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She Has No Head! – DV8: The Future Of Comics Is Also The Past?

DV8: Gods And Monsters #1 (of 8).  Brian Wood (writer), Rebekah Isaacs (art), Carrie Strachan (colors), Fiona Staples (cover).  Wildstorm.  22 page story (and a 5 page sneak peek of Garrison #1).  Dv8 Cover$2.99.

I mentioned Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs’ DV8 Miniseries Gods and Monsters in last week’s column as a good example of ‘doing comics right’ for both men and women and I thought I’d like to revisit that idea this week, and at the same time review a great new book.

Brian Wood’s DV8 is brilliant in its simplicity.  It’s not doing anything revolutionary or overly complicated (well, not yet anyway) but it’s just solid writing for a cast of interesting characters and a thought provoking plot.  And that’s really all any comic book needs to be excellent – well, that and some stunning artwork – which Rebekah Isaacs’ interiors and Fiona Staples covers are delivering with a bullet.

My memory of DV8 is hazy at best.  I vaguely remember some of the characters and the fact that they always seemed like the more interesting cousins of Gen-13, which I guess, in a way, they were.  I don’t think I’ve ever read any of Warren Ellis’ DV8 series (and later Michael Heisler’s) from the late 90’s as I recall being intensely turned off by the art.  It didn’t help that the series hit at a time when I was really starting to pay attention to the sexist imagery I was ingesting weekly from my comics, and starting to have a problem with it.  If you browse the cover gallery of that series, you can see why someone starting to notice and object to the hyper sexualization of female characters probably wouldn’t have made it past the covers.  So I can’t speak to whether that series was any good or not, but I certainly can speak to this one starting off on the right foot.

The good news, at least to me, about Wood’s take on this new series is that I don’t think you need to know anything about DV8 to jump in.  Simultaneously, I don’t feel like you will necessarily be turned off if you liked Ellis and Heisler’s 90’s arc, as the same characters are all present, and their looks, though updated and modernized (and de-sexualized a bit) are still very much in keeping with those same characters from more than ten years ago.  So it feels both new and original, and yet respectful of what has come before.  There is a mention by one of the characters that none of them remember the last few years – suggesting that they’re all suffering from some kind of memory loss (likely thanks to the government or whatever big bad corporate entity it running things behind the scenes of their “team”) and this is nice because I think Wood is going to be able to keep it very continuity free and not bogged down in back-story.

From Left: Frostbite, Freestyle, Powerhaus, Copycat, Threshold, Bliss, Evo, and Sublime

From Left: Frostbite, Freestyle, Powerhaus, Copycat, Threshold, Bliss, Evo, and Sublime

And leaving back-story at the door can be a hard thing to do.  Just ask Tom DeFalco, writer of the new Spider-Girl series, which I was anxiously looking forward to and just read a preview of on CBR, and which I found to be one of the worst info-dumps I’ve encountered in recent memory in a comic.

Opening with an info-dump or back-story dump is a mistake in just about any medium, be it comics, prose, or film, but I think in comics it can be particularly deadly.  I really feel the key is to invest a reader immediately in the character and situation.  Once you’ve hooked the reader with that, they’re naturally more interested (or more likely to be interested) in that character’s back story, not to mention there will be plenty of time for the writer to feed it to a reader in small easily digestible chunks, rather than burying them in eight pages of info they don’t care about and don’t understand why they should care about.  In Spider-Girl’s case I know almost nothing about the character, sans “daughter of Peter Parker, has Spider-powers”, so starting with eight pages of narration balloons (and a lot of them about The Punisher, and a villain, not Spider-Girl) is not going to win me over.  I suspect with a reader that is already familiar with the characters and history – they also don’t need or want the info-dump because it’s information they already have.  So it’s lose/lose technique as far as I’m concerned and one that comics often falls prey to since we fans seem to have a crazy fascination with continuity.

Wood doesn’t bother with any of that.  He not only dives in without any back-story info dump nonsense – but he actually dives into the middle of his story, and then backs his way out into flashbacks.  Which is tricky, but in Wood’s capable hands, completely successful – i.e. he keeps the “telling” (via narration balloons) to a minimum and instead plunges us into the real story and action immediately.

The story begins with Copycat (aka Gem Antonelli) in an interrogation room being questioned about an event.  Copycat begins telling her story and we flashback to the DV8 team (Evo, Sublime, Frostbite, Bliss, Freestyle, Threshold, and Powerhaus) being dropped somewhere.  As they get their bearings they realize nothing is right – that the world seems to have no hint of modern civilization, not to mention two suns and a red moon.  The story takes a very horror story turn from there with members of the team disappearing one by one and not returning.  I don’t want to spoil the end because it’s a nice set up for the where the series is headed, but I will say it fits nicely into the series title.

