Robot 6

Comics A.M. | Should feminists give up on superhero comics?

Catwoman #1

Comics | Dismayed by the portrayal of Catwoman in DC Comics’ relaunched series, Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress asks whether feminists are wasting their time in hoping and lobbying for better portrayals of women in mainstream superhero comics. While she understands the desire to walk away, the decides in the end “it’s worth it to keep nudging”: “… Even if the industry doesn’t change, there should be voices in the background when folks read these books pointing out their problems. The key is getting folks who really just want to see, say, Catwoman bang Batman and nothing else to hear those critiques and to find a way to engage with them constructively, which is really, profoundly difficult. But I’d rather live in a world where people who don’t want to hear the works they like criticized have to work to shut them out, rather than leaving them to relax into the blissful sounds of silence.”

At The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky points out that not all comics are like Catwoman or Red Hood and the Outlaws, and recommends some alternatives. Meanwhile, Tom Foss jokingly suggests that the “new” Starfire is merely replacing longtime New Teen Titans creeper Terry Long. [ThinkProgress, The Atlantic]

Batgirl #2

Publishing | DC Comics continues its mainstream push for the New 52 with a preview of Batgirl #2 on the Entertainment Weekly website. [EW.com]

Creators | Alex Ross is profiled ahead of the Saturday opening of “Heroes & Villains: The Comic Book Art of Alex Ross” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Creators | Justice League Dark artist Mikel Janin has signed an exclusive agreement with DC Comics. [The Source]

Creators | Gavin Lees pays a visit to the husband-and-wife comics team Metaphrog in their Glagow home to discuss how they come up with their lovely, otherworldly graphic novels. (We posted a trailer from their Night Salad a while back.) [The Comics Journal]

Creators | Letterer and writer Joe Caramagna is profiled by his local newspaper. [NorthJersey.com]

Girls with Slingshots, Vol. 5

Comics | The University of Calgary student newspaper looks at the decline of print and the growth of webcomics, talking with comics scholar Bart Beaty, creators Danielle Corsetto and Ryan Sohmer, and publishers Daniel Lenfest-Jameson and Calan Lovstrom. [The Gauntlet]

Retailing | Barbarian Comics in Wheaton, Maryland, is still in business after 40 years, now owned by brothers Thomas and James Wu. Founder Carl Bridgers, 75, periodically checks in to see how things are going. [Gazette]

Blogosphere | The Cool Kids Table, the group blog of Ben Morse, Kiel Phegley, Rickey Purdin and Kevin Mahadeo, marks its third anniversary. [The Cool Kids Table]

Review| Robot 6 contributor Sean T. Collins reviews Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit: Book Three. [The Comics Journal]

Review | David Welsh reviews Osamu Tezuka’s The Book of Human Insects: “This is right in my Tezuka center of gravity. It’s a compelling story with a moral, though satirical core, taking the flaws of a generation to almost ridiculous extremes and crafting a thriller from that starting point. It’s great looking, possessed of a sexy energy that Tezuka’s adult works don’t always achieve with this level of confidence. And it’s got an indelible central figure, surrounded by an interesting cadre of marks and foes.” [The Manga Curmudgeon]

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44 Comments

Okay why are we still talking about this? These whole thing is way overblown!

I don’t understand why 2 admittedly horrible books outweigh 4 great books starring strong women. Batwoman, Batgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman were all great. To me 4 great books > 2 horribad books.

I agree with the above 2 comments, I think people are focusing a little too much on Catwoman and Starfire (and personally, I’m a female and there’s very little I’ve been offended with in Superhero comics…I’m happy to keep reading them!). Like Wonder Woman and Batwoman, there are a lot of great comics out there with strong women characters so I find it hard to understand when some people say they’ll drop all DC titles or all Superhero comics because of a few they disagreed with. Just my opinion though! :)

Wonderfully expressed by everyone above, there are more titles portraying women in respectful lights than in disrespectful ones. Do the math, appreciate what’s good, and ignore what’s bad.

People need to vote with their dollar by not purchasing the books that offend them and that’s that.

I echo the above beautifully expressed comments: keep your head down, don’t speak up for what you believe in and maybe it’ll go away on its own.

No, wait, I don’t agree at all. Instead, how about we laud what’s good, criticize what’s lacking?

the op-ed in the atlantic was one of the most condescending self righteous pieces of twaddle i’ve read in recent memory. i agree with the criticisms of the two books in question, but the writer’s overt dismissal of mainstream books as a whole, and anybody who reads them, is just typical comics journal level snobbery at its finest.

