Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
I saw this discussed the other day on the Comic Book Resources’ forum, so I didn’t think it was really necessary to bring it over to here, but a reader sent me an e-mail today asking me to talk about it on the blog, so I’ll just post what Eric sent to me:
I was reading Cry for Justice #2, and I was really grossed out by something I found to be incredibly sexist on the first page.
Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen are talking in Gotham and Hal confesses that he needs to tell Ollie something. Ollie asks if it is about a threeway with Huntress and Lady Blackhawk that apparently the whole super hero community knows about. OK, we’ll get to the sexism in a sec, but first off that is an awful line of dialogue. After storming out on a JLA meeting, Ollie thinks that Hal needs to confess a threeway? How does that make any sense?
Then there is the actual threeway itself. Huntress and Lady Blackhawk were Birds of Prey together, and that book was partially notable because for all of Gail Simone’s stellar run, none of the all-female cast had any series relationships (besides the editorially mandated Green Arrow-Black Canary thing, and Black Canary left the book before that got serious). It was a book not about women like Catwoman and Talia fighting over Batman, but about women who were friends, teammates, and not each other’s competition.
This throwaway line of dialogue adds nothing to the story, except making Hal seem like he uses alcohol to get laid. It also paints Blackhawk and Huntress in a very negative light; they never had serious romantic relations with anyone during a lengthy run of a team comic, but a bottle of grappa gets them naked together? They go from being professional teammates and friends to some fantasy groupies. Nice fanfic, Robinson. With one line you did a good job at tearing down years of progressive writing by Simone.
I haven’t seen this mentioned by anyone else online yet, and I guess a lot of people don’t see what’s wrong about it. But I think if Huntress was congratulating Black Canary on a threeway with Green Lantern and Green Arrow, fanboys would be up in arms. People can justify that it would be different because Hal and Ollie are guys, but that just shows how gross and sexist this whole thing is.
You can continue reading to see both the page itself and some quotes from Gail Simone (who wrote Huntess and Lady Blackhawk for a few years in Birds of Prey) on the topic from the aforementioned CBR thread…
Some interesting reactions from Gail Simone, from the aforementioned thread:
I could see Lady Blackhawk, actually. Two pilots having some sexy fun, okay, I get that.
But I hate to see Huntress get branded as a slut again. The whole point of the Josh story was for her to realize she deserved better.
And I can’t see them doing a threesome, that affects their friendship, and the Birds were ALREADY one of the very few books about female friendship which is so fucking rare in comics it might as well be moonbeans captured in mason jars. Not that friends can’t have sex, but once again, this is all about the man, and “Well played, sir” is just, ugh.
I love James Robinson. But I really feel like most writers of mainstream comics get the sex thing all wrong over and over. It’s all wink wink nudge nudge and women as trophies and thumbs up and it seems so weird and off-character to me.
But I haven’t read it in context and I’m just the dumb girl anyway.
But James Robinson is a great writer, he’s never written anything I didn’t enjoy in comics and I still think Silver Age is an underrated classic. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. But it does feel weird that people can read bop and still come away with the impression that THAT Huntress and THAT Lady Blackhawk would get drunk and be someone’s sad Penthouse fantasy.
It just shows again that Bop was an important book for a lot of reasons and its absence is keenly felt in the portrayal of female characters in the DCU. Not my bop specifically, just the book overall.
In re-reading it, I do think the two guys are acting in character…GA being a bit of a dick, betraying his liberal beliefs as he often does (you can’t be a feminist and still slap your buddy on the back for his vagina scoreboard), and GL trying not to talk about it seems pretty truthful to me.
It’s a good scene, just wish they had used someone other than the Huntress. Zinda I can see, but together with the Huntress is really unfortunate for a lot of reasons.
That’s what sucks about Bop being cancelled…people tended to respect the characters a bit more while the book was running. It might well not have been because the book was so wonderful, but more just professional courtesy, in that you can’t do something awful to Black Canary when she is the star of a monthly book written by someone else.
But man, all bets were off once that book went away and they have ALL had some really sad moments, in my opinion.
James is a great writer and a good guy. I know there’s no malice in this, it’s just a huge disagreement about the characters mentioned.
Lord knows I’ve messed that up many times myself (Teen Titans, Batgirl, shut up!).
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