Not to be outdone by Wood’s character work, Isaacs’ art is – in a word – stunning.  The characters are expertly rendered and absolutely reminiscent of the originals but with appropriate and modern updates.  For example, Sublime, a character whose costume has varied from just ridiculous to straight up obscene, has gotten an update that looks like a feasible costume for a superhero (or antihero) rather than a stripper, while still keeping her recognizable to old fans (I recognized her on sight).

Dv8 1

Dv8 2Dv8 3Isaacs’ art also works for me on the most basic level – a level that I’m sorry to say I find lacking in a lot of artists working today – and that is simply that the storytelling is clear, easy to follow, and well-paced.  It’s nice when it can also be beautiful, as Isaacs work here definitely is, but really, clear storytelling is the thing.  As mentioned, Fiona Staples covers are impressing me right and left as well with gorgeous powerful designs (I assume each will feature a single character since the series is eight issues long and we have eight main characters).  Check out Bliss on the cover for issue #2 below (due out May 19).

dv8_2So, other than this being a good comic, what makes it so female and male friendly.  Well for starters the team has a nice ratio of male to female characters (a 50/50 split actually).  Additionally, Isaacs’ art doesn’t hyper sexualize any of the characters male or female, and they all look reasonably proportioned, well drawn, and particularly in the case of the ladies they pose, dress, and act like the superheroes (or anti-heroes) they are, as opposed to pin up girls and porn stars.  And knowing what some of these characters powers are – I think Bliss’ power is pretty much about giving pain and pleasure…and the manipulation of both – it would be easy to exaggerate these characteristics or body types or costumes to ridiculous levels as it has been in the past but instead Isaacs keeps things more realistic and as such the tone matches perfectly with Wood’s story.  And this is how simple I really believe it is.  Just make a good story with a solid plot and some interesting characters, then put a great non-objectifying artist on the book and you’re home.  A book for men and women.  A book that I feel like you can sell to both genders equally, and whose success doesn’t rely on getting an a non-existent all female audience to buy it in droves.  A book that doesn’t have to compromise or stoop, but can just be original and wonderful and yet still built for both men and women.

And while I’m here, DV8 certainly isn’t the only book managing to pull this off.  Other new books that I’ve been reading and loving and that seem to strike the easy balance of appealing to both men and women are Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Demo; Scott Snyder, Stephen King, and Rafael Albuquerque’s American Vampire; and Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth’s Stumptown.  Nathan Edmondson and Brett Weldele’s The Light is also off to a good start as is Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna’s Black Widow (minus the first couple objectifying covers).  Also, while I’m not in love with it yet, I’d also recommend Felicia Day and Jim Rugg’s The Guild, which covers some nice ground.  I find it a little tentative and the art a bit uneven overall, but there’s real heart there and I can easily see the appeal for both men and women.

I feel like comics were a lot like this when I was a kid, when I was first reading.  The X-Men I cut my teeth on at fifteen and sixteen always had a nice mix of male and female characters for me to relate to, and there was rarely overt sexist imagery for me to stumble on, and so DV8 feels like those books felt to me, and yet totally new and fresh, full of edge without being overly gritty and dark.  Books like this, make me hopeful.  DV8: Gods and Monsters is unlikely to be some groundbreaking, game changing series, but I guess that’s my whole point.  To change the game, to make it palatable and welcoming to women without turning off men, you don’t have to burn the place down and start from scratch…you just need to massage what you already have…and what you’ve already done.

I mentioned in this column before about a positive/naïve post I was writing about getting women into comic stores in big numbers that was all “if you build it, they will come” blah blah blah, but reading DV8 makes me feel like maybe it doesn’t have to be naïve fantasy…and it’s so much easier than actually building something…because we really just need some minor renovation.

“Renovate it, and they will come!” Hmm.  Not so catchy.  We’ll have to work on that.


51 Comments

[…] comic reviews, comics, comics should be good, she has no head!, superheroes, wildstorm New SHE HAS NO HEAD! is up, a review of Brian Wood’s new miniseries DV8: Gods And Monsters, as well as a […]

Upon reading this post I actually want to read DV8. A heroic achievement if there ever was one. Well done.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 3, 2010 at 10:48 am

I don’t know …. (bowed head, feet shuffling) … I really, really don’t know.

The Wildstorm line hadn’t much success with their re-vamped, re-booted, re-novated, re-something books.

To rely soley on Wood to re-invigorate people’s interest in any Wildstorm books puts alot of pressure on Wood’s shoulders. And he still has to do DMZ and Northlanders for Vertigo.

Will he succeed? Only time will tell.

what is it with this ‘male and female’ claptrap in this column?
like, how about focusing on good books for their quality and not their character’s sex?

Abus Abbas:
It’s called literary criticism. It’s the study, evaluation and interpretation of literature, and often times it takes certain viewpoints like psychoanalysis criticism, marxist criticism, eco-criticism, and yes, even feminist criticism. It’s not a bad thing to think intelligently about these types of things so there’s no need for any hostility just because it’s not something you want to think about.

Oh, boy, we get to have this argument again.

Kelly –

That is why I can’t read Spider-Girl, even though it’s the favorite comic of every comic book fan longing for the good old times.

