(Apologies for the light content over the weekend; I spilled some boiling water on my hand yesterday (@#$%!), and it was touch-and-go as I did everything I could to make sure it wouldn’t blister. Fortunately, a few hours of cold-water immersion and aloe gel seemed to help. Still… OW.)
Anyway: The internet doesn’t want to stop talking about the portrayal of women in DC Comics! It’s nice to see people talking about the content – it means that people are moving beyond the initial excitement to see if it’s all worth it. It reminds me of the post-Image Comics launch in 1992-1993, as people (like me) went from buying every single issue to thinking, wait a second, some of these stories are cool, but others kinda suck…
I’ve already said a bit about Catwoman #1 and Red Hood and the Outlaws #1. I’ve flipped through almost every New 52 title at the shop, but very few passed the browse test and got purchased. (I did pre-order several #1s, which should finally arrive in the mail in a week or so, so I’ll post more thoughts later.)
There’s a plausible rumor that DC is (for once) closely paying attention to the public reaction to the New 52 titles, including
the nature of the reviews the book is receiving and any perceived tone or story problems.
Rich Johnston followed up by saying,
Publishers often say they listen to their fans, though fans seem never to believe it. But this time, I can assure you, DC are actually listening to you and making decisions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars based on what you post on the internet.
Worth bearing in mind that every single time you tweet, you are playing with live bullets.
…So it looks like a lot of websites (and comics blogs) are getting a lot more attention from the people who put out the product…
With that in mind, here are some other reactions to Catwoman #1 and Red Hood #1 so far:
Wired‘s must-read GeekDad column asks, “Dear DC Comics: Why are You Actively Trying to Drive Me Away?”
What would DC have to do to attract more women? … all they have to do is stop actively driving away the female audience with art too often based on porn poses and women so often portrayed as victims and not three-dimensional characters even when they’re in supporting roles.
Catwoman #1 features over two pages of panels of Selina Kyle’s breasts before we ever see her face. And let’s just say not only is the last page of the comic probably not suitable for this blog but it also isn’t at all sexy or sensual.
Starfire in Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 … stands around looking really hot while they figuratively high-five that she’s around to provide such awesome scenery, and then decides to have no strings attached sex with Roy, after she’s slept with Jason. This is not a sexually liberated woman. This is an adolescent male fantasy of a woman who can beat up people for you, stand around so you get a boner, and then offers sex at the drop of a hat. As a friend said on a comic book message board, this is not a woman, this is a blow-up doll.
It’s downright skeevy and I say that as a person whose other job is to write romance novels and has one published erotica novella. The previous incarnation of Catwoman written by Ed Brubaker featured a number of sex scenes that were maturely done. But this is adolescent fanwank material, not characterization…
…these are rather silly comics that you do not read on Read Comics In Public Day.
When you open this book, you are greeted to Selina Kyle’s undulating bosoms. After waggling in the breeze for a few pages, she goes to a Russian nightclub to rob gangsters or something. There, she whips out her bosoms again. At the end of the comic, Batman shows up. Catwoman and Batman abruptly have anonymous sex in their costumes — they don’t know each other’s secret identities now — in a position seemingly cribbed from the poster of Last Tango In Paris. The issue ends with a full-page illustration of Batman inside Catwoman. It is unclear if his utility belt comes equipped with Bat-Rubbers, ribbed for her Bat-Pleasure.
In [Red Hood #1], Jason Todd, Arsenal, and Starfire are anti-heroes who lounge on beaches. Starfire — due to brainwashing or just sheer flightiness — has forgotten her time with the Teen Titans. 12 pages in, we learn that she is sleeping with Red Hood. 16 pages in, she propositions Arsenal for whoopie (aliens love casual sex, you see). 23 pages in, we see how the ferocity of Starfire and Arsenal’s intercourse has trashed their hotel room. Also, Red Hood goes to Tibet, but that had doodlysquat to do with diddling. If your idea of an edgy reboot is witnessing the three main superheroes inches away from constructing an Eiffel Tower, this is your huckleberry.
From the My Two Cents blog:
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 – …Roy’s arm is back and Starfire does not seem to remember any of the Teen Titans that she and Roy battled with. There is enough action to draw you in, but the shoot first, ask questions later could possibly grow a bit old as the series continues.
