Creative Destruction

December 4, 2006

Sexism Among Comic Book Geeks: “The Rape Pages Are In!”

Filed under: Feminist Issues — Ampersand @ 2:02 pm

Quoted from Occasional Superheroine, a blog written by a former DC comics editorial assistant, about the creative process behind the rape and murder of long-established supporting character Sue Dibny:

My theoretical comic company, which, for the theoretical purposes of my theoretical memoir, I’ll call Gilgongo! Comix, was tired of being “pushed around” in the sales wars and in the court of fanboy opinion (such as it was). So with all the red-nosed gumption and determination of Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” Gilgongo! Comix decided to go badass.

They needed a rape. Because there’s nothing quite so badass as rape, lets face it. And the victim couldn’t been from the usual suspects: “The Black Raven” (done that already plus ovaries ripped out), “Bondage Queen” (wasn’t she raped like every issue–at least mentally?), “Demon-Girl” (she was already paralyzed from the last pseudo-raping and that provided all sorts of logistical nightmares for the artist).

No, they had to find the most innocent, virginal, good-natured “nice” character they could find and ravage her not once but twice.

Theoretically, this character’s name was Vicki Victim.

A whole groundbreaking limited series would be built around Vicki Victim’s rape and murder. [...]

[This was] the crucial syzygy that began the chain of events that ended my career. That particular incident had to do with your dead friend and mine, Vicki Victim.

It started with my associate editor running gleefully into our boss’s office, several boards of art in his hand.

“The rape pages are in!”

The strategy worked, by the way. Sales went up.

The long quote above is from a series of twenty blog posts entitled “Goodbye To Comics,” which make it brutally clear that sexism at DC editorial wasn’t limited to how they decided to treat female characters. The entire series is worth reading in order – because she has a disturbing story to tell, and also because she’s an excellent writer with an appealingly dark sense of humor. You can either read the whole thing in the archives, starting with the bottom post and working your way up, or you can instead use the handy table-of-contents-style links Elayne has compiled. But be warned, a lot of it is pretty harrowing to read.

At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna — who also worked in the corporate comics industry — comments:

You put a bunch of immature men, many of whom were very sick as children or had absent fathers or both, ((I’m skeptical about Johanna’s “very sick as children or had absent fathers” observation. No doubt she’s right about the particular men she worked with. But is it a real pattern, or just a coincidence in the guys she ran into? For what it’s worth, I’ve also run into a lot of bitter misogynistic male fannish types over the years, and the ones I’ve known haven’t been unusually likely to have a background of sickness or absent fathers.)) and all of whom escaped into over-muscled power fantasies as a result, in charge of a publishing subgroup with no prestige and little money. Several of them have never worked anywhere else, or if they have, it was at one of the few similar companies in the same industry that behave the same way. They’re still geeks, mentally, with low self-esteem and no success with women, few of whom they actually know in person, but they’re power brokers within their little world, and there are thousands like them who desperately want to be them… and you wonder why it all ends up so twisted?

The blogger at Mountain of Judgment agrees with Johanna: “Like a terrarium, it’s a perfect closed system, with the men on either side of the equation–publishers and purchasers–reinforcing one another, bending the superhero comics sharply back toward their ancestors–not in the newspaper comics but in the violent, soft-porn dime novels.”

I haven’t been part of the corporate comics industry. But I’ve been a comics geek all my life, and I’ve run into my share of bitterly misogynistic geek guys over the years. It’s by no means a universal type, but it’s common enough to be a type. I can’t even count how often I’ve heard or read female comics fans describe walking into a comic book store only to be treated as The Woman Thing, subject to suspicious glares, leering, and maybe being hit on. (One friend of mine doesn’t read comics on the bus anymore, because it’s such a pain in the neck being hit on by male comics fans.) Valerie D’Orazio, the writer of “Goodbye To Comics,” worked in a comic book store when she was sixteen — until the much-older owner of the store made a pass at her. When she turned him down, he slimed her character among that entire group of comics fans, and most of them went along with it.

Superheroes are part of the problem. Not all superhero fans are misogynists (some of my favorite friends, including a few women, read superhero comics). But the genre attracts a lot of boys and men who are insecure about masculinity, and who need to read male-oriented power fantasies in which women are babes and men are human tanks. Some of those guys are fine; they grow up, they make female friends, they compartmentalize successfully. But some don’t. Too many comic book guys feel entitled to women’s emotions and women’s bodies, and feel bitter over what they see as an unfair denial of their due.

At the same time, I feel a little uneasy about posting this on “Creative Destruction,” where most of the readers aren’t comic book fans. I think a lot of non-fans have the impression that most male geeks are like the comic book guy on “The Simpsons.” And yeah, that type does exist (in both thin and fat varieties), and anyone who spends years in fan culture runs into some guys like that.

But let’s not forget, misogyny rooted in a frustrated sense of entitlement to women is not unique to geeks. You see it among men of all types (including some who get laid as much as anyone). But it’s easier for people to recognize misogyny in lonely male fans, for two reasons. First, because a disproportionate number of fans have poor social skills, and so aren’t good at hiding their misogyny. And second, because “lonely bitter misogynist fan” is a stereotype, so it’s what people are expecting to see.

More links: Blog@Newsarama has a post summarizing various reactions in the comics blogosphere to “Goodbye To Comics.” And When Fangirls Attack! has a list of links.

Finally, Heidi MacDonald at The Beat comments on this story obliquely and visually, by contrasting the way that DC actually depicts Wonder Woman with an really excellent-looking approach that DC rejected.

66 Comments »

  1. Of course, when progressive feminists talk and describe rape and get more blog hits, they are just raising consciousness about the horrid crime of rape.

    And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    The theory these feminists are advancing here is that the comic book makers are wrong people to raise consciousness about rape (indeed, that couldn’t have been their motive), and comic book fans are wrong kind of people to read about it.

    It is merely bad faith and a value judgement (based on stereotypes), that makes some feminists see this as a malicious move to appeal to base rape fantasies of misogynist comic book creeps.

    Of course, it could very well be.

    FWIW, some Marvel comics done about the rape of The Black Cat were IMO quite proper and non-fantasizing (altough they did present the crime as male-perpetrated entirely).

    [edited to make sense of a sentence]

    Comment by Tuomas — December 4, 2006 @ 2:24 pm | Reply

  2. At the same time, I feel a little uneasy about posting this on “Creative Destruction,” where most of the readers aren’t comic book fans.

    Check your assumptions ;) .

    I can’t even count how often I’ve heard or read female comics fans describe walking into a comic book store only to be treated The Woman Thing, subject to suspicious glares, leering, and maybe being hit on.

    But it’s easier for people to recognize misogyny in lonely male fans, for two reasons. First, because a disproportionate number of fans have poor social skills, and so aren’t good at hiding their misogyny. And second, because “lonely bitter misogynist fan” is a stereotype, so it’s what people are expecting to see.

    I’m not sure how much all of this can be attributed to ‘misogyny’, and how much on observer bias and the aforementioned poor social skills or numerous other factors that aren’t about the woman in question. Feminist-influenced women (and men) simply assume it is because of misogyny because it fits the preconceived notion of “men are misogynist due to frustrated sense of entitlement”. This is a simplistic, misandrist view on men.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 4, 2006 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  3. The theory these feminists are advancing here is that the comic book makers are wrong people to raise consciousness about rape (indeed, that couldn’t have been their motive), and comic book fans are wrong kind of people to read about it.

    It is merely bad faith and a value judgement (based on stereotypes), that makes some feminists see this as a malicious move to appeal to base rape fantasies of misogynist comic book creeps.

    Sigh.

    Do you understand that the writer — who is hardly a doctrinaire feminist, by the way — was actually present at the DC editorial meeting in which it was decided that Sue Dibney would be raped and murdered?

    She’s not speculating when she says DC did that to seem more “badass” and to better position themselves in the marketplace. Unless you assume she’s a liar, she thinks they did it for those reasons because that’s what they themselves said.

    * * *

    I’m not sure how much all of this can be attributed to ‘misogyny’, and how much on observer bias and the aforementioned poor social skills or numerous other factors that aren’t about the woman in question.

    It’s not an either-or question, Tuomas. I’m not saying that misogyny is the only factor in play; I’m saying it’s a factor.

