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She Has No Head! – The Disturbing Heart of DC’s Bombshell Covers

Ever since DC announced these covers, like many, I’ve had a wary eye on them. It seemed Bombshells Headerdisturbing that all the teasers we saw featured only women but part of me could not believe that in the year 2014 an entire company could be so magnificently tone deaf that they would create sexy variant “bombshell” covers featuring ONLY women.

And yet here we are.

All the covers have been released and all of them are sexy lady covers. Of course they are. Why do I even bother to hope?

This painfully reaffirms – in fact it screams from the rooftops – how DC views both men and women as characters and as people. Their message is clear – men can’t be “sexy bombshells” and women are and MUST be sexy bombshells. Their comics are for straight white males, full stop.

Fifties pinup “bombshell” imagery is a very specific thing and there’s nothing wrong with that thing.  Neither is there anything wrong with sexiness in general. However, to make a push to feature a huge swath of sexy women on your covers – many who currently don’t even play a role in your universe and many others who play a diminished role at best sends a terrible message. Worse, not featuring a single cover with a man in this same capacity sends a precise and devastating message about how DC views gender and how they feel about the narrow view they assume their readership shares. These ideas are offensive and limiting to both men and women, defining how they are seen and what they can or can’t be. DC is so afraid of the idea that men can be sexy, despite having one of the hottest playboys of all time – Bruce Wayne – as their preeminent leading man, that not a single man gets a “fun bombshell” cover. The idea that men can’t also be sexy and that every woman across the board has to be sexy is so disturbing I can barely comprehend it. Where’s “sexy Lobo” or Nightwing/Dick Grayson who has long been the poster boy of sexiness? There’s not room for even one man to be sexy and “fun?”

And, listen, the covers are beautiful overall, in fact on balance they are FAR superior to DC’s regular covers, and that in and of itself is whole other highly disturbing fact, but the antiquated, small-minded exclusive message they send just far outweighs any empirical beauty they may possess.

Perhaps I could better take these covers as the pretty fun that they’re clearly intended to be, if DC was doing better with women more generally, but their position with women is so weak right now it’s hard to see this as anything except another arrow to the hearts of those that want to love their comics but are repeatedly told in both subtle and unsubtle ways to ‘go the hell away.’

Many of DC’s great female characters are still sidelined or relegated to bit parts or have been sexed up, dumbed down, and worse (see: Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Starfire, etc). And though DC retains a good number of monthly female led books (9?) I don’t read any of them at this point thanks to lack of quality or significant issues with character changes (Batgirl and Wonder Woman) and in one case a protest on creator treatment (Batwoman).  So, while the numbers are technically there, they’re not delivering in the actual content/quality department. Additionally, given the massive scope of what characters they could be featuring – they have the most popular and well known superheroines in the world – I don’t find those nine books to be that impressive.

I’m not saying anything new here, others have said as much and probably better, Sue’s post from two weeks ago is spot on in its analysis and I wasn’t sure I had anything significant to say that wasn’t just parroting what others like Sue have already said. However, I still wanted to add my voice to the chorus and I thought perhaps I could draw a contrast between what I see Marvel and Indie comics, as well as grassroots organizations doing these days compared to what DC is doing.

Story continues below

Since the new 52 launched my pull has skewed from majority DC to majority Marvel (although Marvel is probably about tied with indie books). And one look at the Marvel vs DC June solicits featuring women speaks volumes as to why. Check out a selection of the bombshell covers – very pretty but deliberately one-note versus a selection of the variety we’re seeing at Marvel – sure, the Marvel ladies are still sexy, but they’re superheroes, assassins and spies, teenagers, rock stars, and lawyers, goddesses, pilots, and thieves. Meanwhile the bombshells all look sort of like models dressed up as other things:

DC Bombshells June Solicits

A selection of DC’s June Bombshell Variant Covers

Marvel June Solicits Featuring Women Compilation

A selection of Marvel’s June Cover Solicits featuring women.

I’ve been called a Marvel shill a lot of late (and let me just say, I am woefully underpaid for a shill) but looking at Marvel’s push toward strong quality female led books, is it any wonder why my tastes have shifted? Marvel still has a long way to go. They are too quick to cancel books and they only have about half as many female-led titles as DC, but I can feel them building and investing in their female characters and their future whereas DC feels as if they are coasting with some of the best characters in the business wasting away or worse, being turned into dark unrecognizable monsters. But I feel confident that Marvel is riding the right wave and that they have their finger on the pulse of the direction the winds are shifting – which is toward inclusivity. I can’t imagine Marvel opting to do a “month of sexy bombshells covers” at this point in their model. And if they did? I feel pretty confident that those covers wouldn’t ONLY feature women.

I could be wrong of course, but what I’m seeing, and what I’m feeling from Marvel right now and it’s what’s driving me to continue supporting their books and believing in a brighter future for all of us, whereas what’s happening at DC has driven me down to a single book on my pull list. One. Single. Book. How depressing. Certainly sexy women-only covers aren’t going to change that for me in the next month…so what’s your next idea DC? Cause this one isn’t gonna cut it.

I guess I’ll just have to keep giving my money to the people that want me. And there are plenty of people that DO want me.  There’s even a shirt that tells me so.



Okay, Thompson, since you obviously don’t get it, I’ll lay it out for you:

1. Women in comics are sexy. WHY DO YOU HATE SEXINESS?!?!?!?

2. Women don’t read comics. AT ALL. In this world, it’s so hard for straight men to find sexy images of women, so we have to turn to comics. WHY DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM US?!?!?!?

3. Men are not sexy. Men are powerful and strong and would look silly in those outfits. WHY DO YOU HATE MEN SO MUCH?!?!?!?!?

Does that cover it? Can anyone who would use these arguments shut the fuck up now instead of making them again. We get it – you hate Kelly, comics that don’t show women as sex objects, and sexy men because they make you feel weird inside. Move the fuck on.

“Many of DC’s great female characters are still sidelined or relegated to bit parts or have been sexed up, dumbed down, and worse (see: Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Starfire, etc).”

I still can’t get over what DC has done to Amanda Waller. Turning “The Wall” into just another generic “hot babe.” Such a waste.

It’s also worrying that of all of the “Bombshells” covers, only one, WW, is doing any feat of strength or power.

“Since the new 52 launched my pull has skewed from majority DC to majority Marvel (although Marvel is probably about tied with indie books). And one look at the Marvel vs DC June solicits featuring women speaks volumes as to why.”


This is off topic, but what do you think about the whole David Goyer She-hulk fiasco?

Greg Burgas is a parody account, right? He’s just doing a character. Please tell me he’s just doing a character.

@ Greg Burgas: Wow. Just Wow.

Thanks for this Kelly

Great piece, beautiful covers those from Marvel.
Captain Marvel feels so powerful and I love the vibes the She-Hulk one gives.

Greg Burgas:

I really hope that’s some kind of satirical comment you’re making there. Otherwise, the only kind of people who agree with you are basement dwellers and murderers .

Greg covers that in the last paragraph, btw.

Hey Guys
Greg is indeed just doing a bit – make sure to read his entire comment.

@Anon 9:59
Pretty sad. I think writer Alyssa Rosenberg already well summed up my own thoughts:

Best promo for the DC cover set that I’ve read yet. Thanks, Thompson!

“Since the new 52 launched my pull has skewed from majority DC to majority Marvel (although Marvel is probably about tied with indie books). And one look at the Marvel vs DC June solicits featuring women speaks volumes as to why.”

After about a year and a half, my pull list went from 15+ DC titles to 0. I am really liking what Marvel and alot of the indies have been doing lately as well. But I grew up with DC and I want to love Wonder Woman, I want to love Batgirl and Batwoman, and Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. But the company makes it next to impossible for me to give them my money!!

Kelly, thanks for talking about this. I don’t pre-order any DC books anymore. I pick up a few off the shelf, but I’ll dialing back on that thanks to this stupid, short-sighted marketing gimmick.

Greg, you’re the worst person in the world. For making me laugh so hard at all the n00bs who fell for your snark.

That Captain Marvel cover is fantastic. Glad the furore over her costume change has (largely) died down now too. Really, in comparison I don’t think I could take the leotard seriously now that she’s got a real uniform, which is both badass and worryingly practical. Love the helmet too.


May 26, 2014 at 10:27 am

So what are your thoughts on the regular covers for DC regular books?

“Many of DC’s great female characters are still sidelined or relegated to bit parts or have been sexed up, dumbed down, and worse (see: Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Starfire, etc). ”

So… what’s the problem with Stephanie Brown? She’s only been in two issues, so what’s wrong with her character?

“And though DC retains a good number of monthly female led books (9?) I don’t read any of them at this point thanks to lack of quality or significant issues with character changes (Batgirl and Wonder Woman) and in one case a protest on creator treatment (Batwoman).”

Ah really? Harley Quinn is an awesome book!

While I am a hardcore Marvel guy, I feel I have to defend DC here. The term “bombshell” (when referring to a person or artistic style) is strictly limited to the beauty of the female form. By having a bombshell cover month, DC is paying tribute to a classic part of Americana art history. If you want to whine over the lack of males, then push for a month of “hero hunks,” or something like that. These covers aren’t trying to push some sort of misogynistic agenda, it’s a tribute. Or, if you really don’t like it, then just don’t buy it. Lack of sales will speak much greater volumes than yet another internet rant.

Paco Gonzalez

May 26, 2014 at 10:36 am

Nor Marvel nor DC will lead change.

I don’t see these covers as the problem, but as an expression of it. Those are sexy, because they got someone that draws women sexy. Those could have been drawn by Adam Huges or Terry Dodson, too. Who is gonna draw a sexy male superhero? Jim Lee or the likes of him? Wait, maybe it fails month to month with no-so-sexy artists, but isn’t that part of the appeal of superheroes? And here we are. Male readers buying “cuasi-sexy” superheroes in better shape than we. Are we all gay? (not that there would be something wrong if that were the case)… Now, I don’t want to bash the article because I do see the problem there.

The thing is that I think the article is misleading. In publicity, on cars, sexy women are linked to the cars image to help sell it. Years ago, a tobacco company decided to take this approach to sell a new brand: let’s look for the women’s ideal man and link him to the cigarettes image. Sensible but strong. Macho but in contact with nature. So, the Marlboro man was created.

And guess what? The sales skyrocketed. But there were men buying it. Not women. Put sexy superhero women in covers and men will buy them. Put sexy superhero men in covers… and again men will buy them.

The trouble doesn’t lie there. O maybe it does. But it’s not as simple as who gets the cover.

Women do read comics. And women do read superhero comics. There should be a better portrayal of women in comics. And there should be comics that showcase role models characters for women.

I do think that those cover, even when I like most of them, are not portraying a good image of how women should be perceived in society. But having sexy men, “equality”, will not work.

I am Mexican. And I don’t care nor will buy a Mexican Wolverine or Batman made by Marvel or DC to appeal at my “community”. I’ll stay with current Wolverine and Batman. That’s how it works. The last new character that I got an interest in was Deadpool. And that was because I read a story that I enjoyed much, not because I am a deformed skin burned Canadian.

The problem is how do you create diversity characters that stay in the public’s favor? I don’t think Ghost, She-Hulk or Ms. Marvel are enough. But I think they are going in the right direction. Even when Ms. Marvel was publicized as a Muslim role model, what I have heard is that it is an enjoyable book.

We want more strong female characters with their own series? OK, let’s ask for them and give them ideas:

1.- I want a She-Hulk/Daredevil crossover where they are in different sides on a legal case. Not a cameo in DD’s book. A crossover.

2.- An all female books crosing over: Black Widow / Elektra. Or X-Men / Avengers featuring only female members.

3.- Intercompanies crossovers: Ghost/Vampirella. Niccola Scott draws it.

4.- Get Ann Noceti and Louise Simonson to write a high profile event. Simonson wrote parts of the Dead of Superman and of Inferno core books. I liked Noceti’s views on pornography on her Daredevil’s run.

Things like that


May 26, 2014 at 10:41 am

In reply to Paco Gonzalez

In response to 4, I say hell no to Ann Nocenti writing anything. I have you seen her current output?! She’s awful! She’s one of the worst writers out there right now. Catwoman is atrocious and that book is sinking quicker and quicker each month because the quality isn’t improving! Even tie-ins aren’t giving the book a boost anymore (seriously, the only book that didn’t get a sales spike during the Zero Year Month tie-ins was Catwoman and that was written by a different writer!).


Actually, while historically the term bombshell did apply to women, that was only to do with the fact that it was the 1950’s and thus a time when gender roles were even more split and lacked nuance – the origin of the term (From dictionary.com) has nothing to do with gender:

bomb·shell [bom-shel]
1. a bomb.
2. something or someone having a sudden and sensational effect: The news of his resignation was a bombshell.

There’s no reason that descriptor can’t apply to a man or a woman and the fact that in the 1950’s it universally applied to women does not mean that in 2014 it should have to. Yes, I agree they are celebrating a very specific time in history – and as I said in the piece – there is nothing wrong with that, except as usual, context reigns supreme and when you’ve got a “woman problem” as DC does, then perhaps it’s best not to choose to celebrate something that pigeonholes women in such an antiquated way while simultaneously excluding men.

And yes, I will certainly vote with my dollars, but since I have this whole column space, best I put it to use as well for things I believe in, no?

Honestly? If these bombshell covers were a more accurate reflection of what DC Comics was doing on a monthly basis inside the covers, then I would be reading a lot more DC Comics. Fun & sexy is, like, a million times more appealing than dark & rape-y. It reflects an actual, real world trend that suggests someone is looking outside the comic shop bubble. A few of the designs are better than the nu52 looks.

The choices of who DC spotlighted says more to me than the images themselves. Wonder Woman is a no-brainer and the image is pretty nifty. Other than that, we have three Batman villains (Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn), four derivatives of male heroes (Supergirl, Batgirl, Batwoman Stargirl) and two supporting cast members (Mera and Arisa). Saturn Girl and Hawkgirl solid B-listers. All of these characters have their own virtues. However, if these are the top 12 ladies of the DCU as far as DC is concerned, then it says something 8-of-12 are defined primarily by their relationships to male characters. I know there are other covers out there, including Star Sapphire, Black Canary and *ahem* Starfire.

So, DC sees the female portion of its portfolio of characters as Wonder Woman, Black Canary, a handful of B-listers (Hawkgirl, Saturn Girl, *cough* Starfire), the Batman family and supporting characters for male heroes. What percentage of those characters consistently make it on a cover without being sexy or sexually scary? Maybe 20%?

I wouldn’t be letting Marvel off the hook so easily. The reason that they are adding a bunch of female headlining titles is that they have never had that many. The visual sameness of the covers suggests a very narrow approach that suggests trend chasing instead of a genuine commitment.

Wait a minute… You mean that instead of improving the content of their books, DC is doing a stupid, short-term gimmick that hideously backfires on them?

The deuce you say.

Wow, DC. You’re really gonna include the jailbait Green Lantern on your sexy ladies covers?

I feel like DC has to be doing this as a pretty deliberate “FU” to the many critics they have in regards to their gender portrayals. There’s no way at this point that they’re unaware that a large segment of the comic buying public thinks a lot of what they’ve done lately has sexist and misogynistic undertones. They keep getting pretty publicly slammed for it. And there’s also no way even the most oblivious person at DC couldn’t have guessed that this would probably create a fuss amongst those same people. To me this is DC clearly saying “Yes, we’re just going to exclusively pander to the stunted man-children at this point. Women are icky.”

Doing a month of these bombshell covers could have been a neat idea, if done by a company that didn’t have such a terrible track record on women’s issues and if it had featured even 2 or 3 covers with men.

I have to agree with Dean that these covers at least are genuinely sexy and fun. I am a straight guy and I always liked 1950s pin-ups. It’s a lot better than what usually pass for sexy in comics, that retro-1990s grotesquerie with thin bodies, contorted spines, and huge, plastic boobs, that is more repellent than sexy.

However, I wouldn’t like pin-up girls in all of my comic book covers, or movie covers, or novel covers. THAT is what gets to me in these discussions. Most readers are guys -> guys like boobs -> comic covers must have boobs -> shut up, Feminazi!

I mean, most fans of gangster movies are guys. That is no reason for THE GODFATHER, MEAN STREETS, GOODFELLAS, and all the rest to have DVD covers with gratuituos boobage.

I don’t think I ever bought a comic, novel, or movie just because the cover was sexy (exception made when buying erotic stuff, since the point of it is sexiness). Are there people who actually do that? Actually, I can’t say covers influence my buying habits at all.

@Information Geek:

I counted about 14 covers for DC’s June Solicits “regular covers” that prominently featured a woman (as essentially a co-star or better on the cover) and they were mixed, though I’d say it was a better month than usual, with the glaring exception of the Ed Benes offering. Here are a few of the best and the worst by far:

Best: http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?pid=17723&disp=ilib&oty=1&oid=51526
Best: http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?pid=17699&disp=ilib&oty=1&oid=51526
Best: http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?pid=17784&disp=ilib&oty=1&oid=51526
Best: http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?pid=17679&disp=ilib&oty=1&oid=51526

Worst: http://www.comicbookresources.com/prev_img.php?pid=17748&disp=ilib&oty=1&oid=51526

I didn’t say there was a problem with Stephanie Brown, I grouped her in with others as “sidelined, relegated to bit parts, sexed up, dumbed down, etc.”

Cassandra Cain – sidelined
Stephanie Brown – relegated to bit parts
Amanda Waller – sexed up/dumbed down
Starfire – sexed up/dumbed down

Stephanie hasn’t had a chance to do much yet as a supporting character in a big “event” book, but I don’t see any way you can’t call that “relegated to bit parts” considering she’s someone that had her own series in 2009 and then disappeared for nearly four years only to finally reappear as a supporting character in a massive cast book. Maybe she’ll be great, it’s still a huge step down from where she was four years ago.

I read two issues of Harley Quinn and hated it, but different strokes for different folks and all that nonsense I suppose.

Duff McWhalen

May 26, 2014 at 11:09 am

Greg Burger: you need to take your ass back to Mapleton Drive!

I think the contrast between DC and Marvel comic covers is pretty great. Marvel isn’t perfect, but they could use a lot of positive reinforcement because their line has made significant improvements in quality and diversity, and cheering them on is buying their good efforts is the best way to help them get better.