I literally LOL’d from Michael Hoskin’s comment. Well done, sir.

Matt, you’ll be happy to know that the writer of that piece is no longer employed by The Comics Journal.

Comics aren’t the problem. Society is. Change that.

Ugh. So Bored of this topic now, how about something new CBR. As a female reader i liked Catwoman, someone who took control and was proud of her sexuality, this is the 21st century after all!

You want feminist reactions to comics check out Ms Magazines campaign to restore WW powers and costume in the 60s or 70s.

I am not at all suggesting that we should ignore the misogyny present in some of today’s comics. Writers and artists should be called out, loudly. But as Michael said, the good should be lauded, and I’m not seeing nearly enough of that. I think that anyone suggesting that superhero comics should be given up on clearly must not like the genre much anyway.

Have to agree with @Sean T. Collins on this. Although I find Starfire’s depiction to be most disappointing as a woman, but as a comicbook reader I am able to see the whole picture. As some comments above have stated, these are but two exceptions to the rule out of many others. Personally I chuck it up to an editorial failure. All it reflects is a lapse in good judgement and should be left at that. Nobody’s perfect.

Nobody has pointed out that by having Catwoman and Batman get it on, DC puts to rest all the old homo insinuations about Batman and Robin. Not excusing the tackiness but there may be an ulterior motive at work.

I understand where many of these comments are coming from, but they also have the voice of ‘This isn’t a big deal,’ or ‘Yeah, some things are bad, but…” while completely forgetting that issues relating to gender (and race and sexual orientation, ability, etc) are important and the issues we have with comics not addressing these regularly are indicative of the issues we face *as a society*. Fine, I see that it isn’t important to all of you. Yet, these are important issues to address. Without this dialog, no real change is going to happen. People are just going to be okay with what ‘is’, which is a rather shitty and unequal status quo. The New 52 are making good strides, but we aren’t completely ‘there,’ where we don’t have to worry about a character’s portrayal and how that portrayal may perpetuate sexism, homophobia, etc. When we are ‘there,’ then, yeah, maybe these dialogues about feminism won’t need to happen. However, many of these comments point to the reality that these dialogues are still necessary.

It IS a big deal and I understand that so well by this point, but I think one of the best ways to put an end to stuff like this is to shame them out of the water, so to speak, by talking about superhero comics that are good. So far I’ve been successfully put off reading or buying either of the offending books but no ones out there telling me what IS good and IS doing it right.

Very tired of this topic. I suspect that, rather than no longer reading comics, I’ll instead no longer read CBR until the media is done losing its collective mind over this. And anyone who thinks that every headline about this is not intended to profit from the debate (i.e. draw traffic) or push an agenda that the writer already had from the beginning is utterly naive.

You know, nearly the exact same time that these issues of Catwoman and Outlaws were hitting the comics shops, so was the latest Love & Rockets book.

The two comics from DC, portrayed the female leads as controversial, sexual stereotypes within a poorly written story that garnered much screaming, ranting and gnashing of teeth all over the internet and press.

While the L&R book portrayed the female leads as strong, interesting and realistic characters within an excellent written story. Yet, nearly a peep can be heard out there on the ol’ WWW about this book.

If portrayal’s of female comics really mean something to comic readers (especially the feminists as referred to by ThinkProgress) why aren’t they spending their time praising what’s good rather than ragging on what’s bad?

I enjoyed both Catwoman and Red Hood and not for obvious reasons. My issue with the books are that so many people have issues with the books. I will continue to pull both books but like a poster earlier stated its your buying power that determines what DC continues to sell and judging from comments on the two books I am in the minority. So don’t purchase the book if it offends you. If it insults your intelligence, beliefs or morality leave the books on the stands and in a few months they will be cancelled and a hyper-sexually Starfire will show up in Teen Titans (also written by Lobdell and also a good read) to continue her subplot storyline, and Catwoman will be banging Batman in Batman and Detective. You the consumer determines what happens by your spending and not your complaining.

This is a major issue. I’m a nerd but don’t disrespect me by think this what I want to see when reading a comic. Yes, some nerds never talk to women. However, this is not the answer for that issue. Get out of your room, wash your butt and meet people! This is sexism at it’s best. I love comics, and they should show women it a real light. I’m not saying some of the women super hero should be fat but they all shouldn’t look like pron stars.
I’m a nerd that goes on date and all of you nerds can do the same thing. Stop dream of dating wonder women. Do you really think a women that’s in shape wants to date your fat butt. Come ON, SON!!!! LOL

@Richard John Marcej i adore Love & Rockets, but the issue here is mainstream superhero comics.