Tom de Falco is the worst of the worst when it comes to exposition balloons and useless description. Even back in the 1990s when the practice was still common, de Falco was jarring.

I remember some dialogue in his Fantastic Four that was like this: “Johnny, Ben, look! There is a floating platform shooting a laser beam at us. We have to dodge the blast!” And the drawing was of a floating platform shooting a laser beam at them.

Tom de Falco tries to be more Stan Lee than even Stan Lee.

The weird thing about Spider-Girl is that she is the perfect example of a character that does not need huge amounts of backstory. Simply tell neophyte readers that she is the daughter of Spider-Man, and they will have enough to go on.

Damn…now I have to go searching for this…lol Thx Kelly….

Sarcasm aside…that is just some beautiful art and I have a feeling this will be way better that certain books I picked up this week dealing with major status quo changes….

I was toying with the idea of getting this but now I think I will.

I loved this issue too, and I’m excited to read the rest of it. Good point about Isaacs’ storytelling. The use of flashbacks could have gotten confusing (time/place changes are done poorly pretty often these days), but never did. And she’s not short on eye-catching imagery, either. That panel with Bliss and her tribe walk/dancing across the plains stuck in my mind for days after I read it. All their arms are at that same angle, but it’s not immediately obvious. It creates this surreal, spooky vibe. This is great stuff. What do you call that kind of walk anyway? It’s not a strut…it’s kind of a regal glide? I bet there’s a word from high fashion that would describe it.

funkygreenjerusalem

May 4, 2010 at 5:25 am

If you desexualise DV8, I’m not sure what the point of them is.
It was all about the exploitation, the sexualisation, the violence and the horribleness.
It was Ellis doing the superhero answer to kids.
Perfect book for a teenage boy!

If you browse the cover gallery of that series, you can see why someone starting to notice and object to the hyper sexualization of female characters probably wouldn’t have made it past the covers.

You would have been outraged if you’d gone past the covers!

So I can’t speak to whether that series was any good or not, but I certainly can speak to this one starting off on the right foot.

It was pretty awesome till the editor started re-writing Ellis, and then he left.

Thanks for reminding me about this comic. It’s in our vast pile of comics and I thought it looked pretty good, but if I hadn’t seen your article about it I would have probably forgotten about it.

I really enjoyed this issue as well. Actually, I don’t know if you’ve read Brian Wood’s other work, Kelly, but I think the vast majority of it falls into that “good, solid work that appeals equally to all genders” category. In fact, I think both “Local” and “Demo” are shining examples in this regard.

And Abus, don’t be dense. Your entire argument ignores the unfortunate fact that comics and the culture surrounding them are often perceived as, and in fact often are, hostile to women. If good comics that are friendly to female readers weren’t so embarrassingly rare, or if images and plotlines that are straight out offensive to women weren’t so sadly common, you might just have the beginnings of a valid argument, if you would only drop the insulting tone.

Jeff Ramirez

May 5, 2010 at 4:27 am

Kelly, i totally agree with your descripition of this series’ debut issue. And Paul, i share your approval of that amazing Bliss panel.

Personally, i think that what makes this issue accessible and striking is the potential symbolic, poetic nature of the art.

For example, that police lineup of the main characters actually (and i am aware the following observations and interpretations may all sound like a stretch; but, what the hell, i still think they are worth mentioning) makes me think of eight different, very interestingly bent notes or songs playing along a stringed instrument or musical sheet background.

That four-panelled widescreened page (featuring Bliss, Evo, Sublime, and then Powerhaus) is flowing some seriously cool (perhaps even protopunk rock) primal rhythm, which is a nice fit for the Stone Age setting, and even taps into the music-infuenced energy of the early, Ellis-written DV8 issues.

Also, it’s very organic, very skilled how Isaacs transitions these four images on that page: the windswept motion of Bliss’ tribe subtly continuing itself by way of that second panel’s rock-casting shadowline(which shares a similar angle to the lead tribal woman’s dress), which shapeshifts abstractly down to the third panel’s tree, root-connecting to the tribal robes, which in turn flow down to the fourth panels’ smoke (which may be fueling the entire activity of the page back to the top panel) . Weirdly harmonious, symbiotic, almost band-like chemistry going on in this sequence, as if (and again, maybe another stretch analogy, but, this is what i imagine to be) the breezy eerie presence of Bliss’ tribe are vocals, Evo’s clawed process of eating might sound like guitar shreddery, Sublime’s tribe (since they have spears and surround a giant drum-like stump) are providing this page’s percussive beats, while the spacial, bass-like depth of the Powerhaus panel anchors the top three panels .

Props to Carrie Strachan, for helping define the personalities and nuanced connections between characters.

Finally, I also like the design and arrangement of the title logo “DV8″. That V resembles an upward turned greater-than sign suggesting the superior role that Gem is finding herself in, in relation to the tribal characters. And that 8 has the figure of a split apple turned on its ear. Very curious and intriguing. Maybe the design of that 8 ultimately has no secret underlying meaning, but still, it looks very cool.