Catwoman #1 – …The biggest drawback to this issue is the fact that Catwoman cannot seem to keep her clothes on.
From Graphic Policy:
Catwoman #1 – We were told to expect sex and really that’s all there is here in this rather shallow relaunch title. The first panel is a shot of Catwoman/Selina’s breasts which pretty much sums up what you’d expect. The end also attempts to have a Mr. and Mrs. Smith moment between Catwoman and Batman, but in the end it comes off as a cheap ploy that cheapens the character. Instead of a strong female anti-hero, we’re left with big boobs in skin tight leather and not much else inside.
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1 – …Rocafort’s art is awesome as expected, but boy do I have mixed feelings on the rest … where I have an issue is how Starfire is depicted. She barely wears anything, but she’s absolutely an object. An object to use in war. An object used for sex. It’s a continuation of the issue that DC seems to have with women in this revamp/relaunch…
Kickpuncher at FemPop has an EPIC takedown Red Hood writer Scott Lobdell’s portrayal of Starfire:
The ‘new’ Starfire was the kind of parody you would usually only see after Glenn Beck had sex with a penguin in front of Stephen Colbert, if Stephen Colbert were possessed by the ghost of Bill Hicks and told he would only get into heaven if he made a grown Libertarian cry with sheer mockery…
Scott Lobdell gives his audience, his industry, possibly his entire gender the finger and says “Oh no, you motherfuckers. That’s not your fantasy. Your fantasy is a woman that will literally have sex with you just for existing. No woman with any standards, no matter how low, no matter how forgiving, could possibly be attracted to you, so here’s your new sex object—a brain-damaged goldfish with a rack. And you’re such a scared little boy, so afraid of commitment in even your own pathetic fantasies, that you’ll run away from a ‘clinger’ even if she’s as gorgeous, charming, and supportive as the woman Starfire used to be. You can’t bear even that slight chance that she’ll make you move out of your parents’ basement, get a real job, and make something of yourself. So I’ll cater to that too! Not only doesn’t she want a relationship, she won’t even remember you! That’s what you want in the end, isn’t it? A vagina-shaped goldfish! Look upon your lust, ye nerdy, and despair.”
Andrew Wheeler has his own epic post on the subject:
This must be what nerds think feminism looks like. The scene is dressed up as female empowerment, but it’s not there for female readers. Like two straight girls making out in a bar, it.s all about pandering to male hormones. Catwoman is not trying to please the man in the comic, but she is trying to please the man holding the comic……The reboot was meant to help the publisher find new readers, and female comic readers represent a massive audience that DC hasn’t successfully tapped in to. Female characters are a good way to reach those readers, because underrepresented groups like to be recognised. Catwoman would have been a smart title to re-engineer to capture those readers…
Red Hood & The Outlaws, sees Starfire pulling the same ‘let me empower myself for your pleasure, master’ schtick as Catwoman, only she does it socially-inexperienced alien style, like a sexy orange Mork…
To be absolutely fair, the DC reboot was thrown together in such a hurry that they can’t possibly have had time to pull together a misogynistic conspiracy to alienate and exclude female readers. It all just happened by accident! Imagine what they could have achieved if they had been trying!
The shockingly low number of female creators on the relaunch must be a major factor in this unhappy accident, and it’s a problem that DC promised to address after the PR disaster at San Diego where a fan asked, “Where are the women?” and Dan DiDio replied with a series of barks and growls…
The problem DC has right now is that too many of their creators decided that their book was going to be the one targeted to that all-important horny adolescent boys niche, and someone else could deal with stuff like ‘women’. Somehow the reboot seems to have set DC back about twenty years.
Heather Kenealy says of Red Hood,
Wow. Can I just say how offended I am by this book? The story in and of itself is OK, but then the misogynistic way Starfire is treated is just appalling. She is literally reduced to a brainless sex slave who can also kick ass. They mention in narration that she was raised to be a slave but she’s really a princess, but they treat her with absolutely no respect, the big HAHA joke being Red Hood referring to his back up as 38s, and of course, the next panel stars Kori’s boobs. Yeah, Scott Lobdell, you should be ashamed.
…Really, is DC just going to let Lobdell turn Starfire into that brain damaged girl on the short bus who keeps pulling her skirt over her head? This is just disgusting, and it’s frankly writing Jason and Roy as scumbags who take advantage of this really stupid but hot alien. It’s not only character rape but it’s practical literal rape.
