Several weeks ago, I backed a Kickstarter for Kill the Freshman, an awesome looking graphic novel written and headed up by my friend, Alex Langley. (You may know him from his successful and ultra geeky, Geek Handbook or the follow-up Geek Lust.) As a reward, his brother and project artist, Nick Langley sketched a hella-cool White Beetle, Black beetle’s own bizarro world mirror character.
They sent it scanned upside-down because they’re badass like that.
One reason I wanted to mention this worthy project is because of the recent flap about an alternate Spider Woman cover. I realize this has faded a bit from the news, but in case you missed the debate you can read up here.
Essentially, an alternate cover for Spider Woman came out that was more porn star than superhero.
Of course, anyone who buys comics is probably scratching their head and wondering “what’s new”?
Comics have a long history of sexualizing women. Wonder Woman, who first released in 1942, found herself bound and chained every other issue in her (what was then) racy outfit. Her creator, William Marston, always claimed this had roots in feminism and mirrored the frequent representation of chained women in posters and literature for that burgeoning movement. Whether or not that was the case, it can’t be denied the result was to give young male readers of the time some “go-to” fapper material aside from naked aboriginals in National Geographic.
Nearly seventy years later, we’re looking at a shot of Spiderwoman “assuming the position” on a rooftop and still wondering why that’s a necessary component of comic book literature.
Before he launched the Kickstarter, Alex shopped Kill the Freshman around to several publishers. While he received quite a bit of positive feedback, one thing he heard was that the main character wasn’t sexy enough. Apparently, a high school freshman needs D cups, I suppose, to fit into today’s comic book world.
So when Alex turned to Kickstarter, I was more than happy to offer a donation.
If you’ve read Crimson Son, you probably can tell that I like my heroes to be weak, broken, and sometimes even unlikable. You know, human. That goes for physical characteristics as well.
And while I understand the desire to present the female (and male) form in as idealized a state as possible for these super-powered, super-strong heroines (and heroes), I’m not so clear about the highly sexualized imagery. Fine, give a few of your heroines in the line-up a deific figure. Hell, put ’em in spandex if you must. But at least present them with a bit of grace.
The defense that “oh, this was an alternate cover and wasn’t meant for mainstream” is bogus. Pick up an issue of nearly any comic and you’ll see ass-shots at angles apparently referenced from the Kama Sutra and titanic boobs suffocating in their spandex (luckily many have handy breathing holes cut out around the cleavage).
There is nothing wrong with sexuality. It simply doesn’t need to be the overriding factor in the display of female heroines.
Besides, human bodies as art are beautiful. But they aren’t beautiful in one, singular form. They are beautiful for the variety and individuality that our crazy mish-mash of genetics can provide. The creators use all kinds of creativity concepting these characters’ origins, powers, other backstory, why not apply the same creativity to physical appearance? Why are the artists leashed to a singular ideal?
Yes, I realize not all comic book characters are represented this way, but the vast majority are. I for one am looking forward to a shake up of that tired imagery. I like to think we’ve all grown up as a society. It’s about time comic books grew up along with us.