    When a 40-odd-year-old man makes a pass at a 16-year-old employee, and then all the guys in the group turn on her after she turns him down, do you really think it’s only feminist prejudices that sees a touch of misogyny in that situation?

    Feminist-influenced women (and men) simply assume it is because of misogyny because it fits the preconceived notion of “men are misogynist due to frustrated sense of entitlement”. This is a simplistic, misandrist view on men.

    Of course, your quote isn’t something I said. For one thing, I didn’t make any such blanket “men are” statement, and I wouldn’t. [*] But I think it’s hard not to notice that there are a lot a significant number of men there with a frustrated sense of entitlement. Have you really never been stuck in a conversation with some guy bitterly complaining about how allegedly “nice guys” like himself never get any? Never seen a man hit on some woman and then call her a bitch after being shot down? Never read Robert Crumb’s comics about his bitterness towards the cheerleaders who didn’t give him the time of day in high school?

    I’ve more than once been talking to a male comic book collector — the kind who has room and rooms full of nothing but shelves and boxes of comics and toys — lamenting that women are only interested in rich guys, and often adding on some horribly misogynistic comments. It’s a type. It’s not universal, but guys like that exist (or they do in the USA). And I don’t understand how you can be so confident that I’m just making this up because I’m a feminist. Exactly how many US comic book conventions have you helped organize, Tuomas?

    [*] As a rule, I don’t make blanket statements about men’s personalities. It’s possible that, over thousands of posts, I’ve misstated myself a couple of times.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 4, 2006 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

  4. There is definitely a misogynist strain in geek culture. I’m not as involved in things as Barry is, but I go to the occasional con and I hang in the occasional game store. There are plenty of guys who have perfectly normal relationships with women, and there are plenty of guys who are really messed up, too.

    Part of that is just selection bias, left over from the days when geekery really was a male domain and women were considered interlopers. Frank can’t deal with women, Frank seeks solace in places where there are no women, there are no women at the comic book store – badda bing, there ya go. (Of course there always were women, but the men successfully kept them marginalized even more than today.)

    But another part of it is organic. There’s something about geekery that’s very compatible with misogyny. That doesn’t mean that geekery is intrinsically misogynist; it means that there’s this troublesome area of the hobby/lifestyle that aware people should look at.

    Comment by Robert — December 4, 2006 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  5. It’s not an either-or question, Tuomas. I’m not saying that misogyny is the only factor in play; I’m saying it’s a factor.

    Of course, neither am *I* saying that “feminist prejudices” are the only factor. I speculated on a complimentary explanation.

    [added]
    me:

    I’m not sure how much all of this can be attributed to ‘misogyny’, and how much on observer bias and the aforementioned poor social skills or numerous other factors that aren’t about the woman in question.

    I’m not sure where you’re getting all this assumed hostility on my part, and I would appreciate if you didn’t construct straw men on what I had supposedly imputed to you, or imply that I had somehow excused rather obvious cases such as the 40Year/16year old one.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 4, 2006 @ 4:01 pm | Reply

  6. Btw, I have plenty of geeky interests, and some experience with geek community. But then, being introverted I’ve never really been all that interested in geek social ladders and the communality of the cons etc. just the stuff that is often deemed “geek”.

    There is plenty of misogyny there, to be sure. [edited to add: At least among certain geek subcultures]

    (/generalization follows, not necessarily about anything written here previously)

    But what irks is that whenever men have some interest that they would, for whatever reason, like to keep homosocial, they get tons of contempt for that. Some just don’t like the stereotypical “battle of bulls” (which takes myriad forms) that almost always ensues while adding women to the mix.

    Then come the theories about fearing women, being insecure and whatever pathology-du-jour is attributed to men who just occasionally prefer to be among the guys.

    It’s almost like women felt entitled to mens hobbies and male groups. Works both ways.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 4, 2006 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  7. I’ve run into my share of bitterly misogynistic geek guys over the years.

    Serious question: Do you consider me to be misogynistic?

    At the same time, I feel a little uneasy about posting this on “Creative Destruction,” where most of the readers aren’t comic book fans. I think a lot of non-fans have the impression that most male geeks are like the comic book guy on “The Simpsons.”

    I’m a little puzzled here. By “geek” are you referring to geeky comic book fans? Or to geeks generally, because if the latter, I fail to see why non-fans would have a significantly different view of them from fans.

    Although not a fan, I view comic books much the same way as I do written science fiction and fantasy. It is a serious genre. At its best, it exhibit the qualities that would qualify a written work as ‘literary’. Inevitably Sturgeon’s Revelation applies.

    So I guess my stereotype of a comic-book geek would be the same as my stereotype of a SF geek. I regard the latter quite highly.

    Incidently, (and I realise I’m wondering completely off-topic), there seems to be a considerable overlap between feminism and SF-fandom. (Maybe comic book fandom too?) I don’t know whether this is just confirmation bias – having noticed an apparent pattern I keep seeing confirming instances.

    Comment by Daran — December 4, 2006 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

  8. Heh heh…

    And second, because “lonely bitter misogynist fan” is a stereotype, so it’s what people are expecting to see.

    There you go.

    Loneliness, bitterness and misogynia among comic book fans are caused by the stereotype threat. :D

    Comment by Tuomas — December 4, 2006 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

  9. And second, because “lonely bitter misogynist fan” is a stereotype, so it’s what people are expecting to see.

    Yourself included, right?

    Your comments seem more like projection than analysis. One common thing I have noticed is that most of the people who criticize male fans dislike mainstream comics and specifically comics that focus on the male experience, the latter of which is always viewed as “bad.”

    Finally, Heidi MacDonald at The Beat comments on this story obliquely and visually, by contrasting the way that DC actually depicts Wonder Woman with an really excellent-looking approach that DC rejected.

    DC does not do manga in their core titles unless your name is Joe Madureira. It has nothing to do with the depiction of Wonder Woman.

    Comment by toysoldier — December 4, 2006 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  10. Ampersand said:
    Have you really never been stuck in a conversation with some guy bitterly complaining about how allegedly “nice guys” like himself never get any?

    It’s interesting that you view this phenomenon as evidence of a frustrated sense of entitlement on the part of these men. I have witnessed many of these conversations, and while some of these men do evidence a mentality of entitlement, many of them do not. I have seen a whole spectrum of attitudes:

    1. “If I do nice things for women, I am entitled to have sex with them in return. I do nice things for women, but they don’t want me; ergo, women suck and should go for me instead.”

    2. “If I do nice things for women, they will want to have sex with me. I do nice things for women, but they don’t want me; ergo, women are stupid and don’t know what’s best for them.”

    3. “If I do nice things for women, they will want to have sex with me. I do nice things for women, but they don’t want me; ergo, women are confused and don’t know what they want.”

    The first two notions are certainly misogynistic, and the first shows an entitlement attitude. The third notion is neither clearly misogynistic nor demonstrating an attitude of entitlement, although it is also a misunderstanding. The point is that many attitudes are possible in men who feel frustrated that women don’t go for “nice guys.”

    It’s possible to resent women for not desiring you even without feeling entitled to sex with them. You may still believe that women should be able to choose who they have sex with, and still think women are stupid, insane, or “irrational” for not choosing you. In the past, I used to have a lot of resentment for girls in high school who rejected me or ignored me, but I don’t think I ever felt entitled to them sexually; if anything, I felt completely unworthy of them.

    The point is that not all complaints that “nice guys finish last” are due to misogyny, and not all misogynistic complaints that “nice guys finish last” stem from a feeling of entitlement to female sexuality. Yet feminists, like you above, see the complaints over “nice guys finishing” last as obvious evidence of male attitudes of entitlement. You are right, you never said explicitly that “men are misogynistic due to a frustrated sense of entitlement,” but such a view is implicit in the discourse of you and many feminists, or at least this is the only way I can explain the tendency of chalking up male behavior (like the complaints of disgruntled “nice guys”) to “entitlement” and misogyny without considering alternative explanations.

    P.S. You don’t have to be a bitter geek or disgruntled “nice guy” to think that something is up with women’s preferences in men, or to believe that on average, women are attracted to men with more masculine personality traits than they themselves have. Many feminists have claimed that many or most women are submissive/masochistic (Sandra Bartky), and that they are socialized to “eroticize subordination” (Andrea Dworkin). The extent to which those views are correct is an empirical question; the point is that it’s considered misogynistic or whiny when men complain that women are attracted to masculine men, but when feminists say similar things, they are lauded as brilliant and provocative.