DC tries, but they’re painfully clumsy with gimmicks and some of the progressive things they have going for them are extremely arguable (see Wonder Woman and Amanda Waller).


May 26, 2014 at 11:16 am

In reply to Michael P

Sir, Arisia Rrab is 240 years old last time I checked (that’s in Earth years). She’s not Jailbait.

In reply to Kelly Thompson

Huh, no love for Harley Quinn homage to A Clockwork Orange? That’s probably the best cover!

Oh yeah, Ed Benes’ cover.. *snickers* That’s so stupid and over the top that’s honestly laughable.


I agree with you guys, as I say in the piece. These covers are generally BETTER than DC’s regular month to month covers – both from a content and tone point of view and a sheer artistic talent point of view – the issue as always is context. If DC was regularly doing good things with women characters and showed a better respect for their readers that are not straight/white/male then this could have just been a fun variant month, but given the context, it’s an insane idea that I can’t believe anyone signed off on.

Yeah, you and I had this disagreement before regarding “sameness” of modern comics covers, but I’m just not seeing it. I look at those Marvel covers and see a whole lot of variety – fully painted covers, iconic/graphic covers, more cartoonish covers, covers that play well with space, composition, and color. I don’t care for the Mark Brooks cover both because I don’t care for Dazzler as a character and because his covers when not super creative (as many of his Fearless Defenders covers were) come off as a bit porn-y to me, but still, it shows some variety and lack of “same-ness” and that’s okay. Not EVERY cover has to have a woman covered from head to toe, the same not every cover should have her in a swimsuit. It’s all about variety and in Marvel I’m seeing that attempt. In DC usually I’m seeing overly dark, serious, gritty, angry work month to month with a few shining exceptions and this month, though we get welcome relief from dark/gritty/angry work instead getting fun and sexy work, it’s still an exercise in lack of variety.

As Jazzbo said above:

“Doing a month of these bombshell covers could have been a neat idea, if done by a company that didn’t have such a terrible track record on women’s issues and if it had featured even 2 or 3 covers with men.”


@thom – Only a smart amount of this art actually channels traditional bombshell art. Basically they are being lazy and using the term bombshell to describe “sexy ladies” – given that they have already enlarged the description to included art that doesn’t fit the definition developed some 70 plus years ago such a hardline on including men? The idea that this is somehow “classic Americana art” did make me laugh though, thanks. My brother claimed the same thing when my mother found a stash of his Playboys hidden in the playroom when we teenagers. And as far as you other comment suggesting ” if you really don’t like it, then just don’t buy it. Lack of sales will speak much greater volumes than yet another internet rant.” how does one exclude the other? Does our “whining” bother you that much? Couldn’t I equally say “If you don’t want to hear what we have to say, don’t read it.”

@Information Geek:

I think that’s Michael P’s point…it’s kind of disturbing to take a character with that kind of legacy and turn her into a sexy teenage dog-walker type.

The Clockwork Orange reference cover is good. I just hate Harley’s new look – and especially that outfit so much that it sometimes gets in the way.

I already addressed the Bombshell thing above in the comments. If you know anything about where words come from or care why and how they’re used then you’d realize that there’s nothing specifically gendered about the word bombshell except in how it was historically used. But I’d like to think in 64-ish years we’ve grown a bit from that. So we can’t let men be bombshells too just because the 1950’s were a closeted nightmare full of arbitrary and restricting gender (and sexuality) roles? C’mon. Be better than the 1950’s.

Batgirl has been a consistently good book with many gender roles in it, if you can get over her miraculous recovery, and her uniform is appropriately protective and non-revealing but still sexy. The recent annual was a great done-in-one story with Poison Ivy. But I really hate what they did to her costume in the above cheesecake cover, which is a good example of “the problem” as it exists.

And look, they even gave Batwoman some skin color instead of the albino whitewash they usually dip her in! ;-)

I think it’s a fun concept and they’re very classy (which is surprising for DC). It’s fun and light-hearted. Vintage sexy pinup girls and burlesque is a concept that is even widely appealing to certain female demographics including, and more importantly so, the LGBT community. Lesbians shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of enjoying a bit of cheeky sexiness now and then instead of enslaving themselves to the hypocritical self-righteousness of a small uber-weird minority of feminists-gone-wrong. To be quite frank, I find your hetero-centric, semi-feminist, inadvertently misogynistic viewpoint just as obnoxious and ignorant as that of any discriminative “straight white male” as you call them.


I very thoughtful piece. After a lifetime of majority-DC collecting, I’m down to one book. Indys get the rest of my money. I think it would be MORE interesting to see an entire month of male bombshell covers in order to make direct comparisons. I have to ask; in order to make direct comparisons, would the male bombshell covers all have to be the same caliber of sexiness (like cheesecake poses)? Or if we’re talking about gender stereotyping, would the covers have to reflect generic male stereotypes? Because I would then argue that that’s what we’re getting month after month on the regular covers. Keep up the good work!

Jason Waters

Well, the term “bombshell” on itslef refers to sexy women in specific, so I wouldn’t be expecting any man to show up on this covers to begin with. And ironically, these variant covers aren’t as sexually charged as DC regular monthly input. Out of DC’s mistreatment of its female characters, this is the lesser evil IMO.

I don’t know how DC could replicate the theme on male characters, but I’d sure love to see them try. A Marvel-style swimsuit edition, maybe? The shirtless Arrow promos were awesome, and even when The CW supposedly has a higher female demographic than the comic books, they still went ahead and published them in print in between the pages of their obviously male-targeted comics.

Also, I’d argue that the covers shown for GRAYSON so far are quite sexy.

I’m more concerned with quality of the books inside the covers on this matter. While there’s the continuous offenders like Catwoman, Starfire, and Harley Quinn, I’m actually more disappointed with books like Batgirl, Batwoman and Wonder Woman which I WANT to like but for various reasons miss the mark. Batgirl being a dull, murky mess since its inception, the Batwoman creator controversy leading to what’s been so far a mediocre display in Marc Andreyko’s hands, and the handling of Wonder Woman’s character by Azzarello regardless of what might be my favorite rendition of the character under Cliff Chiang’s art.

It certainly feels like DC isn’t putting enough effort in how their characters are being handled in comparison to Marvel’s recent input on female centered books, most of which has been pretty good.

I wholeheartedly agree with Kelly. When I read the solicits, I literally cringed. Why is DC so stupid? Well, sure, they will probably sell but do they really not give a fuck about the flak they’ll be getting for this again. Do they have a PR department? I’m constantly baffled by their efforts to make everyone hate them more and more (especially in comparison to Marvel [not even mentioning the Indies] in trying to change something).

I also disagree with that whole bombshell is a tradition/Americana argument. Even if it’s true that this is what people generally understand as “bombshells” that doesn’t make it a good idea. Why even pick that stupid, sexist tradition. Why not a “Strong Women Month” (which people would probably appreciate more)? Or a “Men Have Feelings, Too Month” (okay, probably not a sale guarantee).

It is very hard for me to see how you can actually defend this nonsense. They are sexist portrayals of women, from a time in which this was normal and not questioned. Times have changed and if you’re uncomfortable with that and wish we still were in the gender-segregated 50s, that’s your problem.

Dave and Kelly –

With the way American Conservatives have become radicalized in the last 15 years, telling some of these guys to return to the 1950s is actually telling them to become more progressive, at least in some areas! The “screw you, I got mine” mentality is more of a throwback to pre-Great Depression, pre-Ludlow Massacre times. Even the 1950s are ahead of them.

So just over 35 comments before we got to the “there are other more serious problems for women in the world than comic book covers”

Yes, and if I was writing on a political website instead of a comic book website, this would definitely be a different article.

That said, I hold, as I always have and always will, that the media we ingest in ever increasing numbers is a huge part of how women are perceived and has a trickle down effect to just about everything.

Does someone want to run the sexism bingo card on this comments section?

Laurence J Sinclair

May 26, 2014 at 12:01 pm

” I can’t imagine Marvel opting to do a “month of sexy bombshells covers” at this point in their model. And if they did? I feel pretty confident that those covers wouldn’t ONLY feature women.”

Only because there’d be one obligatory ‘comedy’ Deadpool Bombshell cover.

yeah these Bombshells covers are super trashy. and not the fun kind of trashy where it’s tongue in cheek and cool because everyone is getting exploited, like a 70s exploitation film or a campy b-movie. these are just genuinely trashy cheesecake pinups that barely even represent the “super” qualities of the characters.

also, DC couldn’t even be bothered to actually draw some different kinds of women other than busty, skinny, and white — even the Hawkgirl cover was recolored (i.e. Photoshopped) from the original print on the QMx website (the place where the art for most of these covers originated) to make her brown.

ethically, it’s just a terrible decision on the part of DC. i guess they’re hoping the economics will justify the ethics.

Andrew Collins

May 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm

There are some legitimate gripes with the portrayal of women in some superhero comics. But this column? This is just silly and over reactive. The covers are clearly homaging the “cheesecake” art work popular since the 30’s and 40’s. The kind that used to be painted on the nose cones of B-17’s and displayed on calendars. It’s a particular period and art style that’s being paid tribute to, not part of some grand continuing anti-feminist scheme to piss you off Kelly.

Cheesecake/bombshell/Good Girl art work is still popular too, as evidenced by the careers of such artist as Olivia, Jim Silke and the late, great Dave Stevens.

Then again, reading your column and the comments from people who didn’t get Greg’s satire above, I’m not surprised at what a dense, humorless area of CSBG your column continues to be…

I don’t see the big deal, to be honest. It’s a light-hearted and harmless homage to a classic illustration style. no different than when DC did a series of covers emulating old pulp-style illos back in the late 90s (http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Pulp_Heroes_Annuals).


May 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

In reply to Nick Marino

Do you even know what the word trashy is? Cause this… this is not remotely trashy. I’ve seen what real trashy is and it’s far more horrifying than anything seen here. I mean, have you seen the Red Hood and Outlaws #32 cover or anything put out by Zenescope?

Oh and they recolored Hawkgirl because the original cover showed the classic Hawkgirl and not the one from Earth 2. Just clearing that up for you.

I’m trying not to laugh out loud at the verbal gymnastics some of these people are attempting in order to justify DC Comics’ — and their recent awful track record — decision to feature ‘bombshell’ covers.

The “arguments” (I use the term loosely) seem to come down to: I’m male, I like seeing boobies on my comics, you “new” comic-reading girls with opinions are ruining it.
Or: these particular images of boobs are celebrating art and america and you must be some kind of stalinist if you don’t think so.
Or my personal favorite: you’re an out-of-control feminist who is somehow also a misogynist trying to ruin things for enslaved lesbians.

Anyway, Kelly, I couldn’t agree with your article more. Well said.


Um. The image of Dazzler on the Deadpool cover in the compilation above. It’s a bit porn-y and trashy to me.

Listen, we all have different definitions of what these words mean to us. I am well familiar with Brooks work, you need not link to his deviant art page, and I think Brooks is a very talented artist. He’s done some incredibly beautiful and very clever covers (many of them for Fearless Defenders)




and he’s also responsible for one of the best Rogue covers of all time (and a personal favorite of mine):


I don’t think his Dazzler on Deadpool is inappropriate or offensive (nor did I call it that), it’s tonally appropriate for the title and for the character, but it’s just not my bag. What can I say?

It’s interesting to me that these are getting such hoopla. If they’re anything like regular DC variants, we will barely see them in stores. Most will go to subscribers that specifically request them.

Anyway, I see points that this is not the best theme DC could do, but much like Marvel’s upcoming Agents of SHIELD art, this is basically the marketing department reusing designs and promoting an entire series of strong selling high priced statues.

If I found out tomorrow these books’ editors had absolutely no control over these appearing, I would not be surprised.

@Nick Marino,

A couple of things:

(A) Not “everybody” got exploited in 70s exploitation films. More often than not the targets of the exploitation were women (usually buxom and scantily clad, if they were clad at all) and minorities, usually Black folks (and sometimes Asians). So saying that it’s “cool” and “fun” in one context but not another seems like a double-standard bordering on hypocrisy. Yes, 70s camp flicks were fun. And so are these covers.

(B) How, exactly, do these covers represent a lack of “ethics” by, well, anyone?

“I can’t imagine Marvel opting to do a “month of sexy bombshells covers” at this point in their model. And if they did? I feel pretty confident that those covers wouldn’t ONLY feature women.”

i’m sure Marvel understand that their women readers also deserve beautigul covers with men in it. They made Loki a young attractive man because of his success at Thor movies.
well DC keep feeding the male readers and completely forgets about women.

of course lot of guys defending DC, what a surprise

@nick a – Actually these aren’t like other variants and will not be “barely seen.” if you had read my original column you would see DC Comics let retailers order as many of these covers as they want for the face price. Unlike true variants there are no 1/10 or 1/100 orders required. In other words these covers will probably been as much of or even more than the regular covers.

movieman88 –

I am also straight, and I don’t need titillating imagery in all of my entertainment. I think I would have watched AVENGERS without needing a poster with Scarlett Johansson’s butt in it. Not that I dislike looking at Scarlett’s butt (I do!) but believe me when I say that it is not enough to make me pay for a movie ticket.

I also don’t think I need it in the covers of my superhero comics. When I think of my favorite superhero comics from the beginnings of the genre to today, few of them had titillating imagery in the covers. The one era where that was super-common (the 1990s) I don’t remember very fondly, it was the age of image over content.

In the end of the day, males enjoying visual stimuli doesn’t have to mean anything for entertainment. I mean, I do like to look at the covers of PLAYBOY magazine, but I don’t need the girls from PLAYBOY to appear in variety magazines, comic books, newspapers, sports magazines. I also like to eat meat, but I don’t need the picture of a juicy stake in the cover of my comic books.


May 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

In reply Kublaken

Out of curiosity, where do I fall in your category of narrow options? I see both sides of arguments from the article and comments, agree with some portions(the covers are questionable, but very nicely made and appealing looking beyond “sex” appeal” and strongest disagree on other parts (these covers are not disturbing nor is DC sexist)


You should spend some time learning about words. Where they come from and what their actual meanings are.

There is nothing gendered about the actual word/definition of bombshell. Seriously, look it up, I’ll wait (or you can scan the comments and see that I already did that for you).

Yes, historically Bombshell is a word applied to women only – in the 1950’s. It’s been over 60 years since then. I think we can do better than the fucking 1950’s…no?

I also, if you bothered to read the piece, which it’s clear you didn’t, never actually say I’m offended by the specific covers, instead I try to talk about why in this context they are a bad idea and why despite being largely pretty images, they are a terrible message to send to readers.

And if you’re someone who thinks all of DC comics suck except Batman 66 then what on earth are you doing defending them? Talk about logic fail.

I wish people made this much of a fuss when it came to the use of hipster in contemporary times.
“You can’t call that person a hipster, he’s not a jazz aficionado”.

Reference points for words change. Imagine language being fluid. Bombshell does not have to apply to females only.

Don’t bother, Kelly. Anyone who uses the expression “modern society of victimhood” is going to react like Pavlov’s dog to anything that smells “liberal”.

So. No examining of attitudes going on this weekend, then. It just goes on.

@Adam Knock it off with the “basement dwellers” stereotyping. It’s insulting. I know it’s a stereotype, but the few I’ve actually known that have lived that way, myself included, agree with Kelly and the fight against misogyny. Yet you insult them with that as a derogatory term. Disenfranchising them based on how they live, which btw does include women by being a gender neutral statement, is damaging to those that are for the cause. Keep your attacks aimed at those that are causing damage. Stop promoting an off-base stereotype that’s universally insulting and judgmental for stuff you know nothing about.

@Kelly Keep up these pieces. Never stop. They are a joy to read every time and you make outstanding points.

Granted,antiquated an idea or not, I think the term Bombshell refers to the pin-up girls of the 1930’s through the 1950’s, and therefore are meant to be sexy women. BUT (before you get in my face), with that said, DC has really dropped the ball on gender equality here. I think they still have some strong female characters (Batgirl, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman, aka the freakin’ God of War) but when compared to the ladies of Marvel…well, there really is no comparison now, is there?

Perhaps DC can do a sexy guys in their underwear cover gallery later. Batman in his BVD’s and such. Who wouldn’t want to see a sexy Joker cover, with Harley hugging him from behind, all dominant woman like?

That’s it gang. See ya ’round the web

Oh! Oh! I want to play sexist bingo!

I’ll take “God Kelly, by singling out these covers of sexy women you are showing that YOU are actually the sexist one! I guess it’s ok for you to want sexy images of men but when it’s the women it’s sexist. Double standard, much? God!”

Wait! I have another one!

“Kelly, female sexuality is a very healthy thing. Why do you want women to be sexually repressed?”

Oh! Wait, last one!

“Kelly, my wife/ girlfriend/ woman who lives next door likes these covers and thinks you are wrong so clearly you are. Women never contribute to their own oppression so if my wife says you are wrong then you are wrong!”

What do I win? Do I win a bingo prize?? :)

( Great article as usual, Kelly.)

@ movieman88:

The whole “men respond to visual stimuli and women don’t” is at best an over-simplification and probably a myth. While men and women are different, brain research has been showing that response to visual stimuli is an area where are much more similar than the culture would suggest. Sexy Dick Grayson would light up the same areas of the brain in hetero women as sexy Catwoman covers do in hetero men. The difference is that a man will say “yes, that arouses me” and a woman generally won’t. That difference appears to be partly brain chemistry and partly cultural.

@ Kelly Thompson:

I think our difference on the Marvel covers is mostly aesthetic. The “dark with a splash of color” look doesn’t appeal to me as much as does for you seemed to in your late, lamented “Drunk Cover Solicits”. That probably makes me more prone to pick them apart.

On DC, please do not think that I am defending them. Their month-in and month-out content has not earned them the benefit of the doubt on … well … anything in over a decade. I am just saying that the bombshell/rockabilly thing was a real thing. I knew a LOT of women (and men) that dressed that way 5-10 years ago. This exactly the sort of thing that I would have loved where where the current regime at DC less repellent in so many other ways.

movieman88 –

So, if you have Daredevil’s BORN AGAIN to your right (a classic, awesome story with no boobage, and the most attractive female in it is wasted junkie drawn with sunken eyes), and to your left you have a LADY DEATH comic book.

You’d actually go for LADY DEATH?