@urghhh – i pointed out 4 books that are doing it right in comment #2. i encourage you to give them a shot.

So, now that DC’s satisfied the latex fetishists with Catwoman and the sex slave aficionados with Starfire, now they’ve got to make sure they please the foot fetish crowd with that Batgirl cover?

There’s a reason these subjects keep coming up, guys. Ignore it all you want, but it’s still there. Or enjoy it if you want, but just remember: there’s no situation in which masturbating to a comic book is not pathetic.

I showed my copy of “Outlaws” to a good friend of mine. He is a 36 year old white male and knows nothing about comics except what he has seen in movie theaters. I asked him to read it through and tell me what he thought. I told him nothing about the controversy surrounding the title. I sat there and read Teen Titans while he read the book. I caught him chuckling a few times. When he was finished he said there were a few lines that came off like real zingers. He said it was funny in a “fart joke” kind of fashion. Like “Step Brothers” or “Hall Pass”.
I then explained to him what the problem with the book was and why it was making people so upset. He then looks at me and says, ” If people don’t like material like that then why do they waste their money on it? Why do they waste their time critiquing it? Why don’t they buy a book with a more serious tone than a “Frat House” theme? This book is just made for guys who still haven’t grown up.”

That is when I looked at him and said, “EXACTLY!”.

Don’t you fall under that same criticism Travis, seeing as you were the one who bought and I’m assuming read the issue before showing it to your friend?

What saddens me is that I really do want to read a Catwoman comic. I will buy issue #2 because, for it’s faults, I enjoyed parts of it. But if people jump ship on the book over this issue, they’re not just making a point; they’re getting it cancelled. And it’s not like another Catwoman book will step in to take it’s place. Editorial will just say, as is done with films and TV shows fronted by women, “See? A woman can’t headline a book. May as well not try.”. The character’s gender is not the issue, it’s the quality of the product.

What disappoints me most is that this was DC’s chance to bring comics to a bigger audience with smart, modern stories. Super-hero movies have been huge the past decade and so many people out there don’t realize they can get the same great stories not one or twice a summer but dozens of times each month.

But what do we get? Low-rent stories that remind me of early 90s Image fluff. Nothing groundbreaking at all. Some really great stories came out of periods where DC and Marvel were desperate and gave control over to some really innovative people. The New 52 was a chance to do that on a big scale, but it’s seeming to be the same “new #1 issue! marketing gimmick over again. Just bigger.

That being said, some of the titles that have come out have impressed me and I’m looking forward to things like Wonder Woman. And more to the point, I agree with Alyssa Rosenberg. I appreciate that the online community isn’t letting this one go. We all know how fantastic comics can be. I was just hoping DC would be putting it’s best foot forward with this high profile initiative.

I bought all 52 books from my LCS for $52. What whould you like me to do with it? Give it to you perhaps?

Not all of the 52 books I received were good books. Many of them were. Needless to say I will not be picking up issue #2 of “Outlaws”, even for a buck. Now Catwoman on the other hand, yes the second issue will make it home to my read pile.

From the Atlantic Article (I agree with Matt D. that it is condescending): “That’s because comics are a niche market. Marvel and DC are medium-sized fish in a puddle. Successful DVDs, for example, typically sell more than six times as much in a month as a successful comic.”

This is apples to oranges. The audience for each has different expectations.

And where the heck, exactly does he think so many film idea come from? Comics are the raw materials for so many other mediums. Which is unfortunate in it’s way since some comics then become just *cough cough Mark Millar cough* storyboards for film versions.

Starfire is to sex what Wolverine is to violence.

A BABY GOT POSSESSED BY A DEMON AND EXPLODED IN DEMON KNIGHTS 1 BUT SINCE VIOLENCE IS OKAY AND SEX IS NOT IN 2011, NO ONE CARES.

@ Zolton… I actually thought that was pretty d@^n kewl. I love to see how far villains are willing to go to get what they want. I will be buying the second issue of that as well.

Just want to see if I understand; because SOME of you dont like the T and A from Red Hood/Catwoman, these are poor books and should be cancelled, Right? In Detective 1, Joker gets his Face cut off; In Batwing, he takes a Machette through the chest; In Batwoman we see Kate Kane tounging down her lady friends often and all I can hear is “Catwoman’s Bra” or “Starfire a Sex Slave”……
I’m a 41 year old man and I dont need anyone pushing opinions on me- I read Swamp Thing, didnt like it. The reasons don’t matter; My friend LOVES it. Great for him! I wont spend my 2.99 on it and its that simple.