    Comment by Aegis — December 4, 2006 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  11. Daran:

    Serious question: Do you consider me to be misogynistic?

    No, I don’t.

    To clarify: I think you probably are misogynistic to some degree, because misogyny is part of the whole sexist system that we’re all raised in. The same goes for me, and for virtually everyone, including feminists; we’re all sexist, the same way all fish are wet, at least to a small degree. It’s unlikely you’ve completely escaped that.

    But I don’t think that’s how you meant the question. As you meant the question, if I understood you correctly, my answer is no, I don’t consider you a misogynist. I do think you’re sometimes unreasonably prejudiced against feminists, however.

    I’m a little puzzled here. By “geek” are you referring to geeky comic book fans? Or to geeks generally, because if the latter, I fail to see why non-fans would have a significantly different view of them from fans.

    I should have been clearer about this. I was thinking of this post as being primarily about comic book geeks, but more broadly about media-based geekdom in general – sci-fi geeks, trekkies, and so on. In other words, I’m talking about the intersection between geekdom and fandom.

    Although not a fan, I view comic books much the same way as I do written science fiction and fantasy. It is a serious genre. At its best, it exhibit the qualities that would qualify a written work as ‘literary’. Inevitably Sturgeon’s Revelation applies.

    I agree, but with a quibble: comics are a medium, not a genre.

    So I guess my stereotype of a comic-book geek would be the same as my stereotype of a SF geek. I regard the latter quite highly.

    There are, of course, multiple competing stereotypes of what SF and comic geeks are like. But one such stereotype is the one embodied by Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons, and that stereotype is definitely negative.

    Incidently, (and I realise I’m wondering completely off-topic), there seems to be a considerable overlap between feminism and SF-fandom. (Maybe comic book fandom too?) I don’t know whether this is just confirmation bias – having noticed an apparent pattern I keep seeing confirming instances.

    It depends on which subgroup of fandom we’re talking about, I think. Certainly there are tons of feminists among those fans who meet in online groups and write fanfic. (Several academics have written about this phenomenon, so it’s not just my personal observer bias.) But in other areas – for instance, the group hanging out in a typical hole-in-the-wall comic book store – mild anti-feminism is more common, in my anecdotal experience.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 4, 2006 @ 7:13 pm | Reply

  12. Oh, and this.

    Do you understand that the writer — who is hardly a doctrinaire feminist, by the way — was actually present at the DC editorial meeting in which it was decided that Sue Dibney would be raped and murdered?

    She’s not speculating when she says DC did that to seem more “badass” and to better position themselves in the marketplace. Unless you assume she’s a liar, she thinks they did it for those reasons because that’s what they themselves said.

    The account she presented was hardly a subscript of everything said there. She’s a former employee, for Pete’s sake — not exactly the least biased of people.

    That said, I think it’s a rather plausible account.

    As for this:

    So our books changed. There was rape, and murder, torture, death, and mutiliation. Superheroes did amoral or outright evil things and the line between good and bad was blurred.

    Sounds like postmodern relativists have had their way with the culture, eh? No more boring “heroes”. They’re so last year.

    Btw, I thought it was clear that I didn’t object to the cases presented here — but more to your generalizations/conclusions. Admittedly my first post was a bad way of expressing that.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 4, 2006 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

  13. I guess I’m having quite a bit of trouble understanding why in the world this discussion is even taking place. I mean, sexism among “geeks”? Or is it sexism among publishers? Both? Please, I sincerely hope that this post was not intended to reflect the comic industry as a whole.

    Look folks, I’ve been a comic fan for over a decade now and the one thing I can tell you about comics is that they have become darker out of necessity.

    With the advent of video game systems, the internet, etc., comic sales plummeted some in the early 90′s. Kids were no longer interested, but adults that grew up on comics were interested, but ONLY if the stories became more adult as well. Top artists moved from the major publishers to form their own…Image, Dark Horse, and several smaller startups who all carved themselves a niche by catering to adults.

    In short, to stay in the mix, Marvel and DC HAD to change their strategies as well. I have no reason to doubt that things at DC went down just like it is described at Occasional Superheroine. I do have reason not to care that much, however. This is not because I am insensitive or misogynist, but because I respect the right of DC, Marvel, and anybody else to make decisions that need to be made in order to stay alive in a dying industry. If anyone’s delicate sensibilities are offended by these decisions, they are free to seek entertainment elsewhere. Such is capitalism….

    Comment by ebbtide — December 4, 2006 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  14. If I may just interrupt the nitpicking and backbiting for a moment, I’d like to thank Amp for posting that link to Occasional Superheroine’s blog. Damn, that’s powerful stuff.

    Comment by Robert — December 4, 2006 @ 9:43 pm | Reply

  15. You’re welcome, Robert.

    Ebbtide, superheroes have been “getting dark” since the 1970s, although the trend was given a big jolt by the works of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in the 1980s. It’s not credible to claim the “darker” trend began in the 1990s.

    I don’t object to mainstream superhero comics becoming darker. However, it’s quite possible to get the jolt of big sales from “darker” comics without resorting to misogyny, or to using rape for a cheap thrill. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen was both dark and a best-seller, but it wasn’t misogynistic, and the rape wasn’t there as a sleazy sales ploy.

    In any case, the fact that sales of manga are far outstripping sales of superhero comics indicates that the heavyhanded “we’re so dark and badass” approach isn’t the only way to sell comic books in today’s marketplace.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 5, 2006 @ 6:34 am | Reply

  16. Yourself included, right?

    Yes, although I consciously try to resist being misled by the stereotype.

    One common thing I have noticed is that most of the people who criticize male fans dislike mainstream comics and specifically comics that focus on the male experience, the latter of which is always viewed as “bad.”

    Just to clarify, are you saying that *I* “criticize male fans,” and that *I* “dislike… comics that focus on the male experience” and that *I* always view a “focus on the male experience” as “bad”?

    Whether or not you’re talking about me, can you support these claims with actual links and quotes to people saying these things?

    DC does not do manga in their core titles unless your name is Joe Madureira.

    If that’s so then, considering where the sales are, DC is being very foolish.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 5, 2006 @ 7:06 am | Reply

  17. I don’t object to mainstream superhero comics becoming darker. However, it’s quite possible to get the jolt of big sales from “darker” comics without resorting to misogyny, or to using rape for a cheap thrill.

    Should the editorial meeting be more somber?

    Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen was both dark and a best-seller, but it wasn’t misogynistic, and the rape wasn’t there as a sleazy sales ploy.

    How do you know, ultimately (about the rape)? Other than Watchmen was great?

    If that’s so then, considering where the sales are, DC is being very foolish.

    That’s not necessarily true. Manga sells well, but it is not logical to say that every comics producer should do manga in their core titles or they are foolish.

    There is a lot of good manga out there, and not so much non-manga. The decision to focus on non-manga may be due to a decision to cater to the non-manga fans.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 5, 2006 @ 8:22 am | Reply

  18. Just to clarify, are you saying that 1) *I* “criticize male fans,” and that 2) *I* “dislike… comics that focus on the male experience” and that 3) *I* always view a “focus on the male experience” as “bad”?

    Numerics added to distinguish between claims.

    The word “Always”, of course, allows leeway. But let’s play.

    1)

    Too many comic book guys feel entitled to women’s emotions and women’s bodies, and feel bitter over what they see as an unfair denial of their due.

    This may be true, but don’t pretend that you are not criticizing male fans. Sure, not all of them. Just “too many” (how many is too many)?

    2) and 3)

    Superheroes are part of the problem. Not all superhero fans are misogynists (some of my favorite friends, including a few women, read superhero comics). But the genre attracts a lot of boys and men who are insecure about masculinity, and who need to read male-oriented power fantasies in which women are babes and men are human tanks.

    Here you go. Of course, you can hide under the “always” word, but the blatant generalizations are there despite the weasel words. I’d especially like to call attention to the comment “Superheroes are part of the problem” and “male-oriented power fantasies” (not misogynist-oriented etc. Male.).

    Are you really that blind to what you yourself have just written?