Also laughing hysterically at that guy above claiming that women aren’t as sexually stimulated by visual images as men are. It must be fun to live in a world where you believe every sexist lie about sex ever told…

Newsflash dude, as much as I do really like that Lois Lane bombshell cover with the news cap ( bc it’s one of the better, less exploitative covers they did) I would still trade it for Superman in the pageboy cap with his shirt off. But keep dreaming that only men are stimulated sexually in that way if it helps you sleep better at night.


You should take your own advice re: learning about words, where they come from, and what their actual meanings are. You really seem to have hitched your wagon to the whole “bombshell only applied to women in the 50s” argument. Problem is, it’s simply not true.

That particular usage of the word “bombshell” came into widespread usage in the early 40s, but it’s actual origins go back at least a decade prior. And just because a word is coined in a particular decade doesn’t mean it only applies to/belongs in that decade. People didn’t just magically stop using the word on December 31, 1959. It was still in regular use in the 60s, mostly in entertainment press to describe popular actresses and models of the day (i.e. blond bombshell). Its use trailed off into the 70s. Is it a word in common everyday usage today? No it’s not. But that doesn’t mean its meaning is no longer valid or recognized. Our current language is littered with words that were coined ages ago, fell out of vogue and then came back (hipster, for example).

And as for your repeated entreaties to “look it up” . . .

World English Dictionary (via dictionary.com)
bombshell (?b?m???l)

— n
1. (esp formerly) a bomb or artillery shell
2. a shocking or unwelcome surprise: the news of his death was a bombshell
3. informal an attractive girl or woman (esp in the phrase blonde bombshell )


noun \?bäm-?shel\

: something that is very surprising or shocking
: a very attractive woman


bombshell (?b?m???l)
1. (Firearms, Gunnery, Ordnance & Artillery) (esp formerly) a bomb or artillery shell
2. a shocking or unwelcome surprise: the news of his death was a bombshell.
3. an attractive girl or woman (esp in the phrase blonde bombshell)

Can the meaning of words change over time? Sure. But the meaning of this particular word hasn’t.

Chaim Mattis Keller

May 26, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Sing it, sister. I’ve been appalled with DC’s pushing this “bombshell” motif (in figurines before they were on comic covers). The new 52 has held zero appeal for this long-time DC reader, and it’s clear that they’ve fallen back on selling sex to compensate for their inability to sell stories.

I would have thought that DC would have put out at least a couple ‘harlequin romance’/’beefcake’ variants featuring male characters. How would that not have been an obvious move? It was natural to think that they would have done that. I remember seeing the first of these covers posted on some forum a few months back, and myself and other people were like “lol, can’t wait to see what they come up with for Batman”. But… that’s not happening?

I’m a heterosexual male who isn’t interested in any of these covers, but I would be interested if there were some sort of Neal Adamsesque “shirtless, burly-chested Batman” variant. So, not having something like that cuts both ways. I think the male variants would have gotten a lot of play because many guys would find them, well, funny.

Have to say, though, that I don’t get all the outrage here. I think it’s a tacky idea, this ‘bombshell’ stuff, but I see tons of people of all genders and sexualities who like this kind of stuff. It’s either sexy and/or empowering to them. People like this kind of thing.

Trying to pretend that ‘bombshell’ is a gender-neutral term is just silly. C’mon. That said, they should have just had ‘beefcake’ variants for the guys.

Patrick Rawley

May 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm

“Cheesecake” and “Beefcake” – these are both gendered words, referring to sexy art of women and men, respectively. “Bombshell” is usually a gendered word (referring to a sexy woman). In its other context, “Bombshell” means a revelation, a surprise, something out of the ordinary.

These covers are drawn in a pulp style, like pin-up art of the 30s, 40s, 50s. (DC actually did a series of annuals a good fifteen years ago, in the pulp style. Electric Blue Superman era.)

Kelly makes a good point, that DC is deliberately excluding men from this cover barrage/homage/whatever it is. On the other hand, DC hasn’t made a good decision since well before Electric Blue Superman.

The New 52 has been a train-wreck of piddly, penny-ante sexism from the word ‘go’. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were deliberately TRYING to fail.

So are these alternate covers, or something I have to purchase if I want the book? I ask because I don’t buy gimmick covers if there’s an alternative. The reasons are threefold (1) I don’t like to reward or encourage this kind of linewide marketing silliness; (2) alternate covers can cost more at my LCS; (3) it feels like it’s designed to make fanboys say, “how high?” when DC says jump. No thanks.

The other reason I ask is that not including males makes perfect dollars and sense if these are alternate covers. Unless your marketing data is telling you something different, I’m guessing that Batman # whatever sells far fewer copies if it showcases Bruce Wayne in a speedo- at least if you can buy a non-sexy version. That says a variety of things about a variety of people, and I’m not going to judge it one way or another. But why make a cover that has a guaranteed low sales %? Alternatively, if these are the only covers, then, yeah, put sexy Bruce on Batman, put sexy Alan Scott on Earth 2 (although that title is too grim for sexy), and put sexy Hal Jordan flying naked through space on GL. If these are the only covers, even a blatant homophobe will buy them to keep his collection intact. Frankly, forcing that choice is kind of hilarious.

Anyway, I suspect these are the primary covers. So DC blew an opportunity- both to reach out to alternative readership and to have some fun at the expense of it’s more traditional readership.

As to DC’s offerings for females- I dunno. Kelly, I like your column and agree with you more often than not (and I don’t read much New 52 DC) but it seems to me like you sometimes cannibalize your own position. If Batgirl, Batwoman, and Wonder Woman either suck generally, or degrade, stereotype, or objectify women, then I would agree you shouldn’t buy them. But my recollection from past columns is that you boycott Wonder Woman because of that retcon with the Amazons (is that even an ongoing plot point or just a one-off?); you boycott Batgirl because she’s not Oracle anymore (not a women’s issue); and you boycott Batwoman because she wasn’t allowed to marry (which might be a women’s issue, except that DC is pretty anti-marriage for all genders- a good-for-goose-and-gander equality that you argue in favor of in this article).

Obviously you are free to boycott whatever title you want for whatever reason you want, but it seems disingenuous to me to critique DC for the quality of its offerings to female readers when you don’t support three of the top profile titles for fairly technical reasons. I guess if you stopped reading X-Men when Professor X regained the use of his legs or refuse to read Flash, Superman, or Spider-Man because the characters are no longer married, then I’m maybe off base. But it seems like flagship titles for women need your support and are available for you to support and you’re declining to offer it based on tangential creative choices.

In any event, I read Captain Marvel (and give my copy into my toddler girl when I’m done so that she at least gets some passive exposure to Carol), Fatale, and the odd issue of Lazarus. Everything else is either Avengers-related, Daredevil, or Adventures of Superman. So I’m not over-supporting the female lead genre either, and thus probably have no room to talk.


I’m not “hitching my wagon” to a super specific iteration of Bombshell, nor do we have to limit it to “just 50’s” – obviously it was around before the 50’s, certainly in the 40’s and I’m sure from time to time it’s also been used to describe men. It’s often referred to as a 50’s term because of the massive popularity of Bettie Page taking the pin up girl/bombshell thing to its highest heights. No that doesn’t mean people stopped using it in 1959…c’mon, don’t make yourself into a joke.

Do we really have to go into ALL OF THAT to discuss this term? It’s pretty common knowledge that:

Bombshell was generally, a popular term referring to attractive women at the height of popularity in the 1950’s and with its origin likely sometime in the early1940’s.


And yes, of COURSE that definition has made its way into the dictionary…you do know how dictionaries work, right?

Still, the first time someone/something called/referred to a hot chick as a bombshell it was because “something or someone having a sudden and sensational effect” – hence HOT BOMBSHELL.

That’s the root of the word. And that root is not gendered. This is not rocket science.


That’s such a colossal load of nonsense that I’m having a hard time separating the willful ignorance from the plain old everyday ignorance, because there’s clearly a fair amount of both deeply embedded there. But the salient point is this: Contrary to your 11th hour protestations to the contrary, you repeatedly argued that the word meant one thing and one thing only and didn’t mean the one specific thing that these covers are meant to represent. Both of those arguments are categorically false,


As I understand it the variant covers are indeed variants, but retailers are allowed to order as many as they want, so I suspect these will actually become more the “regular covers” than the “regular covers” are. They’ll be everywhere.

I have to say, I think Batman in a speedo would sell HUGE if only for the headline grabbing that would happen if a cover like that was going to be released. Regular readers would buy it because they’re regular readers, the women and gay readership would buy it like crazy, cause, well, it’s Bruce Wayne in a speedo, and then the looky-lou’s would buy it because it would be a “milestone moment in comics/media.”

As for DC reading, and just to clarify, yes, I did not initially read Batgirl because I don’t agree with the destruction of one of the best female characters in all of comics, and a non able-bodied person at that (Oracle). I did read a few issues here and there and I didn’t like it above and beyond that issue, mostly because like the rest of the DCU it is relentlessly dark. The art quality (in the issues I read) was substandard at best as well.

Cliff Chiang is one of my all time favorite artists and my dream artist for a Wonder Woman book and I initially loved Wonder Woman, even with the changes I disagreed with (Zeus as her father) I was willing to come along, but yes, the destruction of the Amazons in issue #7 was too much for me. And YES it is very much still an issue – one they have decided not to resolve or address, but rather to badly sweep under the rug – to be honest – they way they have handled it/not handled it but also let it stand is probably the worst possible direction they could have taken (for a reader like me). My issue with Batwoman had to do with creator treatment, not anything to do with the character.

I like that Dc keeps trying to come up with fun things to do with their covers or monthly issues. Sometimes it hits and sometimes it misses. No one is perfect.

I think we can all agree that the bombshell covers are a fun idea. If I understand the article right, the problem is that DC is only doing “sexy” female covers (sometimes really reaching to get a female character on the cover of a comic where she might not be a regularly occurring character). I agree that that leads towards a sexists attitude on DC’s part. Sadly, DC is a business and that means appealing to their largest demographic. While many more women are getting into comics it is still predominately male, which means turning the idea around for “sexy” male covers would not have near the sales potential. And might, in fact, be a financial loss. I suppose they could hedge their bets with limited releases of such covers, but then this would invite the argument that women (and men into men) had to pay extra money for something straight men were getting at regular price.

I think all the people attacking Kelly (not that she needs a defense) need to chill out. Your overreaction is worse than what you are accusing her of.

Comics ARE for everyone.

That said, I am a straight/white/male and I am getting these covers for the sake of the art. I’ve never been a regular DC reader, until the New 52. I started off with a lot of titles and I’m now down to 2 monthly books (Batman, Wonder Woman) and one in trade (Aquaman.)

I’ve been horribly disappointed with the writing and art on most of the DC books that I’ve looked at (which is not to say all or even most of them.)

I do not care about the word ‘bombshell’ being used. Clearly DC is using the 1950’s implications. Most of the covers I have seen are more tasteful in content and quality than a lot of comics covers out there. And as a person who works in a comic shop (with a female employee and lots of female customers!) I see a lot of covers. Pretty much anything from Avatar/Zenescope makes me ill.

None of the women on these covers are grossly busty. YES, they are all of a similar body type (so are most of the men in comics,) but they aren’t that unrealistic. Most are fully clothed. I just spent the last two days walking around Washington DC and saw more scantily clad females (and males) on the Mall and at Monuments. (Except maybe Joker’s Daughter and Poison Ivy.) Also, none of this seems pornographic or in bad taste artistically speaking. No one is being tortured or in bondage, except Wonder Woman (and she’s breaking those chains!)

But it seems Kelly’s main point isn’t any of this. It’s DC’s marketing.

There are a lot of women readers, fans, and creators out there. I agree that Marvel is doing better with their female characters. Many of their female lead books are my current favorites. And they aren’t running around in swimsuit style ‘bullet proof’ suits. Captain Marvel, Black Widow, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Elektra, and the recent Journey into Mystery featuring Sif have been some of the best reads from Marvel. (Rogue will be forever be my all time favorite character, please bring her back soon!)

Guys (as in my fellow males,) please stop and think before you start ranting and raving about things online. I know this is like whispering into a hurricane, but come on. We can do better. All of us, gender aside, need to stop being so reactionary to things. It’s one thing to write a blog about something you have an issue with, as Kelly did. It’s another thing to just rant and fume over things just because we can.

We won’t all like the same things. This is not a bad thing. The comic book sandbox is big enough for everyone to play in. Let’s give everyone a chance to enjoy it.

Great article Kelly, couldn’t agree with you more. I’m always glad that there’s someone like you speaking-up against this nonsense.

It’s this prevalent attitude towards women in comics that has really damaged my love of the medium. Particularly super-hero comics. I feel almost ashamed to be associated with a hobby that I get a great deal of pleasure from. Such a misogynistic approach just cheapens the merit of the product and the public’s perception of it. It’s why I often feel embarrassed to even let people know that I’m a comics fan, especially when it represents an attitude that is so grotesquely discriminative.

I know it’s not all like this, but there’s enough of it about to really get under my skin. I agree that Marvel (despite having a long way to go) has finally started taking steps to rectify this. Titles like She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, Superior Foes and Ms Marvel show a much more mature approach, all without sacrificing what makes super-heroes comics such great fun.

I don’t know, I just look forward to a day when I can walk into a comic shop and not suddenly feel like I’m in a pornographers (probably doesn’t help that my local store is called ‘Forbidden Planet’). Look, I get there’s a market for this stuff, to each his own and what-not, but sometimes it would just be nice for the big companies to not feel the need to resort to such cheap tricks. Maybe they should treat their readers with a little more respect and integrity and not insult our intelligence with this crap.


Try again.

I’ve been the one arguing that WORDS ARE FLUID. That definitions change and that despite the fact that the word has historically been used to describe women, the base root of the word is not gendered, never was, and thus our interpretation of it also does not need/have to be gendered.

It’s 2014, not the 1950’s (or 1940’s or 1960’s, etc., since you seem particularly hung up on the decades) – we can be better than the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s etc., when it comes to gender. We certainly SHOULD be.

@Drew G.,

Thanks for the welcome dose of clear-eyed reason and logic.

@kalorama – You are either being purposely and needlessly obtuse or your reading comprehension needs some work. Kelly never said that the meaning of the word wasn’t open-ended or that it meant one thing and one thing only. Go back and read exactly what she wrote. She writes that the word isn’t gendered and it doesn’t need to continue to be gendered.

I think we can all agree that meaning changes and language can be fluid. Bombshell can and could apply to men. It would be really awesome if DC had kept that in mind when they did this covers and did something really interesting and perhaps groundbreaking.

Just because something has been one way, doesn’t mean it needs to remain that way.

movieman88 –

Yes, stuff can be fanservice-y and well-written at the same time, but… usually they aren’t.

Don’t you think that if someone has a sexy model in a bikini trying to sell you a book, then it’s likely that the book is probably shitty? If it was a fine book, they wouldn’t need the sexy model in the first place. That is why a book with a overly fanservice-y cover makes me suspicious that the story will be shitty. Likewise for movies. Something tells me that, if I want a great movie, CITIZEN KANE will be a better choice than that movie with Jessica Alba in a bikini in the cover.

I am not very familiar with Witchblade. To tell you the truth, I dislike that whole kind of Image Comics character/artwork. Image Comics drove me out of comic book collecting for the first time, so that will always be a sore point.

But if you really do like that sort of thing, then more power to you. It’s only that sometimes I get the feeling that the guys running to the defense whenever someone writes a “feminist” article are doing it more out of political concerns and dislike for feminism, than for any actual enjoyment of the stuff being criticized.


That whole “base root ” thing is the most fumble-footed bit of semantic tap-dancing I’ve seen in a while. That’s like saying that the word “hysterectomy” is gender-neutral because it’s based on the root word “hysteria.” It’s silly, it’s an obvious dodge, and it does nothing to advance your larger argument, which has some valid points that are undermined by your cherry-picking way of trying to argue your point. Because, in the grand, substantive scheme of things, the actual definition of the word bombshell is largely irrelevant to the point you’re trying to make.


May 26, 2014 at 2:09 pm

In reply to Jesse


Thank you! A nice, reasonable viewpoint for once! We need more of these in this comment section.


Jesus fucking christ. I’m not trying to dodge anything. You’re the one with a deathlock grip on an antiquated word that you won’t allow to evolve.

Bombshell is not PART of another word with its root in something else. It is an actual word with an actual definition that clearly drove the new meaning as it became applied to “attractive women” and then historically gained ground and popularity with that new meaning. But the meaning never changed – calling a woman a bombshell still meant that you were “stunned by something sensational” – in this case a beautiful woman.

Bombshell DOES mean “attractive/sexy woman” because historically we have attached that meaning to it, but where it comes from and what it means has nothing to do with gender and there’s no reason on earth it can’t continue to evolve to “attractive/sexy person.” Holding onto that antiquated definition with your vice lock grip just outs you as someone desperately afraid of change.

Enjoy that. People afraid of change usually have to learn to cope with it, being as it’s the only damn constant.

I like good cheesecake art and some of these covers are good renderings of that, but there’s no reason DC had to limit themselves to conventional readings of “bombshell”. There is a beefcake tradition in the same period of American pop culture- less prominent to be sure, and aimed more (and covertly) at gay men than women, but it was there. Heck the Marvel swimsuit specials- pure dumb fan service- threw in some hunky men alongside the women.

DC seems to be increasingly narrow in its focus- not that Marvel is great about diversity but they seem to at least make regular stabs outside the traditional demos.

@Mark Black

“Just because something has been one way, doesn’t mean it needs to remain that way.”

A fact that I explicitly acknowledge in my original post, so there’s nothing esp. revelatory in repeating it back to me.

DC throwing some speedo picks of Dick Grayson or Aquaman into the mix (which I’d be fine with, BTW) wouldn’t change the meaning of the word “bombshell.” DC used the word because it meant a certain thing and they specifically chose covers that represented that specific meaning. That part of the argument is pretty much a closed loop. The argument about gender-representation in DC comics and the question of how women are portrayed vs. men are both very open. But they’re separate issues.

I think one thing that you miss is the fact that many women like pin-up culture. There is a great website devoted to it (Pin-up lifestyle dot com.) As a matter of fact, my wife thinks the “bombshell” covers are cooler than the regular covers and would love to see a book featuring the characters in the timeframe.

And, if we are defining “bombshell” by most major dictionaries, an attractive girl or woman is a common definition.

Brian from Canada

May 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I totally agree, Kalorama. Kelly’s point is really to call DC evil — sexist, mysoginist, trapped in time, whatever.

