A Discussion About Female's And Misogyny In Comics
I feel that recently there has been a certain segment of the feminist population that have become outspoken about misogyny in comic books and I feel that some of their complaints are justified, but I also feel that some are not. A lot of the complaints are directed at the big two companies and characters like Power Girl, Starfire, or even Wonder Woman and their dress, as well as a general need for more woman/girls in comics. I understand the want for characters that are not hyper sexualized and drawn with outrageous anatomies but I like to point out that the big two also have a rich history of crossover and addition of female characters. DC has one of the most iconic super heroes of all time and I feel like Wonder Woman has been a positive character since the 1940’s, not to mention the many different, six to be exact, Batgirl’s. It’s not just super heroes, anti-heroes like Catwoman, and straight up villains like Harley Quinn are a staple of DC as well. I understand the idea of dressing them different and not making them hyper sexualized, but I feel like skimming over the fact that these characters are mostly empowering is not doing them justice. Both of the big two have some amazing characters and some of them have amazing histories, not just in comics but as back stories as well.
As far as DC is concerned I think that Starfire is under the most scrutiny, or under the most fire, pun intended. Princess Koriand’r, or Starfire, is most recently a part of Redhood and the Outlaws in the New 52 but she was created in 1980 and has been part of other teams like Teen Titan’s so there is plenty of history, not all of it overly sexual. I understand that she is often portrayed in a fairly sexual manner with little clothes but by focusing on only this detail we have been sort of unfair to her history and depth as a character. I just don’t feel that a panel or two of her in a sexy swimsuit takes away from the rich history of her people the Tamaran or the world she comes from. Not all men that read comic books stop at the pictures, many of us can see past the sexualizing art, and we appreciate Starfire as a really amazing character. There are times in the series that Jason Todd or Roy Harper are standing shirtless, all buffed out and sexy, but I have never heard anyone complain about that, and I feel that is because the story continues to grip the imagination and people can see through the panel and frame it with the overall story line.
[caption id="attachment_1273" align="alignnone" width="640"] Jason Todd and Starfire[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1274" align="alignnone" width="247"] Starfire[/caption]
DC has made some strides towards comic book equality; the New 52 reboot has redone some of the staple characters like Batgirl, Batwoman, Catwoman, and recently added some new books like Gotham Academy featuring a teenage girl as the protagonist. Even Harley Quinn got her own book, and if anyone wants to question the BA status of any of these characters then I implore them to read Suicide Squad and make an argument that Amanda Waller isn’t one of the most BA woman in comics today. DC has heard the voices in demand of new female roles and heroes and believe me their creative wheels have been turning. I feel that some of the ventures into female led comics have been dismissed because they were not successful. Let us not forget a little book called The Movement that featured four teenage girls and two teenage boys as the team and also featured one of the girls as team leader. It ran for a year but was cancelled after only twelve issues.
[caption id="attachment_1275" align="alignnone" width="640"] Virtue is team leader[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1276" align="alignnone" width="672"] Gotham Academy[/caption]
As far as the big two companies I like what Marvel has been doing the most. Not to take away from DC but Marvel has really stepped up their game in the attempt to kill stereotypes in comic books; in fact, they have done such a good job it’s hard to know where to start. I feel like one of the most important things is the success of the female Thor character. According to the BBC, and every other news organization, the female Thor books have out sold the male books over shooting a lot of people’s expectations and silencing the critics of the change. I certainly don’t mind the change but I also don’t dismiss the critics that ask why they had to take a male character and make it female. I see it from both sides, but I don’t understand the hate over it. As much as it doesn’t bother me they changed Thor I have to wonder why they didn’t just make a new female character that was different, but the feminization of an already existing character is nothing new so the critics should realize that as well. I think the biggest difference is the lack of misogynistic hate that exudes from a lot of the female Thor critics, I have no malice in my heart over it, and I just feel that the need for female characters is better served with new and refreshing characters versus reinventing male characters.
Even though I feel new characters is a good idea I like the crossover and world building stuff that Marvel has been doing with the Spider-verse, it’s reminiscent of Batman and the variations of Batgirl. Through the Spider-verse story line Marvel has been able to introduce some really killer female characters like Silk, Spider Gwen, and Mayday Parker. Instead of reinventing Spiderman they took the idea and built on it. In my opinion having Peter Parker lead a bunch of other spider people doesn’t dilute the Spiderman name like changing the characters sex does. The preservation of the original is what has people like me upset, but it’s also the reason I would like to see new female characters. I feel that the Spider-verse alternative is done very well because the other spider people are similar enough to get the Spiderman feel but it doesn’t dilute Peter Parker at all, Peter’s legacy as Spiderman is only enhanced by Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, and all the other Spider-verse people and instead of shifting the emphasis they share it. All the Spider-verse people are comparable to Peter and they can have their own books, best of both worlds, just like the Batman/Batgirl dynamic.
There have been plenty of times that I have seen a male character with an outrageously good body that was needlessly shirtless and ripped like a Greek god. I feel that the big difference may very well be that I don’t care and that sight doesn’t draw out any negative emotions in me. I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone how to feel or think about an issue, I’m simply drawing a conclusion that may or may not be correct. For me, personally, I never thought about the issue of dress with female super heroes until I saw a few articles and videos on the matter, but touche to the people that noticed and wanted a change because I can see clear changes that have happened and I can see even more changes coming down the pipe.
Not saying that people are wrong to feel the way they feel and I’m not attacking people for feeling the way they do, but I would like to see some recognition for the good things going on within DC and Marvel. They have made a concerting effort to do better and be better; I think that deserves at the least a golf clap of recognition. I also feel that anyone yearning for more female protagonists should check out more indie books because there is no shortfall in female protagonists in indie books. I have done reviews on a lot of stuff and a ruling majority has had either main female protagonists or at the least have had secondary female characters. The Empty, Cluster, Magdalena The Seventh Sacrament, and Pregnant Bitches of War are all reviews I have done and they all have female protagonists; and everything else I have reviewed has at least a female character if not a strong supporting female protagonist. If the success of the new Thor or the demise of The Movement has taught us anything it’s that comic book consumers care about one thing and one thing only… quality. I feel like the best thing to do is to buy the books that feature great female characters and spread the word so others buy it too, that way creators can continue with their visions and let the market climate decide if they keep going, because as much as consumers like quality creator companies like money. If an artist team has a hit like the new Thor it will show, and if not it will go the way of The Movement.