    [Of course, *I* don't oppose all generalizations or stereotypes. But it is hypocritical for you to pretend to do so when you so very clearly use them yourself.]

    Comment by Tuomas — December 5, 2006 @ 10:48 am | Reply

  19. Of course, you can hide under the “always” word, but the blatant generalizations are there despite the weasel words.

    You’re saying that if we ignore the words that I actually wrote, replacing them with something I didn’t write, then what I wrote becomes an unfair generalization? I guess that’s true, but why should I care?

    Similarly, your dance around the word “always” is dishonest. Toysoldier used the word “always” because the word has a meaning; the difference between someone who sometimes dislikes comics about men, and someone who “always” dislikes comics about men, matters.

    You seem to think that you can ignore whatever words – oh, excuse me, “weasel words” – are inconvenient for your critique. But that’s dishonest. If you aren’t willing to address what I actually wrote in response to what Toysoldier actually wrote, then you have nothing worthwhile to say.

    Finally, I never said I oppose all generalizations, nor that I oppose all stereotypes.

    So every single word[*] of your comment was a lie, pretty much. Good work.

    [*] Look! A generalization!

    [Edited for clarity, and to add the phrase "- oh, excuse me, "weasel words" - ".]

    Comment by Ampersand — December 5, 2006 @ 1:40 pm | Reply

  20. Ampersand, those are not your words that I quoted?

    You don’t get to pretend that difference doesn’t exist just because it makes it easier for you to slam me.

    Yes, toysoldier said “always” initially.

    [edited to add: Every single word? You didn't criticize male fans?]

    Comment by Tuomas — December 5, 2006 @ 1:42 pm | Reply

  21. I was quite sure you would furiously defend your comment:

    Just to clarify, are you saying that *I* “criticize male fans,” and that *I* “dislike… comics that focus on the male experience” and that *I* always view a “focus on the male experience” as “bad”?

    On focusing on the “always” part. [edited to add: Hence my "dance" around it.]

    No matter that the two claims before it are perfectly true .
    [edited]

    Comment by Tuomas — December 5, 2006 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

  22. Pardon me if this sounds like rambling. I did not sleep last night.

    In any case, the fact that sales of manga are far outstripping sales of superhero comics indicates that the heavyhanded “we’re so dark and badass” approach isn’t the only way to sell comic books in today’s marketplace.

    If that’s so then, considering where the sales are, DC is being very foolish.

    According to the most recent numbers, American comics outsell manga. American graphic novels are also outselling manga. So given that manga does not appeal to most American fans, it would make little sense for DC or Marvel to abandon their fan base to appeal to a smaller market, most of whom will not buy American-created manga anyway.

    Just to clarify, are you saying that *I* “criticize male fans,” and that *I* “dislike… comics that focus on the male experience” and that *I* always view a “focus on the male experience” as “bad”?

    The term ‘always’ was a regrettable choice. It would be more accurate to state ‘mostly’. I was not specifically referring to you.

    Whether or not you’re talking about me, can you support these claims with actual links and quotes to people saying these things?

    Yes. However, you avoid addressing my comments by asking at that question.

    Finally, I never said I oppose all generalizations, nor that I oppose all stereotypes.

    The problem is not whether you oppose all of them but which ones you support and which ones you do not. You seem to support the most negative male (fan) stereotypes while condemning the most negative female stereotypes. One you view as sexist while the other you approve of, at least to the extent you can use it to support your position.
    That is a contradictory position as it implies that (some) male fans’ interest in comics stem from misogyny but none of your criticism, or that of other critics, stems from misandry. It would be different if you had stated “people”, but you specifically stated “male comics fans” and specifically called out “male-oriented power fantasies.”

    Comment by toysoldier — December 5, 2006 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  23. Could someone please change the ‘s’ in that hyperlink to ‘a’. Btw, ‘s’ stands for ‘sloppy typist’.

    Comment by toysoldier — December 5, 2006 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

  24. [removed by author, not due to being offensive, which it was not, but due to boredom towards the argument. If someone can't see and admit his mistake, then I can't help him]

    Comment by Tuomas — December 5, 2006 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  25. Ampersand said:

    “superheroes have been “getting dark” since the 1970s, although the trend was given a big jolt by the works of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in the 1980s. It’s not credible to claim the “darker” trend began in the 1990s.”

    OK, perhaps I should have written more clearly. Comics took on a general trend of adult-oriented themes in the 1990′s. This is a fact, like it or not. True, it didn’t begin then, but that’s being a little picky I think. Were there any spelling errors in my comment you would like to correct?

    Ampersand: “However, it’s quite possible to get the jolt of big sales from “darker” comics without resorting to misogyny, or to using rape for a cheap thrill. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s Watchmen was both dark and a best-seller, but it wasn’t misogynistic, and the rape wasn’t there as a sleazy sales ploy.”

    So which adult themes are acceptable and which are not? Furthermore, how does one determine which rape was misogynistic and which was not? I suspect it is due to the fact that we now “know” how the Identity Crisis rape made it to print. Tell me, if we knew that Moore had told Gibbon, “Hey man, we should really throw in a rape here. Ya know, somebody innocent, so we can be, like, all badass and stuff” but the rape occurred just as in the Watchmen, would you still claim it wasn’t misogynistic? If we didn’t know about what supposedly happened at DC, would you claim that that the Identity Crisis rape was?

    Ampersand: “In any case, the fact that sales of manga are far outstripping sales of superhero comics indicates that the heavyhanded “we’re so dark and badass” approach isn’t the only way to sell comic books in today’s marketplace.”

    Interesting point, false, but interesting. The fact that manga sometimes beats out superhero comics means pretty much nothing, except that manga sells in bookstores (a gigantic market) and comics via Direct Market (tiny market, by comparison). Honestly, I’m happy for manga’s popularity as anything that keeps people buying books is good in my opinion. I can’t say that I see how it’s popularity is indicative of the success of a less “badass” approach. If you think it is, then you haven’t read much manga. It can be extremely violent, sexual, and generally includes scantily clad Japanese girls in their pre-teens. Not to mention that it is a style that dominates animated porn. People think that it is all puppies and flowers because it is so cartoonish. Not even remotely…

    Comment by ebbtide — December 5, 2006 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

  26. Toysoldier, the figures you link to aren’t total sales; they’re direct market sales to comic book stores. (Real readership is lower, because the figures you link to includes unsold copies sitting in bins).

    As ebbtide correctly points out, Manga is sold in bookstores, which is a far bigger market than comic book stores. Shonen Jump sells around 180,000 per issue (and because it’s returnable, that reflects real sales, not just sales to bookstores).

    I was in Barnes and Noble today yesterday, and I noticed that there was literally a dozen times as much shelf space devoted to manga as to the “graphic novel” section. It’s possible that Barnes and Noble is acting irrationally, but my guess is that they’re responding to the marketplace’s demands – i.e., they’re acting like there’s much more consumer demand for manga than for American graphic novels because there is, in fact, much more consumer demand for manga.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 7, 2006 @ 12:17 pm | Reply

  27. OK, perhaps I should have written more clearly. Comics took on a general trend of adult-oriented themes in the 1990’s. This is a fact, like it or not. True, it didn’t begin then, but that’s being a little picky I think. Were there any spelling errors in my comment you would like to correct?

    Let me ask you: If I said “in the early 2000’s. Kids were no longer interested in comics, but adults that grew up on comics were interested, but ONLY if the stories became more adult as well,” would you really consider disagreeing with me about when that trend took place to be the equivalent of picking on spelling errors?

    I certainly didn’t mean to imply that manga is all “puppies and flowers” (one of the manga I collect is Blade of the Immortal, which is as anti-puppies-and-flowers as almost any US comic, I think it’s fair to say). However, I do think that some of the more successful manga comics do prove that grim faux-realism isn’t the only approach that can generate significant sales to American audiences.

    By the way, I don’t have anything against grimness, or “badass”ness, in and of itself. I think that good art is good art; From Hell is grim, but it’s also magnificent. The problem is that too much of the “badass” stuff is badass because it’s trying to be trendy, without actually being any good as art. In my opinion.

    Following Tuomas’ practice, I’ve added numbers to the following quoted section to make answering easier.