The reality is that DC has discovered through the past two years that variant covers sell. They did Mad covers, they did Robot Chicken covers, they did Lego covers… which all tie to WB properties just as Marvel had done with Tron shortly after their being purchased.

The reality is also that the anime-styled sexualization statues of characters from BOTH Marvel and DC sell, and someone at DC thought that paying homage to the concept via the 40s/50s style rather than going out all anime (which most DC artists suck at anyway) was a thing to try.

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Plain and simple.

But, please, quit trying to identify a small marketing gimmick with your PERSONAL opinion of the stories the company is publishing. YOU may not like it — but it’s the path the publisher has chosen for the moment. And they are not paths are deliberately demeaning to women.

I know it’s wrong to say anything even remotely positive about DC these days or to try and defend them in any manner, so I won’t. Quite frankly, if I was someone at WB/DC right now, I’d stop making press releases for the comic sites like these because all they do is berate the company on every initiative they try.

But it’s PERSONAL taste about the stories. Prove to me that there is a portrayal that is just plain wrong in the eyes of society, and then we can talk. But to say that a cheesecake image is symbolic of the mysoginist behaviour rampant through DC Comics is stretching it too damn far.


I’m not missing the fact that some women like pin-up culture. Read the piece again, see if I cover what I think of the actual covers and how they compare to the usual DC fare.


@ Ron C:

“Bombshell” may not be a gender-neutral term, but these are forties-style bombshells for the most part. They are women with rockabilly look in throw-back cheesecake poses. Rockabilly is a punk rock look that has been around for-eve-r (I remember it from the mid-80s). Guys dress that way too.

Rockabilly dude also pose for pictures:

“And, if we are defining “bombshell” by most major dictionaries, an attractive girl or woman is a common definition.”

No reason it has to be the only definition. Or that they had to use that instead of, say, “pin-up” and allowing male beefcake poses as well. Like I said, the Marvel Swimsuit Specials from way back in the 90s had men and women both posing sexily. This is moving backwards.

@Kelly – Can you show or direct us to some “sexy male” superhero covers so we have a better idea of what you’re looking for?

@Clint Adams – I agree. I spent many a year in the rockabilly scene and know or knew a ton of women that would think those covers are terrific. Personally, I’d rather see those (which, for the most part I think are more playful than downright sexy) than another Greg Land/Horn retouched porno freeze frame or shoved-in-your-face crotch shot (hello, Emma Frost!)

“The reality is also that the anime-styled sexualization statues of characters from BOTH Marvel and DC sell, and someone at DC thought that paying homage to the concept via the 40s/50s style rather than going out all anime (which most DC artists suck at anyway) was a thing to try.”

And they decided to only do sexy women because they’re not interested in the demographics who might be interested in sexy men. That’s the problem- an increasingly narrow focus.

Play along at home, kids!

We are doing really well at both Derailment Bingo and Sexist Bingo! WOOO!


@Oculus Orbus

Off the top of my head I’d say some Nicola Scott work and both Nightwing and Catman as characters have been done as deliberately sexy/pin-up ish and have huge followings as a result. The most famous image (to my knowledge) is probalby this one: http://37.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_le4bs8GdZr1qc7r93o1_500.png

Ron and Evan, thanks for being clear-headed commenters on this. It’s hilariously transparent that DC is still trying to appeal the their 46-year-old neckbeard demographic that they couldn’t possibly market this gimmick to a wider audience by having at least a few token beefcake covers. By making these non-incentive covers, they’re blatantly stating that their target audience is exclusively the cheesecake set. Their other variant gimmicks weren’t gender exclusive, from the LEGO, MAD or Robot Chicken variants.

A literal bombshell, like a literal cheesecake, is not gendered. That’s irrelevant, though, as the metaphorical usage of both terms, when applied to persons has always been gendered, and specifically, female. That all the depicted bombshells on these comics covers are female is just an attempt at truth-in-advertising, or accurate labelling.

There’s an extra dimension to the term, though. It’s significant that it was coined in the 30s, era of Mae West. In the 40s you can guarantee it was applied to Jane Russel, and in the 50s to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. In the 60s, it would not have been applied to Twiggy. I doubt there were any bombshell flappers in the 20s.

The “sensational impact” metaphorical aspect of the term is one strand, but given the historic usages from the 50s, the physical appearance of an actual literal bombshell is another in the creation of the metaphorical meaning we’re discussing here. Go google image search “bombshell”. The so-called “torpedo tits” look, the popularity of the cantilevered bras that created it, evoked a visual allusion to something the population in the 40s and 50s was much more familiar with than we are today, actual literal artillery shells.

So (if one was courageously interested in definitional accuracy to the point of foolhardiness in this environment) one could take the position that some of these covers don’t qualify as the models aren’t sufficiently endowed. Personally, I’d let it pass. :)

An interesting sidelight is the nickname Mae West applied to lifevests in the 30s.

I’m aware (and please notice) that I’m not commenting one way or the other on other aspects of the criticism, nor the wider issues (shame on me!), just pointing out that to criticise a self-proclaimed Bombshell Month for not featuring sexy men is as sensible as criticising a self-proclaimed Circle Month for not featuring any triangles.

Ooo! Ooo! Can I do the one where we equate your expressing your opinion about these covers with censorship?! Pleeeeease! We don’t have that one yet!

@brian from canada – whoa dude you posted here and then went over to post on my blog (hilariously with completely wrong info but ya know good try. ) But I ask you the same question I asked the person above. How come your solution, “if you don’t like, don’t buy it” doesn’t apply to what Kelly and I write? If you don’t like our opinions, why not just like “not read them”? Why the intense need to run here to post your thoughts and then run to my blog to express YOUR opinion? But I do love how you point to PERSONAL taste but the suggest we “prove” our opinions. What is up with that?

Make it so, buttler, make it so!

For what it’s worth Brian from Canada, all I have done is approve comments today. I have only spammed one, from my known stalker as he’s long been banned from the site.

Any other deletions you’ll have to take up with our lord and master.

Well, this has been fun, but I have to get back to wrapping/prepping packages for mailings. Try not to get into too much trouble without me.

“Bombshell DOES mean “attractive/sexy woman” because historically we have attached that meaning to it, but where it comes from and what it means has nothing to do with gender and there’s no reason on earth it can’t continue to evolve to “attractive/sexy person.””

We could “agree to evolve” the term circle to include what we now call triangles, as well, but we lose precision in language thereby, and gain… what? Are you arguing that we should “evolve” cheesecake to be gender-neutral as well? Should we seek to evolve “brassiere” to include t-shirts, commonly worn by both genders? Should we redefine “ovaries” to include “testes”? In all these cases, we lose existing precision in the language, and gain… I have no idea.

Kelly likes to let pretty much every non-stalker comment go and reply to them. I disagree. I don’t like jerky comments and I don’t like diversionary comments. I delete the former type of comments and I delete most of the latter types of comments. I understand that diversionary comments are sometimes posted without malice, so I sort of apologize for deleting them – but not really. I probably should get rid of this weird seemingly endless dictionary tangent, but eh, I know people love to be pedantic about word meanings and I don’t feel that they are intended to be diversionary.

“I’m aware (and please notice) that I’m not commenting one way or the other on other aspects of the criticism, nor the wider issues (shame on me!), just pointing out that to criticise a self-proclaimed Bombshell Month for not featuring sexy men is as sensible as criticising a self-proclaimed Circle Month for not featuring any triangles.”

It’s not like this was “Bombshell Month” before DC decided it was, though. They could have easily declared it “Pin-Up Month” or “Bodybuilder Magazine Month” or “Everyone Is Naked Month”.

Aw crap. I forgot to tell Kelly that I’m enjoying Storykiller so far, a shallow 40 pages in. I SINCERELY appreciate that you shipped my book before stirring this pot, and I’m glad you’re now spending your time shipping product instead of feeding the trolls in the comments.

Speaking of, I can’t believe that that Burgas neckbeard hasn’t come back to troll you some more…

The only definitions that really count are the ones in the Super Dictionary anyway.

Back @ Kelly – Aside from the spray-on costume, that example doesn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary for a contemporary supers comic.

To help me understand your point better, could you describe exactly what it is about that panel that makes it sexy or pin-upish? I and probably most other male casual readers of comics would most likely not recognize an image as intentionally sexual unless it was pointed out to us. For example, a shot of Colossus wearing jeans and a tank top and lugging a huge tree stump that he just yanked out of the ground is, to me, just that. Sexy? I have no idea and that panel of Nightwing standing there is just a guy standing there, albeit with a shiny, plastic butt. Is that it or am I missing something else?

Also, any examples of male artists who have done beefcake covers (not interior art) for the Big 2?

@billk Seriously this about comic characters being posed in sexy poses wearing sexy outfits. As pointed out previously Bombshell art describes only a small amount of these images – some are simply drawn with a vague “vintage” feel. So given that the art has already expanded the definition of “bombshell” what’s the issue with expanding the sexy to males? Are the bombshell police going to come and confiscate the covers? Is having a male bombshell going to cause a violation of the official bombshell code of sexy?

joshschr: Honestly, how can I top what has transpired?

““I’m aware (and please notice) that I’m not commenting one way or the other on other aspects of the criticism, nor the wider issues (shame on me!), just pointing out that to criticise a self-proclaimed Bombshell Month for not featuring sexy men is as sensible as criticising a self-proclaimed Circle Month for not featuring any triangles.”

It’s not like this was “Bombshell Month” before DC decided it was, though. They could have easily declared it “Pin-Up Month” or “Bodybuilder Magazine Month” or “Everyone Is Naked Month”.”

Of course. Did you notice me, as advertised, not commenting on the wider issues, such as this?

I’m not saying Bombshell Month was necessary, or how good or bad an idea it might be compared to the infinite other possibilities. There are doubtless many valid criticisms one could level against it (as against anything), but “no sexy men” is not one of them. If it had been “Sexy People Month” and only showed women, then “no sexy men” would be a perfectly valid criticism. But that’s not what we have here.

Just because by historical accident Kelly included an invalid criticism amongst the set she put in the article doesn’t invalidate any of the others, or the article as a whole. Not commenting on that, so please don’t (anyone) put words in my mouth.

@Bill K,

Well said. Nice work, sir.


I am blown away by the continued delusion about this word bombshell.

You guys can take your patriarchal ownership of words and history and shove it.

I can see that my book title “The Girl Who Would Be King” would have gone over like a ton of bricks with a lot of this crowd.

“but, but, girls can’t be KINGS. That’s just the way it is. It’s the way it is because the male dominated society I was raised in tells me so, but that’s still the way it is and I will defend it until my death!”

Jesus Christ on a fucking bike, guys. Wake up. Now step away from the kool-aid. Now RUN! Run as fast as your feet will carry you! You must escape the mind control.

@Evan Waters,

Their focus on male readership isn’t really indicative of an “increasingly narrow focus.” It’s pretty much the same narrow primary demographic superhero comics have always focused on. It may, however, be indicative of a reticence to expand their focus. And I don’t think that it’s because they’re not interested in broadening their consumer base. What business would be opposed to that? I think they’re straddling the line of trying to figure out how to best appeal top a broader audience without losing the one they already have. Bird in the hand, and all. It’s a dilemma every business has to deal with in some form at some point (assuming they stay in business long enough). If they navigate the path well, it can mean a big plus in business. If they take one bad misstep, they could step on a mine. Sometimes they choose the safe path and follow the footsteps already laid down.

Your use o of that book title uses situational irony to express your viewpoint. You in that case are using gender normative language and therefore are as guilty as others who are assigning gender to the word bombshell.

Honestly, I couldn’t sit here and read all this cyclical conversing. I get paid to do that at work and still cut it off at some point. Nothing Kelly has said deserves this. It is boring and wrong. Her definitions and linguisting history is sound. Her college trained ability to appropriately critique the practices of Comics and Comics publishing is generally and specifically in this case right on the money. Marvel is in an upswing, while DC has dug in their heals to the detriment of their characters and the industry. These are not important issues, unless you care about Comics and the lives of those who both read and make them…as well as all those inbetween this exchange of information. If people would simply want Comics to improve, become accessible to more people and loved the medium, not just their small isolated definition of Comics, then Kelly could focus on way better, more interesting, more fun things. But some people don’t want to grow up and learn a thing or two about other people’s valid points of view….See boring!!!! So change already!! So we can focus on other things and act like fans of superhoes should…you know be good to each other…save the day…unite agents villains. Oh wait…are you a villain?! ‘Cause that would make sense…boring old soliloquy (maybe I am the villain?).

Can a guy even BE a bombshell? As far as I know, a bombshell is referring to a sexually attractive woman and has never been used to describe a man.

Because I thought that’s what the covers were doing, calling back to a certain era.

My flabber continues to be ghasted over all the comments from people who haven’t even read what Kelly wrote. Again.

I left a comment earlier responding to an obvious troll (whose comments have all been deleted) which was rightfully deleted (I assume by Brian), as it added nothing to the conversation – sorry I let my emotions get the better of me.

As to “can a man be a ‘bombshell” – well, there’s been a Transformer (Decepticon/Insecticon) named Bombshell for about 30 years who is a “he.” Precedent! :)


Who is your stalker Kelly? Is it that weird guy Samurai who was trolling here a while back? He was a nutty one.

Uh, I tried to boycott Batwoman because of the creator mistreatment but I got pulled back in because I love Marc Andreyko, particularly his run on Manhunter, and I want to support a book with LGBT themes. The writing has… really, really improved, and I don’t miss Trevor McCarthy aping JH Williams at all. I understand boycotting under these circumstances, but I don’t want to see Kate Kane go away.

PS I am a straight dude and I would buy the hell out of a sexy Dick Grayson cover because he is the best.

@Keith: Ha! Precedent is right! ;)

@Eamon: Yeah, I hear you. I heard good things about Batwoman since Andreyko took over – and I’m a fan of Andreyko’s work as well, so it’s a tough call for me. But generally DC has driven me so far away that it just doesn’t even feel possible to come back.

@T: That Samurai guy is definitely an asshole, but no, it’s not him. He doesn’t threaten to rape me and shit.

You probably wouldn’t recognize this guy’s name as his whole MO is to use a proxy server to keep changing names/ips/fake emails/whatever. I’m definitely not his only target, just one of many.

I’ve never heard the term bombshell used for males, so I wouldn’t expect male characters on these variants.

I would gladly welcome male characters in this style, though.

What is your thought about DC giving Wonder Woman another book? Should you not be praising that?

It seems to me your argument is with the current management of DC. That is fine. Have you talked to DC President Diane Nelson about sexist material?

I think the main reason why many have issue with your stance is that DC has a lot of strong female-lead characters. And they don’t share your views about the new 52 or the portrayal of the characters.

The bombshell art as portrayed is not demeaning nor is it exploitive. It is however sexy.

Not even Damon Matthews, Kate Spencer’s law partner/Obsidian’s boyfriend, showing up to help Maggie Sawyer get custody of her daughter?? I will take whatever references I can get to pre-New 52 continuity!

@kalorama Do you acknowledge that Kelly didn’t say, imply or “repeatedly argued that the word meant one thing and one thing only” ? That is the entire crux of my point. If you agree then yes we can move on and discuss other things, but if not then we disagree.


May 26, 2014 at 8:40 pm

of course Marvel would use at least one man! the obligatory Deadpool variant!
that would be gold!

@ Kelly Thompson:

Jesus. That is horrible. What kind of person does that over comics?

I’ve got to say I don’t like the “bombshell” covers, i don’t find them either particularly sexy or artistically appealing. I like sexy ladies in comics but these are just not it for me.

The most striking thing visually about the covers shown was how much the Captain Marvel cover fits in colouring wise with the retro covers. I’ve always been a big fan of Carol Danvers since the original Ms Marvel comic back in the 70’s but I HATE her current costume. It’s so fifties and jarring, it’s like one of those movies when they just brought out colour and every shade was a little too much. Although Kelly used it as a contrast I was actually seeing similar and disliking both.
Please pt Carol in the costume of the character whose legacy she is upholding it would look as good on her as it did on him.

As for the bombshell covers, no thanks DC I’ll be looking for a variant cover that doesn’t offend my eyes

I think my wife likes this kind of art. She’d probably get a kick out of it, but I do see the point. Why not have some men up in here?

Have we figured out what we’re talking about yet? Should I check in later? :p

I think it says something that whenever I’m on the fence about how much I agree with Kelly’s column, the people attacking her in the comments do more to push me toward her point of view than the ones supporting her. I’m not sure what it says, but it says something.

And people, please let the “bombshells MUST be women” thing go. Personally, I agree that the term is pretty much never applied to men, but you know what?…

(1) I’m reasonably sure that whatever the gender expectations of the word may be, no fines or sanctions would be imposed against DC for daring to include a male bombshell. If Marvel did a “Hail to the King” month with variant covers showing Blackbolt and Namor and Black Panther sitting on thrones wearing crowns, is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that they would also include covers with Storm or Emma Frost or She-Hulk too? (I’m not saying Marvel’s better than DC in that way, just that I couldn’t think of any “king” characters in DC’s current lineup). And…

(2) Even if you insist that men CANNOT be “bombshells” and therefore Bombshell Month CANNOT include a man, isn’t that more of an argument against DC doing “Bombshell Month” to begin with than an excuse for them to do an all-female-pinups month?

People seem to be using the “bombshell means woman” idea to argue that DC’s hands are somehow tied on the matter, but it just ain’t so. I mean, if DC were doing “Blaxploitation Month” with variant covers showing all their black characters with giant afros or pimp hats, we wouldn’t be saying “well, that’s the Blaxploitation aesthetic, it’s a very specific area of nostalgia that some people really enjoy and it wouldn’t be artistically accurate not to do it that way,” we’d be saying “Wow, that’s a really terrible idea. They should not do that.”

This is a great column. I’m more interested in the story inside a comic book than I am the cover. Covers are great, and these are great looking covers. My basic problem with DC’s The New 52 is that it is short on content and long on gimmicks. My gut tells me that instead of telling great stories like they used to, they are more interested in moving titles and units that won’t stand up to a second reading.

Why not compare the normal marvel covers featuring women to the nonvariant DC Covers? Some are really good!