Hey guys…sorry I’ve been MIA, very busy week. For those of you that are going to pick the book up based on the column (or in Mer’s case, dig it out from the pile) please come back and let me know if you liked it or not.

@funkygreen: I don’t know…I guess Wood and Isaacs proved to me that there’s definitely something to these characters even if you desexualize them. I was surprised to see that Ellis’ run was only through issue 8 on the late 90’s series.

@Neal K: I do like Wood’s other work. I’m reading Demo Volume 1 right now (don’t know how I missed it all these years), and I’m loving the Demo Vol. 2 issues out thus far (as mentioned). I did talk about Local in my holiday gift list column and am a big fan.

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/12/07/she-has-no-head-awesome-women-in-comics-holiday-gift-list-2009/

See? :)

@Jeff Ramirez: Thanks for mentioning Carrie Strachan, because I should have singled her out in the post as well – her colors are definitely a major part of why this book looks so good. It’s really a phenomenal creative team across the board.

@trajan23: I agree on the Spider-Girl issue…it seems really unnecessary to me. “Daughter of Spider-Man, spider powers.” DONE.

@Rene: Yeah, I’ve had Spider-Girl recommended to me several times – especially through this column, and while I won’t write off older issues based on the terrible issue I read this past week…I will say I thought this latest issue (Spectacular Spider-Girl #1 – of 4) was horrible. Just borderline unreadable…and if that’s how she’s generally written…well, I’m afraid I’m never going to be able to get on board.

Men AND women enjoying something?

Stop talking crazy.

(I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, I’ll have to check it out)

Hey Kelly;

I’m sure you know this, and it goes without saying, but all men don’t like the oversexualization of women in comics. In fact, I can’t stand it 95% of the time, Even when I was a teenager, it didn’t make sense to me, that women (heroes or villains) would wear something into battle that, not only wouldn’t offer any protection, but just wouldn’t work on a practical level (unfortunately, I count Fairchild’s costume in the recent Gen13 comics as one of those bad ones, drawn for cleavage shots only).

Another issue I have with it, is that “cheesecake” is distracting to the story. If I notice that the artist is being overly gratuitous and salacious with his drawings, the fan service shows right away and the comic becomes more about titillation and less about telling a good story. At it’s worst, T&A shots take me completely out of what’s going on in the comic.

Would the character wear that? Would the character pose in such a way? I suppose the occasional shower scene is okay, or skimpy costumes on an actual hooker, just not on anyone planning to fight in those things. So yeah, men do hate it. I just wanted to be sure your readers don’t lump us all together.

PS: This may sound insane, but for great female characters, with little to no oversexualization, you need to read some TopCow. That company has changed a lot since the 90’s. Ron Marz is on Witchblade and Sara Pezzini is a strong willed cop, with a real personality, and some grown up concerns (she has a daughter). She is also drawn in full-body armor. There is no fan service in the comic at all. You just have to steer clear of the *occasional* bad variant cover, that shows the old metal bikini look. The regular covers are just fine, and open up to some really good reading. Marz is writing Magdalena as well (#1 just dropped) and you’ve absolutely got to read that!! It’s a superheroine done right! Trust me!!

-Pistols

IIRC the orginal idea for “DV8″ was to an Anti-‘Gen13″ book, meaning if the Gen 13 kids were the cool nice kids. than DV8 was the sexual/physically/mentally/spiritually abused, drugged addicted, royally screwed up violent kids. Now been many years since I read the orginal “DV8″ series, but DV8 was always meant to be a more “mature” version of “Gen 13″ in terms that the DV8 kids were in a lot of way villains, not superheroes, not anti-heroes,but villains. Ellis’ run was criticized for having the DV8 characters as very unsympathetic whiny emo losers. Ramos, who was most known for penciling DC’s “Impulse” series at the time which was a light-hearted humor filled book, was also criticized for drawing the book in a style similar to “Impulse” that was the wrong tone for the book.

After that Ellis/Ramos run I stopped carring about DV8. Maybe if this series come out in TPB I might try it.

ViDaLibrarian

May 8, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I picked up a copy of the book at my local shop due to my past love of Ellis’s DV8. I was amazingly surprised at the simplicity and quality of the issue. Though it may be different from Ellis’s vision, it was in many ways a breath of fresh air.

Jackson R. F.

May 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Again with those “it works for men and women” kind of comments.

Unless you’re a magical two-brained hermaphrodite, you wouldn’t know. Period.

Those kinds of statements always come down to “the characters don’t pose or act overly sexual”. Words like “porn” and “silly” are thrown around, and then sometimes a comment about how “women are portrayed realistically” is put down on the table.

Way to simplify things. “I wasn’t bothered by the characters of my sex, so IT’S GOOD TO GO!”