    1) So which adult themes are acceptable and which are not? 2) Furthermore, how does one determine which rape was misogynistic and which was not? I suspect it is due to the fact that we now “know” how the Identity Crisis rape made it to print. 3) Tell me, if we knew that Moore had told Gibbon, “Hey man, we should really throw in a rape here. Ya know, somebody innocent, so we can be, like, all badass and stuff” but the rape occurred just as in the Watchmen, would you still claim it wasn’t misogynistic? 4) If we didn’t know about what supposedly happened at DC, would you claim that that the Identity Crisis rape was?

    1) There are no adult themes which are unacceptable, in my view.

    2) This is a question of aesthetics – but I think aesthetics are a relevant issue when talking about works of art. To me, the approach to rape in Watchman doesn’t feel exploitative, nor is it presented as shock for the sake of shock.

    Maybe it all comes down to good writing versus bad writing? A well-written comic, because the characters will seem fully-formed and three-dimensional and the development of the story more nuanced, will always end up seeming more thoughtful and balanced than a badly-written comic.

    3) Interesting question. In the end, though, I think what really matters is the work itself. If Moore and Gibbons included the rape as an attempt at sensationalism, then they failed to succeed in their goal, because the presentation in the work itself is not sensationalized.

    Probably I didn’t write my initial post very well, but my post was meant to be more about the sexism at DC comics than about sexism within Identity Crisis. Identity Crisis, like all art, in the end has to sink or float based on its own merits as a work of art, not based on how it was created. (As it happens, I’m pretty confident that artistically Identity Crisis is crap compared to something like Watchmen).

    4) I suspect so, but obviously I can’t know for sure.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 7, 2006 @ 12:50 pm | Reply

  28. I see your point here Amp…I agree good writing can make everything seem more artistic and less cheap. You’re right, compared to the Watchmen, IC is crap, like most modern American comics. Hard to top Watchmen though. Revolutionary stuff that…

    Comment by ebbtide — December 7, 2006 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  29. Ebbtide, feminist comic fans objected to the rape in Identity Crisis (along with other rather brutal-to-women elements of that storyline) long before we heard from Occasional Superheroine how it made it to print.

    Comment by Elizabeth McDonald — December 11, 2006 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

  30. Okay. Here is a major issue of mine with “Goodbye to Comics.”

    The writer talks about the objectification of rape. She talks of pages where a woman is taken from behind by a “man in a clown suit.”

    These pages do not exist in any published form of Identity Crisis. The closest we get to a flashback of the rape is a panel in which Sue Dibny is seen – fully dressed, her clothes somewhat tattered and torn, but covering her body more then adequately – crying, her face distorted by tears – about as unsexy as possible, her grieving husband holding her in his arms, while Doctor Light looks on, his face contorted by madness so he looks as much like a monster as any human face can, held tightly by massive chains by Green Lantern, who is clearly taking Light’s crime seriously.

    There are many instances of sexism in Identity Crisis – the fact that Sue’s rape is less important then the conflict it created between mostly male super-heroes, Jean Loring’s horribly clichéd “I want my man back!” motivation for her crimes, the treatment of Dinah Lance as scene dressing, the treatment of Zatanna Zatara as a prop (who only gets elevated above the level of “scene dressing” because her super-human abilities are a necessary Maguffin to the plot), that one issue where Wonder Woman is essentially a Lasso of Truth-holster and nothing more.

    However, with the exception of the first one, these critisms are ignored in favor of a series of pretty invalid ones: that the book glorifies and sexualizes rape (it doesn’t) and the idea that it’s wrong to have a female villain under any circumstances (it isn’t. In fact, comics need more female villains, although they need better motivations).

    There is also the subject of violence against women, which is an extremely touchy and difficult one. In a world where violence is required – where it is the main storytelling technique – and this is true about Super-Hero stories in general. Leaving sexual violence as separate for a movement, this is an almost impossible question. There was an issue of 52 where Batwoman punched Renee Montoya in order to stop her from killing a werebeast thing. One one level, this is something we’ve seen Batman do to male police officers time and time again. On another level, this is a woman decking a woman she used to date – domestic violence, one of the most prolific and troubling issues in our culture. I remember a blogger at the time suggesting that the fundamentally “male” sensibilities of the genre might make it impossible to tell stories about woman (specifically, gay women) in a matter that was not sexist. Although I disagree with that conclusion, it raised some interesting issues. Another example is the current series Ms. Marvel. The titular heroine is shown being physically attacked by non-human alien lizards, and by women (Spider-Woman, an alternate reality version of herself), but whenever she is in a physical confrontation with a humanoid male, he is very quickly shown to not be a threat (her fight with Stilt Man in the first issue).

    There is a traditional plot in super-team comics where a team of bad guys, in equal number to the team of good guys, often with matching or directly constrating powers to the good guys, attack the heroes. In this set-up, any female “good guy” characters are usually matched with female villains, while the male heroes are matched with male villains. In this way, they avoid male-to-female violence – are they helping the cause of feminism by doing so, or are they hurting it by ghettoizing the women together? When the men all have physical powers (punching, stretching, setting oneself on fire), and the women have a defensive power (projection of force fields) they are creating a situation where the woman gets punched back, thrown around, doused much less often. Is this good for feminism (because the violence towards women is bad) or bad for it (because the woman is not kept to the sidelines during a physical confrontation compared to the much more active men)? How can Super-Hero comic books become less sexist when, by having less violence towards women, they are effectively neutering the participation of the female characters but, by having more, they are glorifying violence against women?

    So, the question becomes: in a genre where punching people and shooting lasers and stabbing them with swords is both the primary plot element and a form of communication, where violence is much more acceptable then it is in the real world, where you really can solve all your problems by hitting them, more often then not, is violence against women consistently misogynistic? I’m not saying it never is – there have been many examples of undoubtedly misogynist violence in comics, and Sue’s murder in Identity Crisis certainly seems to be one such (comparing the way she died – completely helpless, burned to the crisp – to the way fellow civilian member Jack Drake died – standing on his feet, killing his assailant even as he was himself killed – makes it hard to come to any other conclusion). However, the rising feminist comic community forces us to try and find with the answers to these difficult questions.

    Comment by Ravenwing263 — December 11, 2006 @ 3:48 pm | Reply

  31. However, the rising feminist comic community forces us to try and find with the answers to these difficult questions.

    Actually, they already provide the answer. The questions are rhetorical at best and circular at worst. One can either accept their determination or also be labeled.

    The irony is that the overwhelming majority of violence and exploitation is done to male characters. Of course, comics deal in violence and rather extreme violence at that, so one cannot complain when it is used as a plot device for one group and ignore that it is used more often with another.

    The other is that the feminist community is attacking an already unpopular, ostracized group that has already gone through the PC-ing process.

    Comment by toysoldier — December 11, 2006 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  32. So, the question becomes: in a genre where punching people and shooting lasers and stabbing them with swords is both the primary plot element and a form of communication, where violence is much more acceptable then it is in the real world, where you really can solve all your problems by hitting them, more often then not, is violence against women consistently misogynistic?

    I see toysoldier already beat me to it, but I’ll add my tuppence-worth.

    How is it that even though “the overwhelming majority of violence and exploitation is done to male characters.”, it doesn’t occur to people to ask whether or not this is consistently misandrist?

    Comment by Daran — December 11, 2006 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  33. BTW. Thanks for contributing, Ravenwing263. We really do appreciate thoughful commenting.

    Comment by Daran — December 11, 2006 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

  34. Amp:

    She’s not speculating when she says DC did that to seem more “badass” and to better position themselves in the marketplace. Unless you assume she’s a liar, she thinks they did it for those reasons because that’s what they themselves said.

    Amp:
    (answering to 4) If we didn’t know about what supposedly happened at DC, would you claim that that the Identity Crisis rape was?)

    4) I suspect so, but obviously I can’t know for sure.

    Quod licet jovi non licet bovi.

    Comment by Tuomas — December 11, 2006 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

  35. We really do appreciate thoughful commenting.

    I prefer randomized erectile dysfunction ads, anti-Jewish vitriol, and endless iterations of “Mel Gibson sucks”, myself.

    Comment by Robert — December 11, 2006 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

  36. Don’t let the filthy Zionists prevent you from maintaining a powerful erection that Mel Gibson can suck on!

    (I want a toaster.)

