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 disturbing 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.
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:
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.