There’s been a lot of focus this week on the role women play in comics. It’s nothing new to see an ill-proportioned babe in an awkward pose gracing the pages of my favorite superhero books. Maybe it’s something I’ve just grown used to, or maybe I’m a traitor to my kind, but it’s not often that a character is so poorly written and objectified I feel the need to write about it. And I did. Then a day later I wondered why so much attention is being put on the negative. All the blogs, reviews and rants I’ve read only point out what’s wrong; I haven’t really seen anyone talking about what’s right with women in comics today.
And there is a lot of right going on.
It’s easy to say ladies like Wonder Woman and Supergirl provide pivotal role models for women in comics. Personally I think they are pigeonholed and oftentimes one-dimensional. It’s rare I see them written in a way that explores both their femininity and their strength.
Take a look at Marvel’s Psylocke. She’s part of the X-Force team, a deadly brigade of mutants who do the dirty work the rest of the good guys won’t touch. It’s a dark series. Psylocke, in her traditional one-piece bodysuit, is an extremely sexy character. She’s also fierce, doesn’t take crap from her teammates, and has one of the most heartwarming and wrenching relationship stories in comics today.
This series is dark, and it does deal with a lot of things that may make some readers uncomfortable. It’s also had some of the sexiest cover art I have ever seen, and the way Rick Remender writes his women in Uncanny X-Force is something people should take note of.
Matt Fraction also does as great a job of writing women as he does writing, well… anybody else. Take a look at anytime he has written about Sif in a Thor comic. Ed Brubaker took on the Catwoman relaunch in 2002 and did right by Selina Kyle after Frank Miller rewrote her origins as a prostitute. If you want to see some unmistakeably astonishing art, take a gander at the work by Adam Hughes, Mike Choi, and Jerome Opena.
Women don’t need to be written as caricatures of their species. I don’t want to read about a female superhero losing her powers during her monthly cycle, or on every other page see some girl pining over the hottest man in tights. Conversely, you don’t have a big breasted woman in a tiny bikini to get male and female readers blood boiling. What they did with Starfire and Catwoman was fan service. But again, it’s nothing new in comics. Have you ever looked at anything Michael Turner did for Top Cow? I still say it’s some of the best art you will ever see in comics.
The key is getting a someone who knows how to write a well-rounded character. And an artist who knows what anatomy is.
On the whole, I will say Marvel handles their ladies a lot better than DC. I could pick out one woman from every Marvel title I am reading and explain what is right about her. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for DC. Almost every woman I’ve read about in the New 52 has some issue that deals with her being female: Animal Man’s wife nagging all the time, Godiva refusing to fight stone monsters because it’s too tough, and of course the naked twit that Starfire has become who can’t even remember all the men she’s slept with. All of this is just poor writing, not just the sexual objectification of women.
There are a lot of women in our comics who are amazing, strong, fun and represent the best (and worst) of my kind. We should celebrate them, and the people who write and draw them.