of my comic reading, literary life under this premise??  How is it possible that no one disabused me of my dislike of DC, let alone Wonder Woman?   This March, DC released a new animated movie straight to DVD entitled Wonder Woman.  I saw the preview while watching the trailers for another film and I did a double take and wanted to do some investigation work on the Amazon Princess in the hopes that the movie was reflecting the recent changes in writers and plot direction of the comic book series.  I picked up Amazons Attack!  and Who is Wonder Woman? – both graphic novels that tied in with the rebooted Volume 3 of the comic.  I also picked up about 10 individual comics that followed the Who is Wonder Woman?  relaunch from 2006.  I read all of them (believe me, that’s a lot of comics… even for me!) in the span of two days and I know one thing for certain…

I was wrong.

I Love Wonder Woman and I love that the new writers have embraced her strengths and have updated the complexity of the story lines around her!  I’ve always brushed off the comic because I felt the writers weren’t taking advantage of an opportunity to create an engaging, powerful, complex character.  The current team of writers is doing exactly that, and I love it.  I suppose they didn’t have much of a choice when Wonder Woman killed Maxwell Lord at the end of Infinite Crisis…. (psst… that’s a big deal… super heroes aren’t supposed to kill people!  Wonder Woman went head to head and beat up Superman, then snapped Maxwell Lord’s neck…)  

And the movie? 

If you have never watched an animated film based on a comic book, you’ll want to give this one a try.  It’s stunning, it’s fun, it addresses issues of feminism in ways that modern women still struggle with without being a bludgeoning force, and still manages to be witty and action packed.  See it.  You won’t be disappointed, I promise!

**In retrospect, I realize that none of the story lines I encountered were from the revamp that George Perez did in the 80’s.  Everything I had encountered was somehow connected to the Golden/Silver/or Bronze Age of Wonder Woman comics.  It wasn’t until after the cancellation of the series following DC’s “reboot” of their products with Crisis on Infinite Earths that Wonder Woman became a familiar strong, modern female icon that modern writers like Gail Simone and Jodi Picoult have taken to rich, respectable heights since 2006, all thanks to George Perez’s relaunch of the Amazonian Princess in the mid-late 80’s. 

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