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CSBG Archive

3 Chicks Review Comics – Episode 004

It’s Episode 004!  


Inside this episode! An advance review of 12 Gauge Comics’ Magus #1 featuring art from phenomenal artist Rebekah Isaacs, who last was seen penciling Brian Wood’s DV8 Gods & Monsters Mini-Series.  A review of Batgirl #16 – is Batgirl’s burgeoning (but so far pretty lame) Rogue’s Gallery hurting her book…or is Steph being her own worst enemy enough?  For our hot topic this week, a discussion of the much tweeted and blogged about comment by Paul Levitz regarding women and superheroes in his three-part interview with Nathan Wilson for The Comics Journal.  And a discussion of what you can do as a fan (for starters – read Ragnell’s letter to current DC EIC Bob Harras - and write your own)!  Do it via regular mail, not email, as regular mail in a pile on one’s desk seems to be harder to ignore than email.  Plus everyone’s picks of the week!

Bob Harras
c/o DC Comics
1700 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
Forwarding Service Requested

3 Chicks Review Comics is a podcast featuring me (naturally!) with fellow female comics lovers and bloggers Sue from DC Women Kicking Ass, and Maddy from When Fangirls Attack!. Tune in weekly to CSBG Tuesdays at 2pm as we review comics, and discuss hot topics of the week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our cast via iTunes, so you never miss an episode (the subscribe button is on them main page, on the bottom right).  In addition to the blogs above, you can also follow us all on twitter as well: Kelly, Maddy, and Sue. Special thanks to Nik Furious for our awesome 3 Chicks theme song.

*As always beware of spoilers if you haven’t read the books in question!


Listening to myself now, I want to clarify what I was saying about Booster Gold… what I found ridiculous-and-melodramatic-but-oh-so-right was the preserving the grave throughout time, especially considering there are at least two other memorials for Ted Kord which we’ve seen in other comics.

I don’t know how you got a copy of Magus #1, but I hate you all. There, I said it. HATE!!!!!!

Oh, and I suppose I’ll have to actually listen to this, too.

On the topic of creators’ attitudes towards women, I think there is still a lot of misogyny. Case in point was a recent comment by Adam Hughes in response to a question about why he always draws women with huge boobs or in provocative poses and his answer basically boiled down to ‘well, male characters aren’t drawn realistically and it doesn’t affect male fans negatively, so we don’t have to care about the portrayal of women’. If people are that callous and insensitive, then no wonder there is no progress in picking up female readers.

I have to point out that Ragnell’s letter is responding to a misreading of the quote by Levitz. He says, “I’m not sure that young women are AS interested in reading about superheroes. The fundamental dynamic of the superhero story has HISTORICALLY been more appealing to boys than to girls.” Emphases mine.

Ragnell starts by saying, “I recently read an interview with the former publisher of DC Comics that said he felt that women were not interested in superheroes.” That’s untrue.

The fact of the matter is, the superhero audience has historically been majority male. That’s not an opinion or an assertion of ideology. You can make plenty of strong cases for the cultural stereotypes and expectations that have instilled an aversion in young women toward superheroes, but as anybody who’s been to SDCC can tell you, male fans outnumber female fans by a large margin.

It seems there’s a misreading of “hasn’t” as “won’t”.

Adam may be “callous and insensitive” but he’s right. Men typically don’t complain about that stuff, it’s only women for some strange reason.

Apodaca, if you can, it’s worth listening to the actual podcast where we discuss this point.

Sue points out that historically, women/girls were just as likely to read comics as the male audience, and they were reading superhero comics too. It’s the later decades where women started to get more shut out as an audience for both medium of comics and for the superhero genre that “superheroes are for boys” started to become closer to the truth. Of course, it’s not actually a truth, but a self-fulfilling prophecy, where comics people neglected the female audience and so made a lot of superhero stuff that excluded women or was degrading toward them: Girls don’t like superhero comics, so we won’t make superhero comics they’ll like, so girls won’t like superhero comics. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The idea that superheroes historically appealed more to men than women is based on a false assumption. And that is an assumption that Levitz has been operating on. He’s been operating on it, despite knowing that Vertigo has had a large female readership and COINCIDENTALLY has about a 50/50 gender balance in its editorial team, compared to there only being 10% women on the DCU editorial team.