It amazes me that both men and women think that the way to make a comic good is to “make the female characters more realistic” (what does that even MEAN?) and that’s it. Newsflash: there’s no such thing as a “more realistic” character. You (the individual reader, not the collective) either relate to the way the character is portrayed or you don’t. Someone will recognize a character as believable and some other person will think it’s ridiculous and no person would ever act like that.

Since nobody ever talks about the way men are portrayed – are we supposed to assume male characters in comics are “realistic”? REALLY?

I love the bit about not wanting to spoil the ending – swiftly followed by full images of 4 of the 5 last pages. DOH!

@Jackson R.F.: The premise of the article (which you can of course choose not to accept) is that most comics readers simply want well-written, interesting stories with good characters and fantastic art – of which this book delivers all four wonderfully. I didn’t think that I had to establish…since it’s been pretty well established for the last 50+ years…that men and boys in general like their superhero stories (which this also is). I thought it was perhaps more important to talk about this being a great book, and then point out that this book, which on the surface meets all the criteria I’ve set up for a “good book”, ALSO manages to not alienate women, by having a nice variety of strong female characters that are not overly objectified or hyper sexualized…and seem on equal footing with the male characters.

As for “real” realism in comics…that’s a whole other thing…I mean, we’re dealing with superheroes…so how “real” do we need to be in order to use the words “more realistic”. I find some characters and images in books more “realistic” than others…but I suppose you could make the argument that realism is subjective. But yes, I relate better to a superhero character that looks like your average strong woman on the street than someone with water balloons stuffed down her shirt and that poses sexily in every panel so that I can see both her tits and ass simultaneously.

My argument, which I have not made here explicitly (I have elsewhere – but it keeps coming up here – so it seems like it needs to be a future column), is that of course men and women are not portrayed realistically in comics (I’m talking art here, not writing). Male and female forms in comics are absolutely idealized and exaggerated forms. The problem is where those forms come from. In the case of men, the forms are idealized and exaggerated ATHLETES, which denotes power and strength and ability. In the case of women, too often the forms are idealized and exaggerated porn stars and models, which denotes sexuality, beauty, and also too often submissiveness. If the women in comics looked like idealized athletes (swimmers, gymnasts, weightlifters, etc.) in the same way that men do…I think you’d hear a lot less frustration from the men and women that take issue with the female form in comics. It’s doubly and triply problematic, because for the most part women are also dressed and posed like porn stars and models, while men are generally dressed and posed like athletes.

@Rhuw Morgan: Yeah, honestly, I should have gone back and changed that line. Initially, though those were the pages that I wanted to use, I wasn’t going to use them because I felt they gave away too much, but then I saw that in the solicits for the book on Wildstorm’s page, that they kind of gave it away anyway..so I decided to use the pages I really wanted to. All that said, there are no page numbers…so people who didn’t read it, didn’t necessarily know it was the end until you said so. :)

@Jackson R.F.

Apparently you don’t know what would work for *all men* in comics, nevermind “men and women” together.

It’s no secret that women are portrayed in comics, in such a way, as too appeal to horny teenage boys (and horny grown men) whether or not the characterization of the female justifies it. And then when people complain, or point it out, fanboys get defensive and act scared, like someone is going to take their prOn away. Relax, there’s PLENTY of it. There’s no need to go into attack mode.

The fact that all superheroes have buff bodies doesn’t justify the apparent need to ZOOM IN on T&A, and draw women with as little on as possible. What needs to happen, is a balance should be struck. It shouldn’t be so widespread that the LCS screams “Get out, this is a man’s club!” to any potential female buyers, that’s bad for the industry.

In fact, the opposite should happen. Women (especially heroes and villains) should be drawn in functional costumes that actually make sense, and the skimpy, ripped clothes, strippers they pass for three-dimensional characters nowadays, should be placed in a small number of books, to be sold behind the counter.

…with the Hustler magazines.

@Kelly – That’s a fair point! As someone who hasn’t read any DV8 before but does read The Authority & Wildcats – I found this comic to be far better than the current direction the rest of the Wildstorm Universe seem to be taking. It’s a completerole reversal that the stereotypical cheesecake book from Wildstorm is now doing new and exciting things with superheroes while the one time cutting edge Authority & Wildcats are stuck in some never ending crossover with awful 90’s uniforms and woefully written Zealot dialogue. I kinda hope the book is a success sales wide and they let Wood revamp the rest of their books too.

I’ve had several people recommend several different WS titles to me and my answer is this: I’m not 15 and quite honestly I was never all that interested in the WS Universe, to begin with, and I stopped buying them after “Stormwatch” vol. 2 ended and they haven’t released anything that has really interested me.

CalvinEggnog

May 8, 2010 at 7:39 pm

What a let down! The whole point of DV8 was the hyper sexualization and over the top porn-star outfits and their crazy horn dog attitudes. To make them “normal” just SUCKS!

Question:

Why are comics criticized for their unrealistic depiction of women and not their unrealistic depiction of men? Not every man has a six pack, large muscles, and a big dick (blame Alex Ross for that one guys!) but every mainstream superhero character seems to. You don’t see me bitching about it though (well, actually I guess you do).

I say for realistic depictions go to the indy section. Superheroes are very much like mythology. Mythology is never really a place for realistic fiction but epic (read exaggerated) fiction.

This is my new favorite column on CBR though. I know, I know, doesn’t sound like it.

“It’s doubly and triply problematic, because for the most part women are also dressed and posed like porn stars and models, while men are generally dressed and posed like athletes.”

What’s the difference between a man dressed and posed for porn or for sport?

If we go ancient Greek, none, and no comic can portray men dressed that way without being behind the counter. And if we go modern, then you need high def to make out the size of their package during the Olympics.

Comics are filled with men in nothing but there underwear or skin tight costumes that leave nothing to the imagination.

But almost naked men are a symbol of strength, while almost naked women are a symbol of submission?

And then there’s the water balloons, at least those only cause back problems, the bodies and physiques of men in comics can only be obtained with regular injections of drugs that shave 20+ years off your life.

But I’m not complaining. No, it really doesn’t bother me. Superheroes are over the top and unrealistic. And if the story is over the top and unrealistic, then I find no schism if the art is the same.

In my experience, you’d be hard pressed to find books where one gender is portrayed differently then the other. If one is objectified, the other is too. If one is portrayed realistically, the other is as well. The issue isn’t really an issue. It’s a preference, it’s a matter of taste.

All that said, good review, I want to be able to read the book, but as someone who read the old DV8, the idea of Threshold being back on the team makes my skin crawl.

The future comics have totally generic art coupled with adolescent power fantasy writting? (look for multiple mentions of God or God’s)

Welcome to the present !!!

@Devyn: For my response to that, see my response to Jackson R.F. a few comments back.

@Dylan McKay: I’m glad you liked the review, but I guess we’ll just have to disagree on the portrayal issues. I don’t think posing and costumes or the physical forms our idealizations are based on in comics are remotely equal.

I think you need to look at more porn if you don’t think there’s any difference between men posed for porn and men for sport…however, even if you really see no difference there, there is still a difference between women posed for porn and women posed for sport…can we at least agree there? So when I start regularly seeing men twisted so that they can simultaneously show me their sweet ass while also showing me their pecks…I’ll start to feel things are more equal – that said, I’d rather we go in the other direction and have nobody have to do that anymore…since I don’t think athletes and “superheroes” would behave that way.

I also can’t agree on the costumes. At all. I have no problem with spandex. Cover women head to toe in skintight spandex (like the men generally are) and you won’t hear a peep from me. Spandex (or the equivalent) makes sense for superheroes. But since women are subjected to thongs, heels, costumes unzipped to their stomachs, fishnets, bare midriffs, swimsuits, and boob windows on a regular basis, while men…with the exception of a couple dudes (Namor maybe?) whose skimpy costumes at least sort of make sense…are fully covered.

I don’t see the equality. I’m sorry. I will agree with you that artists generally tend to exaggerate women and men with fairly equal styles and extremes, but because I still take issue on what these forms are BASED on, I still see a problem.

I certainly wouldn’t argue that seeing impossibly overly muscled men is a great thing, and that it could potentially be damaging to young men. However, I think that the exaggerated athletic portrayals at least fit in with what/who these characters are supposed to be. If we are to accept the premise of superhero comics…then most of them are superhuman and fight battles on a daily basis…which generally means their physique is superhuman as well, and that it’s their job to basically work out and fight…which few people in the real world can say. Whereas women….well they look like they have been busy throwing up their lunch in the bathroom and are fresh from the latest plastic surgery…rather than busy fighting crime and working out.

Again, I’m not saying that the overly exaggerated physique is not problematic…and could be damaging to men/boys in a similar way that overly sexualized and objectified women in comics can be damaging to women/girls, I’m just saying that if the female form looked more like exaggerated female athletes the way men do, instead of porn star fantasy women, you’d hear a lot less complaining from the people that are concerned about the portrayal of the female form in comics. Or at the very least, from me.

I know that Namor doesn’t turn ME on…how about that?? ;D

I find your second to last main paragraph very insightful articulating some powerful points. We don’t have to suddenly call out for an all female book (hrmph, cough Girl Comics) when all the creators have to do is be respectful. It may seem like an abstract concept, “oh my gosh… we have to portray men and women equally without sexualizing either!?”

Also, it must be kinda annoying to always have to be defending yourself in the comments section. I’ve had to face that. The personal attacks get rather tiresome.

C’mon dudes, be fair.

While both males and females in comics are depicted unrealistically, they’re two very different kinds of unrealistic. You only need to compare similar characters:

Superman’s costume is based on early 20th-century circus strongmen costumes. Supergirl’s costume is based on a cheerleader’s outfit. Wonder Woman wears a sort of beauty pageant Miss USA costume.

Batman’s costume is a mix of Zorro and Dracula costumes, Black Canary’s is the sort of outfit you wear to go clubbing in S&M places.

