Friday, February 20, 2015

Insert Boob Joke Here

Comic books have long been mired in the escapist sex and power fantasies of males in arrested development. 

Let me translate that: Guys like boobs = comic books have boobs. 

Comics have long been a medium given to idealized versions of the human form with super heroes in tight clothing stretched over impossibly perfect musculatures. Women are also drawn in an idealized fashion with super heroines in tight clothing stretched over impossibly larges breasts. 

What we see on each chest stands for "hope", right?

This was posted on Twitter a few weeks back and casts in sharp contrast the differences in approaches between male and female superheroes. 

  • Clark Kent rips open his shirt (man, he must go through a lot of shirts! Or he's really good at sewing shirt buttons back on) and the proud emblem of Superman is revealed. Huzzah! The day is saved. 
  • Meanwhile Karen Starr pulls back her outer clothing to become Power Girl  Damn, those tits are LARGE!

It's a hyper sexualized version of a woman as dreamed up by an adolescent or a grown man who still thinks like a horny teenager. 

Power Girl came to life in DC's revival of Justice Society in All Star Comics. Presumably artist Wally Wood kept making PG's breasts slightly larger with each issue to see if anyone would notice. 

Yeah, it was noticed. 

By the time Joe Staton was on board and drawing both Justice Society and Power Girl's 3 issue solo run in Showcase, the concept of Power Girl, possessing the powers of Superman and breasts the size of watermelons, was permanently ensconced.  

It's gotten to the point that this is a joke in-universe as heroes and villains comment on PG's voluptuous nature. 

But if this is an idealized version of womanhood, the question becomes, "Whose ideal is this?" Young girls looking for role models find only sex symbols. Even older men who still read comics might find some boisterous illustrative quirks of the female anatomy to be a bit much. No, the appeal here is to straight young men almost to the exclusion of all else. 

Comics are getting a bit better at visualizing female heroes with a more common sense approach.  A prime example of that is Spiderwoman.  Spiderwoman's original costume was a skin tight red unitard with yellow gloves, boots, etc. It looked like her costume was painted on*.  And when the excesses of certain art styles were applied to, my question was how did she breathe in that get up. But in tone similar to the revamping of Batgirl, Spiderwoman's getting a new outfit; it looks sharp, sexy even. But it has a more utilitarian appeal, making Spiderwoman look less like a Playboy pin-up and more like a superhero.

*There was an Avengers story where Spiderwoman was kidnapped by some villains. She is stripped naked because villains are pervs and this was written by Brian Michael Bendis. Later when this issue was reprinted for Free Comic Book Day, Spiderwoman's costume was quite literally painted on. 

It will be interesting to see where all this goes. Will the de-objectifying of the female super hero drive more female readers to comics? Or is this just a noble experiment and eventually Spiderwoman's costume from a can gets sprayed back on her body? 

I'll tell you what my ideal woman is: she's smart, confident and has a sense of humor. Yeah, I want her to be good looking, of course, but looking good is just a bonus. But the true rock solid foundation of what makes a woman ideal... is what's inside. 

And I'm not just saying that in case my wife reads this blog.

And yes, I'm so glad my suffering amuses you.

Be good to one another.


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