Whatever. I like the bombshell covers and ordered every one of them. I’m gay and have no problem looking at these covers as what they are… an homage to the past and great art. I don’t see any type of slight in this. So, D.C. is putting a woman on every cover in one month is this is supposed to be a bad thing? You’re entitled to your opinion, but I disagree. When someone is convinced of something, they will keep looking until they find some shred of proof to support their claims, while ignoring things that disprove it. You might want to think about that for a bit. D.C. has done a great job of handling female characters. They can always do better. They’ve published more books with female leads than Marvel ever has. They haven;t always succeeded or done things the right way, but they’ve tried, and to paint them as being part of the problem is disingenuous at best.

Jesus. That is horrible. What kind of person does that over comics?

I was actually reading an article recently about the rising trend of rape threats when trolling women. It’s really like a “thing” now. People are just going over the old passive aggressive misogyny straight to nuclear misogyny. I find a lot of the same stuff is currently happening with race too. It’s gotten bad to the point that I just ordered a book from Kindle called Angry White Men by Michael Kimmel to try to wrap my head around it. The latest incident with the USCB shooter really shows this internet stuff isn’t always harmless.

I think you catch way too much criticism for this column. I think some people read it just to argue in the comments. Even though I don’t always agree with you (you replied once that X-Men Forever kind of soured you on Chris Claremont after a comment I made) your column is a must read for me. I have a three year-old daughter who I hope can have good comics to read when she grows up and this column fights the good fight for quality comics. Keep up the good work!

I will say, I think DC came up with a sexist result, but I don’t think it was necessarily a sexist intent. I think it was the usual DC problem: laziness and incompetence. Thinking “Hey, why not pay tribute to the old pinup posters of the past, but do it with both male and female superheroes” is some creative and out-the-box progressive thinking that you can’t expect from a company whose big reinvention for the future involved combining 90s costumes trends with the excess costume seams from 2000 comics like Ultimates, to create costumes that already look 10-20 years dated the instant they appear.

In some ways it’s even more depressing, because if they were doing it on purpose at least one could argue they were ABLE to have progressive thoughts, but CHOSE not to. So if they were to just choose to change their minds in the future it could be reversed. The alternative, though, which I think is the truth, is that they aren’t even mentally capable to think progressively on their own to begin with.

The “offensive” covers are actually pretty tame. That cover featuring Dazzler is more provocative that a lot of the “offensive” covers.

It’s narrow-minded to imply images of “sexy” women only appeals to “straight white males.” Come on, all men are pigs.

Furthermore, use of the phrase “full stop” is dogmatic. It’s like the punctuating an argument by writing Issue X “shouldn’t even be a political issue.” Your opinion is not absolute truth.

This column is doing more to promote the covers than DC. I know hadn’t given them a second thought before reading this.

Of course anyone is free to try to re-interpret words in new ways, if they want (such as “bombshells”, and “can-can dancers”, and “broads” suddenly all being applied to males as well as females, historical usage and existing standard definitions be damned). This has the potential of losing clarity, adding ambiguity and making communication more difficult, but there’s perhaps some counter-weighting benefit (even if I’m too stupid to identify it, and no one else seems to be bothered to explain it. Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?).

But if one does suddenly invent one of these brave new meanings, can one really in good faith be surprised and outraged that it’s not immediately, nay, ***retro-actively***, universally embraced? When did the “‘bombshells’ now redefined to include males” memo go out? When did everyone sign off on that? Before or after DC planned this event?

Given for whatever reason (marketing strategy? pure evil?) DC chose the label, it’s not really that surprising that they went with the standard definition that most of their customers understand. If they’d wanted to put sexy people of both genders on their covers, they could have called it “Sex Symbol Month”. They didn’t want to; that’s their right. Maybe they are evil, or wrong, or stupid, or whatever, for only showing sexy women on the covers, but doing so is consistent with their chosen theme “Bombshells”.

I was going to say it, but T. beat me to it.

Both defenders and attackers seem to assume that DC knows what it is doing. That they have market reasons tested out, that they are trying to appeal to a certain demography. And the defenders automatically leap to the defense because they think DC is on the “side” of masculinity, or because DC is just trying to make money (money and masculinity being the sacred cows of the conservative).

But sometimes I suspect that the truth is that the main honchos at DC (Jim Lee, Dan Didio, Bob Harras, Geoff Johns) are just replicating what was the status quo when they were young (the 1990s). Let’s see. Flashy and exploitative artwork? Check. Hyper-violence and shock value? Check. Endless events and crossovers? Check. Chronology that is at once complex and contradictory with many reboots? Check. Younger and kewler characters? Check.

So T. is right. They may be doing this not because they’re sexist pigs. Sexism is just a part and parcel of the whole 1990s aesthetics they’re going for.

Some of you misunderstand the article and its objections. (@Chap, @Rob, @Andrew Cllins, @Brian from Canada). Kelly finds absolutely nothing wrong with these covers. I repeat, THERE IS NO OBJECTION TO THESE COVERS.

The objection is to the lack of other covers that reach out to a different demographic. If this promo was followed up by Hunk of the Month, Kelly would probably not have written this column. Indeed, I expect that if DC does do a follow up, Kelly will gracefully retract her objections (at least insofar as they pertain to the homogeneity of this cover event).

Furthermore, if these covers had come from a company that was doing a good job producing a produce for women, there would be no objection. But the reality is that DC has been doing a terrible job, and everyone had been talking about it for a couple of years now.

There’s nothing wrong with a Bombshell promo in theory, or in practice. But this was poorly timed, poorly conceived, and poorly executed in the context of the general consensus about DC’s efforts vis-a-vis women.


May 27, 2014 at 8:37 am

I just wanted to mention the artist of a lot of these covers is a great person named Ant Lucia. I first met him at Planet Comicon in Kansas City three years ago and most of his prints fall along the bombshell theme. He has posters with Princess Leia recruiting soldiers for the rebellion or the type of art that might have appeared on a WWII bomber (perhaps why the name bombshell is used) but with comic characters.

Ant is a hard working artist and was contracted by DC to do this work which is what he does. What happens inside the book or with other policies are certainly not his fault. Kelly in no way said anything negative about him and I don’t want to imply that she did. As I read it, her comments are more about this whole thing being indicative of a general trend at DC that has driven her and other female readers away. I also have to admit that as much as I might like Ant’s ability and style, that isn’t the type of art that I would choose to display in my collection.

Thanks for letting me put in a word for the little guy here.

Kelly, I’d just like to throw my hat into the ring with regards to your comments re: DC’s approach to female characters, vs Marvel’s. I don’t read DC, but from what I’ve seen/heard, there is a troubling trend in their costumes, personalities, and ongoing depictions. For example, Starfire, Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Wonder Girl and others have been shown in costumes and situations that would make Rob Liefield blush. I know that a few of their characters have been more progressive (Batwoman, for example), but it doesn’t excuse how these other characters have been handled.

On the other hand, I’ve been a (near) lifetime Marvel reader, and I’m proud of the way they have updated several of their characters. Captain Marvel and Gamora, for example, now wear costumes that actually make sense for what they do. Marvel can, and I’m sure will, do even better. But when it comes to paying respect to their female readers, DC has dropped the ball. Make mine Marvel.

The core issue, that gets always ignored, is that a relevant part of readers of American superhero comics are not genuinely interested in the art of sequential storytelling, or at least they’re not interested in it as much as they’re interested in corporate-owned IP assets.

Comics are for everybody, there are comics that target your particular demography with a particular taste (Kelly is well aware of that if you look at the last paragraph), but that doesn’t seem to matter. She isn’t in for a good comic as much as she’s in for Wonder Woman, Starfire, Batgirl…

This whole article and many others boil down to DC doing it wrong if they decide to not pander to specific needs of a group of people that feels privileged to Wonder Woman and Batgirl being created “for them”, because…what? You grew up with it and now you feel huge nostalgia?

No @ Nu-D, I GET THAT; I do not misunderstand the article or its objections The author falsely presumes that images of sexy women appeals only to STRAIGHT WHITE MALES.

Y’know, FULL STOP.


I must have misunderstood you when you wrote:

‘The “offensive” covers are actually pretty tame. That cover featuring Dazzler is more provocative that a lot of the “offensive” covers.’

As far as the author’s assumption that sexy women only appeal to straight white men, I think that Kelly is accurately identifying DC’s marketing strategy. I really doubt anyone in DC’s editorial thought, “hey, a bunch of cheesecake covers will really draw in the lesbian readers!” It’s not that these covers only appeal to straight white men, it’s that DC continues to employ marketing strategies that are targeted at straight white men. The fact that some other readers will be attracted is incidental to DC’s strategies.

I’m sort of torn here. I see nothing wrong with the covers and some are rather well done. I would have been a bit taken back had DC actually done an equal amount of Men Bombshells because that just didn’t exist really in the day.
Though DC should have done something. Bruce Wayne lounging by the pool and looking every bit the shallow playboy would have been good. Clark Kent ripping off his jacket/shirt and revealing his Superman outfit underneath could have been done and it would have worked because he did that very thing decades and decades ago. Heck, they could have even done their own version of a classic Tiger Beat cover for the boys of Teen Titans.
So I do agree with Kelly that they should have done something, though I’m not as offended by this latest “duh” moment from DC as other times.

And forgive me if I missed it but didn’t DC put out a series of collectible statues not too long ago on the subject of Bombshells? Depending on the sales of those collectibles, would it be fair to say that these covers could just be their way of continuing something that sold very well?

@ T.

I was actually reading an article recently about the rising trend of rape threats when trolling women. It’s really like a “thing” now. People are just going over the old passive aggressive misogyny straight to nuclear misogyny. I find a lot of the same stuff is currently happening with race too. It’s gotten bad to the point that I just ordered a book from Kindle called Angry White Men by Michael Kimmel to try to wrap my head around it. The latest incident with the USCB shooter really shows this internet stuff isn’t always harmless.

The UCSB shooter is horrifying on a lot of levels, but probably the worst is how fully he embraced the logic of terrorism. You always suspected that these guys were domestic terrorists, but there was never really a manifesto before. There is rather plainly a type of young, white male that feels they have been deprived of … something … and are willing to commit suicide terrorism as a result.

Young white women are better educated and, therefore, better paid than young white men at this point. The income gap occurs at maternity when women typically take a hiatus from work and never see their earnings catch up to their male peers. Young men are, therefore, less economically advantaged than they were fifty years ago. Young men can either complain about it, or better themselves through educational attainment. Individual outcomes are largely within the control of individuals, even if the collective position of white men is declining relative white women. Old school virtues, like “being a gentleman”, aren’t really worth much in a dating marketplace where men and women have the freedom to look for roughly the same things (e.g, fun, physical attractiveness, whatever in the Hell makes you happy).

So … Terrorism. If the objective is removing freedom, then terrorism is really popular way to do it.

In that sense, race is a pretty good analogy. Former slave-holders were pretty unhappy about the outcome of the Civil War once upon a time. They wanted to remove freedoms from their former slaves and they chose terrorism as well. It was sadly pretty effective for a long, long time. Oddly enough, they thought of themselves as “Gentlemen” too.

The seeming explosion of racism is a whole other kettle of fish.

I think you nailed right on the head, DC is going for pure T and A. It’s cheap.

In the comments section, you cut the Dictionary.com definition short to support your claim, which is kind of a bad move to make:

? Use Bombshell in a sentence
[bom-shel] Show IPA
a bomb.
something or someone having a sudden and sensational effect: The news of his resignation was a bombshell.
1700–10; 1925–30 for def 2; bomb + shell

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source
Link To bombshell
World English Dictionary
bombshell (?b?m???l)

— n
1. (esp formerly) a bomb or artillery shell
2. a shocking or unwelcome surprise: the news of his death was a bombshell
3. informal an attractive girl or woman (esp in the phrase blonde bombshell )

That said, I agree with everything else you’ve written. I just wish you’d change the opening so that it didn’t distract from the rest (I would imagine a lot of people read it and our curious as to why you thought any men would be on the covers).

Jonah Weiland

May 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

A note to everyone posting in here: If you post attacks against Kelly or any writer, you’ll find your IP banned. If you’re also a member of the new CBR Community, you’ll be banned.

In the coming months we’ll finally be able to add a new commenting system that will help us control discussion better on this blog. In the mean time — act respectfully at all times. Personal attacks are not permitted. Talk as if you’re talking to your closest friends. Your anonymity doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole.

I can see why people would be annoyed with the fact that these covers are only of women. I would say instead of having sexy covers for men they should have had those men be in the 1950s style for them. Then they could have made the whole month into a time piece like I imagine they meant to do. Like Batman working on his Batmobile. Aquaman in a speedo and shades on the beach. Nightwing slicking back his hair. Those kinds if things. So it could match the media of that time.

Just another fail on DC’s part. Might appeal to your 50 years and older reader for nostalgia’s sake, but no tween and older is going to want to read something that looks on the outside like some their grandfather would have read. Plus, since the whole push of new 52 was to modernize and update your heroes, doing a month of bombshell messages sends mixed messages.

Oh sure, you’ll get a bump in sales from the speculator crowd, but I seriously doubt you’ll add any new longtime readers, in fact I’ll bet the opposite proves true.

I don’t get it. I just don’t get why those covers are a problem, at least in your eyes. Actually, I do know. But I don’t got time.

The reality is that DC is an adult comic book publisher. They’ve worked with Robot Chicken, have appeared on the Big Bang Theory(Sheldon is a Flash fan), and in case you missed it, had some of their characters showcase a Nascar event. DC is a big boys comic book publisher*. That’s why I read them.

That’s not to say that Marvel doesn’t have its fair share of good, cohesive books. They got good ones. But not as good as DC. Marvel is a multicultural brand. They are owned by Disney. That makes sense. Lucky for them, their movies have showcase that diversity, but it works for them. DC has yet to fail to bring their magic on the big screen. But in comic books? They are doing a fine job.

Obviously I see no problem with the pin-ups. And no. Not everybody who likes them is a “straight white male.” I’m Hispanic. And I like them. DC does not have a gender problem. They have the best selling woman comic in comic books: Harley Quinn. So, yeah,

And the funny thing? I never planned to get them. Didn’t really care actually. But after reading your article, I may get them now. So thanks, Kelly. Never knew “white” people can be so helpful.

*I’ve talked in great detail before about the psychology of both DC and Marvel, and how their identities shape their fans outcomes.

As far as I am concerned, it’s not feminists or women that are “sucking the fun” out of comics, it’s knowing that something as simple as criticizing a cover may elict rape threats.

Just think about that for a while.

What Dean said is right on the money.

There are people who are not happy about losing one inch of privilege, even if the privilege is as immaterial as having a genre of fiction geared exclusively to them.

I don’t recall the word “evil” being in Kelly’s column at all.

And as for the “this is how the system works” argument (which is what all the target demographic, this is what sells grousing comes to), my answer to that is always “Then the system really sucks.”

“So, while the numbers are technically there, they’re not delivering in the actual content/quality department.”

While I’m not generally inclined to defend DC, I think the above quote represents a deeply flawed view. There is (or should be) a world of difference between changes that you may not line up with your personal tastes and asserting something lacks “quality.”

Quality is the measure of how an artist executes their choices not whether or not their choices line up with your personal preferences. I do think some of DC’s female-led books are of low quality (“Catwoman” being an example). But books like “Wonder Woman” and “Batgirl” are well-written books – even if they don’t contain your personal “acceptable” version of the characters.

I really dislike this notion of trashing work because it doesn’t line up with a fan’s personal preferences (again, preference and quality are entirely different concepts). That’s especially true given how deeply conservative (note the small “c”) nature of comic fans who always prefer yesterday to tomorrow. You have to wonder (no pun intended) about a mindset where you expect every other fan out there to embrace change, be open to new ideas, accept new characters of color, but, at the same time, decide that legitimate artistic decisions are of inferior quality because they aren’t the choices you’d have made. One would think in a genre that has embraced both Adam West and Frank Miller’s Batmen – and is better for having both – that we’d be a little more forgiving of experimentation and interpretation.

Hi Kelly–I consider myself a pinup artist but don’t really like drawing the guys… I talked to Doug Sneyd about his career at one time–and he said (which I agree with) “I just want to draw pretty girls.” He thought it was absurd that people wanted him to draw The Hulk or Joker. I gotta kinda agree. (not 100% but I see his point) I DO however see your point as well and DC could have possibly thrown in a guy or two onto those covers or onto their own cover–I know ANT LUCIA has prints that feature males on the covers as well–ie. his Spidey/Mary Jane, His Dracula piece, His Superman/Lois Lane—but he definitely prefers to draw pinup girls. I personally have NEVER done it to offend–it’s just my preference. All the best -Nathan

While the whole “bombshell covers” thing is “advanced bonehead” –

– I don’t know that a “bombshell” Grifter cover is going to make it any less stupid.

– It is almost dead last on the list of thing DC is getting completely wrong nowadays.

You know what I would like to see Kelly write an article about? Ways DC can recruit female authors and artists in a practical way. Complaining about “bombshell” covers seems to me to be ignoring the history of the art that was used in the war effort. There is even a wikipedia article on the term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombshell_(sex_symbol) – DC recognizes that their females are also “popular female sex icons.” Why not have these covers and more like them? A better question would be: what kind of cover would attract more female readers? The average cover today isn’t doing the job. “Stunts” like this sell so how can DC capitalize on other “gimmicks” that would attract feminists? I seriously have no clue. I would like to hear Kelly’s opinions on the matter.

I agree with you on this one, Kelly. The word ‘bombshell’ is traditionally used to refer to women, so DC honestly should have just made the whole “event” a differently-named thing with the same theme. A “classic” theme would have let them do the bombshell / pin-up type covers that they wanted to do as well as maybe feature the male characters in period clothing – ideally even a mix of both.

I’ve been unimpressed with DC’s output for some time, so for me, this move is a symptom of a wider editorial malaise. Individual artists’ execution aside, the concept is hackneyed, stale and uninspired.

I suspect however, they will sell like hot-cakes!

@RobT: “what kind of cover would attract more female readers? The average cover today isn’t doing the job….how can DC capitalize on other “gimmicks” that would attract feminists? I seriously have no clue. I would like to hear Kelly’s opinions on the matter.”

Read the column. She wants covers with sexy men; Bruce Wayne or Dock Grayson, for starters. She want’s “DC’s great female characters” not to be sidelined, dumbed down, or sexed up, and she lists examples. She wants better treatment of female comic creators, a la the Batwoman controversy. Pretty clear, I’d say.