    Comment by Tuomas — December 11, 2006 @ 5:05 pm | Reply

  37. We really do appreciate thoughful commenting.

    I prefer randomized erectile dysfunction ads, anti-Jewish vitriol, and endless iterations of “Mel Gibson sucks”, myself.

    I beg your pardon. What I should have said is: “we liberals do appreciate thoughtful commenting”.

    Comment by Daran — December 11, 2006 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

  38. Had I not read about the DC editorial meeting on Occasional Superheroine, I would have assumed that the rape was done to signify something so heinous that the Leaguers would cross the line to avoid its reoccurrence. But couldn’t Light have just tried to kill her, or megablast her like Alex Luthor did to Nightwing in Infinite Crisis, only less severe? The rape seemed gratuitous.

    However, I did not see any way the scene as it was depicted could have been “sexy” at ALL. It was mostly Sue being horrified out of her friggin’ mind. It was more harrowing to me. I did purchase the series, but it was IN SPITE OF the rape scene, not because of it. (I also was severely let down by #7).

    As far as how badly some of the the female JLAers were depicted (vomiting Zatanna?), it was mostly balanced by how some of the male JLAers were done (Kyle tries to sucker-punch Deathstroke instead of acting in character and sending a squadron of manga robots or 8-foot-tall Donna Troys after him).

    Comment by notintheface — December 11, 2006 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

  39. “How is it that even though “the overwhelming majority of violence and exploitation is done to male characters.”, it doesn’t occur to people to ask whether or not this is consistently misandrist?”

    Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s for the same reason that “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” shirts are just A-OK with NOW…

    Comment by ebbtide — December 11, 2006 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

  40. Ebbtide – Are you saying that NOW has specifically said those shirts are okay? Or is that you think NOW has a responsibility to issue a press release regarding every T-Shirt issued, and if they fail to do that it’s safe to assume that they favor the T-shirt in question?

    I’d say the reason the overwhelming number of violence in mainstream comics happens to men is that the overwhelming majority of active characters who engage in combat, in mainstream comics, are male. Like most things, this is both a positive and a negative. There are more images of men than women being injured or killed in comics; but there are also more instances of men than women being focused on as important, plot-altering characters.

    Nor is it an either-or choice. It’s frequently the case that mainstream comics have elements of sexism against both sexes.

    It’s a little bit like I Love Lucy and Home Improvement. In both cases, the main character is a bumbling, immature sort married to a much more together and adult-like secondary character. Do we say that Lucy is sexist against women, and HI sexist against men, because the main characters are presented as bumblers? Or do we say that the bumblers, in these comedies, are gaining the benefit of being the adorable protagonists? (Who would you rather have been, Harpo or Zeppo?)

    I think that being a main character is probably a bigger benefit than merely being depicted as competant, but a lot depends on the particular presentation, too.

    I certainly don’t think images of women being hit are an automatic sign of sexism. One thing that made Buffy a big improvement over some previous action heroes is that they didn’t hesitate to show Buffy being hit, and hit hard, and hit in the face. In the super-powered action genre, you’re not a full protagonist unless you can take a punch.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 11, 2006 @ 10:37 pm | Reply

  41. So, the question becomes: in a genre where punching people and shooting lasers and stabbing them with swords is both the primary plot element and a form of communication, where violence is much more acceptable then it is in the real world, where you really can solve all your problems by hitting them, more often then not, is violence against women consistently misogynistic? I’m not saying it never is – there have been many examples of undoubtedly misogynist violence in comics, and Sue’s murder in Identity Crisis certainly seems to be one such (comparing the way she died – completely helpless, burned to the crisp – to the way fellow civilian member Jack Drake died – standing on his feet, killing his assailant even as he was himself killed – makes it hard to come to any other conclusion).

    Exactly!

    I want, if anything, MORE violence against women in superhero comics than there currently is; Violence is one of the primary ways plot is advanced, and characters who don’t give and receive violence are secondary characters. In my ideal world, there’d be about equal numbers of female and male protagonists (and antagonists).

    I just want the female characters to be presented more or less the same way male characters are presented. I want women to be drawn to look strong and athletic, with waists big enough to fit their internal organs. I want women to be hit, and to hit. (Or to be zapped, and to zap, or whatever). I don’t want female superheroes to fight in bikinis or less than bikinis (or at least, to do so no more frequently than their male counterparts); I don’t want female superheroes to be used for T&A more often than their male counterparts; I don’t want female characters to be more likely than their male counterparts to wind up dead in a refrigerator or the like.

    That’s what pretty much all the feminist fans I read and talk to want from superhero comics. (But I have to admit I’m not an expert on this; I don’t read many superhero comics nowadays.)

    (By the way, I can’t help but recall the epic – EPIC! – flamewars we used to have on rec.arts.comics trying to define what a “superhero” character is, anyway. Superman is obvious, but is Buffy a superhero? How about Steve Austin? Gandolf? Sherlock Holmes?)

    Comment by Ampersand — December 11, 2006 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

  42. “Are you saying that NOW has specifically said those shirts are okay? Or is that you think NOW has a responsibility to issue a press release regarding every T-Shirt issued, and if they fail to do that it’s safe to assume that they favor the T-shirt in question?”

    I don’t have to say that, NOW said it themselves when they piled on Glenn Sacks and others when he raised the issue, calling him “hypocritical” and accusing him of “whining.” Besides, I think you know this wasn’t my greater point.

    BTW, Buffy is NOT a superhero!!! She would fall into the horror genre in my opinion. Either way, she’s pretty cool…

    Comment by ebbtide — December 11, 2006 @ 11:09 pm | Reply

  43. A superhero is a protagonist (or part of a group of protagonists) possessed of some characteristic(s) not attainable through even extraordinary effort by the ordinary members of his or her narrative baseline social milieu, who uses those characteristics to defend that social milieu’s health and existence.

    Buffy’s a superhero, Steve Austin’s a superhero, and Sherlock Holmes is a superhero.

    Gandalf is not a superhero, because Gandalf is not a protagonist. In his true nature, he is a Maiar, a servant of Iluvatar (God) and, basically, an angel. (The line “I am a servant of the Secret Fire” is widely, and correctly, regarded as an explicitly Christian allusion to the Holy Spirit on Tolkien’s part.) While you could certainly write a novel in which an angel was the protagonist, the Lord of the Rings is not a novel, and Gandalf is a deus ex machina.

    Comment by Robert — December 11, 2006 @ 11:16 pm | Reply

  44. I don’t have to say that, NOW said it themselves when they piled on Glenn Sacks and others when he raised the issue, calling him “hypocritical” and accusing him of “whining.” Besides, I think you know this wasn’t my greater point.

    It’s not your main point, but I’ve learned to be skeptical about what people say about NOW and feminists. Maybe you’re right – NOW is not a perfect organization – or maybe you’re leaving out some context or nuance that would matter. Here’s an easy way for you to settle the matter: Provide a link to what NOW said.

    As for the main point of post 39 – which I thought was a discussion of why people don’t think men getting hit in superhero comics is misandrist – I think I addressed that question sufficiently in posts 40 and 41.

    * * *

    I’d argue that Buffy is a superhero. She has most of the traits of a superhero: She has a secret identity, she has super-powers, she fights personified evil, she has a title (“The Slayer”) that can be passed on to other people. The only thing she lacks is a costume. (None of these traits on their own is determinative, but I’d argue that any character with at least 4 of the 5 is a superhero. 3 out of 5 is borderline, and less than 3 is a non-superhero).

    I agree that Buffy’s genre is also horror. But horror and superhero aren’t mutually exclusive genres; cross-genre works do exist. Remember when Batman fought vampires and fell in love with beautiful ghosts in the 1970s?

    Comment by Ampersand — December 11, 2006 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

  45. Robert, you are totally wrong. Later on I’m definitely going to start a “definition of superhero” thread.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 11, 2006 @ 11:30 pm | Reply

  46. No, you are wrong, and furthermore, you are stinky and should have rocks thrown at you.

    We CAN bring UseNet back to life!

    Comment by bobhayes — December 11, 2006 @ 11:34 pm | Reply

  47. “I agree that Buffy’s genre is also horror. But horror and superhero aren’t mutually exclusive genres; cross-genre works do exist. Remember when Batman fought vampires and fell in love with beautiful ghosts in the 1970s?”

