The Maze Agency by Adam Hughes and Rick Magyar, 1988
#Jubilee WiP pre-order commission for #Supanova Sydney #XMen #JubilationLee #Vampire #Marvel #Comics #Yardin
Scott Pilgrim’s Lucas Lee Movies. The greatest actor of this generation.
N.B. I may have posted this before, but this is a new version with a few edits. I don’t think my previous version was “finished”, and this too is kind of a work in progress. My apologies: I tried to be as gender equal as possible, but I am a guy, and sometimes it’s not easy to put myself in someone else’s shoes.
It’s a terrible situation when a large segment of a core audience is ignored, misrepresented, trivialized, or compartmentalized, but that seems to be the general response in the industry to its female audience. One of the most visible ambassadors for our sisters are cosplayers, a group which has also been somewhat mistreated as late. Thankfully, these incidents are fairly isolated, but it does expose a general lack of awareness in the culture as a whole towards the female audience.
Perhaps the greatest problem is the over-sexualization of women in the medium. Granted, the superhero game was a man’s world for many decades, and the super heroine has increased in number among the ranks of the men. Now, many key members of both of the big commercial publisher’s core teams are women. And yet, even as the super heroine has increased in number, there has been a continual sexualization of her, making her something less of a person and more as a sex object. Even the perpetual poster-girl for the “eyes up here” reminder, Power Girl, is only notorious for her enormous breasts. It’s extremely ironic that one of comic’s great reminders about NOT treating women as just a body is famous MOSTLY for her body.
Power Girl’s entire physique began as something of a joke - how much can one get away with when sexualizing a character? Slowly, her bustline was increased, issue by issue, by artists that wanted to test the limits of censorship and the editor’s eye. By the time the editor had caught the growth, PG’s chest had grown to ridiculous proportions, a factor that is highlighted by the infamous hole in her costume. While the hole in her costume has been explained, and quite well (she removed her cousin’s infamous ‘S’-like symbol because it was not HER symbol), other sexualization situations lack such a convenient or satisfying lampshade.
Two books spring to my mind: “The Bat and the Cat” and “The Evil That Men Do”. With “The Bat”, Batgirl chases after Catwoman, who just happens to lead Batgirl on a wild goose chase, which happens to lead right into a nudist club. Suuuuure. One wonders if the author would have such gusto writing the scene if the Joker had led Batman into such a place. While the situation was lampshaded as a “dare” where Catwoman was trying to test Batgirl’s bravery (or some situation like that), it read to me as just an excuse to get the two titular women into a state of undress.
"The Evil That Men Do", by Kevin Smith, falls into a similar trap in its earlier chapters. (Thankfully, the two year delay led to a conclusion that was stronger than the first half). In the beginning of the book, the reader is treated to Black Cat taking a shower. It even takes on humous proportions when, later on, Felicia ONCE AGAIN takes another shower, remarking, "Why is it that I take so many showers?" Probably to boost your readership… Again, one wonders how many times we have seen Peter Parker in the shower… Or Deadpool… Or Daredevil…
I think this represents the core problem - an segment of the audience that is satisfied with cheap titillation, and an industry satisfied to provide it.
Surely the industry is not totally to blame - if there wasn’t an audience for a cheap thrill, there would never be a reason to provide one. However, that doesn’t mean that sexism should be excused because of the desires of a portion of an audience. The comic industry has tried, as of late, to provide more skin and has been shocked in the results. Most infamous is DC’s redesign of Harley Quinn, using the “skin is in” mentality. Fan backlash was astounding - instead of responding positively to the more daring costume, there was an outpouring of negative comments about how much flesh was exposed, and how changing the character’s costume had changed who she was. (Granted, there are very few changes involved with the “New 52”, small or large, that haven’t been met with some vocal amount of criticism. But this highlights the general failure among the industry that presumes that a “sexier” image is the audience’s desire.) Even Starfire, who was being touted as a “female empowering” character, has been the subject of critical backlash for “empowering” a woman by putting her in a glued-on bikini. The problems don’t stop there… Stripper poses seem to be the normal depiction for women. The poster for “The Avengers” puts Scarlett Johannson in such an obvious booty pose that cartoonist Kevin Bolk had to poke obvious fun with “Avengers ASS-emble”, where Bolk draws all of the men in the same booty pose while Black Widow looks on, confused. Another great example of “putting the shoe on the other foot” is the infamous cosplay group, “The Gender Bent Justice League”. The group, mostly women, portrayed each member of the Justice League as the opposite gender. Batman became Batma’am, Superman became Superma’am, etc. What was perhaps most enlightening (and perhaps disturbing) was Wonder Man’s and Power Boy’s skimpy costumes. If you weren’t aware of how gender inequality applies to suit coverage between superheroes and super heroines, the Gender Bent Justice League highlights that dichotomy with alarming results!