You dont like the content of Red Hood or Catwoman, dont buy it, but let those who like it, for whatever reason, ENJOY IT. That is all…….

The problem here really are the “feiminists”. While I support full equality for pretty much everyone – I detest people who claim that they should dictate how other people think. I know women are as equal and capable as men, I don’t need to b*tch with an attitude to be jumping down my damn throat telling me how they think I should think about things. I love Batgirl, but she is one type of character. Catwoman is an enttirely different personality entirely – and so is Batwoman and so is Supergirl and so is Wonder Woman – an dtheir characterizations are reflective of different personaliyt types. How DULL it would be if all people in a grouping (women, men, gay etc.) – were all written the same way. My experience is that the women who are out and enjoying their lives aren’t caught up in all this b.s. The crap comics won’t survive, so who cares? Women has historically used their sex appeal to obtain a degree of power and more recently to express their equality with men – that they can be as sexually liberated as men, if they choose to be. Talk about blowing the issue out of all proportion. If “feminists” don’t want to read comics, goodbye an dgood riddance. The artistic community can well do without people coming in with a fixed agenda. They don’t care about equality or fair representation, they care THE representation they feel everyone else should have. No thanks!

@ Mark: I realize DC appears to be lost on you, since you’re already claiming most of it to be the same stuff they published in August. That having been said. If sales on Catwoman plummet, and sales on Wonder Woman rise or stay the same, then one cannot reasonably come to the conclusion that: “People don’t want to read about female characters.”

Instead–especially since it’s a full week later and no one’s shutting up–they must instead come to the conclusion that “people must not want to read a Catwoman that never has her face shown but is still half-naked”.

@ Michael Hauskin: But, no one’s lauding what’s good. I can find a half-dozen articles in ten minutes talking about Catwoman and Red Hood. The biggest pieces on Wonder Woman I can find talk about how it should’ve been done differently.

The sooner people realize there’s NO such thing as bad press, the better.

If she thinks she is helping the situation by sounding like a moralizing and preaching, then she is very wrong. That kind of tone antagonizes. The idea that she and those prissy people are saying that those who liked the comic hate women says to me that she needs to get her head out of which ever time warp she is in and look around and see that even women liked that scene. Yes, some women were not bothered at all.

Translation: “Nevermind the fact that the book was total crap and reduced its only female character to a shallowly written slut, our comics aren’t for kids anymore. You should know better. Its all your fault if you don’t like it!” Typical DC response.

Haha! Zolton nobody cares about babies! You can always make more!

DC is just following in the footsteps of equal rights pioneers like Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner and Cherry Comics.

Googam son of Goom

September 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm

How about more women writers. That seems to me a more fundamental issue as to why there is so much poorly executed characterization of women in comics. It’s still boys writing for boys pretty much.

Heavy Metal Magazine shows that Europe has different ideas than some American women.

People are not praising the good portrayals enough because the bad portrayals aren’t just bad, they’re god-awful horrible, particularly Starfire’s. It’s so bad that I prefer to believe that Scott Lobdell must have some plan. It can’t be as bad as it seems.

As for Catwoman, I think the situation is different. I don’t find her scene with Batman so objectionable from a feminist viewpoint. The outrage seems to be good old American puritanism disgusted by characters as popular as Batman and Catwoman having almost-graphic sex in a casual, anonymous way. Far more horribly sexist are the opening two pages. It’s male gaze to the point of parody.

At least 50% of the problems I have with superhero comics portrayal of women would be solved if they just stopped using art influenced by the kewl, 1990s Image style.

While I’m a little surprised at Kory’s seeming “goldfish in a bowl” attitude regarding sex, I’m even more surprised at all the misplaced outrage over it. Has everyone forgotten how Kory was first introduced? When she wanted to learn English, she kissed Dick Grayson after which, Gar Logan quickly volunteers to teach her other languages. During the course of the first New Teen Titans series, while she’s involved with Dick, she’s forced to return to Tamaran where she’s supposed to marry a Tamaranian noble’s son but she quickly points out to Dick that the marriage wouldn’t interfere with her relationship with Dick since marriages on Tamaran weren’t necessarily matters of love; it seemed that Kory actually expected her husband-to-be was going to have relationships with other women. Kory was always a free spirit when it came to sex (in fact, that was supposed to be a part of her charm–that she was effectively an alien, innocent to the very prudish attitudes of the world, and, more specifically, the country where she found herself living).