“3. informal an attractive girl or woman (esp in the phrase blonde bombshell )

That said, I agree with everything else you’ve written. I just wish you’d change the opening so that it didn’t distract from the rest (I would imagine a lot of people read it and our curious as to why you thought any men would be on the covers).”

Curious, befuddled, bewildered, yes. The attempted unilateral redefinition of the term smacks of nothing so much as an attempt to deny a simple error was made in interpreting a label, and that the defence of this peripheral error has included the most vehement and abusive of all the rebuttals made to reader criticisms, including those aimed at more central and significant points, only reinforces this impression.

Yes, there are no “bombshell police”; DC was perfectly free to redefine bombshells as men, but what motive have they to do so? What reason was there to expect that they would?

Is it possible, given the actual meaning of the term, that there was no rational basis for expecting a mainstream commercial publisher to suddenly reinterpret “Bombshells” as a unisex term, and that doing so was (whisper) a mistake?

Stoic philosophy suggests that anger results from a collision between unreasonable expectations and the external universe. “You knew”, says the philosopher, “that there were stupid people in the world. Then why be surprised and upset when you encounter some of them? Did you think you could move about the world your whole life and never do so?”


May 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm


I go away for a day everyone on both sides is still spewing crap. People, seriously? These covers are not worth your time. These covers are not disturbing nor are they innocent either. They are perfectly well-drawn covers of the female characters done in 40’s style look to make them sexy. They are simply trying to cash in on the craze of the popular selling Bombshell statues with no ill intent about them.

Both sides are here are not presenting a good case. One side calling the other femnazis and idiots and the other calling them losers who only care about boobs and think that these covers are trash. None of you are right nor are you making a good argument. You are all wearing your biases on your sleeves and taking away from the few comments here with real thought and reasonable opinions on the subject in question. Get over it and move on. You are not winning this argument against other side and are only making your side look bad.

Cover’s sell comics. At the very least they are the start of the comic buying experience. Even today I’ll buy a comic I don’t like just for the comic art. What happens inside the comic is just as important though and I left marvel in part because of the way they treated their female characters. Carol Danver’s fascist turn makes me wish that as long as she’s out in space that she runs into the Ravenous BugBlater Beast of Trall and never comes back, Jenifer Walters treatment by Tony Stark ranks up there as among the worst any female character has ever gotten (close to Catwoman’s treatment by Zatanna), Sue was a doormat to Reed during CW and WWH, what Bendis did to Tigra and the Scarlet Witch will never be forgotten. During all of this marvel had dreadful covers. DC covers are themed so I don’t mind the 50’s style, it would be nice to see some male characters as well, but in truth cover’s have not been very good for a long time now. Best cover I saw last week was the tribute cover on Knights of the Dinner Table.

Back in the 90s, Marvel had a few “Swimsuit Edition” specials, featuring equal opportunity Fanservice, with both female and male characters posing in very sexy swimwear.

Lemme stress that point: BOTH male and females were posing in sexy swimwear.

Equality for all.

These are the sort of covers that got me interested and kept me interested in comics. Do we see anything like them these days?



Or any of these Tomb of Dracula covers?


The printing technology has improved, the color ranges, but not always the art.

It’s true: as ridiculous as they were, the Marvel Swimsuit Specials did have equal opportunity beefcake and cheesecake. (Along with one of a completely naked Ghost Rider – bonecake?)

I regard the covers as a strange non-sequitor… maybe if DC was having a WWII time travel event… and yeah, why not show Hal Jordan on a mock up war bond cover? The Kate Kane cover particularly weirds me out given that she’s definitely not into posing for men.

I figure DC’s intentions were obliviously pecuniary (to market its bizarre statue line).

The bombshell covers are not nessecarily the problem. It is part of a bigger trend to undress the DC women. Even harley quinn, who was very popular as she was (fully dressed) had to be stripped. She now looks like a prostitute. Why?! I mean theres a difference between looking sexy the normal way and looking like something you’d find behind a window in amsterdams wallen.

There actually are reasons to make covers with sexy men, some men in comics are very popular with women. Marvel discovered they can attract a female audience, and consequently featured a fan service naked Loki in the shower in his first comic book. Now comic books get a wider attention via the movies, more and more women discover comics. I am not sure what to think of nowadays trend to make everyone and everything sexier and more naked, its not just comic books that have gone that way, its the same on the TV. Yes some half naked men are very sexy, but id like comic books to focus on good stories, not nudity. If I want to see sexy images of comic men, theres the internet, and theres nothing wrong with that. However I am not reading comic books to be ‘sexed up’ and I think all the sexyness and nudity everywhere is too much.

@ Greg Burgas theres plenty of women who read comics.

@veronica – LOL BRAVA – almost as good a Burgas’ parody! Brilliant~

Hey, DC is actually doing a semi-naked selfie variant for Grayson! http://bit.ly/1pgRTgC

I dunno…I actually find these covers to be LESS overtly sexual than your standard comic book cover.

Toboe, that link leads to an article about Future’s End #3 and Mr. Terrific.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm

As a couple of people pointed out, this variant theme is tied in to DC’s Bombshell statue line.

Which brings up the questions:

Who came up with that statue line? And who thought reducing DC’s female characters to sex objects was ok? (And I guess the answer is since that bishoujo (or however it’s spelled) line did well, hey, let’s sexy ‘em all up!)

I don’t see the problem so much that they’re doing this but that it makes them appear to be COMPLETELY tone deaf as to what women are saying that they want and don’t want in comics (don’t want — sexual objectification).

And of course when you run off all the women who want more than that, you might stop hearing objections, but you’ve also lost a HUGE market. DUMB!

Also, from what I’ve read, the Worlds’ Finest book is changing from a Huntress/Power Girl book to a Superman/Batman Earth 2 team up book. So score one for DC! (/sarcasm)

The one thing I’m puzzled about — what is the one DC book that Kelly IS getting still? Must be Batman, right? (just came to me!)

@Michael P Thanks for the heads up! I took the wrong link from Phil Jimenez tweeter, this should be it… Looks pretty cool, wonder if the rest will be like this. https://twitter.com/philjimeneznyc/status/471371174233268224

This is the first time I’ve seen the Batwoman cover. Lesbian was always used to try and insult or mock softball players, especially the bigger girls.

Do you think The DC guys knew about that stereotype, or were they trying to own it. Butting her in a baseball\softball cover seems as uncomfortable as a white guy painting a black man in a watermelon patch.


May 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm

In reply to Travis Pelkie

To be honest, outside of this article, I have yet to see complaint about these statues or covers(even Bleeding Cool was liking this and they hate DC).

Also, the Worlds’ Finest book change is happening because of the writer and not DC.

In reply to Toboe

Well hello Grayson!


May 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

In reply to Lee

“This is the first time I’ve seen the Batwoman cover. Lesbian was always used to try and insult or mock softball players, especially the bigger girls.

Do you think The DC guys knew about that stereotype, or were they trying to own it. Butting her in a baseball\softball cover seems as uncomfortable as a white guy painting a black man in a watermelon patch.”

…since when the hell was that a stereotype? I highly doubt DC knew this was a stereotype (are you sure that’s even real), because it’s honestly just a pun picture. “Bat” Woman. Bat for baseball bat. Nothing more and nothing else. You are the only person to point this out and the only who sees the stereotype sir.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Well, reading between the lines on the Worlds Finest thing (according to the CBR article about Levitz), he’s saying that DC took Huntress and Power Girl away for the Earth 2 war weekly, so in order to have the title continue, he had to switch to “flashback” Batman and Superman stories. So I guess Power Girl and Huntress will be main players in this other DC weekly, but they still aren’t headlining their own book as they have been. Which was more my point.

While I would say that the Bat-Woman pun is more likely the reason for that Batwoman cover (and an homage to A League of Their Own, I would hope), to deny that women playing sports get labeled “lesbians” seems to be willfully blind to reality. It’s been used more with, say, golf or field hockey, but it’s certainly been out there. I wouldn’t go quite so far as Lee as to calling it THAT uncomfortable, but I could see that some might take offense.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I should say, I wouldn’t go as far as Lee in calling the Batwoman cover THAT uncomfortable. The labeling of sports playing women as lesbians is uncomfortable, to say the least. Just to try to clarify my last paragraph there.


May 27, 2014 at 6:23 pm

In reply to Travis

No seriously. I have never heard of the lesbian sports thing before in my entire life. This is honestly the first time hearing about it and sounds it incredibly stupid.

I can’t argue with your points, but trying to prop up Marvel at the same time? Seriously? Every month is 5000 variant covers month with Marvel. How many covers did they need to create to get Amazing Spider-Man #1 to 500,000?

Personally I really love Wonder Woman in the new 52, in her own book, in the Superman / Wonder Woman book, and in the JL. And I think she should have pants. I also like Ms Marvel. I also dislike Batwoman and Captain Marvel.

These covers are an art style. It started with a few statues. (and statues of male heroes that aren’t Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Hulk or Captain America don’t sell as well as female heroes) Could DC have done some male bombshells? Sure. But who is buying variant covers? I’ll bet it isn’t many women. I’d bet it’s one percent of women who buy superhero comics. Which is already a pitifully low percent considering that the top selling book barely cracks 100,000 copies.

I applaud your using your column and voice for advocacy of women. I just wish you’d be able to leave the Marvel vs DC trope behind. It’s tired and silly.

World’s Finest barely sells 20,000 units. That’s not headlining a book. I’d wager this column gets more than 20,000 reads.

If you want well written comics with strong women then buy them. Otherwise DC (and Marvel) are going to look at the numbers and make more Batman and Avengers books.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 6:33 pm

OK, well, luckily, you were raised in a progressive and non-judgmental environment. And/or you’re really young ;)

And I’m not trying to be a jerk or anything, I’m just saying that Lee’s not making it up about the “women who play sports are lesbians” stereotype. It is incredibly stupid, yes. (Although there have been many big name female sports stars who are lesbians, which probably tends to feed the stereotype — it’s still a wrongheaded stereotype)

If you want an all hunks covers please lobby for it but you might have to prove it is a wise business decision in that show them proof all these ladies who buy comics will buy them. You keep saying comics is for everyone? That’s like saying movies are for everyone. What a generalized statement. Sure everyone can buy what they want but they all like different kinds of comics and not everyone has to like the same things.I know many female fans who love these covers and will buy them and they are not that insecure that they must have male hunk covers to be PC.

If the comic cover stinks–just buy the other version.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 7:23 pm

The stars of Worlds’ Finest are/were Power Girl and Huntress. They “headline” the book as the stars. Sales are irrelevant to that description.

It is not a smart business decision to do something that chases off a large portion of your potential audience, or shows a continual tone deafness to the issues that are raised by people who WANT TO BUY YOUR PRODUCT, BUT NOT WHEN IT SHOWS THAT THE COMPANY DOESN’T CARE ABOUT CONCERNS OVER HOW CERTAIN PEOPLE AND GROUPS ARE DEPICTED.

I have been a total DC nerd over the years, but ever since the nu52, there have been SOOOOOOO many boneheaded decisions about the direction of the comics and the marketing of the line that I believe I’m at less than Kelly, with NO nu52 books on my pull list (I do get Batman ’66). I don’t see it changing any time soon.

And mind you, I like these covers. I’d probably buy a one shot with just the covers in it. I like the pinup/bombshell/burlyQ look, but I’m not blind to the fact that as it is presented by DC with their variants here, it shows a lack of concern for the issues raised by female bloggers about superhero comics. And that’s a dumb move on DC’s part.

The author does herself an enormous disservice with the flippant, aggressive tone she takes with anyone who disagrees with her. You want a dialogue, right? That is the point of this blog? Then actually listen to people’s points of view. You can disagree with them, but do so respectfully. Don’t condescend. Or else do not expect your readers to respect you or your point of view. (And yes, I would — and HAVE — made this point to male bloggers, too. It’s about professionalism more than anything else, and that should not be influenced by the gender of the author.)

I’m going to disagree with the author’s repeated statement that the term “bombshell” is not gendered. In this particular context it most certainly is. Yes, the word “bombshell” can relate to a massive bit of information being revealed — but that is not the context of these covers. They are specifically referencing the 1950’s pin-up style, which most certainly was specific to depicting women.

Now, there ARE male analogues to that style. Beefcake, for instance, comes immediately to mind. And had DC titled this cover series “Bombshells & Beefcakes,” then I would expect to find Batman, Superman, etc. in come-hither stances. But that’s not the case. And truly, I think your argument that a male figure could be referred to as a “bombshell” — I don’t buy it. I can’t think of any case in pop culture where that term has been applied to a male, and I’m not talking just about from the 1950’s. I mean since. And the reverse is also true. A “hunk” could refer to as a lump of flesh. But it is specifically used to refer to men. Have you ever heard of a woman referred to as a “hunk”?

So complaining that there aren’t any male characters included in a cover series titled “Bombshells” seems a pretty specious argument to me. Complaining that there’s a cover series featuring flirty images of all women, and no men — OK. Now we’re getting somewhere. Unfortunately, that’s going to come down to a financial decision more than anything. As a gay male comic reader, I would greedily snap up beefcake covers featuring prominent male characters posing suggestively. But the potential buying pool for those covers would be very, very limited compared to the rest of the comic-buying public. That’s simply the reality of the matter.

Does that make these covers sexist or inappropriate? I find that hard to argue. They are images of women in flirty poses, but there’s no nudity, nothing vulgar. They’re tasteful. In fact, they are beautiful. They just cater to one specific gender — which happens to be the dominant gender — by a huge margin — that buys comics. Calling for gender parity on this is a nonstarter, because there ISN’T gender parity in this hobby.

Rather than let that frustrate you, I recommend that you seek out and support the artists that do that kind of work. I have been commissioning sketches from a variety of artists — all gay male artists, actually — of my favorite male characters in suggestive (but again, tasteful) poses. And if you’ve ever looked at the work of Joe Phillips, he kind of specializes in that (I have prints of the male X-Men and male Avengers in swimwear, and they are great). There are options out there.

I know that doesn’t answer your larger point — this cover series is objectifying one gender but not the other. But the thing is, if there was a market for mass-produced covers with salacious images of men on them, I strongly suspect comic companies would be going after it. As it stands, that’s a niche interest in comics. The only way that’s going to change is if more women and gay men read comics.

Does anyone look at how women are portrayed on covers on a monthly basis. Kelly’s comparison here is apples with melons (ordinary covers with ‘sexy’ covers) but comparing the standard covers with each other month upon month, across all major comics companies for a year, would make an interesting study.

Equally, the bombshell variants vs DC’s ordinary covers merits a post on its own.

@Jeff, @Eric: Arguing that the name of the promo — “Bombshell variant” — somehow justifies DCs decision to do a promo that ignores the desires of their female fanbase misses the point. (Unfortunately, Kelly distracted from the point with the attempt to redefine “bombshell” in her comment below the blog).

The point is that DC ignored the female fans, again, when they designed this promo. They could have published every one of these covers, along with covers that would appeal to their large and vocal female fanbase, and called it “beefcake/cheesecake” or “40’s Retro” or whatever. Quibbling over whether “Bombshell” can include men is irrelevant.

Eric’s response, just above, succinctly and politely makes many excellent points (not least about respectful responses).

The one I’ve been trying to make all along he summed up very nicely as “So complaining that there aren’t any male characters included in a cover series titled “Bombshells” seems a pretty specious argument to me”.

And he doesn’t just assert this; rather, it is a conclusion led up to, and supported by the preceding paragraphs.

Give Eric a blog here!

I stopped reading DC Comics ages ago. I rarely do anymore and I grew up loving DC. They have some of the most recognizable characters but the company has made it very clear they are willing to continue non-inclusive, racist, and sexist ideologies and I can’t back those kinds of books anymore. Sorry I’ve got tastes.

Comics aren’t literature, but at the very least they should have good stories.

Apropos of nothing, you know what I’d like to see? Of course you don’t, so I’ll just tell you. I’d like to see a month of Women’s History covers dedicated to great—not sexualized—female achievements in medicine, science, literature, politics and so forth. Maybe have Cass Cain, Stephanie Brown and Barbara Gordon done up as the Brontë Sisters. Wonder Woman as Susan B. Anthony. Amanda Waller as Madeleine Albright. Harley Quinn as Harriet Hubbard Ayer. Lois Lane doing a turn as Christiane Amanpour. Helena Bertinelli as Ada Lovelace. (Okay. Yes. Berti is a terrible choice for Lovelace, but I completely spent my knowledge of female DC computer experts with Barbara.)

Point is I’d almost gladly trade a month of Bombshells for a month of Historic Achievements, if only for the possibility someone might get curious, do the Googling and maybe learn something new.

As a Professional Photographer, I have noticed in the past 3-4 years Boudoir Photographer has become an explosive and interesting genre. What you show me of the Joker’s Daughter is reminiscent of the girls painted on the side of US Bombers in WW II

I think this is pretty cool.

Chris, I don’t think there is anyone besides you that would want to see Madeleine Albright on a comic book cover.


after i read the article i really felt there was a stretch to make the point for the outrage comparing standard covers to alternate covers. i wont try and argue what comes to mind if someone says bombshell or pinup. dc did exactly what they intended to with these covers, getting people to talk about their titles.

i think the best way dc could have avoided any controversy, if they wanted to, would have been to label these variants as rockabilly/50’s

Apropos of nothing, you know what I’d like to see? Of course you don’t, so I’ll just tell you. I’d like to see a month of Women’s History covers dedicated to great—not sexualized—female achievements in medicine, science, literature, politics and so forth. Maybe have Cass Cain, Stephanie Brown and Barbara Gordon done up as the Brontë Sisters. Wonder Woman as Susan B. Anthony. Amanda Waller as Madeleine Albright. Harley Quinn as Harriet Hubbard Ayer. Lois Lane doing a turn as Christiane Amanpour. Helena Bertinelli as Ada Lovelace. (Okay. Yes. Berti is a terrible choice for Lovelace, but I completely spent my knowledge of female DC computer experts with Barbara.)

Point is I’d almost gladly trade a month of Bombshells for a month of Historic Achievements, if only for the possibility someone might get curious, do the Googling and maybe learn something new.

Interestingly enough, that’s exactly what they did for a while in the early days of Wonder Woman – editor Alice Marble would put together a story about a great woman from history as a back-up story in every issue. It kept going even after she left the book (or perhaps she just had a large backstock of stories produced).