    True. I just think that superhero comics have a certain technological, futuristic feel to them. Buffy and like horror books have a certain old, gothic feel, with an emphasis on ancient superstition and ritual. She definitely does have some superhero qualities though. I guess it comes down to what is emphasized in the story. Buffy books (and the show) are great because they successfully emphasize true-to-life issues affecting real humans. More impressive, they do this in the midst of a supernatural good vs. evil plot that would work quite well by itself.

    Most superhero comics emphasize powers and shock-and-awe, which is why they, for the most part, suck. Well, except for Batman of course, but I’m not sure he’s even a superhero without his gadgets.

    Comment by ebbtide — December 11, 2006 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

  48. Here is what NOW said:

    “No, I don’t think the shirts are cute,” says Helen Grieco, executive director of the National Organization for Women (NOW), California chapter. “But I spend every day on life-and-death issues and don’t have time for T-shirt campaigns.”

    In short, NOW trivializes the T-shirts and refuses to call them sexism. NOW says that it is too busy helping women in other nations. Yet we don’t see NOW trivializing various domestic feminist causes, just because there are bigger issues elsewhere. Clearly, there is a double standard.

    Comment by Aegis — December 12, 2006 @ 1:03 am | Reply

  49. I just want the female characters to be presented more or less the same way male characters are presented. I want women to be drawn to look strong and athletic, with waists big enough to fit their internal organs. I want women to be hit, and to hit. (Or to be zapped, and to zap, or whatever). I don’t want female superheroes to fight in bikinis or less than bikinis (or at least, to do so no more frequently than their male counterparts); I don’t want female superheroes to be used for T&A more often than their male counterparts; I don’t want female characters to be more likely than their male counterparts to wind up dead in a refrigerator or the like.

    That’s what pretty much all the feminist fans I read and talk to want from superhero comics. (But I have to admit I’m not an expert on this; I don’t read many superhero comics nowadays.)

    I find it very interesting that your solution to the problems you see are to alter the depiction of women to be more like the depiction of men. You do not see any problem with the depiction of men. Nor do you think the differences could be resolved by depicting the men to be more like the women. In other words, you seem to be saying that stereotypically masculine characteristics are good, while stereotypically feminine characteristics are bad. I remark on this, because this is a criticism which feminism directs at society at a large, that it is prejudiced to regard male (or masculine) as good and female (or feminine) as bad.

    Comment by Daran — December 12, 2006 @ 4:01 am | Reply

  50. Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s for the same reason that “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” shirts are just A-OK with NOW…

    Ebbtide, I have a lot of sympathy for your stance with respect to NOW and to feminism in general. But not only does this particular claim appear to be unsupported, (in fact, it is contradicted by the cite which Aegis provided.) but it is in no way responsive to what I said. I’m not putting on my moderator hat – it’s for Amp to decide what he will allow in his thread – but this is the kind of behaviour which tends to antagonise.

    I’ll start an open thread so that you and other commenters can raise any topics not covered by our existing threads.

    Comment by Daran — December 12, 2006 @ 4:14 am | Reply

  51. Daran said:

    In other words, you seem to be saying that stereotypically masculine characteristics are good, while stereotypically feminine characteristics are bad. I remark on this, because this is a criticism which feminism directs at society at a large, that it is prejudiced to regard male (or masculine) as good and female (or feminine) as bad.

    Well, I’m not sure Amp is supporting masculinity in general, just in the area of comics. And there are some areas in which feminists do think that females would do well with becoming more masculine, such as assertiveness. Still, in the area of comics, I think feminists supporting masculinity (such as advocating that the level of violence male superheroes participate in should be the norm for female superheroes to match) requires explanation and justification from a feminist perspective.

    Comment by Aegis — December 12, 2006 @ 6:11 am | Reply

  52. I find it very interesting that your solution to the problems you see are to alter the depiction of women to be more like the depiction of men.

    You know, I always find that bewildering about radical feminists – many of them (most famously MacKinnon*) interpret statements that the sexes ought to be equal as meaning that women should be like men. Even when those statements are made by feminists. Ironic that you make the same mistake, since I don’t imagine you’re a big fan of MacKinnon’s.

    I simply didn’t say what you allege I said. In fact, when I was writing the passage you quote, I consciously wrote to avoid the problem you’re talking about – to make sure that I didn’t refer to a direction of change, only that I’d like to see male and female characters treated equally.

    To give one example, I had originally written “I don’t want female superheroes to be used for T&A,” but then I thought “wait, maybe the men should be used for T&A more often, rather than eliminating T&A entirely.” So I added “…more often than their male counterparts,” specifically so the “meet in the middle” option would be preserved.

    The only exception is the wasp-waist thing, which I didn’t write in a directionless style, because I think it would clearly be a bad thing if male characters started being drawn as if they had no internal organs.

    Finally, inferring “You do not see any problem with the depiction of men” is an unjustified assumption on your part; it’s not reasonably supported by what I wrote, and it’s almost the exact opposite of my actual opinion. Edited to add: It’s true that this particular comment doesn’t discuss how I’d change male depictions in superhero comics. But I don’t think inferring I therefore desire no change is a safe assumption to make.

    [* Edited to add: I think MacKinnon's point -- about how "equality" is too often interpreted as "change the women to be more like men" -- is important, and frequently true. But I think she fails to give enough credit to the possibility of a more feminist interpretation of "equality" which would call for both sex roles, rather than only women's, to be rebooted.]

    Comment by Ampersand — December 12, 2006 @ 6:22 am | Reply

  53. I simply didn’t say what you allege I said.

    Yes you did. See below.

    In fact, when I was writing the passage you quote, I consciously wrote to avoid the problem you’re talking about – to make sure that I didn’t refer to a direction of change, only that I’d like to see male and female characters treated equally.

    But you still implied a direction of change through your use of grammar. Let’s analyse it:

    I just want the female characters to be presented more or less the same way male characters are presented.

    Grammatically this is:

    “I want the female[s] to be presented [like] the male[s] are.”

    “The women” gets an infinitive clause. “The men” gets a simple present tense. That implies that it is the “the women” who change to become like the men.

    “I want Tim to be as careful as Tom is” implies that Tim needs to change to be like Tom, and not vice versa.

    And every single one of your sentences attaches an infinitive clause to the female, and of those which explicitly compare the female to the male every single one uses a (possibly elided) simple present tense verb for the male. Here’s the rest of what you wrote, with elided verbs restored in [square brackets] and infinitive verbs italicised.

    I want women to be drawn to look strong and athletic, with waists big enough to fit their internal organs. I want women to be hit, and to hit. (Or to be zapped, and to zap, or whatever). I don’t want female superheroes to fight in bikinis or less than bikinis (or at least, to do so no more frequently than their male counterparts [do]); I don’t want female superheroes to be used for T&A more often than their male counterparts [are]; I don’t want female characters to be more likely than their male counterparts [are,] to wind up dead in a refrigerator or the like.

    The last sentence is more complex, in that it has a nested infinitive clause, but it has the same pattern, as is perhaps clearer if it is reordered: “I don’t want female characters to be more likely to wind up dead in a refrigerator or the like, than their male counterparts [are].”

    Let’s look at those sentences which did not involve an explicit comparison with the male:

    …I want women to be drawn to look strong and athletic, with waists big enough to fit their internal organs … I don’t want female superheroes to fight in bikinis or less than bikinis …

    But men are already drawn to look strong and athletic, with waists big enough to fit their internal organs. Men do not fight in bikinis or less than bikinis. So you are still asking for the women to be like the men are and to do what the men do.

    Finally let’s look at the sentences you say imply a change in the depiction of men rather than women:

    …I don’t want female superheroes to fight in bikinis or less than bikinis … more frequently than their male counterparts; I don’t want female superheroes to be used for T&A more often than their male counterparts;

    Since the men don’t fight in bikinis and aren’t used for T&A* at all, for the comparison not to be redundant implies a change in the men’s depiction. Here the factual background forces an interpretation of your words which are contrary to the wholly one-way direction of your grammar. But it is still wholly one-way. Why did you write it like that?

    *I presume you mean “tits and ass”. I don’t know any other meaning to the expression. It is debatable whether men are used for T&A. As someone pointed out a while back, Superman’s chest can fill a whole panel. I agree that the depictions of women are sexualised in a different way from the men.