Speaking of rape, Todd at Indignant Online had this to say:
…that scene, especially if you read the whole thing, appears to be a gender-reversed rape fantasy…
“Every time… he protests.”“Then… gives in.”
…And so there you have Batman getting mounted right in front of the balcony window (you’d think Batman might want to pull the curtains – he seems a bit of a privacy freak, normally) and it’s, ahem, “keep the masks on.”
…The thing is, normally the victim of the rape-fantasy is the heroine. Here the victim is Batman. Given that DC’s readership is thought to be overwhelmingly male, is it intended that the little fanboys identify with Batman and have a… we’ll be generous and call it a ROMANTIC fantasy about being overpowered by a catburgler/ex-prostitute in a leather bodysuit?‘Cause, y’know, if that’s what’s going on, that’s pretty creepy. I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of fanboys who wouldn’t have that high on their bucket list, but that’s still pretty creepy. Maybe I’m just well-adjusted…
It also raises some questions about the curation of the Batman brand. Normally, Batman is portrayed as someone who is in control of his emotions in an extreme way. Here, he’s shown as periodically letting Catwoman throw him to the ground and shag him over his protests. It seems… a bit out of character.
Heidi MacDonald at The Beat had some points to consider:
Taken by themselves, a book about a stripper superhero, or Catwoman having her way with Batman in ultimate fan service, or Starfire the playa are not so bad. It’s just when seen as part of the overall mood of the relaunch…
YOU tell me if this is diversity: several of the New DC artists are also known for their girlie art, several of them on the books with female protagonists — Guillem March, Sami Basri, Ed Benes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Except that not one artist like Becky Cloonan or Mike Maihack was hired. It’s all so limited…
…to everyone who wants things to change, we have to start getting behind the GOOD STUFF, not just putting down the bad stuff. Until a book of the quality of the Azzarello-Chiang Wonder Woman sells as well as (or, dare we dream…better) than the cheesecake fan service, there’s not going to be more of it. It’s easy and fun to give ridiculous poorly executed stories like CATWOMAN #1 a lot of attention…but isn’t it really helping sell the book?
It sounds like even DC had second thoughts about Starfire’s portrayal before the issue went to press:
Yes, there were a lot of people there, it had become quite the conversation piece. There was a lot of discussion about Kory and her sexuality the day before this issue went to press.
There were a handful of staff, mostly other women, who believed the writer was trying to equate being a strong woman with being, frankly, a slut. No one said that the writer was misogynistic, just that perhaps he was writing from a male perspective. It was firmly suggested to him that he could accentuate the character’s past as a sex slave. And that this might be an explanation for her sexuality, that she was acting out in her new life.
However, we were told he was adamant that Kory not be portrayed as a victim. The argument was made that if she was acting out sexually because of her past it mind that she mentally never left the prison planet.
Which is a really stupid argument, to me. If a trauma survivor hasn’t gotten help or treatment, they’re going to act out, period. In any case, the only explanation left for Starfire’s actions in the comic would be that her entire race no longer values relationships (which had explained the previous version’s sexual expression).
Oh, well. I’m guessing that these books got around 40,000-50,000 readers, so I’m sure there are plenty of people who liked these comics. But it sounds like a lot of people didn’t, and I’m curious if DC’s going to quickly change tactics the way it did when Superman went from renouncing his U.S. citizenship to randomly talking about how awesome America is – and if so, if they’ll do it better than the last time…
- Filler article: The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their ‘Liberated Sexuality’ (bwmedia.wordpress.com)
- The DC New 52: Pimps ‘n’ Hos Up in Here (alldaycomics.com)
- DC Relaunch Snap Judgments, Week 3: WTF, Catwoman’s Boobs? [Comic Review] (io9.com)
- Picks of the Week – September 21, 2011 (chyrondave.wordpress.com)
- Anne Hathaway In Full Catwoman Suit On ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Set (slashfilm.com)
- More DC New 52: Sellout Shenanigans? [UPDATED] (alldaycomics.com)
- 26 of 52: Week Three Titles (looksat40.wordpress.com)
- What’s So Wrong With Women in Comics? (geeksaresexy.net)