Captain Mar-Vell’s costume is sort of a play on a ultra-futuristic spacemen suit. Ms. Marvel wears a dominatrix costume.

Women in comics are clearly sexualized in a way men aren’t.

Time for that reality check methinkeths!

Tits and ass sell ! (more)

Superhero comics are read 90 percent by 15-30 year old boys. Has always been that way, will always be that way.

@abbus abbas – Doubt those figures are 100 percent correct. Even if they are, why does that have to remain the status quo? What’s wrong with wanting more from your comics, be they superhero or not?

I am enjoying this discussion for two reasons: one, I’m glad to see there are others frustrated with the immaturity of the medium with regard to respect for both sexes, and two, that those in favour of said immaturity (or in favour of apathy) have such little success in arguing their case skillfully.

I think it would be amazing if one of the most notorious panderers of T&A were reverse course and display some actual storytelling and accessibility. If Wildstorm could achieve this, it would go a long way towards the “growing-up” of an 80 year old medium…

(Aside: as a science fiction fan, I guess I was lucky to miss out on the bikini-girls-in-fishbowl-helmets phase of early SF, and instead I got to read Flowers for Algernon, Canticle for Leibowitz and Neuromancer. As a comic book fan, I had to live through the era of lingerie-as-battle-gear. Personally, I blame Psylocke for starting it all.)

@bill4935: Flowers for Algernon = one of my favorite books of all time.

I never “meet” anyone else that has ever read it, yet it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Thanks for reminding me about it – I’m going to pull it out and re-read it.

Kelly,

You make a lot of great points, thanks for your article! In the comments you talk about the obvious difference between how men and women are portrayed in comics by their body-types, their poses and their costumes. I think the points you make are good ones, however in terms of costuming I might argue that if one looks at how women dress-up for a night out clubbing compared to men, you might expect more flesh showing on female super-heroes than male.

If super-heroes are supposed to look cool and fun then we can expect their costumes to mirror the sort of thing that we think looks cool and fun out in the real world. Dudes dress up for a night out and they look like slightly hipper versions of business casual (button-down shirts, big watches, etc), it is very conservative looking. Whereas with women, you see very short skirts, cleavage bearing shirts, boots and shoes not at all designed for dancing, etc.

It is true that in athletics you see a much more even ground for how much women show compared to men (or in the case of heated yoga, dudes actually show off more) but I think to expect comic character costumes to more resemble athletic-wear than evening wear is to expect costumes to focus on the functional rather than the cool, i.e.: unrealistic.

@Green Death: I’m glad you enjoyed the article, and I particularly appreciate your civil, reasoned, and logical approach to questioning the comments – it can sometimes be rare in these parts!

That said, while I will concede that part of superhero costumes are certainly “dress up” or “looking cool” and that as such the link to non-superheroes dressing up for a night out is not a bad one, I still can’t quite get on board. Here’s why:

As a woman that has many times in the past donned low cut/revealing clothing and impractical heels for a night out, I’d still never wear those same impractical clothes if I was going to be expected to save people’s lives.

How much guilt/blame would there be if I can’t get to the baby falling out of the window of the burning building in time because I’ve fallen thanks to stilettos…totally different than falling on the dance floor…you know?

Jennifer Lopez in something cut down to her stomach is taped into that outfit like crazy and can look amazing standing still on the red carpet for a photograph, but she can barely be expected to walk and sit…let alone fight crime…

Additionally, in my experience (which of course is not the experience of all women, let alone all people) dressing up for a night out as a woman is often more about looking “sexy” than it is about looking “cool” (though it probably shouldn’t be) and since I continue to have an objection to female superheroes being required to look “sexy” just because, while men generally get to look a variety of other things ranging from strong to proud to brave to capable, and yes, sometimes sexy (there’s nothing wrong with sexy sometimes) etc., I still can’t get on board.

Additionally, DV8 is a great example I think of the female costumes being exceptionally cool and kind of edgy, without having to be overtly sexual. So I think you can easily have cool, edgy, fashion forward, etc., without it being impractical and obscene.

I appreciate the points though – I’m always up for a civil dialogue about superheroes! :)

Thanks for the response Kelly!

I agree completely that the best women’s costumes are cool, slightly edgy without it being primarily about sexuality. Sexuality is one tone on the color wheel of human personality and it’s a genuine shame that societal mores have made it the one on which women are predominantly judged.

I guess my counter-argument is less about the night-life “cool”* being right for how costumes should be fashioned and more that it is to be expected that they would be fashioned to such ideals.

I certainly hope things change for the better and perhaps comics like DV8 can lead towards this positive change. I’m going to pick up the issue on your blog’s recommendation.

* Seeing that “cool” often times reads as “sexy” for both men and women, it’s just what is expectedly sexy for men is considerably more conservative and business casual than it is for women.

“The problem is where those forms come from. In the case of men, the forms are idealized and exaggerated ATHLETES, which denotes power and strength and ability. In the case of women, too often the forms are idealized and exaggerated porn stars and models, which denotes sexuality, beauty, and also too often submissiveness.”