    Comment by Daran — December 12, 2006 @ 8:29 am | Reply

  54. Men do not fight in bikinis or less than bikinis.

    I am going to have to disagree with you on that one. Many male characters do fight in speedos. Granted, it is far less common now than it used to be.

    Comment by toysoldier — December 12, 2006 @ 11:19 am | Reply

  55. I yield to your knowledge.

    Comment by Daran — December 12, 2006 @ 11:45 am | Reply

  56. [...] Robert wrote: A superhero is a protagonist (or part of a group of protagonists) possessed of some characteristic(s) not attainable through even extraordinary effort by the ordinary members of his or her narrative baseline social milieu, who uses those characteristics to defend that social milieu’s health and existence. [...]

    Pingback by Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » The Definition of Superhero — December 12, 2006 @ 1:05 pm | Reply

  57. Daran wrote:

    But you still implied a direction of change through your use of grammar.

    No, I didn’t imply it; you inferred it. And you inferred incorrectly, in this case. “Women should be treated the same as men” can be reasonably interpreted as implying a direction of change, but it can just as reasonably be interpreted as a call for equal treatment. In this case, the latter interpretation was what I in fact meant. The same is true of all the other sentences you analyzed.

    When two interpretations are reasonably possible, you should accept my word as to which of the interpretations I intended.

    But men are already drawn to look strong and athletic, with waists big enough to fit their internal organs. Men do not fight in bikinis or less than bikinis. So you are still asking for the women to be like the men are and to do what the men do.

    As TS pointed out, some male superheroes do fight in speedos, although it’s relatively rare.

    As for the wasp-waist thing, you seem to have missed this, from my comment that you were responding to:

    The only exception is the wasp-waist thing, which I didn’t write in a directionless style, because I think it would clearly be a bad thing if male characters started being drawn as if they had no internal organs.

    So yes, the wasp-waist thing is an exception – but I had already said it was an exception.

    Finally, I had always thought “T&A” stands for “titillation and arousal,” as well as for “tits and ass.” Doing a quick google search shows me that I was wrong; I guess some adult told me that at some point in my childhood and I hadn’t realized they were joking.

    So I shouldn’t have used the expression T&A; I should have said “titillation” instead.

    Comment by Ampersand — December 12, 2006 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  58. [...] This formerly open thread is now restricted to discussing this comment by Ebbtide from another thread: “How is it that even though “the overwhelming majority of violence and exploitation is done to male characters.”, it doesn’t occur to people to ask whether or not this is consistently misandrist?” [...]

    Pingback by Are “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them” shirts A-OK with NOW? « Creative Destruction — December 13, 2006 @ 1:07 am | Reply

  59. Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
    If ever there was ever a time in our nation’s history that called for a change, this is it!
    We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

    Comment by Antibush — February 12, 2007 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  60. lol

    “Men do not fight in bikinis or less than bikinis.”

    male characters are generally hyper masculine in comics and female characters are hyper feminine. Neither can be said to be wearing something practical or realistic in the vast majority of cases. i don’t get this need of women to invade mens spaces and be a buzz kill. imagine if men went on crusades to change chick lit and such things to be more sensitive and realistic in their portrayal of men:P One might even say theres a deep hypocrisy with feminists where they are hypersensitive about womens portrayal in mens media, but rather silent about the constant man bashing within their own. never mind the malarky about trying to get equal representation in everything. Men play as female characters in video games and read comics about female characters all the time. Look at the female media, you’ll find basically no male leads there. just who is more sexist really? just mind your own business is how it should work. don’t like it, don’t buy it. not everything is about you.

    Comment by fred — June 4, 2008 @ 9:17 am | Reply

  61. i don’t get this need of women to invade mens spaces and be a buzz kill.

    To paraphrase an old George Burns joke; why do women invade men’s space?

    Because 98% of just about everything is considered “men’s space”. And women make up about 51% percent of the world.

    Do you have any specifics, fred flintstone? Or are you just kvetching because you want to close off your treehouse to half the people in the world?

    Comment by Blue Jean — March 30, 2009 @ 9:31 pm | Reply

  62. Culturally I can understand why there is some anger about how women are portrayed. I debated a nice blogger that came from Pakistan. He was Muslim but at first I had no idea. In Muslim culture women are often covered.(Though not always I suspect. There are more liberal parts in the Middle East where females wear blue jeans.) Thus to see female heroines “flaunting it all” would be kind of a shock if you so happen to be a devoted follower of Allah.

    The thing people seem to lose sight of is “fantasies” do not hurt people. So even if putting rape in comics is not about rape awareness it is better to have it acessible so people can fulfill their carnal desires through some pictures than it is for them to feel repressed, explode, and do something terrible in real life.

    Secondly I have known WOMEN who have fantasies of being kidnapped, put in bondage, raped, being treated like a slave, or living out a daughter/Daddy scenario. You could jump to a conclusion and say these women are an embarassment to the fairer sex however behind close curtains we ALL have darker sexaul thoughts and fetishes.

    Other women confess to loving yaoi (guy on guy gay romance comics from Japan), Bishonen (pretty boys drawn with feminine features), or of doing guys with a strap on. While these particular fantasies are not my thing I’m not going to shake my fingers at these females and tell them they are “dirty” or “wrong” for thinking about those acts.

    As an erotic artist I hate how some people assume if I draw something I’m capable of doing it in real life or I am a sexist pig. Actually I am just venting my frustrations through a safe medium. It’s kind of weird but if I made my illustrations into poems or songs they would be more widely accepted.

    Don’t even get me started how men are objectified. As wrestlers and fighters they beat the crap out of each other for the entertainment of spectators. In comics men are often impossibly buff and ludicrously handsome. Men are taught often enough they are expendable soldiers + they should sacrifice themselves for a cause or a nation. Despite females rallying for “equality” males are still often expected to be the great providers and to pick up the hefty tab on a date. In pornographic art or film a female porn starlet’s identity is more important than a male porn star and sometimes his face is not even shown as all the action focuses on his torso and phallus.

    Yes women are objectified but so are men. Until feminists see the bigger picture (be those feminists male or female) things are going to be an imbalanced mess.

    Ps: Not to be an ass but I find many (but not all) guys agreeing with feminists do it simply because it is another avenue to impress women. However methinks their “end goals” are the same as the typical meat-head at the bar with his cheesy pick up lines. That is why I will always shoot straight. You may not agree with me but at least you know I’m not changing my stance just to make female feminists blush + get hot n bothered. I refuse to blow smoke up people’s asses.

    Comment by nightsavior — April 30, 2009 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

  63. For a completely different perspective, check out this segment at CollegeCandy where girls discuss the treatment for female characters and fans in the comic industry.

    http://collegecandy.com/2009/06/19/duke-it-out-supergirls/

    Comment by Lauren H - The New School — July 23, 2009 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

  64. [...] you’re going to write a rape into your superhero comic book, be prepared to write it well. Ask any superhero fan for proof that their genre of choice is to be taken seriously and you will [...]

    Pingback by Rape Should Not Be A Plot Device | Heavy Targets — March 7, 2011 @ 7:25 pm | Reply

  65. I dont agree wiht any of these comments…rape may well be rape but it depends on the meta-textual context of the story. you may not like it but its real life, something the vast majority of comic-book readers cannot empathize with, unless its thru a form of masturbation exercise that manifests itself i the dubious form of comic-book super-heroes.
    You cannot rely on this type of ‘read’ to give you a clear and unredundant message…not unless that said message is intended to reinforce your own opinions. How do i feel about rape shown in comics? Well, ive been arrested on two counts of rape with two of my ex-pupils, and it was definitely a crystal clear case of my word against theirs. I was found innocent of both charges even tho i freely admit allowing them to sleep in my house overnight. But peoples prejudices will ‘out’ as they say, and to this day i still have to justify myself even tho i did nothing wrong but an error of judgement. Put this in the context of a comic-book and watch the prejudice fly faster than Superman…go on, i dare you!

    Comment by Aegisbearer, Wonder Woman Comic Book Resources. — July 9, 2011 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  66. [...] Crisis. (Who can forget D’Orazio’s story of an unnamed DC editor gleefully shouting “The rape pages are in!” in the DC [...]

    Pingback by NEWS Round-up | Week of January 18, 2013 « The Comixverse — January 18, 2013 @ 3:01 am | Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: