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Committed: Ms. New 52 and Her Powerful PMS

DC’s solo, female superhero titles depict women who are firmly focused on emotions, family, home, and sex. These women are so distracted by these things, that they’re barely able to think about their jobs as superheroes. It is disappointing to read so many women characters depicted this way,  consistently unprofessional and erratic, and it is hard to imagine a male character ever worrying about any of these things to this level.

Like most people, I was excited about the DC relaunch and since there was a lot of talk about them, I particularly wanted to check out the new solo women comic book titles. In the past, I’ve rarely identified (or even felt comfortable) with the way women have been depicted in comic books, so this seemed like a good opportunity to read a lot further than usual. One of my favorite books is still Elektra: Assassin, and I wanted to see if, in the intervening years, anyone had come up with anything as good.

My first introductions to the women of the New 52 weren’t really my cup of tea, but I soldiered on, since often a first issue might be too filled with introductory exposition to really say much about the actual characters. By the second and third issues I was starting to become irritated at the waste of paper and time. I laughed my ass off at Catwoman, I got bored by apartment hunting with Batgirl, and I was never engaged by Supergirl’s fight with her cousin. DC is being lauded by some for the inclusion in their relaunch of many female-led books, and while I was interested in them initially, it was Wonder Woman who I felt needed it the most. Sadly she is a victim of the same kind of sexism that seems to plague her colleagues as her story descends into tedious family fights.

Despite my best efforts, all of the new female series have left me disappointed and I’m now wondering if it wouldn’t be better to go the Marvel route and not have any titles based around women heroes. It is a sad thing indeed. Perhaps they used the Bechdel test to decide whether they were being sexist. (In case you don’t know, the Bechdel test is from the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and has become a popular, simple test to determine gender bias in movies, TV, books and comic books. In the original strip, one of the characters says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements: 1. It has to have at least two women in it, 2. Who talk to each other, 3. About something other than a man.)

This test is a good start, but by this definition, the DC solo female titles are perfectly fine. Believe me, they’re not fine. They ought to have depicted at least one female superhero as professional, focused and intelligent.

At this point I want to amend the rules of the Bechdel Test. I don’t care who a woman talks to, I care what she is talking about and what her actions are. I want to see a woman dealing primarily with events which are work-related and non-emotional. I don’t care if she is talking to a man or a woman, as long as she is talking about her job. I don’t want to hear any more female superheroes whining about their home, incessantly flirting, or arguing with family. I want them to talk about getting their bloody job done, just like male superheroes do for the bulk of their time. Work is stressful, exciting, challenging and it consists of least 40 hours a week for most people. Most importantly, these women are superheroes, not soap stars. Why can’t they focus on their jobs? Surely their jobs are incredibly engaging?

Catwoman
You could argue that Catwoman thinks about her work a lot. Maybe she does, but she does it as an addendum to having no-strings sexual encounters (there are no deep thoughts here.) When she isn’t half naked, she’s humping Batman. No news there. Sex and manipulation is obviously the focus for Catwoman. Being Batman’s fuckbuddy just isn’t enough story content to make me care about her, no matter how pretty her underwear is. They’ve often been depicted as sexually involved, but past writers allowed us to see them working together, building a rapport through mutual respect and enjoyment of the job of being superheroes. Cutting to the chase takes all of the interesting tension out of it.

Voodoo
What about Voodoo, who only thinks about work? But her work is being a stripper / whore / alien spy, so when she isn’t looking hot, she’s shagging random strangers (again, without much depth to her interactions or feelings.) Everyone knows that any random alien spy would do well to look like a woman, since they get all the high paying jobs and responsibility… oh wait, no they don’t. Right, so Voodoo is blatantly another sexually manipulative character.

Batgirl
Then there’s our old friend Batgirl, Barbara Gordon herself, back in the saddle, an experienced adult woman with a ton of work experience, both on and off the field. It ought to be thrilling, but instead she spends at least half the comic book dealing with a roommate and worrying about her insecurities. For a woman of her age and intelligence, she’s too needy and too emotional. Shame she can’t focus on the job because of having so many feelings.

Supergirl
Well, at least Supergirl is super powerful, so that ought to be good, right? It would be if she didn’t simply spend two issues doing nothing but freaking out and fighting her cousin. Apparently, since she’s confused, she decides to lash out and behave like some kind of violent, irrational cliched female. Two whole issues where we discover nothing about her except that she can fight. We knew that already, so she’s all about squabbling with family which is a real waste.

Batwoman
Batwoman is marvelous. The book is an incredible artistic achievement and I applaud the creators. Still, I’m disappointed that there is as much focus as there is on Batwoman’s girlfriend, her mood swings, and her concerns about her sister. It is a good book, definitely DC’s best at the moment, but unfortunately it is yet another book about an emotionally unstable woman.

Wonder Woman
Finally we’ve got Wonder Woman. Unlike many of DC’s so-called number #1′s about established characters, Wonder Woman truly was a new comic book. With a very new feel and a fantastic new look. Up until issue #3, I was really hoping that this would be the book with a lead female character who focuses on her mission. Issue #1 of the new Wonder Woman was a relief, and while it didn’t really do a great job of introducing the character concept to new readers, it did hint at a whole chorus of Greek mythological characters, waiting to screw with our heroine. Unfortunately, but the end of issue #2, the focus was firmly on Wonder Woman’s relationship with her mother, with issue #3 giving us the full-on showdown between mother and daughter. Are we really expected to read about a grown woman storming off while yelling at her mother?

Apparently DC has a strange, possibly pathological need to depict women as irrational, emotionally unstable (or at best, emotionally detached), indecisive and aggressive. I understand, everyone is like that at some point. Unfortunately, since every solo female superhero book is like this, it makes DC look suspiciously like they secretly harbor a plethora of confusing assumptions about the entire female superhero population. But, try this on for size… I have a suggestion for a workable solution; Write a book about a female character, but tell everyone involved in creating it that it is a man. Get writers and editors who are great at depicting strong, intense, male superheroes. Don’t change the names until the whole thing has been finished, that way the female superhero can focus on being a superhero, she can be assertive and strong without being irrational and upset, she can completely ignore her family, and she can get on with the business of having a job and being a superhero. It would be amazing. I would definitely buy that comic book.

56 Comments

I have read this over and I am at a bit of a loss. It is the emotional content that makes the good books on this list (Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Batgirl) actually GOOD!

The last thing I want are characters that are always focused on their work. This is why so many of the books with younger heroes are worth reading. The writers GET that ‘beating up the bad guy’ is not enough to make a book interesting.

You raise some very good points about the way in which the majority of DC’s female characters are depicted — although in some cases, such as in Wonder Woman, I think the story is needed for character weight and development.

However, there are so many glaring mistakes is syntax, grammar and usage that it draws the readers attention away from what is, actually, a very good argument. If possible, I think it would be best to take a read through to fix the issues. That way what you are trying to say will be both clearer and stronger.

I disagree with this article.

I think that every comic (male or female centered) shows huge distractions. For example, Batman finding out about his beloved city’s deepest secret even to the point of literally tripping.

Superman #3 focusing on Superman being distracted by his parent’s at their grave.

The Flash being distracted by his old friend’s situation.

I mean I could go on, but I think Rusty said it best…. That’s what makes them so interesting and what makes people want to read them. The fact that they are human (so to speak) just like us who are all just as easily distracted and wrapped up in their personal lives as any one of us.

Just because they have women as the stars and they focus on their insecurities, that doesn’t mean that DC is out to get women. Hell, Gail Simone is one of the biggest advocates for female empowerment in comics and her Batgirl is fantastic. No one gets back into it that completely and quickly after being confined to a wheelchair for that long.

Supergirl just found out her home had been destroyed. Given that context, that’s understandable that she would freak out, especially on a foreign planet and by someone who claims to be her cousin.

Wonder Woman needed a problem. She had been stale for far too long. Azzarello’s depiction is brilliant because now she feels like a woman. Not so much because of the conflict between her mother and her (from what I know of family, mothers and daughters can very often have very conflicting lives), but because she doesn’t feel stale and she doesn’t feel like a man. She feels fleshed out and yet is comfortable in her own skin.

Also, I don’t know if you were being sarcastic at the end or not, but people had been complaining to DC that all their women were written and designed to look like men (with boobs) for the longest time. Now you have the opposite complaint. It’s kind of funny.

Then again, now that I read this again, maybe the entire article is being satirical.

I enjoyed reading this and feel that Sonia had some valid points about DC’s “new” portrayal of women characters in the relaunch but, I too, am a bit unclear what she means about these women not being strong, assertive, and focused on their superhero-ing.

I wish she could have done a good job of showing an example of what she is requesting. Any example of this in a comic from any company would do. An illustration of a character she felt was “assertive and strong without being irrational and upset, she can completely ignore her family, and she can get on with the business of having a job and being a superhero.”

I want to understand what she means FULLY so I can respectfully appreciate the entirety of this article.

Yeah, I don’t know about all this. I mean, you’re definitely right about some of the titles, but it kind of seems like you’re looking for sexism. Did you hold this standard to the male solo books as well? Aquaman spends most of his first issue bristling at people making fun of him, then hanging out with his girlfirend. Resurrection Man stumbles around feeling guilty and waxing philosophical. The only major character I can think of who generally “only thinks about the job” is Batman, and even his New 52 issues have so far made sure to give ample time to his non-Batman personal relationships. Some of this can maybe be chalked up to sexism, but some of this is just characterization.

Ive come to the conclusion that there is no way to write women without making Fanboy/Fangirl nation happy.One persons strong female character is another slut.Another persons slutty character is a woman making her own choices.

Once again, someone is beating the drum of some hidden agenda by channeling their own insecurities into apophenia and seeing things where there aren’t. Yawn.

1. You hate that Voodoo, a spy, uses everything in her arsenal, including sex, to accomplish her mission. Have you seen any spy thriller, starring female and male?
2. Supergirl, who is a teenager recently dropped into an unfamiliar world being overwhelmed by these hostile people who speak an unknown language, is unreasonable for lashing out? You don’t think a guy would lash out too?
3. I’m not going to reply to what you said about Wonder Woman fully except to say. . . HER MISSION INVOLVES HER FAMILY!
Here’s a workable solution for you: stop projecting your insecurities onto comic books.

I don’t understand this sexism argument anymore. It’s close to the point of being a joke. If a woman isn’t portrayed as the epitome of a perfect person than it’s sexism according to this.

Yes, women aren’t people, y’know. They’re not allowed to show emotions, and express feelings about home, sex, and family, which, without any of the mentioned characteristics, many of us wouldn’t be here.

Keep it up, “feminists”. Who runs the world? Not girls.

Perhaps, Ms. Harris will find more of what she’s looking for at Marvel.

Sorry, but the comic you seem to desire here would be, quite frankly, a shitty comic book, whether it was a male superhero OR a female superhero.

Emotions are what make for a likable, engaging character.

And more than that, the person, the human being, being the mask, with all their insecurities, baggage, and motivations are what make for a compelling story and a compelling character.

You seem to suggest that Batwoman, for instance, would be a better comic if it wast her, unemotionally taking care of business every month for 22 pages. I say that it would make it a far drier, more derivative, and blander experience. Her personal life, her “mood swings,” and her concerns for her family (heaven forbid!) are what make Kate Kane a human being.

Great characters are just that – fully realized human beings. Not a cowled automaton focused on nothing but their mission with no personal life to speak of. Want to know why so many writers have failed to make a good Punisher comic? Because the Punisher, by his nature, comes the closest to being the sort of character you apparently desire. The result has been a large collection of flat, uninspired comics.

And really, it’s not like there’s as simple of a male/female dichotomy here as you claim. Though if there were, and only the female leads had personal lives or concerns, I’d say they made for the better comics.

But that isn’t the case: Hal Jordan’s tumultuous relationship with Carol and his inability to cope with “real life” (including paying his bills) has been highlighted since the relaunch, Barry Allen’s entire mission in the Flash right now has to do with his concern for an old friend from his youth while his relationship with Patty Spivot has also been a focus, Animal Man has had Buddy Baker’s family life as a central element to the entire plot and comic, Superman has Clark’s concerns with office politics and his unrequited love for Lois, Justice League Dark features Shade dealing with his feelings of loneliness and his created girlfriend while Deadman tries to manage his relationship with Dove.

Other titles starring male leads have their personal lives/concerns/stresses so enmeshed that it can’t even be separated from their mission. Swamp Thing is entirely about Alec’s past and his getting to know old/sort-of girlfriend Abby, I Vampire has as its centrepiece a romance/past relationship gone wrong, Aquaman’s relationship with Mera is a constant presence in his comic.

Even Batman, over in Detective Comics, is shown as having a new romance that he’s struggling to juggle alongside his costumed role.

Bottom-line: I can’t help but find the argument here to be bunk.

There is no male/female dichotomy here.

And quite frankly, the comic you seem to have in mind as being desirable is anything but. Male or female, a comic that featured characters entirely work-related and non-emotional sounds like a one-way ticket to forgettable, boring mediocrity and a character impossible to truly invest in.

As a closing example: imagine just how much crappier I, Vampire would be without the angst and love/hate relationship between Andrew and Mary. What if Andrew didn’t have these feelings, and the comic was just him, entirely focused on his mission of killing vampires, without any reference this emotional baggage? I can hear those review scores dropping.

Wow!
So what I’m hearing is that, if I lived in the DCnU, I might actually get laid?
Maybe I should have picked up some of these books after all… ;)

The cheesecake is embarrassing. We need a comic with a female superhero that’s like Waid’s Dardevil or Manapul’s Flash.

Well, if you were trolling for more hits by blatantly drumming sexism at the expense of characterization, story, or drama, I’m sure this post will be a success.

If you’re trying to have an earnest conversation about the relative success of female-driven comics, I’m afraid this falls short. I pointed out some of your concerns (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Batwoman especially) to my comic-reading female friends and they laughed.

I guess if I’m looking for a more sincere view of both the successes and failures of the New 52′s approach to female-driven comics, this is not the place to look.

This is why losing Power Girl in the reboot sucked so hard. Kara/Karen kept her head in the game.

Add me to the list of people who don’t understand this criticism. “Why can’t they focus on their jobs?” Let’s see, in the 1960s, Marvel’s comics had a reputation for focusing on characterization to a greater extent than most superhero comics before them. Ever since, superhero readers have come to expect to read about superheroes’ personal problems right alongside their superhero mission. Superhero comics which don’t include elements of “emotions, family, home, and sex” are commonly criticized as lacking in character development.

So, are all you folks above me dudes, or what? I mean, imagine that, a whole fucking bunch of dudes telling a woman she’s wrong. Again.

Don’t you get bored?

I have been disappointed by Wonder Woman as well. I’ve never been a fan of the character, but I liked the creative team’s work on Doctor Thirteen: Architecture & Mortality. The Cliff Chiang art isn’t his best, I think it’s the inks, and the story is going nowhere fast. three issues in and it’s all revolving around the central retcon and Wonder Woman having a tantrum? Where’ the awesome fugitive-bodyguard story it looked like it was going to be? And why doesn’t anybody like to write Wonder Woman with an alter ego? Hmph.

I don’t see women (in these comics book) the same way than you do.
Starfire “addiction” for sexe… come probably because she is alien TO US !? For her, it nothing (more) else than SEXE. It’s way better that wars, I do think.
Yeah, I know women in comics book are not the same que in the REAL world. AND… Since comics with lot of superheroes are entertaiment, it’s supposed to be UNREAL.
That’s WHY I buy comics book each weeks.
Guys… like Peter Parker have a life that suck, a real “soap opera”. He isn’t always focused on the job (or mission) of saving innocents.
I just want to have fun. And when my wife and I (lives) talks about life, it’s not the same. We respect each other, even she is a woman, and I, a men.
There is blood splattered all over the place in comics book, but all that matter is what !? Too much “S-E-X-E” ?!?!
VOILÀ.

“I have a suggestion for a workable solution; Write a book about a female character, but tell everyone involved in creating it that it is a man.”

Including the artist?

On a more serious note, I see your point broadly, but I think you get lost in the specifics. You’re right that male heroes and female heroes are not written equally; you simply will not find any male hero being written like the stars of the first four books on your list. (You won’t find any of them being drawn like Catwoman or Voodoo, either.) However, I don’t think the solution is to remove all vestige of a personal life or emotional complexity from the female heroes. That’s not really the problem; the personal problems and feelings of male heroes certainly figure into their books, as Spider-Man reminds us. If there’s too much Hamlet-izing in these books, well, that’s a problem, but just switching to the other extreme isn’t going to help.

Catwoman and Voodoo are definitely the biggest problem books on your list. They pretty well exemplify the “Strong Female Characters” nonsense so well-lampooned by Beaton, Gran and Monardo; these are just male sex fantasies with a sign reading “feminest” [sic] around their necks. They’re by men and for men, and as a man, I’m embarrassed that the creators involved think this is what I want.

Batgirl has another problem. It’s torn in two directions, trying to please the Bronze Age fetishists in editorial who want their Dominoed Dare-Doll back while also trying not to hand-wave away all the development the character underwent as Oracle. It does neither very well. It’s also hampered by Barbara’s personal life, as yet, not being very well-conceived or interesting.

Supergirl is just boring, and still suffers from the long-term malady of DC having no idea what to actually do with the character. Three issues in, it’s spinning its wheels.

Wonder Woman is on the fence. On the one hand, the book is overall an interesting spin on the familiar elements of the character. On the other hand, maybe the sudden twist that shakes her world to its core could have been about something other than her relationship with a man.

I think you’re too hard on Batwoman. Kate Kane isn’t emotionally unstable, that I’ve seen; she’s just got a very difficult life. She handles it with aplomb, which I think is the most important thing.

I also completely second Strunk&White’s comments on style. This definitely needed at least one revision for polish and clarity.

Oh, and I’d like to congratulate some of my fellow commenters on perpetuating the pattern of blithely dismissing a woman’s concerns about the depiction of women in comics with blather about “insecurity” and “agendas.” Keep that male gaze shining, fellas.

As a final post-script, what about Birds of Prey?

I haven’t read any of the DC 52, but I just wanted to ask about the Wonder Woman/Hippolyta conflict you mention. I don’t really understand how that is sexist when over at Marvel, Thor and Odin have been butting heads ever since Odin was resurrected, and they have plenty of history doing so going back to Stan and Jack’s day. Isn’t it the same thing?

If you add in the relationship between Zeus and Hercules (Marvel), Bruce Banner’s tumultous relationship with his father (before he died), Cyclops rebelling against Charles Xavier (father figure), Vulcan and Corsair, etc, there is plenty of precedent for parent/child conflict in comics regardless of the age of the characters.

Without reading the issues you mention, Diana being in conflict with Hippolyta doesn’t really seem to be a sexist depiction, as I can think of more male hero examples of this than female.

And I’m curious about your comments about Batwoman. You say there is too much focus on her girlfriend, and again I haven’t read the book, but isn’t it a good thing to have attention paid to the supporting cast as well? The Big 3 in comics are just as well known for their supporting casts as they are for their superpowers (Superman – Lois Lane, Perry White, Jimmy Olsen, Batman – Robin, Alfred, Spider-Man – Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane/Gwen Stacey, Robbie Robertson). The best books have a strong supporting cast, which a lot of comics lack these days. So isn’t spending time on her girlfriend a good thing? Again, haven’t read the book, I’m just asking.

I may have been a bit short/harsh up there, but I’m just growing tired of posts discussing gender in pop culture turning into controversy-stirring witch hunts.

Michael P., I quite liked your post, and while I don’t agree with your points 100%, I think they were well-considered and offer a strong perspective for future thought.

Also, had this post been written by a man (and many similar ones have been, sharing many of the minute and overwrought concerns in attempts to scream “sexism!” from the mountaintops) my response would have been exactly the same. The writing of women in comics (or for that matter, TV, film, and other cornerstones of pop culture) is a very real issue to discuss. I just feel it needs to be discussed in less reactionary ways, and with a sincere desire for discussion and less lusting after controversy.

That reminds me: I forgot “presumptive attributions of a sinister motive in lieu of an actual critical response.”

Also, that’s not what “reactionary” means.

I have to agree with many of the posts above (including Alex – nice point about the Punisher). I don’t think the dichotomy you are writing about exists, as male superheroes in the DCnU also deal with personal problems that make them well-rounded characters. And before the relaunch, how many times have characters gone totally crazy, and been portrayed as not-well-adjusted for a significant length of time? (Remember the years when Batman refused to take off the cowl? How he almost killed the Joker? How Superman declared himself Emporer of the world? How a old high school buddy became Conduit and tried to kill everyone in his personal life?)

Moreso, I wanted to remind everyone that part of the mission statement of the “New 52″ was to make the characters younger, and therefore less competent, so that there would be higher levels of threat to raise the stakes.

I noticed you said regarding Barbra Gordon “For a woman of her age and intelligence, she’s too needy and too emotional.” If I were talking to you, I would ask why being emotional and trying to take care of one’s needs are not okay. I would also want to know at what age and IQ level a person shouldn’t be “needy and emotional.” However, my main point that the reboot has seemed to wipe out most characters’ age and experience level*, which you seem to have forgotten with this article.

*Of course, I have not read the title “Batgirl,” so I have no idea if they have clearly established her age or experience level, but I have heard that in the 5-years since superheroes showed up in the DCnU, Barbra spent 3 of them in a wheelchair.

I really loathe the new Batgirl, not just because her disability was removed via magic retcon, but because she is just as needy and emotional as you say. Worse, the new Barbara puts herself in the field when she’s clearly not psychologically fit for combat, and ends up getting others killed. She’s just a pathetic fangirl who, despite supposedly being a super-genius, seems to have little problem being irresponsible to enable her fantasies.

I have to say, these posts make me a little uncomfortable. Not the post itself mind you, but it seems like whenever Sonia writes about some random topic she gets like 3 comments but as soon as she mentions sexism in superhero comics, a giant horde of fanboys come out of nowhere to spam the comment section and trash her. I dunno if there’s sexism in the specific comics she is talking about, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the fan community is too welcoming to the female viewpoint on things.

Some of the comments on here are actually rational and may lead to a productive discussion, but honestly.

So y’all are arguing that the Voodoo and Catwoman books AREN’T sexist? And that Barbara Gordon is as strong and tough as she was as Oracle? Hmm.

I don’t get how treating female characters like real people with real issues and (for the most part, Catwoman is indefensable, imo) not props for sexual objectivication is tantamount to projecting sexist attitudes on to them. IMO, giving these characters relatable issues or problems makes the much more sympathetic to women, and more importantly men who have been conditioned to see most women in comics as objects to be leered at. I mean, who can’t relate to getting a new “job” and trying to balance it with moving, new roommates and different life changes like Batgirl? Or trying to do the right thing while working against family pressures like Batwoman? And if these are considered “woman issues”, is it better to completely avoid these typical arcs, or to play these characters against stereotypes?

I don’t know, I think this article is a bit of an over reaction, although I can apreciate the sentament and sypathize to a degree. But I think reading too much into the fair books lets the bad ones (see: Catwoman, Voodoo) off the hook and creates false equivelencies.

I agree with Sonia. Here are some reviews I wrote up over on iFanboy that perhaps will back-up with she is saying here (of perhaps not).

******************

RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS #1
More like Red BOOB and the Outlaws.

After last weeks stunner Superboy I was really looking forward to see what Scott Lobdell would breast… uh mean…bring to the table with Jason Todd, Arsenal, and Starfire. Superboy was a such a great kazonga…uh mean… comic, done in a classic style of story telling that it made me fan of Lobdell.

Red Hood and the Outlaws may change all that.

I know I’m in danger of sounding like my parents here but, “IS THIS WHAT OUR KIDS ARE READING THESE DAYS?!”

I’m no prude by a long shot, but really, do you need to have Starfire prance around in the smallest bikini on earth and fuck anything that moves? There is a word for girls like her, it rhymes with “butt”.

Speaking of butts, “BUT what about the story” you ask? Well for a new reader there is nothing to let you know where these characters came from. Is Jason Todd a bad guy? A good guy? Is he really crazy? Nothing about Roy Harper and his past as a drug addict, and Starfire, well who needs to know anything about her and her history, her hopes and fears, when you have titties like those in your face? I have no idea why these people are together. We are told jack shit about fuck-all.

Hey Ken Rocafort! Get the hell off of this comic as quick as you can! You awesome art is wasted here!

This is stupidest team book I have ever read. Red Hood is a Deadpool rip-off and Marvel should fucking sue. Fuck, I should sue DC to get my 2.99 back.

Fuck fuck fuck.

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CATWOMAN #1
So I’ve been handing the DC new #1?s to my soon to be 14 year old daughter to read after I finish them. Green Lantern, Justice League, and Superboy being some of her favorites so far. But she is Batman fan first and foremost and loves that character and the world of Batman. She has been really excited about these comics and couldn’t wait for the Batman related ones to hit the stands. And I couldn’t wait to get them for her. Comics is just one of the many things we share a love for, and it makes me smile as we sit around on a Sunday and read them together.

She also draws her own comics and writes her own stories (just like I did at that age). Comics have enriched her imagination and inspired her talents more then video games or the latest summer blockbuster. She understands and respects the amount of work that goes into making comics – a more personal media then those others I mentioned. A good comic can teach you without preaching to you. It can move you and run the gambit of all your emotions.

I love comics and always will. The fact that my daughter does as well means a lot to me. This is my favorite genre and I know it’s hers as well. When I heard DC was restarting all their comics at number one I thought of my daughter first and how she gets to start collecting at number 1 now, and how awesome that is for her. The torch is being pasted to her.

But with all that said, there is no way in hell I’m letting her read Catwoman #1.

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VOODOO #1
A friend of a friend of a friend that works at DC comics was able to get a copy of the first draft of the script to Aquaman #1 which is radically different then what what the stands on Wednesday. I read the script last night and thought I would share with you the first page.

PAGE 1

PANEL 1
ESTABLISHING SHOT OF THE NEW YORK SKYLINE – NIGHT. LARGE FULL MOON SHINES DOWN ON A BUSTLING CITY.

CAPTION BOX
“I’m a fish out of water. Here in this city of a million stories mine is no different.

PANEL 2
SHOT OF A STREET CORNER IN A SEEDIER PART OF THE TOWN. NEON LIGHTS FLICKER SELLING SEX AND OTHER VICES. THERE ARE A FEW MEN STANDING AROUND, SOME LEAN ON THE BUILDINGS. TRASH IS SCATTERED AROUND. THIS ISN’T A NICE PLACE TO BE.

CAPTION BOX
“There was a time when I part of something bigger. Something extraordinary. But time has a way of taking away everything you love, one bit at a time.”

PANEL 3
A CLOSER SHOT OF THE MEN STANDING ON THE STREET CORNER. WE SEE THAT THEY ARE DRESSED IN TIGHT PANTS AND OPENED SHIRTS. SOME ARE NOT EVEN WEARING SHIRTS. BEYOND THESE MEN IN THE FOREGROUND WE SEE A MAN IN A ORANGE AND GREEN COSTUME.

CAPTION BOX
“I use to be a King. But now I’m just another queen.”

PANEL 4
MEDIUM CLOSE UP SHOT OF THE MAN IN THE BACKGROUND. WE NOW SEE THAT IS IS AQUAMAN. WE STANDS WITH THE OTHER MALE PROSTITUTES. THE “JOHNS” WALK BY CHECKING THEM OUT. LEERING AND DROOLING.

CAPTION BOX
“Just another guy in the big city, sucking cock to get by. How did I get here? How did come to this?

PAGE 2
SPLASH PAGE OF AQUAMAN ON HIS KNEES IN A DIRTY MOTEL ROOM ABOUT TO UNZIP SOME GUYS PANTS.

TITLE: DC COMICS PROUDLY PRESENTS AQUAMAN IN: MY OWN PRIVATE ATLANTIS

Yeah right. Never happen. But you get my point here right? The leading men in all the first issues so far have had all their clothes on and been presented in a respectable fashion, but it’s totally okay to show Voodoo straddling some dudes dick for money in her first issue.

Now I’m totally going to buy a lot of the new series coming out and pretty excited about them, but I just gotta say this just once about Voodoo #1…. fuck you DC Comics

******************************

CATWOMAN #2
*DISCLAIMER: if you are easily offended click that “back” button son. END DISCLAIMER*

Hey motherfuckers! Fuckin’ Judd Winick, what can you say about this fuck-tard’s writing here in Catwoman other then…. fuck.

How many goddamn, boner inducing panels do we need to see Selina’s bras? I haven’t had so many titty’s in my face since that one time in Vegas…. errr, uhhh….moving on.

Where was I? Oh yeah….FUCK! Judd, or should I call him “Jugg’s”, Winick calls his story here a romance. I spit breast milk out of my nose when I read this bullshit. This comic is as romantic as getting butt-fucked by hippopotamus while getting blown by Morgan Freeman. Goddamn.

(hope this one gets read by the iFanboys on this Sundays POW Podcast. =)

*******************************

Most of the posts disagreeing with those critical of Sonia’s article seem to be missing something here:

Myself, and many of the people opposed to Sonia’s argument, are NOT saying that books like Catwoman or Red Hood or whatever are NOT sexist or devoid of related difficulties.

There are definitely arguments to be made critical of the portrayal of women in some of these DCnU comics. This argument is just isn’t one of them.

Most male comic book writers do have a hard time finding the right balance when dealing with female superheroines, IMO. They’re either hyper-emotional and more unstable than the males, or they’re bland and too perfect. And that’s when they’re not simply sex toys.

So, while I agree with Sonia’s misgivings, I disagree with the proposed solution of having them focusing on their jobs exclusively. The solution isn’t in hard and fast rules. The solution is in the male writers trying to develop more empathy for women.

Maybe if DC and Marvel can complete their plan of alienating everyone, they can hurry up and go away. Then there’ll be room for new characters and concepts created by talented individuals that actually own their creations.

Create some of your own comics, Sonia. Make what you’d like to read and comics will be better for it.

damn dudes: “So, are all you folks above me dudes, or what? I mean, imagine that, a whole fucking bunch of dudes telling a woman she’s wrong. Again.

Don’t you get bored?”

Dang, how silly of all these dudes! Didn’t they remember that women can’t be wrong, about anything?

Scott Harris: “I have to say, these posts make me a little uncomfortable. Not the post itself mind you, but it seems like whenever Sonia writes about some random topic she gets like 3 comments but as soon as she mentions sexism in superhero comics, a giant horde of fanboys come out of nowhere to spam the comment section and trash her. I dunno if there’s sexism in the specific comics she is talking about, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the fan community is too welcoming to the female viewpoint on things.”

So Sonia represents the entire female viewpoint? If people aren’t interested in her posts, they are disregarding the opinions of all women on Earth? I’m sorry, but that’s a stupid thing to say. She is one writer.

Also, I clicked on her name and found the list of her past blog posts. One of them did have 3 comments. Most averaged about 15-20. So it’s not even an issue, there are plenty of people who regularly comment on her posts.

Anyway, some people are getting too carried away with the “waaah stop talking about sexism,” but there have been a lot of good points made, and it basically comes down to: sorry, Sonia, but this comes across as a very flawed argument. Every DC book has its superhero characters being distracted by their personal lives, it’s called writing a character who isn’t completely one-dimensional. Superman, why are you putting those glasses on and talking to Lois, it’s like you don’t care about the mission!!

Wonder Woman and Batwoman aren’t unprofessional, unfocused or unintelligent just because they care about their mother and their girlfriend, respectively. Voodoo, Catwoman, Red Hood and Batgirl are unfortunately not the best of books (personally I’m enjoying Supergirl, the art is so good), but it’s a huge stretch to include WW and Batwoman under this sexism banner when they’re doing the same thing every male character is doing: having a life outside of being a superhero.

Also, incidentally, Supergirl wouldn’t be focused on the mission because she’s not a superhero yet, so…

I really think you should read Birds of Prey. It has everything you want in it. There are no men except for bad guys and some minor characters who get at most a few lines per issue. Furthermore, the women of this comic are focused on their role as superheroes. Most of their dialogues is about recruiting members of their team or dealing with the enemy that they are facing. While some of the characters seem to be mentally unhinged they’re all consummate professionals, meaning that they’re not distracted. BoP is probably my favorite book of the relaunch.

Sonia’s right on the mark about most of these books, in particular Voodoo and Catwoman. I also find Batgirl a disappointment (especially hard medicine to swallow, as I’m a fan of Simone); meanwhile, I never read Supergirl. As for Wonder Woman, while I take issue with the return to the bathing-suit costume, beyond that, Azzarello and Chiang are doing a great job. I’m also a fan of Batwoman, and considering that this series (despite the #1) picks up from where her stint on Detective left off, it’d be odd if she weren’t in a tailspin over family issues. So this column reads to me like perhaps your frustration with some truly egregiously sexist comics ended up coloring your opinion on some good titles. (Or, you know, maybe we just disagree.)

In any event, Sonia, I would love to read your opinion about Birds of Prey. I think it’s a great book, one of the best of the reboot, thought it’s not getting the buzz that’s coming to titles like Wonder Woman, Animal Man and Swamp Thing.

People, please, there is ONE simple solution to this big problem, and it doesn’t involve picking one comic book company’s output over the other. Read this, PLEASE:
http://www.comicvine.com/myvine/darkmount1/the-sorry-state-of-the-superhero-comic-book-today/87-75259/

The way I read Sonia’s article, she’s talking about the women having a particular kind of interpersonal conflict. Namely, relationship trouble with close friends and family. Wonder Woman: mother trouble. Supergirl: cousin trouble. Batwoman: girlfriend and sister trouble. Batgirl: roommate (surrogate family) trouble.

Some of the male examples given don’t seem comparable. Aquaman worrying about his reputation? Work-related trouble, not relationship trouble. Superman dealing with office politics? Work-related trouble, not relationship trouble. Flash worrying about an old friend? Don’t know the particulars, but it doesn’t sound like relationship trouble.

The point isn’t that any of these scenarios is unrealistic or undesirable. It’s that the women are defined by their relationship troubles so far and the men aren’t.

If you think the situations are symmetrical, let’s flip them. Let’s have Aquaman tussle with his mother while Batwoman worries about her professional reputation. Batgirl can engage in office politics while Superman deals with a recalcitrant roommate. Supergirl arrived years ago and is a seasoned pro while the Flash was created days ago and is freaking out. Etc.

Are you buying these stories? No, because you don’t buy that men have petty emotional issues like the ones listed above. You’d throw a hissy fit if your favorite male heroes acted like a typical female hero in the new DCU. That’s Sonia’s point, I believe.

So Brian Cronin, Greg Burgas, Chad Nevett, and the other critics here shouldn’t say one word about DC’s or Marvel’s output until they create their own comics? Is someone seriously offering that as an argument for not critiquing comics featuring women? Fail.

“Brian/Greg/Chad: If you don’t like the existing talking-gorilla comics, why don’t you create your own? Show us how to do them right. Until then, don’t offer any opinions on this subgenre of comics.”

@Erik, your reviews are so funny!
Oh wait, no they are not! My daughter reads this website and I find your use of language to be very offensive, Why do you need to put so many F-words in there? Oh right, its because you talk so much garbage that no one would pay any attention to you otherwise!
Please do not put your putrid reviews of comics in the comments of a blog post which has nothing to do with your boring, poorly expressed opinions.
And Sonia, in response to the article, I am a little confused as to what kind of female superhero you would like to read about. Every interesting character has issues and conflicts in their private lives, it would be extremely boring if female characters simply turned up, did their job (while talking about it) and disappeared. Please do not confuse crap comics like Wonder Woman with sexist, and crap, comics like Red Hood and the Outlaws.

One phrase from your review is something I agree with: “I want to see a woman dealing primarily with events which are work-related and non-emotional”. Not necessarily in comics.

@Derek, oh come on, “Red BOOB and Outlaws”? You gotta admit that was pretty clever. ;)

@Erik, nothing you have said in this comments section has been clever, or funny. Your ‘jokes’ based on swearing and making bad puns (‘I called him Juggs!! HAHAHA!’) are about as funny as getting punched in the neck by Ivan Drago.

I’m sure someone else has made this point in the comments already but:

“Apparently DC has a strange, possibly pathological need to depict women as irrational, emotionally unstable (or at best, emotionally detached), indecisive and aggressive.”

This also tends to be the general approach of DC (and Marvel) to MALE characters. I don’t necessarily think it’s a gender thing, just more notice-able due to the smaller sample size.

I both agree and disagree with Miss Harris.

The fact that the New DC’s handling of their female characters has been disappointingly sexist has been already widely discussed. (I would like to know exactly what was said in whatever meeting they had in which it was decided that Amanda Waller needed a hot body to sell as a character.)

On the other hand: not all of DC’s comics have to be about superheroes. They have produced great titles in many genres over the years. The problem is that not much thought seems to have been given to the consequences of stating that they all exist in the same universe. And with DcNu, the line has gotten even dimmer, as they integrated Vertigo and Wildstorm into the mix.

Voodoo isn’t a superhero book. It’s horror/science fiction, the only connection to superheroes being that *an earlier version* of her was part of the Wildcats. I don’t care much for this take, but it obviously isn’t meant for me. I hope other people enjoy it.

I do agree that superheroes -the actual ones- should have a degree of competitiveness- they shouldn’t just be all powers and costumes. Superman impresses me not just because of those but because he IS smart, dedicated and caring, as many villains have found out the hard way. The only true heroes in your list are Wonder Woman and Supergirl (I’m still not certain about Batwoman) -the rest don’t need to act heroic at all. (Granted, if they are competent at what they do, it would make them more interesting, regardless of what they are.)

Also, the real problem here is that DC simply *doesn’t care* about their characters; they are just properties to them, to be twisted into whatever fad sells now, which *they assume* means violence and sex. This is hardly a problem with the female characters; none of the post-Flashpoint books has impressed me enough into following them regularly.

I do like the idea of creating a character first and THEN deciding its gender. To me, gender is meaningless, the differences between men and women being small and only mattering *because our society says they do.* I have no problem with an aggressive heroine just like I have no problem with a mild-mannered hero. But *if* they are going to call them Super-Heroes, they should make sure they are above (not exempt, just above) their base impulses.

On the other hand, my above concept also means I *do not care* how many female-led comics there are. Which is where I disagree with Miss Harris; there is no need for superheroes to be female; it adds nothing in my opinion. I like plenty of female characters, just not for their gender. It isn’t like comics have enough influence on society for this to matter.

@my buddy Derek,
Not sure about the Rocky 4 reference bro. At any rate, since you are such a fan of my reviews I thought I would point you to my page on iFanboy where you can read all 100 of my comic book reviews (and not all contain the “F” word) =)

http://ifanboy.com/users/ghostmann/

all the best my friend

Boy did the author of tis come to the party late lol can’t say I agree with everything here, particularly the opening paragraph because all heroes think about at least a few of these, that’s what makes them compelling, having problems beyond giant bank robbing gorillas etc. as for Catwoman, the book is rated for adults, and sexuality is part of her schtick and has been for a really long time. As for the end of the article I feel your ignoring that these issues can and have occurred with male characters emotionally unstable – have you read anything with the joker in it, Batman who is driven by his emotional instability! There are many examples you are ignoring and your in danger of making it seem like you wrote this piece with an agenda, that dc is sexist. I agree with some of your points but overall this is rather unbalanced and frankly seems like a message board rant.

As always, please don’t comment under different names so that you can agree with yourself. Thank you.