That he saw and recognized that discrepancy, and apparently never saw it as a problem? Never sought to correct it? As far as I’m concerned, that is evidence enough of what he’s saying in the line about superheroes not being as appealing to women.

It isn’t that superheroes aren’t appealing to women and girls.

It’s more likely the way the male-dominated comics industry writes, it’s the way they market them; the way they fridge the girls, shove them to the side, dress ‘em in excessively skin-baring costumes, draw them in anatomically-impossible poses that bring to mind the distressing body image standards that are already shoved down their throats everywhere else in media; it’s the way female superheroes’ character development and storylines are never made to matter as much as that of the guys'; it’s the way comics left the news stands and could only be located in specialty shops, many of which are distinctly unfriendly, and sometimes downright hostile, to girls and women.

But Levitz, in his comic lovin’ male privilege doesn’t see that, and all he can do to explain why there isn’t a larger female audience for the superhero comics he published for years, is that they don’t like the genre they publish.

@ Bloop — That’s not entirely true. Men complain differently. Look at the reaction to Eaglesham’s Reed Richards, and the complaints that he was drawn too buff. As if it was okay for Reed to be a skinny egg head, but not okay for him to be both physically and mentally superior. And the reaction to Namor. The guy lives in the ocean, but somehow men always want him completely covered up, as if they go swimming with their own bodies completely covered up. In both cases, I think, men are expressing their own insecurities.

@ Maddy I can’t listen to the podcast right now, but I certainly will later this evening. However, I should point out that Vertigo doesn’t publish superhero comics, so that really has no bearing on what information Levitz has been operating on concerning superhero comics.

It has relevance because Levitz brought it up when he was asked about women as an audience for DC Comics.

Levitz’ quote is specifically talking of superheroes, as is the post you wrote previously. Again, I probably need to listen to the podcast, but it seems the point of contention is superheroes, NOT all comics.

From the interview linked to above:

LEVITZ: I’m not sure that young women are as interested in reading about superheroes. The fundamental dynamic of the superhero story has historically been more appealing to boys than to girls. There are any number of very successful superhero comics over the years that have had a better gender balance than others, but the genre as a whole has been a more male genre. Vertigo doesn’t generally work in that genre and that’s a starting point. You’ve had a number of really talented female editors working within the Vertigo mix and help screen the material and shape the material, starting with Karen herself obviously. I would posit that she is a very positive force in that process. Vertigo has probably averaged around 50-percent female editorial staff for most of its existence while DCU has probably never been more than five or 10 percent, and I don’t know the Marvel staff members well enough to comment. That’s probably a piece of it also.


oh god

Right, Maddy. Levitz’s argument in that quote is that Vertigo has been more successful with women because it’s not superhero-based. It’s not proof of female interest in superheroes. It’s proof of female interest in comics, but not superheroes.

In terms of superhero comics history, I don’t think you can paint misogyny in superhero comics as a recent development. Look at Lois Lane becoming the worst kind of person just to try and get Superman to marry her. Look at Reed Richards dismissing Sue Storm for being a woman. The formative characters and comics in modern superhero history have misogynistic origins. And if superheroes have a 50+ year history of being male-dominated and sexist, I think it’s fair to consider that a defining element of the genre. Like you say in the podcast, it’s not that women aren’t interested in superheroes as a concept, it’s that they’re not as interested in reading the superhero stories that have been produced since long before a lot of us were born.