The question has been raised – what will get females to buy more comics? Story, plain and simple. AND not making it a (insert whatever word here that suits)-only clubhouse where another group doesn’t feel welcome. There needs to be a welcoming community where people can interact about something they love, regardless of whatever cred you think you have because you own the most issues of anyone else on your street. Marvel has that in different places. Maybe DC needs to take a harder look at their community efforts.

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2014 at 9:33 pm

^Sounds like a good Line theme….

Also, it’s totally ok to just pursue one particular demographic to the exclusion of all others, because that’s where the money is, and you totally should just ignore any idea that NOT pandering to the lowest common denominator and listening to some of the ideas that certain people KEEP BRINGING UP might work to bring in more demographics and therefore MORE MONEY, because THIS IS THE WAY IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN DONE, can’t fight City Hall, so why bother and don’t take my spank covers away from me you icky girls.

I feel unclean.

I don’t to really need to add my opinion, but I do think it’s unfair to make a comparison of DC’s VARIANT covers to Marvel’s REGULAR covers. The article should have shown DC vs Marvel variants featuring women and DC vs Marvel regular covers featuring women.

cheese and crack, is it over yet. nice job as usual Kelly, i learned alot, would ve said so earlier but my oh my two hundred conments re alot to slog through i appreciate what you do and why you do it. please keep it up, and thank you.

I can see your argument over maybe professional sports, but DC has Vertigo; which through the years has consistently given voice to writers and artists and storytelling of a more profound and provocative nature. It breaks my heart to see a constant fixture upon ailment in comics rather than a praise for whats being done by very talented people. You have a polarizing article here, but I’d rather hear your thoughts on “Daytripper”, which my wife picked out at the comic shop. She likes the Gail Simone Red Sonja too. More power to you! I think it would be fun to see the DC guys in bombshell poses. We kind of got that already with the Lobo redesign.

Sorry, had to end with a little joke.

No I don’t because it comes off as hypocritical at best. How can you justify that DC does nothing prominent or very little with their women anymore since new 52 (which I do agree with), then get upset at their “sexy” covers. First off, “sexy” is an adjective. That means its “subjective”. Not everyone is going to feel the same way about an image that others do. I hate (let me emphasize… HATE) the new Harley Quinn costume. She looks slutty… not sexy. Wonder Woman has always worn a sexy outfit so why does this cover, where her cleavage is actually covered for once, make any difference? Batwoman is a lesbian… so is this woman implying that only straight white males can appreciate her book? Nonsense. But as for her cover, I don’t see the sex. There’s no visible butt shot or curves. How is it “sexy”? I can go on forever with every cover but I won’t. As for men being featured as sexy and fun, that’s just as ridiculous. I was offended every time I seen a promo with Arrow because he had no damn clothes on… wtf? Who is that catering to? My wife wouldn’t want to see me in a or any other man in a cleaning lady outfit. How is that sexy?

Let me add that you try to use Marvel as a template for female characters that NOT portrayed as sexy, but realistic. I guess you weren’t around when Marvel was making swimsuit issues, huh?

Great article as usual Kelly! I’m curious though how race plays into this cover project. I certainly think this instance can be used as an argument that DC is pandering to straight males, but I fail to see how “white” gets thrown in there as a descriptor in this case. Is it that lack of many women of color on these covers?


May 28, 2014 at 2:22 am

This is a really solid analysis of this issue, but I think it can get very easy in the comments to get bogged down rhetorically in the dissection of the images, and overlook the larger point, which is the stories between the covers.

If DC was producing solid female stories and indulging in cheesecake as well, I don’t think people would be as upset about the cheesecake. As many have pointed out, sexiness is always a part of comics, and visually, sexiness will be different for men and women. Male visual sexuality is built around shoulder waist ratios and hard lines, where as female visual sexuality is built around rounded lines and breast hip and waist ratios. The question becomes are the characters depicted in active leading ways in both art and story, and if not why?

I can’t say that I read any female line by DC, and I was particularly bothered by the change in the Amanda Waller character (can’t we just have one fat person in DC)? But I also don’t see a core group of fans telling me I should be. That is the thing, even when female characters like Ms. Marvel and She Hulk were played for cheesecake, they still had female and male fans who looked past that to get to the really solid stories, and advocated for them. As Marvel has decided that some characters have their cheesecake factor, and some do not (The new She Hulk has yet to have a real cheesecake shot and this in a book where the character’s clothes are often in tatters, meanwhile Black Cat is as sexy as ever), and I think that is where the problems lay with DC. It isn’t that they have chosen to have sexy characters, its that they don’t seem particularly interested in any other form of visual storytelling when it comes to female characters.

Maybe I’m wrong about DC, and I’m just falling to the hype of DC’s women problem, but then again, I am also not seeing that core group of fans standing up for the female characters and their books the way we see with She Hulk or Captain Marvel. If there are female readers of DC who want to defend the stories beyond the visuals that DC is choosing I think that is what DC needs to foster. And if they aren’t there, then the problem isn’t the art, it’s the story behind the art. And of course if you want to argue that the stories are there, just not being read, well then the art isn’t necessarily helping in getting people in to read the books, either.

It’s not that

Before I start, I am a female pinup artist. Whilst I agree that female characters are largely sidelined or reduced to eye candy in both Marvel and DC (less so in Marvel admittedly) I feel you are doing the artwork on the Bombshell covers a diservice. They’ve called them just that because they’re emulating art from the war era where women played a secondary role in the war effort. They weren’t strong independant figures but they did make bombs and feed families and give the men something to want to come home to. That in it itself is pretty empowering. The Wonder Woman cover is emulating one of the most famous pieces of war propoganda ever produced and it was aimed at women, telling them they could make a stand against the enemy and be a part of something themselves rather then just be the little woman waiting at home. This was the period where women were starting to be given permission to be strong, influential and yes sexy. Without those women and the work they did there would be no foundation for the likes of Catwoman or Harley or real life female heroes. These covers seem to be a nod to that fact and pretty beautiful too.

Andrew Breneman

May 28, 2014 at 5:19 am

Why would a bombshell cover feature men? That would render the idea of the covers (emulating WW2 era promotional material) totally useless. Popping a male character into one of these covers would simply look ridiculous.

Also, I am pretty certain that at least one of those covers is a homage to the most iconic image EVER used to show equality.

@melanie you make a good pitch for the Wonder Woman as tribute to the WWII bombshell covers, I agree. But tell me how is Catwoman a “bombshell” cover? Or the Joker’s Daughter? Or the Starfire cover. All of those seem to be channeling sexy vintage carnival covers rather than war propaganda. Rose the Riveter is indeed the basis for Wonder Woman. And Rosie did show women they could “do it” but I see no woman who looks like Rosie The Riveter here. And I don’t recall Rosie The Riveter dressed and posed as the women her are on the covers.

Um, not sure if it has been mentioned in all of the angst and philosophy above, but you all do realize that this gimmick is in response to the sales of the DC Bombshells Statue series, right? I mean, I have read over half of the postings above and did not see one mention of the statues that generated this cover series. The Bombshells statues are beautiful and I, for one, being a WWII historian think they are wonderful reflection on a time in our culture where women and beauty were able to be openly celebrated.

I have to chime in with the very few people who have pointed out these are not based on but are a direct reuse and expansion of the DC Comics Bombshells statue line. This line is done from art by Ant Lucia who is heavily influenced by the pin-up girl look with a rockabilly flair. A good number of the covers are just reproductions of his art for the statues. The rest may become future statues or are just done to match the statue line. The meaning of the word “Bombshell” is not relevant except in the terms of the statue line. This line is very similar to the previous Cover Girls of the DC Universe by Adam Hughes which was also done in a pin-up girl/good girl style but the Bombshells more heavily reference art from the ’40s and ’50s and have a rockabilly flair (tattoos, etc.). If they did variants for the old Cover Girl line no one would have expected a male cover. Ant Lucia does much art in this style. I just saw him two or three weeks ago at a convention and while I was speaking with him two women in Bombshell cosplay (one Wonder Woman and one Harley Quinn) came up to him and stated how much they were looking forward to the variant covers and even more so the prints of these. The statues have been quite successful for DC Collectibles as they are appealing to not only DC fans but also pin-up/good girl/rockabilly art fans.

Since I wasn’t around in the “bombshell” era I decided to over-look the sexy covers; although women of entertainment being portrayed as sex objects in media seems nothing new. The artwork is good tbh and they’re probably only doing it for cash-cow purposes and hopefully this practice won’t carry over into their regular covers (oh wait, Teen Titans 2014 #1).


May 28, 2014 at 6:00 am

@Andrew Breneman actually, they are mimicing a wide range of classic styles from propaganda posters, to pin up art, to pulp fiction covers. There is more than enough history of bear chested men in those fields as well. Also, while they are mimicing an older style they are of modern characters, so the inclusion of modern male characters would have been very logical.

You can easily make a Batman bodice ripper cover, or any other male character. There is also a question of diminunization of the characters in placing them in less than character appropriate positions. Carol Ferris as a stewardess as an example when IIRC she is the CEO of Ferris air.

If DC wanted to make a series of throw back covers, they should do so with an understanding that a broad range of people enjoy their books (assuming they do, or that they want that) and depict their broad character base in these reimagined styles.

Kelly, if DC only has 9 female-led books, you seem to be selling Marvel short when you say that they’re producing half that number. I looked at the most recent solicitations, and Marvel’s putting out She-Hulk, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Elektra, Ms. Marvel, Storm, and X-Men. Inhuman and Avengers Undercover both have female leads too, for whatever that’s worth. Not too shabby at all!

Thank you, Kelly, for writing this. I’m glad to see that the discussion on your article here is much more rational (and supportive) than on CBR’s Facebook page. While I’m sadly not surprised by DC’s pinup cover ploy, I am disappointed and disturbed by the number of visceral and hostile reactions to your entirely understandable criticism of it. (I was similarly shocked when I shared my own critique of the pinup covers in April on a FB Wonder Woman fan page and was basically accused of prudism.)

Focusing more on the definition of “bombshell” than your broader point about DC’s treatment of its female characters, if anything, the underlying tone of sexism (and occasional blatant misogyny*) expressed in some of the FB comments only makes your case for you.

I also find it interesting (but again, not surprising) that several people expressed their inability to “see” your point. Paradigms only maintain their power as long as they remain invisible to the majority of those living inside them. Thanks again for trying to point out the walls to people.

*CBR, to uphold your FB promise, you need to remove Johnathon Derek Singletary’s comment and report it to Facebook.

I thought bombshell was more in reference to the B-52 bombers that had pinups painted on the side of them. Which didn’t have men on them. Granted that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be. Have you written to DC about this or even think of requesting something from Ant Lucia?

Chaim Mattis Keller

May 28, 2014 at 8:03 am

How ironic. After scrapping heroic histories that go back to World War II, they decide that there really is a market for WWII-era nostalgia…as long as it’s women in sexy poses. But no, they’re not pandering to the adolescent male libido. The comics-reading audience, which somehow doesn’t want the JSA and their legacy is just CLAMORING for WWII-era stuff.

Come off it. Instead of using this “artistic style” as a metaphorical fig leaf, just go all Renaissance-style and portray the characters totally nude with REAL fig leaves covering the non-code-approved bits. Hey, it’s all about appreciating art, amiright?

Say what you will about Marvel comics, but at least they’re trying to promote more Women themed comics and writers into their world.

When it comes to DC comics and women writers and women characters, outside the likes of Gail Simone and even Amanda Conner, there have been a lot of setback within their company as some of their writers are handovers from Marvel like Ann Nocenti, while other have rotten luck.

Even Gail Simone wasn’t safe when DC launched the New 52 and it was reported of her writing the newly reborn Batgirl.

But no, they’re not pandering to the adolescent male libido.

In fairness, they’re really pandering to the middle-aged male libido; those are the folks with $50-100 in disposable income to drop on the statues these covers are promoting.

So many of these comments have been about guys coming in to tell women both how women should be depicted and how women should react to those depictions; it’s a lot of “your feelings and appearance are not yours to have and construct, they’re ours to dictate to you.” One wonders what their reaction would be to a month of covers homaging, say, Tom of Finland.

Yes, Wonder Woman comics in the Golden Age indeed had articles about real life female heroes.

It just goes to show that the struggle for equal rights and recognition isn’t only a line, it’s also cyclical. In the 1940s you could have a movie like ON THE TOWN, where one of the three female leads was a tough taxi driver that aggressively goes after her guy, and another of the female leads was a cientist that was smarter than her guy.

And then you had the 1950s, and women had to be “ladies” again.

As some one who loves pin up photography and art; I was disgusted by DC’s variants.

I even tweeted about it a few weeks ago.

While I am hetero normative and like a I sais above, I love pin up work, but the fact that they are focusing on female heroes/villains in cheesecake poses, instead of trying to reach out to female fans or even parents to buy books.

In the 90s I knew many a kid who could not buy comics because their parents deemed them pornographic due to all the cheese cake poses (Marvel Swimsuit, Image); we’ve come slightly advanced to be going back to this. The comic industry should be making covers that promote reading, not pushing potential readers away.

I just don’t like absolute arguments. And this article seems to say to me DC is bad, Marvel is good.

Has DC been stupid, definitely, Where they have screwed up, they have really screwed up (Catwoman, Starfire, Amanda Waller) but where they’ve done well, i would say they have done pretty well. Wonder Woman should be a top ten book right now, as written, and Huntress( in World’s Finest), Batwoman and Batgirl are all well written. Power Girl is starting to finally become a something interesting, and characters like Mera and Stargirl have really come into their own.

To not support these characters, because of bad decisions DC has made will just continue to marginalize them. Let DC know you are angry at the way your favorite characters are being treated poorly, but to boycott the titles that do showcase them positively will make those titles unprofitable, and prone to cancellation to make room for another Justice League or Batman title.

You want to have more comics that feature strong women as well defined characters, then buy books that do that, no matter what’s on the cover. If those covers get the attention of the “straight white male who likes boobs” and gets them to buy the book, and actually read and enjoy those characters, maybe they are worth it, No?

And Marvel certainly not completely innocent, just looking at the alternative cover to Uncanny Avengers #20, out today, says that.

…since when the hell was that a stereotype? I highly doubt DC knew this was a stereotype (are you sure that’s even real), because it’s honestly just a pun picture. “Bat” Woman. Bat for baseball bat. Nothing more and nothing else. You are the only person to point this out and the only who sees the stereotype sir.


Here’s some readily available information about lesbian stereotypes of women softball players, from those conspiracy-mongering sports know-nothings at ESPN:

Even on National Coming Out Day, plenty of people will suggest a gay player or coach is a non-story in softball, a sport undeniably linked with lesbian stereotypes in popular culture. How prevalent those stereotypes remain came to the forefront in the recent confirmation process of Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, when the circulation of a photo of the unmarried Kagan playing softball set off a round of insinuations and jokes — complete with smirks, sarcasm and rhetorical winks — about her sexual orientation.


Mike Loughlin

May 28, 2014 at 11:21 am

Looking at these covers as art objects… well, it’s like DC’s trying to mitigate the sexism by making them “arty.” Sure, make them look like olde tyme cheesecake in order to soft sell the sexiness.

I wouldn’t have any problem with them if they had balanced the hawt wimmen with guys in similar poses. I’d still think they’re dumb, but not sexist.

The worst part of it is that DC did a similar “retro” cover theme before. In the late ’90s or early ’00s, the annuals all had pulp themes and covers painted in retro-styles. The Nightwing cover looked like a romance cover (by Joe Chiodo, iirc). It’ possible and even desirable to go retro provided that there’s more than one gender being objectified or that not every cover (or nearly every cover) sexually objectifies its subject.

Also: I don’t know who’s right about the “bombshell” thing, but if you are, congratulations: you win absolutely nothing.

I missed the comments about the Batwoman/softball/lesbian connection. While I am not unaware of the stereotype, I just took that cover as a take of the AAGPBL, mixed with the Batwoman/Baseball Bat pun.

Mike Loughlin

May 28, 2014 at 11:29 am

@Exiled in Geeksville,

Love your user name! I now have “Mesmerizing” going through my head. Also, I appreciate you sticking up for DC in a reasonable, respectful manner.

Not to speak for Kelly, but I don’t see her as using the absolute you say she is. I’ll just quote her second-to-last paragraph:

“Marvel still has a long way to go. They are too quick to cancel books and they only have about half as many female-led titles as DC, but I can feel them building and investing in their female characters and their future whereas DC feels as if they are coasting with some of the best characters in the business wasting away or worse, being turned into dark unrecognizable monsters. But I feel confident that Marvel is riding the right wave and that they have their finger on the pulse of the direction the winds are shifting – which is toward inclusivity. ”

So, Marvel doesn’t get hammered but they don’t get a free pass.

And you’re right, that cover is awful on every level. I was just thinking “Land’s doing better these days on Mighty Avengers.” Blech.

Yes, the stereotype raises it’s ugly head again. Women that are interested in team sports are lesbians (with the possible exception of volleyball), just like men who are completely uninterested in team sports are gay (with the exception of professional volleball players, who are thought to be gay).

I wonder what it is about volleyball that makes it “sissy”? Or is it just here in Brazil that that little stereotype exists?

And yep, it’s interesting how DC is regressing. The pulp covers from the 1990s weren’t so fanservice-y, and even old Marvel Swimsuit books had both male and female characters.

It does indeed seem uneven, which isn’t good considering DC’s current track record with female characters. (*cough* Starfire *cough*)

Pulp covers =/= Bombshell.

They are both period (very close in time) and while bombshell imagery may have turn up in pulp magazine covers, they had a lot of other elements, not the least of which is pulp stories were, like comics, dominated with male characters – The Shadow, Doc Savage, etc so they would be more likely to be not about the cheesecake.

The Bombshell/Rockabilly motif was much more an advertising tool, and continues today more than pulps, (go to any real Burlesque show, and you will see the same imagery used.

Ant Lucia, the artist who created the Bombshell statue designs (and i believe most, if not all the covers) is more knowledgeable of the period style than I am. I hope he comments on this thread at some point.

Mike Loughlin

May 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm

The above was a test NOT directed at anyone. I thought the “Geek” in “Geeksville” was kicking me to moderation but I guess not…

Mike Loughlin

May 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm

And now everything’s fixed! Thanks Brian or his cohorts!