I’d disagree. Most idealized forms of men now a days look like models, not athletes. Their bodies are there to look nice, but don’t look like a body fit to actually engage in an actual sport. A realistic portrayal of a superhero would probably look like Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee didn’t look like an overly buff guy with his shirt on, but he is probably the closest thing we are ever going to get to superhero.

“Women in comics are clearly sexualized in a way men aren’t.”
I still fail to see your point. They seem the same to me. They are both unrealistic expectations that reflect standard gender attitudes and gender stereotypes that are prevalent in our society.

If you desexualize a lot of characters in comics I think they’d be more accept in the mainstream. I know I can only speak for myself but when I do want to pick up a comic or trade I do get turned off by the oversexual nature of the characters. I want to read a good story and see some good action. I don’t like it if they look like pornstars. That takes me right out of the story, especially if all the females look like that. Or if all the males look like pro wrestlers. I understand there’s a whole fantasy idealization going on but whose fantasy ideal? If it’s sex I’m looking for I won’t go to a comic to get that. If it’s to get people to buy the comic with the constant decrease in sales year after year it isn’t working. I think it has the opposite effect of driving people away. Just take the public image factor. People already don’t want to read comics in public for the stigma that might carry. Even if it’s a trade the second you turn to a full page spread that looks more like a playboy or worse photo shoot the awkwardness skyrockets and that’s the least of one’s problems at that moment. Give me a comic where the characters look like normal people in design anyway day of the week. It’s why I tend to enjoy manga so much more.

I hold off trying a number of stories because while I’m not a prude and I am an adult I just don’t want to deal with the gore and the amount of sex that so many writers and artist (might be more the artist fault because they leave nothing to the imagination anymore) feel they need to include in order for their work to appear more “mature”. It’s up there with having a tons of profanities just to prove the story isn’t for kids. I take the other approach to be honest. I feel a story is more mature if it causes me to think and to consider various possibilities. Now I might be generalizing and a lot of comics might not be like that but this is the impression I get from what I’ve been exposed to.

All this talk about costumes makes me think that a column on the sources of costume design would be cool. It’s something I haven’t thought too much about, but there do seem to be a lot of sources. There’s sports, military, the circus, pro wrestling, historical styles, pop music, fashion, etc. Some characters go for utilitarian gear, while others have outlandish get-ups. Some are really informed/dated by their time, while others seem timeless.

@Paul: Dean Trippe’s Project Rooftop blog is all about superhero costumes (the tag line is: “superheroes redesigned”) and it’s a wonderful blog. Check it out if you haven’t already:

http://www.tencentticker.com/projectrooftop/

Okay, Devyn.

Click on the X-Position article currently on the top of CBR.

Then click on the cover of Uncanny X-Men #525.

That cover is the typical comic book cover. Look at the males. Namor and Cyclops look threatening and powerful, as they should in a battle scene. Iceman is floating above the scene looking cool. All three of them are in cool, more or less natural positions.

Now look at the females. Emma is all contorted as if she were presenting her boobs to the enemy. Psylocke contorts herself so that her huge, deliciously round butt and mile-long shapely leg take most of the left side of the cover. They don’t look like natural positions.

Not to mention the dudes are dressed, the girls are wearing lingerie masquerading as costumes.

But I have to give the penciller credit, at least the boobs aren’t particularly huge.

Kelly, once again nice article and thanks for recommendation.

DV8 was the first book I picked up from Wildstorm, and I’m not dissapointed at all. Like you said in your review, it’s very simplistic (and it isn’t an event that will end all events, which I’m grateful for), but it’s equipped with the surreal feeling that there’s something primal lurking in the background of the panels or in our protagonists. The premise of bickering super-powered teens (judging by the art, I thought they were in their early twenties) playing on the instincts and forming their own tribes made me smile. It’s rich with various ideas: fall from heavens, adapting to the enviroment and the enviroment adapting to DV8, clash of past and future (maybe they’ll encounter Bruce Wayne with Miagani tribe), memory recollection… I’m greatly impressed with Mr Wood’s writting, since this is my first time reading his work.

The art is basic and fluid (bloody battle, interrogation, and as Paul commented Bliss with her tribe was mesmerizing, I could honestly picture them moving out of the comic), with different body language for each character (which is difficult to find in most of today’s comics). It suits the story like a glove.

Looking at the covers of upcoming issues, I guess every member of the DV8 will be narator of the issue he/she’s on it’s cover. I’ll stay ’till the story ends.

[…] Anyways! I recently came across a recommendation for this series, and while I was skeptical at first, once I read who the author was, I laid my doubts to rest. DV8 […]

[…] Anyways! I recently came across a recommendation for this series, and while I was skeptical at first, once I read who the author was, I laid my doubts to rest. DV8 […]

[…] a delicious cherry on top.  If you want to read more about DV8, check out my detailed review on CSBG’s She Has No Head! […]

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

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