Which is what Levitz says, too. I think there’s a reason he uses the phrase “fundamental dynamic of the superhero story”. He’s talking about the way that superheroes have existed in comics, as opposed to the concept of a superhero. I don’t think he’s saying that women don’t like superheroes. I think he’s saying that women don’t like the superhero comics they’ve produced. Which we all agree with, right?

@Greg: Email me and I’ll tell you my secret ;)

@Xavier K: I remember that quote. I actually wrote a whole massive post (not here but on my own blog) about how disappointed I continually am by things that creators I admire say…but then deleted it because it was one of those days where I just didn’t have the energy to have the debate…and then have a bunch of angry dudes (and a few ladies) coming at me for saying something.

@Apodaca: I agree that Ragnell technically misquotes the exact words from his interview – but I think she intended it for dramatic effect – like “hey! I’m over here…I’ve been over here for years!”. Regardless, I think what we said in the cast stands – particularly if you read the entire Comics Journal piece – as that one quote is nowhere near the only offending sentence regarding women and superhero comics. As we discuss in the cast…it may be true that women don’t like superheroes AS much as men…but the reality is how would Levitz know? His company (and pretty much all the others) does not produce books with a long history of inclusion and non-offensive portrayals. It’s not something you can judge in black and white with any definitive answer because the deck has been stacked. For years.

@Bloop: I would argue (and have many times on this site and elsewhere) first that women are not complaining about what men like Hughes think they are. And second, that it’s not the same thing as what men would have reason to complain about. When Batman poses like a sexy pornstar, runs around fighting crime in a thong, boob hole, and stilettos and has the form of an idealized male runway model…instead of an idealized athlete…then we’ll see if they men come a complainin’.

I’m dead serious about this. You rarely see women complaining about things like youth and beauty…which are idealized and exaggerated for both sexes (though still more for women…ask yourself while the male hulk looks like a “monster” while the she-hulk looks like a stone cold fox). Regardless, the issue is not the idealization of the form, which I think we’ve all pretty much accepted at this point, but what that form is BASED on.

Male superheroes are based on the forms of athletes…which denotes power, strength, and ability. Female superheroes for the most part look like models and pornstars…which denotes sex, beauty, and too often submissiveness.

Add to that the unbalanced costumes – I have no problem with everyone in skintight spandex/leather/vinyl etc. – it’s the job. I do have a problem with rampant bathing suits, thongs, unzipped catsuits, thigh highs, stilettos, plunging necklines, mini-skirts, and boob holes etc. to fight crime. Mens costumes make sense for what they do and who they are. Womens by and large do not.

Lastly…posing. And this goes back to athletes v porn stars. Men are mostly posed as athletes – heroic, brave, strong, able, powerful. Women are most often posed like kittinish porn stars which does not denote strength, ability or power…but merely sex appeal.

I would argue that THIS is why you don’t hear men complaining so much…the reality that we are still a LONG way from equal on the portrayals of men and women in comics…rather than something more like “hey…those wimmins…they sure complain a lot!”

[…] 3 Chicks Review Comics – Episode 004 | Comics Should Be Good … It's the later decades where women started to get more shut out as an audience for both medium of comics and for the superhero genre that “superheroes are for boys” started to become closer to the truth. Of course, it's not actually a . […]

thought on the Levitz comment and your discussion: i think the change has to happen on an independent level before you can expect to see it to happen on a mainstream level. that’s the way the industry flows nowadays. and DC is more conservative with their superhero material than Marvel, natch. if the companies see independent comics starring female superheroes gaining critical exposure and financial success on an indie level, they’ll start to imitate the trend. Levitz’s comment reflects the way that the company views these things on a corporate level, and to change minds in that field, there needs to be some sort of shift in the market.

Just want to leave a word about Stephanie’s Rogue gallery. I agree that she needs her own unique rogues, but what she really needs is that Frank Miller Kingpin in Daredevil moment, and I think her Kingpin should be Black Mask. Given the history between the two of them, he has all the possibility to be her Joker.