The other thing that kind of surprises me is the very double standard exhibited by some self-described feminists when it comes to Kory’s expression of sexuality. I don’t read any of these people condemning Roy Harper for thinking with his, um, groin, and let’s face it, Harper’s not exactly been a monk. No one held a gun to Roy’s head and forced him to take up Kory’s offer. But, no, Lobdell’s being skewered for what is a double standard–the girl offering is a slut, the guy accepting is a stud. And the fact that self-described feminists are the main ones pulling the double standard is the more egregious sin. (Of course, what I was really hoping to see was Jason Todd and Roy Harper hooking up, but let’s face it–we’d then be hearing from the legions of “I’m not a homophobe but I don’t want to see two dudes together in a comic book” guys because that would be too much of a “retcon” for those fans.)

I’m sorry, DC is definitely skewed when it comes to its female characters. Just having Gail Simone rotate to write for some of the female starring books is not enough. There should be more female writers and artists. Also, DC has definitely AGAIN depowered/destroyed Wonder Woman in the past couple of years (ever since that Max/Sacrifice crap). It seems like the “powers at be” did it on purpose. And to just do away with Donna Troy also. Heartbreak. I didn’t have a problem with the scene with Kory, because that action is based on her overall character/subtext. But Catwoman was definitely an a la “90s Image” style. I wish there was a built up to that raunchy sex scene with a good story. Not just in the first book of the 52 since everything is rebooted. So I don’t know where this was coming from. It would been great if this happened a year or two ago. It just felt like one those long gratuitous sex scenes from TRUE BLOOD. Media is powerful, and especially how bad the American education system is (K-Post-secondary), the ‘powers at be” should be wary. And we as weekly loyal consumers need to demand a change or just make one.

Oooo, sorry for the typos in my earlier comment. You know those middle of the night ramblings. So here’s another one. Just to give my own personal example of how media is powerful. The reason why I bought my first comic book at 10/11 years old was because of Wonder Girl. The seeds were definitely planted with the Superfriends cartoon, reruns of Adam West’s Batman series, and of course the Wonder Woman TV series (which I loved). However, I never bought a comic book. The only comics in my possesion at that time were a collection of Black History comics which were given as a present (they were actually really good (another seed), and some Bible Stories comics (another present, another seed). But what actually made me buy my very own first comic was the cover of The New Teen Titans #3 Vol. 2. Of course what initially grabbed my attention, when I just happened to walk into my first comic book store, was George Perez’s art on that cover. But what made me buy that book was because I recognized Wonder Girl. And the main reason why I knew that was Wonder Girl because I had a collection of DC superhero drinking glasses from some fast food chain happy meal. And on Wonder Woman’s glass they featured the Wonder Woman family with a picture of Wonder Girl on it and also Wonder Tot. Mind you that glass was my main reference because the Wonder Girl on the TV series didn’t even look close to the Donna Troy character. Also I recognized the lariat on the hip and the bracelets, deducing that she must be some way related to the Wonder Woman family. I paid 3.99/5.00 (it was a back issue) and I was hooked!! What made me buy my next comic was I after I opened that book it was an enthralling dramatic quality story (Thanks Marv and George). That particular book was the perfect “gateway” comic for me. Wonder Girl conflicted in leaving Paradise Island and leaving Man’s World for that old white guy with the orange afro. It had Batman and Robin in it. They weren’t real though, but I learned that cat in the blue and yellow outfit was the original Robin. And then, wow, it had a ‘brother” in it, a Bionic Black Man, spectacular. (See on the cover Cyborg, head is not faced outward so when I bought the book I didn’t even fathom it had a African American character, Oh yeah did I mention I’m an African American male) Also, a beautiful golden skinned girl with long curly hair, her skin is the color of most of my family. Is she Black too or Hispanic? And is that Flash Jr. sleeping with Cher? And why does Cher have four eyes?
With that being said, DC and Marvel too (Storm and Rogue have totally been depowered. I miss Punk Storm and Chris Claremont. We now have domintrix Emma Frost “booty tooching” on every Xmen cover) need to take notice of the discontent and change the way they deal with their female characters (and characters of race, culture, sexaulity, etc, etc, etc) They need to be more savvy and intelligent in both keeping their audience and creating some new ones. If you build top notch, grade A quality books of diversity with the money and backing of DC/Marvel, they will come! Thus, endeth the lesson. :)

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