I can’t say much about the other DC titles (I’m not reading them), but I have to disagree with at least Batgirl. For one thing, I’m actually quite enjoying Barbara Gordon’s insecurity. It’s a nice change of pace to Batman’s “I’m pretty damn perfect and never have to worry about anything” attitude. It sort of humanizes her in opposition to everyone else with a bat symbol on their chest.

Secondly, Batgirl is the one and only comic book (well, except for Starman) that my female friend Addy enjoys. But then again, she has odd taste.

PS. Sonia, that was me at the LACMA! Sorry for the quick handshake and introduction, I had to catch up with my 2nd grade class! : )

As always, please don’t comment under different names so that you can agree with yourself. Thank you.

That is pretty sad that people would do that. I, for one, only comment under different names so that I can disagree with myself.

I like to read your column, Sonia. I enjoy your point of view and admire your undeniable love for the medium.

I have to admit, though, I had a mixed reaction to this particular post. On the one hand, I read it the same way as Rob Schmidt, that “The point . . . [is] . . .that the women are defined by their relationship troubles so far and the men aren’t.” And I have to agree with that.

But on the other hand, I have to disagree with your assessment that that all the female-led titles are somehow sexist, particularly in regards to Batwoman and Wonder Woman. Sure, at the moment these characters are facing relationship troubles, but I think it is too early to say that is the defining trait of the “new” Wonder Woman, and in Batwoman’s case, it is clearly just a natural (and most likely momentary) development of her earlier storylines.

I think you including Batwoman and Wonder Woman weakens your overall argument in regards to the way the New 52 are portraying their female leads in general. If a year from now, Batwoman and Wonder Woman were still only dealing with relationship problems, then I could see you including them. But it seems premature to cast them as sexist. After all, even male superheroes deal with relationship problems. For example, IMHO the classic Spider-Man “Master Planner” story, is really about his relationship with his Aunt May and the lengths he will go to save her, than it is about the “mission” of stopping Doc Ock.

I hope you don’t read this as another male ganging up against you, but rather as a loyal reader trying to give you genuine feedback.

I disagree with alot of this article. I think the writer of it should be glad that DC has such a variety of voices for their many female titles. Having essentially the same female lead in 5 or 6 titles would be EXTREMELY boring. DC are catering to everyone.

“DC’s solo, female superhero titles depict women who are firmly focused on emotions, family, home, and sex.” I really don’t understand has this could be a negative. Showing all these emotions is what makes them relatable.

“They ought to have depicted at least one female superhero as professional, focused and intelligent.” I’m not sure if your only reading reviews, or if you’ve actually read the titles you listed, but just because female characters show emotions, doesn’t mean they arn’t intelligent. It sounds like you want to read about female robots.

Sure Catwoman and Voodoo are catering to those fanboys who want to perv on a bit of T&A. But Batwoman and Wonder Woman show intelligent, non sexualized females.

And hello? You did mentions one of the best female books DC is publishing – Birds of Prey! I highly recommend it. Great writing and art. Lots of action and a bit of comedy. And I never thought I’d say this, but I am actually enjoying it more now, than when Simone was writing it ( well, more than the last short lived series – but the constant artist changes was also a contributing factor there).

And lastly, I’m gonna play the minority card, and say be thankful you have so many DC female lead comics to choose from. Because as a gay male, the only comic with a gay male lead is Archie’s Kevin Keller!! Thanks for that DC. – Bring out an Obsidian monthly with the next wave of titles!

“As always, please don’t comment under different names so that you can agree with yourself. Thank you.”

Lmao!!! I knew people did that!!! I disagreed with a guy on the “spinoff” blog and suddenly a ‘second guy’ started defending the first. And by the way they both spoke you knew it was the same guy – I told him what I thought…. and they ‘both’ disappeared, it was hilarious!! haha….

I have to agree with Sonia. I too feel like DC missed the mark here. It feels like sex and stereotypes took second place to great characters and even better stories. Prior to the reboot J Michael Straczynski did wonders with Wonder Woman and magic was made with Zantaan under Adam Beechen. This reboot was going to carry DC to the next age of comics but ended up going backwards. As a male reader part of me feels offended how DC views me. Apparently all I want when I read one of these books are sexy costumes and damsels in distress. We have to ask ourselves why isn’t Catwoman mention in Detective Comics/Batman #1,2,3 and the same with Supergirl in Action Comics/Superman #1, 2, 3. Why aren’t the same issues/conflicts play up there? If anything this article has touch a point of great discussion and debate. Hopefully DC is listening. Who knows, the next issue out might go in a new direction and if so you know who to thank.

“Write a book about a female character, but tell everyone involved in creating it that it is a man. Get writers and editors who are great at depicting strong, intense, male superheroes. Don’t change the names until the whole thing has been finished”

Wow. Mind meld inception or something. I have had EXACTLY the same thoughts, in almost the exact same words as your thoughts here. Exactly exactly.

My particular interests aren’t comic fandom, but the fact that I’ve said precisely the same thing about other media (in this case television – Supernatural in particular) definitely says something. I’ve seen new characters introduced that were amazing, instantly likeable and reasonable with CHARACTER and I’ve adored them. Then “the female” character comes in and it’s painfully obvious that this character has been written not as “a character” but as “a woman”.

It’s as if there must always be separate dialogue, separate motivations, separate worldviews for a character depending on if that character is male or female. It doesn’t have to be like that. I marvel at the fact that no one seems to realize that just about anything you could make your male character think or feel or say, you can also have a female character think, feel, or say.

Maybe people should get in the habit of writing their characters as genderless, then at the very end of the writing process, take a dart and a page out of the phone book and let chance choose whether they are male or female. Nine times out of ten, it would work.

[...] as we’re picking on the DC Woman Problem again, here’s a piece we long ago bookmarked, Sonia Harris’s look at DC heroines entitled “Ms. New 52 and Her Powerful [...]

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