That being said, I’m actually comfortable waiting to see what Bryan does, and generally like the directions he’s taking Stephanie.

I’m pretty far behind on listening, but I just wanted to mention a few things:

– Isn’t Batwoman essentially Batgirl, at least in regards to them coming up with a Rogues Gallery for her? I realize Batwoman still had some really heavy hitters (IE. Alice) and that Villain had significant “high stakes” in regard to her relation to Batwoman, but… she was still crafted out of thin air. I guess after writing all this out, I realize they’re not the same, but… (and maybe I misunderstood you) creating a rogues gallery specifically for a character isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

– My fiancee loves superheroes, etc. but if it wasn’t for me putting comic books in her hand, she wouldn’t be a comic reader. First Buffy Season 8, then Runaways, and then onto things that I didn’t even think she’d like such as Criminal (which turns out she’s a HUGE fan of Pulp style comics and/or Ed Brubaker and didn’t even know it.) So, I definitely think your comment about “going to a physical store and then trying to figure out what to buy” is a huge issue. It’s a lot easier if you have somebody assisting you in the process or making recommendations, etc. and doesn’t involve going to a specialty shop.

– New Avengers #7… I bailed out after Issue #1 because I wasn’t a big “magicverse” type of person. Unfortunately a lot of the Squirrel Girl stuff rubbed me the wrong way. I felt as if Bendis wasn’t very familiar with the character and/or made her a lot more serious then she’s intended to be (and I’m speaking from a huge fanboy point of view.) Not to mention the Wolverine stuff was… unsettling, if they were trying to go the romantic route he’s a pedophile since she was 14 in her first appearance and maybe 16 not that long ago, so… it’s just difficult for her to have a past of any kind with Wolverine, especially a past far back enough that she could call him “James”.

@ Link

It’s been so long now I’m not sure exactly what was said by everyone else in the cast regarding Batgirl’s Rogue’s Gallery, but my point was that I think it’s really weak so far. I think a Rogue’s Gallery being created for Batgirl is an important part of her development and I don’t think so far that it’s very strong, and that that weakens the character overall and makes me not take her very seriously as a character with any longevity. I’m a huge believer in the whole “your hero is only as strong as your villain thing”…such a fan that I wrote an entire book about a hero and villain which alternates POV equally (which I hope someday people will actually get the opportunity to read, should it interest them!)…so my issue is that I think Batgirl not having a good one (thus far) hurts her overall. It’s been well over a year now and this is a big problem I think.

Agreed on going into shops. I KNOW what I’m doing in comic shops, and feel no embarrassment, or shame, or insecurity (feelings that many people express having in LCS’s) and I still have trouble figuring out what is new, what is old, what will be for me and what I’ll hate…and most especially where something I’m actively looking for is. I live in NYC and have access to some of the best shops around, but I regularly have to ask someone where something is after 10 minutes of wandering around guessing. Take Jim Hanley’s, a great shop, with a great selection (and great staff)…I went in looking for something of Garth Ennis’ – I think it was an issue of Crossed – and I looked under C, no dice, so then I looked under E for Ennis, no dice. I went to something that looked like “new releases”, no dice. Finally I asked and the staff member took me to P for Preacher! All of Ennis’ stuff was under P for PREACHER. Now, that is a case of just complete idiocy to me…as I have no idea in what world that makes a lick of sense…but the fact that stuff like that is happening in a GREAT shop, with a great selection and great staff…frightens me as to what might be happening in other less great shops…yikes.

I am like the only person on earth that doesn’t know anything about Squirrel Girl…but what you say makes sense if it’s true (which I’m sure it is). Regardless, as of issue…nine I think?…Immonen is moving to a new book and it will be Deodato and Chaykin on art, so that will be the end for me. I’m very disappointed but that’s the way the cookie crumbles I guess. :(

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