Mike Loughlin

May 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Oh, and I wasn’t trying to equate pulp & bombshell covers, just point out that DC could use retro imagery without the sexism. The Pulp covers were the closest similar theme they’ve done that I can recall.

C.J. Brouillard

May 28, 2014 at 12:10 pm

I think the artwork is fun, something comic books seem to be lacking these days. Let DC highlight their 30-70 year old characters in a different manner than usual. It brings a sense of nostalgia as well as a connection to art as a whole. If there is a similar style they could showcase their male characters, please show me. I’d like to see it!

I just did a Google image search for “bombshell art”. Since DC’s announcement, a number of the recent images involve their covers. No surprise there. Scrolling through the rest of Google’s offerings, the number of men shown is so staggeringly small, it should incite a write up in this column. When I looked up “bombshell” on dictionary.com, I found this in addition to Kelly Thompson’s findings:

World English Dictionary
bombshell (?b?m???l)

— n
1. (esp formerly) a bomb or artillery shell
2. a shocking or unwelcome surprise: the news of his death was a bombshell
3. informal an attractive girl or woman (esp in the phrase blonde bombshell )

Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins

It seems the term does have a connotation for attractive females in the modern age. DC is using the term to describe an art style. If they want to do a series that invoked Norman Rockwell’s work, would they call it Rockwellian? Postal? If they were to do a series of Rubenesque covers, would people make the connection? I know I would enjoy seeing it, but it won’t ever happen. I don’t think your frustration is with the terminology but with the actual art.

If it is with the actual art, then I am a little more sympathetic to your argument. Another cover featuring a female character being sexy like- yes that has been done. Would I like to see something more akin to Norman Rockwell’s Post covers? Yes. Anyone else but me? Would I like to see something featuring the men looking all sexy like? Yes. Maybe the next Marvel/DC crossover would just be about Joe Bennet drawing their covers for a month! I searched “male bombshell” with Google. The images are laughable at best.

Sexy for a woman doesn’t work well on a man:

There is a cover I wouldn’t mind seeing- and have actually seen.:

I think your frustration is not so much DC’s use of the art style, or of the subject matter. It seems you’re more concerned with the fact that the medium you choose to enjoy focuses more on the SWM perspective than any other. I get that, believe you me! They are catering to the largest source of revenue. No different than a beer company showing bikini clad Scandinavian girls, or Robert Pattinson being chosen over Jonah Hill to drive those Twilight movies. Sexy women sell better than just about anything else.

Here’s the thing, I don’t buy comic books because Catwoman’s unzipping her cleavage on the cover. I don’t buy them because Wolverine is popping his claws either. (Please let me know when you have a column devoted to the covers that overuse of THAT pose.) If all DC did was show their women being cheesecake, you and I would not be buying comic books. Of course that’s not all they do- steampunk covers, Robot Chicken covers, Batman guest-starring covers… This is just an example of a marketing move they are making that isn’t meant for you and I.

Mike – No just wanted to make sure the post I read, was the post you were looking for.

Both gay men and women (straight and lesbian) read comics. I know the publishers realize this. I think these covers are beautiful and well done, and they’re variants so it’s not like I’m being forced to buy. I get that. But I’m a gay man. I started reading comics as a kid before I even realized I was gay. I just knew there was something about that Jim Lee drawn Gambit that made me stare at him longer than Rogue or Psylocke.

And almost 20 years later I can think of only one recent example where a male character was written and drawn in a way that emphasized his good looks, portrayed him as both sexual and as a competent, compelling character: the recently finished Gambit solo series written by James Asmus and illustrated by the wonderful Clay Mann. And I LOVED that in interviews James even said they were always looking for ways to get a shirtless Gambit scene in.

It just seems like it’s still not ok for us to think of comic men as eye candy despite the fact that I’m sure DC would argue all of their female characters are both sexy and powerful/ competent/ compelling. In a way, yes, the men are sexualized because every male hero is chiseled, has a 6 pack, wears form fitting costumes, etc. But you don’t see Superman on a bombshell cover in nothing but a pair of briefs in a sexy pose. So what’s the fear here DC? That Superman reduced to purely a pinup is degrading to the character? And if that’s the fear, why is it not an issue for Supergirl to by flying around as a pinup in thigh-highs and a bustier?

Thanks Kelly for keeping this dialogue going. I don’t begrudge anyone cheesecake. I think it’s part of the medium. I just think it’s time to be equal about it.

P.S. I do have to disagree with your Wonder Woman assessment though. I have absolutely loved Brian’s relaunch of her. Maybe not every element (still undecided about the inclusion of the “Amazon’s sons” into the mythos), but he has a fantastic take on her voice and character.

The Bombshell covers look great! What a great homage. I can’t wait for a hardcover for them.

To Chris K:

You have angered the Albright One! The Earth trembles before her Praguian Wrath! Tonight she comes for you:


To Brian Cronin:

Here I was feeling all original, like I’d stumbled across some grand, worthwhile idea. Instead I now have the Barenaked Ladies telling me, “It’s all been done. Woo, who, who.”

Seriously though, thanks for the info. It’s too bad they stopped doing that, sounds like a fun way to educate; I may have to try and dig some of those up.

“Women don’t read comics” “Men are not sexy, they’re strong”
Are you kidding me? Surely that was a joke.
The comic book room in my house ( where I -believe it or not keep my comics ) and my handsome and SEXY fiance beg to differ!
The covers are gorgeous, there’s no denying that, I guess I see both sides, I wish there were less “sexed up” gals in comics, but these covers arent very proactive, it could have been MUCH worse, I actually like the Batgirl cover a lot! But I hope that by the time I have kids that there are tons of well written and developed female characters, comics ARE for everyone, and everyone who picks one up should have plenty of characters to look up to and love! Men, women, and children alike.

I loved the joke that that might be the next big idea for DC’s variant covers.

I don’t get your point, Kaykordeath.

Ant Lucia is from my home town, I am a big fan of pin ups, and I have really been looking forward to the bombshell covers; does that make me a bad person? I respect women very much but I really love pin up art and my wife likes it too. I think that some people read into things way too much these days. I think that good art is good art and beautiful women are beautiful women and just leave it at that.


Its apples and apples. Honeycrisps are OK, but the Pink Ladies aren’t welcome.


I was just amused at the irony of criticizing DC on one hand and then, on the other, celebrating the fan base for an “amazing cosplay” that, in many aspects, recreates what was being criticized.


May 29, 2014 at 6:05 am

I do see that there is this rhetorical problem here, where one person, (the writer of the article) is presenting a symptom of a larger problem in the break down of the “bombshell” covers, and their representation of women in the DC universe. And other persons (commentors) who want to argue that the art being criticized is lovely and fun, and quite nice.

The problem of course is that both persons can be right, and the larger point is missed by the commentors. It’s not that it is a problem that DC has opted to have a series of specialty bomb-shell covers, it’s that it highlights a larger problem with the treatment of and depiction of women in the DC universe.

It’s fair to defend the art of the pieces, but I think it is likewise important to recognize the failure of the diversity of character, story, and image given to women in the DC Universe. If you want a counter argument to the bombshell covers, don’t argue that the covers are good, argue that the stories behind the covers are good. If you can’t say that Wonder Woman, Bat Woman, Harley Quinn etc, are given broad and nuanced stories and characters, then defending the pin ups misses the point.

Well, two things about the suggested ho-ho-ho-gotcha! contradiction:

Amazingly enough, women have the freedom to dress up however they want if they enjoy it. It’s very unlikely that there was some corporation dictating that they dress up that way for other people’s pleasure.

Also amazingly enough, completely different people on completely different blogs hosted by the same site can have different opinions about things. I don’t want to shock you or anything, but different people on Facebook don’t always express the same opinions either. Heck, different people on the same blog hosted by the same site have different opinions, and that is in fact as it should be.

A lot of people are stating that this is how the art was in the 1950’s- and they are correct; its a fun little homage.

I for one look forward to the ‘Segregation Month’ covers.

And another thing about the supposed “gotcha” moment:

Kelly’s article does not object to portrayals of sexy women. She does not object to the DC covers. She does not object to women dressing up sexy.

She objects to DC’s continued obliviousness to producing products aimed at women.

Read the article.

I am very skeptical of the idea that this, or any of DC’s other portrayals of women, represents an attempt to communicate any sort of normative view on the role of women in society or literature.

I suspect that the thought process here was “sex sells and nostalgic homages sell, so let’s combine them.”

The notion that art is primarily a tool to propagandize the norms of society is notion that’s probably been around forever, but really took off when it was included as a part of Marxist philosophy. In my opinion it should have died with Marxism. It’s a bad idea and it’s empirically false.

Ever since that idea took hold in our culture it has been impossible to release anything without being told that it is really propaganda that is secretly communicating this or that horrible idea. And fans have always justly resented it.

The reason there is such negative reaction to article like this is that people interpret it as “This thing you like is sexist and you are sexist for liking it.” Since most people are not sexist and know it they react badly because they believe they have been slandered against. It also carries the message “This thing you like carries subliminal messages that will turn you into a sexist, and you are too weak to resist it.” Of course, people know this is false as well, even if a work really is sexist they are strong enough to read and enjoy it without becoming sexist themselves.

Maybe you will object that that is not the message you are trying to send. But that is sure what it feels like.


Still missing the point. The article complains only that these images are part of a long-term trend on the part of DC to ignore their female customers. She does not object to the content of the covers. She wants some beefcake to go along with the cheesecake. No objection at all to cheesecake.

Ghatanathoah –

I think you are misreading Marxist critique, but that is okay, lots of people do it, even some Marxists themselves.

It’s not like there are some guys at DC plotting to send sexist propaganda because they want to demean women. A lot of people confuse power structures with active conspiracy. Someone in this very thread attacked something I said, mocking me for implying that straight white males have some shadowy club where they plot these attacks to protect their privilege. I never implied such things.

These things are often subtler and more complicated. I had a boss at my job that maintained that gay people couldn’t publicly kiss or hold hands, because that would be “shocking” to children and old folks. Now, I don’t think my boss hated gay people, that he spent nights planning how to make gay people’s lives difficult, or anything of the kind.

I think he simply lacked enpathy or imagination or whatever it was that would have made him think “Would I have liked if someone told me I couldn’t hold hands or kiss my wife in public? How would I feel if someone told me my love for my wife was ‘damaging’ to children?”

Notice that I agree with you that DC (or my old boss) aren’t out to bash minorities or women. My own theory is that the big guys at DC are simply replicating what happened in the 1990s, because those were the formative professional years for guys like Lee, Didio, Harras, Johns, etc.

Yes, sexism is often incidental and unintentional. Doesn’t mean that I agree with DC’s policy. They need a wake up call.

I suppose thing could be worse. We could be in Pakistan, where instead of merely posting sexist, harassing messages online, all of the mysogynistic troglodyte fanboys would probably be throwing stones at Kelly.

(It’s a crazy world, that’s all I have to say.)

I echo a lot of the sentiments Kelly shares in this article about DC’s already shaky portrayals of women. To me it does not make sense to use “sexy women” as a marketing tool when you already catch flack regularly for your depictions of women in comics.
Also, I’m not exactly feeling the use of underage girls (Supergirl and Stargirl) in a series of “sexy ladies”.

I wish DC would rethink they’re approach to female characters.

Bombshell art pics, by nature and origins, are of sexy females – and the art reflects that of the original era of that art (where a lot of it did end up on bombers, fighters, and even bombs) , when not-coincidentally heroic comics really WERE targeted specifically at young males. The art on the DC covers was actually tastefully done by the standards of the era they were emulating (To the point of some stuff being a bit more edgy if it wasn’t for public consumption).

Now, what DC needs to do is do a “Beefcake” variant art series of their male characters for the female and gay male reader segment. Done properly, it shouldn’t offend in straight males in terms of content (really, look at all the bulges already in art), but fans might be as accepting of the 60s-80s art styles usually associated with beefcake. Just, PLEASE – no Bat-nipples….

“Just, PLEASE – no Bat-nipples….”

They could always do a 3D cover that has no nipples and turn it a little and it does. Add the Joker in the background to laugh at it.

Just don’t read them then. This is a non-story and a non-issue.

@Jake um the story is about covers. Not sure you have to read them. So you _______________> point. And also I think with over 250 comments it is kinda an issue. Again you _______________> point.

The article, less the discussion, was an eye opener in several ways. It seems Kelly has left the discussion, which is understandable. How much time can one devote to arguing the definition of bombshell with trolling knuckleheads? I don’t have the kind of patience she does.
I adore the Ant Lucia line and I was initially excited to see the covers pop up. I think a lot of pinup fans agree. I wouldn’t expect to see male covers, not only because of the bombshell norm, but also sadly because most images of pinup or sexualized male superhero images I have seen floating around the interwebs are subversive political pieces, (of the “what if men were drawn as women?” variety) on a mission to shame and mischaracterize male pinup fans as sexist.
In other words, there is a large part of me that understands the perspective of butthurt male reactionist posts. Understands, yes. agrees, no.
There is a reality, at least in my world that female pinup images are more prevalent and appreciated across the spectrum. But if male bombshell covers existed, I wouldn’t bat an eye either. Who would? why should anyone be against it? Why they seemingly can’t exist (in a non political fashion) is strange to me. Why can’t sexy fun images be made out of Supes or Bats? I’m not sure I would personally buy it, but the mass of female and gay male geeks in my life would gladly snap them up. And heck, the rest of us too, might.
And that’s where the validity of Kelly’s argument finds solid footing. When I pick up a DC Bombshells statue or T-shirt (which I have done), I am personally saying, “This is one of my favorite characters, done up classic sexy style.” But it takes place — that art takes place OUTSIDE of the comic book. If I look at Black Canary as a sexed up lounge singer … to me that is a kind of mash-up. Of a character I like and a pinup fantasy girl from the 1950s. It exists outside the narrative of her as a tough superhero. As a fleshed out character with personal motivations and intelligence. And in the same way that my wife doesn’t wear her own pinup-style outfits to her professional job, putting a pinup image on the cover of a comic where ostensibly the character is meant to be taken seriously, is problematic. These are superheroes. Heroes. Why does a hero need to be sexy? And does it take anything away from a character’s legitimacy or does it celebrate the character? They are valid questions, regardless of whether I like sexy portrayals of comic characters.
As a heterosexual white(ish) male, I have the luxury of saying, “Well, I like pinup. This caters to what I like. Who the hell cares if other people find it problematic and troublesome? I can’t be bothered to see it from another person’s perspective.” It’s easy to think that way. It’s too damned easy. I know it’s that easy, because that is my own instinct. If something doesn’t bother me, I don’t want to be called out by people who are bothered by it. And that’s what this thread is full of. Guys who may not actually be sexist, but who are indeed wrong headed. But I ask them, why are you so hell bent on disregarding the opinions of your fellow geeks! When they are marginalized, harassed, insulted and threatened, why can you not stand with your fellow geeks, accept the reality of their experiences and help make it better. Why draw lines in the sand, between gender identification, race, and level of immersion?

And while I feel like books and characters like Catwoman, Wonder Woman and Batgirl have been more than solid and Batwoman’s ousted writers were equally to blame for the mess (by bucking a policy they were aware of, then trying to use public sentiment to get their way) While I think Cassandra Cain and especially Stephanie Brown are weak characters who are not missed (Team Babs, all the way!), it’s still impossible to give DC any passing marks for their use and portrayal of female heroes. As fans, men and women, we are stuck. We are held hostage. We love Power Girl, Black Canary, Supergirl, Poison Ivy, Amanda Waller… so either we put up with shitty portrayals, or we walk away altogether. Neither of those is acceptable. And as geeks, we shouldn’t have to compromise, we shouldn’t feel we have to blindly defend a comic portrayal we know full well is sexist and small minded out of a false sense of loyalty.
I don’t know if the 3 million words I wrote, managed to make the point I set out to make. But I wish we could think before we react.

Has anyone pointed out the terrible stereotype with Bat Woman’s? A softball league ? Rather insulting.

I have one question about the “Bombshell” covers that I haven’t seen raised yet. I’m not saying they are good or bad either just positing a question.
It was just the 75th anniversary of D-Day, in case anyone missed it. During that time period “Bombshell” pin-ups were widely popular.
Is it possible that these covers were a DC tribute to the D-Day anniversary? Maybe, maybe not. Just something I thought about.

These covers reflect a certain style and time period. Go check out Elvgren, Petty, Vargas and WWII bomber plane art if you don’t understand. These are an homage to this type of art. There were no pin-up boys back then. Also the artist Ant Lucia was doing this style of art before working for DC, go check out his website. He was approached specifically because this is the type of art he produces.


July 14, 2014 at 8:54 am

The Bombshell style of art is a homage to a certain time and place. Specifically, 40s and 50s pin-up, which was extremely popular and part of our artistic heritage. Nothing more, nothing less. Newsflash – males have long liked to look at pictures of attractive females. The DC covers were (1) variants, absolutely no one had to buy one if they didn’t specifically request it, (2) beautifully done, (3) IMHO, tastefully done and not overly sexual and (4) extremely popular and successful – spiking many books starring female characters way up the sales charts for the month (Harley Quinn, Batwoman, Batgirl as examples). All in all a great success, so I’m sure we will see these again

I agree with a lot you’ve said her. i discussed the male idea of bombshells in my article http:www.sidekickcast.com/feminism-and-equality-in-comics/
I’d love to hear your opinions on It.

Hey now @Greg Burgas not ALL women…I read comics so don’t group all of my sex into your comment…
As for the article everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if that is how Kelly feels than thats how she feels. IMO these covers aren’t that bad, and Ive seen worst! I agree with @AlexanderLuthor on all points that he made and I actually collected all 21 covers. I met Ant Lucia at NYCC about 2 years ago and he does some great work and is a really nice guy too.

I know this is late, but I think pin-up art (especially early years) is beautiful. Just because men like it, doesn’t automatically make it bad. Some guy would even find the women in those more “practical” Marvel covers hot so you’re boned either way. So unless the woman is wearing a burka, is butt-ugly or censored out, it’ll be “problimatic” in some way.

[…] with a condescending “ine” at to the end of her gender-neutral title, depicted as a passive pinup rather than as a woman of action and even subjected to vicious sexual assault. This kind of […]

[…] button). They allow me to envision a different world for my characters to interact in. And while some have criticized the DC Bombshell line in the past, I have loved it from the get go. I see a group of women who are […]

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