And this brings me to the audience that such thrills caters towards. While the comic book audience was primarily young boys and men, that audience shifted to adult men, and now includes segments of all people. However, it seems that the industry has remained fixated on fueling the sex drives of the young man. Some of these men are hypercritical about what is often called a “feminist” position on comic books. Often times the word “feminist” is used, it seems, to devalue the opinions involved, as if reminding one’s self that the opinion is coming from a woman then it must be automatically an extreme reaction. For example, some men suggest that sexual depiction of women is common because men are also portrayed sexually in comic books as well - muscular and shirtless. These men claim that women also forward sexist images of men in that way. However, it’s been argued that such depictions are not supported by a large grouping of a heterosexual female audience, but is in fact part of the desires of the male audience depicting a machismo image to “grow up to become”, as it were. The blog “The Mary Sue” recently proved an interesting point - two magazines with “The Wolverine” actor Hugh Jackman on the cover. The one image, from “Health and Fitness”, had the ripped, shirtless Jackman. The other magazine, a women’s interest magazine, had Jackman in a shirt, standing relaxed. Surely there are sexual images of men in women’s interest magazines and romance novel covers, but the comparison was definitely interesting; here, Jackman was not depicted half naked on the women’s magazine, but on the fitness periodical. There will be those who criticize such an observation, noting that “The Mary Sue” is a “feminist” blog and apt to a skewed viewpoint, but such statements are meant to devalue the observation, as if “feminist” is a bad word, indicating yellow journalism at every turn.
This is what I’ve seen to be the chief problem - the backlash against a “feminist” viewpoint being used to justify what is in fact a sexist viewpoint. Case in point is the cosplayer. Lately there has been a few situations of harassment of female cosplayers at conventions. The first form of harassment is outright sexual harassment. Two recent incidents come to mind immediately: a 13 year old Zatanna cosplayed falling prey to catcalls of men who either didn’t know or didn’t care she as underage (as if such catcalls would be better if she were over 18!) and a groping threat tweeted to Yaya Han at a Texas convention in 2013. There are other incidents of cosplayers being harassed, their bodies ogled or made subject of discussions such as guesses of the cosplayer’s bra size, etc. Many men and women say that these women are presenting themselves in sexy costumes so they should prepare for such treatment, that these female cosplayers put themselves in the position of being harassed in such manner and that some of the actually want such cheap attention.
Speaking as a guy, I only have one reaction. BULLSHIT. There is no reason for any woman to have to put up with any harassment whatsoever, no matter how sexy her costume or how curvy her body. Just because a woman is SEXY doesn’t mean she’s less of a woman or a person, or that she needs to be reduced to the cheap fantasy or thrills of a harassing comic fan (male or female).
The second type of harassment falls along the lines of bullying: harassing cosplayers whose body type, ethnic background, height, etc. is not an exact match for the fictional character they portray. I think it’s sad in an industry that the world stereotypes as an audience of overweight, single men make fun of a female cosplayer because the said cosplayed is not a Size 0 with a DD cup size. Although, interestingly enough, sometimes the reverse can happen - backlash towards a cosplayer because of their body. Ardella Copslay has discussed this type of discrimination - those that assume she cosplays to draw attention to herself, to show off her admittedly large bustline. As Ardella so eloquently established in her video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2KdT9PWe_I), she was often bullied for her body image as a young woman, and cosplaying characters that fit her body type has been very satisfying, improving her own self image. She’s not “showing off”, but choosing the best cosplay opportunities that fit her body type. Is it fair to harass her for cosplaying Power Girl even when it suits her natural figure?
It’s a shame that people are still harassed for who they are. Agreed, a lot of the criticism comes from assumptions made from an uneducated audience. That ignorance fails to make the situation right. Most cosplayers have extremely public opinions, and many blog (like Ardella). Not that a person needs to learn all about a cosplayer to make comments.
But they don’t need to make ignorant comments, either.